Friday, June 23, 2006

Change

Recently, an anonymous reader left this comment on another thread:

I am perplexed by the tenor of the blogger's comments re his account of informing his wife that he is homosexual. He seems to suggest that he has started on a path that irrevocably leads him away from any notion of a hetersexual lifestyle. Therapist Floyd Godfrey of Mesa, AZ and Evergreen have successfully counseled many a struggler to understand the genesis of his homosexual feelings, address the relevant factors and revive his heterosexual feelings. If that is the path that Hurricane wants to explore, he should vigorously investigate. Signed, a fellow struggler.

Other gay Mormon bloggers have spent far more time on the question of changing one's sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual than I have. The reason for this is pretty simple: I don't believe it's possible.

Our anonymous friend here suggests that the work of Evergreen International and a therapist in Arizona have helped many understand their homosexuality and begin to change it or, at least, cultivate some heterosexual feeling. Though I myself have never been through reparative therapy, I know many who have, and I am familiar with the work of Joseph Nicolosi and NARTH, and I assume the aforementioned Arizona therapist subscribes to the same essential theories about male homosexuality and its origins.

The biggest issue I have with the approach of Evergreen, Nicolosi, NARTH and the broader "ex-gay" movement is that their theories about the origins of homosexuality have never resonated with me. Nicolosi points to an overbearing mother, an absent or distant father and the resulting early eroticization of male relationships. He describes how this precludes some men from forming close non-sexual relationships with other men; all of the male relationships become sexualized. Moroever, Nicolosi, et al, theorize that such men are uncomfortable in the world of men--they are more effeminate and sensitive; they are more artistic and less athletic. In other words, they are more stereotypically gay.

I am not stereotypically gay. I have, over the years, had close relationships with heterosexual men that I felt very comfortable with. I don't paint, sing, dance or act. I played sports willingly in my youth and on most days can tell you the score from last night's Red Sox game. Though my parents were divorced and my family dysfunctional on many levels, my mother was not particularly overbearing. I am not effeminate. (But I will plead guilty to being sensitive.)

It also seems to me that many of the things that those in the Nicolosi camp describe as the social and environmental causes of homosexuality are in fact the effects of a biologically-determined sexuality and the social distress that results from it. Do young boys who are alienated from their fathers become gay because of that? Or are they alientated from their fathers because they are gay and different from other "normal" boys? The latter is a more plausible explanation for me.

The general lack of success that reparative therapy has in changing one's sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual cannot be overlooked. All discussions of politics in science and political correctness aside, there is just no solid evidence that it happens in anything but the rarest of circumstances--and even then, definitions cloud the picture enough for me to be skeptical. The many men I know who have been through such therapy are as gay now as the day they began any systematic and therapeutic efforts to change. That's not to say that such men are not out there. They may well be. I, however, have never met one. Moreover, many of the men I do know who have been through reparative or change therapy come out of it feeling damaged. (Though, to be fair, many have also described the experience of bonding with other men like them and of learning how to be more comfortable in the "world of men," as healing. Still gay though.)

And, finally, after all these years, I simply don't want to pursue reparative or change therapy because I don't want to change. I hated myself for being gay for so long. I desperately wanted to change for many years. Not anymore. I'm comfortable with myself. I accept that I am gay and always will be (and always was). More than accept it. I am happy that I am gay. I feel complete now in a way that I never did when I was in the closet and struggling against my sexual orientation. I am more myself than I ever have been, and I think that is overwhelmingly a good thing--for me and the people I love.

I can understand why the anonymous commenter is perplexed by the tenor of my comments on this blog if he still believes that his own homosexuality is something to be overcome. But I don't look at it that way. It's not something to be overcome. It's something to be accepted and embraced.

14 comments:

mark said...

This was really thoughtfully expressed, Hurricane. Thanks. And you triggered a thought...in a way, this whole thing is like the story of the ugly duckling. He is treated by the other ducks as being weird and ugly and bad. Then, one day, he sees a swan, and notices how beautiful it is, and then realizes that he is a swan too.

BB said...

well said, both by Chris and Mark.

noah blake said...

I just think "struggler" is a really pervy-sounding name to give oneself. The way that word sounds coming off of the tongue -of course it must be sinful.

bugger.
juggler.
struggler.

ew.

Jennifer said...

"I am happy that I am gay. I feel complete now in a way that I never did when I was in the closet and struggling against my sexual orientation."

Does this mean that you have experienced homosexual intimacy?

Chris said...

Jennifer,

No, that's not what it means. Whether or not I have experienced "homosexual intimacy" is beside the point. The wholeness and completeness I feel comes from being open and honest about who I am and seeking to live with integrity.

-L- said...

The wholeness and completeness I feel comes from being open and honest about who I am and seeking to live with integrity.

Which is, of course, precisely my situation as a gay man seeking to change. :-)

I'm struggling, and I don't feel it's an "ew" thing at all. I think it's one of the most admirable things we do as humans, depending on the context.

Anonymous said...

Chris, I have known you for more than 10 years and have very much enjoyed our acquaintance, but I will stay in the closet of anonymity on this one if I may.

Perhaps this question is terribly naive, but if, after living as a heterosexual and having a wife and kids before deciding that you are gay, is it not possible that at some point you could go back to being "normal"? It simply defies logic to suggest that it is only a one-way road - that once you discover you are gay after three decades of life, you are gay forever. Now I understand that you now look back and in retrospect and try to explain certain events as suggestive or foreshadowing of your current "gayness" or "gaeity" or whatever the noun is. I don't know it is just a thought. You seem so dismissive and defensive about others' suggestions about the Evergreen treatment thing (which, incidentally, I know absolutely nothing about), and I am just wondering if on some level your scepticism or palpable defensiveness about "overcoming" your "gayness" is because you fear that there may actually be something to that (or some other corrective) approach but have resolutely staked out a position as a hard-wired gay from which you will not retreat even if ultimately proven wrong in your underlying assumptions. Clearly, however, I think you would have to concede, at a minimum that being gay is not "normal" in the universal sense. Clearly if everyone was gay, mankind would die off in a generation. The human bodies and the differences in genders serve clear complementary purposes. What I mean is from a biological, non-religious, perspective homosexuality is unquestionably anomolous behavior and thus "abnormal", and (with no offense intended) both self-destructive and societally-destructive from a social and biological perspective (again leaving religion aside for now).

Now I understand that I may sound like a loon to you because I am not gay, but the tenor of your presentation just seems to suggest a certain (new found) close-mindedness and "circling of the internal wagons" to avoid having address the abnormality of homosexuality for what it in fact is.
Anyway Chris, you are loved, and we'll miss you at the Winder reunion next week.

Chris said...

anonymous:

Why not e-mail me privately? I'd like to know with whom I am conversing.

I may expand what for now will be a brief response. We'll see what time allows.

You wrote: Perhaps this question is terribly naive, but if, after living as a heterosexual and having a wife and kids before deciding that you are gay, is it not possible that at some point you could go back to being "normal"?

I didn't just up and decide I was gay after living as a heterosexual. I've always been homosexual. That I found a woman I could love and who loved me in return didn't make me less homosexual. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I have never been attracted to women.

If by going back to "normal" you mean living as a heterosexual, no, I don't anticipate that happening. There is no "going back" since I've never been heterosexual, despite my best efforts over the years. In fact, now that I have acknowledged this fact of my being and brought my identity in line with it, I feel truly "normal" for the first time in my life.

You wrote: It simply defies logic to suggest that it is only a one-way road - that once you discover you are gay after three decades of life, you are gay forever.

I guess I'm not sure how this is logic defying. I've always been gay. I've just finally acknowledged it to first, myself, and then, others.

Now I understand that you now look back and in retrospect and try to explain certain events as suggestive or foreshadowing of your current "gayness" or "gaeity" or whatever the noun is.

This is, I think, a misreading of how I have described my experience. There wasn't anything suggestive or foreshawoing of my current gayness. I was as gay then as I am now. I just wasn't willing to accept it. I fought against it.

You seem so dismissive and defensive about others' suggestions about the Evergreen treatment thing (which, incidentally, I know absolutely nothing about), and I am just wondering if on some level your scepticism or palpable defensiveness about "overcoming" your "gayness" is because you fear that there may actually be something to that (or some other corrective) approach but have resolutely staked out a position as a hard-wired gay from which you will not retreat even if ultimately proven wrong in your underlying assumptions.

It's a bit odd to me that you would describe my posture toward Evergreen and reparative therapy as defensive and then admit that you know nothing about it. Perhaps it's suggestions from people who don't really know what they are talking about but who nonetheless call into question the validity and reality of my own experience that leads me to feel defensive and express defensiveness.

I actually try quite hard not to be defensive. But it's not at all easy.


Clearly, however, I think you would have to concede, at a minimum that being gay is not "normal" in the universal sense.

Homosexuality is both normal and abnormal. It is abnormal in that it is a statistical anomaly. It is a minority expression of human sexuality. It is entirely normal, however, in that it is a fact of the human condition. My own view is that homosexuality, like heterosexuality, is morally neutral. It is how people use their sexuality that brings morality into play.

Clearly if everyone was gay, mankind would die off in a generation.

Clearly. But that's not ever going to happen. People don't choose to be gay or straight. Nature works this out.

The human bodies and the differences in genders serve clear complementary purposes. What I mean is from a biological, non-religious, perspective homosexuality is unquestionably anomolous behavior and thus "abnormal", and (with no offense intended) both self-destructive and societally-destructive from a social and biological perspective (again leaving religion aside for now).

Homosexuality is non-procreative. I will grant that it is "destructive" only to the extent that it does not lead to a perpetuation of the human species. But as I pointed out and as you well know, the vast majority of the human population is heterosexual. There is no biological or societal threat from homosexuality since human beings do not choose their sexual orientation and human beings are overwhelmingly heterosexual. And even the homosexual ones find ways to procreate, as my experience demonstrates.

Now I understand that I may sound like a loon to you because I am not gay, but the tenor of your presentation just seems to suggest a certain (new found) close-mindedness and "circling of the internal wagons" to avoid having address the abnormality of homosexuality for what it in fact is.

You don't sound like a loon because you're not gay. You don't really even sound like a loon at all. You simply sound like someone who doesn't have much understanding of homosexuality or the experience of being gay.

As to the charge of close mindedness, I leave that for others to judge. My mind is certainly settled on certain fundamental issues, particularly when they are so deeply informed by my own lifetime of experience.

Finally, with all due respect,I think I have a far better understanding of what "homosexuality, in fact, is" than you. I'm homosexual. You're not.

Anyway Chris, you are loved, and we'll miss you at the Winder reunion next week.

Preju Vam vsichnim vsechno nejlepsi.

janeannechovy said...

I wouldn't be so quick to say that homosexuality does nothing to aid in the perpetuation of the species. Actually, some evolutionary biologists theorize that homosexuality is evolutionarily advantageous insofar as gay siblings help to raise their nieces and nephews. As far as children go, the more caregivers, the better the chances of passing on their genetic material.

Chris said...

janeannechovy, thanks for that. I've heard the same theory before.

Anonymous said...

I am also not completely knowledgable when it comes to homosexuality but I am learning a lot. How long did it take you to just decide to give into everything? What influenced your decision? Did you seek out any counseling or other sources to attempt to change your orientation or was it something all along you knew you would just give into. If these questions are too personal, I understand. I like to learn about the process.

Chris said...

How long did it take you to just decide to give into everything?

From my perspective, you are using the wrong term here. I didn't "give into everything." I accepted the reality of my sexuality. That may not be a significant distinction for you, but it is for me.

What influenced your decision?

This is a simple question that I could respond to with a long, complicated answer. The short answer is this: the distance between my wife and me was growing ever wider and she confronted my as I withdrew from her. I had come to accept my sexuality enough that I had to share with her what was troubling me. But even just a couple of weeks before I came out to her, I still thought I might be able to "get it together" and return to some sense of normalcy in my marriage. It didn't happen.

Did you seek out any counseling or other sources to attempt to change your orientation or was it something all along you knew you would just give into.

I never sought out professional counseling to change my orientation before coming out to KK. I considered it after I came out, but she discouraged me from going that route. We both came to the conclusion that it was an ultimately futile course.

I did seek out counseling to begin finding greater peace with myself as I transformed my life and began living as an openly gay man.

Restored Vows said...

Chris -

Reading the postings here, I just felt that I went through my own "Hurricane" Katrina.

I am a married man who also struggles with same sex attractions. I've been married X14 years and have children. I am a conservative Christian and a social worker.

In my profession as a social worker, we are mandated to advocate for the disenfranchised and to promote diversity and tolerance. I've sat in graduate-level classes that had guest speakers who were cross-dressers and transgendered individuals. I guess I'm not comfortable addressing a subject that I haven't resolved myself.

From a Christian perspective, I personally know of both men and women who have left the gay/lesbian lifestyle due to their own religious convictions. This might not be the right choice for everyone, but for them, this was a choice that they have made.

As a social worker, social work emphasizes self-determinism. In other words, you determine what you would like to work on or address in a counseling session. Some people feel that gay/bi/lesbian attraction is causing them some distress, maybe even a moral conflict, and wish to change. If that is their desire, I am ethically mandated to assist them in this process. Conversely, if someone is in the process of coming "out" then I should be helping them also, or at least referring them to the appropriate resources or counselor that can better assist them.

Not everything is for everyone. What some of your blog readers are suggesting is an alternate paradigm, especially in light of you having children. Divorce, whether gay or straight, has a lasting negative effect on the children. Been there...lived it!

If you want to get divorced and lead a gay lifestyle, go for it. But you need to think through to the outcome of your decision. I'll leave you with a modified version of what President Reagan said in 1984: "Are you better off (gay and divorced) than you were (married)?

cate said...

Chris,

If I may address Anonymous who commented on "deciding to be gay": Sometimes it isn't that you decide to be something (in this case gay), it is that you decide to stop pretending not to be. I think there comes a point in everyone's life where you just can't pretend anymore. It destroys you and potentially those closest to you.