Peterson Toscano Asks, ‘What About the Parents?’
Source: Peterson Toscano’s A Musing
No one has perfect parents, and parents and their adult children need to talk about past hurts and family issues, but often without any trained counselors, after only a few days of group therapy, ex-gay program leaders have pushed parents and their sons and daughters into conflict and crisis. The “therapy” sessions have caused a deep rift in the relationships and have wounded the parents. The parents left feeling confused, condemned and brokenhearted.
In his recent post, Peterson Toscano discusses the often devastating effects ex-gay programs can have on the parents of the participants. So often these programs present a rigid theory of causation (ala Dr. Joseph Nicolosi and others) which places the parents own personality or behavior at the center of their child’s homosexuality.
Here is part of an account told later by Toscano’s younger sister about a time when their parents came home from a meeting at Love In Action:
…our parents returned home from the Family and Friends Weekend, they were devastated. They didn’t eat right or look right. They acted sad and depressed. This went on for weeks. My sister felt so concerned that she actually called Love in Action and asked, “What did you do to my parents?!” She felt frustrated by the lack of concern or comprehension she encountered from the staff.
You can read the entire post here.
Peterson and I went through LiA together. I REMEMBER those “Family and Friends” weekends as they were then. I clearly remember John Smid pressuring our families, fathers in particular, to “come clean” about their past sexual “sins” in the open group session in front of all the clients and their familes and friends…to follow our example of “openness and honesty”.
I’ve also had to go back to my parents and apologize to them for what they were subjected to by the program and apologize for things that I said about them and to them as a result of the “teaching” I received there.
The distant father/overbearing mother syndrome they preach (which is a very simplistic way of stating all it entails) encourages you to dredge your past looking for anything that will fit. These molehills become mountains. Never are you challenged if what you are “remembering” is true. It is accepted at face value because it fits the pattern.
…AND you are praised and accoladed for being honest and vulnerable about your past, which in turn sends you back looking for more.
I never told my Dad I was gay. After he passed away, I did tell my Mom. We went to see a therapist who strongly implied that they MUST have been bad parents — because I “turned out gay”.
Afterwards, my Mom went into a deep depression, overwhelmed by false guilt and fear that she had somehow “ruined” me and condemned me to an unhappy life. She said she wanted to drive her car off a cliff — and that me being gay was worse than my Dad dying of leukemia.
Eventually, she educated herself (and her friends) about the facts and myths about homosexuality. She came to realize that I was the same “Mike” she had known all along — only more honest. She started speaking up when she heard negative steroetypes about gays or their parents. She beamed with pride when she heard the Gay Men’s Chorus for the first time and encouraged me to “get involved with something like that.”
In her later years, I think she realized that she and my Dad had been very good parents indeed and that they in no way “caused” me to be gay. Before she died, she told me how proud she was of me as a gay Christian man and that she thought I was “courageous” for being true to myself. Sad to think that so many parents are still being blamed for something that is neither sin nor sickness.
I shared in my ‘beyondexgay’ narrative (linked to my name above) how my relationship with my parents was damaged by the simplistic, bad, know-it-all ‘psychology’ of my ex-gay counselors. It infuriates me how these folks blithely play with the lives and relationships of gay people. Thanks for the good post, Peterson, and for including it here, David.
In Jim Burroway’s run down of his experience at Love Won Out, he mentions another way that the ex-gay movement so casually hurts the parents of gays and ex-gays. In Melissa Fryear’s talk, she says that every gay person has been sexually abused in one way or another.
This sort of crazy assertion ended up leaving parents heartsick about how they did not protect their kids, and wracking their brains about who it was in their child’s past who could have been the abuser. Never mind the fact that the child never made any such claim, and prior to Ms. Fryear’s comments, there had been no suspicion that their child had been victimized.
Sorry for being off-topic, but who else has noticed the tiny smiley face in the top right?
I haven’t yet seen it but it’s part of a new traffic statistics plugin. I don’t think it shows up when site members view as to not skew the numbers. Back to your regularly scheduled programming 😉
I listen to the Box Turtle Bulletin weekly podcast by Daniel Gonzales on my iTunes program. It is interesting to listen to Jim Burroway relating his experiences at the LWO conference and that most of the folks there were not even gay but parents of homosexuals were. I read what Peter wrote on his blog about his own parents’ experiences.
I am glad that my parents never went to any of those conferences and they never found out that I had been having a struggle with my sexual orientation until I had been living in LA for several years. In March ’84, I went to LA to officially look for employment; but, God used that as an opportunity to get me out of the closet to get me in the spiritual position where he wanted me to be. Mom and Dad did not find out that I was living as an openly gay man until after my 46th birthday in Nov. 88. And that was due to an error on my part in that I sent in an envelope addressed to them (in Tulsa, OK) a letter that I had written to my younger sister who lived more than an hours drive from them.
I had been open to Vi about my sexual orientation not too long after I moved in with Ed Pursell in N. Hollywood in April ’84. The letter was about a guy hitting on me at a party who was not my type at Halloween ’88.
My parents still loved me unconditionally after they found out; but, in 1991, I stopped in Tulsa on my way from Ed’s funeral in Alabama back to NoHo. Dad was in a nursing home then; but, Mom and I had a talk at the dining room table about my sexuality. She did think that certain factors connected with her carrying me to term as a baby and other things that went on while I was growing up might have been an influence on my sexuality. I told her that did not mean a thing and those things had no connection with my sexual orientation.
While my parents were ignorant on many things in regard to sex during my growing years and what was going on in my life and feelings, they could not have bee better parents. While Dad and Mom were both Christians, they were not even typical/traditional “Christians” in that they did not fit the “Judeo-Christian” marriage stereotype at all. Their relationship was convenant based and not a marriage-contract based. Also, except for a few things which one can only expect from a father or a mother in certain situations, they were co-parents. When Mom as not around, Dad did the nurturing thing as needed and when Dad was not around, she did the firm fathering thing as needed. They never argued at all and if they had a misunderstanding in our presence, they worked it out with us there. They actually had only one of those and Dad left for a short while to keep from getting angry. When he came back, about half hour later, they talked it out in front of us since the situation involved us kids and it had to do with Dad being at work in the evenings and Mom being in charge of what we did during that time of day. The result of that discussion actually satisfied all 7 of us in the Doty family.