Thursday, June 14, 2012

So you think you've been changed?

Tonight I was reading an article about an anti-gay radio talk show host, and in one part of the article, they quote him on what he believes are successful ex-gay cases due to conversion therapy. I pointed this to my brother/roommate and said, "You can't change your sexual orientation, this guy's wrong."

My brother gets tense when he hears someone say something he believes is wrong and this is what happened then. "Well," he said, "you're ignoring all the people who have done it."

I dropped it there, not wanting to argue. However, after he left the room, I did some looking around.

Note, this isn't the first time I've heard anything on the subject. In the documentary I reviewed in April, For the Bible Tells Me So, there's an animated segment discussing the causes of sexuality and it does bring up ex-gay ministries, explaining it as "the orientation is not changed, but only sexual conduct." An ex-lesbian whispers "We're still gay."

In a series of videos I found on VideoJug by Pink Therapy (a UK sexuality research group), it explains that you cannot change your sexual orientation, but it may change naturally over the course of your life. I'd be willing to believe that, as a gay person might be confused when they realize their sexuality due to being attracted to the opposite sex earlier in life. And I'd suppose that you could feel same-sex attraction early in life, but change to an opposite sex one.

In the book I read by Mel White (and reviewed), Stranger at the Gate, he tells about how he attempted various forms of ex-gay treatments, many of which led to him attempting suicide or being in deep depression. After concluding his autobiography, he also argues against ex-gay ministries and treatments, noting how many people he's met who felt they were "cured," but realized they were not.

The problem with just about every article I found tonight is that they are biased one way or another and sometimes do not see the differences of "orientation," "conduct/behavior," and "preference." Orientation is how you were made to be. Conduct or behavior is how you act, and preference is all in the mind, and is often dictated by your society and your expectations of yourself. Preference and conduct can be completely independent of orientation.

I believe I've always been gay, but restrained myself from embracing, thinking "that's not how a boy acts" when I was young(er), and also having no knowledge of homosexuality. (We'd hear the word on the radio, often negatively, and my mom would say, "Don't fight the homosexuals, love them." We had no idea what it meant, though.) Not learning about sexuality (my parents never did "the talk") really left me in an odd state. Still, it was expected that we'd all grow up, get married and have kids. Furthermore, this is what we thought would happen to us.

To date, two of my siblings are married. My oldest brother has a daughter, and my sister was pregnant, but miscarried. Given the slow rate of grandchildren, I was surprised when my parents weren't clearly upset with me when I realized I was gay. To be honest, though, I don't see myself as a parent. I'd rather be a fun uncle. (So get busy, the rest of you!)

But anyway, when I think on how I've likely been gay since Day 1, if sexual orientation can be changed, why am I not straight when I expected I would have a romantic relationship with a woman? I spent most of my almost 26 years on earth thinking that I would.

Back to ex-gay therapy, from what I understand, most of it basically being brainwashed into denouncing attraction to the same sex and adopting a desire to be with someone of the opposite sex. This is changing your preference and conduct, not orientation. As Mel White (and many others) have reported, this hasn't been known to stick, and this denying your natural orientation has led some to consider, attempt, and even successfully commit suicide.

Are there some who have successfully completed ex-gay therapy? (I recall hearing a father on a radio commercial trumping Focus on the Family's Love Won Out with a personal success story from a similar program.) I won't deny there is a possibility. It's likely they haven't shared their story. If they didn't want "to be gay," then they were ashamed of it and probably don't want to talk openly about it, and I respect that.

If gay people have found a way to live happily in a straight lifestyle, then good for them. But still, I'm not convinced that their orientation was changed, unless it happened to coincide with a natural change.

Still, religious ideals or "morality" aside, I find it more commendable to decide to embrace who you are.
Update: I recently discovered that Exodus International (who now own Love Won Out) leader Alan Chambers admits that he still has sexual attraction to other men. Since homosexuality is about sexual attraction, I maintain that there is no way to change your orientation.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Meeting you again

I wrote this at a forum in a thread where you could talk about anything. The post already got buried by other posts, so I decided to post it again here. This kind of follows on from this previous blog entry, except since I didn't expect the people there to have read it, I went ahead and rehashed some content.
So, if you missed it in the "What Are You Watching?" thread, I finally met up with my old pen pal from years ago.

Crazy thing being that we were pen pals despite seeing each other in person quite often, but then she started college, and stopped going to church and we had trouble keeping up the letters and I let her go.

Crazier thing is that I was so socially awkward back then I misread our friendship as my falling in love with her. Turns out, real friends actually talk to each other about their lives.

About a year ago, I added her as a friend on Facebook, and discovered she was about to get married.

Last month, I wrote a personal blog about my pen pals and sent her an excerpt to approve. After a bit of messaging, I suggested we meet up sometime.

She and her husband both do volunteer stagehand work for the Little Theater and often are allowed to get people free tickets for each show. So, she invited me to attend a performance of Rent. She got me a balcony seat and I could see her and her husband working the lights during the show.

After the show, we got to chat, I got to meet her husband, and we chatted over gelato. It wasn't a long chat, and there's some things I wish we'd talked about, but it was good to renew our friendship after so long. Until the next meeting...