Archive for the ‘Conversion therapies’ Category

Just Because He Breathes: Learning to Truly Love Our Gay Son

July 1, 2013

2013-06-21-ryanprofile1

by Linda Robertson

From Huffpost Gay Voices, 7/1/13

Now, when I think back on the fear that governed all my reactions during those first six years after Ryan told us he was gay, I cringe as I realize how foolish I was. I was afraid of all the wrong things. And I grieve, not only for my oldest son, whom I will miss every day for the rest of my life, but for the mistakes I made. I grieve for what could have been, had we been walking by faith instead of by fear. Now, whenever Rob and I join our gay friends for an evening, I think about how much I would love to be visiting with Ryan and his partner over dinner. But instead, we visit Ryan’s gravestone.

Continue reading this story.

The American Psychological Association’s Brief on Homosexuality and Sexual Orientation

February 21, 2013

APA LogoSince 1975, the American Psychological Association has called on psychologists to take the lead in removing the stigma of mental illness that has long been associated with lesbian, gay, and bisexual orientations. The discipline of psychology is concerned with the well-being of people and groups and therefore with threats to that well-being. The prejudice and discrimination that people who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual regularly experience have been shown to have negative psychological effects. This information is designed to provide accurate information for those who want to better understand sexual orientation and the impact of prejudice and discrimination on those who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual.

Continue reading this article.

Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation

February 21, 2013

APA LogoThe following is an abstract of the 2013 Report of the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation:

The task force conducted a systematic review of the peer-reviewed journal literature on sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) and concluded that efforts to change sexual orientation are unlikely to be successful and involve some risk of harm, contrary to the claims of SOCE practitioners and advocates.

Even though the research and clinical literature demonstrate that same-sex sexual and romantic attractions, feelings and behaviors are normal and positive variations of human sexuality, regardless of sexual orientation identity, the task force concluded that the population that undergoes SOCE tends to have strongly conservative religious views that lead them to seek to change their sexual orientation.

Thus, the appropriate application of affirmative therapeutic interventions for those who seek SOCE involves therapist acceptance, support and understanding of clients and the facilitation of clients’ active coping, social support and identity exploration and development, without imposing a specific sexual orientation identity outcome.

Read the entire report here.

You’re a Gonner, Man!

February 7, 2013
Joshua Gonnerman

Joshua Gonnerman

Pursuant to an earlier conversation about my article on Joshua Gonnerman’s celibacy, Dean Hansen writes:

The reason I was scouting YouTube for the movie “Boys in the Band” was to isolate a quote which I was reminded of while reading about Joshua Gonnerman’s effort at disposing of himself through enforced celibacy in order to reconcile himself to the demands of Catholic belief.  Near the film’s end, there is a confrontational scene between Harold (the Jewish homosexual whose birthday is being celebrated) and Michael, the host for the party who has gathered Harold’s friends together at his apartment).  The dialogue is as follows:

Harold: “Now it’s my turn.  And ready or not Michael, here goes. You’re a sad and pathetic man. You’re a homosexual and you don’t want to be. But there’s nothing you can do to change it. Not all your prayers to your God, not all the analysis you can buy in all the years you’ve got left to live.  You may very well one day be able to know a heterosexual life, if you want it desperately enough. If you pursue it with the fervor with which you annihilate. But you’ll always be homosexual as well. Always, Michael.  Always. Until the day you die.”

This in turn reminded me of something never discussed in these petty little Catholic online squabbles. Something Jesus actually said:

Harold and Michael from "The Boys in the Band"

Harold and Michael from “The Boys in the Band”

Jesus said, “I come that you may have life, and that more abundantly.”  I wonder how many people try to wrestle those words into an eternal context that robs them of any immediate meaning. If what he said is true, then the search for that abundance must begin here and now, and nowhere else. And it must begin with complete honesty. Where else could it begin? If you believe that your life truly begins when you die, beyond the senses that you associate with life, then what is the purpose of a life lived in exclusion of the principle promised in such a hopeful sounding declaration of Jesus? How can you “get” life if you don’t already have it? What’s the purpose of being born at all, if our life is a mere substitute for something we cannot partake of unless it’s beyond the grave? How can we have “abundance” if we must deny everything we are as a means of getting everything we hope to be? Why long for a harvest if there’s no seed corn? “…I come that you might have life later…some other time and some other place, that doesn’t involve you having a human personality, human needs, or human desires?”  Or,  “…I come that you might deny who you are perpetually, so that you not be disappointed to discover what you never were?”

Homosexuals who deny who and what they are for the sake of fitting in to a religiously intolerant world view that condemns their presence, are being compelled against their will to deny the abundance that was promised for them in this world by a savior whom they often learn to despise because of the actions of those who claim to know him best.  An abundance framed in love, commitment, loyalty, sharing and genuine fulfillment in the arms of true love. If we don’t model that love here, with those we’ve seen and adored, how can it be bestowed on us as a reward by someone we have not seen? And how can we adore him if he denies us what we need for a sane and fruitful life?  If that abundance doesn’t start here and now, then no future in which it’s promised can be anything but a lie.

Irresistibly Cute Gay Ortho-Catholic Graduate Student Rejects Scientific Consensus on Homosexuality, Opts for Celibacy

February 7, 2013
Joshua Gonnerman

Joshua Gonnerman

The consensus among medical professionals, all the way up to the World Health Organization, is that the so-called “conversion” therapies, which promise to “cure” homosexuality, are both ineffective and dangerous. Nevertheless, the Catholic Church has long maintained that homosexuals are “intrinsically disordered,” leaving gay parishioners a range of options that, unfortunately, do not include joyous self-affirmation. Among these are therapy, guilt, denial, sexual repression, celibacy, guilt, self-loathing, life-long confusion, self-destruction, secrecy with its attendant blackmail, and guilt.

A recent article by gay-but-celibate Catholic writer Joshua Gonnerman suggests that the Church is beginning to countenance skepticism regarding the efficacy of conversion therapies. The article—“False Hope and Gay Conversion Therapy,” First Things 2/2/13—counsels caution. While Gonnerman speaks of “positive effects” in many therapeutic cases, he also acknowledges certain “dangers:”

Too often, I have seen people who placed their hope in orientation change in this way come crashing down when they realized it wasn’t working. On a psychological level, it can lead to depression, to self-loathing, to suicidal tendencies. The message that the absence of successful change makes one a lesser Christian or some kind of failure is always present, either explicitly or implicitly.

Given orientation change’s low rate of success, and the apparently precarious status of that success, the odds of eventual failure are far, far too strong. Our response to homosexuality [orientation change] is playing with souls; surely, we should play the game that has most hope, rather than the one that seems more neat and tidy?

Gonnerman, studying for his Ph.D in historical theology at the Catholic University of America, is deeply committed to finding a path of reconciliation between his faith and his sexual orientation. No longer trusting reparative therapies, and unwilling to question the Church’s teachings, he has but one remaining option, and that is celibacy. “The path of celibacy,” he writes, “is really dependent on our struggles for Christian virtue, rather than struggles for a heterosexual functioning.”

One can only wonder why Gonnerman considers celibacy to be a surer bet than therapy. The Catholic Church itself has acknowledged that more than 50% of its priests are not celibate. Psychological consequences of dishonoring the chastity vow may include all the negatives that Gonnerman associates with “failed” orientation change: depression, self-loathing, and suicidal tendencies, especially for those who genuinely believe they were “called” to chastity.

The failure of chastity vows entails other, more far-ranging problems as well. Men and women who not only repress their sexuality but practice deceit and denial about their lapses are more likely to project their own guilt onto others. The high positive correlations between homosexuality and repressed or closeted homophobia have not gone unnoticed in recent years. A single Ted Haggard can become a scourge of gay men everywhere.

Nearly all the initial combox responses to Gonnerman’s  article were from conservative Catholics. Considering how thoroughly they chewed over what he had written, I was struck by how little knowledge any of them had of current scientific thinking about homosexuality. I refused to believe this was accidental. I left the following comment:

These discussions about conversion therapy are taking place in an echo-chamber that is hermetically sealed to exclude the consensus opinions of health and social welfare professionals on the subject of homosexuality and its discontents. I searched both the article and the comments and found not one mention of them.

Are you not aware that every major professional association of doctors, psychologists, pediatricians, and social workers in this country has unequivocally declared there to be nothing disordered about homosexuality? The World Health Organization has also made this very clear. Practitioners who ignore the consensus are usually motivated by religious teachings that have no basis in evidence.

Are you also not aware that there are millions of “out” LGBTs who do not struggle with either their orientation or their identity and who have done a complete “end-run” around all the problems that you seem to think inhere in homosexuality?

A British Medical Journal editorial almost ten years ago put it very succinctly:

“In spite of every mental health and medical association in the U.S. stating unequivocally that there is no scientific evidence that homosexuality is a disorder, many religious organizations continue to declare homosexuality or homosexual behavior as sinful and immoral. This creates spiritual crises for many people who have grown up within anti-homosexual religious families and communities.”

It seems to me that the Church is far more interested in showing that homosexuality is a disorder than it is in helping homosexuals, whose path to psychological well-being will never, in the long-run, be through either celibacy or reparative therapies. And it will not result from the ministrations of the pious folks who have caused the very problems they are trying to cure.

Don’t you see that your “cures,” together with all the horribly toxic body- and sex-hating theology that they bring with them, are the problem?

Mr Gonnerman, before your life is completely spoiled by self-denial and guilt, my advice is: look for a better way. There is one, and you will find it if you look. Believe me, I have been through all this and have come out in the sunshine. I am about to be married to my partner of 13 years, and life has never been better. I simply cannot believe I was ever confused about this. I see your confusion and just want to tell you: Don’t miss your life. It’s the only one you’ll ever have.

deviant behavior

deviant behavior

Anon wrote:

Doughlas: The world is full of credentialed misfits. The truth is same sex acts are deviant regardless of how many credentialed people claim otherwise.

I responded:

Anon, the medical and social welfare associations that I am talking about have well over a million members all told, and they represent many more millions of practitioners and researchers. I would not dismiss them lightly. These are the people you go to when you have a medical or psychological issue. If you are going only to your priest with such issues, then you are denying yourself competent and qualified care. The Church has no expertise in mental health and it cannot give accreditation or certification in medical fields. Instead, it has a set of doctrines to which it gives absolute priority over any fact-based source of understanding or treatment. The closed nature of the system poses real dangers to those who get drawn into it. This is just as true of Catholicism as it is of Scientology or the Mars Hill Church, and among those most at risk in this current political climate are homosexuals. What particularly alarms me is to see “out” gays and lesbians turning to Church teachings for guidance. This is exactly the wrong thing to do, and I would urge them to “break the spell” and break out of the closed system of Catholic thought on this subject.

David Nickol and Howard Kainz discussed whether Freud believed homosexuality to be a neurosis. I interjected:

David and Howard, why are you even concerned about what Freud thought of homosexuality? As the founder of psychoanalysis, he was a hugely important figure, but he was wrong about almost everything, and his theories were based on very limited numbers of case studies and were unfalsifiable. For the latest and greatest on homosexuality, you’ll need to look to sciences that didn’t even exist in Freud’s time, starting with neuroscience. There’s an abundance of reliable information out there. You could start with the APA. Or you could just google a few terms and be careful to avoid any so-called “studies” that emanate from religious institutions, because they are likely to be biased. Remember: religion starts with conclusions; science starts with data.

David Nickol responded:

You are, of course, correct. The consensus about homosexuality among psychiatrists and psychologists, and the agreement of the AMA and almost all other medical associations counts for almost nothing in discussions about homosexuality here. However, studies that purport to show negative aspects of homosexuality or gay people are accepted without question.

Yan wrote:

SmokingHow can you possibly quote approvingly the BMJ statement that there is no basis in evidence for homosexuality being a disorder? What about all the evidence that made the profession almost universally conclude that it is was a disorder prior to 1973? Did this evidence disappear? Has all the evidence stopped coming in?

What both you and the BMJ statement do is conflate evidence with a conclusion based on the evidence. What has changed is the conclusion from the evidence, not the evidence itself. It is fair to observe that this conclusion is what most of the smart people think and to give it the weight due to the opinion of smart people generally. But it is also fair to observe that previously most of the smart people thought the opposite.

When you say there is no evidence, that is shorthand for saying, ‘don’t argue with me. My mind is made up.’

Apparently you have no use for Church teaching in this regard. However, it is not right to say the Church has no competence in the area of mental health. Psychology is the study of psyche, the soul. The Church has deeply concerned itself with the health of the soul for 2000 years. You should acquaint yourself with some of the treasures it has accumulated in that regard over these past 2 millennia.

To which I responded:

ComputerYan, you ask why I discount pre-1973 science about homosexuality? It’s for the same reason that I discount pre-1973 science about aeronautics, cancer, electronics, climate change, the effects of smoking, and just about everything else. Science progresses. Why look to Kepler for information about the stars when you can visit the NASA website?

And no, the evidence hasn’t stopped coming in about homosexuality or about climate change. But we do know that homosexuality is not a disorder and that anthropogenic climate change is a reality.

I maintain that the only real purpose of these bizarre, evidence-free discussions about homosexuality is bias-confirmation. You and other bloggers here are studiously avoiding the scientific consensus about homosexuality because you are committed to upholding the Church’s teachings, which, in your view, will always trump any amount of science.

What is dishonest about these discussions is that they pretend to respect science when they don’t. To maintain this pretense, they will draw support in the form of “scientific” studies that are in fact only junk science pumped out in support of foregone conclusions about homosexuality. This is not science. It is the antithesis of science.

What would it take to convince you that homosexuality is NOT a disorder? I maintain that nothing could convince you, because you’re not honestly interested in evidence.

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