Interview with an ex-gay therapist

Discussion in 'Et Cetera, Et Cetera' started by MisterMark, Dec 22, 2008.

  1. MisterMark

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  2. ManlyBanisters

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    This is interesting and I'm a bit nonplussed by the whole thing too.

    I followed a few links from the above clip and found the full version of the interview - it seems that whoever posted that clip, in MM's post, edited it to make Cohen look more anti-gay than he is. So, in the interest of fairness, here's the clip of the full CNN piece:

    YouTube - Ex-gay therapist Richard Cohen on CNN

    The part of the clip in the OP edited out included this passage, from Cohen:
    People have a right to determine how they live their life. If they choose to live a gay life great - OK. But to say that I have to live as a gay man because I had those desires, that's discrimination.
    Now I agree completely with the first sentence - people do have a right to determine how they live their lives. I also agree with the second sentence - though I think the use of the word 'choose' is not only controversial, but emotive. I would rephrase that with the verb 'want', perhaps.

    I'm not so sure about the 3rd bit. I don't think there are many people in the world (with the possible exception of the Peter Tatchell types) who do say that a man who has sexual desires for other men must 'live as a gay man'. For a start what does 'live as a gay man' even mean? Does he just mean having male sexual partners? Does he mean going to Pride events? What? There is no one 'gay lifestyle' any more than there is one 'straight lifestyle'.

    I understand the implied offence in his concept that 'gay' can be fixed - it implies that 'gay' means broken, and that's offensive, of course it is - and it is wrong, for that matter. He (Cohen) is under the impression (again this is shown in the full clip and not in the edited clip in the OP) that homosexuality is (or certainly can be) born of childhood trauma. He feels that his own sexuality was moulded by an incident (episode?) of sexual abuse when he was a child. That's another difficult issue. I'm of the opinion that sexuality, of all flavours, is a combination of nature and nurture. In fact that is my take on all human behaviour - it is experimentally impossible to take the nurture out of human development and show, definitively, what is innate.

    What I do know, mainly from reading this site - but also from friends, is that there are many, many gay men out there who did not suffer a childhood trauma, who did have a wonderful and loving relationship with their fathers, who did not have over-bearing mothers (another thing mentioned by Cohen). Clearly it is not the case that all homosexuality is born of trauma. One might as well say that all expressions of heterosexuality are not born of trauma - you just have to look at the beaten wife whose mother was also a victim of domestic violence to see the lie in that.

    If a person is unhappy being gay, for whatever reason, is it actually wrong for them to seek to change that? Watching this clip made me think of Lesbian feminists. Quite often these were women who had no innate homosexual feelings but who wanted, for reasons of politically ideology, to remove themselves from men - part of that was forming sexual relationships with other women. Straight women, unhappy with their heterosexual lifestyles, became gay. Were they wrong to do that?

    I'm not for one second advocating the idea that people should seek therapy to change their sexuality. And I am opposed to anyone, or any group, that tells gay men they are 'broken' and must change. I have no idea if this Cohen guy is actively seeking to 'convert' men who do not want to be converted - it doesn't sound like it from that interview, but I might be wrong. But I am left wondering that if a person wants to work on issues of sexuality that may or may not include channelling their desires away from one thing towards another - is that necessarily a bad thing?
     
  3. MisterMark

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    I guess it's fine if someone wants to channel his desires toward something different, but the problem is that ex-gay therapy is based on the premise that homosexuality is wrong, and/or that it's the result of a traumatic childhood or event early in life. There's no credible evidence to support this theory.

    All of the major medical and psychological organizations agree that sexual orientation is determined either before we're born or very early in life, and that it cannot be changed once it's hard-wired into our brains.

    There's increasing evidence that sexual orientation is determined by hormonal levels in a pregnant mother's womb. I believe there's a chance that someday, doctors will be able to monitor and alter those hormonal levels to guarantee 100% heterosexuality (or something close to it); but for now, it's almost like science-fiction to explore that idea - interesting, but nothing more than a theoretical idea.
     
  4. ManlyBanisters

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    Yup. And that's the exact same problem I have with it. Cohen, in this interview at least, did seem to be saying that homosexuality was wrong for him, as an individual - not that it was wrong for everyone.

    Therapy can help a person heal wounds - it shouldn't be up to the therapist to set an agenda of what needs fixing.

    Again - I tend to agree. But what if, like the feminists I mentioned, you are ideologically opposed to your sexuality?

    That's just scary - I'm not in the least comfortable with the idea that parents get to select what traits their children have - be that sexuality, chromosomal, whatever. The thing is, whether it is genetic, environmental or a combination (my leaning) humankind has evolved a significant gay population. It doesn't need correcting. It's as natural as any other population trend we've evolved.
     
  5. MisterMark

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    Well, we're free to try to change ourselves in almost any way we want, so sure, it's up to the individual. For the vast majority of men, however (gay or straight, or somewhere in between), I've never personally known any who believed he could voluntarily change his sexual orientation.


    I agree, and at least we've reached a point where the majority of mental health and medical professionals say that homosexuality is normal. If it were just 50 years ago, however, and there had been a way to select heterosexuality for a newborn, I'm certain that it would have been a very popular thing to do.
     
  6. jason_els

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    I think that the great majority of parents, given the choice, would opt to have their child be born straight. All they need do is point to all the gay people who argue that being gay isn't a choice because no one would choose to suffer all the hardships many gay people suffer. I think many of us in more liberal-leaning areas of the world and country have a difficult time understanding what it is to be gay in many communities; particularly poor ones with inadequate education. I see gay testing just part of a routine fetal genetic panel where parents will also be specifying IQ, hair color, body type, and a host of other cosmetic and physical traits. Right now the wealthy nations lead the world in gay rights but it will also be the wealthy nations which will have genetic designing. That alone could spell something close to doom for gay people all over the world still struggling for any basic rights at all.

    Much of what caused homosexuality to be dropped from the DSM was, frankly, political pressure. I know a few old school psychologists and psychiatrists who privately believe that homosexuality really is a disorder and should never have been dropped.
     
  7. MisterMark

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    Did gay rights groups really have that much power back in the early 1970s when homosexuality was dropped from the DSM? I don't understand how that could have happened, and how it could remain off the list for all of these years without anyone speaking up about what is allegedly the truth.

    If you mean it's a psychological disorder, I don't see how that can be the case when there is growing evidence that there are physiological differences in heterosexual versus homosexual men. Here's one report from earlier this year that I found quite interesting:

    Brains of gay men show similarities to those of heterosexual women, study says - Los Angeles Times

    When you say that "old school psychologists" believe it's a disorder, that doesn't give them very much credibility in my mind. I tend to prefer doctors who believe in modern research. :rolleyes:

    Because of the physiological differences, I can see how homosexuality could be considered a birth defect or disability, but a mental disorder that can be cured by a psychologist? Nah. I don't buy it.
     
    #7 MisterMark, Dec 22, 2008
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2008
  8. kalipygian

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    I did not look at the interview, my connection is too slow and things like that take forever to download.

    I am in the process of reading Wayne Besen's 'Anything but Straight, Unmasking the scandals and lies behind the Ex-Gay Myth'. He is the the ED of Truth Wins Out, Truth Wins Out - Fighting Right Wing Lies and the 'Ex-Gay' Fraud.

    Cohen has a very bizarre personal history. There is a chapter on him.
     
  9. MisterMark

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    Another thought: Left-handedness was once called a disability, evil, unnatural - some even said it was "against God". Sound familiar?
     
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