Sunday, July 24, 2011

Responding to Some Very Misguided Comparisons

In a recent post on his blog Abbey Roads, fellow Catholic blogger Terry Nelson opines:

. . .[I]f a person who is unhappy with his sexual orientation desires assistance or support in his conflict – there is absolutely nothing wrong if he or she seeks counseling – just make sure the therapists are licensed and have decent credentials. Transgender people do it all the time, claiming to be unhappy with the gender they were born with, they spend thousands on therapy, hormone treatments, anti-depressants, and surgeries. If people of faith seek Christian psychological therapy – why are they condemned? The double standard is hugely obvious when the gay Brown Shirts set about limiting individual freedoms in such cases.

Later, in his response to "Simon" in the comments section for this particular post, Terry writes:

Likewise, one hears stories of heterosexual men and women leaving their spouses and children for a same-sex lover all of the time. If they can change, why can't a highly motivated man or woman leave homosexuality?

Following (with some added afterthoughts) is the response I left at Abbey Roads. I welcome any additional thoughts my readers may have on the comparisons Terry raises.

Terry, you're comparisons between the homosexual orientation, trangenderism, and a straight person leaving his/her spouse for a homosexual relationship are misguided. [I think I'm being too gentle here! They're not only "misguided" but misleading and false.]

A transgender person feels inside him/herself a gender that doesn't correspond with their outward appearance. They want to be true to their deeper, inner reality of gender identity. A gay person who seeks "reparative therapy" feels inside him/herself a sexual orientation that they do not want to accept – often because of the negative indoctrination they've received from outside entities, e.g., family members, society, teachings of their church, etc. In both cases, what we should be trying to do is encourage the acceptance of these people's inner realities – be it their gender identity or sexual orientation. [Somehow I don't think this is the type of "counseling" that Terry is encouraging unhappy homosexual to seek.] It's through such acceptance and integration that people live that "life to the full" that Jesus calls us to.

In the case of a "straight" person leaving their spouse for a gay person, I think that if you talked to such an individual they would tell you that, in retrospect, they had always been gay but just didn't want to admit it or deal with it. That kind of avoidance, however, can only last so long. [In other words, they haven't changed their orientation; they're simply being true to it. This, of course, means a change in how they express themselves sexually, but their actual orientation remains the same.] Interestingly, it you also talk to the former spouses of such people, they too will often admit that they sensed "something" different about their partner but just didn't want to admit/deal with it. Let's face it, we still live in a society that often conveys negative ideas about homosexuality. This can complicate and slow a person's journey of self-awareness and "coming out."

Having said all that, I do believe that because sexuality is a continuum, there can be and are some individuals who are capable of moving along this continuum [and they generally do so without need of "counseling"]. I certainly think it's possible . . . but rare. [And in most such cases, it could be that they are actually bisexual, a sexual reality that Terry consistently ignores.] Most of us are firmly placed somewhere on the sexual orientation continuum [and are quite happy to stay there! Bisexuals, it should be noted, are located at the center of this continuum]. The problem with the "therapy" offered by people like Marcus Bachmann and organizations like NARTH, is that they accept and encourage "movement" [or "change"] only if the person is moving from gay to straight. [Unhappy straight people, for instance, (and, yes, there are lots of them around!) are never encouraged to explore the possibility that they may actually be gay.] If [people like Bachmann] were truly open to what science says about [the complex reality of] sexual orientation, and to actually helping people, then they would not display this double standard.



See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Putting a Human Face on the "T" of "GLBT"
Vanessa Sheridan on "Living Lives of Principle"
Quote of the Day – July 9, 2011
It's Official: APA Opposes "Reparative Therapy"
The Continuum Just Shrank
"Curing" Homosexuality (Be especially sure to read the comments on this one!)
Debunking NARTH (Part I)
Debunking NARTH (Part II)
When Quackery Goes Mainstream
Holding the Courage Apostolate Accountable
Gay Catholics, the Courage Apostolate, and "Reparative Therapy"
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Courage Apostolate
What Scientists in the UK Are Saying About Homosexuality

Recommended Off-site Links:
Answers to Your Questions About Transgender Individuals and Gender Identity – American Psychological Association.
Sub Secretum – Jacqueline White (Progressive Catholic Voice, January 19, 2009).


Bobbi said...

So-called "ex-gay" therapy is just a sophisticated form of bullying, which effectively says to a person: the way you are makes ME uncomfortable, so YOU have to change.

William D. Lindsey said...

Michael, I think your response to Terry Nelson is very convincing. Whether he'll hear what you're saying, I'm not so confident. I'm very surprised to hear that he thinks people heterosexually married who leave their spouse and end up with a same-sex partner have "changed" into gay folks.

From all I read and hear from those who have married heterosexually and then recognize that they're gay, these folks haven't changed at all, in the sense T. Nelson proposes. They've simply accepted who they are.

I hear Terry arguing for a very one-sided change, just as you point out: it's valid only when it goes from gay to pretend-straight. And I think his comment about the brown-shirt gay Nazis trying to diminish the freedom of others is ludicrous. The only folks I hear out there trying to block the freedom of others are those of the religious and political right who want to deny rights to gay folks.