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NYT: ‘Ex-Gay’ Men Fight Back Against View That Homosexuality Can’t Be Changed
Another load of nonsense from the homophobic New York Times. It almost reads like parody.
October 31, 2012
‘Ex-Gay’ Men Fight Back Against View That Homosexuality Can’t Be Changed
By ERIK ECKHOLM
LOS ANGELES — For most of his life, Blake Smith said, “every inch of my body craved male sexual contact.”
Mr. Smith, 58, who says he believes homosexual behavior is wrong on religious grounds, tried to tough it out. He spent 17 years in a doomed marriage while battling his urges all day, he said, and dreaming about them all night.
But in recent years, as he probed his childhood in counseling and at men’s weekend retreats with names like People Can Change and Journey Into Manhood, “my homosexual feelings have nearly vanished,” Mr. Smith said in an interview at the house in Bakersfield, Calif., he shares with his second wife, who married him eight years ago knowing his history. “In my 50s, for the first time, I can look at a woman and say ‘she’s really hot.’ ”
Mr. Smith is one of thousands of men across the country, often known as “ex-gay,” who believe they have changed their most basic sexual desires through some combination of therapy and prayer — something most scientists say has never been proved possible and is likely an illusion.
Ex-gay men are often closeted, fearing ridicule from gay advocates who accuse them of self-deception and, at the same time, fearing rejection by their church communities as tainted oddities. Here in California, their sense of siege grew more intense in September when Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law banning use of widely discredited sexual “conversion therapies” for minors — an assault on their own validity, some ex-gay men feel.
Signing the measure, Governor Brown repeated the view of the psychiatric establishment and medical groups, saying, “This bill bans nonscientific ‘therapies’ that have driven young people to depression and suicide,” adding that the practices “will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery.”
But many ex-gays have continued to seek help from such therapists and men’s retreats, saying their own experience is proof enough that the treatment can work.
Aaron Bitzer, 35, was so angered by the California ban, which will take effect on Jan. 1, that he went public and became a plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the law as unconstitutional.
To those who call the therapy dangerous, Mr. Bitzer reverses the argument: “If I’d known about these therapies as a teen I could have avoided a lot of depression, self-hatred and suicidal thoughts,” he said at his apartment in Los Angeles. He was tormented as a Christian teenager by his homosexual attractions, but now, after men’s retreats and an online course of reparative therapy, he says he feels glimmers of attraction for women and is thinking about dating.
“I found that I couldn’t just say ‘I’m gay’ and live that way,” said Mr. Bitzer, who plans to seek a doctorate in psychology and become a therapist himself.
Many ex-gays guard their secret but quietly meet in support groups around the country, sharing ideas on how to avoid temptations or, perhaps, broach their past with a female date. Some are trying to save heterosexual marriages. Some, like Mr. Bitzer, hope one day to marry a woman. Some choose celibacy as an improvement over what they regard as a sinful gay life.
Whether they have gone through formal reparative therapy, most ex-gays agree with its tenets, even as they are rejected by mainstream scientists. The theories, which have also been adopted by conservative religious opponents of gay marriage, hold that male homosexuality emerges from family dynamics — often a distant father and an overbearing mother — or from early sexual abuse. Confronting these psychic wounds, they assert, can bring change in sexual desire, if not necessarily a total “cure.”
(While some women also struggle with sexual identity, the ex-gay movement is virtually all male.)
Major mental health associations say teenagers who are pushed into therapy by conservative parents may feel guilt and despair when their inner impulses do not change.
- Reparative therapy suffered two other major setbacks this year. In April, a prominent psychiatrist, Dr. Robert L. Spitzer, publicly repudiated as invalid his own 2001 study suggesting that some people could change their sexual orientation; the study had been widely cited by defenders of the therapy.
Then this summer, the ex-gay world was convulsed when Alan Chambers, the president of Exodus International, the largest Christian ministry for people fighting same-sex attraction, said he did not believe anyone could be rid of homosexual desires.
Joseph Nicolosi, a psychologist and clinical director of the Thomas Aquinas Psychological Clinic in Encino, Calif., which he describes as the largest reparative therapy clinic in the world, disagreed.
“I don’t believe that anybody is really gay,” he said. “I believe that all people are heterosexual but that some have a homosexual problem, and some of these people attempt to resolve their conflict by adopting a sociopolitical label called ‘gay.’ ”
By unearthing family trauma, Dr. Nicolosi said, many patients find their homosexual urges dissipating.
Jeremy S., 34, a corporate contract officer in Dallas, says he is among them. Jeremy, who did not want his last name printed to avoid embarrassing his parents, said that from his teens until three years ago he lived as a gay man, at times having sex almost daily. “It wasn’t working for me,” he said.
After two years of therapy via Skype with Dr. Nicolosi’s clinic, he said, “my attraction to men was drastically diminishing.” He said he has not had sex with a man for more than two years and does not think about it more than once a month, adding that his Catholic faith has also deepened.
Critics like Wayne Besen, the executive director of Truth Wins Out, which fights antigay bias, liken such therapy to faith healing, with apparent effects that later fade away.
They also point out that the failures of such therapy are seldom reported.
S. Marc Breedlove, a neuroscientist and psychologist at Michigan State University, said there was overwhelming evidence that sexual orientation is affected by both biology and environment. Clearly, he said, reparative therapy helps some people alter sexual behavior. But that is far different, he noted, from transforming instinctive sexual desires, something never proved in scientific studies.
Cameron Michael Swaim, 20, said he is in the early stages of his struggle to overcome homosexual desires. Mr. Swaim is unemployed and lives with his parents in Orange County, Calif., where his father is a pastor of the Evangelical Friends Church of the Southwest.
He tried the gay life, but “it just doesn’t settle with me,” he said, and ultimately decided “there’s got to be a way to heal this affliction.”
Through weekend retreats and participation in a Southern California support group Mr. Swaim has started to explore his family relations, he said, something that has been painful but seems to be helping.
“I’m building my confidence around men,” he said, “ and that has built my confidence around women.”
Five years from now, Mr. Swaim hopes, he will be engaged or married. In the meantime, he is trying to scrape together enough money to start seeing a reparative therapist.
- Their problem isn't homosexuality; it's Christianity.
And it IS a choice.
- Are these men just looking for a payday?
- [quote]Their problem isn't homosexuality; it's Christianity.
Bingo. That's the common denominator in all these stories. Idiots.
- Which is sad because there are plenty of inclusive churches. You don't have to choose between God and your orientation unless you want to.
- But, c'mon. This is such shoddy journalism. What's up at The New York Times? They refer to 1,000s of men who are affected - a figure we're just supposed to take at their word - and then the ones who they actually interview is some 20 year-old guy, unemployed and living in the home of his evangelical pastor father? And they don't think there are other issues to be explored there? The guy just says, "[I tried gay life.] It just didn't settle with me?" THAT'S investigative journalism?
The other guy, who leads the article, is in his 60s and clearly happy to settle for companionship and yet they make out that he's been "cured" of homosexuality? It's like the writer/editor doesn't even want to admit that homosexuality exists in the big, wide world. I mean, why do these people, clearly emotionally crippled, get to define what homosexuality is? Homosexuality exists throughout all of nature, in human, plant and animal life. Do people want to convert dolphins as well?
The journalist even refers to his marriage as "heterosexual" marriage when clearly the best case you could make is "opposite sex" marriage.
It's such a dishonest article. How does "glimmers" of attraction to the opposite sex count as a wholesale change in one's sexual orientation? It's so ridiculous. One can be attracted to the opposite sex without wanting to have sex with them.
And why no further investigation as to this movement being almost exclusively men? Reparative therapy doesn't apply to lesbians? Why no follow-up on this with that charlatan Nicolosi? There's no basis in science for his claims about reparative therapy or human sexuality.
- Could it just be "low T"?
- Given that the sample subjects were "older" I venture that this may in part have to do with their decreased sexual urges.
- What woman would want to marry an "ex-gay"?
- What complicated, anguished lives these people lead. Sad. Life is too short sez I.
- I can see why women would want to marry an ex-gay. This is probably the kind of guy that is more sensitive and loving to her than a 100% straight guy.
OTOH, I'm not sure I'm for what California did. There are some people that have changed without ex-gay therapy, and some people are just 100% gay but what about people that want to be straight and want to do ex-gay therapy? I'm not against it.
Live and let live, whatever people want to do. I don't get the hostility here, never have. I'm gay, but if people don't want to be, so fucking what? It's not my biz. Live and let live.
- "What woman would want to marry an "ex-gay"?"
Someone desperate for a second income, companionship, or cover for her own issues.
The only couple I know is of a flamingly girly husband, a woman who spends a lot of time rolling her eyes at him, and her two sickly children from the first marriage. He wants to play "family man", and she'll do anything to keep the house and get medical insurance for the kids.
- Love the comment from the guy who now says he feels a "glimmer" of attraction towards a woman. Yeah, right you are a real hetero stud now buddy. How sad. These men do not want to be gay, that is the bottom line. They will struggle for the rest of their lives because they cannot accept who they are and can't be what they want to be.
- [quote]after men’s retreats and an online course of reparative therapy
Translation: he's no longer able to score in the saunas OR on grindr.
- "I'm gay, but if people don't want to be, so fucking what?"
You're not gay, you're just a straight homophobe.
There isn't any evidence that counseling can make people magically turn straight, and you know it.
"There are some people that have changed without ex-gay therapy"
Only in your imagination
- R11: What women marry ex-gays? Why, women with horrible self-esteem ofcourse.
Often they have histories of sexual violence in their past and are relieved to have nuetered men.
If they are religious, they are convinced that they are performing a great act of sacrifice for the Kingdom of God in bringing the lost sheep back.
Sometimes they just have so many problems they are happy to have someone come into share the burdens.
My mother was a combination of all the above and was married to a gay man for over 5 years. Then one day she met my current step-father and realised how much she was being cheated out of. Said "ex-gay" is now remarried to a woman btw.
- If someone wanted to change of their own free will then nobody would object, but these guys are being intimidated into giving up their sexuality. They're acting out of fear of their god, fear of their families, fear of discrimination, etc. I have nothing but pity for people living in that kind of fear, it's a horrible place to be, and I hate the people making them that afraid.
Of course it takes a certain kind of stupid to realize that all they have to do to free themselves from fear and loathing is to change churches.
- OP, don't shoot the piano player.
- "I can look at a woman and say 'she’s really hot.'"
and his interior monologue continues, "But that orange top isn't doing her any favors, with her coloring. And don't get me started on those shoes."
- R11, I think you think you're being liberal about it but you're sadly uninformed as to what "reparative therapy" consists of. As long as people believe there is some fool-proof alternative that will fully convert their sexual orientation, they will be locked in a trap of self-hatred. Imagine if your entire family believes you can pray away the gay - when, in truth, you can't. "Reparative therapy" actually pushes an individual even further into the closet and can lead to other dissociative disorders. And that's before we get to electro-shock therapy.
If it were proven to have any effect then there would be cause, potentially, to pursue it. But even the founders of the movement are now living happily gay (they left their wives and formed an opposing splinter group); any certified individual who supported it has completely dissented and the APA struck homosexuality off the DSM as a disorder just about 40 years ago and since then have recommended a path to self-acceptance when dealing with those who have difficulty with their sexual orientation.
Even just a cursory consideration of what it means to be "ex-gay" should tell you how ridiculous the notion is - starting with, SINCE WHEN IS HETEROSEXUALITY THE CURE ALL FOR EVERYTHING THAT ILLS YOU? What about all the unhappy, suicidal, drug addicted, promiscuous, lying, hating, cheating, murdering HETEROSEXUALS? What's their problem? Should they be converted to homosexuality? Why, in fact, is there no record or study of conversion from hetero to homo, if these treatments are such a success?
Why? Because it's a movement founded in hatred, bigotry and self-loathing - not just by those who take it up, but by those who force them to pursue. If people accepted these gay people as gay do you think for one moment they would want to be straight? It's the equivalent of when black people used to try to bleach their skin in the pre-Civil Rights era.
Gov. Jerry Brown is outlawing this treatment because it results in people being held against their will, entrapped in a non-existent "therapy" to which there is no good outcome.
But I take your point: if you want to be gay, be gay. If you want to be straight, be straight. Plenty of people at least give the appearance of having such fluidity and whatever goes on in their relationships is their business and I respect that. I would wager that these people do not live by conventional terms anyway and good for them. That is not so much a fundamental, biological change in their chemistry as it is choosing how you wish to live. But that's not what "reparative therapy" is, it is a far more dangerous, destructive, exploitative concept in which the individual is held to an impossible standard and doomed to fail, at best.
- Non-Converted MARY: "GLIMMER"
He was tormented as a Christian teenager by his homosexual attractions, but now, after men’s retreats and an online course of reparative therapy, he says he feels glimmers of attraction for women and is thinking about dating.
- Also, I love that the one guy was fully cured of his homosexuality after regular therapy sessions over Skype. Yeah, right. People are so deluded.
- Oh please, as if any half-way decent looking guy couldn't snap his fingers and bring these deluded fools running.
- FYI, the bill Gov. Brown signed outlaws conversion therapy for minors ONLY.
The bill requires informed consent to undergo conversion therapy, which minors in CA are legally unable to provide.
Adults may still legally undergo this "therapy", though they must now be informed in advance that its effectiveness has no basis in science.
- R5(or anyone else), what percentage of churches would you say are accepting of gays? It's an interesting question.
- I wonder if there are any gay men who are seeking reparative therapy who aren't religious or from a religious background.
To me this isn't about reversing homosexuality, it's about denying oneself to fit one's religion or religious hangups. The reversing homosexuality angle is a strawman. The title of the article should be "Gay men denying their sexuality because of religion."
- R26, I think it's primarily men from very religious backgrounds but some could some from very conservative non-religious backgrounds.
- If Christianity came out and said, oops, we mis-interpreted the bible, homosexuality isn't a sin and our church will treat homosexuals as we treat heterosexuals--how many of these men would still be seeking reparative therapy?
So again, this is about denial and religion rather the genuine belief that homosexuality can be reversed.
These guys would have more credibility if they came out and said, we are gay in nature but due to our religious beliefs, we will not engage in homosexual acts and are celibate. That would be more believable than the claim they are "ex-gay."
- The Christians always try to say that gays have many issues because of the gayness itself. That's what they always say.
- On TLC, they have a weirdo show that airs as a special every once in a while called The Virgin Diaries, and EVERY man on that show is a big MARY and usually involved in the church. It's pathetic that they are so delusional, as are the people around them.
- Is it typically only gay men who engage in this conversion therapy or why do you never hear of lesbians doing it?
- It's primarily gay men, but there are lesbians who undertake this therapy as well. If you look at any photo of those sad folks who are Exodus members, you'll see some women.
- The lesbian therapy is never discussed at length because it only involves one step. They take away the keys to the lesbian's truck.
- R32, the article states that it is primarily almost exclusively men but I remember in the late '90s when the ex-gay ministries last made a big splash, taking out full page ads in the, erm, no surprise, New York Times, they featured a few women.
If you read Wayne Besen's book - Anything But Straight - an exhaustive study of ex-gay ministries, it states that a lot of people involved in these ministries (at the time) were the type who were addicted to 12-step programmes. Joining an ex-gay ministry was usually the last in a long line of therapy groups these individuals had sought out to deal with their drug addiction, alcoholism, eating disorders, sex addictions, etc., etc. In short - attention whores.
- They are still GAY, just not practicing. I've been with women & sex with them was like a bottle rocket going off. Sex with men is like a fourth of July presentation, which I will choose every time. If I wanted to be straight & settle for a bottle rocket because of religious beliefs & settle for bottle rockets, I don't believe it makes me any less gay.
- I imagine it's primarily men who do this because it's much easier for a lesbian to "fake it" in a relationship with a man, at least to convince herself she's not gay. It's a lot harder to ignore that kind of denial when you can't get it up for a woman.
- [quote]but what about people that want to be straight and want to do ex-gay therapy? I'm not against it.
Because offering a "treatment"
that is fraudulent is malpractice. Doctors are not obligated to just give patients what they want, that is unethical.
- "For most of his life, Blake Smith said, "every inch of my body craved male sexual contact""
That should read "[his] inch...craved...male sex[...]"
- At some point people should wake up and smell the rotten (mind) food that is pushed down their throats by society and 'well meaning' parents.
Embrace yourself so you can focus on getting what YOU want in your life (and not what society or parents want for you).
- I'm just surprised Bradford Shellhammer wasn't consulted for the article.
- [quote]What woman would want to marry an "ex-gay"?
Lonely, desperate women.
- It's difficult to take the NY Times seriously these days, as they insist on treating freakshow non-stories as "fit to print".
- WTF is this doing in NY Times?
- I think the quotes around ex-gay nullify the phobia a bit and are very funny.
- What an ugly couch!
- [quote]What woman would want to marry an "ex-gay"?
I don't know how the conversation got on this topic, but Michele Bachmann gave this as an example of how loving Marcus is: Without prompting he went out a bought her a matching ivory colored dress and matching coat. I am not making this up. I remember ivory, too, for some reason. So a woman who needs a personal shopper?
- The W&W from this thread is very funny.
- I'd marry him if he got a big wallet I can use and get a real dick on the side.
- [quote]What woman would want to marry an "ex-gay"?
Women who desperately seek companionship, getting away from abusive parents, having issues with sex themselves, self worth issues, self delusion (I am the fag whisperer! I can turn any gay guy straight! That's my purpose in life!).
- [quote]Many ex-gays guard their secret but quietly meet in support groups around the country, sharing ideas on how to avoid temptations ....
"Sharing ideas of how to avoid temptations"
What temptations? I thought they were no longer homosexual so they no longer had any desire to fuck or be fucked by someone of the same sex.
- r51, they treat homosexuality like an addiction and discuss all those dangerous moment that could trigger a relapse (like when on the internet a pop up ad for the Sean Cody porn site pops up).
- Anyone conversant with the history of the Gumm-Garland-Minnelli-Luft dynasty knows that ladies tend to marry men just like daddy.
- Give me five minutes alone with any of them in a closet and we'll see who's ex-gay.
- Is there reparative therapy to get rid of religious beliefs?
- Gay marriage is up in four states so they have to try to sway voters to vote against it.
I won't read the New York Times ever again.
- Let's send Matt Bomer to seduce these guys so we can prove that they are liars who are STILL GAY!
- Give it time.
- Get her a good strap-on and it's just like being with a pre-op.
- WEll this is like an alcoholic. They go to AA and stop drinking but they are still an alcoholic and they have to find ways to avoid going back to drink...but the urge is always there!!!! Same shit! They urge alcohol; the others urge cock!
- Crazy ass bible thumpers will do anything for attention. Some of these guys are in their 50's, their lack of wanting sex with men could simply be a lack of wanting sex. Old age can do that. When people tell me this shit, I use my hair color as an example. I was born a brunette, I choose to bleach my hair blonde. This doesn't make me a blonde, it makes me a brunette who colors my hair blonde. Fuck all the women you want to "ex-gays", you're still gay. Or maybe you're simply bisexual and have been all along.
- If I wanted to start fucking pussy, I could. I fucked it all through out high school and college, but it would be a total lie. Pussy doesn't turn me on, every time I fucked it I had to think about a guy to get hard and stay hard. Luckily, I was 22 and a slight breeze would get my cock hard. That is what these guys are doing. Pussy doesn't turn them on.
- R62=bi freak
- No R62, you missed the point, 100% gay & never going back to bottle rockets. Will Not Settle
- 100% gay men don't fuck cows. You can think of a hot man, but it's still a cow in your bed. Instant boner killer.
- Gay is not for everyone. Gay men can be very competitive and cruel. Women are much more forgiving about appearance and bad habits than gay men.
Life is not just about sex. Some men feel sexual with men, more compatible with women in other ways. I agree with other posters that waning sexual urges in later life have something to do with gay men taking a new look at women.
I myself am very gay and not going to turn straight, but to each his own. I think outlawing this treatment is defensive and PC.
- "I think outlawing this treatment is defensive and PC."
You sound like a dumb Republican.
You don't get to choose whether you are gay or straight. Therapy doesn't make a gay person magically turn straight.
- I understand that regarding gay as a negative makes some people upset. But for a few individuals of a certain age gay IS a negative. They do not like it and they want to try to remake themselves. America allows plastic surgery, bankruptcy declaration, transgenderism, and all kinds of identity switching. Why not ex-gay? I do not gravitate towards it, but let others select their own treatment, no matter how misguided.
I notice you completely ignored my observation about how unforgiving gay life can be. Many gay people have been burned by it.
- "They do not like it and they want to try to remake themselves. America allows plastic surgery, bankruptcy declaration, transgenderism, and all kinds of identity switching. Why not ex-gay?"
You can't "remake" your sexual orientation the way you can get a nose job or declare bankruptcy. Duh. Do you really not understand the difference?
"I notice you completely ignored my observation about how unforgiving gay life can be. Many gay people have been burned by it."
Do you believe that plenty of straight people haven't been "burned" by the dating scene? You'd be amazed how many women think all straight men are pigs, and how many straight men bitch about how they don't get laid and women don't understand them. For some reason you seem to think that only gay people are unhappy.
- [quote]‘Ex-Gay’ Men Fight Back
That must have been some slapfest.
Those limp wrists must have been flapping around faster than Cheryl's pussy lips during hurricane Sandy.
- If "reperative therapy" worked, you'd see a lot of older straight women converting to lesbianism.
- somone is trying up the readership of the NYT.....
- I just wish there was some sort of reparative therapy for my ass.
It has seen better days.
- They act like it's all about who you have sex with. It's not. I hardly ever have sex but I'm gay. And there are straight people who hardly ever have sex.
- It pisses me off when they talk about "the gay life." Exactly what is that?
- The gay life? Hmmm.. Shopping sprees..wild sex life...non-stop drinking... I think that´s what they mean.