12 October 2011

Conversion therapy's elusive unicorn

From Facebook:
In response to comments in a previous post, this describes my experience and perspective well.

Former Love in Action Director: I’ve never met a man who experienced a change from homosexual to heterosexual
John Smid was once the director of Love in Action a longtime Exodus International affiliate based in Memphis, TN. I have always found John’s candor refreshing. My first contact with John was at an Exodus meeting where he questioned the slogan, “change is possible.”

O-Mo Whatever the cause of homosexuality/same-sex attractions, whatever the life choices, and whatever the malleability or future possibilities of change through therapy techniques and neuroscience yet to be discovered, the reality of _today_, as I see it, is that people do not change from mostly same-sex attracted/gay to mostly opposite-sex attracted/straight. Some claim to have changed but later recant, and a few have staked their income and reputation in the claim and persist in it. But when pressed, I have found more wordsmithing and perspective reframing for functional/behavioral change or cognitive adjustment than actual change in attractions. Still, I don't believe this should be used as ammunition to shoot down someone's personal, honest, carefully considered direction for their life in congruence with their beliefs, values, desires, and goals.

Guy1 People make this so damn complicated.... :-P for me it all boils down to what gets you off. ;) I've never had a conflict of faith and sexuality, of course, so I don't really understand the intricacies involved...to me, it seems like a simple no-brainer.

O-Mo Afterthought: While my observation matches his, I would not say, as he does, that "none of this can occur with homosexuality" with a more accurate, "I have never seen it occur."

Gal1 I agree... This brings up some very intruguing differences between attraction and behavior. Attraction - well, there's no need to "repent" of that, since it's something you can't change. Behavior, however, is something you are always accountable for. People will try to reason their way out of a lot of things, but ultimately you are the one in control of your actions.
I also like the point made toward the end of the article, that it is possible to be in love with someone you are not sexually attracted to. It's an interesting thought, in a culture that overexaggerates the importance of sexuality. When it really comes down to it, there is SO much more to love, true love anyway. If it's just sexuality involved, that is lust. Big difference.

O-Mo Yeah, Guy1, I've run into that same confusion with others who either were not raised in a homosexuality-shunning church or left at an early age. I don't know how to convey it. But even without religious conflicts, I've known some to struggle with what they really want.

Guy2 This is some good stuff O-Mo. I've actually had a lot of these thoughts on my mind the past few days. I have found so much peace and happiness finally in my life doing exactly what I have always been taught was wrong. Letting go of that "battle" between good and evil and just following what I feel is right in my heart has been such a blessing for me.

Guy1 I grew up in small-town mid-america. I never knew what gay was until I got online at the age of 15... I always knew what I found attractive, though. Perhaps it was because I grew up with such a streak of individuality that being gay never really bothered me, even though family and friends spoke ill of it once it started hitting popular culture. My mom tried to get me to go to church and her side of the family is pretty religious, but it never stuck with me. I only went for the grape juice and crackers. I was never able to think of any of the stories as literal...they just seemed like good stories and I enjoyed reading all sorts of books back then.

I was certainly a prude throughout my teen years and the first couple of college, but that wasn't because I thought I should be with girls! :) They never did anything for me...

O-Mo ‎Gal1, I want my spouse to be passionate with me, and even...dare I say...lusty. ;-) I don't care to downplay sexuality as part of a whole relationship because I really do value it, particularly as an intimate and bonding (not to mention certainly fun!) experience between partners built on trust, familiarity, and mutual investment. But I also know that if I _had_ to choose between sexual passion and, say, open communication or tender affection, sexual passion does not win out as a highest priority. I just hope I don't have to choose. ;-) Incidentally, I do know some guys who, despite still being primarily attracted to men, quite enjoy sexual intimacy with their wives, even if it's often not to the same level as it had been with men. Beliefs, choices, priorities...

O-Mo More on this: http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/2011/10/10/37766

Guy1 It's certainly not unheard of to have an open relationship wherein there is emotional intimacy with your primary partner and then the allowance of both parties to have physical intimacy with others outside of the partnership. This happens in many relationship regardless of whether the couple is same orientation or mixed orientation.... Sometimes people love each other deeply and want to build a life together but don't click physically. Certainly isn't a reason to give up the relationship if both parties want to stay together.

I think if more people accepted the idea of "nontraditional" relationships, there would be less of a problem with divorce and you'd see more families sticking together (and being stronger). Just my opinion, of course. :)

O-Mo Ha, true. But again: religious or personal conflicts can prevent that from being considered an option. But that's why I have always found strength in remembering that I am imposing some of my own restrictions and therefore am not merely a victim.

Guy1 Sometimes we must work through conflicts for the betterment of ourselves and our relationships. ;) Flexibility in life is a good thing! Flexibility and conflict...always makes for a good story.

O-Mo It does, indeed. But can you stretch too much too fast and end up spraining something? ;-) Or bend something not meant to be bent and break something you shouldn't have broken? Heh.

Guy1 TIme and lube. Everything's possible with time and lube. (per Dan Savage) :-P

O-Mo NARTH has responded to this notion without actually mentioning it at all: http://narth.com/2011/10/2061/. I see problems in such follow-up studies, mainly that I have known guys who would have put themselves in the "Success: conversion" category who, when I pressed, conceded that their new attraction to women was more a curiosity and 'openness to the possibility' than an actual drive, but since that was more than they'd ever known, they considered it an 'increase in heterosexual attraction'. And...let's just say you needed only watch their eyes at a party to see which sex caught their inadvertent gaze more often. ;-) I also wonder how many respondents are married and therefore are not only self-limited in their life choices and self-identification but are measuring their progress not by generalized attraction but by attraction to their wife, specifically. Increased heterosexual function and intimacy with their spouse is wonderful and should be acknowledged rather than dismissed for political agenda, but I just don't see it as the same thing as 'becoming heterosexual'.

NARTH » Change in Sexual Orientation is Possible
Change in Sexual Orientation is Possible, Harm Unlikely, according to New Eviden...See More

O-Mo Let me clarify one point in my last paragraph: "appropriately and understandably self-limited". :-)

Gal1 You can be just as much a victim of your own "self-limiting" choices as you can from others'... just sayin' :P