Brain plasticity and sexual orientation: Train it to gain it?

This article about brain plasticity by Neil and Briar Whitehead posted on Anglican Mainstream caught my attention for several reasons. Some relate to classes I teach but for this post, I am interested in discussion surrounding the main reason the Whiteheads wrote about neuroscience: sexual reorientation.

I have a few questions.

Sex and gender researchers working in the belief that the brain and its functions were more less set, believed they might find evidence that homosexuality was hard-wired in the brain. They looked for signs that parts of the brain used in sexual activity were different in homosexuals and heterosexuals, that, for example parts of a homosexual male brain might be more like a woman’s.

Almost without exception these numerous studies produced contradictory conclusions, and were not replicable. Although gay activism sought to use some of these findings to argue homosexuality was biologically ingrained, the most that can be said scientifically about them is that IF any differences exist they are probably the result of homosexual behavior rather than the cause of it. But it is clear now that no-one is stuck with the type of brain they were born with. Our assumption now should be, change is possible in many behaviors – sexual orientation not excluded – and extraordinary effort will produce extraordinary change.

I don’t agree with this assessment of the state of research. We are on the beginning edge of research regarding sexual orientation differences in the brain and some of those differences seem striking. The work of Savic in particular has found some differences in gay and straight males in areas of the brain which may or may not be modified by experience. This study was just last year; there has not been time to publish replications. What research do the Whiteheads refer to here? This is an ongoing process which the Whiteheads describe as though the research program was in some mature state with many contradictory studies. I believe this is a extremely premature statement:

the most that can be said scientifically about them is that IF any differences exist they are probably the result of homosexual behavior rather than the cause of it.

What evidence has been demonstrated that sexual behavior can make these differences? I would like to know what studies have contradicted the Savic research and other studies which demonstrate brain differences, not just in symmetry but responses to sweat, serotonin and visual cues.

The Whiteheads then discuss brain training, noting that musicians and cab drivers have enlarged areas of the brain which are used for the specific tasks used frequently. They then leap to sex.

Monkey experiments have shown that artificial exercise of three digits on the hand increases the area of the brain asso­ciated with those fingers and decreases the other regions proportionately.(1) Violinists have a grossly enlarged area of the brain devoted to the fingers of their left hands. Those who learn a juggling routine for three months produce observable small changes in the small-scale structure of the brain, and these changes reverse when they stop.(3)

London taxi drivers have an enlarged area of the brain dealing with navigation. Is this innate? No. London bus drivers on set routes did not have this enlarged area, and on retirement of the taxi drivers, the brain area involved diminished.(6) Taxi-drivers were not born that way, but developed the brain area through huge amounts of navigation and learning, and only maintained it through constant use. We change our brains at the micro-level through the way we exercise, and anything we do repetitively espe­cially if associated with pleasure (e.g.) sexual activity. So, if brain scientists did find real differences between the brains of homosexuals and heterosexuals, this was probably the result of different sexual behaviors, not the cause of them.

Do we have any research that demonstrates brain areas which enlarge based on frequent sex? Or straight sex or gay sex? I know of none and the Whiteheads offer none but this appears to be what they are suggesting. They also suggest that gay and straight sex might bulk up different brain areas thus reflecting activity rather than causing it. I know of no research which indicates different brain areas for sexual arousal. This study by Safron et al seems to provide evidence against such an idea.

Now here is where stand up comics should get some material.

Doidge sums up the extraordinary plasticity of the brain with the words, Use it or lose it. (Or, for those trying to drop an unwanted behavior, Don’t use it, and you’ll lose it.)

Even if part of the brain is strongly associated with a particular sexuality it should be possible to change it. Stopping a sexual activity and avoiding stimulation of that brain region, and plunging into some other intense brain activity for months would lead to a diminishing of the intensity of that sexual response. Months is about the timescale of first significant change. That can be true for learning a musical instrument too!

Doidge’s conclusion about sexuality is that “Human libido is not a hardwired invariable biological urge, but can be curiously fickle, easily altered by our psychology and the history of our sexual encounters.” and “It’s a use-it-or-lose-it brain, even where sexual desire and love are concerned.” This would apply both to same-sex attraction and opposite-sex attraction.

If we train hard enough, an activity can become automatic and we pay it less conscious attention. That is particularly true of playing a musical instrument. Many of the basic techniques like chords, scales and arpeggios, are so deeply learnt that we don’t think about the details and indeed can’t if the music is fast. Details of driving, throwing a ball, reading, even tying shoelaces don’t and often can’t demand full attention. Anything we do often, we often end up doing automatically. In the same way it can seem that sexual orientation is so deeply embedded that it is innate. But, really, it is no more innate than any complex skill we have worked at to the point where we can do it without thinking e.g. seemingly automatic placement of left-hand fingers on guitar strings to produce a C chord.

Hey, what did you do this summer? Well, I learned to play the…

Changing sexual orientation is like learning to play a musical instrument? Should we have straight lessons? Community colleges could offer them in their continuing education departments. New slogan: “We put the adult in adult development!”

I apparently will need to get this book by Doidge. Whitehead doesn’t offer any of the research Doidge relies on for his startling new discovery about music instruments and sex. I wonder if there are any such studies. Whatever techniques Doidge is aware of, perhaps he ought to share them with Exodus since the changes reported by Jones and Yarhouse do not seem to reflect this new found brain plasticity. (I made this modification here because I have since learned that Doidge does not advocate any techniques of orientation change.).

I suspect this passage in the Whitehead article is deeply insulting to many ex-gays and ex-ex-gays alike (New reparative therapy slogans: “Just train it!” “You’ve got to train it to gain it”). How many such persons have essentially followed this approach: don’t use and you’ll lose it. However, they didn’t lose it.

The Whiteheads then suggest that male and female differences are largely due to experience after birth:

Male and female behavior – let alone ho­mosexuality and heterosexuality – is apparently not hardwired into the brain at birth. In fact, only one quar­ter of the brain is formed in a new-born child; the rest is developed through learning and experience (environ­mental input). We can be confident that whatever male/female differences exist in adult brains (and, no doubt, more will be found at some stage), they will be largely shaped by learning and behavior.

I think researchers in hormones might quarrel with this. I am aware of a recent study which found associations between fetal testosterone levels and sex-typed behavior at age 8.5. Testosterone has an organizing function in the brain prenatally but it is unclear whether it does at or before puberty. There is way too much unknown I believe, for dogmatism here. As with the rest of the claims, I would like to see this research much more than studies about driving and music.

The Whiteheads conclude:

Anatomy is not destiny; change is always possible. The brain is plastic and is in a constant state of change. Indeed the question is rather: what change is not possible?

Well, at the end, an idea is all we have. Essentially, the Whiteheads suggest that because brain plasticity has been associated with driving, musical training and regaining use of motor function, it should be true of sexual orientation change as well. As noted, there are some problems with his facts and no direct evidence for the hyperbolic title of this article.

UPDATE: My comments above about Norman Doidge’s book were made prior to reviewing it. I have since been able to read through parts of it and believe it is a valuable contribution for a lay audience. He does not offer techniques of sexual reorientation nor does he liken orientation change to learning a musical instrument. Neil and Briar Whitehead make those far-fetched connections, not Dr. Doidge. My reaction to the book was solely based on the selective quotations from the Whiteheads. I am sorry if anyone made an impression regarding Doidge’s book based on this post. Readers are encouraged to read the related posts linked below.

Related Posts:

NARTH authors again mislead readers: More on brain plasticity and sexual orientation

My Genes Made Me Do It and brain plasticity

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    Gee, I wonder why no one has taken the plunge and commented on this post, Warren.

    I will say that this “ex-gay” is not insulted by what I have seen here of the Whiteheads’ thesis, but I have to say that this is such a vast area of science to delve into, few folks find definitive stuff to hang their hats on, from either perspective.

    I’ve read some of Candace Pert’s work and books like Psycho-cybernetics, and I have found some of the hypotheses about thinking patterns and habits to be fascinating. Do we wear ruts in our brains with repeated behaviors and thoughts? Does the brain do the leading with its wiring? How does the injured brain regenerate itself and forge new neural pathways? The jury is way out still on these questions, I think. Why should sexual behavior affect the brain (or vice-versa) differently from other behaviors?

    I smell confirmation bias all over this one, from every angle.

    Also, science-minded people sure do seem to have a need to needle or one-up each other all the time. Why is that?

  • Mary

    It does not sound comical at all. However, more research is needed. And a friend of mine did his thesis on brain recovery. Very interesting. Use it and focus on what you want to emphasize and you will develop a way of thinking.

  • Mary

    The problem in trying this method out with Exodus is that the conservative view on sexuality is that you don’t have sex or mastrubate or any sexual anything until you are in a marriage.

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    Somehow I think, if God intended sex for marriage, He is big enough to have created us with the wherewithal to handle the temptation. In fact, Scripture does say so (1 Cor. 10:13). What folks tend to forget is you don’t just stop thinking about or doing undesirable things, you replace them with other thoughts or habits. That’s axiomatic in psychology, isn’t it? Read Phil. 4:6-9 or Luke 11:24-26 (a parable) for the spiritual side of the coin.

    This doesn’t work for those who view the Ten Commandments as the Ten Suggestions.

  • Mary

    Either way – whatever a person focuses on – that is what and who they become.

  • Timothy Kincaid

    OMG!! I am laughing my butt off.

    In order for Whitehead to make sense:

    1. The differences in brain anatomy between the sexes are due to environmental input and all women have different environmental input than all men – other than gay folk who have the same environmental input as the opposite sex. In other words, all women and gay men are conditioned to use landmarks rather than a sense of direction when driving.

    2. Same-sex attraction is the product of learned and repeated behaviors. Even those that are experienced way before there is any sexual behavior to learn or replicate.

    3. Those gay folk (and ex-ex-gay folk) who were married and who discovered that it didn’t make ’em straight just weren’t having sex often enough.

    4. The old adage that “all she needs is a good man and she’ll come around” is true.

    5. Guys who have convenience-sex in prison continue when they get out. All of the reports to the contrary are just part of the evil homosexual agenda (I think Kirk and Madsen made it up and put it in the secret manual and PR campaign).

    6. Non-gender typical behavior in children is caused by “learning and behavior”.

  • David Blakeslee

    Brain plasticity and learning is where all the new thinking :) is at.

    The deterministic and reductionist scientific model cannot well account for a brain that can heal itself after injury.

    Regarding SSA….much more complex than playing the violin or navigating…and the reward sequences at various synapses are profound (even though I like a good map and a violin, as well as the next guy).

    Regarding sexual compulsions, extinction of the behavior can occur with deprivation of the reward, or not presenting the stimulus. However, spontaneous recovery is likely.

    Did anyone watch the Haney Project where he tried to fix Charles Barkley’s golf swing….for months, hitting thousands of golf balls and it stay one ugly swing.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXBkIjI-C2Q

    Haney thought he could fix it.

    Analogies always simplify to communicate and in the process, miscommunicate how simple things are.

  • carole

    @David,

    Regarding SSA….much more complex than playing the violin or navigating…and the reward sequences at various synapses are profound (even though I like a good map and a violin, as well as the next guy).

    I don’t know that anyone has established that SSA, or OSA for that matter, is “much more complex than playing the violing or navigating,” have they? If so, it’s news to me.

    The root of attractions might be more complex or they might not be–what I think is accurate to state is that no one has established how and why our bodies/minds “turn on” to one sex or to another or to both. Attraction might be the result of so many complex biological and/or psychological interactions that we are far from understanding its cause(s) or it might be the result of a very simple mechanism, relatively speaking, one we simply haven’t discovered yet. It’s possible that we have not have been looking in the right place with the right tools. It’s possible that the right tools do not yet exist. In addition, we haven’t really been looking all that long.

  • carole

    @David,

    Regarding sexual compulsions, extinction of the behavior can occur with deprivation of the reward, or not presenting the stimulus. However, spontaneous recovery is likely.

    1. Point of clarification: Did you mean “spontaneous recovery is ‘unlikely'”? If you did indeed mean “likely,” could you expand on that?

    2. If “deprivation of reward” or “not presenting the stimulus” can extinguish sexual compulsions (does this work for all compulsions?) then can offering a different reward for different sexual behavior accomplish the same thing? Or, can offering a reward for sexual stimuli of a different nature condition the client/patient to learn to like the new stimuli?

    Your posts are almost always interesting to me, David, but they are often so terse as to leave me wondering, “What does he mean?” Thus, my questions.

  • carole

    @David,

    About Charles and golf –I identify! My husband and I watched that series. Painful. To say he has a hitch in his get -along is the worse of understatements.

    We golfers look away when our playing partners have a case of the yips or the shanks, but there is something about Charles’ swing that turns us all into rubber-neckers: it’s so ugly we just have to look.

  • carole

    About the article:

    Well, that the brain has a plasticity that we are still learning about is a safe statement, but this guy sure does simplify things, doesn’t he?

    Stopping a sexual activity and avoiding stimulation of that brain region, and plunging into some other intense brain activity for months would lead to a diminishing of the intensity of that sexual response. Months is about the timescale of first significant change. That can be true for learning a musical instrument too!

    He protects himself with qualified statements like “diminishing of the intensity of that sexual response.”

    Well, yeah, “diminishing” ..but that’s a far cry from changing one’s orientation. It’s a far cry from lusting after one sex to lusting after another.

    With these guys you just have to say, “Show us someone who has indeed practiced so hard he now loves the violin, not the bass.”

  • carole
  • Lynn David

    So all those old Norwegian batchelor farmers I know who say they are homosexual but who have never had one lick of sex in their lives (due to their religious beliefs) are what…. simply crazy?

    .

    And all of us who knew we were different – homosexual – early in our lives without even considering a sexual act are what….. simply crazy?

    .

    No… the Whiteheads are likely off.

    .

    I could see this as working towards your sexuality in this regard, what sexual activities you find to be stimulating. But who you look towards for that stimulation is another matter. The Whiteheads/Doidge do not even delve into the parts of the brain which respond to the activities they list as stimuli. I would assume it is primarily the neo-cortex and not the hypthalamus/limbic system – or perhaps the cerebellum for their London taxi drivers.

    .

    You can see much of what Whitehead has written on homosexuality at:

    http://www.mygenes.co.nz/

    .

    To the question “Is sexual orientation determined at birth?” Whitehead has responded:

    “The stages of psycho-social development toward adult heterosexuality are clearly demarcated, known and understood by developmental psychologists, and are so obviously learned that heterosexuality is clearly not genetically mandated. Surveys of adult homosexuals show conspicuous deficits in several of these developmental stages – showing that homosexuality is cultural and environmental rather than genetic.” — My Genes Made Me Do It!, 1999

    .

    Additionally, you might want to read his new Chapter 8: Are Brains “Gay”? of My Genes Made Me Do It (scare quotes his). It may have a bit more than the article [I read the chapter not the article, so I don’t know].

  • Lynn David

    Whitehead also says this:

    Numerous surveys in many countries show that (including bisexuals) gays are 2-3% of the population and lesbians are 1-2%.

    .

    About half of the homosexual/bisexual population spontaneously (in a non-therapeutic environment) move towards heterosexuality over a lifetime. About 3% of the present heterosexual population once firmly believed themselves to be homosexual or bisexual. Sexual orientation is not set in concrete.

    If the total gay and lesbian population is less than 3% (3 in 100), then how can there exist a 3% of ‘converted gays’ out of the 97% of those who are straight? And yet let that gay 3% exist? Talk about inflating your success figures.

  • Lynn David

    Ok…. see what he’s saying. Still… where did Whitehead come up with such a figure? Kinsey? He’s saying 3% were likely bisexual and wonder of wonders… they acted on it. Big deal… Kinsey said much the same thing, but Whitehead would probably skewer Kinsey for saying it.

  • Rander

    OMG, ROFLMBO.

    Hey, what did you do this summer? Well, I learned to play the…

    Sorry – thats too darn funny. Dr. Throckmorton, I didnt think men needed to learn to play with the……

    Ohh well, maybe I was wrong. Or maybe it is different in your world…

    Otherwise your points are well taken. Homosexuality is quite complex with many different influences. Of course, if we could just accept and respect each other no matter which way we swing, there really wouldnt be a “problem”, just people with different preferences….

    Malene

  • Mary

    Timothy,

    Although it is easy to do, you jumped to too many conclusions about brain plasticity. Your ‘results” from past experiences are still being imposed on with your own current thinking – which in effect causes a different outcomes.

    Brain plasticity means – really thinking differently about something. Not just being put in a new environment.

  • Michael Bussee

    I suspect this passage in the Whitehead article is deeply insulting to many ex-gays and ex-ex-gays alike (New reparative therapy slogans: “Just train it!” “You’ve got to train it to gain it”). How many such persons have essentially followed this approach: don’t use and you’ll lose it. However, they didn’t lose it.

    I found it insulting. I didn’t lose it. I later discovered that I should have known better — that it would not happen and that I should not have expected it. Since leaving Exodus, I have been told by many that I was “expecting the wrong thing” (Sexual reorientation).

    I have been told that I should have known somehow (as a 20-something, sexually-inexperienced, new-Christian, gay-guy) that “identity change” — not “orientation” change was what would happen — and that I would probably remain exclusively SSA forever. I should have known these things!

    No one tells me how I “should have known”. Who was I supposed to ask? My fellow ministry leaders? Gimme a break! They were all novices like me, stilll activley struggling and falling and repenting and falling…

    Should I ask the ministers at my church? I did. They sent SSA church-members to US! They couldn’t tell me how. I asked Christian and secular psychologists and psychiatrists. They could not tell me how. The many books I read didn’t know how. But I was supposed to know — somehow.

    I know now, that identity is pretty changeable — you can go from gay to ex-gay to ex-ex-gay and back again. You can choose not to identify by any label. Behavior is pretty changeable too — you can become celibate, less compulsive, resolve addictions, settle down with just one guy, sexcretly masturbate to gay thoughts, besome asexual or more active in behavior.

    Although there may be exceptions, the one thing that doesn’t seem to be very “plastic” is orientation.

  • AM

    The Whiteheads should include intersexed individuals in their studies. The reality of intersexism will be the missing link to the understanding of homosexuality and heterosexuality. Of that I am entirely convinced; why no one else has gotten hold of that concept is truly unfathomable.

  • Mary

    Just because the APA has decided that sexual orientation and sexual orientation identity are two separarte items – does not mean that is the case for everyone. Nor should anyone just casually assume that to be the case because the APA (a slanted board) has defined it to be so.

    Everything should be questioned and considered – even brain plasticity. I like the idea that a person can change their mind and be different. I have experienced a lot of that in my life. Change your mind – change your life. It is behind a lot of therapies that include cognitive and A.C.T. therapies. Change how you will think and act and you will change your life.

    Doers that include sexuality? I think it does. But to insist that all people will change in the same way, over the same thoughts, with the same cues and keys – that’s not realistic. Since there seems to be a variety of paths to sexuality or for those who choose to call it sexual orientation, then it seems there would be as many paths to “change” your thoughts on and behaviors about that alone – if seeking change away from SSA to OSA is a persons goal.

  • Lynn David

    I can see that the experience of intersexed individuals has taught us much concerning one’s psyche/gender identity; however, I don’t necessarily see an interconnect with one’s gender orientation. I’ve known a few such people, they usually have had chromosomal abnormalities associated with additional X or Y chromosomes which leads to other medical problems. And while I suspect that a lack of methylation of the X chromosome in men may lead to a homosexual orientation [again, only in men]; I don’t see a commensurate mechanism extant in women associated with genetics.

    .

    Yet it has been found that the Y chromosome has been whittled down as one climbs the evolutionary tree. The Y chromosome has been giving up control of non-essential male sexual matters over time (and losing genes in the process). In humans the Y chromosome contains less than 200 genes, while the human X chromosome contains around 1,100 genes.

    ….to test the hypothesis that some of the genes on the Y chromosome are being maintained because they are essential. The team’s approach was to compare the expression and function of genes on the Y chromosome with analogous genes on the X chromosome. “If the genes’ expressions and/or functions were different, then it would make sense that the genes on the Y chromosome would be maintained because they are doing something that the genes on the X chromosome can’t do,” said Makova. “This hypothesis turned out to be correct.”

    This fast evolving attribute of the Y chromosome could be in part responsible for the development of homosexuality in species. It would be very interesting to measure the incidence of homosexuality in a species and then compare it to the evolutionary trend its male (Y) chromosome is on. Might explain a lot. Might not. But it is certainly a hypothesis begging to be tested. And then you have to explain the mechanism extant when a male (Y) chromosome gets whittled down….

  • Ann

    Here is some information regarding a condition that might be relevant to the discussion.

    http://www.nichd.nih.gov/publications/pubs/klinefelter.cfm

  • Michael Bussee

    I just keep finding myself wishing that people were just as curious about what “causes” hetereosexuality. Why isn’t that fascinating? If we could explain the “normal”, maybe we could explain the “abnormal”. Shouldn’t we start with that — instead of acting like we already know?

  • AM

    Try Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia for a condition for women: the studies which have been done *do* seem to indicate that there is a greater preponderance of gay and bisexual women within such constructs. Now, whether or not all intersexual conditions are fully disclosed to all such individuals by their families/medical providers is another discussion all together. Many have grown up in the dark, not knowing their true conditions.

  • Michael Bussee

    Conditions? Medical providers? Is gayness a sickness?

  • Michael Bussee

    It’s all in the mind. We are how we choose to think of ourselves. Think of yourself as straight and you are straight. Interesting idea. You could be heterosexual even if your never experience any sexual interest in the opposite sex. Nice. I think I will think of myself as female and lesbian.

  • Mary

    Michael,

    I am curious about the development of sexuality in general.

  • Ann

    Conditions? Medical providers? Is gayness a sickness?

    Michael,

    The article I cited was in reference to chromosomes, not gayness. I realize it might not be “congrument” :-) with the thread topic but noticed that others were referring to chromosomes so I thought I would add what I found.

  • Ann

    p.s. – I meant “congruent”

  • Michael Bussee

    All I know is I have never been able to think myself straight — or become straight by practicing straightness — or not practicing gayness. Still “SSA” only after all these years.

    (Thanks, Ann, for clarifying. You know how I get when someone suggests or hints that gayness is, in an of itself, sick, immoral or broken…) :)

    P.S. (And off the topic, I know)… I have sometimes noticed that when I say I am not attracted to women’s bodies, I am accused of “objectifying” women — reducing them to their sexual parts. If I said I was straight and was attracted to women’s bodies, I would still be accused of “objectifying”. What gives?

    Are we men only OK if we don’t find women’s bodies attractive? Aren’t men and women created to be physically, sexually, hormonally attractive to one another? Don’t women want to be attractive, on a physical level, to the opposite sex?

  • Mary

    But if you wanted to, you could think yourself into running a marathon if you are physically able. You could think yourself into learning how to enjoy your captors – if you had to.

    Just goes to show that we can bend our minds around a lot of things that would at first seem counterintuitive or strange.

  • Ann

    All I know is I have never been able to think myself straight — or become straight by practicing straightness — or not practicing gayness. Still “SSA” only after all these years.

    Michael,

    I honestly believe trying to think or become or practice a way of living that does not come naturally or we are not used to or is inauthentic to us or we are not ready for can become a great source of pain. It is also unneccessary to living a life that we value. We have to identify what and who we value and how we can live in accordance with, and not jepordize, that which we hold close to our hearts. I think this is where Dr. Throckmorton’s SIT is right on the money. Real hope can only come with real truth, not pretense.

    P.S. (And off the topic, I know)… I have sometimes noticed that when I say I am not attracted to women’s bodies, I am accused of “objectifying” women — reducing them to their sexual parts. If I said I was straight and was attracted to women’s bodies, I would still be accused of “objectifying”. What gives?

    We are all attracted to what we are attracted to – it is a personal preference. I have never thought you were objectifying women in any way. I know you appreciate women for all the right reasons. I cannot say I am particularly attracted to testicles, however, I really like men :-)

    Are we men only OK if we don’t find women’s bodies attractive? Aren’t men and women created to be physically, sexually, hormonally attractive to one another? Don’t women want to be attractive, on a physical level, to the opposite sex?

    Speaking for myself, I want men to find me attractive, however, I would rather they find me loving and kind and intelligent and very different from them. I do think men and women were created to be attracted to each other in a variety of ways – many times sexuality is part of this, many times it is not. Either way, the appreciation for each other’s differences is wonderful. As to what is ok and what isn’t – again, I think self imposed pressure to perform in a way that you think you should will defeat any purpose that is held to a higher level than sexual response or performance.

  • David Blakeslee

    @ Carole,

    Back from watching football in Corvalis, OR.

    Spontaneous recovery is a behavioral concept…when a learned behavior is extinguished…it still returns with gusto from time to time.

    So any brain “relearning” (from SSA to OSA) would still result in spontaneous recovery of SSA from time to time.

    Regarding offering different sexual rewards (I assume to change SSA to OSA) to change some sexual compulsions…I don’t know what the facts are.

    I would guess as long as the pleasure centers of the brain are involved and are triggered by either older behavior (non-desired) or new behavior (desired) that there would still be some blurring since it is borrowing the same pathways.

  • Lynn David

    XXY’s aren’t all Klinefelter males. I knew a woman from Texas who was XXY. I got reading about it and found that a French XXY female was fertile and had given birth to an XXY daughter. I think there was also an incidence of an XXY fertile female in India.

    AM….. Try Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia for a condition for women: the studies which have been done *do* seem to indicate that there is a greater preponderance of gay and bisexual women within such constructs.

    Yeah, that fits my bias towards a hormonal influence in creating female homosexuality.

  • Michael Bussee

    I honestly believe trying to think or become or practice a way of living that does not come naturally or we are not used to or is inauthentic to us or we are not ready for can become a great source of pain.

    That is very well said, Ann. That is part of what ex-gay survivors are trying to say. Being straight did not come naturally for me, I wasn’t used to it, it was inauthentic for me — and perhaps I was not ready for it. (How does one get ready for that anyway? Are there classes? Preparing for Heterosexuality 101?)

    Speaking for myself, I want men to find me attractive, however, I would rather they find me loving and kind and intelligent and very different from them.

    Me too, Ann. If I had to pick one or the other, I would not pick on looks alone. But it is real nice if you find the “whole enchilada”. Gary was like that. Such a loving soul — and spicy hot, too. :) Much like my new man…

    I cannot say I am particularly attracted to testicles, however, I really like men.

    .

    No? Maybe you could think your way into liking them or practice liking them or something. There must be some kind of therapy that would help. With me, it comes naturally…..

  • Ann

    That is part of what ex-gay survivors are trying to say. Being straight did not come naturally for me, I wasn’t used to it, it was inauthentic for me — and perhaps I was not ready for it. (How does one get ready for that anyway? Are there classes? Preparing for Heterosexuality 101?)

    Michael,

    I’m not too sure what ex-gay survivors were “trying” to do, however, if they had expectations about an immediate change to exclusive heterosexuality, including sexual attractions and desires toward the opposite gender, without any residual feelings, attractions, etc., they I can see where their expectations were unrealistic and how daunting the disappointment was. I can also see how their initial hurt and all the feelings that go into that can turn into anger and, sometimes, going to the extreme in the other direction, ie – back to same gender identity and sex.

    No? Maybe you could think your way into liking them or practice liking them or something. There must be some kind of therapy that would help. With me, it comes naturally…..

    I understand what you are trying to say here, however, my point was – when I think of being attracted to a man, I do not automatically or initially think of a penis or testicles. What is sexy to me is an untucked shirt, touseled hair or a baseball hat, watching him do something I cannot or do not want to do, gestures, intelligence, maturity, being a good dad, dipping cookies in milk, being unaware of himself, making me laugh. I guess the difference is – while the appearance of testicles is not particularly high on my list of what initially turns me on, it (they :-)) certainly do not preclude me from being turned on.

  • Michael Bussee

    Ann: I was joking about the testicles. I also find the kinds of things you mentioned more attractive.

    As to the ex-gay surviviors, I don’t think any of us was expecting “immediate” or complete change — just some change towards OSA. And we didn’t “go back” — just accepted that we were still the same.

  • David Blakeslee

    By the way…the brain is not “plastic”…able to be reheated and remolded to any shape.

    I assert that mental health is about self-acceptance, managing self-destructiveness, and living a life of purpose.

    Perhaps you can see how this overlaps with my spiritual beliefs.

    This implies that some things in the brain cannot change (they are not “flagged” for us, unfortunately, otherwise we could quickly move on to the things that can change).

    I wish I was growing as many neurons today as I was when I was 15…or 2…my brain was more moldable then…but even then, my friends and family had to contend with my temperament and some bad habits.

    I will never be an artist…or “easy going.” Although I deeply respect those who are.

  • Ann

    Being straight did not come naturally for me, I wasn’t used to it, it was inauthentic for me — and perhaps I was not ready for it. (How does one get ready for that anyway? Are there classes? Preparing for Heterosexuality 101?)

    Michael,

    You were working with the information you were given at that time. You were listening to and being motivated or disappointed by people who were working with only what they knew at the time as well. You also had a great desire to do what you felt was right and pleasing to God. I know what you wanted and it was commendable. If you were not burdened by self imposed expectations and the expectations of others, I have the feeling you would not have felt so defeated. It is these expectations that are the real hiccup to progressing in the way we want to. Remove them and many wonderful things can and do happen. Today, compared to back in the day, there is more realistic information and ways to approach SGA that addresses current and/or ongoing feelings and circumstances and does not place expectations on or of ourselves that we are not ready for. Separating oneself from same gender sexual relationships is just the beginning and, IMHO, should be the only focus for someone who does not see those relationships or that identity as congruent to those things they value. Individual lives will unfold and evolve from there. For those of faith, they know this will be a path they take with God’s guidance and love and grace.

  • Ann

    And we didn’t “go back” — just accepted that we were still the same.

    Michael,

    Very good point – thanks for the correction :-)

  • Ann

    I wish I was growing as many neurons today as I was when I was 15…or 2…my brain was more moldable then

    David,

    Is it in this molding that we could possibly identify ourselves and as we grow older we have a difficult time changing our way of thinking?

  • carole

    Lynn David said,

    And while I suspect that a lack of methylation of the X chromosome in men may lead to a homosexual orientation [again, only in men]; I

    This is indeed an interesting line of study. For quite some time researchers have noted the skewed- x chromosome inactivation in women with rheumatoid arthritis and thryroid disease as well as noting it in other autoimmune disorders. My mother suffered from RA, but she was lucky that she didn’t grow crippled from it as many do. Interestingly enough, she also had some thyroid issues.

  • http://www.wthrockmorton.com Warren

    Hormones aren’t everything as CAH women are often straight, if albeit more masculine. However, hormones probably help organize the brain and with the study I noted in the post, there is some very good evidence that brains are somewhat differentiated at birth or shortly thereafter in ways which lead to sex typed behavior. It is hard to imagine the sex-typed behavior leading to differences in prenatal testosterone levels so I think we can assume causal influence.

    In principle I am not discounting the potential of temperamental change. I am not a hard determinist. However, I do see that some traits are durable and sexuality seems to be one of them, especially in men.

    I wish I had more brain cells too but I am not sure what I would do with them…

  • http://www.wthrockmorton.com Warren

    PS – Watch for an update to this post. I have looked at Doidge’s book and the Whiteheads have not been good quoters. Kind of a Byrd of a feather flock together thing…

  • http://ardentmormon.blogspot.com -L-

    @Michael:

    (Thanks, Ann, for clarifying. You know how I get when someone suggests or hints that gayness is, in an of itself, sick, immoral or broken…)

    I’m gay, I’m married, I’m happy, and I’m clearly broken. I’m not sick in the pejorative sense, but I’m sick in the literal sense of something physiologically not right… I can’t have kids without unwieldy accommodation. It’s not immoral, it’s not shameful, but I refuse to concede that there’s nothing amiss with homosexuality because the APA says so (I’m a physician and policy-making organized medicine is something I’m extremely familiar with… and therefore skeptical of) or because other gays feel uncomfortable with the idea.

    I used to be very involved in blogs that discuss these topics, but it’s a rare event these days, so I apologize in advance if I fail to respond to any subsequent discussion.

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    Whether L responds or not, I deeply appreciate his perspectives and wish him and his family well. Have just seen the tip of the iceberg of his blogging. Good stuff. Real stuff. Sublime in comparison to some of the junk that passes for blogging these days. Many comments that attach to blog posts like parasites are an even more distasteful waste of time to follow.

  • Ann

    L,

    I am deeply moved and touched by your post and blog and the links and comments from others on your blog. I appreciate and respect your perspective and wish you and your family many blessings. In the fullness of time I believe we will have all the answers – until then, we are given grace and guidance, and a faith and belief that can put even the most complex set of circumstances into a perspective that brings us peace. God bless you and thank you again for your post.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton Warren

    -L- Glad to have your input, I checked out your blog and I think our conversations here would be interesting to you.

  • Michael Bussee

    I assert that mental health is about self-acceptance, managing self-destructiveness, and living a life of purpose. Perhaps you can see how this overlaps with my spiritual beliefs.

    David, Yes, I can see the overlap. I think this is very well-expressed. I approach providing mental health services in the same way — and a client’s spiritual beliefs are a very important part of the whole.

    L: I also appreciate, can identify with and am saddened by the feelings you expressed. As you may know, I am also gay, I was married, I am a father — and I also believed I was sick and broken — because I was not straight. That’s how I was raised, but I changed my mind.

    I no longer feel that there is anything wrong with me being gay — but in my own life, there was certainly something wrong with being married and being gay. Love was not enough. She deserved a man who could love her on all levels — emotionally, romantically, spiritually — and sexually.

    Like many gay men, I wanted to be normal, be married, have kids. I now believe opposite-sex marriage is best when both parties are heterosexual. Of course each couple must work this out for themselves.

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    -L- Glad to have your input, I checked out your blog and I think our conversations here would be interesting to you.

    Some would be. It depends on whether or not there is a full moon. :)

    Be forewarned.

  • David Blakeslee

    @ Ann,

    I do think that early childhood and adolescence is where be form the strongest opinions about ourselves and the world.

  • Eddy

    L. said:

    but I refuse to concede that there’s nothing amiss with homosexuality because the APA says so…or because other gays feel uncomfortable with the idea.

    Well said!

    I pulled out the parenthetical just to savor the essence of the sentence…but it’s a dandy of a parenthetical as well.

    (I’m a physician and policy-making organized medicine is something I’m extremely familiar with… and therefore skeptical of)

  • Ann

    I do think that early childhood and adolescence is where be form the strongest opinions about ourselves and the world.

    David,

    And if those opinions involve shame then more often or not we keep them to ourselves for fear of rejection. How can a child’s mind put shameful opinions about themselves into perspective without intervention from a caring adult to help? Without intervention, how often can this shame manifest itself into an ongoing and enduring way to think of ourselves?

  • Eddy

    I like these statements by David for a couple of reasons but primarily because SSA and OSA are used appropriately…speaking of the attractions themselves rather than labeling an individual by their attractions. Seems the thoughts come out so much clearer that way….

    Spontaneous recovery is a behavioral concept…when a learned behavior is extinguished…it still returns with gusto from time to time.

    So any brain “relearning” (from SSA to OSA) would still result in spontaneous recovery of SSA from time to time.

    I would guess as long as the pleasure centers of the brain are involved and are triggered by either older behavior (non-desired) or new behavior (desired) that there would still be some blurring since it is borrowing the same pathways.

    Anyone embarking on an ex-gay journey, whether their goal is OSA or simply a diminishing of the SSA, could benefit from an understanding of both spontaneous recovery and pathway blurring.

  • David Blakeslee

    @ Ann,

    Regarding shame, encouraged in childhood.

    Shame is a normal and healthy part of childrearing. In its most beneficial form, it is used to aggressively modify anti-social behavior (in a blunt form) when normal empathy for others fails.

    To see oneself as capable of inhumanity is the essence of shame.

    When shame is globally applied to childrearing or is specifically applied to the area of individual differences (as if such differences makes one less than human) or human frailty, then it is corrosive.

    Shame can be overcome through Narcissism (I said, overcome, not healed).

    Shame can be tempered and nearly expunged by loving relationships in the present, personal responsibility and integrity.

    Good psychotherapy offers these things, but so do other relationships.

  • Michael Bussee

    When shame is globally applied to childrearing or is specifically applied to the area of individual differences (as if such differences makes one less than human) or human frailty, then it is corrosive.

    NARTH’s expert, Berger, thinks it helps gender variant kids. And that adults should not discourage it.

  • Ann

    David,

    Thanks – I guess what I was saying is that when a child has feelings, such as being attracted to the same gender, and feels shame and pleasure at the same time, AND because of the shame they keep these feelings to themself – cannot that be the start of an enduring mindset? If they felt they COULD share these complex feelings of shame and pleasure with an adult without feeling shame, would that have the opposite effect – ie, the beginning of being able to put a perspective on it that would allow for plasticity?

  • Michael Bussee

    Ann: I know your question was directed at David, but it speaks to my experience as a child, so I hope you won’t mind me commenting.

    The shame I felt had to do with the fear of rejection. If I had had an adult I could have spoken to about these feelings, I don’t think I would have become more plastic in my attractions or orientation — but I think I would have arrived at adulthood with healther self-esteem and a more solid sense of security in relationships.

    In short, I think I would have been a happier homosexual and would never have felt the need for something like Exodus.

  • Ann

    Michael,

    If you could have shared your feelings about this with an adult when you were a child, what do you envision that adult saying to you that would have facilitated you arriving at adulthood with healthier self esteem and a more sold sense of security in relationships?

  • Eddy

    Ann–

    You ask some of the best questions!!! and I think you may be onto something. Certainly the dynamics that Michael expressed could be the result but the possibilities that you raise are there as well.

    If a young boy’s fixation on other boys is a muddled mix of feelings…perhaps some envy, a need for acceptance and affirmation, perhaps a dash of hero worship…all tossed into a bag that has some sexual stirrings as well…talking those feelings through might lead the boy to discover that he is misintepreting his sexual stirrings… Any number of factors, including timing, could influence this.

    In any event, shame can cloud sound judgement and can steer behavioral responses. Any reduction of shame is a good thing. Whatever ultimate choice an individual makes, it seems best, IMHO, for it to be made from a level head rather than from a confused or troubled spirit.

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    t

    alking those feelings through might lead the boy to discover that he is misintepreting his sexual stirrings… Any number of factors, including timing, could influence this.

    In any event, shame can cloud sound judgement and can steer behavioral responses.

    Eddy, we talked about this very thing in my women’s group last night. All of us pondered what our lives may have been like had we had someone trusted, safe, spiritually mature and not put off by our identity questioning dilemma to talk to when we were young. We’ll never know for sure, but I think this line of reasoning is sound. I hope Exodus et al can take a much larger role in providing this kind of insight for pastors and church leaders.

  • Timothy Kincaid

    Lynn David ~ Sep 5, 2009 at 3:54 am

    Whitehead also says this:

    Numerous surveys in many countries show that (including bisexuals) gays are 2-3% of the population and lesbians are 1-2%.

    .

    About half of the homosexual/bisexual population spontaneously (in a non-therapeutic environment) move towards heterosexuality over a lifetime. About 3% of the present heterosexual population once firmly believed themselves to be homosexual or bisexual. Sexual orientation is not set in concrete.

    Well, no, that is not what “numerous studies in many countries show”, at all. Currently the CDC has analyzed studies and is using 4% as their number of self-identifying gay/bi men AND women.

    As for spontaneous heterosexuality, well I give it the same occurrence rate as spontaneous combustion. And about the same evidence. Yes we know that some tiny number of people for unknown reasons at some point in their lives seem to find a partner that is of an unexpected sex. But the “half” quote is pure undiluted nonsense with about as much integrity as my saying that “half the Whiteheads are cannibals.” Just claim it any who cares if it’s true.

  • Timothy Kincaid

    Mary,

    Timothy,

    Although it is easy to do, you jumped to too many conclusions about brain plasticity. Your ‘results” from past experiences are still being imposed on with your own current thinking – which in effect causes a different outcomes.

    Brain plasticity means – really thinking differently about something. Not just being put in a new environment.

    I like the idea that a person can change their mind and be different. I have experienced a lot of that in my life. Change your mind – change your life. It is behind a lot of therapies that include cognitive and A.C.T. therapies. Change how you will think and act and you will change your life.

    Doers that include sexuality? I think it does.

    I’m sorry, dear, but I think you are confusing brain plasticity with Christian Science.

  • Timothy Kincaid

    If a young boy’s fixation on other boys is a muddled mix of feelings…perhaps some envy, a need for acceptance and affirmation, perhaps a dash of hero worship…all tossed into a bag that has some sexual stirrings as well…talking those feelings through might lead the boy to discover that he is misintepreting his sexual stirrings… Any number of factors, including timing, could influence this.

    Only if we discuss the impact of Gerber’s strained peas. Because otherwise this is all hypothetical guesswork based on absolutely nothing other than a desire not to see orientation as in any way biological and to cling desperately to the psychobabble put out by NARTH. Good thing there’s ol’ Gerbers, though. That makes it science.

    I hope Exodus et al can take a much larger role in providing this kind of insight for pastors and church leaders.

    Perhaps we should consider Exodus’ success rate so far when determining the expansion of their role. Only in government or ex-gay ministries would one look to the prospective portion of a study and find that 9% success (defined in a way that would look to any external party as questionable) is good cause for expansion and advancement

  • Ann

    Any reduction of shame is a good thing. Whatever ultimate choice an individual makes, it seems best, IMHO, for it to be made from a level head rather than from a confused or troubled spirit.

    Eddy,

    Yes, and when a child is faced with these complex feelings and tries to figure them out with a child’s mind, without any adult intervention, I can understand how shame and fixation can possibly become an enduring mindset. A child’s mind cannot put into perspective or reason these feelings out in a healthy and knowledgeable way without an adult’s intervention. They take on a immature way of rationalizing or living with that which they cannot understand. I know that feelings of shame will prevent a child or young adult from trusting or sharing with an adult about what they are going through. If this block were removed and children felt they could share without feeling shame or being rejected, I know at the very least a burden would be lifted that would otherwise manifest itself in negative feelings about themselves – at the very best, the feelings would be put into perspective and understood at an age appropriate level.

    All of us pondered what our lives may have been like had we had someone trusted, safe, spiritually mature and not put off by our identity questioning dilemma to talk to when we were young. We’ll never know for sure, but I think this line of reasoning is sound.

    Debbie,

    I cannot help but feel this is more important than we ever thought it was. I’m glad your group had an opportunity to talk about something so tender and personal within a safe environment.

  • Michael Bussee

    If a young boy’s fixation on other boys is a muddled mix of feelings…perhaps some envy, a need for acceptance and affirmation, perhaps a dash of hero worship…all tossed into a bag that has some sexual stirrings as well…talking those feelings through might lead the boy to discover that he is misintepreting his sexual stirrings… Any number of factors, including timing, could influence this.

    I’ll buy this only if we are willing to also call heterosexuality a “fixation” — or assume from the get go that heteroseuxality is also broken, disordered, sick, sinful, etc..

    Then, a young boy’s fixation on girls is a muddled mix of feelings…perhaps some envy, a need for acceptance and affirmation, perhaps a dash of heroine worship…all tossed into a bag that has some sexual stirrings as well…talking those feelings through might lead the boy to discover that he is misintepreting his sexual stirrings… Any number of factors, including timing, could influence this.”

    Presto. Hetero.

  • Ann

    If a young boy’s fixation on other boys is a muddled mix of feelings…perhaps some envy, a need for acceptance and affirmation, perhaps a dash of hero worship…all tossed into a bag that has some sexual stirrings as well…talking those feelings through might lead the boy to discover that he is misintepreting his sexual stirrings… Any number of factors, including timing, could influence this.

    Eddy,

    I agree and know from experience working with kids in the foster care facilities that this does happen. Without perspective and guidance and the intervention of a loving and caring adult, a child’s feelings can take on a life of their own. Even in loving homes a child can develop feelings that need an adult’s (parent’s) intervention – ie, a little boy who develops a crush on his mom and tells people he is going to marry her – a loving parent will gently help him put those feelings into perspective and allow him to understand the appropriate way to love her.

  • Michael Bussee

    Ann asked: “What do you envision that adult saying to you that would have facilitated you arriving at adulthood with healthier self esteem and a more sold sense of security in relationships?”

    I would have hoped that the adult would have told me that there was nothing wrong with being gay — that it was not morally, psychologically, socially or spiritually inferior to being straight.

    Again, my feelings were not so much “shame” over gay feelings themsleves as they were fear of rejection and judgement. Had I been fully accepted as a gay kid — with no need to keep the scary secret — I do not think I would have struggled so.

    PS. Thought I was responding to Ann, above, regarding “fixation”. Oops. I will try to be more careful in the future.

  • Eddy

    Timothy and Michael–

    My remarks were to Ann who received them and understood them so I guess it doesn’t really matter if you think it’s like Gerber’s strained peas or if you won’t buy it until it can be put into your heterosexual model. Neither of you stands as the hallmark of truth…neither of you stands as a hallmark of an unbiased opinion. And obviously some people are learning to communicate productively in spite of your ‘objective commentary’.

    LOL. And Michael, despite the fact that you are trying to be so sarcastically cute, you actually do bump into some truth. I agree that even heterosexual boys do have their own muddled messes to contend with. Dealing with them in the context that Ann described could make them better prepared to be loving and responsible husbands and fathers. But as for your persistent demand that you’ll buy this or that only when we apply the same thing to heterosexual orientation development…sorry, that’s your bias and your premise which would make that your job.

  • Timothy Kincaid

    Eddy,

    You have a nice day now.

  • Ann

    I would have hoped that the adult would have told me that there was nothing wrong with being gay — that it was not morally, psychologically, socially or spiritually inferior to being straight.

    Michael,

    Do you feel that the adult would have been properly able to diagnose you as gay at such an early age? If so, would that be a responsible way to address and reason out those feelings with you? Do you feel you would have been able to understand and accept that that explanation at such an early age? I am not completely sure, however, I do not think that a child has the capacity to understand such an adult concept.

  • Eddy

    Timothy–

    I’m already having an LOL moment.

  • Michael Bussee

    Ann:

    Do you feel that the adult would have been properly able to diagnose you as gay at such an early age?

    It’s not an illness, so there is nothing to “diagnose”. It is what I would tell my own child if he or she had come to me and told me they had feelings towards the same sex. Kids understand love — and they understand the fear of losing love.

    I would tell them I love them no matter what. I would tell them that thetr feelings did not mean they were sick — that they were not broken, damaged, sinful, disordered or inferior in any way. I would tell them love is what matters, not whether the person you love is a boy or a girl.

  • Timothy Kincaid

    Ann,

    I think children are quite capable of accepting that something is what it is if we do not send them signals that such a thing is an issue to worry about. To explain what I mean, I’ll turn to a first-hand report of how a great American explained the “adult concept” to his daughter.

    This if from a recollection of Ronald Reagan in Time Magazine by his daughter Patty Davis:

    I was about eight or nine years old when I learned that some people are gay — although the word “gay” wasn’t used in those years. I don’t remember what defining word was used, if any; what I do remember is the clear, smooth, non-judgmental way in which I was told. The scene took place in the den of my family’s Pacific Palisades home. My father and I were watching an old Rock Hudson and Doris Day movie. At the moment when Hudson and Doris Day kissed, I said to my father, “That looks weird.” Curious, he asked me to identify exactly what was weird about a man and woman kissing, since I’d certainly seen such a thing before. All I knew was that something about this particular man and woman was, to me, strange. My father gently explained that Mr. Hudson didn’t really have a lot of experience kissing women; in fact, he would much prefer to be kissing a man. This was said in the same tone that would be used if he had been telling me about people with different colored eyes, and I accepted without question that this whole kissing thing wasn’t reserved just for men and women.

    It’s amazing just how simple it all is if we don’t feel a necessity read our own complexities into it.

  • Michael Bussee

    It’s amazing just how simple it all is if we don’t feel a necessity read our own complexities into

    I agree, Timothy. I have told this story before, but when my daughter was about five or so, we were at a local park, spread out on a blanket, coloring in her Strawberry Shortcake coloring books.

    Out of nowhere, she looked up at me and asked casually, “You really love Gary, don’t you?” I said “Yes, I do.” She thought a moment and then non-chalantly stated: “That means you’re gay.”

    I just about fell over. I asked her if she knew what that meant. She said, “It means you like men instead of women. Let’s color…”

    She didn’t learn the complexities and the shame until a few years later — when she got filled in by the loving people at her church who told her, “If your Daddy loved Jesus enough — and loved YOU enough — he would not be gay.”

  • Eddy

    Of course, a number of us posting here disagree on whether homosexual behavior is sin (or is always sin). Still, the preceding examples reminded me of two situations from my Bible school days.

    In the first situation, I was working my way through Bible school on a small farm. They sent me and another guy over to another site where the structure needed painting. My painting partner, another student, began probing me with questions as we painted. He wanted my ‘testimony’ and I gave it to him…with no holds barred. Even as I was going into detail that I rarely ever shared, I found that I couldn’t stop myself. Part of me screamed ‘you’re telling too much’ yet I had another inner prompting that said ‘go ahead’. Nothing made sense until I finished and he said “well, I guess I can tell you this…it’s something I’ve never told anyone”. He then proceeded to tell me that he used to have sex with animals. By God’s grace I didn’t drop the paint…I didn’t flinch…I didn’t even pause. “So, God knew all about that, right? When He reached out to you and saved you, He knew all that, right? What does that tell you?” I allowed him time to respond…the reality sinks in better that way…and then I reinforced. “People will judge…people have their own sin-meters ranking one more offensive than another…but it means nothing. God’s the one in charge. He drew you; He called you; He saved you…and you had nothing hidden from Him. Never forget that.”

    In the second situation, I had lost sight of that reality for myself. I was in my second year of Bible school and found myself ‘madly in love’ with my ministry co-leader. I’d pass him in the hall and my heart would pound…my heart would race…my skin would flush.(Besides having him as a prayer partner and confidant, I had seen him altogether naked in the showers on a ministry road trip a week or two prior.) Seeing him would provoke all those responses; not seeing him would send my brain into overdrive…when will I see him, where will we be, what will I say, what will he say, how can I have him for my own? I was more or less famous for my transparency. Even though I couldn’t talk about this, my closest friends could see that something was troubling me deeply. It went on for several days. I confided in one friend and his response was that I was the victim of confused feelings. I had grown to truly love my ministry partner and it was only natural that this would tap into and blur with the sexualized love from my memories. With that bit of a break, I met with my ministry partner, the object of my affections, and confided why I’d been acting so strangely. Rather than shunning me when I admitted I had fallen in love with him, he said ‘Y’know, you’re beating yourself up right now. You’re ashamed that you’re having such feelings but think about it man. If I was living in the girl’s dorm…if I was faced with my ‘past sin’ walking around in front of me every day in bra and panties, I would have caved a long time ago. But here you are…second year already and this is the first major struggle I’m aware of. You’re kicking yourself and that’s just not right. I’m flattered that you love me, man, and that you think I’m attractive…and I accept the Jesus part but we both know that the other part isn’t supposed to be. Let’s pray.” He then took my hands into his and prayed.

    I suppose some people will see some hidden agenda of shame in both stories…after all, there was the recognition in the first illustration that both bestiality and homosexuality were sin and, in the second, that homosexual behavior was sin–even if real love was involved. But I hope they give a hint of how we can reckon with something that we believe is wrong while diminishing the effects of shame.

  • Ann

    It’s not an illness, so there is nothing to “diagnose”. It is what I would tell my own child if he or she had come to me and told me they had feelings towards the same sex. Kids understand love — and they understand the fear of losing love.

    I would tell them I love them no matter what. I would tell them that thetr feelings did not mean they were sick — that they were not broken, damaged, sinful, disordered or inferior in any way. I would tell them love is what matters, not whether the person you love is a boy or a girl.

    Michael,

    I believe you were 6 or so when you had these feelings toward, I think it was Tommy. Do you think that someone that young should be told that their feelings of same gender attractions equate to being gay at that age? I understand when you talk about love, however, is this love?

  • Ann

    Eddy,

    I understand your feelings in both scenarios and how any set of circumstance can produce unexpected feelings in any of us. It warmed my heart to read how your friend first responded to your feelings about the co-minister and then how the co-ministry leader chose to respond to what you told him. Their responses transcended any ego or self perceived notion and they instead thought of your well being and responded accordingly – so, very, very cool.

  • Eddy

    Ann–

    There’s no doubt….I’ve been blessed! I’ve had great friends and wise counsel.

  • Michael Bussee

    Ann asked:

    Do you think that someone that young should be told that their feelings of same gender attractions equate to being gay at that age?

    No. You tell kids what they are capable of understanding. I would tell them their love was love — and that love comes from God…

    I understand when you talk about love, however, is this love?

    Yes. It was. And love for another person should never be a source of shame.

  • Michael Bussee

    Ann: Can’t sleep. Thinking about the questions you are asking about shame and parenting. Correct me if I am misunderstanding you, but you seem to be asking:

    “If a young child, feeling confused, scared and ashamed about having same sex attractions could have had access to a loving, sensitive, wise and non-rejecting adult at the right time — could the child have been diverted from becoming gay?”

    Is that what you are getting at? I hope not. To me, the more important question is, “How can I help my child to accept and value all those things which make her special, unique, alive, loving, growing?

    Whether she ends up marrying a man or a woman or chooses some other life path, it is those qualities I want to nourish. The gender of the person she loves is irrelevant to me — accept for the pain I might feel as a parent, watching my gay child suffer anti-gay prejudice and injustice.

    I would hope I would also teach her faith, hope and courage to live past those cruelties of life — as my Mon and Dad taught me.

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    Michael, those things that you are hoping for your daughter to know ought already to have been taught. She is a parent herself now. It seems as if you are reaching back for what might have been. I was surprised not to see “knowledge and love of Christ” on your list. That’s not the same as “faith, hope and courage to live past those cruelties of life.” Am I misinterpreting something here? Perhaps that’s what you meant by your statement. I’m not sure how your own faith has grown or has been impacted by life events over the years.

    I remember my husband once saying to me something to the effect of sometimes wishing he could go back and gather his footprints and rearrange them. But there they must remain, he knew, never to be changed. Only those that lie ahead are not fixed. I also would rearrange some of my footprints if I could. Wouldn’t we all?

    Eddy, I appreciated your two stories. Thanks for that.

  • Eddy

    And love for another person should never be a source of shame.

    On the surface, this sounds so pure, so honest, so loving but let’s take a closer look. It seems we are going back and forth on the meaning of ‘love’. A first reading of the sentence has ‘love’ as those warm and tender special feelings that one person has for another BUT the author’s implications are that it justifies ‘love’ in the sense of sexual expression.

    Is there shame in loving your mother? No! Should there be just a touch of shame if you have sex with her or attempt to live with her as husband and wife? Is there shame in loving your brother’s wife (or your sister’s husband)? No! How about when you have sex with them or attempt to make them yours instead? Is there shame in loving your secretary? No! Do you have a partner? Does your secretary? Is that where some shame could sneak in? So, yes, I do agree that ‘love for another person should never be a source of shame’ but it would seem that statement doesn’t go deep enough.

    I’m sure we all have some disagreements on what surrounding circumstances might introduce shame into the picture. A real tragedy is when we’ve rationalized away our shame on one level and remain blind to the fact that we’re still being driven by it.

    Another thought on shame that came to me over my morning coffee…I guess I liken shame to the biblical notion of ‘condemnation’. So many times we confuse ‘shame’ with ‘guilt’ but not all guilt comes packaged with shame. Condemnation (shame) is a guilt feeling that drives a wedge between us and God and our fellow Christians; conviction is a guilt feeling that draws us closer.

    Condemnation (shame) does not originate from God. It can come from within, from our church, from our community, from our family. You can often recognize the difference easily. With conviction, you respond…you repent…you ask God’s forgiveness…and you’ve got it. It’s done…it’s clean…it’s ‘white as snow’. With condemnation (shame), you may go through the steps just mentioned but something still lingers…it’s not quite done…you don’t feel quite clean…it may be white, but it’s dingy and yellowed. Just like those laundry commercials, it might be clean and freshly laundered but you’re still embarrassed under the neighbor’s scrutiny. And, the hallmark of condemnation is that you’re tempted to launder and launder and launder again to make it white. The memory of sins and guilt feelings from months and years gone by resurface with much of their original intensity…crying out for a rewash.

  • Ann

    Correct me if I am misunderstanding you, but you seem to be asking:

    “If a young child, feeling confused, scared and ashamed about having same sex attractions could have had access to a loving, sensitive, wise and non-rejecting adult at the right time — could the child have been diverted from becoming gay?”

    Is that what you are getting at?

    Michael,

    I do not have any definitive answer nor am I qualified or have the credentials to even come close to having an answer to your question. I do know from my own personal experiences and those of the children I have worked with, that a loving adult can help put confusion, shame, and other feelings into perspective for a young child and/or young adult. If these feelings are otherwise kept inside and attempts are made to reason them out with only a child’s mind with no caring adult intervention, I am afraid enduring thoughts can take hold and manifest into a mindset that might be difficult to reason out later in life. To specifically answer your very valid question and concern – can a child be diverted from becoming gay – I honestly do not know. I think there could be varying degrees to this answer if the question is posed to a professional – albeit we would have to factor in the possibility of a bias in their answer.

    To me, the more important question is, “How can I help my child to accept and value all those things which make her special, unique, alive, loving, growing?

    I think the dilemma comes when they do not value the feelings and yet are confused by why they feel good at the same time. Trying to figure all that out on their own can be daunting. Add to that their feeling that they cannot talk to anyone about them because they do not feel safe in doing so. Fear of rejection, shame, labeling, etc.

    Whether she ends up marrying a man or a woman or chooses some other life path, it is those qualities I want to nourish. The gender of the person she loves is irrelevant to me — accept for the pain I might feel as a parent, watching my gay child suffer anti-gay prejudice and injustice.

    I agree that parents feel pain when they watch their children suffer prejudice and injustice. Few things can be as painful.

    I would hope I would also teach her faith, hope and courage to live past those cruelties of life — as my Mon and Dad taught me.

    I am glad you were blessed with a mom and dad like this. Many are not.

  • Ann

    A real tragedy is when we’ve rationalized away our shame on one level and remain blind to the fact that we’re still being driven by it.

    Eddy,

    This is so true. I am certainly not exempt to being overwhelmed by shame to the point of rationalizing it – mostly as a child – and remaining blind to the fact that it still controlled my choices then and into adulthood. Lots to reason out and work through to understand. Humbling too. Thank you God for not letting me go.

  • Michael Bussee

    Michael, those things that you are hoping for your daughter to know ought already to have been taught. She is a parent herself now. It seems as if you are reaching back for what might have been.

    Those things have already been taught. My wife and Ann raised her knowing about Jesus. She cannot remember a time when she “became” a Christian. She has always known of God’s love.

    I was surprised not to see “knowledge and love of Christ” on your list. That’s not the same as “faith, hope and courage to live past those cruelties of life.” Am I misinterpreting something here? Perhaps that’s what you meant by your statement.

    Yes, that is what I meant.

    I’m not sure how your own faith has grown or has been impacted by life events over the years.

    It has deepened over the years. Every challenge and every tragedy has made me even more sure.

  • Michael Bussee

    We will probably have to agree to disagree on whether or not gay feelings are shame-worthy — and whether or not all gay sex is sin.

    As I have said before, I believe that sexuality (including homosexuality) is morally neutral. Like fire, it can give warmth and light — or it can destroy.

    It is not the gender of the person we are attracted to, love or have sex with that makes something “sin”. Sin is the intent of the heart — and only God sees that.

  • Ann

    Michael,

    Who was your post at 12:10 addressed to?

  • Eddy

    Whether shame-worthy or not, the illustrations I provided earlier demonstrate how you can regard something as sin without inducing or increasing shame.

    I’m also just slightly intrigued by the constant declarations that there is no shame coupled with the hyper-sensitivity to statements that suggest it might be sin or it might be broken. I can understand a person shaking their head and muttering ‘what a nut case’ when someone suggests that it’s sin or that it’s broken…but it gets taken far more personally than that. That’s why I wonder if there isn’t still a well of shame despite all pronouncements to the contrary. (This might be a good time to add “but, of course, I may be speaking from a bias.”)

    I’m outta here for a while. There’s a 10-week old Lhaso Apso down at my brother’s place that could use a midday potty break.

  • Michael Bussee

    Ann: To no one in particular, to readers of the blog in general. I know that there are commenters who believe strongly that all gay sex is sin — and therefore shame-worthy. I do not share this belief.

    I know there are commenters who believe that I cannot possibly have a close walk with God, a deep faith and an abiding sense of His presence and blessing while I am “living in sin”. They have accused me of rationalizing and excusing my sin.

    It is all very obvious to them. They are right. I am wrong. They are seeking holiness. I am in sin. Therefore God MUST be “convicting me of it” and I must just be “hardening my heart”. That fits their beliefs about God and the sinfulness of homosexuality.

    But it does not fit my experience. They may say my faith is not genuine, or that I am being blinded or that my faith is mis-guided, but they cannot take away the reality of God in my life, my assurance of God’s love, forgiveness and salvation — or my deepening faith in Him.

  • Ann

    Michael,

    Be still – God is in your heart. Listen to that small, still voice and be comforted by what He tells you.

  • Michael Bussee

    Some may also believe that my strong objections to homosexuality being portrayed as socially, morally, psychologically and spiritually inferior to heteresexuality is still more proof that I must know, deep down, that it is inferior and that I am ashamed of it.

    I wonder if members of other minorities get upset when someone suggests that they are inferior? Does it mean that, deep down, they are reacting to internalized shame if they do get upset?

  • Ann

    Michael,

    I don’t “think” anyone here is suggesting that one person is inferior to another. I believe, if anything, they are referring to same gender sexual activity as the issue that is being questioned or determined as to whether it is in accordance with God’s word. I could be wrong but that is what I have observed.

  • Michael Bussee

    Ann. You are right, of course. Folks are not saying that people are inferior — just that my love — gay love — is inferior. I do not agree.

    They think I am rationalizing, excusing, hardening my heart to, blinded to, and deep-down ashamed of my homosexuality. How could I not be — if I disagree with them? Isn’t it obvious? How could they be mistaken? Isn’t scripture perfectly clear on this?

    They know what God wants and how God feels. I am misguided, confused, out of God’s will. They think it is all perfectly clear, undeniable, as clear and as plain as the nose on my face — and that I must be shutting off my heart to God if I don’t agree with them.

    But they do not know my heart towards God. They do not know how He works with me and in me. They don’t know and cannot know — just as I cannot know their life with Jesus.

    I don’t know why I feel compelled to defend myself. It’ pointess really. They are not the Judge. That job belongs to God.

  • Mary

    Michael,

    As a sinner myself ,whatever issues anyone accuses you of having with sin – it is between you and God.

  • Timothy Kincaid

    Eddy,

    I suppose some people will see some hidden agenda of shame in both stories…after all, there was the recognition in the first illustration that both bestiality and homosexuality were sin and, in the second, that homosexual behavior was sin–even if real love was involved.

    Nope, I see no “hidden agenda of shame.”

    I know EXACTLY why you decided to derail the conversation we were having about the ease and simplicity with which children are able to understand the concept of love. Pretty scary stuff.

    I have to give it to you. When you equated homosexuality with bestiality, I almost bit – but then I recognized the tactic. So I was only amused when you then equated it with incest.

    But why stop there? Go for cannibalism. I’m sure you can think of a way to work it into the conversation.

    In the meantime, I guess I’ll just go swimming in Micheal’s secret well of shame. It’s a hot day.

  • Eddy

    I keep wondering who these people are that Michael is conversing with off the blog…and why their comments and reactions to him keep interfering with our conversations here. Are these old conversations that he can’t move beyond? Are they current ones…and why does he invite them? Or are they really the conversations we’re having here after all even though Michael is not directing his comments ‘at anyone’? That sure would be a convenient way to twist their intended meaing without having to answer for it.

    For example, if Michael really is directing some of his comments at me…he makes the suggestion that some commenters believe that homosexuality is shame-worthy. Okay, I’ll buy that…as long as it reflects the balance that ALL sin is shame-worthy…and that even our own righteousness is ‘as filthy rags’. And that all shame has a remedy. (For those who believe it is sin, the remedy is to ask for and receive forgiveness; for those who don’t believe it is sin, the remedy is to develop a personal assurance of their relationship with Christ. The love of Christ and the assurance of that relationship is more powerful than any man-generated or society-generated shame. Think of it as a ‘force field’ through which manmade shame cannot pass.)

    Has anyone here once used the word ‘inferior’? We’ve said ‘sin’ and we’ve said ‘broken’. I maintain that it’s a leap from there to ‘inferior’…at least in Christianity. We all stand as equals before God…judged for our hearts and our response to Him…if any man says he has no sin, he is a liar. As above, even our righteousness is as filthy rags. I’d caution against making the leap that something that is broken is inferior. If you make that leap, you become guilty of branding all people with a physical handicap as inferior…all people with a sickness as inferior.

    Has anyone here pronounced judgement on Michael? I’m the only one that has even come close and that was when I was trying to address a difference in values and the example was savoring eye-candy. It certainly doesn’t come close to Michael’s claims in the 2:04 post.

    So, I wonder, where is this stuff coming from? If it’s from here, then we ought not dance around it and pretend it’s from somewhere else. If it’s not from here, then we need to come to grips with that…and separate the voices here from the voices outside. Or, perhaps, we should just move on. Ann’s question went to shame and it’s potential impact on plasticity…we’ve actually managed to address that from a variety of perspectives… Do we have to agree when we’re done? Can’t we think of this more as a forum where we’re collecting and sharing ideas…allowing people to take from the conversations what they find valuable and helpful? I loved the example from Ronald Reagan that Timothy provided; I didn’t extract from it a message identical to the one Timothy got but I did see it as a lucid ‘parable for today’ with a good message.

  • Michael Bussee

    Enjoy the swim, Tim.

  • Eddy

    Timothy–

    We were discussing ‘shame’…can you think of a sin that carries more shame than bestiality? It’s not a story I invented…it happened…there was no agenda other than showing that the shame of any sin has a Redeemer.

    Your outrage trips are getting outrageous.

  • Timothy Kincaid

    No, Eddy,

    We were discussing explaining orientation to children. You were discussing shame.

    Are you sure you can’t work cannibalism into the conversation? Or perhaps pedophilia?

    C’mon. I’m sure you’re capable. It doesn’t really need to be relevant; neither bestiality nor incest were.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton Warren

    I don’t have time to figure out where these threads get derailed and I don’t need a comment to point it out but does anyone have anything else to say about Whitehead’s shameful misrepresentation of Norman Doidge’s book and/or the topic of brain plasticity and sexual orientation?

  • Timothy Kincaid

    Oh, and Eddy

    The story wasn’t a parable. There was no message to extract.

    It was the literal tale of how the real Ronald Reagan told his real daughter Patty about how his real friend Mr. Hudson preferred kissing real men over kissing the real Doris Day.

  • Timothy Kincaid

    Warren,

    Good point. Sorry

  • Michael Bussee

    Does anyone have anything else to say about Whitehead’s shameful misrepresentation of Norman Doidge’s book and/or the topic of brain plasticity and sexual orientation?

    Nope. Shameful pretty much sums it up.

  • Eddy

    Just for clarification:

    We were discussing explaining orientation to children. You were discussing shame.

    This is erroneous.

    The concept of shame was mentioned in at least 7 posts between Sept 7 at 7:31 when it was first introduced (I think) and the following evening when I posted the main comment being criticized in the quoted sentence. Ann, Michael, David and Debbie all made comments regarding shame.

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    I don’t have time to figure out where these threads get derailed and I don’t need a comment to point it out but does anyone have anything else to say about Whitehead’s shameful misrepresentation of Norman Doidge’s book and/or the topic of brain plasticity and sexual orientation?

    Warren, sometimes good things come up serendipitously when a thread makes a slight bend in the road. Sometimes, it goes entirely the other way down meaningless rabbit trails. I thought this slight detour was meaningful in some regards, FWIW.

    You know you’ll never be able to keep that from happening with the level of commenting done on this blog. People like to converse, not just be Johnny One Notes when there may not be anything else to say on the original topic.

    The Whiteheads got beat up enough already.

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    OK, I see this did get rather verbose since I last checked in, more than I realized. Warren is right. Man, y’all like to talk.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton Warren

    I don’t mind too much when the conversations are respectful and productive. This one seemed to be getting lost in differences over homosexuality which just are unlikely to shift in response to these conversations.

    I am not sure the Whiteheads have been beat up enough. I would like to see some acknowledgement from them that they did not represent Doidge properly. That they knowingly quoted his words in such a way as to create an impression which he directly countered on the very page they cited. Lots of people who read the Anglican Mainstream site and now the PFOX site will go away thinking that the well respected Doidge thinks sexual orientation is as flexible as musical training. And this is not because Doidge is unclear, but because the Whiteheads willfully misrepresented him. NARTH excels at this and Christians continue to rely on them for information and either look the other way or send me critical emails when I expose it.

    When readers and Christian leaders start demanding better and accountability publicly, then I will think perhaps we can let up. Quite a few Christian leaders read here, even though they do not comment. Where are they? Why is there no call for honest scholarship? No call for bearing true witness? I have no desire to call out gay offenses when so called conservative groups and Christian “scholars” ignore or defend this stuff.

  • Michael Bussee

    And this is not because Doidge is unclear, but because the Whiteheads willfully misrepresented him. NARTH excels at this and Christians continue to rely on them for information and either look the other way or send me critical emails when I expose it.

    Beat ’em up some more, Warren! It’s very disturbing that Christian groups who aim and claim to help the homosexual still affiliate with individuals who “willfullyt misrepresent” the facts and equally disturbing that they continue to affiliate with NARTH — an organization that “excels” at it..

  • Eddy

    Warren–

    I realize that this particular topic thread has its limitations but I want to go on record saying that:

    Someday I hope we can discuss the viability of plasticity sans acrimony.

    Perhaps you’ll stumble upon a study where they’ve actually studied and reported according to standards of ethics.

  • Lynn David

    I’ll give my opinion of why they don’t respond, Warren, but I don’t think that would be well appreciated. The problem is that Christianity is with respect to homosexuality, inhuman. The religious aspects are not defensible, except to produce a god which is inconsistant concerning that mutually-shared love which seems necessary for the human animal’s life and well-being. In short Christianity demands an unChristian response to homosexuality.

    .

    Your Christian leaders thus see that the fundamentalist response to homosexuality – that is to oppose it at every turn – is the only way to address it, whether psychologically, socially, politically, and religiously, because the gnosis of Bible demands it to be so. And you are exposing new knowledge which destroys that Biblical gnosis which in modernity has been invested in psychology by most Christian sects. While you destroy that aspect you do not provide a lifeline for their form of Christian thinking to survive beyond the light of knowledge you shine.

  • http://ardentmormon.blogspot.com -L-

    Debbie, Ann, Warren: Thanks for the kind words regarding my blog.

    Regarding shame (apologies for revisiting off topic tangent), I feel that my homosexuality is no more shameful than my unsightly toenails–it’s a part of me that I’d prefer to be otherwise. Shame for aspects of my body or sexuality over which I have no control is inappropriate (and often felt by children and adolescents… and adults) while shame about aspects of myself that result from my own poor choices can be constructive.

    To clarify, my being gay is not shameful, but that makes it no less a problem. I hold that reproduction is a key purpose of the reproductive system, and my being gay is a de facto deficiency, not open to debate.

    Regarding NARTH, I’m pleased to see you taking them to task, Warren, as I’ve noted a number of articles that have been disingenuous at best. Having said that, I do feel that genuine academic work that is tied to NARTH in one way or another is unfairly ignored out-of-hand by the academic community, and that’s a… well, a shame.

    @Lynn, I’m not terribly familiar with this blog and the frequent commenters, so my apologies if this is already abundantly clear, but my religion, at least, has what seems a perfectly defensible view of homosexuality. In particular, I believe that my wife and I will be together forever in roles that require us to be of opposite gender. Procreation, in particular, is a non-arbitrary issue that (somehow) frequently is absent from the discussion.

  • Ann

    Shame for aspects of my body or sexuality over which I have no control is inappropriate (and often felt by children and adolescents… and adults) while shame about aspects of myself that result from my own poor choices can be constructive.

    L,

    Very well said – thank you for making the distinction. Children cannot figure out these feelings on their own and if left unchecked, I think they can turn into an enduring mindset. Adults acknowleding shame when they do something against what they know and believe to be right, can use that as a deterent in the future.

  • http://ardentmormon.blogspot.com -L-

    There is a part of me, whether irrationally or not, that wonders whether my being gay is worthy of shame in this sense or not (i.e., something completely outside my control and unrelated to my behavior, or something that has been, at least in part, influenced by past poor choices). This may be relevant to the discussion on plasticity if such plasticity exists and results from some culpable behavior… either laziness or deliberate effort.

  • Ann

    Regarding brain plasticity – I do not follow the Whiteheads and cannot definitely say if they have credibility or not. I honestly hope, and it is my bias, that the brain does have plasticity regarding many life circumstances. It is never what we feel or believe in that really matters because at least we are feeling, and with that, we are given choices which is very cool – my concern is when, for whatever reason beyond our control, we cannot fully feel and experience that which we want to and are told we should just accept that. I am reminded of Gary Sinese in Forrest Gump when he was told he would never walk again. He believed them and sank into a downward spiral until he got mad at God and was able to say how mad he was at being limited. Not too long after that he was fitted with artificial legs and became alive again. He walked with a limp but was happy – he was able to overcome the limitation and his spirit was alive again. The human spirit is meant to expand and thrive – not contract and/or stay stagnant. Regarding SGA and brain pasticity – I hope more research will be conducted. I think the more we do, the more we will be intrigued to find out how important brain plasticity is. I would think it had a close resemblence to resiliance – which is one of the most important thing an adult can teach a child.

  • Ann

    There is a part of me, whether irrationally or not, that wonders whether my being gay is worthy of shame in this sense or not (i.e., something completely outside my control and unrelated to my behavior, or something that has been, at least in part, influenced by past poor choices). This may be relevant to the discussion on plasticity if such plasticity exists and results from some culpable behavior… either laziness or deliberate effort.

    L,

    Having same gender attraction, as a child or adult, is not, in and of itself, anything to be ashamed of.

  • Lynn David

    -L- wrote: I’m not terribly familiar with this blog and the frequent commenters, so my apologies if this is already abundantly clear, but my religion, at least, has what seems a perfectly defensible view of homosexuality. In particular, I believe that my wife and I will be together forever in roles that require us to be of opposite gender. Procreation, in particular, is a non-arbitrary issue that (somehow) frequently is absent from the discussion.

    Yeah… exactly, whatever power you give it, it then possesses over you. It doesn’t make it right or give it a defense. It just makes it so in your life – if not thereafter.

  • Ann

    I don’t know why I feel compelled to defend myself. It’ pointess really. They are not the Judge. That job belongs to God.

    Michael,

    After meeting you I remember thinking on the way home that agreement was really not the issue, understanding each other was. I understand you more now that I ever have. When we talk about subjects rather than each other, much can be learned and much can be understood. Agreement can be boring – understanding can be cool.

  • Ann

    Michael,

    Forgot to add – it is very cool to defend your positions rather than yourself – it keeps opinions to the topic/subject rather than you personally.

  • Ann

    Yeah… exactly, whatever power you give it, it then possesses over you. It doesn’t make it right or give it a defense. It just makes it so in your life – if not thereafter.

    Lynn,

    The same can be said about whatever power you that which you believe in and then it possesses you. It does not make it right or give it a defense.

  • Ann

    Sorry, I left out a word – it should have said –

    Lynn,

    The same can be said about whatever power you give that which you believe in and then it possesses you. It does not make it right or give it a defense.

  • Lynn David

    Ann…. The same can be said about whatever power you give that which you believe in and then it possesses you. It does not make it right or give it a defense.

    Yeah, but what do I believe in? Seemingly, it’s nothing (unless you want to start throwing in all my reasoned conclusions). Yet, I recognize that there are all sorts of people and things that have a measure of power over me. Such as nature, which is extant in time, disease, accidents, and people, such as those I love, police, idiots who run the stock market, etc…. But to give some non-thing power over my life that has no real efficacy (other than not to believe gives some who are rather self-righteous ideas that they are better than me), well, that is why I am an atheist.

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    Warren, you have justifiable frustration over the duplicity you are observing in some leadership circles that could be called Christian, and certainly in the individuals and organizations that handle touchy research. You said something that makes me understand more fully where you are currently in your thinking. Thanks.

    My old pastor, gone now, used to say, “If it’s Christian, it ought to be better.” Better, maybe, but more forthright, certainly. People expect us to represent a higher standard. Why those purporting to be Christian believe they can misrepresent the truth with impunity is beyond me. There is a certain mandate-mindset that blinds, I guess. We see it across the spectrum of ideologies.

  • Michael Bussee

    Forgot to add – it is very cool to defend your positions rather than yourself – it keeps opinions to the topic/subject rather than you personally.

    Thanks, Ann. I will try to do that. Hard to do sometimes when the comments made seem to be against me personally — rather than rebuttals of my positions. I will try not to bite the bait.

  • Eddy

    Michael–

    I know you and I get to wrangling but I hope you’ll at least consider what I’m saying here.

    One of the reasons that comments seem to be made to you personally is that you often, without invitation, make it personal. A discussion is moving along on an issues level and, suddenly, it hits you personally and you respond with that. When this happens, it’s difficult…almost impossible…to respond without addressing you personally.

    If you’re being baited, I guess that would make me the ‘master baiter’. I’ll do what I can to curtail that habit response. :-)

  • Michael Bussee

    Ann, once again, thanks for the reminder. I am not quite sure how not to take things personally when they hit on a very personal leve. Perhaps I need to sign off for a time, disconnect, pray, reflect.

    I also need to learn how not to be sarcastic, snarky, demeaning, controlling, disrespectful — in other words, to model by behavior after the more experienced and polite commenters here on the blog — you for example. :)

  • Michael Bussee

    Ann: One more thought about taking things personally — although I know this is off the topic… How do you not take it personally? How to do not get defensive? Do you just shrug your shoulders? Write your critics off as nut jobs? Pretend it doesn’t hurt?

    Growing up gay, one tends to hear a lot of negative messages about being gay — the name-calling and bullying at school, the shouts of “homo” and “sissy” and “fag, the beatings by the “tough boys”, the teachers that looked the other way.

    The books at the public library that declared you were mentally ill, sick, disordered, probably abused, a victim of bad Moms and Dads who made you gay.

    The religious pronouncements that you will not go to heaven, are not really saved, do not have enough faith, don’t really love Jesus.

    The self-righteous ones who suggest that you are amoral or immoral because you are gay, that you aren’t really serious about following God, that you don’t believe the Bible, that you are making excuses for your sin.

    The being fired, being rejected, being stabbed, having a best friend murdered for being gay, having friends and partners die of AIDS, having the church refuse to do the funeral, hearing the suggestion that AIDS is God’s punishment and proof of the evil of homosexuality.

    These are my experiences — but sadly, they are still not uncommon. Gay people still face overt and covert hatred, injustice, prejudice and fear. I am not saying that anyone here supports the mistreatment of gays, but when you hear “something must be wrong with you if you are gay” messages often enough, is it any wonder that some of us get a bit touchy?

  • Eddy

    Michael–

    Honestly, I’m not trying to be haranguing. Do you see where at 10:10 AM you said to Ann that you would try to keep to the issues and not get so personal…and yet you follow with a litany of very personal stuff…

    The being fired, being rejected, being stabbed, having a best friend murdered for being gay, having friends and partners die of AIDS, having the church refuse to do the funeral, hearing the suggestion that AIDS is God’s punishment and proof of the evil of homosexuality. These are my experiences — but sadly, they are still not uncommon. Gay people still face overt and covert hatred, injustice, prejudice and fear. I am not saying that anyone here supports the mistreatment of gays, but when you hear “something must be wrong with you if you are gay” messages often enough, is it any wonder that some of us get a bit touchy?

    I’m honestly trying to stay out of your personal stuff but you continue to bring it into almost every conversation…just as you reintroduced it once again in the above quote. It’s either a part of the conversation or it isn’t. I personally don’t think we should be able to bring things into the discussion that we don’t want to be scrutinized or questioned.

    Beyond that, though, I resist your conclusion because I think it’s a cop-out. You knew from the beginning that this website had bloggers from various points of view…you asked for and gained their respect for your voice and opinions. If that weren’t true, you wouldn’t still be blogging here a few years later. Yet, you say things like

    but when you hear “something must be wrong with you if you are gay” messages often enough, is it any wonder that some of us get a bit touchy?

    Seriously, now, doesn’t that go with the territory? Doesn’t that go with what you knew to be true when you first started blogging here? Didn’t you know that some of us were of a Biblical persuasion that it was wrong? Are you saying that our opinion that it is wrong is so off base and so offensive that you have a right to be touchy whenever we say what we believe? Don’t you pronounce your point of view that it isn’t wrong over and over? Why should you be so offended when we speak our point of view? That doesn’t seem to equal the respect that you’ve expected and received from us. Yes, our opinions differ very very much. We all know that! We knew that coming in. We aren’t the people that fired you…that took your partners away…that stabbed you and murdered your friend…we are the people who have entered into dialogue with you. IMHO, if we’re going to have productive dialogues, the touchiness has got to be reckoned with.

    Warren–

    I realize my post has no real connection to plasticity but neither did the one I’m responding to. :-)

  • Michael Bussee

    Ann: Hope you have a good night.

  • Ann

    One more thought about taking things personally — although I know this is off the topic… How do you not take it personally? How to do not get defensive? Do you just shrug your shoulders? Write your critics off as nut jobs? Pretend it doesn’t hurt?

    Michael,

    I think it is impossible not to take it personally. That is the reason I think it is best to talk about subject matters and not cite yourself as an example. It is impossible not to get hurt or be defensive so please don’t put yourself in the position for anyone to critique you personally in response to something you wrote about yourself. Only those people you love and are close to deserve to know you personally – everyone else can talk to you about subjects and things, etc.

    Growing up gay, one tends to hear a lot of negative messages about being gay — the name-calling and bullying at school, the shouts of “homo” and “sissy” and “fag, the beatings by the “tough boys”, the teachers that looked the other way.

    My heart is hurting just reading this. I am so sorry anyone, including someone I care about, has experienced this. I will fight against it any and every time I can.

    The books at the public library that declared you were mentally ill, sick, disordered, probably abused, a victim of bad Moms and Dads who made you gay.

    Yes, I know – again, my heart hurts thinking about how you and so many others were hurt – I am so sorry – if I could change any of the past and have had it be different for you, I would – in a minute.

    The religious pronouncements that you will not go to heaven, are not really saved, do not have enough faith, don’t really love Jesus.

    Yes, I know – I often wonder what Jesus would have said to them – perhaps the same thing he said to the people stoning the woman – those of you without sin, throw the first stone. Pride is a funny thing, isn’t it? I believe it is the sin that hurts God the most because it divides people.

    The self-righteous ones who suggest that you are amoral or immoral because you are gay, that you aren’t really serious about following God, that you don’t believe the Bible, that you are making excuses for your sin.

    This begs the question – why would you or anyone else listen to them when we have that small, still voice to listen to instead? Self-righteous and I do not get along at all. I will take a loving friend to talk with any day over a self-righteous peson who boasts that they know more about God than I do. Remember what the Bible says about false prophets. I think you might have met some in your life. Chose carefully who you listen to – I personally like what Jesus said, “Follow me” – that makes more sense to me than “Follow them” :-)

    The being fired, being rejected, being stabbed, having a best friend murdered for being gay, having friends and partners die of AIDS, having the church refuse to do the funeral, hearing the suggestion that AIDS is God’s punishment and proof of the evil of homosexuality.

    I know – it hurts.

    These are my experiences — but sadly, they are still not uncommon. Gay people still face overt and covert hatred, injustice, prejudice and fear. I am not saying that anyone here supports the mistreatment of gays, but when you hear “something must be wrong with you if you are gay” messages often enough, is it any wonder that some of us get a bit touchy?

    No, it is no wonder.

  • Ann

    Regarding brain plasticity, sexual orientation, children, shame, loving adults, etc. – here is a story that has it all. Does anyone remember Alex and Derek King? They are brothers who’s mother left them to be raised by their single father. An adult male neighbor befriended them, expecially Alex who was 12 and began a sexual relationship with him. Alex fell in love with him and began to call and identify himself as gay. Long story short, the boys were influenced by this man to kill their father and subsequently served seven years for the crime. Both boys were helped emotionally and financially by loving people who didn’t know them but wanted to help. Rosie O’Donnell helped financially for lawyers who would advocate they be tried as children instead of adults. Others grew close through visits and eventually took them in as family members. The love and care and intervention of these loving adults made all the difference in their emotional well being. As to Alex and his sexual orientation – he has a girlfriend and no longer identifies himself as gay. Could this be brain plasticity and/or the intervention of a loving and caring adult, or just the separation from the man he once loved so he could put the circumstances of his life then in perspective? I don’t know but enourage anyone interested to watch the hour long video on the Dateline site.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3032600/

  • Mary

    Ann,

    I was intrigued by this news. Fascinating. I would like to see an update every two years or so. I wonder what will happen to the young men once they brother up again and share the same lving space. Will they be left to their own devices? Will the revert back to old behaviors? What trials face them that may not be ready for and will the adults in their lives today still regard them with the same grace and kindness?

    I sure hope ewverything works out. I have apprehensions about the two of them living together.

  • Michael Bussee

    This begs the question – why would you or anyone else listen to them when we have that small, still voice to listen to instead?

    Wow. That stopped me cold. You are absolutely right. As usual. I will try to heed your good advice. Thanks for your kindness. Really, have a good night, Ann. I am glad we met. Peace to all who post here.

  • Michael Bussee

    Got it. Nothing personal. Issues only. Subjects and things. I think I can do that.

  • Ann

    Got it. Nothing personal. Issues only. Subjects and things. I think I can do that.

    Michael,

    Right – remember, when you reference yourself, you direct the conversation toward you and that leaves open the possibility to be criticized. When you are referring to subject matter, even if it is personal to you, the conversation is about that subject and not YOU. Subject matter puts people on even ground – personal matters do not. Since we cannot ever control how others, it is best to control ourselves – we cannot set boundaries for others, only ourselves :-)

  • Ann

    I was intrigued by this news. Fascinating. I would like to see an update every two years or so. I wonder what will happen to the young men once they brother up again and share the same lving space. Will they be left to their own devices? Will the revert back to old behaviors? What trials face them that may not be ready for and will the adults in their lives today still regard them with the same grace and kindness?

    I sure hope ewverything works out. I have apprehensions about the two of them living together.

    Mary,

    I thought exactly the same thing about them living together. It seems Alex has thrived living with his adopted family and Derek has done well too. I would think the loving and caring people who intervened in their lives will stay with them. I honestly think this intervention has made all the difference. Loved what Alex said about Depok Chopra too :-) I am sure there will be hiccups along the way, however, like you, I sure hope their path continues the way it has and that they continue to look to the future instead of the past. I do think this story speaks to the human potential and how that should always be encouraged.

  • Ann

    Mary,

    I am also curious as to the kind of counseling they got while incarcerated. I wonder what approach Alex’s therapist took in addressing the gay identity he had. Was he encouraged to accept it and told he did not have a choice in the matter or was he treated as a unique individual and given the opportunity to reason his feelings out and understand them or was he told he was too young to make any kind of determination about the rest of his life? I wonder if it would be a good case for theapists to study and learn from – just not sure. I know I found it interesting and in line with what I know about children and young adults in the foster care system.

  • Fg68at

    Violin playing is a behavior. It can change the brain. But makes this, that someone change the brain to like violin or someone change the brain to like music or someone change the brain to have more feeling of the tact?

    @Ann: In the Video the sentence

    Before I met Rick, I was straight, but now I am gay.

    don’t feel like many same sex attraction. And it is no new thing, but rare in this direction. How many say at this age: “I’m straight” and have then a coming out? At this time you must sort your thoughts about attraction, feelings, and the new hormone-throbbed sexuality.

    Just a sudden inspiration with no meaning: Have he a girlfriend because he had no mother? Would he repair his brokenness with a sexualized relationship?

  • Mary

    Ann,

    Do you happen to know where anyone can get articles(academic ones) on these two young men?

  • Eddy

    It will be interesting to follow the stories of these young men…while at the same time recognizing that it might be best to allow them to move on into some semblance of normal lives without undue scrutiny.

    I’m thinking that we could learn some things about plasticity from the journey of the one brother but his experience may say more to self-identity and labelling than it does to sexual orientation plasticity. If, for the sake of argument, the lad was orienting straight and then got turned to a gay identity, his ‘going straight’ would be seen as a return to his norm–or perhaps an undoing of the damage caused. This would not be compelling to someone who never felt destined for heterosexuality or straightness but was considering the merits of plasticity. The possibility that a gay orientation is inborn or is God’s created intent for an individual would be a major brain factor to be reckoned with. 1) If it is inborn or is God’s intent for an individual, then plasticity would be a war against the created self. 2) If it isn’t actually inborn or God’s intent, if the individual believes that it is, this would impact any motivation towards plasticity. I’m assuming that in the case of this young man, it likely wasn’t difficult to convince him that he was the victim of bad influence, therefore he wouldn’t have either of those blocks to plasticity.

    We can still learn from it, I’m sure, I’d simply cautious that we not we use it as a model for plasticity in general.

  • Fg68at

    Erik(a) Schinegger (born 1948), a intersexual (pseudohermaphrodit with inline genitals) who is now a real man with own daughter and second wife, imagine till 1967 that she was propably a lesbian. So he said 2005 in the film about him. After the Operation he was like an lazar, the sport organisation would like to have a women an a operation in this way, but with a good doctor he choose the other way. And he was at first a real macho with sporstcar, etc. to secure his male identity. :-)