Thursday, April 06, 2006

Straight success

Considering the widely disputed evidence that changing from gay to straight (or vice versa) is even possible, I have been looking for some reassurance. I mean, where are these men that have supposedly changed? Why don't they step up and go to bat?

Several years ago I read a book by Nicolosi, this reparative therapy guy who has done research on orientation change over the decades. He had plenty of examples of success in his work, but his work has not been embraced as legitimate, and I'm not entirely sure why. I read the book before my science training so maybe I'll have to go back and read it again now. Regardless, he seems like a genuine enough person that is honest in his observations and can't be wholly disregarded as "in the pocket of the religious right" as is the trend in this area. (As if having a conflict of interest automatically invalidates actual scientific inquiry--it doesn't. It makes it suspect, not invalid. When scientifically principles are rigorously adhered to, results are results.)

[Note, I wrote in my last post that the preferred term is "conversion therapy" because I had read that the implication of defectiveness connoted by "reparative" was offensive and inaccurate, but then my counselor told me yesterday that neither term is really adequate or favored. He said it's closer to "reparative" because theoretically you are repairing personal emotional deficiencies, not repairing your sexuality directly. But you are certainly not "converting" in a manner of forced orientation assignment either. Anyway, I'll probably use both terms interchangeably without realizing it since I have no better term. And I'm lazy like that. ;-)]

Anyway, my current counselor is such an example of turning straight. I thought, after discussing it with him briefly, that he meant he has successfully managed his marriage despite the occasional SSA temptation. Not so. He corrected me once, when I suggested as much, by firmly asserting that he is no longer even attracted to men. Ever. He's sitting there telling me that he has changed his orientation so thoroughly (not just Kinsey 5 to Kinsey 2) that he no longer ever looks at men that way. Woah.

I admit, I'm skeptical. But I know him, and he's not a liar.

But, as much as I think that would be great for myself, is that what it would take for me to feel like my therapy has been successful? No. I'm just looking for a bit of relief from the anguish that I feel when I'm so completely aroused by men and then when I lay next to the person I love more than anybody in the world, I'm barely aroused at all. (But the mechanics of that scenario, I'll not delve into just now.)

So, I continue to hope that change in some form or another is possible. And since starting my voyage (not too long ago), I HAVE found a number of examples of success. There's my counselor. There's Nicolosi's examples. There's Richard Cohen, author of Coming Out Straight. There's a few other authors of similar books. There are the speakers and staff you run into if you attend Evergreen meetings, Journey to Manhood events, etc. There are the 200 research subjects in Spitzer's widely discussed and controversial study (which I will talk about more later). And then there's one other person. Someone I met on the gay Mormon blog circuit. Someone I feel like I KNOW better than the others. And trust. Someone who is still attracted to men, but seems to have actually inched down the road to success. In my mind, he is doing what I want to do. He is an example of straight success.

I define success for me as being appropriately adapted in my situation. For mine to be one of the few marriages that starts with a gay partner and doesn't end in divorce--one of those where both partners are happy. And ideally, but not necessarily, success will include being attracted mainly or exclusively to women.

Now I feel like there is a very real possibility that I will have success--somewhere along that spectrum from "well adapted" to "completely straight" and I have the examples to give me the confidence to try.


Chris (hurricane) said...


If I can find some time to dig it up, I can forward to you some critiques of Nicolosi's work.

Without getting into the validity of his rates of success, I have issues with his premise--that homosexuality is caused by an emotional deficiency and inability to form healthy male-male relationships. This does not explain female homosexuality, nor does it explain the ability of man gay men, myself included, to form healthy male-male relationships that are not in any way eroticized or sexualized.

I'm a layman, here, so I'm willing to hear more. But that's where I start, before we even get to the issues surrounding how you define success.

A question: does your current therapist disapprove of homosexuality on moral grounds, generally speaking?

Finally, I wish you genuine happiness and peace, however you can find it.

-L- said...

Thanks for the well wishes. I'll be posting on this topic with some regularity, so don't feel like this is your last chance to comment on Nicolosi or the "theory" behind his therapy.

My therapist doesn't disapprove of homosexuality at all. Like me, he just didn't think it was for him. If I had asked him to help me with affirmation therapy, he would have done it.

Chris (hurricane) said...

My therapist doesn't disapprove of homosexuality at all. Like me, he just didn't think it was for him. If I had asked him to help me with affirmation therapy, he would have done it.

I'm glad to hear that. I think that makes him a minority in the "ex-gay" world.

David said...

I believe God made me the way I am for a reason and I do not believe that I can change myself to straight. I do, however, believe that God could make me straight. I just don't know why he would.

I would be very curious to know specifically why all those men that claim success in their conversion therapy sought to change themselves from gay to straight in the first place. Was it religion? Was it society? Did they believe of their own accord that being gay was wrong?

Thanks for the thoughts.

Elbow said...

I really don't know what to say, but I want to wish you luck and tell you that I admire you for your courage.
I'm glad that you feel good about it, and that you are doing something that you feel like you need to do.
I can't wait to hear more.