Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Psychological Studies and Open Letters to the World

I had a most interesting experience this past week. Someone who found my blog reached out to me and asked, via an obviously-copy-pasted letter, if I wanted to participate in a research study being carried out by a doctorate-hopeful from CUNY. Her topic was Sexual Orientation and Religion. With trepidation, I called the number at the bottom to see if it was some weird spam attempt or if it was, in fact, legit. A real person, Chana Etengoff, M.A., answered the phone, sent me her credentials, wowed me with her responses to some of my concerns, and less than a week later, I'm in borderline tears over the phone with a woman I've never met about what it's like to be gay and Mormon (and also a pioneer ;) .

The biggest concern I had going into the study was the angle she'd take in presenting her data. My biggest problem of many with the American Psychological Association is its stance on treating people with unwanted homosexuality, and indeed, I was concerned that this doctoral dissertation would take my hopeful views of a faithful life of chastity and celibacy and skew me to look like a religious nut or a repressed, timid little boy. And yet, she responded to my answers with kind, open-hearted candor. I have faith that I will not become a skewed data point.

Before my interview, she explained what she was doing, in that she wasn't taking questionnaires and plugging data into formulaic logarithms, but was using very nuanced, qualitative research to portray a wider view of the struggle found in homosexuals with religious backgrounds. She reassured me that there was no hypothesis attached to her project and that she was merely seeking information, and I trust that to be true.

It was a great experience. I loved bearing testimony of the things I feel are true and I enjoyed exploring those religious parts of my sexuality in a clinical, safe environment. I talked Atonement, the possibilities found in reorientation therapy, mixed-orientation marriage, etc., and she responded with understanding and appreciation for my views.

My reason for participating was to give voice to those of us who do struggle, but still choose a life of celibacy and devoted religion, and my audience was both the psychiatric community that tends to discount religion as something that gets in the way of my identity, and the religious community that tends to vilify homosexuality, whether or not it's being practiced.  I hope very deeply that Ms. Etengoff's study will change both of those erroneous viewpoints. I had the opportunity to convey that sentiment in an open letter that was part of the study.  I think I'll post it later.

I'd have no qualms in recommending Ms. Etengoff's study. Also, something that makes her work unique is that she also asks if the subject's family members would like to participate as well. It's not a requirement to invite a family member to participate, but she mentioned to me that her study is the first to take responses from both gay individuals and their family members (other studies have taken parents' responses, but they weren't necessarily parents of other subjects in the studies).  I think that will yield some interesting data.

If you want to participate, shoot me an e-mail and I'll pass along her cover letter.


Be nice, mmmmkay? I allow anonymous comments, but not anonymous (or even attributed) douchebaggery. The Gay Mormon Pioneer's tolerance for hate and venom are incredibly low, but his love of communication and debate are high, so have an opinion, but be kind and gentle when you share it.

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