In my own case, I believe significant relationship problems with both of my parents, as well as with my peers, contributed to the development of same-sex attractions in my life and personality. I don't blame my parents at all; they became the people they were because of the upbringing they had and they tried to do the best they could rearing me. But my father was very emotionally distant throughout my childhood, while my mother was likely too emotionally available.
I can identify a similar pattern in my life, but I'm not a gay man. And I've never found much agreement on what "causes" le5bianism.In addition, my parent's marriage was strained in many ways and that cannot help but have been felt by a child. If pressed on the matter I guess I would say it was possible that I might have had a sort of personality that might have been vulnerable to the development of same-sex attractions. But at the bottom line I think certain relationship and environmental factors needed to be in place for it to flourish.
I'm not sure what he means by this. What are these "certain" factors? Also, I have many straight friends whose parents' relationships were strained (and are strained) and they don't "struggle" with same sex attraction.I was born in 1963 and probably the key time for culture to have a big influence on me was in the period from 1976 to 1986. It was around 1976 that I became sexually aware: I began to have sexual desires and began acting out sexually, initially with myself though ma5turbation but also with other, older, boys whose bodies, experience and authority I tended to idolize. Looking back on it I can say that they, to some extent, took advantage of having a younger boy around with whom they could satisfy some fundamental lusts.
How horrible for Mr. Morrison. This doesn't sound like it was too pleasurable for him, but more like a species of sexual abu5e: "took advantage of", "fundamental lusts". Although some of my female friends and I flirted as children, this was not my experience then nor is it my experience now. As I have aged, I have also not experienced sexual feelings as compulsions. However, this change has not made me straight nor has it convinced me to live a sexless life (though I currently do live one). This learning how to channel and control my passions has lead me to want to seek a relationship with another woman based on friendship and mutual interest. Sex isn't high on this list, though I would not be opposed to having it either. In other words, I do not generally experience my sexuality as "lust" these days.I don't recall too many explicit "fag" jokes. As the homosexual liberation or gay movement drew more attention nation-wide I remember there being jokes about that and about AIDS. But I was always able to hide my same-sex attractions, and the older boys with whom I sometimes acted out sexually did not seem to associate my willingness to have some forms of sex with them with definitive homosexuality on my part.
I wonder if he's reached his current conclusion about the immorality of "same-sex attraction" because of these generally negative sexual experiences. Loveless sexual encounters do not, in general, lead to a healthy sense of self, in my opinion.Probably the biggest cultural influence on my same-sex attractions came when I was around nineteen or so and it was more or less inevitable that, if you lived with any same-sex attractions, you would have sex and define yourself as gay. The only alternative the culture provided - simply not telling anyone that you lived with same-sex attractions - was unacceptable since that was a ticket to a truly miserable and fearful life.
Since I wasn't around for the seventies, I can't comment on this. But at least today, I know several young men and women my age and younger who identify as gay/le5bian/bisexual and who have never had sex. I came out when I was nineteen, and I didn't immediately jump into bed with a woman. I've never felt overwhelming pressure to do so either.In retrospect I would have appreciated a cultural alternative to the extremes of either walking around afraid of anyone finding out that I lived with same-sex attractions or defining myself as gay and hitting the party scene.
It seems to me that this fellow's response to "same sex attraction" stems from a lot of emotional suffering, not from dissatisfaction caused by being gay per se.I am not sure I have discovered a way to "counteract" same-sex attractions. Indeed. I suspect most folks haven't. Rather, I think I discovered some of the same things that anyone who moves from a life defined by a temporal desire to one defined by seeking Christ also discovers.
Again, he seems to define an orientation with "temporal desire", and an orientation with "hitting the party scene". Promiscuity and sexual orientation are not necessarily linked.The degrees of temptations we face often fade when we stop indulging them; seeking chastity and reigning in one's passions weakens them and, in the case of same-sex attractions, I believe living chastely helped diminish the degree of same-sex attractions that I experienced.
Living chastely has also diminished my "attractions". However, it has not diminished my need to love another woman and give myself entirely to her: financially, emotionally, etc. My love for my current interest, for example, is based far more on shared interest and friendship than sexual attraction. What about emotional attraction: the attraction that occurs between two people who are entirely on the same wave-length that they might well be the same person? Love is not just about sex, but love doesn't have to exclude sex, either. Provided one behaves responsibly with sex.For the record, I believe men and women can diminish same-sex attractions over time and to varying degrees. In my own life that has been my experience, even though I have never sought therapy to diminish those same-sex attractions.
I don't think it would do anything but destroy him if he did so. He is very wise to avoid such things.Even though I still live with a degree of same-sex attractions, that degree is less now than it was three years ago and I expect I will experience it even less strongly three years from now.
Again, sexuality is defined simply as whom one is attracted to not whom one is. So limiting. It is much more than this. My sexuality is not simply about aesthetics. It is not only an attraction to female bodies, a definite stirring that males often cannot create in me, a preference for the company of women, and so on. My sexuality is about my relationship to the world and to everyone in the world.I haven't sought therapy to diminish the same-sex attractions I experience because such therapy is expensive in money, time and emotional energy
To me, that sounds like code for "it's horrendously frightening, painful and humiliating, and I want no part of it!" good for him!and, given my background, I have had bigger obstacles to overcome in therapy than same-sex attractions.
This is the sentence that really made me sit forward and say "ahah!". I think Mr. Morrison has some emotional/psychological issues to work through (probably from what seems to me like a traumatic and sexually degrading childhood and youth). His definition of sex and sexuality, for example, strike me as uncomfortably similar. These were the definitions I held, more or less, when I was 'in the closet' to myself -- and when I was only recently 'out' to myself (at ages nineteen and twenty). Sex was something ugly and lustful, and had nothing to do with a person's deepest self.I never really decided to try to change my sexual desires.
He keeps saying this. Nothing about Mr. Morrison's orientation has "changed". At no point does he say "I'm straight now". He simply says his "same sex attractions" have been "diminished".I did convert to a belief in Jesus Christ and to seeking him, first to Anglicanism and, later, to Roman Catholicism. I came to Christ because, like the blind man on the roadside, I was in despair and had nothing to lose. No one evangelized me or offered to bring to me to Church.
This is touching. I trust that Our Lord will help him through these emotional problems.By roughly age thirty I had achieved a lot of what contemporary gay culture said a man could achieve. I had a lover of seven years. I had a good job and was respected by my peers at work. My partner and I owned property together and enjoyed an active sex life. I was openly gay in all quarters of my life. But nonetheless I remained unhappy. With everything I had, life seemed and felt empty.
Look at this list. "Lover", "job", "respect", "owning property", "active sex life". Most tellingly, too, "contemporary gay culture". I don't think any of these things bring ultimate happiness. I had a good job at the University bookstore a few years ago. It was full time, paid well, and I worked with interesting people. But the work was monotonous, and I was often depressed on and off the job. Respect of one's peers is important, but less so than mutual respect and friendship. Owning property is good, but does not lead to ultimate happiness. I do not own my apartment building or my Mother's house, but I am not unhappy because of this. And sex does not equal happiness or love. So it seems to me that both the "gay culture" and Mr. Morrison's view of what constituted happiness were not necessarily good ends but things that were treated as ends, not means.I didn't come to obedience to chastity immediately.
Obedience is only a virtue when we obey that which is good and leads to our higher good.I spent a couple of years trying to straddle the line between obedience and sexual activity by calling myself a "gay Christian," someone who could believe in Christ and still have gay sex.
I find this offensive. I am not a "gay Christian" because I disingenuously "believe in Christ" while sleeping around! I am gay because, well, when I was eight years old I wanted to cuddle with my best friend at a sleep-over, because I find something incredible and beautiful and attractive in women that I do not find in men. Gay identity and gay promiscuity are not the same things.But as I came to pray more and learn more about Jesus Christ, about historic Christianity and about the saints, and as I as saw the witness other faithful Christians made about the role of Christ in their lives, I came to the conclusion that I no longer wanted to be a "gay Christian."
I would like him to talk more about what he learned 'about Jesus, historic Christianity and about the saints'. I wonder, did he ever read St. Julian of Norwich, St. Aelred of Riveaux, the passion of Sts. Bacchus and Sergius? What saint ever wrote, 'Jesus took away my same-sex attractions' or 'Jesus made me not gay anymore'? I do not doubt that Mr. Morrison received inspiration and encouragement from his historical study of Christianity, but as an outsider to his spiritual progress here, I question what this vaguely described research had to do with his orientation.I wanted to be Christ's, and if loving him meant living chastely, and if he was willing to help me do so, then that is what I wanted and what I want today.
And if loving him meant letting love in and realizing that sex is not love ....?I think John Paul has performed a service to Christians and even some non-Christians by his careful explanations and annunciation of the theology of the body. I think there is such confusion today about the role our bodies play in our spiritual lives and the importance of our bodies as part of our creation. John Paul II has laid a foundation for a very important part of the Church's message for the next millennia.
Vague still. What confusion? What role?The Church can do all single people a favour by encouraging [all people], whether or not they live with same-sex attractions, to develop deeper and stronger relationships and friendships that don't involve sex.
I know of absolutely no single people of any orientation who lack friendships and relationships "that don't involve sex". I do not see how doing otherwise could be physically or emotionally possible: even for a sex addict!So many people today, and not just the young, are confused about what genuine friendship is and how important it is to have emotional intimacy in our lives. The Church instructs single men and women to live chastely, but she does not instruct us to live in isolation.
It is refreshing to see that Mr. Morrison understands this. I now wish he could just make the next logical conclusion.The Church needs to help educate people that emotionally and intimately satisfying lives can be had without sexual activity.
Of course, but they can also be had with sexual activity: when such activity is responsible, life-giving, loving, and - did I mention responsible?[It is wrong to] think that your same-sex attractions must, per se, define your life. The human person is too magnificently complex to be boiled down to the label "I am a gay man" or "I am a le5bian."
I fully agree. However, it seems that Mr. Morrison has done just that.Particularly if you are young and have not acted out sexually, don't believe that you will necessarily experience the same degree of same-sex attractions that you do today.
Of course not. Our sexuality grows and matures as we do. I am not the same sex crazed person at twenty-three that I was at eighteen. I now realize there is more to life than sex.Don't imagine that because you live with same-sex attractions God must not love you or that you can't seek him or that you cannot seek to become a saint.
Why should gay people seek to become saints anymore than your average heterosexual person should? Although, in my opinion, this current magisterium has gone embarrassingly trigger-happy when it comes to canonization (thus cheapening the title of "saint" and the Magisterium's credibility), sainthood is a rare thing reserved for exemplary individuals. I know I am no Hildegard of Bingen, nor ever could aspire to be one! Are gay people somehow more saint like than straights? Is sainthood somehow equal to chastity and celibacy? I'd like to think that the sex lives of saints take a back seat to their works of mercy, charity and witness to the Gospels.
children in these situations and youths who choose to experiment with homosexuality because of social influences?
There's a significant difference between a child with same-sex attractions due to family environments rather than due to experimentation.Note that only two explanations for "same-sex attractions" are here envisaged. The ignorance evinced in the question and answer is staggering.The difference is the youth choosing to experiment is comparatively rare, even though it seems to become "cool" at a high school and college level. Generally speaking, there's a high probability that those who are experimenting already had same-sex attractions and are expressing them in the college period.Note that now the "experimentation" explanation is now largely dismissed, implicitly.It is not common for someone who thinks he or she is heterosexual and who is from a healthy family to move into experimentation. A trauma, such as a teen-age girl or boy being raped, may lead him or her to have same-sex attractions rather than opposite sex attractions.I wonder if there is any evidence of this, it seems contrary to reason! In any case, it has nothing to do with the experience of those who identify as gay and who have had no such traumatic experience.Sometimes there's a teen-age period when those who don't feel attracted to the opposite sex try a relationship with the opposite sex, and it doesn't work out. They also find out having sex with someone of the opposite sex is not a cure for same-sex attractions.
If the parents know that their child has experimented with homosexual acts, the child must be commanded to seek therapy from reliable Catholic doctors.!!!! "commanded" !!!!If it is a stable home life in the full sense, where the child has a good relationship with both parents, then the parents simply need to continue to develop a healthy home environment while being mindful of external influence on the family, especially on the child.
The use of the word 'aid' here is offensive. In effect, the questioner is asking how someone can be helped to become homophobic when they don't want to be!
Often parents are afraid that their child has same-sex attractions but do not want to seek professional help in order to ascertain their child's inner tendencies.
The question's arrogance in supposing that 'same-sex attractions' are the result of an unhealthy psychological environment is insulting to all happily married parents of well adjusted gay children.
Parents working together with their children produce a healthy psychological environment. In a home where parents and children like to spend time together, both children who are heterosexual or who have same-sex attractions will benefit from it.
This is an astute question. Up to now, Fr Harvey has been implying that 'same sex attractions' are learned, even when they doesn't become behaviour.
One of the ways that homosexual activity is 'learned' is when a person is introduced to that form of activity by another person. There are other ways that one may learn homosexual activity, such as through the things that they watch or read. However, the homosexual condition itself generally develops involuntarily.So is it involuntary 'learned' from external influences or does it develop from potentiality found in the make up of the human individual, in a similar manner to which 'opposite sex attractions' develop.I don't believe that anyone chooses to have same-sex attractions. The homosexual condition has emotional roots and is influenced by attitudes in the mind that come about because of various external events.So according to Fr Harvey 'same sex attractions' are learned, but involuntarily. I presume that he therefore believes that every human being is 'essentially heterosexual' and those who are 'functionally homosexual' have been perverted from their natural character.However, it is not a real choice because that person usually didn't have control over the circumstances and traumas that influenced the development of same-sex attractions. Real choice involves full knowledge and advertence in the mind and freedom in the will."But, it's not their fault."The evidence leans heavily on the fact that same-sex attractions are due largely to environmental causes. There's no evidence of inborn homosexuality: it doesn't exist.Oh yes it does! No-one claims that anyone is pre-programmed from conception to being gay: any more than they are pre-programmed to being straight. Many genetic effects take the form of predispositions that interact with environmental factors in complex ways in order to produce definite - and possibly immutable - outcomes.There is a hundred years of evidence that same-sex attractions are related to environmental factors and psychological influences. All the evidence before 1973 pointed to environmental factors.Note the words 'related to', which renders Fr Harvey's assertion both indisputable, uninteresting.Then came the idea that it is related to genetics. So far, there is no evidence that it is genetic.There is evidence that it is 'related to' genetic factors, just as much as environmental.People who have same-sex attractions sometimes conclude that that is their identity. But the identity is always developing; it takes a long while for people to mature in their identity.Indeed. It takes some who identify as 'straight' many years to realize that they were never so.Our true identity is that we are creatures of God, men and women with intelligence and free will. And when we are baptized, we become brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ.Indeed, and He loves us all, whatever our sexuality. Moreover, He doesn't want us to be just his 'siblings' - with some sort of status before God - but rather his friends, who he respects and affirms.
Note Karol Wojtyla's confusion of "validation" with rationalization or post-hoc justification. He continued this confusion in his pontificate. The reason that Wojtyla's "rules often run up against greater difficulties in practice than in theory" is, of course, because they are just as erroneous as were Ptolomy's rules about astronomy.
The Church is deeply implicated in this.When Christ and the Apostles speak of love, they usually speak of agape (self-sacrificing love) or less frequently of philia (friendship).
Which Jesus tells us is the greatest form of love.The Apostle Paul writes, "Every other sin which a man commits is outside the body; but the sexually immoral man sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body." [I Corinthians 6:18-20].
We do not need to pretend that chastity is easy, for in our fallen human state, the purity of heart demanded by Christ is impossible: as impossible as the virgin birth. But what is impossible by human effort is possible for God. It is by relying on God's grace that we gain the strength to "gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection." [CCC #2359].
Is "purity of heart" the same thing as "chastity"? Is it only - or even predominantly - to be understood in terms of sexual mores?But sexual sin is the grave matter of mortal sin precisely because it defiles the "temple of the Holy Spirit within" us.
How? What does this mean? St. Paul actually says that sexual congress with a prostitute physically unites a member of Christ with a whore and so is unseemly.
Note that "sexual sin" is implicitly and incoherently equated with adultery, whether a break in trust is present or not. The notion is that it is the sexual act that is grave matter rather than the psychological infidelity.The book of Genesis reveals three basic elements of God's plan for human sexual love. First, complementarity: "God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." [Gen 1:27]; second, procreation: "God blessed them, and said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.'" [Gen 1:27]; and third, union: "therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." [Genesis 2:24].
Jesus Himself points back to Genesis and says that marriage is no mere human contract: it is God who joins the man and woman together, and "what God has joined together, let not man put asunder." [Matthew 19:6]. But God's plan for human sexuality has been marred by human sin, which has hardened our hearts to love. Instead of loving each other without counting the cost, lust constantly tempts us to use each other.
This is a sad view of human sexuality! It seems to me that romanto-erotic love should be neither "self sacrifice" nor "mutual exploitation" but rather "joyful sharing".Sin always exchanges God's truth for a lie. I saw this powerfully illustrated in a public debate a few years ago. One of the debaters defended the Catholic sexual ethic; the other argued for what he called a more "compassionate" stance. Christians live under grace, not under the law, he argued. He agreed that the "letter" of Matthew Chapter Nineteen forbade divorce, but argued that to follow the letter of Christ's teaching is legalistic.
A mistake had already been made at this point. The Roman Church does not disallow divorce: but only remarriage after divorce.The Catholic stood by Christ's teaching on divorce, and said that it should still apply to Christians today. At this point, things got a little heated, and the advocate of "compassion" ended up calling the Catholic a Pharisee, saying that his stance was not Christ-like. The Catholic defended the logic of his position fairly well, but I think that in the minds of most of his audience, the charge that he was a Pharisee promoting legalism stuck, because he did not identify the real problem with his opponent's argument.
The real difficulty, which I did not see until later, was that it was the Pharisees who believed in divorce, and Jesus who forbade divorce and remarriage.
Jesus only forbade divorce as it was then implemented, He did not forbid a second marriage. The Roman Jurisdiction forbids a second marriage, but allows divorce if a just settlement is made!In short, this man had set up a standard of "Christ-likeness" according to which the words of Christ Himself were "un-Christ-like". Even more troubling, the position which he said was based on "grace" and not on "law" was in fact exactly the position that the Pharisees advocated, and which Jesus rejected. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that in order to justify divorce, he had invented a Jesus very different from the One whom the Apostles preached, the martyrs died for, the Fathers expounded, and the Church worships. In place of Christ revealed in the Scriptures, he had embraced a phantom: phantom who agreed with the Pharisees more than with the Word made flesh, but who agreed with his own culture and desires more than anything else.
In fact, this clever debating point is wrong.There is no question that the Church's proposition to the same-sex attracted person is costly. But it is still very much grace. According to the Catholic Church, "As in every moral disorder, homosexual activity prevents one's own fulfilment and happiness by acting contrary to the creative wisdom of God. The Church, in rejecting erroneous opinions regarding homosexuality, does not limit but rather defends personal freedom and dignity realistically and authentically understood."
In fact, this assertion is experientially disproved.Let's talk about that word, "disorder". It's controversial.
An accurate and well judged evaluation.Part of the problem is that few Catholics know enough about what the Catechism says about human sexuality and the disorder due to sin to be able to place those words in context. When the Church speaks of human sexuality, She has in mind the order God created in the beginning, and when She speaks of disordered acts or desires, She means anything which in some way contradicts that order.
"If you love me," Christ says, "you will keep my commandments." [John 14:15].
Which are simply: to love.This is why the Apostle Paul says that those who reject the command against homosexual acts “worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” [Rom 1:24-27].
An interesting and rather convenient reversal of what St Paul actually says!Since "God's power and deity" are revealed by His creation, the Apostle Paul says that the human race is
"without excuse; for although they knew God they did not honour Him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools." [Rom 1:20-22].But when we turn back to the creation account in Genesis, what is one of the most obvious truths present in the creation? That God created human beings male and female.
It should be obvious to all that arguments - still more insinuations - from the obvious are unwise.The Apostle Paul continues:
"When Gentiles who do not have the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts." [Rom. 2:14-15].The Church's teaching was very difficult for me to embrace; but I knew that to justify a gay relationship to myself, I would have to blind myself to a truth that was written on my own heart, however much I did not like to find it written there.
But what exactly was this truth and did the author correctly discern it, or was his conscience malformed by listening to irrational homophobic teaching for too long? The experience and judgement that the author of this speech testifies to is by no means universal among gay Catholics - not even those of a more traditionalist bent!When the Catholic Church calls homosexual acts disordered, She echoes the logic of the Apostle Paul, who points us to the order which God has inscribed in His creation, in the male and female symmetry our bodies, and in our hearts.
But not - of his own testimony - in Ron's heart!But She calls homosexual acts disordered, as she calls many other acts disordered, because She calls homosexual persons, like everyone else, to "gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection."
But there is no significant expectation or experience that "homosexual persons" will become "heterosexual persons".Christ said that a house divided against itself cannot stand, and simply to recognize God's law, even if I fail completely to obey it, divides the deadly sins against themselves within my heart. Because as soon as I admit that chastity is good, every sexual sin strikes a blow at my pride, my delusion of my own righteousness. Even if I make no progress in chastity, the repeated acknowledgement of my failure, leads to an ever deepening humility, and the recognition that my salvation can only come from God.
Or, more plausibly, to a disvaluing of personal self worth and a descent into despair and passivity to authority.This conflict came to a head in my late teens. My closest friend and I had a close bond due to our shared interest in flying and our shared Christian faith. As time went on, my feelings for him became more and more romantic. I fought this, both because my friend was strongly opposed to homosexuality, and because I believed that it was against God's law. But then I began to suspect that he, too, probably had a crush on me. Hugs turned into occasional hand holding, and hand holding led to cuddling. I remember once watching Out of Africa snuggled up on the couch, with my head resting against his chest, listening to his heart and dreaming about one day going to Africa with him and flying around seeing all the beautiful scenery from the movie.
This naturally set up an intense internal conflict within me, and I believe within him, as well, although we never discussed it, because discussing it would have meant admitting that our feelings for each other had something to do with homosexuality. I had long conversations with God about this, attempting to explain to Him that all my happiness was tied up in making this relationship work out and that He just had to see things my way.
This is the point at which this touching story starts to go wrong. It is never true that all ones happiness is tied up in any one human relationship, though I know only too well how it can feel this way!I spent lots of time trying to figure out arguments for why maybe the Bible didn't mean what folks said it meant.
Again, this is not the correct attitude. Seeking to understand the testimony of Scripture and Tradition is not the same as seeking to twist it to predetermined ends. The Magisterium is culpable of the latter error in the matter of "love sex and friendship".But God more or less made it clear to me that friendship was good and healthy, but anything more was verboten.
How? Also, the "more or less" is a fascinating qualification. I suspect that much lies hidden behind this comment!And in any case, this complicated combination of guilt and fear of God and each other kept us from anything beyond the sort of innocent affection described above.
What a very unhealthy "Catholic" combination: "guilt and fear of God and each other"!Looking back, I see that the good that came from that relationship was due to our friendship; the romantic tension only introduced emotional drama which got in the way of the friendship and gave us a lot of baggage.
This reads like a wholesale disvaluation of romance. Would the situation have been different if Ron's friend had been female? If so, why?But at the time, I often thought God was a spoilsport, standing in the way of my only shot at happiness.
Today, one of my closest friends is another same-sex attracted Christian. I have not kept track of hours, but I believe I can truthfully claim to have spent more hours praying for him than we have spent communicating with each other. When we do spend time together, we are very respectful of each other's boundaries, not because we are cold or rigid or uncaring, but because we care too deeply for God and for each other to mess up the agape and philia that we share by giving room for eros to push its way in and corrupt love with lust.
Again, this reads as if eros is always a villain. Is eros evil per se? Does eros have a role within marriage? If not then why is there not room for "the kind of love that does have a role within marriage" between two persons of the same gender?True friendship is based on my desire for my friend's good, not on what I hope to obtain from my friend. True friendship involves choosing to do what is best for my friend, not seeking to fulfil my own wants and desires. Above all, true friends will draw each other into the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Indeed and so serve each others greatest good. Marriage, the Church teaches, is a species of friendship, and has exactly this process of mutual sanctification as one of its goals. So why cannot two persons of the same gender be married?
According to the greater clinical community, however, the "problem" for which the young woman seeks help is not considered a cause for counselling at all. In 1973 the characterization of homosexuality as a disease was abolished by professional organizations like the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatry Association. But, for some, institutional reference texts like the APA's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) pale in comparison to sacred books like the Bible.
While offering conversion or "reparative" therapy for homosexuals became professionally taboo three decades ago, a religious movement rose up to fill the secular vacuum for those "struggling" with same-sex attractions. In 1976, Exodus International, the largest ministry dedicated to the conversion of homosexuals, was established in California. Now, nearly thirty years after its inception, Exodus received 400,000 requests at its member offices last year, says spokesperson Julie Neils, which is a dramatic increase from 160,000 in just 2002. In the past two years, the organization has also added fourteen new ministries, growing their ex-gay activities to 129 locations (including Coralville and Quad Cities), she adds.
And Exodus isn't the only religious front in what has become a national ex-gay movement. There's Courage for Catholics and Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality. There's One to One for Presbyterians, Evergreen for Mormons and Transforming Congregations for Methodists. Over the past decade, the movement has also grown to include purportedly secular groups, like Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX), which advocate for "equal access" for the ex-gay message. It's expanded to include a "psychoanalytic, educational association," the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, which professes to document the science behind sexual reorientation, albeit mixing academics and religious leaders on its board of directors.
But while ex-gay groups say science is emerging that backs the legitimacy of sexual conversion, their views remain markedly outside the scientific mainstream. Since the 1973 removal of homosexuality from the DSM, the overwhelming majority of professional associations, from the American Psychoanalytic Association to the American Academy of Pediatrics, have penned strong position statements emphasizing that "reparative" therapies lack scientific basis and risk psychological trauma. The American Psychiatry Association scolds such conversion practitioners for "openly integrat[ing] older psychoanalytic theories that pathologize homosexuality with traditional religious beliefs," and Rhea Farberman, spokesperson for the American Psychological Association, says her organization also has grave concerns about claims of homosexual cures.
"The APA has raised red flags," Farberman explains.
"We're concerned that there's no good science that they work,that it's based on discriminatory views that fly in the face of the mental health community that, for more than thirty years, has said that homosexuality is not an illness, that it's not something that needs to be cured. Our concern is that we haven't seen any strong evidence that it helps people, but a lot of concern that it could hurt people."
Chad ThompsonThe day before he blew out ten candles on his birthday cake, Chad Thompson came to the terrifying realization that he was going to burn for all eternity. He remembers the scene as idyllic - a soft breeze gliding through his open window, the reassuring sounds of his mother making cupcakes downstairs, the childlike excitement of a next day birthday celebration. But laying in bed that night even the comforting sounds of baking pans clattering onto kitchen counters couldn't penetrate a sudden, deafening silence. For some time, Thompson's mind offered a steady reassurance: "I'm not gay, I'm not gay, I'm not gay." But that night in fourth grade the mantra stopped. His internal campaign to convince himself that his same-sex attractions were all a big mistake suddenly went silent. He was gay. And he was terrified.
Growing up in a religious household headed by a Christian filmmaker, the Des Moines native knew homosexuality was an unconscionable sin before he even knew what those seven deadly syllables meant. He remembers laughing naively at jokes his cousins cracked at the boathouse about such sexual deviants. He recalls the menacing predictions for such sinners at his Baptist church; the pastor intoning that "no homosexual shall enter the kingdom of God." Then he realized he was attracted to other boys and those confidence crushing jokes and dire pronouncements of damnation were directed squarely at him. And while his body told him he wanted sex from men, his mind told him he wanted to rid himself of such inclinations. The confusion and helplessness, he explains, felt like a tornado in his soul.
"There was the voice of society trying to tell me, 'You're gay, you should embrace it,'" he says. "Some voices were saying, 'You're a fag, you should die.' Some voices told me, 'You'll never know who you are.' But there was another voice. That was the voice of my creator, and he was telling me who I was, who he created me to be. I listened to that, and that's where I am today." Today, a dozen years after he unwrapped his unwelcome sexuality the night before his birthday, Thompson professes to have struggled through and "overcome" his homosexuality. Openly discussing his sexual evolution between sips of Starbucks coffee and brief checks of his cell phone, the twenty-six year-old has a breezy confidence in his unexpected role as a sought after speaker in the evangelical world. Last year, he caught a cold, spent ten days jotting down his thoughts about the church's treatment of homosexuals and his Jesus led sexual liberation, and now, six months after his book's publication, he's so in demand that he quit his job.
While hundreds of local residents gathered last weekend for Gay Pride events, Thompson has become a self-appointed advocate of "ex-gay" pride. To his evangelical peers he's the poster child for Christian claims that "change is possible." But to secular society and the LGBT community the curly haired kid in a Gap shirt and DC shoes is a dangerous slap in the face to sexual parity, an anomaly within the body of accepted science and a representative of a religious movement that, even Thompson acknowledges, has a "sordid history."
Chad Thompson is pretty sure he could have had sex with other guys in high school. Lord knows, the attraction to the male physique was difficult to stifle. He never came out as gay, he says, but everyone knew. His only friends were girls. He had "very distinct crushes on specific people in school," and, despite critics' attempts to label him bisexual, he knows for a fact he was interested in only one gender. "I had exclusively homosexual attractions until I decided to pursue change," he says. "I was not attracted to women in high school. I was repulsed by women."
But he was also repulsed by the fact that his infatuations were not in line with his faith, and never actually indulged in intimacy with someone of the same sex. He knew "homosexuality was not God's best in me," but, for years, didn't know where to turn to have his "unwanted" attractions straightened out. Church wasn't an option - religion had already condemned him. And telling his parents was so out of the question he couldn't even bring himself to buy books about the subject for fear of being discovered.
Instead, his first inspiration came in the form of an Oprah Winfrey show about the ex-gay movement. The audience was sceptical. Thompson was sceptical, too. But, emboldened by the possibility, he stole a book - "Desires in Conflict" by evangelical author Joe Dallas - from the Christian radio station where he worked and began investigating the spiritual and psychological prospects for transformation. Already in counselling for depression, his therapist gave credence to the possibility, and from there a higher power took hold.
"It was the Holy Spirit that led me supernaturally through a psychotherapeutic process," Thompson says. "I got on my knees before God many times, saying 'I want to be in your will; I want to do what you want me to do,' and He put relationships and experiences in my life that reconditioned my way of thinking."
In reading widely, he came to believe that his unwanted attractions were the product of tangible psychological deficiencies in his childhood. Drawing on a select group of scientists - most notably Joseph Nicolosi, a California psychologist affiliated with the pro-conversion National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality - Thompson came to believe that divine intervention could help repair an emotionally compromised past.
Like his relationship with his father, who he describes as physically present but emotionally distant. Instead of bonding with his same-sex parent growing up, he says he identified with his mother and thus failed to affirm his masculine identity. He also remembers being ordered out of the room whenever a male undressed, leaving him feeling "disenfranchised" from his own body. Such conditioning, he says, made the physical and behavioural characteristics of masculinity an enticing mystery.
"What's exotic becomes erotic," he says. "One of the reasons I was physically aroused by the male physique was that I had never been in a normal, natural situation where guys didn't have their clothes on. There was a mystery that shouldn't have been. I didn't have any solid friendships with males, so it was almost like masculinity was a secret I wasn't allowed to know and that's what became attractive to me sexually."
So Thompson became convinced that if he could correct the core psychological failings he could redirect his attractions. That's where Lenny came in. An ex-gay man in Seattle, Lenny's self-reported transformation - from a practising homosexual for 26 years to a married man with the classic picket-fence life - inspired Thompson. So when Lenny invited him for lunch halfway across the country, Thompson hopped a flight to the West Coast. "He gave me a very warm, solid, lengthy embrace, which was something I had longed for," he says of their meeting. "It was indicative of the emotional need driving my homosexual attraction. Behind every homoerotic desire is an emotional need, and during puberty, emotional need turns sexual. I was able to meet that emotional need, and there was nothing sexual about it. I mean, he was forty-eight and I was nineteen!"
Thus began Thompson's self-described second puberty. Accepting hugs and hand holding from other males, he says, met his need for tangible affirmation and non sexual touch from members of the same sex. He cultivated friendships with other guys - guys who don't "struggle" like he does. "That's what I needed," he says. "It's almost like they taught me about heterosexuality. I don't want to imply that gay people have a completely different way of doing everything, but there's a way that straight people relate to each other that, in some ways, is different than the way they'd relate if they were gay."
And the more he became one of the guys, he says, the less alluring and more mundane masculinity became. The mystery began to wane, he says, and the prospect of being intimate with a same-sex partner made him think, "what would I want to do that for?" One notable a-ha moment came two summers ago at a Christian camp in Estes Park, where he befriended a group of guys with whom he became extremely close, but even the four of them packed giddily into a three person tent didn't produce a single sexual inclination. Quite the contrary.
"All I could think about was this girl, a particular girl," he says of that summer. "She didn't like me, but I was experiencing things towards her that I didn't think I would ever feel toward a girl. She was all I thought about, just like guys who don't struggle [with homosexuality]. I wanted to hang out with her instead of the guys - and these were very attractive guys. But all I could think about was that girl, and that's happened more than once."
He acknowledges that his attraction to women now is still not as strong as it was to men when he was in high school, but he has had girlfriends. Although he's single at the moment, he has aspirations of marriage, and, although he's still "struggling," he says he has no fear of feeling again like he did that night before his tenth birthday.
"I'm not suppressing homosexual desires; I'm being transformed," he says. "That's important. It's not about seeing a guy and thinking, 'I'm going to discipline myself to think differently about him.' That's how it is at first, but you find the core issues driving your attractions and deal with those issues, and those attractions will disappear."
And Thompson doesn't think he's unique. Whether devout or doubtful, he thinks anyone can follow in his footsteps.
"I believe every person has a latent heterosexuality that they can build on if they want to," he says. "But it's been a process. I had conditioned myself for twenty-one years to think a certain way about men before I started to change. You don't overcome twenty-one years in five minutes. But my relationship with Jesus was leading me through a psychotherapeutic process, and who knows the brain better than the one who created it?"
Ex Ex GaysEd Fouts, of Capitol City Pride, says his best friend sought help from an ex-gay ministry, but it didn't work. Rich Eychaner, a leader in the local LGBT community, says he gets plenty of calls from local residents who've spent decades suffering in silence, like a Catholic gentleman who recently contacted him after more than fifteen years of trying to will himself straight.
"It's like a diet drug," Eychaner says of the ex-gay concept. "You take a pill, eat all you want and never gain weight. It's terrible dealing with society's sanctions against gay people, so some think 'Hey, I don't have to be the victim anymore.' It sounds very appealing on the surface, but it's like these diet cures. It doesn't work."
In fact, advocates point out,
a striking number of ex-gay leaders have themselves returned to same-sex partnershipsJennifer Harvey, assistant professor of Religion and Ethics at Drake University, says that's not the only chink in the ex-gay movement's armour. "I can just speak anecdotally, but there are repeated stories of ex-gay leaders cruising gay bars, incredibly high suicide rates among those who go through these kinds of programs, and also increasing numbers - still small and under the radar - of Christian communities that are refusing to say being le5bian and gay is inherently sinful," she says.
A le5bian and ordained minister herself, Harvey says she's reluctant to "stampede on someone else's experience," but, for the most part, the ex-gay movement is dubious theology, not a benevolent science. "What really frightens me is they prey on young gay and le5bian people" she says. "In this society, to become aware that you're gay or le5bian, for almost anyone, is a terrifying experience. Gays and le5bians are not well loved and well embraced, and these groups prey on struggling, younger people who haven't found affirmation or acceptance, who are led to believe they can find a way out of something there's not a way out of. Those who get caught in groups like those are only being even further enculturated in hating selves."
SandySandy buried herself so deep in deception, that, after years of self-imposed repression, she came to feel that life itself held no meaning. Intent to please her family and her conception of God, the area resident convinced herself that the girlfriend she'd had such a crush on in high school meant nothing. She swallowed her same-sex attractions and, at age twenty-one, got married to "a really sweet guy." Even after she came out to herself, she made a vow to uphold her wedding covenant and never let others know that she was homosexual. But abiding by Christian ideals to avoid eternal damnation proved counter-productive: she had already condemned herself to a living hell. "I finally reached my breaking point and came out to him and my family," she says. "It was the most difficult thing I've ever done because I loved him and I enjoyed spending time with him. If anyone could have 'changed' my orientation, it would have been him. It would have been much easier to stay in that marriage, to have a comfortable life, to be accepted in my church unquestionably, to let everyone in both of our families believe that life was happy and complete for both of us. But it wasn't complete for me. It wasn't true."
For many in the LGBT community, such stories of years sacrificed to deception and repression are not uncommon. Many note that,
while sexuality may be fluid:"Those of us who fall more squarely on one end of the continuum or the other can not change our affectional orientation just by trying or by praying about it," Sandy says. "I prayed for years. The message I got from God was to stop hiding and live an authentic life, even though that was the more difficult path." Sandy can hardly imagine the damage an organized effort could have on someone struggling to accept their own identity. "The amount of self loathing one must feel to hate who you are is mind boggling," she says.
"And it's a terrible sin for these 'ministries' to so injure a personthey use fear and self loathing to advance their agenda."
Bridget NightEven before her son's first experience with ora1 sex landed him in the hospital with a swollen throat and the worst case of g0n0rrhoea the county health department had ever seen, Bridget Night was "freaking out." The Quad Cities mom (who uses the pseudonym Bridget Night for her work in the ex-gay movement) just thought her son needed to work through some "social problems" when they sent him to a mental health counsellor as a teen. It wasn't until he was sixteen years old that they discovered his e-mail correspondences with a gay twenty year-old in Denmark who was helping their son understand his sexual orientation.
"Of course, we're freaking out," Night recalls. "We're a Christian family that believes in the Bible and we just didn't understand the issue at all basically. I'd been a hairdresser for thirty years and worked with a lot of homosexuals, but I never thought about it too much." But when her son's sexual orientation conflicted with their religious convictions, she remembered seeing a spot on the 700 Club that gave her hope; a segment about Exodus International. Still terrified, she went to an Exodus support group in Coralville, where she would sing, pray, share her trials with other concerned parents and "have a lesson from the manual on educating people to know where same sex attraction comes from."
Now she's the leader of one of two Iowa chapters of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays, which has grown to more than thirty cities since its inception in 1999. The purpose of the group, she says, is not to advocate for gay conversion necessarily, but to let "strugglers" know that help is available and, as a recent billboard campaign professed, "Ex-Gays Prove That Change is Possible."
Currently, Night has eight members in her Quad Cities chapter, which she keeps listed under "mental health" in the local phone book, albeit with a special number that is not her home line. She holds monthly educational meetings, and has sent Exodus and Evergreen pamphlets to the local LGBT centre, literature to every local junior high and high school principal and flyers to area hospitals. And, of course, she's encouraged her son to attend ex-gay conferences and meetings. "We're not anti-gay," she says of PFOX. "Anyone who wants to be gay, that's fine. But for many Christian families and young people it's unwanted."
Still, to many, that's circular logic.
What pushes someone to seek conversion in the first placeAs Sandy points out: "The attraction is only unwanted because someone told them they could only be attracted to opposites." And the presence of organizations like PFOX peddling the possibility of conversion only further heaps guilt and condemnation on those who would otherwise be content with their identity, Eychaner says, essentially "projecting expectations on people that they can't meet and putting the power of God behind it."
In fact, even Night acknowledges that
despite her stated desire that he seek change,She emphasizes she will love him either way and she's met with area churches to scale back the negative stigma and "freakish" stereotypes many Christians project on those with same-sex attractions.
But, even more than "unconditional love," PFOX's buzz phrase is "equal access." Just last month, a federal judge ruled in favour of PFOX in a Maryland lawsuit, issuing a restraining order against a local school board because its health curriculum only considers "the moral rightness of homosexuality" and does not include information on the prospect of change. Thompson thinks groups like PFOX have the right idea in giving students both sides of the story and recently created his own organization - Inqueery - to address alleged school bias. In that effort, he's created prototype literature that, he believes, could provide balance to the gay/straight alliance organizations that, "sometimes encourage kids to identify as gay, or, at the very least, are not educating them that change is possible."
Although supporters highlight a small handful of published studies about successful sexual conversions - most notably a 2001 study by Robert Spitzer, who figured prominently in the 1973 decision to remove homosexuality from the DSM - to claim their argument is backed by science and can be presented without the mention of religion, Harvey says there's "essentially no argument that doesn't boil down to religion" and thus "equal access" could be considered a blurring of the line between church and state.
Sarah GrahamSara Graham, president of Drake University's Rainbow Union last year, says she too is an advocate of the free flow of ideas, but, in the case of ex-gay access, such questionable information could hinder the emotional development of LGBT students. "It confuses not only gay kids who grew up very religious and are very unsure of coming out even though they can't deny their homosexuality any longer to themselves, but it hurts their families and friends, too, making it seem like their friend or child is purposely doing something hurtful," Graham says.
"I worry about people who grow up learning that sexuality can be changedA man with a megaphone tried his Bible beating best to undermine Sara Graham and Emily Renaud's wedding day. Last year, the then Drake students flew to San Francisco, becoming one of the first couples to tie the knot when thousands of same sex couples travelled from across the country to have their unions finally recognized by the state. But, even outside the secular courthouse, Graham and Renaud were bombarded with the preaching of overzealous religious activists.
"There was an 'ex-gay' there with a bullhorn, talking about how many men he'd slept with and other lewd things, and talking about how Jesus helped him to be straight and all that jazz," Graham recalls. "And they kept telling us how bad we were for our children, and there were plenty of people in line with kids, and this guy's talking about ora1 sex. I just thought that he was doing exactly what he was accusing us of."
Thompson says he sympathizes. He knows his "ex-gay" message has to haul the baggage of a Christian tradition that, he says, has a well deserved bad rap. For two years he worked for the Iowa Family Policy Centre but ultimately left because the repent-or-perish politics of the radical right concerned him. He's careful to point out that those folks remain his close friends, but, just like Christians often describe their stance on homosexuality as "love the sinner, hate the sin," Thompson's take on the conservative movement could be described as "love the people, hate the politics."
He acknowledges that there is still a tremendous amount of entrenched hostility and hollow stereotypes harboured by both the gay and ex-gay community and, when it comes to conversation "intellect often takes a back seat." He thinks there needs to be more dialogue and less debate. But although he says he's been able to convert wary LGBT student groups, like the one last month in Wisconsin, from snickering at him at the start of his speech to engaging in mutually respecting conversation over lunch, he clearly harbours views that are hard for those in the LGBT community to swallow.
"I believe that heterosexuality is God's design," he says. "I know that's controversial and it gets me in a lot of trouble, but I think gay and le5bian people need to be able to know what my religious convictions are without insisting that I'm a homophobe or bigot. I don't make those assumptions about them;
I don't think they're any less in God's eyes because they embrace their homosexuality."But even with his professions of acceptance, many can't help but bristle at claims of sexual reorientation.
"Most straights are horrified to think they could be taught to be gay," Sandy says.
Appendix VII: Based on an article from "PlanetOut News" July 29, 2005 by Peterson ToscanoSince I was a teenager, I made several stops along the "ex-gay" Underground Railroad, where I attended Exodus "ex-gay" support groups and dozens of Christian ministries. I met for intimate counseling sessions with pastors and Christian therapists. I endured three exorcisms and finally subjected myself to two years at the LIA "Homo No Mo" rehab. Just as I did with those sweet potatoes and grapefruits, I imposed this "ex-gay" torture on myself. Fuelled with homophobia and self-loathing, I did a number on myself that nearly destroyed me. In total, I spent 17 years and over $30,000 in pursuit of the hetero impossible dream. Many adults have done what I did. What's worse is that ex-gay recruitment efforts are now targeting youth more often.
A few weeks ago, a 16-year-old named Zach alerted friends through his blog that instead of going away to, say, a band camp or soccer camp or any normal camp, his parents had enrolled him in LIA's teen reprogramming "ex-gay" boot camp. In a burst of righteous indignation, Zach's friends and many other Memphis area teens rose up in protest. Each day, in the insufferable Mississippi Delta heat, they stood as witnesses to the persecution of Zach and many other queer teens - all done in Jesus' name. Without any prompting from the adult queer community, these young people - queer and straight - publicized Zach's story through blogs, protest signs and now media coverage. Like the rioters at Stonewall, which occurred at around the same time of year back in 1969, these Memphis young people have alerted America and the world to the madness around them - in this case the madness of forced conversions.
For years the Religious Right has slandered our community, accusing us of orchestrating a gay agenda that targets America's youth. They have claimed that we recruit and convert young people. They have been wrong about this for years. As if our community were that organized and in agreement about anything. Many of us queer folks find that it's hard enough to de-tox from a weekend of cheese fries and cosmos, let alone survive an elaborate process of de-homosexualization.
But now look at who, with evangelical zeal, is targeting young people, and then is attempting to recruit and convert them. With the fundamentalist world view of saving a lost and dying world, "ex-gay" groups have taken upon themselves the mission to transform queer and questioning youth into their own image. Talk about hypocrites. In spite of the mountain of evidence by the American Psychiatric Association and every major medical organization in the world, they engage in unethical practices to make gay kids straight.
In the words of Susan Powter, the great transformer herself, "Stop the insanity!" Let the captives free! And if some misguided, well-meaning, insane queer adult wants to reform himself into a shadow of a heterosexual - fine, so be it, but let's leave the kids out of this.
Peterson Toscano, an "ex-gay survivor and theatrical performance activist, shares his story throughout the United States in his one-man comedy, "Doin' Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House."
Appendix VIII: The Pseudo-Psychology Behind Homosexual TendenciesA much abbreviated interview with Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons, a contributor to the Catholic Medical Association's document "Homosexuality and Hope."
How would you distinguish between someone with same-sex attractions and someone with deep-seated homosexual tendencies?
Those with deep-seated homosexual tendencies identify themselves as homosexual persons and are usually unwilling to examine their emotional conflicts that caused this tendency. Strong physical attraction is present to other men's bodies and to the masculinity of others due to profound weakness in male confidence. These individuals in the priesthood have a significant affective immaturity with excessive anger and jealousy toward males who are not homosexual, insecurity that leads them to avoid close friendships with such males and an inordinate need for attention.This is simply insulting as a description of what it is to be gay and the explanation is even more insulting. There is, I suspect no experimental evidence to corroborate any of this.Most of these men had painful adolescent experiences of significant loneliness and sadness, felt insecure in their masculinity, and had a poor body image. Well designed research studies have demonstrated a much higher prevalence of psychiatric illness in those who identify themselves as homosexual.