Is change really possible?

…the full inclusion of gays in society does not, I submit, require a commitment to the false notion that sexual orientation is invariably fixed for all people.

Dr Robert L. Spitzer, retired professor of Psychiatry1

Today, recovery/ reorientation/ reparative/ change therapy to address unwanted same-sex sexual attractions is deemed by many help professionals as unethical and “a serious threat to the health and well-being”2 of the affected person. This politicized debate as to whether therapy to address unwanted homosexuality works makes it difficult for those who want to seek help to do so. Counsellors themselves face a dilemma.

Under California law, it is illegal to provide counselling for minors to reduce or eliminate same-sex attraction.3 This intrudes on a client’s fundamental right of self-determination to seek professional help that aligns with their religious and moral values. Because of this law, counsellors have to either refuse help for their client’s unwanted homosexuality, or provide the requested counsel or referral in violation of the law.4

The American National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 50% of homosexually oriented individuals who present themselves for treatment can be helped to have a heterosexual orientation.5 Other studies have reported success rates as high as 70%.6

Sexual preference or orientation has been shown to be increasingly fluid. The American Psychological Association defines sexual orientation as ranging ”along a continuum, from exclusive attraction to the other sex [heterosexual] to exclusive attraction to the same sex [homosexual]”7, and in-between [bisexual].

A longitudinal study of same-sex sexually attracted women aged between 16-23 found that nearly two-thirds changed their sexual labels during the period of study.8 The percentage of gay identified men spontaneously drops from 10% to 2.8% by age 25, without any intervention whatsoever. This suggests that an environment which normalizes homosexuality may erroneously support gay identification in 3 out of 4 instances.9

Dr Spitzer, who once thought that only the homosexual behaviour can be resisted, was convinced almost 20 years later that sexual orientation can also be changed. Regardless of whether a person is “born homosexual”, this spells hope for those struggling with unwanted same-sex sexual attraction (SSA).

The fact remains that change is possible.10 However, this does not mean that change will necessarily be easy.

 

Endnotes
1. Robert L. Spitzer, Commentary: Psychiatry and Homosexuality (Wall Street Journal, 23 May 2001)
3. Chana Wilson, Another Step Towards Banning Gay Conversion Therapy  (HuffPost Gay Voices, 9 May 2013)
5. Michael Cavanagh, Make Your Tomorrow Better (New York: Paulist Press, 1980)
6. William Masters & Virginia Johnson, Homosexuality in Perspective (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1979)
7. American Psychological Association, What Causes a Person to Have a Particular Sexual Orientation (Retrieved 24 May 2012, cited in Wikipedia)
8. Lisa Diamond, Was It a Phase? Young Women’s Relinquishment of Lesbian/Bisexual Identities over a 5-Year Period (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 84, pp 352-364)
10. Joe Dallas, The Gay Gospel? How Pro-Gay Advocates Misread the Bible(Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007)

What if change doesn’t happen?

Many expect change for a person who experiences same-sex attractions to be a 180-degree turnaround in their sexual orientation, i.e., from homosexual to heterosexual. However, actual change can represent different things for different people as:

  • Change can take a long time, depending on the approach and complexity of the issue.
  • Change can take various forms, such as in sexual behaviour but not sexual orientation.
  • Change may take place in degrees rather than a complete elimination of all homosexual attractions, with heterosexual desires awakening and homosexual ones diminishing.1

Just as a person addicted to pornography may still be tempted or even “relapse” after therapy and counselling, the same applies for homosexuals. Christians who continue to struggle with same-sex attraction (SSA) may have been through repeated, varied and prolonged “ex-gay” therapy and deliverance, but with little satisfaction of having their SSA dealt with. It is not uncommon for them to question if God had actually made them homosexual and become resigned to the fact that “once gay, always gay”.

Homosexual people who have been treated insensitively or inappropriately during therapy and counselling are more inclined to re-embrace homosexuality and criticize sexual orientation change efforts, sometimes identifying with or supporting efforts like Beyond Ex-Gay, Soulforce and the Gay Christian Network.

Nonetheless, the many success stories from ex-gays and post-gays2 (those who accept their homosexual orientation but choose not to act on it because they believe that their sexual identity and behaviour are neither defined nor dictated by their attractions) prove that it is at least possible for a person with a homosexual orientation to change his/her sexual orientation.3

 

Endnotes
1. Kerby Anderson, A Biblical Point of View on Homosexuality (Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008)
2. Peter Ould, Post-Gay FAQs (An Exercise in the Fundamentals of Orthodoxy, 14 April 2012)
3. Daniel E. Byrne, Yet Another Attempt to Discredit the Spitzer Study Fails (Retrieved 2 Nov 2010)

Can homosexuality be prevented?

Given the myriad factors that affect a child’s gender identity, it is worthwhile to bring up a child in a manner that affirms his or her healthy gender identity. In doing so, collectively, we can counter the prevailing culture that seeks to normalize and, ultimately, promote homosexuality.

Promote an “open” atmosphere in your home. All children will have questions about sexuality. If they are hushed or mocked for even asking, they deduce that sex is off-limits for discussion and will seek out information from peers and the media that may be contrary to your values.

Give accurate information. Young children are unsure about what homosexuality is and isn’t. Assure them that it’s normal to have close same-sex friends and that you do, too. Encourage adolescents to discover their sexuality, not through sexual experimentation or pornography, but by explaining boy-girl relationships and coaching them through puberty. Ensure they know that same-sex infatuations do not make them homosexual.

Affirm your child’s gender by reinforcing gender-appropriate behaviour in them while expressing delight in their masculinity/femininity. It is important not to label a child as unmasculine/ unfeminine just because they have a stereotypically opposite-sex interest (e.g. where a boy enjoys ballet or where a girl is a good footballer), as a person’s masculinity or femininity transcends his or her interests. In other cases, children can sense if their parents wanted a child of the opposite sex instead and may (unconsciously) adopt opposite-sex behaviours and pursuits to gain approval and affection. Be discerning and respond appropriately.

Be generous with affection. Sons who are liberally hugged by their fathers will not have their sense of masculinity warped; in reality, they are less vulnerable to inappropriate touch from other men. Studies have found that “a constructive, supportive, warmly related father precludes the possibility of a homosexual son.”1

In reality, what I needed was… an affirming, character-modeling, loving relationship with my dad.  In fact, that’s what my homosexual journey was always about – finding a man to love me. Sex was just the means to an end.

~Alan Chambers, author of “God’s Grace and the Homosexual Next Door”

Encourage identification with same-sex role models who embody your values. Single parents raising an opposite-sex child can help their child build relationships with trusted extended family members of the same sex as the child, such as aunts/uncles, cousins and grandparents.

Even though there is no ultimate guarantee how our children will make their sexual choices – whether it concerns premarital sex or homosexual behaviour – parents can proactively and intentionally inculcate a healthy gender identity in their children.2

 

Endnotes
1. Joseph Nicolosi & Linda A. Nicolosi, A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality (Illinois InterVarsity Press, 2002)
2. Love Won Out series: When a Loved One Says, “I’m Gay.” (Focus on the Family, 2002)

Are all homosexuals activists?

Not all homosexual people promote the gay agenda. We need to distinguish between the homosexual agenda and the homosexual person.

While we should not seek to label homosexual people, these broad categorizations may help us better appreciate how to relate to and care for people with same-sex attractions.  4Quad

  • Overcomer: Persons who have successfully dealt with same-sex attraction to some degree. This can range from completely changing their sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual (perhaps, even getting married to someone of the opposite sex and establishing a family together), to committing themselves to celibacy while still experiencing same-sex attraction. They typically try to distance themselves from homosexual activism but often become unfortunate victims in the debate.
  • Struggling: Persons seeking some resolution to their unwanted same-sex attraction. They may have sought counselling or therapy, but continue to contend with whether change is really possible and how “different” they are. The gay agenda does not help them as they desire private intervention, and not for their personal struggles to be the subject matter of public discourse.
  • Moderate: Homosexuals who are happy with the way they are and wish to “live and let live” – i.e., have the discretion to live their lives the way they choose. They may become activist if they perceive that attacks on the gay agenda are being directed at them. As homosexuality increasingly affects the public sphere, it becomes more challenging to exercise the proper, nuanced sensitivity towards them.
  • Activist: Homosexuals who not only celebrate the way they are but expect others to approve of their lifestyle as well. They proactively push for special rights as homosexuals and can be aggressive towards those who oppose what they stand for. The gay agenda serves to advocate against the hurt they may have faced or affirm the experience and belief that their homosexuality cannot be changed.

Even where there is little common ground for building relationship and when a gentle, well-reasoned response does little to turn away wrath (Proverbs 15:1), we should nonetheless maintain civil discourse as a matter of being loving and truthful in our response.

 

Born this way?

There are transsexual women and transgender women and suddenly it becomes poisonous… because there are some people in this world that believe being gay is a choice. It’s not a choice; we’re born this way.

Lady Gaga 1

 

No properly qualified geneticist today will ever say or agree with the statement, “I am born Gay, and I cannot change”.  Indeed, no form of human behaviour is ever solely inherited.  Genes produce proteins, and not behaviour.  Behaviour is much more complex than a single protein…environmental factors account for 74% of male homosexuality. Environmental factors are clearly much more important than genetic factors.

Dr John S H Tay
Author of BORN GAY? Examining the Scientific Evidence for Homosexuality

Endnotes
1. Lady Gaga Says Homosexuality Isn’t A Choice (19 March 2010) http://www.contactmusic.com/news/lady-gaga-says-homosexuality-isnt-a-choice_1136053