It has emerged that around 104 Walmart stores in the Intermountain West will be stocking a book entitled Chased by an Elephant, the Gospel Truth about Today’s Stampeding Sexuality by Janice Barrett Graham, wife of Stephen Graham, President of the anti-gay organization Standard of Liberty. According to the author, the book is to help parents steer children away from homosexuality and other perceived sexual improprieties.
Overgrown jungles? Stampeding elephants? Tarzan and Jane? That’s what Christian families will find in this book to help shed the bright light of truth on today’s dark and tangled ideas about male and female, proper gender roles, the law of chastity, and the God-given sexual appetite. Even more important is this book’s emphasis on youth knowing their relationship to God and the basic principles of Christ’s gospel, the application of which will counteract misinformation, prevent sexual sin, and open up much-needed spiritual resources like nothing else.
The book contains a foreward from Janice’s son who claims he was lured into the “gay lifestyle” by older men at college but is now a reformed, heterosexual married man.
More From ABC 4:
Janice Graham is a writer who created a book she titled Wild Elephant, a book that’s geared towards young readers, but it is one that’s meant to be a guide for parents.
“I’m concerned about the rising generation, and young people are being fed a lot of distorted information about their growing sexuality, and I think we are failing as parents and as leaders to counteract those lies they are hearing.”
As a mother, Graham struggled with her son’s homosexuality.
“It was a very difficult time for our family.”
She began writing a book other parents could use to help shape their young children’s sexuality. Chapters titled, “Me Tarzan, You Jane”, are written to be read by parents to their children ages 10 and older. It’s an approach Dr. Douglas Goldsmith, a child’s psychologist, does not agree with.
“If a child grows up and makes the decision for an alternative lifestyle, they have kind of slammed the door, because the child knows how they feel. It’s going to [be] tough for that child to communicate with them and have a harmonious relationship.”
As many readers will be aware, Walmart continues to be boycotted for several reasons including its treatment of female staff, and this will do little to improve the chain’s reputation.
Needless to say, it is incredibly concerning that the book might be taken as a legitimate source of information that one can “shape” a child’s sexual orientation.
The book has been widely decried throughout the blogosphere, so I feel there’s not much more to say on that, but as a point of interest I’d like to take a quick glance at who is recommending this book, as I feel it is quite revealing.
On the tidalwavebooks site, the book is endorsed by a number of people with professional sounding titles. One is Dr. A. Dean Byrd, and he says:
“This book is a thought-provoking and alarming commentary on what is happening in our sex-saturated culture. It deserves careful attention and has the potential to make an elephant-sized difference.”
Dr. A. Dean Byrd is a former president of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) an organization that peddles ex-gay therapy and the idea that homosexuality is a dangerous choice and that people can change if they should so choose.
The organization has been repudiated on several occasions for its misleading use of research papers to try and substantiate its claims. Byrd himself has also been slammed for being highly selective in how he quotes research materials so as to support his own anti-gay view point. More on that here.
Another endorsement from Michelle A. Cretella, MD, Chair of the Committee on Adolescent Sexuality, American College of Pediatricians, says:
“Teen pregnancy, STIs, and emotional heartache due to extra-marital sexual activity do not strike those who embrace chastity. In a straightforward and light-hearted way, this book successfully guides parents in imparting this virtue to their children in the context of the Christian tradition.”
Cretella also appears to be affiliated with NARTH as demonstrated by her pressence on their website under their “officers” section.
And turning our attention to the American College of Pediatricians (ACP) there’s another NARTH connection. Not to be confused with the American Academy of Pediatricians, the group has yet again been taken to task for its misinformation.
It’s core tenets hinge on adherence to Judeo-Christian standpoints on matters of sexuality and the so-called traditional family unit, and even though it pretends to be a neutral resource, it is anything but.
For instance, on the ACP’s “Facts About Youth” homosexuality page, the very first two references on the possibility of so-called “re-orientation” come from NARTH. Not only that, but it references the following:
However, in 2001 psychiatrist Dr. Robert Spitzer, who in 1973 originally led the team to normalize homosexuality in the diagnostic manual, conceded that “reorientation therapy” (a patient/client’s efforts to diminish unwanted homosexual attractions and behaviors and/or develop one’s heterosexual potential through professional and/or religiously-mediated change efforts) can be effective.
You can read more about the dubious referencing the site uses here.
NARTH and other conservative groups have got a lot of mileage out of that research but they have also been condemned for misrepresenting Spitzer’s findings, chiefly by Spitzer himself.
While Spitzer’s limited study did indeed conclude that creating a change in a person’s sexual orientation may be possible, the study had severe limitations. Spitzer has gone on record to clarify that, at best, the study showed that success of such therapy would be extremely rare if it is possible, and could be extremely damaging if it failed.
A couple of statements from Dr. Spitzer via Truth Wins Out:
“In advance of NARTH’ press conference in New Orleans, I want to express hope that my research will not be exaggerated or used as a wedge to deny gay people equal rights. My research shows that some homosexuals can change their orientation but I believe that such change is rare. In many cases, attempts to change sexual orientation can be harmful. In the spirit of research and solid science I hope that all sides in this debate stick to the facts.” (In August 2006, NARTH was preparing to picket the American Psychological Association’ annual meeting in New Orleans. Dr. Spitzer, aware that the group had misused his work in the past to support its political agenda, sent NARTH a letter August 10, 2006.)
“I did anticipate, and in my presentation warn, that it would be a mistake to interpret the study as implying that any highly motivated homosexual could change if they were really motivated to do so. I suspect that the vast majority of gay people — even if they wanted to — would be unable to make substantial changes in sexual attraction and fantasy and enjoyment of heterosexual functioning that many of my subjects reported.” (Anything But Straight; Wayne Besen; Haworth Press, 2003; pg. 240.)
You can also watch a video of Doctor Spitzer talking about how his research has been misrepresented by anti-gay groups by heading over to Truth Wins Out.
There are several other endorsements of Chased by an Elephant floating around, mostly all from certain members of the LDS community or other social conservative groups. I’ve chosen to tackle just a couple above, but praise for Graham’s book is coming from a very particular and tightly woven network of religious conservatives all of whom have a vested interest in its promotion and dissemination as a way of spreading their ex-gay message.
If Janice Graham’s son says he has changed his sexuality and is now living a happy life as a heterosexual, I am prepared to accept that at face value.
But for decades now the wider medical community has held that homosexuality is not an illness and in 1997, the American Psychological Association passed a resolution condemning the widely discredited practice of conversion therapy. They echoed that sentiment in a more recent resolution that affirms that no solid or even partially substantiated evidence exists that supports conversion therapy as a viable means of treatment for depression related to homosexuality. Indeed, other groups across the globe have followed this stance, with the British Medical Association this year moving to condemn reparative therapy as a discredited and harmful practice. Read more on that here.
Therefore, Graham using her son’s conversion as the basis of a book promoting to parents ex-gay therapy – in whatever form – and sampling endorsements from discredited affiliated organizations to support that without the caveat of how the wider medical community has concluded that conversion is both extremely unlikely (if possible at all) and also potentially very dangerous, is a disingenuous way to further an agenda, and one that should not go by without appropriate challenge.
As such, I am pleased to say the book is being challenged. On the book’s Amazon.com page, reviewers have already started offering their opinion, many of which term the book dangerous and decry it as deceitful, and I’ve no doubt that others will follow and voice their opinions on other websites stocking the book, such as Barnes & Nobel.com.
To be clear, I do not advocate censorship, but for Walmart and other stockists to carry the book, even in just a handful of stores, without a health warning of some kind seems deeply irresponsible.
Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License, with thanks to Monochrome.