BBC3′s Gay to Straight: Stacey Dooley investigates Gay Conversion Therapy but stays somewhat impartial throughout
It seems that Stacey Dooley is indeed a polarising figure after a lot of you left feedback about her show last week, concerning the first all-female boot camp. There were some who applauded her lovely nature and natural response while others felt she was simpering and patronising, so probably won’t be tuning into this week’s instalment.
Stacey’s second programme centres on conversion therapy which is the controversial process that allegedly turns young gay men straight. Conversion therapy deals with Same-Sex Attraction, known as SSA for short, which works under the belief that homosexual feelings are simply a condition a lot of young men fall prey too, especially if they have a poor relationship with their parents.
Stacey’s first port-of-call is the Indiana town of Gilbert in which she meets therapist Floyd who does operate under the belief that nobody is born gay. It transpired that Floyd himself had issues with SSA, however he is now married with three kids so he feels that he has an affinity with the young men that come to see him.
One of these men is 19 year old T.J. who allows Stacey to sit in on his session with Floyd where he admits that he no longer feels an attraction to men he meets on the street but he still finds himself watching gay porn a couple of days a week. Stacey described T.J. still watching gay porn as ‘an odd one’ and wanting to know more about him, journeyed to his house to meet his family.
As she went round his family home, T.J. revealed to her that he originally came out to his mum when he was in eighth grade telling her he had feelings for men and releasing what he describes an emotional atom bomb. His mother seemed to think that T.J.’s homosexuality created a barrier between her and her son adding that it wasn’t in her plans for her family to have a gay child. If that was enough to make us dislike this woman her response to Stacey’s question about if she’d be OK with having a gay son was ‘that’s like deciding if I would be OK with my son being a terrorist.’ The documentary is insinuating that T.J.’s therapy is essentially to appease his parents however he insists that his heart’s desire is now to have a wife and children.
Someone else who has been through the conversion therapy is Danny who is already living T.J.’s dream, as he has a wife and two lovely young boys. It seems that Danny’s wife Erin does love the fact that her husband had SSA, as it still allows him to have a creative edge and it seemed that he had the biggest influence when the couple were decorating their home. Erin seems totally comfortable with Danny’s SSA telling Stacy that her husband checking out men is akin to other women’s husbands checking out other women. After a while it was obvious to me that Danny felt that he had to go through conversion therapy as in the Mormon faith being openly gay is unacceptable.
The conversion therapy would have us believe that most men who have SSA are dealing with abandonment issues with their fathers, so are drawn to other men. Stacey meets Danny’s father Bruce who believes that the fact he was a travelling salesman had a negative impact on the relationship with his son, which in turn caused him to be attracted to men. The most worrying thing is Danny telling us that if one of his sons comes out as gay then he’d wondered where he went wrong as a father.
Both Danny and T.J are a part of Floyd’s camping exercise where he takes his conversion therapy patients out into the wilderness to bond with their parents. Now if you didn’t know any better you would think a bunch of guys going into the forests and learning how to hug each other would sound a little bit gay, however this apparently is a method to cure these men of their SSA. One of the young men going on Floyd’s trip is 17 year old Skylar, someone who wishes to curb his SSA before it gets out of control. Skylar uses the trip, as most of the campers do, to get to know his father better and the two seemingly bond around the campfire which surely means that all of Skylar’s homosexual feelings have disappeared. Of all her subjects it appears that Stacey is genuinely concerned about Skylar’s welfare so goes to his house where she discovers he has a girlfriend who really isn’t aware of the feelings he’s trying to supress. If I thought T.J’s mother was bad then Skylar’s parents’ views were absolutely shocking, describing the thought of their son being gay as repulsive and unnatural. It then transpired that Skylar had tried to commit suicide and it seemed to me as if his parents had forced him to get the conversion therapy instead of talking through the feelings he was obviously confused about.
To present a balanced view Stacey travels to California to meet David a young man who had also gone through conversion therapy but had finally come to the realisation that he was born to be gay. David now lives with his boyfriend Angel and tells Stacy that the whole conversion process frustrates him but puts it down to a lot of young men not being able to reconcile their homosexuality with the scripture they had grown up reading. Finally Stacey meets Joseph Nicolosi, one of the major advocates of the therapy, who tries to explain how the process has been based on fact rather than just homophobia. Personally I feel this section with Nicolosi was frustratingly short with Stacey not really grilling him as I much as I think she should have done.
I really can see both sides of the argument when it comes to Stacey Dooley’s style and both were on show in Gay to Straight. On one hand I feel she’s a bit weak in the face of adversity not every wanting to lay into people even when they’re being completely hateful. My other issue was that neither of these documentaries have really had any definitive conclusion with Stacey not condemning the conversion therapy but simply stating that she has her doubts. On the other hand I think she is incredibly caring character and this came across in her meetings with Skylar who she could obviously see was suffering with a father who failed to see homosexuality as anything other than a sin. To me it seems that she does invest time in getting to know the people she interviews and in turn they build up a trust in her which is rare in a documentary series such as this.
Having weighed up all the evidence I feel that this conversion therapy is just another way of denying who you really are, because if T.J. is still watching gay porn doesn’t that mean he’s still gay? The documentary suggests that the majority of those going through with the therapy are trying to do so for their family or because the religion they follow tell them what they’re doing is wrong. I can’t believe anybody watching this would think that it’s at all healthy to supress your feelings and do what society believes you should do. In that sense Gay to Straight did get me quite angry however I did warm Dooley’s presenting style a little more even if she still is a bit too impartial for my liking.
What did you think? Leave your comments below….
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