NPR got itself in the middle of the storm when it focused on Marcus Bachmann’s gay conversion therapy clinic last Monday (listen to the story here), the network’s ombudsman says today.
Bachmann, the husband of presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, runs a mental health clinic that includes counseling for gay clients. ABC News produced this expose a few weeks ago.
In the NPR story, it was this quote that got the listeners calling and e-mailing:
“So these two men represent two sides of a debate that’s been raging in psychological circles for more than a decade,” said the reporter, Alix Spiegel. “One side feels that therapies which seek to make gay people straight are invariably harmful, the other, that those therapies can help gay people who are profoundly uncomfortable with their same-sex attraction.”
That, the ombudsman said, created the appearance of two sides of a story deserving of equal balance — or so those complaining said. Ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos said the story deserved more depth, but he defended tackling the question of therapy designed to make gay people not gay.
All this suggests that what many people think of as “conversion” therapy is really not. The lines are blurry between conversion and identity therapy and between real and effective change in sexual orientation, identity and priority. A story that helps us understand the differences might uncover that in the public debate, many of us are talking past each other. I am curious, for example, to know what really it is that Bachman’s husband practices, or what kind of therapy Wyler underwent.
Wyler himself says in the piece that while he didn’t feel right living a gay life in Los Angeles, far from his family and church, he understood that it was right for others. I took that to mean that he didn’t denounce being gay, or think it was wrong.
Gay rights advocates understandably demand that, rather than trying to change individuals, it is religion and society that must change, which indeed has been happening. But that doesn’t help conflicted individuals who are in this world we live in now. To dismissively say that these individuals should just find another religion is to be discriminatory and ignores the profound importance of a given religion in many people’s lives.
Here’s the entire post.
There’s another more common mistake in the story — “Can Therapy Help Change Sexual Orientation?” It asked a question in the headline that it didn’t answer in the story.