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Suggested Discussion Questions:
1. The author’s psychiatrist, “Dr. Alfonzo,” practiced a form of “primal therapy.” What is primal therapy, and what might be its benefits, vs. dangers? How does primal therapy turn into a form of “reparative therapy” through the course of this book?
2. The author writes about being sexually abused as a child; he also claims that the sexual abuse did not “make” him gay. What is the relationship between childhood sexual abuse and sexual orientation? Can the former ever influence the outcome of the latter? How might sexual abuse affect a person’s sexuality overall?
3. All survivors of childhood sexual abuse, regardless of sexual orientation or gender, experience fear about “coming out” as a survivor of abuse. Why might an LGBTQ person in particular not want to admit to a history of sexual abuse? What could be the consequences of not facing one’s own history of sexual abuse, specifically within this community?
4. If the therapy described in this book was all that bad or traumatic, why didn’t the author just leave treatment? Did the author even have the “right” to sue his former psychiatrist for medical malpractice, considering he remained in the therapy for six years? Why might a person remain in an abusive relationship, specifically when the power differential is between a patient and their doctor?
5. The author’s mother, a German, was in a communist concentration camp in the former Yugoslavia post World War II. Weren’t all concentration camps Nazi (National Socialist) camps? What is the difference between the two? How could a German have even ended up in a concentration camp?
6. What is meant by “intergenerational trauma,” and how is this theme explored in the book?
7. The author seems to remember a lot of detail about a period in his life he claims to have also been under the influence of power psychiatric medication that caused short-term memory loss. Are his “memories” still reliable?
8. Elsewhere, the author has written about his decision to not tell his own family about the publication of the book. What is the responsibility of a memoirist to the people he writes about? Should the author have asked everyone that’s mentioned in his book if they were okay with what he wrote? How might a history of generational trauma affect a memoirist’s decision not to ask for his family’s consent in writing about his history?
9. The American Psychiatric Association declassified homosexuality as a mental illness in 1973. How is it possible that a licensed psychiatrist was even treating someone for being gay well into the 1990’s? Could this kind of “therapy” happen today? Is this book still relevant?
10. Despite extensive research and empirical evidence to the contrary, advocates of reparative therapy claim that a person can change their sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual. What is the difference between same sex desire, which has been recorded in all cultures throughout time, and sexual orientation, specifically “homosexuality” and “heterosexuality,” whose binary was created only in the late 19th century? How might reparative therapy seek to change the latter, and not the former? What are the implications of this difference for a person who claims to have changed their sexual orientation?
11. Advocates of “reparative therapy” also talk about “helping homosexuals leave their unwanted homosexual desires.” List at least five methods by which a counsellor or therapist might “help” an LGBTQ person “leave their unwanted homosexual desires.” How successful and “helpful” are these methods?
12. Over the last several years there have been a number of laws enacted to protect the rights of gays. Is the topic of “gay rights” now passé? How does the current debate around transgender rights relate to what gays have experienced in past years? For example, discuss the similarities between the kind of “gender dysphoria” experienced by some transgender people and similar forms of “dysphoria” experienced by gay people.
13. Since 2012, a number of U.S. cities and states have passed laws banning “reparative therapy” for minors. Describe some of the potential challenges and consequences in trying to pass these laws, and how effective might they be in actually preventing such “therapies” from continuing? Are these laws necessary only for minors?
14. Do laws banning “reparative therapy” in any way threaten the dialogue between a therapist and their patient about sexuality and sexual identity?
15. In appealing a recent law banning “reparative therapy,” one plaintiff, an Evangelical Minister, cited Freedom of Religion as his defense in arguing for the right to offer these “therapies.” Is Freedom of Religion a viable defense in arguing for the right to offer “therapies” that seek to “change” a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity?
16. What is the meaning of the book’s title? How might shame be “inherited”?