WASHINGTON — Prominent LGBT activist Lt. Dan Choi, one of the most recognizable faces in the last days of the struggle to finally end the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and the law behind it, has taken up a new cause, and he’s brought thousands of advocates from around the world with him.
The former Marine and Arabic linguist who shot into the public eye after coming out on the Rachel Maddow show in March of 2009, has mobilized over 17,000 advocates from around the globe to petition the government of Hong Kong to end its state sponsorship of so-called gay and lesbian “reparative therapy.”
According to Choi’s Change.org petition, U.S.-based Exodus International helped influence the Hong Kong Social Welfare Department in hiring discredited psychologist Hong Kwai-Wah to perform “gay cures,” which Kwai-Wah claims is achieved through “cold showers, prayer, and abstinence.” Almost every major psychological, psychiatric and health organization in the Western world has determined gay and lesbian “reparative therapy” to be not just ineffective, but possibly harmful to the well-being of the recipient of such treatment.
Choi, a West Point graduate and combat veteran, teamed up with Wayne Besen of the ex-gay watchdog group, “Truth Wins Out,” to publicize the movement to pressure the territory’s government to distance itself from “ex-gay” therapy. “The petition has taken off on Change.org,” a recent press release read in part, “following news that Hong Kong’s Social Welfare Department recently held a workshop for its staff led by Hong Kwai-wah.”
The Hong Kong LGBT rights group Rainbow Action has been staging protests outside of the Social Welfare Department offices recently to attempt to draw awareness to this issue.
Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out and Dan Choi believe that Hong Kong is doing far more harm than good. “The American Psychiatric Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association and American Psychological Association are all on record in stating that there is no evidence to support the efficacy of so-called ‘ex-gay’ therapy and attempts to change sexual orientation can be psychologically harmful.”
“The Social Welfare Department’s reaction to the controversy is entirely inadequate and unacceptable,” Besen said. “This is the equivalent of the tobacco industry infiltrating the health system and portraying the ‘health benefits’ of smoking as just another perspective. It is grossly irresponsible for the Social Welfare Department to embrace a form of dangerous, religious therapy that harms clients and ruins lives.”