August 27, 2007


Gay By Choice? The Science of Sexual Identity: If science proves sexual orientation is more fluid than we've been led to believe, can homosexuality still be a protected right? (Gary Greenberg, August 27 , 2007, Mother Jones)

That's the usual interpretation of reparative therapy—that to the extent that it does anything, it leads people to repress rather than change their natural inclinations, that its claims to change sexual orientation are an outright fraud perpetrated by the religious right on people who have internalized the homophobia of American society, personalized the political in such a way as to reject their own sexuality and stunt their love lives. But Aaron scoffs at these notions, insisting that his wish to go straight had nothing to do with right-wing religion or politics—he's a nonobservant Jew and a lifelong Democrat who volunteered for George McGovern, has a career in public service, and thinks George Bush is a war criminal. It wasn't a matter of ignorance—he has an advanced degree—and it really wasn't a psychopathological thing—he rejects the idea that he's ever suffered from internalized homophobia. He just didn't want to be gay, and, like millions of Americans dissatisfied with their lives, he sought professional help and reinvented himself.

Self-reconstruction is what people in my profession (I am a practicing psychotherapist) specialize in, but when it comes to someone like Aaron, most of us draw the line. All the major psychotherapy guilds have barred their members from researching or practicing reparative therapy on the grounds that it is inherently unethical to treat something that is not a disease, that it contributes to oppression by pathologizing homosexuality, and that it is dangerous to patients whose self-esteem can only suffer when they try to change something about themselves that they can't (and shouldn't have to) change. Aaron knows this, of course, which is why he's at great pains to prove he's not pulling a Ted Haggard. For if he's not a poseur, then he is a walking challenge to the political and scientific consensus that has emerged over the last century and a half: that sexual orientation is inborn and immutable, that efforts to change it are bound to fail, and that discrimination against gay people is therefore unjust.

But as crucial as this consensus has been to the struggle for gay rights, it may not be as sound as some might wish. While scientists have found intriguing biological differences between gay and straight people, the evidence so far stops well short of proving that we are born with a sexual orientation that we will have for life. Even more important, some research shows that sexual orientation is more fluid than we have come to think, that people, especially women, can and do move across customary sexual orientation boundaries, that there are ex-straights as well as ex-gays. Much of this research has stayed below the radar of the culture warriors, but reparative therapists are hoping to use it to enter the scientific mainstream and advocate for what they call the right of self-determination in matters of sexual orientation. If they are successful, gay activists may soon find themselves scrambling to make sense of a new scientific and political landscape.

It's appalling that political correctness seeks to forbid the medical profession from helping the ill.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 27, 2007 5:55 PM

Maybe someone could ask Larry Craig for an opinion on all this?

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at August 27, 2007 6:29 PM

The eaters of innocence always need fresh meat......

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at August 27, 2007 7:12 PM

There is no such thing as sexual orientation. There is sexual choice. The body, an intrusion that speaks for you, does not dominate what you want if you are willing to sacrifice and pay the price to have it. Millions of men both single and married have experienced cherished samesexual love in the military, sports, college, etc, have told no one, and choose spouse and family that reflects selflessness rather than selfishness enduring for the long run. Imperfect Men experience non-gay, samesexual bonding all the time in an imperfect world, acknowledge it, put it aside, and when presented with natural short term narcissistic lust, over long term family ties and companionship, they choose the latter because they want legacy. It is the difference between being a male, and growing up and being a man.

I have not done Reparative Therapy. However, it seems to me that it is justification to spend time contemplating what you already knew: whether samesex attraction disappeared or not, at the end of the proccess you still have to choose. Life isn't about disappearing stuff. Although it is nice when it does. Life is about having a mature, responsible relationship with your stuff. Lust is like greed, it builds the world that we live in. It doesn't mean that the world is evil because it is built on greed which makes you rich. Nothing like processing Reparative therapy and then being a victim of it. And then blaming Reparative Therapy when you set yourself up to fail in the first place so that you could be a victim and blame. Reparative therapy works because it strengthens and distances the client from going through doors that are unhealthy. It assists a person in making better choices. Unfullfilled expectations, they are just that. It is a complex discussion not to be completed here. But some ideas.

Posted by: Jack Lochleighis at August 27, 2007 9:29 PM

"[...]he is a walking challenge to the political and scientific consensus that has emerged over the last century and a half:[...]"

We're reading a lot about "scientific consensus" lately and it's undermining the once respected objectivity of scientific opinion; becoming a joke, so to speak.

Posted by: Genecis at August 28, 2007 4:41 PM

It was always a joke--some folks got it late.

Posted by: oj at August 28, 2007 6:07 PM

Right now, next to this post on my screen, is a semi-bearded guy (sans shirt) trying to flex his pecs. "" the ad says.

Coincidence? We report - you decide.

P.S. - no data on back hair.

Posted by: ratbert at August 29, 2007 1:56 AM