Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Writing Back to Santa

Wow. That survey was intense! I spent somewhere between one and two hours last night completing the survey of ex-ex-gay individuals being conducted by Anessa Santa at the University of Montana. The survey I received was 14 front-and-back pages long! While there were a few things I would have changed about the survey (heck, I just administered an internal survey at Caterpillar, Inc., and in retrospect I wish I had phrased a few of my own questions differently), I really must commend Ms. Santa for creating a very thorough evaluation.

The first few pages were devoted to collecting demographic information--but slightly more in-depth information than most surveys ask. For instance, Ms. Santa not only asks about one's marital status, but she also asks about the gender of one's spouse, and one's marital status (and gender of spouse, if there was one) prior to and during ex-gay therapy. Interesting.

The most complicated portion of the survey also appeared in the demographic section--the assessment of one's orientation. Ms. Santa presented me with the original Kinsey scale (0 to 6, hetero to homo) and also a matrix that measured orientation in terms of physical and emotional attraction, fantasy, and social interaction. Adding another dimension, Ms. Santa asked me to evaluate my orientation with each of these different metrics at three different points in time and one aspirational time: before, during, and after my participation in ex-gay therapy and also (this was interesting) what I considered to be ideal orientation for me. Phew. That was complicated!

A final insightful component of the demographic data collected by Ms. Santa was religious identification and spiritual experience before and after ex-gay therapy. This portion was far more than a "select your denomination from the following list". Rather, Ms. Santa asked about life-changing spiritual experiences and when they occurred. She posed a bevy of questions about how I conceive of God, my participation in a religious community, and how God and I relate to each other. While completing this section, I found myself grateful that my husband and I have recently had a deep conversation about spirituality; having recently had the opportunity to articulate and talk through my convictions, I found I was able to complete this section of the survey rather rapidly.

The middle sections sought to measure consequences--good and bad--from my time in ex-gay therapy. I thought it was cool that Ms. Santa not only asked about harms, but also about benefits. I was happy to complete the short answer section about the good that ultimately came from my time as an ex-gay, most notably the most awesome set of friends I can imagine. Ms. Santa also inquired about harms, and I thought it was insightful that she asked about multiple different types of harms that may have been experienced. My friend Peterson Toscano has recently enumerated the variety of harms he and others experienced as a result of their ex-gay years; I was delighted to find that Ms. Santa asked questions about many of the same types of harms: relational consequences, emotional and psychological consequences, the financial cost of the therapy, consequences to careers and educations, and alcohol abuse. It was very thorough.

The latter sections were devoted to understanding the particular ex-gay programs I had participated in. I had let Ms. Santa know I was involved in two different ex-gay programs, so she sent me an extended survey with separate questions for each of the programs. I appreciated that Ms. Santa was not treating all ex-gay therapies as the same--and I'd be very interested to see the spectrum of responses she receives! I've heard of some pretty wacky sh*t being done in the name of reorientation; I wonder what craziness will be reported by participants in this study!

Folks, while imperfect, this is a very thorough survey that has the potential to result in a lot of good work. If Ms. Santa can find a wide enough sample base, the results she compiles could be a powerful force for moving forward the scholarship on ex-gay therapies and their consequences. If you are an ex-ex-gay, please participate. All you need to do is send an email to Anessa containing your mailing address and requesting a survey. If you know ex-ex-gays, please invite them to participate in this survey.

1 comment:

Newscrazy said...

Oh, buddy, I love you to the moon and back! I'm so glad you're in a good place now! Just don't forget that YOU ROCK! :-) Thank you for being YOU!