"Can gay people turn into straight people?" is the latest Family Values Feud game-show question.---
According to its recent poll, the Trib reports that a majority of Utahns believe that, yes, it actually is somehow possible for gays to magically transform into straights. Nice that the issue of our sexual orientation was put up to a vote -- it's democracy at work!
In more than 80 clinical studies conducted over the past 50 years, so-called reparative or conversion therapies have been shown to be ineffective at best and harmful at worst. The American Psychological Association has soundly rejected therapeutic models which purport to change sexual orientation.
Now, psychology may not be an exact science, but neither was astronomy in the 17th century -- and in those days, a majority of poll respondents would have agreed that the Sun revolves around the Earth.
Facts are not subject to debate. And, on this question -- is sexual orientation innate, or is it a choice? -- the evidence demonstrates that sexual orientation is an inborn human trait, like handedness.
The confusion over whether or not a gay person can "change" lies in people's differing conceptions of what "change" means. (Since I speak as a gay man, I'll henceforth confine my comments to that segment of the LGBT coalition -- with no disrespect or exclusionary intent.)
Clearly, it is possible for a gay man to pretend. In the face of scorn, intimidation, and all manner of social, family and religious pressure, some gay men find it easier to adopt heterosexual personae, even going so far as to marry women and father children. This is no surprise -- it's been going on for centuries. It's called "being in the closet."
And, who knows? Certainly some gay men may find a measure of happiness in that lifestyle. But a gay man does not become heterosexual by going into the closet any more than Madonna became British when she moved to London.
There are lots and lots of closeted gay men out there who enter socially convenient make-believe marriages with the best of intentions -- and, years later, find themselves trapped with no chance for genuine emotional or physical fulfillment.
Reparative therapy aims to teach closeted gay men to manage the resentment, sexual frustration and self-loathing that is the natural result of living a sexually dishonest life.
In that circumstance, the mounting sense of resentment, frustration and self-loathing can grow to a critical level, at which point the guy finally decides that he's entitled to make up for those years of self-denial. That's when it's time to hit the cruisy spots for a bit of risky roadside action. For a closeted gay man, it's not much of a life, but it's an outlet.
Or else, on the other hand, he might simply commit suicide.
In either case, we have a situation that is unfair to everybody concerned -- not only the hapless gay man, but especially the poor wife and children, who should never have been dragged into it in the first place.
Reparative therapy aims to teach closeted gay men to manage the resentment, sexual frustration and self-loathing that is the natural result of living a sexually dishonest life. This gives them the confidence they need to enter into sham marriages, have kids, and -- with luck -- reduce the frequency of those suicides and roadside encounters.
As a roadmap to happiness, it seems all very convoluted to me. Why put yourself -- along with that poor woman and those poor kids -- in such a plight to begin with?
I'm a gay man, and I can't deny that I've got an iron in this fire. But what if the scientific research had gone the other way? What if studies had shown that reparative therapy were effective? How would I respond to news of some kind of new conversion-therapy technique that, unlike similar programs to date, actually worked?
Wouldn't I still be hollering, "No, it doesn't!" in a desperate effort to justify my existence?
Of course not. I don't need to justify anything -- it doesn't matter to me one bit whether or not it's possible to "change." Even if, hypothetically, it were possible, I wouldn't choose therapy to turn me straight any more than I would elect for cosmetic surgery to turn my eyes blue. It would be unnecessary, risky, painful and expensive -- and what would be the point? I'm happy and reasonably well adjusted the way I am.
When I say that there is no way to change a normal gay man into a normal straight man, I believe I speak with more insight than the heterosexual poll respondents who answered "yes."
They see a gay man married to a woman producing children, and they think, "See? He's changed." What they don't see is the turmoil within that man's psyche, nor do they see the potential tragic outcome of that unusual familial arrangement.
I think if they knew, they never would have asked him to go through with it. Nobody could be that cruel.
Brandon's Big Gay Blog