Homosexuals, Tolerance, the Apple App Store, and Freedom of Speech

Mobile phone “app stores” have become the new sociocultural battlegrounds. Apple, which owns and operates its iTunes application and media stores, maintains relatively tight guidelines as to what may or may not be sold through their platform. Recently, they banned an application that purported to help homosexuals become heterosexual, through what is known as reparative therapy.

Without taking any particular stand on reparative therapy (about which I should share some ramblings in the future), I found the following comment on a technology web site [slashdot.org], which strongly leans left socially, very much on the mark:

Thanks for injecting some rationality here. This is the thing I can’t understand: if someone wants to change their gender, that’s something that’s seen as acceptable, even if a bit unusual. If someone wants to change their sexual orientation, it’s presumed that someone with an agenda must have brainwashed that person and the community that shares their (original) orientation takes offence. No-one should be pushing this sort of thing on anybody, but I can’t understand why it’s an issue for such software to exist.


For background information, see, for example, Gay activists petition Apple to remove Exodus app from Christian Today, and Apple axes ‘gay cure’ iPhone app from the Christian Science Monitor. The latter reported:

Apple has pulled from the iTunes store a controversial piece of software known as the “gay cure” app. The free application was created by the Christian ministry Exodus International, which describes itself as “helping those struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction to live a life congruent with biblical teaching.” … But the Exodus International app was widely condemned, and a petition seeking to have the app removed quickly drew upward of 150,000 signatures. “Apple needs to be told, loud and clear, that this is unacceptable,” the petition read.

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6 Responses to Homosexuals, Tolerance, the Apple App Store, and Freedom of Speech

  1. Lipman says:

    One aspect is that reparative therapy doesn’t work and can drive homosexuals to suicide or a life of misery, while sex changes strangely work.

    But more to the point – when has society last pressured you to undergo actual surgery and hormone therapy and be a woman shoin?

  2. Cheski says:

    I think the “gay cure” app is an ‘abomination’ in and of itself.

    Unless someone can prove being ‘gay’ is an illness which I challenge anyone to prove scientifically.

  3. Arie Folger says:

    I was actually trying to keep a discussion about reparative therapy at bay for a little longer, because it deserves its own post, no, scratch that, its own series of posts.

    Clearly, there have been cases of people who were driven through the wall by being torn about their sexual tendencies, and there have been some prominent cases of homosexually active teens who committed suicide, sometimes on account of the rejection they felt.

    Also clearly, some reparative therapy is total nonsense.

    Regarding what is or what is not an illness, I think it is fairly straightforward that for conditions that do not directly threaten corporal health, the question is not primarily medical, but social, so the question is largely moot. As a matter of comparison, do we consider exhibitionists sick? It depends whom you ask. But at some point, Western society, permissive as it is, would also agree exhibitionism is a problem. So illness is in the eye of the beholder.

    What opinion leaders in society seem to willfully ignore, or at least the gay activists prompt us to, is the fact that there are people who seek out reparative therapy, not because they are pressured to, but because they want, because they disapprove of their own homosexual tendencies. But society disapproves of them, while the same opinion leaders do not disapprove of transsexuals. That is what the Slashdot comment was bemoaning.

    Who is to say that people who are disturbed by their own homosexual tendencies are not at an increased risk of depression and suicide if we don’t validate their wish to change?

    Personally, I have not much of an idea about what the app does or does not do, as I have only read about it in secondary sources, and frankly, I am not writing about the effectiveness of that app. In fact, as a thoroughly believing Jew, I would obviously not have recourse to the New Testament to try to heal someone. But I see this as a free speech and tolerance issue. How many people signed the petition because the app is possibly harmful, and how many because it is supposedly homophobic? We do not know, but a casual unscientific survey of comments shows that many people signed for the second reason.

  4. Cheski says:

    I find it really remarkable if someone seeks therapy to change himself not because he wants it but because of social motives. What does this teach about our society?

    Still, I think your kasheh on the App Store is a good one.

  5. Lipman says:

    Inhowfar is homosexuality a problem to Western society as much as exhibitionism?

    “people who seek out reparative therapy, not because they are pressured to” – I’m not sure how you define pressure. Why would they want the change if not for social reasons? It’s not a coincidence that those who “want” to be “cured” are usually people who live in Christian, and sometimes Jewish, societies that strongly disapprove of homosexuality for ideological reasons.

    “Who is to say that people who are disturbed by their own homosexual tendencies are not at an increased risk of depression and suicide if we don’t validate their wish to change?” That is a valid question if you consider that health insurances in some countries will pay for your wish to amputate limbs for no reason other than that you show credibility that your mental health depends on it. Still, most people will say you’re meshugge and the medical arts should use that as a starting point rather than surgery.

    “How many people signed the petition because the app is possibly harmful, and how many because it is supposedly homophobic?” I’m not sure the line between the two is so clear.

    (All of this doesn’t touch the question whether homosexuality is “right” or not, only the concrete arguments brough forward.)

    • Arie Folger says:

      Still, most people will say you’re meshugge and the medical arts should use that as a starting point rather than surgery.

      Well, if the cure involved amputating a limb, your analogy would be very good. (Though I’d be very, very concerned about a telehone that could actually hold a scalpel – I am walking around with that thing in my shirt pocket, for heaven’s sake).

      However, here, we are talking about people who seek a particular type of therapeutic counselling. Since they need counselling and they ask for counselling, they are arguably really clearly within the orbit of what’s appropriate. That surely doesn’t make them meshugge.

      (All of this doesn’t touch the question whether homosexuality is “right” or not, only the concrete arguments brough forward.)

      (Obviously, you very well gauged the context within which this post is operating, and I do not deal with that here, either – I just found the Slashdot comment a somewhat biting insightful social commentary.)

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