Do parents cause homosexuality? A reply to Chuck Colson

Chuck Colson has a special place in the evangelical world, being a convert to Christianity after being in the Nixon administration during the Watergate scandal. He went to prison for his activities and became a champion of prison reform. He has donated much to charities and humanitarian efforts that many don’t know about. So I was sad to see his recent column at Crosswalk.com where he promotes Joseph and Linda Nicolosi’s book on “preventing” homosexuality. He seems to say a series is coming. I hope not.

In any case, I put up a response to his column at Crosswalk just a bit ago. I hope you will read them both and chime in.

UPDATE: Colson just posted a more troubling article at Crosswalk.

  • Richard Willmer

    No.

  • Teresa

    This is more promotion of same-sex attracted persons are “heterosexuals with a homosexual problem”. Whatever the etiology of homosexuality, the facts remain, at least as far as I can see, that ‘change’ from gay to str8 is very difficult, with low rates of ‘change’ for both men and women. Women ‘seem’ to be somewhat more fluid in the ‘change’ area … but, even for women, true ‘change’ is small.

    Confusion about gender is primarily a psychological condition, and to some extent, it can be modified.

    Here’s the whole ball of wax, the whole 9 yards stated by Nicolosi which is usually glossed and skimmed right over.

    For those with unwanted same-sex attractions, behavior changes for congruency with faith beliefs can and does occur … but even here, it’s a difficult journey. What I’ve seen, known, and experienced is that for many persons with “unwanted same-sex attractions”, terms are used to mask what’s really going on, hiding behind a term of ‘ex-gay’ for shelter from the storm. Just my opinion, though.

  • David Blakeslee

    Of Course they do!

    We just don’t know how…

    genes, prenatal events, parenting… :)

    They cause autism too!

    We just don’t know how…

    They cause high blood pressure too!

  • Richard Willmer

    David :

    I was rather tempted to write a similarly ironic comment, but am trying to cut down on ‘snark’ after recent ‘overindulgence’ in that area! (Of course, we could probably, without much too much difficulty, find two scenarios of ‘similar parenting, etc.’, but where the offspring ‘turns out’ to be gay in one case and straight in the other. Furthermore, any genetic influence on human sexuality would be difficult to assess, and there are surely many parents who produce more than one offspring with each offspring having different sexual preferences – although I do know one family where all four sons turned out to be gay … something which leads me to believe that there probably is ‘genetic factor’ of some kind involved.)

    Perhaps we also need to ‘unpack’ what might be meant by the word ’cause’.

    Or, then again, perhaps we should accept what seems to be ‘reality’, and create social structures, such as provisions for same-sex partnerships, that ‘make the best’ of life – for both individuals and the ‘common good’ – as it appears to be .

  • Richard Willmer

    One thing we must remember is that the like of Colson believe that all are born ‘straight’, so he is effectively blaming parents for the existence of LGB persons.

  • David Blakeslee

    Morality and choice are laced throughout Scripture…it is a difficult matter to integrate that with all human behavior in a manner that encourages the best in us while acknowledging our limitations.

  • http://funfrotfacts.blogspot.com Throbert McGee

    I made a few comments on the Crosswalk site, and mentioned that Warren’s phrasing “[Nicolosi's] theories are psychoanalytically informed” was maybe a bit unclear.

    (A lot of people might assume that psychoanalysis is scientifically based, and that therefore, it’s a good thing for theories to be “informed by psychoanalysis”!)

  • Mary

    Well… let’s see…. I don’t agree with his line of reasoning but it is kind of funny to think that even gays would agree that homosexuality was caused by their parents via intercourse.

  • Jayhuck

    David,

    Morality and choice are laced throughout Scripture…it is a difficult matter to integrate that with all human behavior in a manner that encourages the best in us while acknowledging our limitations.

    Morality and choice are laced throughout most literature, especially most divine texts. So whose interpretation of any of these texts gets to win? I’m all for the individual trying to better himself, but these are good questions to ask.

  • Richard Willmer

    Jayhuck ;

    The Bible itself is, in the opinion of many, not at all clear on the ‘moral status’ of same sex relationships per se. I am among those who take the view that ‘loving’ same-sex partnerships are not ‘condemned’ in Scripture.

    David:

    As a general statement, I liked what you said; it is often very difficult to discern just how ‘situational’ or otherwise one’s ethics should be (and we’re not just talking about sexual relationships here, but the ‘whole of life’*)!

    * e.g. How much of my hard-earned cash should I give away to charity (Jesus said things that might lead one to believe that it should the whole lot)?!

  • Donata

    The article seems fairly reasonable to me. While I doubt that same sex attraction is exclusively “caused” by parents or parenting, I also doubt that it is exclusively caused by genes or pre-natal. I don’t think the studies Warren cites are the be-all end-all since they mostly have to do with single parent households which are radically different from dual parent households. It’s not the absence of the father, it’s the interaction with the father (ie, the complete opposite of what the studies looked at). Why is it OK to say that people are “born gay” but not OK to say that same sex attraction is developed when the latter is likely the case?

    Sure, Nicolosi is probably too one-size-fits-all but that’s not a good reason to dismiss him entirely. Gay-skeptics tend to be wholly dismissed for minor reasons whereas gay supporters are not. Why is this?

  • Jayhuck

    Richard,

    If I were a Bible-believing-Christian, I would likely be of the same mind :) You are absolutely correct, it is not clear

  • Richard Willmer

    Jayhuck :

    Christian dogma, theology and ethics are based on much more than just the Bible (after all, if some of the OT narrative were taken prima facie as ‘moral guidance’, I think the world could be a pretty awful place!). Many priests, and other pastors of the Church, spend a lot of time studying philosophy, especially moral philosophy – and for very good reason!

  • ken

    Donata# ~ Jun 3, 2011 at 3:53 am

    “Why is it OK to say that people are “born gay” but not OK to say that same sex attraction is developed when the latter is likely the case?”

    Because it is not likely the case that homosexuality is “developed”. Further, when you claim same-sex attraction is developed, it implies that the person was supposed to be straight, but something changed that. Homosexuality is a natural and normal variation of sexual orientation.

    As many people have pointed out, it is unknown what causes a person to have a particular orientation. Many of the factors that seem to influence a person’s orientation (genetics, pre-natal hormones, etc) are determined by birth. However, as the exact mechanism(s) are unknown it is incorrect to claim (all) gay people are born gay.

    “Nicolosi is probably too one-size-fits-all but that’s not a good reason to dismiss him entirely. ”

    No, it isn’t, However, the fact that his theories have no scientific basis, his methods have never undergone any unbiased testing, and are based on incorrect assumptions (homosexuality is a developmental disorder) ARE good reasons to dismiss him entirely.

  • Emily K

    Richard, this is the reason why rabbis spend so much time studying the Talmud – that is the true path of guidance when reading the “Old Testament;” without it, you’re left in the dark.

  • Susan LeCornu

    Having a son who is gay-identified, and early on we took our beloved now young adult son to meet Joe Dallas, Joe Nicolosi, Love Won Out, two local counselors, and provided stacks of best books and our knees have become disfigured from years of praying. The prayer? That He would become wrong about himself, and seek to live according to Christ’s values. I am a strong noisy mom, please don’t call me over-bearing. My husband is a stong quiet man, please don’t call him passsive. Our son agrees. Our second to last counselor told us that by “reparative therapy standards” we just don’t fit in. Hello? Not fitting in is much of the Christian Life.

    I could get angry when reading Colson’s A + B will equal C distillation of this family challenge and Nicolosi’s reparative approach, but then I am betting he did not raise a child who struggles with their sexual identity. Mr. Colson – it’s just not that easy.

  • David Blakeslee

    @ Jayhuck,

    So whose interpretation of any of these texts gets to win?

    Yours!

    :).

    It is unfair to equate literature and the way it encourages morality with Biblical narratives…

    Literature is designed to entertain and inform, subjectively and personally.

    Biblical narratives, in particular, were designed to both tell the story of a people and guide the behavior of that people. As Throbert and I have discussed in the past, it is an amalgam of history, philosophy, morality and divinity unlike “literature.”

    Comparing Biblical narratives with the Koran or the Writings of Buddah…I don’t think the comparison is remotely fair, other than they are all the cornerstones of various faith systems.

    Biblical narratives appear to have facilitated and enhanced Western thought and the construction of tolerant and democratic institutions…I don’t think the same argument can be made for the other two tests.

    Biblical narratives explicitly get that morality is inextricably linked to a civil society and civil societies have been developed leaning heavily (but not completely or exclusively ) on it’s principals.

  • http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com Timothy Kincaid

    Jayhuck,

    Morality and choice are laced throughout most literature, especially most divine texts. So whose interpretation of any of these texts gets to win? I’m all for the individual trying to better himself, but these are good questions to ask.

    I am of the belief that God is not arbitrary or capricious. I don’t think that God commands and enforces His commandments because He is God and therefore beyond questioning. In fact, were God such a god, I don’t think he would be worthy of worship.

    Which is, perhaps, one of the reasons that following Jesus has such appeal (sidenote: I’m thinking of moving away from calling myself a “Christian”. It is a term whose cultural understanding just doesn’t seem to include me anymore.). Jesus approached the same question and came up with the following rule, which I’ll paraphrase:

    Everything is interpreted through this focus: Love God. And loving God enacted and experienced by loving your neighbor.

    It really is fascinatingly simple. When deciding the holy thing, do the right thing. And even the most agnostic religion-hating person can generally recognize “the right thing to do” – it’s the way you want to be treated. It is a very sad reflection on Christendom that agnostics and atheists can so often see what is right while the Church is still trying to figure out what is “holy”.

  • http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com Timothy Kincaid

    Teresa

    Whatever the etiology of homosexuality, the facts remain, at least as far as I can see, that ‘change’ from gay to str8 is very difficult, with low rates of ‘change’ for both men and women. Women ‘seem’ to be somewhat more fluid in the ‘change’ area … but, even for women, true ‘change’ is small.

    You nailed it.

    There seems to be an if-then assumption going on. If orientation is genetic, then there’s one set of social responses. If orientation is caused by parenting patterns, then there’s a different set of social responses.

    But really, for the same-sex attracted person, the issue is fairly irrelevant. Our orientation is homosexual whether it was genes, hormones, distant daddy, or Gerber Strained Peas. And as we don’t have time-machines, we can neither change our genetic makeup or our development. I can’t go back in time and say, “No! Mom, no! Not the Gerber Strained Peas!”

    Much of Colson’s argument seems to me to be an exercise in creating excuses for his political/ideological positions on how to treat gay people. It really does come down to “It’s your parents’ fault that I’m treating you this way!”

  • http://funfrotfacts.blogspot.com Throbert McGee

    Aargh, reposting with asterisks:

    David Blakeslee: Biblical narratives, in particular, were designed to both tell the story of a people and guide the behavior of that people. As Throbert and I have discussed in the past, it is an amalgam of history, philosophy, morality and divinity unlike “literature.”

    I mainly agree with your point, but even if one doesn’t consider the Bible as a whole to be “literature”, you can certainly argue that some of the books it contains are “literature” — for example, there’s the er*tic poetry in Song of Solomon. Granted, some Christian theologians have tried to argue that it’s an allegory about the love of Christ for the Church, but the plain and direct interpretation is that it’s a frankly titillating poem about the love between a man and a woman, period: “Thy navel is like a round goblet, which wanteth not liquor: thy belly is like an heap of wheat set about with lilies. Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins!”

    (Aside: I would point out — cough — that when some gay readers of the Bible want to argue that Paul’s condemnation of “men who lie down with men” referred specifically to some form of homosexual pagan temple prostitution, but not to homosexuality generally, a lot of conservative Christians will scold them: “You’re projecting your own biases onto the Bible and twisting the meaning! You can’t do that — the Bible’s language should be interpreted in a plain and direct way!” Yet these very same Christians are quite happy to impose their own biases and thereby twist a work of ancient Jewish er*tica into a strained allegory about Christ and the church!)

    Also, some scholars have argued that the Book of Job is a sort of proto-novel or extended parable — that is, a fictional story devised by the prophets to illuminate a moral lesson, which was never intended to be an account of a real historic figure named Job. (The fictitiousness of The Book of Job is only a minority opinion in the Talmud, with most of the rabbis saying that Job was a historic person; from Christian scholars, I’ve read arguments both for the historic and fictional interpretations.)

  • Richard Willmer

    @ Emily : Indeed!

    @ Timothy : I think you’ve nailed it too! The kind of ‘blame games’ that Colson’s ilk seem to be playing are very worrying, especially when it comes to something so difficult to understand as sexual orientation.

    @ Susan : If someone had blamed my parents for my own particular ‘characteristics’, I would tell them in no uncertain terms exactly where they could stick their theory!

  • Mary

    @ Richard – Heck! Blame my parents for everything! I don’t want to have to take responsibility for some of the choices I’ve made!! LOL!!!

  • Mary

    Because it is not likely the case that homosexuality is “developed”.

    Yet to be proven either way. Sexuality, as we know it, does develop in a person. Whether or not homosexuality is a development or an original path is not determined. We don’t even know how heterosexuality develops or from where it’s origin comes.

  • http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com Timothy Kincaid

    Mary,

    I’m not sure what difference there is between a “development” and an “original path”. Can you clarify what you mean?

  • http://funfrotfacts.blogspot.com Throbert McGee

    I would assume that Mary is talking about “canalization” of genetically-influenced traits?

    A “highly canalized” trait tends to show a uniformity of outcome even given dramatic differences in environmental variables, while traits that are very sensitive to environmental variables are relatively “non-canalized.”

    So, for example, the maximum height we reach as adults, being greatly dependent on nutrition in childhood and adolescence, is a lot less “canalized” than the number of fingers and toes we’re born with — which is mostly unvarying! (But considering the many stresses a fetus can be subject to in utero, and how many pregnant women suffer from malnourishment and other problems, it should perhaps be almost surprising that the number of digits is as consistent as it is, and that polydactyly or hypodactyly aren’t much more common conditions!)

  • http://funfrotfacts.blogspot.com Throbert McGee

    By the way, kudos to Mary for this:

    We don’t even know how heterosexuality develops or from where it’s origin comes.

    I wish everyone discussing the etiology of homosexuality would remember, as Mary does, that the etiology of heterosexuality also remains mysterious!

    (The mere observation that genes for heterosexuality “would make evolutionary sense” does not prove the actual existence of such genes; nor does it shed light on how such genes might interact with other genes to produce the observed result that the vast majority of men would much rather look at Playboy than Playgirl.)

  • Richard Willmer

    @ Mary : LOL! (Of course, ‘choices’ and ‘characteristics’ are not the same thing.)

  • Ann

    Homosexuality is a natural and normal variation of sexual orientation.

    This is merely an opinion – not a fact .

  • Mary

    @ Richard

    Choices or characteristics —– my parents had a lot to do with it! LOL!!!!

  • ken

    Ann# ~ Jun 4, 2011 at 10:59 am

    ” “Homosexuality is a natural and normal variation of sexual orientation.”

    This is merely an opinion – not a fact .”

    No, it is a fact. Homosexuality is observed in a variety of species. So by definition it is natural (i.e. that which occurs in nature). Homosexuality is also not a pathological condition which makes it a normal variation.

  • Richard Willmer

    @ Mary :

    Well, many factors other than parenting affect the choices we make; furthermore, many choices we make can be in spite, rather than because, of our experiences and influences in childhood. As for characteristics: yes, our genetic make-up is inherited, and how our characteristics develop is in part influenced by parenting, but it is also the case that parenting is not the only factor that influences those characteristics.

    But your first comment to me (which I interpreted as an essentially ironic one) alludes to another very important issue: that of personal responsibility (or, in modern parlance, ‘ownership’). This must surely transcend parenting and the influence of others.

    The interplay between all these things is certainly complex – which is my essential problem with Colson’s thesis: he doesn’t seem to recognize that!

    Ken :

    I agree with you: the scientific evidence does seem to support the contention that same-sex attraction is a natural phenomenon. Whether that mean it is a ‘desirable’ one is perhaps a more debatable point (although given that the vast majority of the members of our species have the ‘urge’ to engage in procreational activities, I can’t see it as a problem with regard to the ‘survival of the species’). Those who say that it is not a natural phenomenon tend to cite ‘evidence’ (such as bits of the Bible, or references to ‘cultural norms’) that cannot be tested by scientific or philosophical mechanisms of ‘proof’. Many people whose sexual preference is for those of the same sex as themselves clearly do not conform to generally accepted patterns of pathological behaviour (at least, they do so no more than many heterosexual persons) – so I agree with you on that point as well.

  • Mary

    But your first comment to me (which I interpreted as an essentially ironic one) alludes to another very important issue: that of personal responsibility (or, in modern parlance, ‘ownership’). This must surely transcend parenting and the influence of others

    Only after the frontal lobes are well developed.

  • http://funfrotfacts.blogspot.com Throbert McGee

    Homosexuality is also not a pathological condition which makes it a normal variation.

    I would expand on this: There may be some arguments in favor of calling homosexuality a “pathological condition”, but most if not all of these arguments would also compel us to call lifelong celibacy a “pathological condition,” if we’re being consistent.

    People who want to call homosexuality a “pathological condition” while not using such a negative label for celibacy must shoulder the burden of justifying their inconsistency.

  • Donata

    Ken, you cannot assert that as fact. As you know, the APA changed its mind in 1973 and there’s no reason it couldn’t change its mind again. For “natural”, use this definition: “as is normal or to be expected; ordinary or logical”. Everything exists in nature so that’s not a helpful definition. Further, that homosexual behavior has been observed in other animals does not prove anything beyond that its existence on other animals may be for similar reasons for its existence in humans. That doesn’t demonstrate anything.

    Timothy, for people with unwanted same sex attraction, that it is developed is extremely relevant because it implies that it’s mutable and may be undeveloped.

    Throbert, that’s a big leap that I’m not sure follows. For one thing, having kids is not easy.

    Teresa, change is difficult but not impossible. And even modest change can be satisfactory. The homosexual community wants to define change as 100% which is wrong. Just because it’s difficult does not mean it should not be attempted. And it might get easier if more energy was able to be spent on improving change efforts.

  • http://aebrain.blogspot.com Zoe Brain

    Donata –

    As you know, the APA changed its mind in 1973 and there’s no reason it couldn’t change its mind again.

    Contrary to the Article of Faith amongst certain religious groups, that this was solely a political decision, they changed their minds on the basis of facts and evidence.

    So yes, there’s a very good reason why they can’t change their minds again – unless the facts change. The only changes that there have been is an increasing amount of evidence to say that their decision was correct.

    Teresa, change is difficult but not impossible.

    And the evidence, the double-blind experiments with long-term follow-up on statistically significant samples is….?

    Or do we have to take that as a matter of faith?

    The evidence that I’ve seen is that while we can control our actions, we can’t control our attractions. Celibacy is attainable of course, and bisexuals can choose to be sexually active with only one sex. But that’s about it, isn’t it?

    Meanwhile, I recommend reading:

    Sexual differentiation of the human brain: Relation to gender identity, sexual orientation and neuropsychiatric disorders

    Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology, Volume 32, Issue 2, (April 2011) Pages 214-226

    Ai-Min Bao, Dick F. Swaab

    Finally, Chuck Colsen has just written another piece : Like Jumping off a Building: Gender and Moral Order

    About how “the moral order of the universe is tied to the physical order” .. how we should “not follow our appetites“… “homosexuality and other gender disorders“. and the “transgender lifestyle“.

  • Richard Willmer

    Ah, I see dear Colson is now ‘gaily’ throwing around the word transgendered – a word that can cover a huge range of phenomena, including some with genetic and/or hormonal bases. And I spotted ‘reaching out’ as well – a phrase that always make me shudder (the WUg guy used it to try to justify the Bahati Bill)!

  • Lynn David

    So I was sad to see his recent column at Crosswalk.com where he promotes Joseph and Linda Nicolosi’s book on “preventing” homosexuality. He seems to say a series is coming. I hope not.

    Why would you expect anything differently from a man who has stated:

    For two years now, I’ve warned that the drive for so-called “gay marriage” was the greatest threat to religious liberty we’ve ever faced. But I think I may have underestimated the threat, because now I fear the democratic process and the rule of law are endangered as well.

  • ken

    Donata# ~ Jun 5, 2011 at 3:54 am

    Zoe already addressed your claim about the APA and the pathology of homosexuality.

    “For “natural”, use this definition: “as is normal or to be expected; ordinary or logical”. ”

    that really isn’t the proper definition of natural. However, it would still apply to homosexuality.

    “Everything exists in nature so that’s not a helpful definition”

    Not that is not true. My glasses are man-made and do not exist in nature, thus are unnatural. And to be clear (as Throbert pointed out), natural/unnatural do not equate to good/bad.

    “The homosexual community wants to define change as 100% which is wrong. Just because it’s difficult does not mean it should not be attempted.”

    No, actually it was groups like NARTH and Exodus that were claiming complete change. It was other groups that showed that wasn’t true. Since then NARTH/Exodus et. al. have modified their definition of “change.” Arguments against change therapy aren’t that it is “difficult”, they are because this therapy is based on little to no scientific understanding of sexual orientation.

  • Donata

    Zoe, I think it is clear that the role politics played in the decision was not insignificant. And don’t forget that the change passed only with a slim majority and much dissent. A reasonable thinking person can easily conclude that the facts and evidence do not support the change.

    No, that’s not it. People can change. People change attractions all the time. I don’t see why you don’t believe that is possible. We have anecdotal evidence. We have studies. You cannot discount that not matter your opinion on the matter.

    The biggest problem with the brain chemistry-based theories is that they inexplicably dismiss changes due to environment. And Swaab, in particular, has shown to be very biased. Here’s one example of how ridiculous his thinking is, invoking Godwin’s Law no less: http://weblogs.nrc.nl/swaab/2009/02/24/homosexuality-not-a-choice/

    And again, I don’t find Coslon’s writings that outlandish. Here’s the key point: “homosexuality and other gender disorders can largely be traced to environmental factors—and they can sometimes be overcome”.

  • Ann

    and they can sometimes be overcome”.

    Donana,

    I think this kind of language is better than what was used before when you referred to change.

    I think that any shift in how one views themselves and their life depends a great deal on personal motivation and the relinquishing of any moral dilemmas in place of a decision that transcends desires. For some it is the preservation of their family, for others it is religion, and for some it is their innate belief that homosexuality is incongruent with how they want to live and be. Some individuals who have same gender desires/attractions have made a positive and sound decision to realize the existance of these strong and enduring feelings and not let themselves move beyond that point. Attractions, desires, etc. are left at that and not acted upon. Change is not a word that is used. They live their life in congruence with their faith and religion and things and people they value above their desires. This quality of life supercedes anything else.

  • Eddy

    No, actually it was groups like NARTH and Exodus that were claiming complete change.

    I reject this statement as untrue. Throughout my involvement with Exodus, of the hundreds of individuals and ministries I met, only one or two individuals who claimed they changed also made the claim that they were completely free from any homosexual tempations, thoughts or feelings. …And those of us in leadership looked warily upon their claims.

    Other things that are natural (seen in nature): Peeing on every telephone pole, tree or bush that you pass…dry humping the leg of a complete stranger…defecating on people, their cars, their patio furniture…having sex right out where people can see you…yowling in the alleys from the need to spawn another litter. Looks like ‘natural’ is yet another word we’ll have to define with every usage.

  • Donata

    Ken, it’s a definition right from the dictionary and the one that we should use when we are talking about the attributes of living organisms.

    Eddy makes the obvious point about what is natural.

    From lurking here, it is very clear that one side tries to assert that change means “complete change” and the other means “change”. I fall into the latter group.

  • Ann

    Other things that are natural (seen in nature): Peeing on every telephone pole, tree or bush that you pass…dry humping the leg of a complete stranger…defecating on people, their cars, their patio furniture…having sex right out where people can see you…yowling in the alleys from the need to spawn another litter. Looks like ‘natural’ is yet another word we’ll have to define with every usage.

    Eddy,

    In other words (sorry – had to say it) – animals (seen in nature) exercise little to no rational thought when it comes to their desire for immediate gratification or relief. Humans, on the other hand, are aware they have choices and some still opt for immediate gratification, ie – some of the examples cited for animals can apply :-D

    I am not sure if an animal or plant would say their parents caused this behavior, although I still cannot speak animal or plant language or all its’ nuances, so perhaps I am wrong :-D

  • ken

    Donata# ~ Jun 5, 2011 at 9:05 am

    “I think it is clear that the role politics played in the decision was not insignificant.”

    While it is true there were protests and rallies about the APA stance on homosexuality in the early 70s, there is no evidence that it played any significant role in the decision to remove it from the DSM. Correlation does not prove causation. Further, there have been protests and rallies regarding the APA stance on abortion, yet they have not changed their stance on it.

    “And don’t forget that the change passed only with a slim majority and much dissent. A reasonable thinking person can easily conclude that the facts and evidence do not support the change.”

    What facts and evidence are you referring to? What evidence supports the case that homosexuality is a disorder?

    As has been pointed out, at the time there was scientific evidence that homosexuality was not a mental illness. And further research has supported the removal.

    “People change attractions all the time. I don’t see why you don’t believe that is possible.”

    Zoe (nor have I seen any one else posting here) didn’t claim change (in sexual orientation) was impossible. However, if does occur, it is very rare. And in most cases unlikely to occur.

    “We have anecdotal evidence. We have studies. You cannot discount that not matter your opinion on the matter.”

    Again, what studies are you referring to? There have been very few scientific studies into the effectiveness of change therapy. the studies that have been done are inconclusive at best.

    “homosexuality and other gender disorders can largely be traced to environmental factors—and they can sometimes be overcome”.”

    the problems with this statement are:

    a) homosexuality is not a disorder

    b) there is no evidence that sexual orientation (or gender non-conformity) can be “largely traced” to environmental factors (although environmental factors are probably involved)

    c) “be overcome” is a particularly loaded and non-specific phrase.

  • ken

    Donata# ~ Jun 5, 2011 at 11:08 am

    ” it’s a definition right from the dictionary and the one that we should use when we are talking about the attributes of living organisms.”

    I gave a very clear definition of what I meant by “natural” and that is considered to be the more common usage (keep in mind the ordering of definitions in the dictionary is based on most to least common usage).

    “it is very clear that one side tries to assert that change means “complete change” and the other means “change”. I fall into the latter group.”

    And what specifically are you saying is changing when you use the term?

  • Mary

    While it is true there were protests and rallies about the APA stance on homosexuality in the early 70s, there is no evidence that it played any significant role in the decision to remove it from the DSM

    If that were true, why was there a demonstration to begin with? Coincidence? I think not.

  • ken

    Mary# ~ Jun 5, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    “If that were true, why was there a demonstration to begin with?”

    I can’t say for sure, but I suppose for many reasons. Certainly the demonstrators wanted to influence the decision, but that doesn’t mean they had any significant influence.

    do you believe that the decision to remove homosexuality as a disorder was wrong mary? that it wasn’t based on science?

  • Mary

    No, I don’t think the decision was wrong. I think though, that there are pathologies to some homosexual interests as well as some pathologies to some hetersexual interests. The division of patholgy cut along the wrong line.

  • Donata

    If we were talking about glasses versus snails, then, yes, your definition would be appropriate. But we are not. Yes, I know how the ordering of definitions goes.

    When you say “no evidence” you reveal that you don’t even want to search for the truth. You could say “little evidence” or “limited” or other qualifiers. But “no evidence” is patently false and discredits your point.

    There is no sense in pointing to the research that has observed successful change efforts since I know you will dismiss it as you always do.

    I don’t think change is as rare or unlikely as you suggest. And I think a lot of improvement could be made if the gay community would get out of the way.

    If the temperature goes from 50 degrees to 51 degrees, that’s change. Can we agree on that? Regarding same-sex attraction, if change is sufficient to enable an individual to live in congruence with their beliefs or live satisfyingly non-gay, that is success. Some of the studies have defined it better than this. The absolute wrong definition is “complete change”, “100% change”, “having zero same sex attraction”, etc. But we know a realistic definition hurts your position.

  • William

    If that were true, why was there a demonstration to begin with?

    Yes, no doubt it was the demonstrations that persuaded the APA to reconsider the classification of homosexuality as a disease, or at any rate played a large part in bringing that about. But whatever the cause of the reconsideration, it was that reconsideration itself which led the APA to conclude that there was no scientific reason to regard homosexuality as a disease or disorder and that it should therefore be removed from the DSM.

    As Dr John C. Gonsiorek expressed it, “The political pressure placed on the American Psychiatric Association in the early 1970 was a necessary but not sufficient condition for the depathologizing of homosexuality.” It would hardly have been the first time in history (nor, I am sure, will it be the last) that pressure has had to be exerted to make people do something that they should have done anyway without the need for any pressure.

  • http://wthrockmorton.com Warren

    Eddy and others – I started attending ex-gay type meetings in 1998 or so. I sat in on lots of testimonies and heard Nicolosi and other NARTH speakers talk about their clients. I have been to several Exodus conferences and other related ex-gay type meetings and have heard many people claim total change. I think things changed when politics got involved. My video I Do Exist portrayed complete change even though no one ever said that was required; and for several years IDE was everywhere. I have know 2 people that claimed complete change, but known many more who claimed it and then later said they were mistaken. I think the tide has turned a bit away from a change paradigm, at least I hope so.

    I think the complete change idea was a co-construction of pro-ex-gay and anti-ex-gay groups. It also is the product of different expectations. If you say you go from gay to straight and make scientific claims about it as NARTH and Exodus has done then you should expect your opponents to ask about what that change means. Exodus and NARTH have misled people, did so for years, but not always.deliberately. For them change is different than an absolute shift in attractions, it is behavior and attitude. For those outside the fold, it means change in attractions. Alan Chambers has acknowledged that their language has been misleading, I don’t know why anyone would dispute it.

  • William

    Yes, Donata, there is good evidence that some people’s sexual orientation does change of its own accord. This happens more often in women, far more seldom in men.

    The evidence for change which has been deliberately engineered by ex-gay programs and by reparative therapy is rather like the evidence for the existence for the Loch Ness Monster: its quality is inversely proportionate to its quantity.

    And I think a lot of improvement could be made if the gay community would get out of the way.

    Which I take to mean that you would like people to stop pointing out just how poor the evidence for deliberately engineered change is.

    Personally, I’m one of these irritating extremists who want the real thing or nothing. In the highly unlikely event that I decided that I wanted to change my sexual orientation, I certainly wouldn’t be satisfied with the sort of “change” described by ex-gay ministry leaders.

  • Richard Willmer

    I must confess to being puzzled (to say the least) at this talk of ‘change’ specifically in relation to LGB persons. The constant requirement for change (or, perhaps, ‘improvement’) in attitude and behaviour is something applicable to all, and is an inevitable consequence of any meaningful ‘examination of conscience’. Such ‘change’ can be only beneficial to human relationships, irrespective of one’s (innate?) sexual preference. Exactly how that change might manifest itself will surely vary from person to person, unless it is regarding something very ‘clear cut’, such as kleptomania (in which case there is a clear ‘desirable outcome’, viz. the person in question stops stealing things!).

    When it comes to such things as sexual relationships and gender identity (which are not by any means synonymous – though many, including the Pope in his less successful moments, like to ‘conflate’ these things), it does appear in many instances that ‘coming to terms’ with one’s own situation can itself produce positive results with respect to a person’s happiness and the quality of the her/his relationships with others.

  • Richard Willmer

    @ William

    I have considerable sympathy with your (so-called) ‘extremist’ position. If someone like Chuck Colson ‘reached out’ to me, I’d run away as fast as my little legs would carry me!

    As for this mythical beast ‘the gay community’: well, I take a somewhat ‘extremist’ position of my own: viz. thinking of people principally in terms of a so-called ‘group identity’ (whether it be ‘gays’ or ‘Jews’ or ‘Ugandans’ or ‘evangelicals’) is stupid and dangerous.

  • ken

    Donata# ~ Jun 5, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    “When you say “no evidence” you reveal that you don’t even want to search for the truth. You could say “little evidence” or “limited” or other qualifiers. But “no evidence” is patently false and discredits your point.”

    then show me the evidence (to be specific scientific evidence – i.e. research from peer-reviewed sources). And to be clear I’m asking for evidence that sexual orientation is “largely traced” to environmental factors. Not that there are environmental factors involved.

    “I don’t think change is as rare or unlikely as you suggest.”

    Again, to clarify. If you were to take a random gay male, the probability that his orientation would change from gay to straight is extremely low (but not 0). For a female, the probability of change would be slightly higher, but still very low.

    Now if you wish to talk about the sub-set of gays who want therapy to change, certainly they experience some sort of change. However, not all of this change is desirable. Further the efficacy of these therapies have never been reliably studied.

    “The absolute wrong definition is “complete change”, “100% change”, “having zero same sex attraction”, etc. But we know a realistic definition hurts your position.”

    My position is that Nicolosi and NARTH (as well as Exodus and others to a lesser extent) have mis-represented the research about sexual orientation for decades. Further that these mis-representations have harmed members of the glbt community (and their family and friends) directly, through inappropriate therapy, and indirectly, by fostering homophobic attitudes.

  • Mary

    Evidence for change?

    Me.

  • Eddy

    Warren–

    From a psychological standpoint, who can testify to complete change? Can the overeater who has lost 100 lbs but still finds themselves struggling past the ice cream display or managing their consumption at an all you can eat buffet? Can the manic-depressive who, although they are no longer driven by their feelings, still gets occasional manic urges?

    Donata’s point went to the 100% demand and the fact that it’s a standard of measurement for change that we don’t apply in other areas.

    Back to those folks I just cited. If they were to have a national convocation, would we fault them for touting their change? Would we expect them to give details regarding their occasional struggles?

    You know something? That’s what I did. “Reckoning with the Roots”–not ‘Reckoned’-past tense-but “Reckoning”. “Lessons for the Battlefield”….What? If it’s all over and done with, complete change, what’s this ‘battlefield’ business? And yet, I’d have people come to me and say “I’ve read your stuff. Sure, it was easy for you.” WHAT???!! Where did they think these lessons were coming from?

    I’ll concede that some did gloss over but I will maintain that the majority (at least within EXODUS) always acknowledged the likelihood of ongoing temptations. One person who has blogged here regularly often documented those leaders who ‘admitted they were still tempted’. While he sometimes made it sound like they made those admissions kicking and screaming and under force, the truth is that those admissions were out there for those who were looking for more than a sound bite.

  • Ann

    I must confess to being puzzled (to say the least) at this talk of ‘change’ specifically in relation to LGB persons.

    Richard Wilmer,

    Do you think talk about the subject of change occurs mainly because people who are experiencing same gender attractions consider them unwanted and seek out resources (whether they exist or not) to help them in diminishing theses feelings, therefore creating the “need and supply” theory? Or do you think the talk of change occurs mainly because people who do not experience same gender attractions find them errant and/or wrong when others do and then proceed to intrusively try to change them without being asked to do so?

  • Richard Willmer

    @ Ann

    It seems that some people who experience same-sex attractions do want to ‘change’ this aspect of their personality. However, I think we need to go back a stage and ask the question ‘why do they want to change?’ Might it be (at least partly) because they are told that they should change? Just a thought …

    In short, my answer to each of your questions is ‘quite possibly’.

  • http://funfrotfacts.blogspot.com Throbert McGee

    The absolute wrong definition is “complete change”, “100% change”, “having zero same sex attraction”, etc. But we know a realistic definition hurts your position.

    Flipping this around, Donata, I would observe that a vague, inconsistent, and malleable definition of “change” is quite helpful to the position of NARTH and Exodus! And the reason that such nebulous definitions are helpful to NARTH and Exodus is that they make their “change” claims effectively impossible to disprove.

    P.S. Let me once again cough and point out that many conservative Christians looooove to brag about how they’re the bulwarks and guardians of timeless, consistent standards, while at the same time they love to accuse those awful liberals of having vague and slippery standards, which is tantamount to having no standards at all.

    But, seemingly, vague standards are just fine and dandy if they happen to work to the advantage of the religious conservatives affiliated with NARTH and Exodus…

  • http://funfrotfacts.blogspot.com Throbert McGee

    However, I think we need to go back a stage and ask the question ‘why do they want to change?’ Might it be (at least partly) because they are told that they should change?

    Good point, Richard. But I would observe, also, that for a religiously gay person surrounded by co-religionists who say “You need to change your sexual orientation,” another option (besides going to a “change ministry” like Exodus) would be to change churches. That is, say goodbye to their current congregation/denomination and find a different house of worship that is theologically similar to their old one but accepting of actively gay members.

    Now, I don’t mean to understate the difficulty of uprooting like this and leaving some of your peer group behind, possibly burning bridges behind you in the process.

    But, obviously, spending years involved with Exodus or NARTH in an effort to change your sexual identity or orientation is also very difficult!

    So the question is, what is the rational “tipping point” at which a person should begin to wonder, “Hmmm, maybe I’ve been chasing after the wrong notion of ‘change’, and I’d be better off changing which group(s) I hang out with, rather than changing myself?”

    By the way, I should acknowledge that for some people, the proper type of change involves separation from their anti-gay conservative religious peers, but perhaps also separation from their anti-religious secular gay peers, in order to find new peers who affirm both their religious beliefs and their gayness. I mean, I don’t want to single out anti-gay religious conservatives as the villains, since there are so many bad influences in the gay subculture as well, that are better off left behind.

  • http://wthrockmorton.com Warren

    Eddy – When someone claims they changed orientation from gay to straight, it is reasonable that to assume that someone is not experiencing attractions to the same sex. I am not saying that the change people do experience is not important or is trivial but it is not from gay to straight, the vast majority of the time. I was more than interested in sound bites. I staked my professional reputation on it which in hindsight was a mistake. I am not sorry I have gone this road on the whole, I just wish I would have asked more questions and been more scientific about it.

  • Mary

    You know, we can make God into our image if we want to, or change the church we belong to, etc…

    Has it ever occured to anyone, why a gay advocate would change? Having all the information about choices, religious spin, and recources available to them… why do these people go into change mode?

  • Mary

    When someone claims they changed orientation from gay to straight, it is reasonable that to assume that someone is not experiencing attractions to the same sex

    That is valid and still possible.

  • Richard Willmer

    @ Throbert

    I take your points. Just for the record: I am in fact an ‘elder’ of (and pastoral assistant in) a church community that does not make disapproval of same-sex relationships per se one of its ‘articles of faith’. (I certainly agree with you that, for some, ‘changing churches’ can also be a big matter.)

  • http://funfrotfacts.blogspot.com Throbert McGee

    we can make God into our image if we want to

    Hmmm. I think that 99.44% of the time, the appropriate answer to the charge “You’re trying to remake God into your own image” is, “I know you are, but what am I?”

  • Ann

    When someone claims they changed orientation from gay to straight, it is reasonable that to assume that someone is not experiencing attractions to the same sex.

    Dr. Throckmorton,

    I do not think it is reasonable at all – I think that is an assumption not based on truth and has been a source of much contention. The more reasonable thing to do would be to ask the person what they mean by change and what they don’t.

  • Richard Willmer

    @ Mary

    Who’s to say whose picture of God is correct? My view is that we all get it wrong one way or another, and I do find the implication that questioning the ‘traditional’ view of God’s attitude to same-sex relationships per se is tantamount to ‘creating’ God in one’s own image (i.e. idolatry) somewhat overdrawn (to put it mildly). In fact, it’s a very serious suggestion, isn’t it?

  • William

    Ann,

    When someone claims they changed orientation from gay to straight, I think that it is reasonable to assume at the very least that – if they are stating the facts accurately –any attractions to the same sex that they may experience are insignificant; and that they are not constantly having to deny “what comes naturally” to them and having to pray to God every morning when they get up to keep them in this state of denial, as one prominent ex-gay leader admits that he has to do.

  • Mary

    Richard,

    You do know that I am exgay – correct?

  • http://funfrotfacts.blogspot.com Throbert McGee

    Donata: “And I think a lot of improvement could be made if the gay community would get out of the way.”

    A few problems with the seemingly simple suggestion that the gay community ought to get out of the way:

    (1) As the ancient Internet saying goes, “There is no cabal.” There is no secret council of gay high priests that controls “the community”, and the “gay community” is not a hive mind like the Borg (however tempting it may be to invoke a hive mind in order to explain the success of Lady Gaga). So, even if some gays are entirely willing to get out of the way, other gays will insist on protesting the ex-gay groups.

    (2) Since Exodus is a group for Christians with unwanted same-sex attractions, I would argue that, generally speaking, gay people who don’t identify as Christian and have no aspirations to become Christians should have the wisdom to say, “I don’t have a dog in this fight,” and should avoid trying to “rescue” Christian gays from groups like Exodus. So, in that limited sense, I agree that the non-Christian part of the gay community should “get out of the way.” However…

    (2.a) Many gay people DO identify as Christian, and for these people, saying “I don’t have a dog in this fight” isn’t true. Arguably, Christian-identified gays who believe that Jesus is okay with them being gay DO have some personal ethical responsibility to try to “rescue” other Christian gays from Exodus. After all, if you believe that the Christian God created some people to be actively gay, then Exodus’s position might strike you as technically heretical. So, it may not be any business of gay Christians what the ex-gay Jewish group JONAH says to Jewish gays, but it is the “business” of Christians to challenge heresy among other Christians. Also…

    (2.b) At times in the past, Exodus and NARTH have apparently lent their names to secular political causes that may impact negatively on all gays — causes that don’t merely affect Christians with SSA who choose to “opt-in” to the ministry/therapy of ex-gay groups. In such cases, even non-Christian gays certainly do “have a dog in the fight,” and it’s unreasonable to expect them to stay out of the way and not poke their noses into the business of Exodus and NARTH (to the extent that these groups involve themselves in secular politics).

  • http://wthrockmorton.com Warren

    Ann – We will have to agree to disagree. These claims were used frequently in my presence and awareness to make the claim that sexual orientation is flexible and can be changed which was justification for political opposition to gay rights.

    Scott Lively, Peter L. and PFOX says every ex-gay proves that sexual orientation can change and is not an immutable characteristic. Well, no, it doesn’t if the ex-gay is not changed from gay to straight but gay to still gay but choosing celibacy or gay to spousosexual or gay to bisexual.

  • Richard Willmer

    @ Mary

    I gather that – and that’s fine by me. My point is that it is dangerous to ‘generalize’.

    I have my own set of ‘experiences’ (which I’m not going to spell out here), but I’m very wary of saying something along the lines of ‘I’ve experienced such-and-such, so God must think so-and-so’.

    My scepticism is not directed at those who have (or who have appeared to have) changed (in either direction); rather it is in response to those like Colson who claim to have ‘neat explanations’ for complex matters. What really ‘set me off’ was the article where Colson lumped together same-sex relationships and what he termed ‘transgendered lifestyles’ and likened them all to ‘jumping off a building’. This is silly nonsense that betrays a complete lack of appreciation of individual persons and their true needs.

    (We all know that certain manifestations of ‘transgenderedness’ have a genetic basis [e.g. XXY set of alleles]; many others have a hormonal one. To talk in terms of ‘moral choices’ here is completely balmy!)

    And then there are situations like that in Uganda, not to mention the bullying of young gay (or presumed-gay) people in schools … I see it as a question of priorities, really: once homophobia has been dealt with, then we can discuss properly these more complex matters.

  • Teresa

    Donata said:

    Teresa, change is difficult but not impossible. And even modest change can be satisfactory. The homosexual community wants to define change as 100% which is wrong. Just because it’s difficult does not mean it should not be attempted. And it might get easier if more energy was able to be spent on improving change efforts.

    I’m tired of playing badminton with a bowling ball. Donata, if by ‘change’ you mean “I feel better about myself” or “I don’t have sex with same-gender persons” why can’t you simply say, “alter my behavior”? Why the ambiguity? Ambiguity is all about murkiness … let it up to the audience to decide … when we speak to those of our kind, we mean this … when pressured, well we didn’t really mean this, we meant that.

    Let’s put this at square one, again:

    No one, not one living soul, knows the etiology of homosexuality. Our best guess at this time is a combination of nature and nuture; but, still that’s our best understanding, at present.

    Two, altering sexual attractions is difficult: for most, impossible. For many, what appears as altering sexual attractions is really not so; as they discover later. Getting married does not require altering one’s sexual attractions; but, usually, is a train wreck waiting to happen. So, yes, Donata, some people really do alter their sexual attractions (not sure, though, if they were really ‘bi’ to begin with), but that number is quite negligible for all those that have tried, all the years spent, and all the money invested. Those are simply facts that cannot denied.

    Three, all of us are dishonest at times, sometimes unknowingly, sometimes knowingly. The pressure on some people to alter their sexual attractions is enormous. That they ‘think’ something has happened is no indication of anything. It’s what’s called anecdotal. I would caution people who think they have altered their sexual attractions: give it time. You may have some big surprises in store for you.

    Also, what appear as an alteration of sexual attractions DOES NOT mean one can relate emotionally to the opposite gender in a truly str8 fashion. This is an issue that is barely touched in this whole conversation. I’d really like to hear someone tell me that they have truly altered their sexual attractions; AND, are in a relationship with an opposite gender person being honest about your past; AND, tell me they have an emotional intimacy fulfilling to their partner. I’d really like some scientific studies about all this.

    Fourth, my own opinion, is that if someone wants to attempt to alter their sexual attractions, good for them. I wish them well; but, please do not confuse your wants for the facts; and, please, if at all possible, use words that mean what they say, and say what you really mean.

  • Teresa
    Warren stated: When someone claims they changed orientation from gay to straight, it is reasonable that to assume that someone is not experiencing attractions to the same sex.

    Ann said: I do not think it is reasonable at all – I think that is an assumption not based on truth and has been a source of much contention. The more reasonable thing to do would be to ask the person what they mean by change and what they don’t.

    Ann, words have meaning, at least to me. ‘Ex-’ anything, means in my world, you are no longer the ‘anything’. I don’t ever have to ask some who tells me they’re ‘ex-anything’ … geez, could you tell me what you mean by that?

    Ann, the real question for these groups is WHY they persist with this terminology? Why do they persist with this misdirection in words? The years dedicated to this and the negligible results warrant clearer terminology, in my opinion.

  • Jayhuck

    Teresa,

    Why do they persist with this misdirection in words? The years dedicated to this and the negligible results warrant clearer terminology, in my opinion.

    I often ask myself the same question.

    Warren,

    I appreciate the article and your responses to some of the posts left by other readers!

  • Jayhuck

    Throbert,

    Hmmm. I think that 99.44% of the time, the appropriate answer to the charge “You’re trying to remake God into your own image” is, “I know you are, but what am I?”

    But does it float? ;)

  • http://wthrockmorton.com Warren

    All – I fell into it again. We are again talking about change of orientation on a post dedicated to something else. This is the blog version of the song will never end.

    Sensing futility, I am closing comments on this thread.

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