Once Gay, Always Gay?

Yesterday, I discussed the “born that way” myth as the first pillar of the argument in favor of same-sex marriage. The second pillar goes a step farther and asserts that homosexuality is also a fixed and permanent condition.

This is a pivotal component of the argument. If the condition were admittedly a correctable disorder, the public would be less inclined to support the creation of new laws to accommodate this alternative lifestyle. Instead, we’d encourage those with same-sex attractions (SSA) to get whatever treatment they need. But if we say they’re that way from birth with no hope of change, then the public will think of those with SSA as victims, as an oppressed minority that simply desires “equal rights.” (Of course that reasoning wrongly treats marital intercourse and sodomy as functional equivalents, but most people don’t think it through that deeply.)

There are many good psychologists out there who recognize that SSA are a treatable disorder, and there are countless case studies of individuals with SSA who not only left behind the “gay lifestyle,” but whose underlying sexual orientation has been healed. I’ve personally met people who have definitively left behind the homosexual lifestyle with the help of such professional counselors. In this regard, organizations such as NARTH, Courage, and Exodus spring to mind.

A major obstacle for opponents of same-sex marriage is the fact that in 1973 the American Psychiatric Association (APA) removed homosexuality as a diagnosis from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), under intense pressure from gay activists who staged noisy protests at their annual meetings, shouted down speakers, and the like. Let’s be clear, though: This unfortunate position of the APA was motivated by ideology and politics, not science. It has never been proven that change is not possible.

How did the APA justify doing this? Dale O’Leary in her book One Man, One Woman explains that in removing homosexuality from the DSM, the APA changed the way it looks at psychological disorders. Before 1973, a behavior was considered disordered if it arose from an irrational reaction to childhood trauma or deficits, even if the person had found ways to function successfully in society. The new criteria discounted the origins and considered only present distress, disability, and disadvantage. If the person claimed to be “comfortable” with his condition, then it was no longer to be considered a psychological disorder. If he wasn’t comfortable, then his discomfort must be attributed to “internalized homophobia” caused by societal oppression–for which the prescribed cure is “gay affirming therapy.” 

Those who have received effective treatment and have come out of homosexuality are understandably frustrated by the denial of their very existence, or at least the assumption that they are frauds. For this reason, some protested the 1999 meeting of APA.

That protest led Robert Spitzer, one of the original supporters of the APA’s 1973 action, to conduct independent research. He found that “the subjects’ self-reports of change appear to be, by and large, valid, rather than glowing exaggerations, brainwashing or wishful thinking . . . we therefore conclude that some individuals who participate in a sexual reorientation therapy apparently make sustained changes in sexual orientation. . . . Like most psychiatrists I thought that homosexual behavior could be resisted [think about that for a minute!] but that sexual orientation could not be changed. I now believe that’s untrue–some people can and do change.”

The key of course is how it is approached by health care professionals, many of whom sadly have been swayed by various political and religious biases and agendas rather than science. Obviously if it’s not seen as a disorder but as an alternative lifestyle, those who do want to treat those with SSA are persecuted by the politically correct professional community, such as the APA.

Surely people with SSA did not choose their childhood and the combination of factors that led to their condition. Not an insignificant number were abused as minors. It’s a struggle for them, especially when they understand the truth about their condition and not only want to live chastely but to change their underlying orientation. They deserve the help not only of professional counselors but of all the People of God.

7 responses

  1. I guess from here a major question is this: Does the Church have the wherewithall in Her institutions of higher learning to train therapists for work in this field? As it stands right now, I don’t forsee anytime soon the major state universities training therapists for this work.

  2. When the American bishops revised the 1997 document Always Our Children under the guidance of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), one of the sections to which the CDF did *not* appear to object from the perspectives of orthodoxy and prudence was this one:

    “Church teaching acknowledges a distinction between a homosexual ‘tendency,’ which proves to be ‘transitory,’ and ‘homosexuals who are definitively such because of some kind of innate instinct’ (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics, 1975, no. 8).

    “In light of this possibility, therefore, it seems appropriate to understand sexual orientation (heterosexual or homosexual) as a deep-seated dimension of one’s personality and to recognize its relative stability in a person.”

    Please consider the implications of the words cited from the CDF document: “homosexuals who are definitively such.”

    Moreover, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (sections 2357-2359) seems to presuppose that the “trial” to which God allows homosexual persons to be subjected is such a serious one because, at least for most of them, it is lifelong. The new catechism speaks of “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” (section 2358).

    “But what about formerly homosexual persons who tell us that their sexual orientation has been changed through psychotherapy?” Response: bisexuality is also a reality, and those reports, or most of them, may simply reflect the existence of that reality.

    Again, we should not be scandalized if God’s permissive will concerning evil allows some people to be born with a predisposition for same-sex attraction. By the same token, we should not be scandalized if God permits this disordered situation to last a lifetime.

    If a same-gender orientation is a permanent trial, at least in most cases, then it is irresponsible–and even cruel–to hold out false hope to those who undergo this trial. In addition, to deny the “relatively stability” of same-sex temptations will not help the Church fight legal recognition of relationships formed by those who succumb to such temptations. We should not, and do not have to, resort to suspect arguments to uphold the Faith and to defend marriage, the family, and the virtue of chastity.

    Keep and spread the Faith.

  3. “Response: bisexuality is also a reality, and those reports, or most of them, may simply reflect the existence of that reality.

    One of the things I have been kicking around to write about is the misnomer of “homosexuality” or “gay” as a singular reality of a sexual identity that stands as a complimentary opposite to hetersexuality.

    More bluntly, any and all attraction to the same sex and any and all behaviors acting on that attraction is broadly and inaccurately classified as a singular sexuality: “gay”.

    In fact I think that it is wrong and oversimplified – there are multiple sexual disorders that some men are “into” that fall under this broad classification. Among a subset and subculture that Orpah seems to have latched on to “Men on the down low” the behaviors and mindsets of men involved in extra-marital homogenital behaviors seem to reflect a problem in the broad classification. But for their daliances (informed or influenced by ideas of sex, power, and perhaps levels of addiction to “easy to come by sex”) many of these men can’t rigtly or easily be classified as gay or bisexual… They seem to be intent on having sex – “get it where you can” – and are not easily classified.

  4. Stephen,

    I appreciate your comments on this, and you raise considerations from the CDF and the Catechism that I often raise in other contexts.

    I think in part what’s going on in the material you cite is an attempt to distinguish the condition of “homosexuality” from someone who has experienced more transitory same-sex attractions. That’s certainly an issue that the Congregation for Christian Education dealt with in its recent document regarding the admission of homosexual men in the seminary.

    Certainly the condition of homosexuality can be deeply rooted in a person, and not all who have tried to “come out” of the lifestyle have been successful. But the condition itself has been healed in many instances, but gay activists obviously don’t want to acknowledge this, because it undercuts the case they’re trying to make. I think it’s cruel to withhold research and therapies in the name of advancing an agenda.

  5. well I was doing a research project on the American Psychiatric Association vote in 1973, and I was wondering if you could email me about some more information if you could. I am in the Decorah middle school and I am in 8TH grade. Thank you, your info was helpful!!!

  6. Sage, sorry, I don’t frequently check this blog. The best place to contact, if it’s not too late, would be the Catholic Medical Association or NARTH. Google either of those places and you’ll get all the contact info you need. Good luck!

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