The Bizarre World of Gay-to-Straight Conversion
An excellent piece by Patrick Strudwick in today’s Independent (London) details the author’s strange and disturbing experiences in ex-gay therapy in the UK.
It’s a refreshing article in that it focuses exclusively on reparative therapy, and tends not to dilute it with other aspects of the ex-gay movement. Strudwick begins his undercover investigation by attending a conference by Dr Joseph Nicolosi of NARTH. (We covered that conference here.) There he heard the usual Nicolosi myths, including the oft-repeated claim that “If you don’t hug your son, some other man will.”
Strudwick met two reparative therapists at the conference, and later consulted with them privately. His experience was shocking:
“Any Freemasonry in the family?” No, I say, again asking her to elaborate. “Because that often encourages it as well. It has a spiritual effect on males and it often comes out as SSA [same-sex attraction].”
Next, she looks for self-esteem wounds. “I think you have some unhelpful thoughts about yourself, about who you are,” she says. “What do you think about yourself? In the deepest part of you, in your stomach.”
“I think I’m a good person,” I reply. She wants more. “I think I am a determined person.” Still not enough. “I think I’ve a lot to give.”
“But do you like yourself?” she asks, becoming impatient.
“I think I’m a good person,” I repeat.
“Yes that’s different though from ‘do you like yourself?’ Deep underneath this there’s other stuff we need to get to. I think you must have had quite a lot of bullying.” No, I say. “There was no sexual abuse?” she asks, leaning in and squinting again. No, I repeat. “I think it will be there,” she replies, dropping her voice to a concerned tone. “It does need to come to the surface.”
And so, she prays for me again. “Father, we give you permission to bring to the surface some of the things that have happened over the years. Father, enable your love to pour into that place of isolation in that little boy, whatever age, we give you permission to go there, with your healing power and your light, go into those parts, open all the doors, and access each one with your light.”
She looks up. I ask her again about this abuse. “I think there is something there,” she says. “You’ve allowed things to be done to you.” In the next session I ask if she thinks the abuse would have taken place within my family, because I can’t remember it. “Yes, very likely,” she replies.
This session with an accredited psychotherapist and counsellor is a strange mixture of psychological mumbo-jumbo, Christian fundamentalist myths and a bizarre guessing game bearing more resemblance to a psychic reading than professional therapy.
Strudwick’s next session is with a married ex-gay psychiatrist, a follower of Richard Cohen. He says he can help men to “reach their full heterosexual potential.” Here things become even more bizarre. The psychiatrist admits he hasn’t entirely escaped same-sex attraction, and still experiences “unhealthy patterns of porn and masturbation, if I’m feeling a bit flat.” As therapy, he encourages Strudwick to experience sexual arousal:
I say that when men compliment me on my appearance it triggers sexual feelings. He probes again, asking me how I’m feeling as he talks about my body. Aroused, I repeat. But rather than moving away from this apparent sexual trigger, he asks if we can do an “exercise” around it. I agree.
“Close your eyes and focus on that arousal you’re feeling down in your genitals,” he says. “I want you to hear, as a man, as I look at your body, I see strong shoulders and a strong chest, I see a man who has an attractive body and I want you just to notice the arousal you feel as you hear me talking about that. Imagine an energy and picture that energy as a colour, and make the brightness of the colour relate to the intensity of the sexual feeling, so you might be starting to get a bit of a hard on, you might be starting to feel an erection and that sexual energy, but I want you to just picture that as a coloured light. What colour would it be?”
Red, I say.
“I want you to imagine that red colour, that energy and listen to the affirmations that I see you as a strong, confident man, and I want you to move that red light from your genitals up into your chest to join that feeling of affirmation as a man, and as you breathe in that affirmation do you notice now what happens to the arousal?”
I tell him it’s still there.
The piece is very revealing. It can be read in its entirety here.
Here’s what most disturbs me, is that people who claim to be ex gay themselves have OTHER glaring tendencies that would render them disqualified from ad hoc practicing on other people.
Mores the point, there are HETEROSEXUALS who have the very family dynamics, sexual or mental abuse and it doesn’t effect their orientation, so much as they might have issues totally outside of what gender they are attracted to.
But what kind of PERSON they are attracted to that isn’t good for them.
Making homosexuality, exclusively the object to be repressed and dismissed and labeled the CAUSE of subset behaviors, then the ex gay practice is especially wasteful.
The favorite template that such therapists set is the dominant mother weak father meme.
In the US, there are many black women who are single mothers. With fathers either on the periphery or gone altogether.
Many black women compensate, or over compensate, even becoming something of a stereotype.
Many black men will attest to the mothers that were stronger than any fathers they could have imagined.
Yet, there is no commiserate and disproportionate amount of homosexuality among black males.
There is a disproportionate amount of sexual abuse among young black and Latina girls.
And again, no disproportionate or commiserate amounts of lesbians in either group.
Indeed, the incidence of homosexuality has been rather constant throughout all human history. There IS no reactive aspect to something that happened to the gay individual.
That alone blows all kinds of holes in the ex gay template.
And it’s something best abandoned.
But for it being so profitable to exploit fear, insecurity and so on, it would be.
The more I think about this, Regan, the more the reparative therapy schtick reminds me of the “cold reading” practiced by psychics. You can see it very clearly in the article above. Most people, gay or straight, if they look hard enough, can find things that can be twisted to fit the criteria of the reparative therapists. Notice how the one psychotherapist in Strudwick’s article twisted even “I’m more like my mother than my father” to fit the distant father/overbearing mother scenario. And then the firm denial of abuse was met with “Well, I’m sure if you look harder, you’ll find it.”
Some of these people should be working for Sylvia Browne, not Richard Cohen.
“Some of these people should be working for Sylvia Browne, not Richard Cohen.”
I’d nominate the Three stooges, myself.
@ Dave: yes (on the “cold reading” thing), because they’re working from a script that doesn’t allow for any independent thought or interpretation, let alone questioning the script itself.
AFAIK, the people I’ve known who were involved in this (as practitioners, not clients) are constantly looking for hidden sexual abuse *and* “generational curses.” (Freemasonry being one of the biggies, as mentioned in the article.) The whole “spiritual gifts” aspect of this is one of the creepiest things about it.
I find it very interesting that Jeffrey Satinover is looking for (or to, or both) a model for indoctrination…
and Regan – you’re so dead-on re. heterosexuals having the same experiences and turning out heterosexual. (Am sure you’re equally on target with the rest of your post as well!)
I wonder if Elizabeth Moberly has any professional credentials left…
BTW, the Freemasonry thing is quite an old canard. The Masons have always been looked at askance by the True Believers. Like the anti-gay thing, it is an ancient prejudice, the reasons for which are lost in time, and are certainly lost to the anti-gay industry and its proponents. It just wouldn’t occur to them that there may be another story.
I suspect that the reasons for it are many, but the greatest one is that the masons may well be the keepers of the secrets of the templars– if there were any– and the origins of Christianity– the “real’ history, if you will, not the ocnglomeration of books and psudohistory that came to comprise Christianity. There are a lot of books on the subject, quite apart from Dan Brown and Michael Baigent.
@ Ben: nope; it has to do with Freemasonry being an alternative religion, supposed blasphemy in various Masonic passwords and oaths, etc.
The recent “Templar”/Grail thing has nothing to do with it – or at least, it didn’t in decades past. No doubt someone has taken all of that seriously (in evangelical/charismatic circles) and added it on, in some form or another.
What is your root? Everybody has a root. Was your daddy weak and ineffectual? Was your mommy overbearing? Did your cousin diddle you during that sleepover? You certainly weren’t born gay the way others were born straight, so there had to be a root. (Hat tip, But I’m a Cheerleader)
Regan, I have used the illustration of African Americans and fatherless homes myself many times and I applaud you for mentioning it, because it is a powerful argument against the Freudian idea (along with numerous others). Also, Dr. Patrick Chapman has a great example from Asian tribes where all the antecedants of homosexual development according to these people are present, yet the hetero/homo rates are the same as elsewhere (from the book “Thou Shalt Not Love: What Evangelicals Really Say to Gays.“).
From a professional perspective as a therapist in training the idea that one would interview a person with already highly formulated ideas as to what their problems are caused by WITHOUT FIRST LISTENING and WITHOUT RESEARCH EVIDENCE is astonishing. I’m all for theory guiding lines of inquiry, but it was almost as if that counselor was trying to convince him that he had issues even though he claimed he didn’t! Amazing!! Though, I guess in another sense it really shouldn’t surprise me.
(And for those conservatives that would discount my opinion on these things after reading it, I am willing to attest under oath that I am not a Freemason 😉
I’m currently going through an analysis of and rant about both therapy sessions. The thing I noticed about the sessions with Lynne is how she completely discounted everything Patrick told her so that she could try to force his story into her models. This is actually very different from cold reading (I’m trying to set aside the stereotyping of all psychics and tarot readers as cold readers, by the way), where the reader modifies their explanation to fit the facts presented by the client. In this case, as Christian Independent pointed out, Lynne is trying to modify the facts, not her explanation.
I find this particularly troubling given the highly emotional and troubled state her patients will normally be in. Many of them are likely to follow her lead and accept her insistence that her theories know their own lives and experiences better than they do. This allows Lynne to engage in a form of manipulation that is highly unethical. As Patrick’s consultant later points out, it also tends to lead to the “recovery” of false memories, a practice that can be ultimately hurtful for everyone involved.
Actually, E2c, some of the biggest charges against the templars were for blasphemy and sodomy– that and having a lot of money that Phillippe the fair needed. The Templar connection to the masons is quite explicit– keepers and buildetrs of the temple, the execution of Jacques Demolay, whose name graces the masonic boys group, and so on.
I’ve read a lot of books on the subject, but I am not a scholar in the usual sense. I wish I could put it all together, but its too many books read over too many years iwth too many people in them.
I spent about 20 years subjecting myself to “reparative therapy.” One of the questions that always plagued me during my adventures was “why does ‘God’ need a therapist/therapy to accomplish “healing”?” Fundamentalist Christianity, the parent of this b*****d called reparative therapy, uses the Bible to inform its beliefs. The Bible has examples of Jesus going about extending limbs, making blind eyes see and even raising the dead, but no examples of healing GLBT folk. How do these practitioners justify their methods and existence within the structure of their own belief system?
@ Ben: yeah, I’m aware of the connections; just trying to give you a synopsis of what I’ve actually heard and seen in American evangelical/charismatic churches.
They tend not to dig into the whole Templar thing, or at least, they used not to. You could look up some literature from the evangelical camp to see; the big guy re. Freemasonry is John Ankerberg.
to others who question the ethics, refusal to listen to the “patient,” etc.: this is absolutely typical of what “therapists” in this camp do. If you don’t come up with supposed facts to fit their template (which is also a script), they’ll try to force the issue, just as depicted in the original story. I wish I didn’t have personal knowledge of these things, but I used to support an ex-gay ministry (back in the 90s), and saw the surge in popularity re. Eliabeth Moberly’s ideas + the whole “reparative therapy” movement firsthand. I didn’t agree with most of what they said at the time, but I felt that nobody would listen to me if I said anything re. my objections to the “methodology” and beliefs of these people. (Not without some justification, I might add…)
People who ask questions or who try to bring things up for closer examination tend not to be tolerated in the churches and “ministries” where these beliefs are deeply rooted. My story re. that is typical, really.
Exactly. And I also saw all of this come up re. straight people and “‘recovery’ of ‘memories” (again, back in the early 90s), because some well-meaning people kept insisting that I had been sexually abused, when in fact I never have been. I have no “memories” of such for a very good reason – never happened. But nobody believed me when I kept insisting that they were wrong.
fwiw, I’m a straight woman. These same techniques are used by many so-called “Christian counselors” – or at least, they were during the 90s and early 00s. I’m no longer in evangelical/charismatic circles, so I’ve lost touch ( thankfully!) with what people are up to now.
e2c: I’m totally with you about “Christian counselors.” The problem with them all is that they replace the principles of psychology with their religious and personal ideologies. It ends up hurting whoever their clients are: gay, straight, male, or female.
I wouldn’t think they would be aware of the connections and the history. Like homophobia, it’s just something htat is handed down to them in their belief sets. Knowledge of what might be the “true” history would be very prejudicial to maintaining a belief in current christianity.
@ Ben: not to threadjack any further, but Ankerberg was a 32nd Degree Mason, Scottish Rite.
Not all of the anti-Masonic beliefs held by evangelicals are uninformed. 😉
also, I’m not unaware of Simon DeMolay and his history. My family was heavily involved in Freemasonry and Eastern Star (until my generation, that is)…. Some of the people in evangelical circles who are very anti-Masonic have similar first-hand knowledge of the various rites and organizations.
I’d just like to draw attention to the news that, according to the UK’s Pink News website, the psychiatrist whom Patrick Strudwick called “David” in his article in The Independent is the same “very lovely psychiatrist” who Mrs Iris Robinson said works with her and who she said is very good at “curing” gays. See:
Thanks for that, William.
@ Ben: *Jacques* DeMolay, that is. (So much for my claims of info. about Freemasonry; really, I don’t know all that much. ;))
Hello. First time here. After stumbling upon this and reading the article I felt compelled to make a comment. While I found it enjoyable to read, it seemed a little unfair to ridicule the therapists a bit. The woman I didn’t find effective at all, (her assumptions are ridiculous) but I found the male therapist’s comments to coincide with most of the assumptions and theories I’ve made about myself dealing with “SSA” (as they call it). It was actually comforting to see someone out there echo these thoughts. I don’t have an agenda here, I just honestly think there are people out there who really do match this template, just as I think there are those who really do not, (who are probably the ones that would feel confused by it). I firmly believe there are different reasons for this and can’t all be lumped together. Fascinating stuff.
JMC– it is really important to think clearly about this. Personally, I think ex-gay therapists are snake oil salesmen of the worst sort.
One of the things I’ve noticed is this, especially with the male therapist. He’s not saying he is heterosexual. He says he is ACTING heterosexually, but that his attractions are stilll– frequently,occasinally, who knows–homosexual. His “conversion” boils down to this: I used to be gay, and now i’m straight, but I have those feelings that don’t seem to go away. In other words, he was always bisexual, but the gay part bothered him a great deal, and still bothers him, and even his own methods won’t work to change them.
I’m not gay but my attractions are is an attempt to change the subject, and hide a basic dishonesty, not a demonstration of a cure.
you yourself admit that there are gay people who “match his template”, and gay people who don’t. I can also assure that there are heterosexual people who match it– see Regan’s comments above– and people who don’t. My husband is very close to his father, and always has been. My ex-partner Dewey totally loved and admired his father, and always described his relaitonship with him as excellent.
One of the things you have to look at is this basic dishonesty. The Jones and Yarhouse study, dissected at length here and in Box turtle Bulletin, is a case in point. You should read that. It turns out that only 15% of their sample had changed– not a third– but the change was “difficult”, “ambiguous” “complicated”. funny how actually BEING gay or straight is none of those things at all for most people– only the “change” is.
allan Chambers claims that they have cured hundreds, or thousands, of people– depending on which of his quotes you are reading. Yet Jones and Yarhouse, despite all of their access to potential subjects, could only find 100 people for their study. And the results were “ambiguous’ and “complicated”. you would think that busloads of people would be stepping forward to be studied. Nicolosi should be able to provide a few busloads by himself. but he can’t.
you’d think, but you’d be wrong.
You wrote”I found the male therapist’s comments to coincide with most of the assumptions and theories I’ve made about myself dealing with “SSA” (as they call it). It was actually comforting to see someone out there echo these thoughts. I don’t have an agenda here…”
But you DO have an agenda here. For whatever reason youm ay have, you’ve bought the idea that there is something wrong with you. You’ve made assumptions about yourself, and created theories about yourself, all to explain something that may not need any explanbation at all…
and certainly doesn’t require fixing.
You reminded me of something I wanted to reiterate.
The gay person who is convinced they are no longer gay or ‘act on it’, are usually not in environments to test it. They place themselves in a dominant/therapy/stage lecture position.
The therapy session is the only time they are in a one on one environment involving more intimacy. Otherwise there is a distance that’s essentially like audience/performer mode. And these are very closed situations, without peer or media scrutiny except undercover.
So, the typical conversion methods require COMPLETE and TOTAL segregation or isolation of gay people from other gay people in casual settings.
Even things that are stereotypically associated with being gay, like certain kinds of underwear, professional pursuits and certain mannerisms, take conversion to almost comical heights.
So the person who is saying they are no longer gay strike me as someone trying to hard at convincing and the sales pitch.
Without an audience, without constant validation, without mentioning it to the point of feeling discriminated against if NOBODY CARES or third parties aren’t there to reinforce or bear witness to the conversion.
Which is why so many ex gays parade spouses and children around, as if to say ‘see, I’m really who I want you to think I am!’
Just like drag queens tend to exaggerate women’s features and mannerisms, ex gays tend to take their new found identity to the level of caricature.
Those of us who are ever hetero, this begs the question: so WHAT if you’re hetero?
It’s not so tough living as a straight person in the bigger world, nobody cares, no one would notice.
The only reason it WOULD matter to someone ex gay to hair shirt all over about it, is because of the political assignment to excise gay people from equal rights and protection.
If this really was about ‘reaching out to people with unwanted ssa’ then first they’d want to eliminate the FIRST line of what makes it hard to BE ssa in this society or any others.
Because how can they qualify what ‘unwanted’ really is in a hostile environment?
We know there are women in this world who are made to feel terrible about being curvy and full figured.
And anorexia is a subset behavior because of the pressure to be thin. The standard of beauty, the women who are most accepted and cared for, are very thin.
So a curvy woman would understandably HATE her curves.
That doesn’t mean it’s healthy to encourage her to be thin.
Who is it for, HER or the people who can profit from her insecurity and misery about her body shape?
The ex gay industry couldn’t care less about the comfort of gay people.
This for THEIR comfort, they are the only ones who profit, after all.
What the ex gay industry does is the equivalent of creating emotional anorexia among gay people.
And if this was such a great idea and the world was just FULL of formerly MISERABLE gay people, and happy ex gays…
Then I wonder where the busloads of people who can testify are?
Sneaking a pro gay sandwich?
Regan– thanks. I doubt I’ll have more time to write today. Likewise, I doubt we’ll hear from JMC. But I have this thought, paraphrasing one of ym favorite people, Pat condell:
when someone tells you that you are dirty, sick, unclean, and especially, sinful and in need to salvation (which they offer, of course) it is the biggest mistake in the world to assume that 1) it’s true, and 2) that they are telling you for your benefit, and not for their own. The concept of sin, especially YOUR sin, becomes the expression of their will and their way of seeing the world, and if it is making you unhappy, or interfering with your life, then that is probably a good test of its truth value. Likewise, you pay the price with happiness in your life, while they reap the benefits– or, validation– and the “glory”.
Actually Ben, the basic dynamic in general (not the therapeutic), takes on a definitive abusive parent to captive child relationship.
Ex gays, or anyone who maintains that gay people MUST conform, treat gay folks and want them to be treated in a very condescending, paternalistic way.
They hide behind God in particular as the higher paternal impetus, but the obvious tangible and utter control lies in what the ex gay industry wants to tell you and what they expect of you and how to respond.
The gay person is put in a VERY unbalanced position because of the trust and submissive role demanded and required by the ex gay approach.
It’s an unhealthy Svengali situation and quite frightening because the Svengali knows what the social implications and consequences are for the gay person.
There really IS no choice. There is no way to know if there is relief or benefit to come because the Svengali is so manipulative on face, that whatever you don’t accomplish, you’re at fault and unworthy of God’s or anyone’s love or your own fulfillment.
And you know you won’t get fulfillment OUTSIDE of the Svengali’s care, because it’s already part of your experience or he can convince of it and you know it’s happened to others.
That’s so brutal, the thought of it makes me as sad as anyone would be when witnessing mental and emotional abuse for the purpose of profit and political influence.
Rasputin comes to mind too.
Hi Ben…I didn’t mean to start the post with ‘actually’.
That makes it sound like a lecture towards you and I didn’t want that.
I wanted to say “I concur with you Ben.”
Sorry! Meant no offense.
Not enough caffeine this morning.
Patrick Strudwick has done a follow up article in today’s Guardian. He also announces his “Stop Conversion Therapy Taskforce”.
It has created quite a few comments.
Thanks, James. I saw the article and responded here.
Hi, I’m still around. Sorry for not replying, haven’t had a chance. Will do tomorrow.
Hi Ben, I don’t know too much about the conversion movement and I’m sure it has plenty of charlatans, but I’d think it must also have one or two well intentioned people? Yes, I realize even good intentions can cause harm but I think there is a legitimate need or market for “change” out there. Maybe the methods need a lot of work? Some people may not want to live out their life as a gay person for whatever reason and I think something should exist to help them with that choice. Anyway, I’m not surprised if most of it is ineffective as you say. I remember reading somewhere that psychological therapy overall usually doesn’t work, so these therapists are on that same boat to me. Having said that, I still think “change” is possible and the issues the male therapist raised have a lot to do with a cause. (Again, not for everyone).
What kind of change? I don’t really believe in a “cure”. Maybe some sort development of opposite-sex attraction. An awakening of sorts. Again, I think for SOME people homosexuality is a result of unresolved issues. In my case, I am currently best friends with my father too but when I was just a few months old we were separated and I knew nothing about him until I met him as an adult. However, I had internalized this as rejection as far back as I can remember and this became a huge deal to me growing up. As far as the same things happening with heterosexuals, I think it has to do with a combination of personality and identification. Not all personality types will interpret and internalize things the same way. Also, some might be able to identify with other men in the family or in their community, heck, maybe even on TV, which obviously doesn’t resolve all the issues of absent fathers, but maybe at least provides a resolution for this one in particular.
I’m going to take a flyer at this. Perhaps my more experienced and learned friends might be of more help, but I’ll just add my nickel.
When you said that there are gay people who want to change ‘for whatever reason’ that there should be some resources to make that happen.
It’s the ‘whatever reason’ that lacks the same specificity that it’s being homosexual that has any roots in the reasons.
It is a cultural and societal calculation that gay people fail, not only in their relationships with their families, but romantically as well. After all, young gay men and women are uniquely divided to NOT form romantic and enduring bonds with another gay person. Dissatisfaction with previous relationships, divisive ultimatums brought on by one’s church and family network works against a gay person BEING satisfied with being gay.
So that they are not, is predictable.
But where the bad assumption is, is that affecting heterosexuality will give any more satisfaction or ABILITY is up in the air.
Because of the open freedom and lack of challenge to being hetero, it looks like the holy grail of living happily. And the straight folks invested in changing gay folks make it look that way.
But that affectation carries another set of burdens and expectations. You don’t really trade UP, you trade SIDEWAYS and one might find that there is just as much, if not more insecurity in whether your performance is convincing
Having all the pertinent trappings…wife, kids the house and job….most of the ex gays I’ve seen seem to have little that make them stand out.
There’s an unbelievable sameness to them that begs the question of who they REALLY were before the ‘body snatchers’ got to them.
That they have so buried those things that make a gay person identifiable within gay culture, that affecting the most bland and beige ideals of hetero life is all that they could do to blend in so thoroughly.
If you talk to enough ex gays about what they were and what made them gay and why they left it, there is little variance from the stereotype, if any. To say nothing of virtually NO ONE ex gay is atheist or without Christian imprint on everything they do.
So WHY, JMC would this fade to bland be SO desirable and SUCH a badge of validation for those who don’t want to be gay ‘for whatever reason’?
Why ISN’T there a more efficient way of giving a person to change the option WITHOUT all the conditions on which doing so would rest?
Like not only denouncing being gay, but participating in denouncing equal rights and protections for gay people?
And then enfolding themselves in communities and families with little diversity or challenges to that white picket fence standard of happiness.
Well, one has to question whose happiness and comfort this really is for given what is happening in the real world from attacks on marriage equality and Kevin Jennings to who really is out there to endorse being ex gay.
Those ‘hundreds of thousands’ claimed to have reached the ex gay nadir by the ex gay industry, have yet to materialize.
Even for the purposes of their own research.
So really, JMC…’whatever reason’, might be a real aspect in the life of a gay person who feels like they are a Dickensian orphan, left in a cold street, looking in a window on the warmth circle of hetero lives.
But when it’s all said and done, it’s all very hollow. The reason there is no efficient help for a gay person who doesn’t want to be gay, is because being hetero doesn’t carry any more or less security for one’s life either.
Just difference in how the world views you, and it’s up to you what you make of that.
Sexual orientation can’t do it for you gay or not.
But saying that being gay is EVERYTHING about who you are and the direction your life will take in a negative way, has dramatic effect and can make a profit too for those who simply have made it their life’s work that a gay person NOT be gay…’for whatever reason’.
JMC, what you say is fine for someone sitting in their easy chair throwing out random thoughts. It is not, however, backed by any kind of science or factual data. Also, the way you have phrased it, I don’t see any way to falsify the theory. You have lowered the bar so far that it is meaningless.
However, one thing is certain; no matter what makes people gay, there is nothing reliable to show that one can make any substantial change in sexual orientation by any particular process. Some people appear to experience shifts to one degree or anther, but acts of will or therapy or whatever affect behavior and perhaps frame of mind, not actual orientation.
So those who might be “in the market for change” as you put it deserve a legitimate, professional response with some real research and scientific awareness, not snake oil. A start would be to find out why they think “change is possible” and go from there.
If they want help becoming celibate or, if they are bisexual, learning to emphasize their heterosexual feelings, more power to them — as long as they have been properly qualified by a real therapist and receive real therapy. That does not mean Paul Miller talking over Skype about his own self-gratification.
JMC– thank you for writing back. I’m glad you did. I’m going to take what you wrote and respond, bit by bit, while I have some time to write.
“I don’t know too much about the conversion movement and I’m sure it has plenty of charlatans, but I’d think it must also have one or two well intentioned people?”
I’m sure it has at least one or two well-intentioned people, quite apart from the charlatans, the self-deceivers, the evil people, the out right liars, the political hacks, the people who need to earn a living but don’t give a literal damn for whom they hurt in the process.
But especially, there are the people who have their own to issues to work out, and use this means as a method for doing just that. and like AC, it’s even better if you can earn a decent living by doing so. One of the truisms of the psychotherapeutic field is that people become therapists as a way of approaching their own issues.
But let’s go back to the people who are, as you say, well intentioned. Fill in the blanks: the road to ________ is paved with __________. The ex-gay industry, like the anti-gay industry, is filled with people with an agenda. It is based upon demonstrable lies, questionable assumptions, twisted interpretations of data and opinion, scriptural passages which many people have demonstrated in fairly conclusive ways that are highly questionable for linguistic, historical, religious, theological, psychological, and factual reasons. Logic, experience, consistency, common sense– let alone actual facts– have nothing to do with this. You have only to listen to Paul Cameron– St. Paul, as those in the anti-gay industry think of him– and his latest diatribe that if don’t-ask-don’t-tell were to end, gay men would be sexually assaulting anything that moves, male and female, to know that. Does that even make the slightest bit of sense? Gay ,men raping straight women because of…huh..wha???? Yet these people quote him without reservation or shame.
So how good can your intentions be if you are willing to ignore mountains of facts, logic, common sense, and experience, all in pursuit of your ideological position that gay is bad?
” I realize even good intentions can cause harm but I think there is a legitimate need or market for “change” out there.”
There is certainly a market out there, a market created by 2000 years of deliberately ignorance and/or stupefying blindness, playing upon the fears and psyches of (I think primarily) heterosexual men, replete with misogyny, homophobia, sex-as-abyss,masculinity fears, obsession with sin, redemption, fear, and more fear.
The market is there because for the past 100 years or so, there have been enough people with enough marketing skills and enough cultural support to make it work. they used to just murder, torture, and imprison us. Now they can make money and gain political power. All in the name of exorcising (or exercising, depending) their own demons. How sweet is that?
As for a “legitimate” need for change out there? What makes it legitimate? Quotations from a book 2000-3000 years old, translated, mistranslated, politicized and agendized well beyond what desert tribes 2000 years and 5000 miles, as far removed from us as they could possibly be, may have had to say about a subject that may or may not be about homosexuality as we understand it today?
It’s not legitimate because it is not my book, my religion, my god, or my interpretations. It is not legitimate because it assumes that there is something wrong with me, something seriously broken, threatening, and dangerous, something so serious that laws must be passed, children, marriage, family, must be protected lest the assault of my outlaw sexuality utterly destroy all that we hold dear.
Or something. Because the sands on which homohatred are base are always shifting, never stable. Because they are based upon the fantasies, obsessions, fears, and financial needs of its proponents. They are almost never based upon fact. Because there is only one fact: that apart from the “issue” of sexual and affectional orientaton, there is not one true thing you can say about gay people as a group, any more than there is about heteros.
Not one. And after that one, you’re making it all up.
Let’s talk about the product that they are selling: change. Because here’s the real problem. They are selling a product that like its philosophical underpinning, homohatred, is always elusive and changing. There have been extensive posts on this website about the ever changing nature of change. you should read them. Likewise, you should read about the aformentioned jones-Yarhouse study. 15% of their subjects had changed, excluding one who said he had but recanted. but change was ambiguous, complicated, difficult. 15 highly questionable percent, AND they had God and the forces of psychotherapy on their side.
change is change even when nothing has demonstrably changed. Change is the yearning to change. Change is celibacy. I’m not gay because I have changed– my behavior. I’m not gay but my attractions are still down on their knees in the men’s room at the QuickeeMart.
There is nothing so true on heaven and earth but wishing will make it so. That is all they are selling.
As I pointed out– and the editors here could provide the links in this blog– Allan chambers ALONE has claimed to “change” hundreds if not thousands of people. Old Nick has claimed to change people by the busload. Where are these people? Why could J&Y find only 100 people for their study out of the thousands who should be flocking to prove the efficacy of ex-gay therapy.
I suspect the answer is that for a lot of people, they are more than willing to deceive themselves. But they are not willing to put their integrity– more accurately, the lack of same– on public display to be exposed for what it is. and perhaps they even have compassion enough not to wish on others what their lack of integrity has wrought on themselves. Even self delusion has its limits.
They are not selling change, however variably and loosely that may be defined, and however non-demonstrable it may be as an outcome. What they are selling is a chimera, a will-o-the-wisp– the hope of change. This is the very definition of snake oil: a product which at best is useless, at worst harmful, that is a non-solution to a real problem, or a solution to a non-existent one. And they are selling it to people who are the least able to withstand the sales pitch, because they have already become addicted to the product. It’s like selling extensive and expensive weight loss programs to people who are obsessing about their weight, but not doing anything about it, such as the simple expedients of eating less, eating better, and exercising more. They are selling the hope of change to people who have becomes obsessed about their sexuality instead of actually integrayting it into their lives in a way that works for them.
Perfect example: change is defined as celibacy. If change were simply celibacy, they wouldn’t have a product to sell any more. Celibacy is rather simple: stop having sex. (Or get married. same thing. I’m not bitter).
so you go through these extensive and expensive exgay programs, months or years of therapy, worship services, religious indoctrination, residency programs, and possibly unpaid political volunteerism. And for what? To stop having sex, especially of a kind which other people disapprove of.
It doesn’t take all of that. you just have to stop having sex. You can cruise craigslist for self-destructive, pornographic sex whether you are gay or straight, The problem is not having sex, whether hetero or homo, the problem is the reasons you have sex, reasons whch may not work for you. It has nothing to do with orientation, let alone changing orientation. If that were not true, all straight people would be exemplars, all gay people total messes. Ultimately, it is all about the choices you make.
But here’s the snake oil: you don’t like your behavior? It must be becuase you’re gay. Otherwise, you wouldn’t do it. So buy our product, whatever it may be, and let us reinforce the sales with out outrights lies, distortions, and fear mongering half-truths. You can also believe in Jesus AND buy our product.
Tell that to Tiger woods and John edwards and elliott spitzer and Ted Haggard. Believing in Jesus isn’t going to do it either.
“but I think there is a legitimate need or market for “change” out there.”
There are indeed people who don’t wish to be gay, for whatever reason they may have. I disagree with the reasons for their conclusions, but it is their choice. It’s unfortunate that they have bought the whole meshuganeh story, but there you have it.
In that sense, the market is legitimate. But in no other sense, based as it is upon fear, lies, stupidity, hatred, and fairy stories. But there really isn’t a need for it, and there isn’t a real product they are selling. Change may be possible, but the exgay industry have not been able to demonstrrate that they are providing it.
I have to go now. more if I have time later.
Well done, Ben. Thank you for telling it like it is.
Fraudulent practices cannot be justified by the plea that there is a “need” or a “market” for them. Of course there is, otherwise they wouldn’t be offering them, and no-one would be falling for them. Sometimes the charlatans themselves actually believe in what they’re doing, but that still doesn’t alter the fact that it’s fraud. In the case of purely subjective “needs”, e.g. a change of sexual orientation, the charlatans actually try to create the “need” in others. That simply makes it all the more reprehensible, if possible.
Thank you william. I hope JMC is reading it. If I have more time later, I will continue on. ‘m on a roll, I think.