This post is my honest response to a question posed by one of the readers of this blog. Here is the question:
"Does homosexuality can actually go away or is it more like it's still there but you can minimize its effect? The reason I ask this is because the American Psychological Association (APA) has been pretty clear on its stance that homosexuality is something that can't be changed."
This is a really great question and one that is very controversial even among those of us who have struggled with same-sex attraction yet are committed to living at chaste life in accordance with the Church's teachings.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (#2357-2359), the only thing that is required of people with same-sex attraction is that they remain chaste according to their state in life. No one is under any moral obligation to try to undergo sexual orientation change efforts, more commonly known as SOCE or as some call it, "conversion" therapy.
People on both sides of the question of orientation change have deeply held views. On the one hand, there are those who believe that the gay identity as a part of who they are and that as long as they are chaste, struggle against sin, and have Jesus Christ in the center of their lives, that is all they need. Many of these folks are quite content with their lives.
However, there are also those of us who have experienced a minimization or elimination of same-sex attraction in our lives. We believe that adopting a gay identity is not at the fundamental core of our being and that our sexual orientation is much more fluid and that at least some change is possible for at least some people.
Before I started on my journey of healing, my viewpoint used to be more that of the former group than the latter. I thought that I had to accept my same-sex attraction is part of who I am and be celibate for the rest of my life.
At one point, I remember the seeing Pat Robertson’s show, the 700 Club. Although not a regular viewer, I happened to have had it turned on one day when the topic concerned “changing” one’s sexual orientation. There were alleged “straight” men on the show who had “changed” from “being gay.”
It was my first introduction to “ex-gay” ministries. While I am convinced that conversions of heart occurred in the lives of these men, I still think that and “ex-gay” is a term that turns many away from these ministries and is, in a certain sense, a misnomer.That language does not exactly match my particular experience and can come across as offensive to those folks who choose not to pursue SOCE so I try to avoid that term when describing myself.
For me, I can see where the term implies that there is somehow a change in the essence of the person. In reality, who I am never changed but the Heavenly Father led me through a series of conversions which led to a new, wonderful and deeper understanding of myself. It's the same problem with calling it "conversion" therapy.
In a sense, I agree with those who say they are “changed” in that I, too experienced deep healing and a diminishment of attraction to and desire for sex with men. But, I am still me. I’m just a better more integrated, more healed me. I wouldn’t say that I am “ex” anything. I’m still the same guy I always was. I haven't been "converted" except in the religious sense.
In any case, though, when I first saw this show, I actually laughed. Did those naïve Protestants really think they could change their orientation simply by “praying away the gay” and hanging out with other men? The idea was ludicrous to me and of course it is a little more complex than that.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, though, I was a psychology major in a state university and had consistently been taught the official APA line that there was nothing wrong with this type of orientation and that it couldn’t and shouldn't be changed. Anyone who set out to change, my professors said, was simply embarking on an unhealthy path that would inevitably lead to damage and pain.
I more or less went along with this. While I knew same-sex genital acts were wrong, I also did not believe that Jesus Christ could really change what seemed like such an essential part of who I was. This is the essential Gospel Message I had somehow missed throughout my 20 years as a Catholic and missed again during Pat Robertson’s show that day. Thankfully, I eventually got that message.
Now I would like to address the first part of the reader's question regarding the APA's stance. First of all, the APA is actually very UNCLEAR about it. They actually backed off an earlier statement which which was actually much stronger but even fromthis new and still very biased anti-change view of homosexuality the one thing that is clear is that nothing is clear.
Here is the revised statement of 2009.
“There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles. …”
Note the profound lack of clarity. You can read the whole statement in context here. They really don't know what they're talking about.
And by the way, I have a Master's degree in Counseling and I am a college professor so I have an educated working knowledge of APA and the field.
Homosexuality is not an either/or thing. There is no gay gene. That much is conclusive. Most people seem to fall along a continuum of sexuality rather than being "either-or"..
Recent research on the origins of homosexuality is even more unclear. A recent metastudy pointed out this lack of clarity and inconsistency within the research. Of particular interest are the recent twin studies which have proven quite inconclusive as far as finding a genetic link.You can read the article here.
So, as far as I'm concerned, accepting what the APA has to say about SSA requires a great amount of faith in clearly biased researchers (many of whom are gay activists or gay rights sympathizers) who ignore the experience of people like me and others like me. Our stories are so similar that at times it is uncanny. The commonalities are blatantly obvious. They conveniently ignore the elephant in the room in the name of their own agenda and dubious science.
I explore that a little bit here as well. .
With regard to the part of the question about whether SSA disappears or just becomes more manageable...that depends on who you ask. Everyone's experience is different. Some men claim a total elimination. For me I would say that it is both.
Although I still experience attraction to men at times, it really is just a symptom of my own insecurity. I don't know that it will ever go away completely but honestly, I don't need it to. Everyone struggles with something and SSA has led me to some of the most incredible relationships I ever thought I'd have and has kept me close to Jesus Christ and the Church. Over and over I hear how my SSA has blessed my non-SSA friends and how much they value me as a man. I don't think I could ask for more.
As far as actual change in the degree of my own attraction to men, I can also attest to that in several ways. Besides my own knowledge of myself, there a couple of other ways I've been able to verify that this is a true change and not just wishful thinking.
The first is through other people. I know it through people who have known me for a long time noticing the change in me. and through the close, healthy male friendships which I have kept for well over a decade. I could never sustain friendships like these before my healing; I felt way too insecure and came across as very needy. Any friendship I tried to have with a man simply collapsed under its own weight with few exceptions.
The other way I know I've changed is through the content of my dreams. Before my healing, I would frequently experience erotic and highly sexualized dreams about men. There are fewer and fewer of these erotic dreams about men and more dreams about friendship and when men are in my dreams, we are always doing some activity together rather than having sexual relations.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I have an incredible marriage of 13 years and three wonderful kids. Although not without the difficulties any marriage goes through, my wife is truly my best friend and we have an amazing relationship. Honestly, I couldn't be happier. When I was 20, I never dreamed I'd be where I am today at 41.
Never for one moment did I regret the day I chose to embark on this 20-year healing journey, despite that fact that it was very long and at times, painful. I had to look very deeply at all the dark parts of myself and see things that I wished weren't there.
That's why I started the website. Whether or not anyone decides to pursue orientation change is a personal decision. We are under no moral obligation to do so. But, if anyone chooses not to, I would rather they make an informed choice and talk to people who have actually gone through it. We are out there and most of us are willing to share.
Don't decide not to because other people (who quite frankly, ought to know better) say you shouldn't.
Honestly, I think that telling anyone that they can't change or control their unwanted is untrue, hurtful, irresponsible and unethical. Imagine if APA said it about any other condition:
"You can't change your addiction to drugs; you just have to accept who you are."
"You can't change your eating disorder; you just have to accept who you are."
"You can't change your depression; you just have to accept who you are."
"You can't change your cutting; you just have to accept who you are."
Get my point? People would be (rightfully) up in arms yet it's OK for them so say that seeking to change SSA is "unhealthy". Some states have even passed laws making it illegal! This is a classic example of the blind leading the blind.
This is such an important issue to me because I was ready to kill myself when I believed APAs lies and distortions. I thank God He swept in when he did and that I heard His Voice.
Nowadays, we hear a lot about people killing themselves because they are gay. Usually though, the media reports that it is because they or those around them couldn't accept that they were gay.
I wonder how many killed themselves simply because they had no hope?
I could have been one of them.
And I know that there are thousands out there like me.
No matter what the "experts" say or how many laws they pass, I will never stop sharing my story.
If I can give hope to just one man, it's worth it.