And to think, just 40-some years ago, EMU expelled my lover for being a lesbian

by CynthiaYockey on April 8, 2009

In the  late 1960′s, before I met her, one of my lesbian lovers — who looked almost exactly like the character of Shane in “The ‘L’ Word,” played by Katherine Moennig — was expelled from Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Michigan, for being a lesbian. (This relationship was while I was at the University of Michigan, 11 years before I met Margaret.)

Now the Creative Minority Report is hyperventilating and complaining that EMU has committed another injustice, this time against a student who was in a graduate program training to become a counselor (or therapist). The Ann Arbor News story describes the case as follows:

The Alliance Defense Fund Center for Academic Freedom says student Julea Ward was dismissed from her graduate program in March after refusing to affirm a client’s homosexual behavior prior to a counseling session, according to a press release from the group.

David French, ADF senior counsel, said the school initiated a disciplinary process against Ward despite the fact that she followed her supervising professor’s advice and referred the client to a counselor who did not have a conscience issue with homosexuality.

Ward then allegedly was informed that the only way to stay in her program would be to undergo a remediation process to change her beliefs as they relate to counseling about homosexual relationships, the Defense Fund Center said. When she refused, she was given a formal review hearing, after which she was dismissed from the program. The dismissal was upheld March 26 by the dean of EMU’s College of Education, the press release said.

The American Psychiatric Association decided in 1973 to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders and the American Psychological Association followed suit in 1975 sayng that, “”Homosexuality per se implies no impairment in judgment, stability, reliability, or general social or vocational capabilities” (Conger, 1975, p. 633).” The American Psychological Association’s guidelines on homosexuality are here.

That means Ward’s position of the supremacy of her conscience over the guidelines of the counseling professions is comparable to a medical student asserting her right to refute the existence of bacteria and treat bacterial infections only with prayer. In other words, she is practicing her religion while violating the guidelines of her profession. She already is free to practice her religion, but she is not free to cloak her religion in the mantle of authority of the counseling profession. The fact that she does not understand why THAT is wrong is what should shock the conscience.

And, no, Ward’s offer to refer gay and lesbian clients to other counselors is not acceptable because this is what the vulnerable gay or lesbian client hears, “I think you are immoral and should burn in hell, but I have a colleague who also is evil and has no standards, so I am referring you.”

If that client was YOUR child, family member, friend, co-worker, or neighbor teetering on the brink of suicide, is THAT the message you think they should hear?

Because suicide is what the EMU big meanies are trying to prevent.

Speaking of which, if you are very, very religious, AND especially if you also are extremely strict, IF your child is gay or lesbian, the ONLY clue you may ever get about that is the very neutral-sounding question, “What do you think about homosexuality?” Your child’s decision on whether or not to commit suicide is riding on your answer. If you answer harshly … well, even if your child doesn’t commit suicide, that’s the moment where emotionally and spiritually they will leave you.

What your child is usually really asking you is, “Will you still love me if I tell you I’m gay?”

Now watch “Dead Poets Society” enough times to figure out what making someone feel trapped by harshness and strictness and cut off from their autonomy by another person’s values can do (and that character wasn’t even gay). Here is the scene:

And really, Stacy and Smitty — I saw the headline from the Creative Minority Report at The Other McCain — this is NOT a conscience issue, it is a professional standards issue and as a professional standards issue it truly IS a matter of life-and-death. If Ward wants to denounce homosexuality AND be a counselor, certainly she can find a program where she can become a minister and be within the guidelines of her profession to do both.

It is beyond reprehensible that social conservatives are positioning their desire to enforce their religions on other people as a matter of conscience and are trying to pass off this violation of their victims’ autonomy as something they are entitled to do — AND that THEY are the victims when their violations are thwarted. NO, that is NOT the way it works — imposing your religion and conscience on someone else, especially without their permission or knowledge, breaks their connection with their dharma and is about the most evil thing you can do.

(Note: Individual “dharma” is the most evolutionary behavior and profession for each individual, but everyone is different and can only progress from where they are so each person’s dharma is different. If they scorn their own situation and try to be someone else, they break their connection with their own dharma and fall into confusion. Someone who forces another person to be someone they aren’t also breaks that person’s connection with their dharma and pushes them into confusion on their evolutionary path.)

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  • Samurai

    I completely disagree with your assessment, and for the record, I’m agnostic myself. But religious people should not be forced to affirm beliefs they disagree with. Would you force a Muslim to affirm that drinking alcohol is ok to a patient where that’s an issue? She did exactly the right thing, just as her supervisor advised, referred the case to another doctor. YOU may choose to hear it as “You’ll burn in hell, not go see this evil doctor”, but that’s YOUR perceptions, not what she said. Doctors refer patients to another doctor all the time because they are specialists in an area, or have more experience with an issue. That’s exactly what she was doing… she felt another doctor would be better able to handle this 1 specific issue. And in return, perhaps that atheist doctor refers a patient wresting with religious issues to her. Or would you also require that an atheist psychiatrist MUST affirm a patient’s religious beliefs and personally counsel someone (not refer them to a priest or another doctor with more knowledge, experience, and a less biased view of religion) or else be kicked out of school and deemed unable to do their job properly?

    • http://www.aconservativelesbian.com Cynthia Yockey

      Samurai,

      Homosexuality is not a belief, so none of your analogies apply.

      As I pointed out in another reply to a comment, Ward’s handling of the situation shows severe boundary problems on her part. Counseling is not about about imposing your beliefs and values on your client. The ministry is the profession to pursue when you want to convert people to believing the way you do. That profession is open to Ward.

      Ward was training to become a counselor, not a medical doctor.

      The news story didn’t define what was meant by “affirm.” I think it means Ward was required to accept that her client’s homosexuality was part of his or her being. If Ward had had healthy boundaries, she would have been able to do that.

      Cynthia

  • http://www.escapefromo-topia.blogspot.com arhooley

    Stacy, I have a few quibbles. You say, “she is not free to cloak her religion in the mantle of authority of the counseling profession.” I’m not sure what you mean by this — that Ward tried to use the counseling profession to authorize her refusal, on religious grounds, to treat the patient? I don’t quite see it that way; I see her as having a fundamental conflict between her beliefs and the guidelines of her profession and circumventing it by passing the client onto someone who doesn’t have such a conflict.

    This issue is more complex for me. While I disagree with Ward’s “conscience,” it’s discomfiting that a person should be shut out of a profession because of her beliefs. At the same time, I don’t understand why people like Ward choose professions the guidelines of which conflict with their beliefs. As you state, she could have become a minister and counseled from there, but I’m guessing she wanted a formal education and training in counseling. Also, what does it mean that she “refused to affirm” the client’s homosexual behavior?

    In the end, I can’t stand the smarmy twittishness of anyone who would condemn a gay person from the eminence of her own lofty heterosexual decency.

    btw, I just found your blog and I wanted to at least drop by to say Hello. Keep butchering those sacred cows on both the right AND the left.

    • http://www.aconservativelesbian.com Cynthia Yockey

      Joan,

      Just so you know, Stacy is Robert Stacy McCain and we have some cordial running battles going. Smitty is his co-blogger.

      The situation looks to me like Ward was going to counsel the patient and try to condemn their homosexuality, but she got caught violating her would-be profession’s guidelines and her plan B was to refer the patient. Plan C is the one currently in operation, crying victim and suing. Affirming a counseling client’s homosexuality means accepting it as being as much a part of their being as breathing.

      I think it can be reasonably argued that Ward’s belief that she is entitled to violate her client’s autonomy is a form of sociopathy. That is why she was tossed out.

      In fact, the scorched earth campaign Ward is conducting against EMU also is characteristic of borderline personality disorder, or BPS. Borderline what, you may ask. “Borderline psychotic,” is the answer, but since the accurate name for the syndrome, “borderline psychotic personality disorder” triggers psychotic episodes by the persons who have it, the counseling professions have taken the path of less resistance and left out “psychotic.”

      The litmus test for BPS is setting any kind of boundary — say, for example, “Your gay client came to you for depression over a break-up, you are not allowed instead to counsel the patient the way to bliss and relationships that never, ever fail is to become heterosexual since being homosexual makes Jesus hate you.”

      Oh, and I left out the shaming. Ward was thwarted from shaming her gay client — as much as she wanted to, anyway, because the referral was pretty darn shaming in itself. Shaming is the sign of narcissism. Any time a narcissist feels shamed — and they can pull shame out of thin air — they offload their shame by shaming, humiiliating and/or criticizing someone else.

      I’m thinking that there are many counseling programs with leaders that consider someone with poor boundaries who shames others and goes on scorched earth campaigns of revenge when confronted with a boundary to be not quite healthy enough to counsel others.

      If anyone cares to Google for it, there is research confirming that the counseling professions attract more than their share of people with borderline personaity disorder.

      Thank you for your kind praise!

      Cynthia

  • http://www.escapefromo-topia.blogspot.com arhooley

    Woops, sorry! I meant to address you as Cynthia, not Stacy. Too many browser tabs open at once.

  • http://rsmccain.blogspot.com/ Robert Stacy McCain

    Cynthia:
    This was Smitty’s post you’re referring to, and so I’ll let him take the heat for it. Let me say, however, that as cheerleaders for one team or another in the Culture War, the temptation to avoid is that ends-justify-the-means rationale that Lenin boiled down to its radical essence: “Who, whom?”
    One must keep in view the objects of liberty and human happiness, and not fall prey to the appetite for power. Lenin’s co-revolutionists never imagined in 1917 that they would, within 20 years, be destroyed by Stalin.
    There is an ironic truth here, you see: The open enemies of Bolshevism were actually safer, if they could at least escape the reach of Soviet power, than were the most committed Bolsheviks who, fatally, sought to share in Soviet power.
    It is the radical hostility to liberty of the gay-rights movement that makes me proud to be an opponent of their agenda. The misunderstanding of my motives is to be expected, given the propaganda drumbeat of the radicals, but I know who I am, I know what I believe, and I fear them not at all. Being demonized as someone who “hates” or “fears” or otherwise has malevolent intent toward others, including dear friends, is just part of the territory.
    Beward those who seek power by presenting themselves as advocates for your pet cause. The Bolsheviks came to power in part because of their successful propaganda that portrayed them as champions of the peasantry against the supposedly vicious bourgeois. We see how that turned out, eh?

    • http://www.aconservativelesbian.com Cynthia Yockey

      Stacy,

      I’m not clear on how my fight for equal rights for lesbians and gays in marriage, service to our country, adoption, employment, housing and public accommodations (i.e., stores, restaurants, etc.) is a campaign against liberty.

      The campaign against equal rights for lesbians and gays, however, clearly is founded in greed for money and lust for power, variously posing as patriotism and piety. Babies = power for both church and state, and we are not reliably productive in that regard, so we are stigmatized, coerced, even murdered.

      I signed onto fiscal conservatism because I came to see it as the foundation for individual liberty. However, I find social conservatism to be as totalitarian as liberalism is. I’m not going to let that slide. As I go along, I will be explaining why totalitarianism on both the right and left is a menace to liberty and corrupting to society. Liberals believe that they should have my money and property because they know better than I do how to use them. I disagree. Social conservatives want my soul and control of every aspect of my behavior because they know better than I do about how to be and how to live. I disagree.

      Until GLAAD gives you the award for most dramatic about-face that is in your future, whenever you denounce our quest for equal rights, look at one of the photos of Margaret and me first, then imagine whether you would feel the same way about equal rights for gays if or when one of your children comes out as gay or lesbian.

      Since my post mentioned a fictional teen suicide, I want to mention that I learned yesterday of a local boy who committed suicide. His mother told him not to go somewhere, he went anyway and got caught. When he came home, she grounded him for three days and sent him to his room. He hanged himself from his bunkbed. He was 11.

      I am not saying that boy was gay. I just want you to know that you may be talking unawares to one of your own children, and that it doesn’t take much to push some people over the brink.

      Cynthia

  • http://littlemissattila.com Joy “Attila Girl” McCann

    I’m not going to weigh in on the specifics of this case, but I do think that if I am being counseled by someone and he/she cannot stomach some element of my makeup that is fundamental to who I am, I would prefer that they refer me to someone else, rather than attempt to treat me despite being unable to accept that fact about me.

    The one thing I’d ask you to consider in this, dear Cynthia, is whether or not you would extend your logic to the abortion issue. I know that one cannot analogize perfectly, since it is generally among mental-health professionals among whom the homosexuality dimension might crop up (few others would have the chance to cop that judgment in the first place), but there must be clinical issues that deal with morality–WRT to abortion and what constitutes death with dignity, for instance–upon which individuals will have to vary in their opinions.

    If I were to have to choose, I would prefer to have practitioners in place from a variety of religious perspectives, to make sure that every person got some sort of treatment, in accordance with his/her OWN belief system.

    But there are limits, and there must be. For instance, I believe that the Western World MUST accept circumcision of males, but CANNOT accept genital mutilation of females. (Now someone is going to drop in and tell me that female “circumcision” is just that–when anyone with a brain knows it is not.)

    So of course I don’t see any perfect solution, here: clearly, I’m saying that orthodox Christians can be health-care professionals, but orthodox Muslims of a certain stripe cannot be. So there is a line I draw.

    But on abortion and homosexuality, I’d rather see the patient’s own preferences/orientations supported by having practitioners on each side of the divide, rather than risk people not getting what they need. So on those issues I advocate a compromise, whereas on female “circumcision” I can do no such thing.

    • http://www.aconservativelesbian.com Cynthia Yockey

      Dear Joy,

      I really appreciate your thoughtful and challenging comment.

      Right now I just want to make the distinction that homosexuality is not a choice or opinion, so it is not analagous to issues that are.

      OMG, I just glanced at the clock — it’s Easter and we’re celebrating my father’s 93rd birrthday and I’m blogging instead of cooking! Gotta go! And here I logged on because I read your post on the Tea Parties and I wanted link it in a post about Howard Kurtz just now smarmily slamming Fox News about the tea parties and demanding that they prove they are fair and balanced by saying something nice about Obama! Gag! However, he did note that CNN and MSNBC are in blackout mode regarding the Tea Parties — however, he had no assignments for them to prove their professionalism.

      Cynthia

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