Tuesday, 4 April 2017

The Bussing Debate of the 21st Century

In the last days of March I kept seeing an orange bus in my twitter feed. Called the Free Speech bus because in America Free Speech is cross between a magic talisman and a catchphrase. The Bus was vandalised, here we see graffiti and windows were also broken. You'd think a "Free Speech" bus would welcome the honest opinions of others, but well, like I said most Americans see it as a catch phrase.

Here's what the bus looks like in pristine condition for comparison.

Now as you can see the bus has images about biology and is clearly arguing against transexuality. That struck me as a little odd at first because this bus is being run by the the American organisation Nation for Marriage (NOM) an anti same sex marriage pressure group. Now it didn't surprise me to learn that people opposed to same sex marriage are also hostile to transsexuals, but I did find it curious that the organisation appears to have shifted gears.

So I did some googling, turns out they haven't, their still trying to sabotage same sex marriage in America but this bus tour is an initiative by the group CitizenGo, of which the leaders of NOM are members. CitizenGo founded in Madrid in 2013, on the surface looks like a Conservative Christian Change.org. It hosts dozens of petitions on various pro Christian angles, but as this bus shows it also does active campaigning and activism around certain issues. There was a similar bus operating in Spain until the Spanish government cut its funding. I don't speak Spanish so I don't know if its resumed its tour, all searches turn up is this impressive photoshop

Anyway, I think the bus has demonstrated an important distinction we need to keep in mind when we talk about speech and action. On the surface it seems clear the vandalism is step beyond driving around and politely (I assume) telling people that transexuals are freaks undeserving of the same standards of civil rights. But like most things it becomes a lot less clear the more you look at it. Both NOM and and CitizenGo support violence against queer people around the globe. Brian Brown the President of NOM and Board member of CitizenGo has endorsed multiple attacks on LGBTQ communities around the globe including Russia infamous Gay propaganda law.

But before I leave you, I will close with one last little nugget that should tell you all you need to know about Brian's mission (i.e. NOM's mission), his new international partners, and the global threat to LGBT people.  You see, it turns out CitizenGo has officially endorsed the ignominious Russian law against gay "propaganda.
 And their petition platform hosts campaigns in favour of conversion therapy.

 If your not familiar, conversion "therapy" is a tool to pressure people, usually teens into conforming to the behaviours and values promoted by the organisation. The reason its not consider proper therapy apart from its methods not standing up to scientific scrutiny, is that the goal is different. The point of therapy is to help the patient better understand themselves and deal with their internal issues and stresses.

Through therapy, you can change self-destructive behaviors[sic] and habits, resolve painful feelings, improve your relationships, and more.
 Whereas conversion "therapy" isn't about the patients well being at all, its about getting them to submit regardless of the effect on it has.

Now advocates of conversion "therapy" argue that this is what they're doing, indeed in the above screencap the authors of this petition make that argument. But the problem here is that its nonsense. The problems they list are caused by social pressures or completely tangential to no hetero relationships. If a teen like Nicole doesn't want her homosexuality its the result of societal and familial pressure. And contrary to propaganda, non hetero sex does not leas to sexually transmitted diseases, un protected sex increases the chances of STI's.

To quote the Human Rights Campaign 

In 2007, a task force of the American Psychological Association undertook a thorough review of the existing research on the efficacy of conversion therapy. Their report noted that there was very little methodologically sound research on sexual orientation change efforts (SOCEs) and that the "results of scientifically valid research indicate that it is unlikely that individuals will be able to reduce same-sex attractions or increase other-sex sexual attractions through SOCE." In addition, the task force found that "there are no methodologically sound studies of recent SOCE that would enable the task force to make a definitive statement about whether or not recent SOCE is safe or harmful and for whom." Read the full report.
In short, there is clear evidence that conversion therapy does not work, and some significant evidence that it is also harmful to LGBTQ people.
In contrast, there is ample evidence that societal prejudice causes significant medical, psychological and other harms to LGBTQ people. For example, research on the issue of family acceptance of LGBTQ youth conducted at San Francisco State University found that "compared with LGBTQ young people who were not rejected or were only a little rejected by their parents and caregivers because of their gay or transgender identity, highly rejected LGBTQ young people were:

Oh and if you'd like an example of what Conversion "therapy" is like, read this account

And that one is one of the tamer accounts I've read.

So really what we have here, is vandalism of a bus on the one hand, and an attempt to dehumanise trans people and push for further marginalisation, pushed by people ok with tormenting teenagers on the other.

If this were a version of the trolley problem I know which track I'd take. 

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