September 14, 2007

Is There New Evidence that Homosexuals Can Change?

This press release was issued by the Liberty Counsel today:

Nashville, TN - A groundbreaking study that will seriously challenge the modern premises of professional counseling associations, regarding whether change in homosexual attraction is possible, was released late yesterday afternoon at the American Association of Christian Counselors conference. AACC has over 50,000 active members.

In a 414-page book published by Intervarsity Press under the title, Ex Gays? A Longitudinal Study of Religiously Mediated Change in Sexual Orientation, researchers Stanton Jones, Ph.D. and Mark Yarhouse, Pys.D., conclude that (1) change in homosexual attraction is possible, and (2) attempts to change are not harmful. Both conclusions will have profound implications in the counseling world.

Despite dissenting voices by counselors and ex-gays, the American Psychological Association (APA) categorically states that homosexual attraction cannot be changed and that attempts to change such attraction are harmful. This first longitudinal study of its kind by Drs. Jones and Yarhouse refutes the APA's position. Even Nicolas Cummings, Ph.D, Sc.D., former President of the APA, whose motion caused the APA in the mid-1970s to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder, stated that this "study has broken new ground in its adherence to objectivity and scientific precision" and calls the book "must reading."

Among others in attendance at the release of the study were Mathew Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, and Anita Staver, President of Liberty Counsel. Today at the AACC conference, where about 7,000 people are in attendance, Mat Staver will speak about "Impending Threats to Christian Counselors" and address the threats counselors face to their licenses when they counsel, or refer for counseling, clients seeking to change their same-sex attractions. The APA and other similar counseling associations hold categorically that homosexual attractions cannot be changed and attempts to do so are harmful. This new scientifically valid study dismantles the APA's categorical position on homosexuality.

Commenting on the study, Mat Staver said: "This groundbreaking study showing that homosexual attraction can be changed and that change is not harmful will have profound reverberations for counselors. The debate about homosexuality has too often been driven by political rather than scientific considerations. The American Psychological Association and other similar associations may no longer silence dissent. The APA's political postulate that homosexual attractions cannot be changed has been shattered by new research."

Exodus International, as you would expect, chimed in (no link available).

Nashville, TN- Leaders of the world's largest outreach to those dealing with unwanted homosexuality commended recent research showing change in sexual orientation to be possible at a press conference today in Nashville. The study, released by InterVarsity Press yesterday, is the first longitudinal, peer-reviewed, scientific research of its kind on this topic to date.

Researchers Stanton L. Jones and Mark A. Yarhouse released the results of a three-year study during an address at the American Association of Christian Counselors World Conference. Their findings indicate that religiously mediated sexual orientation change is possible for some individuals and does not cause psychological harm to the patient, on average. These conclusions directly contradict the claims of both the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association that state that change in sexual orientation is impossible and attempting to pursue this alternative is likely to cause depression, anxiety or self-destructive behavior. The major findings of this study are reported in full in the book Ex-Gays? A Longitudinal Study of Religiously Mediated Change in Sexual Orientation (InterVarsity Press).

Former American Psychological Association President, Nicholas A. Cummings, Ph.D., Sc.D., praised the research methods of Jones and Yarhouse, "This study has broken new ground in its adherence to objectivity and a scientific precision that can be replicated and expanded, and it opens new horizons for investigation." In the absence of any scientific, peer-reviewed research on this topic, Exodus International funded the research conducted by Jones and Yarhouse.

Alan Chambers, a former homosexual and President of Exodus International, responded to the study findings at today's press conference, "Finally, there is now scientific evidence to prove what we as former homosexuals have known all along - that those who struggle with unwanted same-sex attraction can experience freedom from it. For years, opponents of choice have said otherwise and this body of research is critical in advancing the national dialogue on this issue."

Chambers, who was joined by researcher Dr. Stanton Jones at the press conference today, added, "Anyone who has undergone the life-changing process of leaving homosexuality behind will tell you that it is not an easy one. However, for thousands of us, the journey has been well worth it and we are grateful that these study findings give credence to our existence as men and women whose lives have been transformed by Jesus Christ."

Wayne Besen's organization, Truth Wins Out, countered with this release:

NEW YORK - Truth Wins Out warned news organizations today to be highly skeptical of a biased "ex-gay" sham study that will be released by right wing therapists in Nashville this afternoon. The "research," which was conducted by Stanton L. Jones of Wheaton College and Mark A. Yarhouse of Pat Robertson University, reportedly will show that a significant percentage of gay people can become straight through religious-based counseling.

"It comes as no shock that anti-gay 'researchers' at Wheaton College and Pat Robertson University would release a study that claims you can pray away the gay," said Truth Wins Out's Executive Director Wayne Besen. "I suppose their next study will provide support for Pat Robertson's theory that homosexuality causes meteors and hurricanes."

Caution should be taken in prematurely critiquing the study until the full methodology is available. However, based on unconfirmed reports there is great concern that these notorious anti-gay researchers did little more than telephone professional ex-gay lobbyists and ministers from Exodus International and ask them if they had "changed." If this is the case, it is likely that the study results are not only suspect, but wholly invalid, says Truth Wins Out.

"It appears as if this study is the equivalent of the Phillip Morris 'research' team interviewing members of the company's public relations team on the safety of cigarettes," said Besen. "This study may be a deceptive sham with the goal of making it appear as if science backs fundamentalist beliefs on homosexuality."

There is also the concern that the study sample is unusually small. Additionally, there is no indication that key physical measures or tests were included, such as a "No Lie MRI," which is a scientific truth-detecting brain scan.

"Any 'ex-gay' study that does not include physical components that measure truth are essentially meaningless," said Besen. "After several key ex-gay leaders have been caught in sex scandals, their tales of transformation lack credibility," said Besen. "It is folly to suggest that telephone interviews can be considered genuine research. News organizations should be extremely skeptical of such a mockery of the scientific method.

"Jones and Yarhouse have made a cottage industry of attempting to mold scientific conclusions so they will conform to their devoutly held religious beliefs. Commenting on a 1991 debate over the ordination of gay Episcopal priests, Jones told the Associated Press that those who support ordaining homosexuals are trying "to normalize a pattern which is destructive and abnormal.

"In a Sept. 14, 2004 interview with The Virginian-Pilot, Yarhouse explained that he tells clients that their homosexual feelings do not mean they have to identify as gay. "Christ, or God, has a pre-existing claim on their sexuality" that trumps same-sex attractions, Yarhouse said.

In an April 2006 interview for the anti-gay website, Jones and Yarhouse explain the motivation for their work. "As evangelical Christians, it seemed to us that homosexuality is the area where more pressure is being put on the church to depart from the explicit moral teachings of scripture than any other area.

"The release of their study results in Nashville coincides with a regional conference of the ex-gay organization Exodus International and the American Association of Christian Counselors World Conference. The full study results will be distributed on Oct. 10, in the form of a book by Christian publisher InterVarsity Press.

I have not seen the study, but I am sceptical for several reasons:

o The study was funded by Exodus International according to the orgainzation's own press release. How do you THINK it would come out? That's like tobacco companies funding a study about the harmfulness of cigarette smoking; how much credibility would either one really have?

o The book is published by InterVarsityPress, a fundamentalist Christian publisher which has printed another title written by Jones and Yarhouse. That book, "Homosexuality, The Use of Scientific Research in the Church's Moral Debate, was published in 2000. From the description in the InterVarsity website, it sounds a whole lot like their new work. Jones also wrote a booklet published by the company titled "The Gay Debate." The official description of that is:

Stanton L. Jones presents an overview of the Christian understanding of sexuality in general and then skillfully tackles the revisionists of Scripture who are challenging the traditional Christian position of homosexuality. He then calls for Christians to act with compassion and yet continue to speak the truth without fear. This booklet will no doubt spark further inquiry into this timely topic for all who read it.

Objectivity is critical if one is compiling and, more importantly, interpreting scientific data. It is not clear, as Wayne Besen wonders, if this work even meets acceptable research standards, but even if it does how reliable, how credible, can it be when it is clear both doctors have an anti-gay sentiment, if not agenda.

Religious right fundamentalists have already shown a tendancy to overrun science with theology and try to repackage it as science. I don't have enough information to know if that is the case here, but to have essentially have a "house band" put this study together gives the apperaance of fitting right into that trend.

Sadly, we can all be sure that much smoke will be blown over this study, and groups like Exodus will use it to fortify their work, and by that their income. If they want to delude themselves, that's their issue. If Alan Chambers wants to call himself a "former homosexual" instead of a gay man living a straight lifestyle, that is his right.

What makes me sad and angry at the same time is the people that will be drawn into this false paradigm and have their lives twisted completely out of shape, perhaps with tragic consequences. Those of us who are either part of the GLBT community or allies need to work to minimize the damage that this latest event could cause innocent, confused gays and lesbians.

After I posted, I found this report on Box Turtle Bulletin. If anyone reads these details (how many will, though, and just hear the high level summary touted in the press releases), they won't be very impressed with the "changability" of homosexuality, or the fact that only 73 people completed it, all of whom were referred by Exodus. I can a study to say just about anything if I limit my sample size to something that small. The results were:

33 people reported change in the desired manner (from gay at time 1 in the heterosexual direction at time 3)
29 reported no change
8 reported change in the undesired direction
3 were unsure how to describe their experience of change

"Armed Forces to Hold Gay Conference"

No, don't get excited in you're an American--that conference will be in the United Kingdom. From Pink News:

The Royal Air Force is to host the third Joint Service conference on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Matters in November.

All three services have approved the two day event, at which service personnel will be updated on developments in diversity training, participate in presentations and workshops, and take advantage of a social networking opportunity for personnel and their partners.

In 2000, the government removed the ban on gay, lesbian and bisexual people serving openly in the Armed Forces.

The last Services LGBT conference in January attracted heavy weight support in the form of Rear Admiral Richard Ibbotson RN.

The Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force are both members of the Stonewall Diversity Champions programme.

The scheme promotes best practice and gives organisations guidance and advice on how to create equality in the workplace.

The Ministry of Defence is keen to promote all the armed services as good employers for minority groups. Last year there was discussion at the conference about whether the British Army will also join the Stonewall programme.

In June the Royal Air Force announced that personnel who wore uniform to march in the Pride parade in London would face disciplinary action. Previously the Chief of the General Staff issued orders banning LGB Army staff from marching in uniform at the event, held on June 30th.

General Sir Richard Dannatt was said to be concerned with a possible breach of the Queen's Regulations, which bar military personnel from taking part in political activities. The Royal Navy allowed sailors to march in uniform at Pride and used it as a recruitment opportunity.

So why can't that happen in the United States? Sorry, can't help you there--I don't know of a good reason.

September 13, 2007

Stepping Forward to Change "Culture of Shame"

That's the task that Leona Lo has taken on in her native Singapore. Known as Leonard before her sex change, Leona is determined to buck the trend of transsexuals in her country and live openly and proud, hopefully encouraging others to do the same. From Google News: (Thanks to PageOneQ for the tip)

She loves children and her lifelong dream is to be a wife and a mother, but the raspy voice and masculine frame betray the fact that Leona Lo was born a man.

Unlike many other transsexuals in Asia who prefer to live privately because of the social stigma of sex change, the British-educated, Singaporean transsexual woman has chosen to live a normal life, but in public.

Smart, confident and articulate, the communications specialist who heads her own public relations company has embarked on a mission to help turn around the "culture of shame" surrounding transsexuals in Singapore and the region.

"Somewhere out there, not just in Singapore but throughout Asia, there are lots of young people who are suffering the way I suffered years ago," Leona, 32, tells AFP in an interview.

In her former life as a man, she was called Leonard.

These days, she draws on her experiences of gender identity crisis, rejection and discrimination to challenge social mores on behalf of the so-called silent community.

"It's this entire culture of shame that gets under your skin. It's not something that you can isolate and demolish because it is so much a part of our culture," she says.

One person can't change an entire culture, but they can at least start the process. I admire Leona Lo for her courage to try and wish her success with her efforts.

September 12, 2007

Majoring in Gay

That's not the official title of any college degree programs, of course, but students can actually major in gay studies at an increasing number of colleges in the U. S. according to this story from the Associated Press:

Years after creating a smattering of gay-related classes, more than two dozen American universities are now offering full-fledged minors in gay studies and expanding the field to include disciplines across the college curriculum.

Issues such as same-sex marriage and gays in the military have fueled interest in the programs, which have been established, among other places, at Ivy League institutions Yale and Cornell and DePaul University in Chicago, one of the nation's largest Catholic schools.

At least 30 public and private colleges now offer multidiscipline minors in gay studies, the majority of them started in the last three years. Another 16 schools let undergraduates earn certificates or pursue concentrated studies in gay topics.

San Francisco State was one of the first U.S. schools to explore the scholarly potential of gay subject matter, starting with a single English course in 1972. Now students can choose from classes such as Homophobia and Coming Out, Gay Love in Literature, and Queer Art History.

At colleges around the nation, expanded course offerings have also given a discipline once limited to history, English or women's studies departments a place across the academic curriculum, encompassing subjects such as religion and the law.

Education is the most effective weapon against homophobia. It's good to see that there is an increasing amount of ammunition for today's students to arm themselves with.

Newsweek International Features GLBT Stories

Newsweek has given GLBT issues a lot of attention this year, and this week that is the featured topic in their international edition. Featuring a cover titled "Winning the War," this week's issue includes the following stories of interest:

"Gay Rights Gain Around the Globe"

The growing maturity of the gay-rights movement in the West is having a marked effect on the developing world. In the United States, the Republican Party is in trouble in part because it has made a fetish of its opposition to gay marriage. At least some gays in big cities like New York question why they are still holding "pride" parades, as if they were still a closeted minority and not part of the Manhattan mainstream. Since 2001, Western European countries like Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain have gone even farther than the United States, placing gay and lesbian partners on the same legal footing as their heterosexual counterparts. And now, the major developing powers of Asia, Latin America and Africa are following the liberal road—sometimes imitating Western models, sometimes not—but in all cases setting precedents that could spread to the remaining outposts of official homophobia.

In Mexico, the declining clout and prestige of the Roman Catholic Church have emboldened gay-rights activists and their allies in state legislatures and city councils to pass new laws legalizing same-sex civil unions, starting with Mexico City in November. The rising influence of tolerant Western pop culture has encouraged gay men and lesbians to proclaim their sexuality in gay-pride marches like the one in the Brazilian city of São Paulo in June, which drew 3 million participants, according the event's organizers. It was the largest ever in Brazil.

Western models also helped inspire South Africa to legalize civil unions in November 2006, thus becoming the first country in the developing world to do so. In China, the trend goes back to the climate of economic reform that took hold in the 1980s, ending the persecution of the era of Mao Zedong, who considered homosexuals products of the "moldering lifestyle of capitalism."

"Jamaica: Still Bigoted Towards Gays"

While governments in a number of Latin American countries and elsewhere begin to recognize the legal rights of same-sex partners, Jamaica is bolstering its image as one of the most virulently anti-gay societies in the Western Hemisphere. Between February and July of this year, 98 gay men and lesbians were targeted in 43 different mob attacks, according to the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays. Four lesbians were raped, four gay men were murdered, and the houses of two gay men were burned down. On Valentine’s Day the police took two hours to reach a Kingston pharmacy where a crowd shouting anti-gay epithets had cornered three men; then the constables allegedly attacked an activist who had tried to help the men, striking him in the abdomen with a rifle butt and slapping him repeatedly in the face.

"Growing Up Gay in Jamaica"

Gay rights may be spreading in many countries, but not in Jamaica. Violence against gay men is high, and police often look the other way, say activists. When Brian Williamson, Jamaica’s leading gay rights activist, was murdered in June 2004, a crowd gathered outside the crime scene to celebrate. NEWSWEEK’s Patrick Falby spoke with Devon, a 30-year-old homosexual who was granted asylum in the United States three years ago, about growing up gay in Jamaica. Devon, who lives in New York and attends a Seventh-day Adventist church, didn’t want his last name used for fear of being thrown out of the congregation.

"Q&A: Sir Ian McKellen on Fighting Bigotry"

Sir Ian McKellen has been a vocal gay-rights advocate since making his own homosexuality public in 1988. The following year he cofounded the gay-rights lobbying group Stonewall UK.

Q: Some argue that some societies, like Singapore's, are too conservative for such changes.

A: There is nothing special about their situation. We heard it all before: "Gays should respect the views of those who condemn them." "Government is powerless to move until society is ready for change." "The law here that outlaws love between two grown men was left behind by the British." I would have thought any self-respecting ex-colony would want to get rid of the colonizer's laws. When I went to lobby Nelson Mandela while the postapartheid constitution was being drafted, I asked him to endorse making it illegal to discriminate on grounds of sexuality. I'd been warned that he might giggle if I mentioned homosexuality. But he got the point immediately and just said, "Yes, of course." Perhaps a winning slogan might be: "What's good enough for Mandela is good enough for us all."

These articles show that views about homosexuality continue to vary wildly around the world, with the gap actually increasing between the left and the right as the left becomes more accepting and promotes GLBT equality. The momentum, at least in the more developed parts of the world, is clearly moving in favor of the GLBT community.

September 11, 2007

Why Should You Trust An Organization That Lies

That's the question this column by Wayne Besen brings up. Besen writes about his unpleasant experience dealing with PFOX (Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays) and discusses the recent non-incident that Executive Director Regina Griggs claimed happened just down the road form me in Arlington, Virginla"

PFOX recently outright faked a hate crime at the Arlington County Fair in Virginia. The unthinkable started on Aug. 28, after PFOX sent out a press release with the headline, "Gays Assault Ex-Gays At County Fair." According to the release:

"As happens every year, gay activists disrupted our booth activities. They screamed obscenities, threw our materials from the exhibit table to the ground, insisted we recognize their same-sex 'spouses,' demanded that PFOX leave, and hit a PFOX volunteer because he is ex-gay."

The website Ex-Gay Watch investigated the claims and found that a slight disagreement occurred between a woman and a male PFOX representative (much like what happened to me in Orlando.) However, Ex-Gay Watch's David Roberts contacted Jackie Abrams, Vice Chair of the Arlington County Fair. Abrams said that no physical altercation occurred, police were never called and no one was ejected from the fairgrounds, as PFOX had claimed."

I was in radio contact with the other board members during the Fair, and definitely would have known if the police had been summoned. It did not happen," Abrams said.

Jay Fisette, a member of the Arlington County Board, backed this version of events.

Updated: Here is a detailed news story from the Washington Blade.
How does an organization that claims on their website to "show families how to love their homosexual child unconditionally, and how to be a positive presence in their child's life" reconcile that high-minded mission with their leader fabricating a news release trying to attract sympathy and, most certainly, use their victim status to raise money.

Sadly, groups like this seem to have a nearly infinite ability to rationalize, justifying the means with the end, which is their bigotry toward the GLBT community and their goal of preventing social equality.

September 10, 2007

The 15th Edition of the ICP is Online

I hope you enjoyed the edition of the International Carnival of Pozitivities I posted here last month. If so, or if you missed it, the latest edition, the 15th, is up now at Living Mindfully With HIV.

The mission statement of the ICP is:

Welcome to the blog carnival for people living with HIV/AIDS around the world. This includes every human being on the planet Earth. The intent of this carnival is to provide an international forum for interaction among those of us who are living with HIV/AIDS and for their caregivers, family and/or friends or those who are involved in the fight to end this Worldwide pandemic.

I encourage you to check out the ICP, there are always some interesting contributions that are worth taking the time to enjoy.

"Gay Doesn't Mean Bad"

That should seem obvious to anyone who reads this blog even occasionally, but it is the title of an article in the Boise Weekly newspaper.

In just one week, Larry Craig has gone from a relatively unknown senator from Idaho to the catalyst for a national debate on morality and gay behavior.

Politicians, pundits, religious leaders and ordinary citizens have weighed in on the issue, with many condemning Craig for his behavior. And while few argue that his arrest in Minneapolis, guilty plea and subsequent cover-up go against Senate ethics rules, many have placed the emphasis on the question of Craig's sexuality.

"I do think the senator's resignation [is] sad in some ways because many people will perceive this as 'Oh my God, if he's gay, he has to resign,'" said Rep. Nicole LaFavour, a Boise Democrat and Idaho's only openly gay legislator. "When really they should be saying, 'God, the Senator has been dishonest with us, and he has voted badly on issues that affect so many, and he's been arrested.'"

"Most of us view this as more of an ethics and hypocrisy issue and a legal issue, than a sexual orientation issue," said Jody May-Chang, editor of, a Boise-based Web site for the gay community.

"For a social issue, it was embarrassing that he was caught doing what he was doing. That's not mainstream [gay] behavior," May-Chang said.

May-Chang said she worries that mainstream America will now think that it's normal for gay people to solicit sex in public.

"If you're openly gay with a sense of pride or a sense of respect, you don't have anonymous sex in a bathroom," May-Chang said.

"The people of Idaho really care far more about the integrity of issues than his sexual orientation," LaFavour said.

I hope that last statement is true, because that is the crux of the issue here. Senator Craig showed a disturbing lack of integrity, not by being gay, but by lying and soliciting sex in a public restroom.

Ironically, this situation is causing some backlash against GLBT people which is more befitting of his public policy views than what appears to be his lifestyle

September 09, 2007

GLBT History Represented at the Smithsonian Museum

I thought this article from the Washington Post was interesting; GLBT activist history is officially part of the mainstream, being recognized as part of an exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC.

The obvious question gets the obvious answer: Of course Frank Kameny, a pioneer of the gay rights movement, had no inkling that the protest signs he carried more than 40 years ago would end up in the Smithsonian. But there they are, hand-lettered, with little stains from their staples discoloring the faded white cardboard. Two of them, plus three campaign buttons, are now in the same case as Joe Louis's boxing gloves, near the glass closet that holds Jackie Kennedy's inaugural gown and in the same shrinelike exhibit known as "Treasures of American History" that also has Thomas Jefferson's writing desk and the ruby-red slippers that Dorothy wore on her way to meet the Wizard.

It was a coincidence, but a fortunate one, that a man who trained as an astronomer, who earned a PhD from Harvard before he was fired by the government in 1957 for being gay, was honored amid rockets and planes and depictions of the solar system.

Check out the Post story to read more about Kameny's engagement and struggle in the battle for GLBT equality. His determination and preserverance is an example to activists today.

GLBT People CAN Believe In the Sanctity of Marriage

I ran across a refreshing essay in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel written by a young gay man who extols the virtues of marriage and wants to enjoy that blessing himself. I'm posting the entire article here in the hope that the views he expresses can resonate with my readers. God showed us in the Bible that words and traditions can matter and that they are available to all who believe in Him. Such should be the case in our society with marriage.

I have always dreamed of growing up and becoming a father. I fantasized about meeting that perfect someone, having kids, watching them grow up - the whole works. There is only one problem: I'm gay.

I have been told by the State of Wisconsin and a resounding majority of Americans that I am unfit for this dream. As became clear with the results of Wisconsin's referendum on the issue last year, marriage, according to most Wisconsinites, is restricted to the union of one man and one woman.

A common argument claims that marriage is an inherently religious institution. Thus, it is not the state's place to determine who can and who cannot be married. If this is the case, then all state and federal law should be altered to refer to civil unions, whether for homosexual or heterosexual couples. If marriage is a wholly religious concept, it has no place in the workings of the state.

But I think it would be a mistake to abandon the word. No one dreams of having a civil union. I am not even sure what a civil union is.

Like any other kid, I grew up with the image and concept of marriage. I saw married couples in movies and on TV, read about them in books and witnessed them in real life. All of my most admired adult role models, most notably my parents, were married.

I believe in the sanctity of marriage; in fact, it's a tradition I aspire to emulate. For me, marriage is more than just a word; it's the embodiment of an idea to which I am deeply loyal. Marriage sanctifies the love and commitment that form the basis of a strong, morally upright family.

"Civil union," by contrast, is a sterile and relatively meaningless term. Those who support civil unions and oppose gay marriage, including nearly all of the Democratic presidential candidates, fail to understand that nobody views marriage in terms of government benefits.

Marriage is really about carrying on an honorable and meaningful tradition. The benefits are superfluous. The word is indispensable.

It is shameful that so many gay youth are presented with a false choice: Live an unsettled, promiscuous and risky life or repress natural feelings and follow an inevitably unfulfilling, heterosexual lifestyle.

It is sad and ironic that the same society that deems homosexuals unfit for commitment and family life condemns them for promiscuity and frivolity.

For nearly five years, from early adolescence until my sophomore year in high school, I lived with constant loneliness, guilt and anxiety. The first friend I told immediately began crying and told me he didn't know if we could be friends anymore.

It has taken nearly two years since then for me to fully come out. Perhaps one reason I found it so difficult was that there was no model to follow. I knew no gay people personally and saw only undeveloped stock characters in movies and on TV. Breaking with heterosexuality, it seemed, meant breaking with marriage and any hope of having a family.

I am not trying to convince opponents of gay marriage to drastically change their moral or religious beliefs, but I'm asking them to consider the enormous amount of pain and inner turmoil gay people have endured and to recognize that we share the same aspirations, goals and morals as most heterosexuals.

Promiscuity or repression should not be the only choice for gay teens and young adults. There could be a third way.

Society should embrace the word "marriage" wholeheartedly but make it more inclusive. Like interracial marriage, gay marriage would not harm the sanctity of marriage but expand its benefits, uniting Americans under a word and a tradition we all hold dear.

Jonathan Erwin-Frank graduated this year from Whitefish Bay High School and will attend Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania this fall. His e-mail address is