At NRO earlier today I was critical of a recent New York Times editorial on marriage. So here let me recommend an article in yesterday’s paper, “‘Ex-Gay’ Men Fight Back Against View That Homosexuality Can’t Be Changed.”
Mr. Smith is one of thousands of men across the country, often known as “ex-gay,” who believe they have changed their most basic sexual desires through some combination of therapy and prayer—something most scientists say has never been proved possible and is likely an illusion.
Ex-gay men are often closeted, fearing ridicule from gay advocates who accuse them of self-deception and, at the same time, fearing rejection by their church communities as tainted oddities. Here in California, their sense of siege grew more intense in September when Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law banning use of widely discredited sexual “conversion therapies” for minors—an assault on their own validity, some ex-gay men feel.
Signing the measure, Governor Brown repeated the view of the psychiatric establishment and medical groups, saying, “This bill bans nonscientific ‘therapies’ that have driven young people to depression and suicide,” adding that the practices “will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery.”
But many ex-gays have continued to seek help from such therapists and men’s retreats, saying their own experience is proof enough that the treatment can work.
Aaron Bitzer, 35, was so angered by the California ban, which will take effect on Jan. 1, that he went public and became a plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the law as unconstitutional.
To those who call the therapy dangerous, Mr. Bitzer reverses the argument: “If I’d known about these therapies as a teen I could have avoided a lot of depression, self-hatred and suicidal thoughts,” he said at his apartment in Los Angeles. He was tormented as a Christian teenager by his homosexual attractions, but now, after men’s retreats and an online course of reparative therapy, he says he feels glimmers of attraction for women and is thinking about dating.
“I found that I couldn’t just say ‘I’m gay’ and live that way,” said Mr. Bitzer, who plans to seek a doctorate in psychology and become a therapist himself.
Mr. Bitzer’s situation isn’t that unusual, and reminded me of a friend of mine who struggles with same-sex attractions. Back in February 2007 I wrote a piece for First Things, “Struggling Alone,” that described his situation:
So when he pointed to the likely causes and said he was seeking help in addressing them, I was supportive. “I would be untrue to myself if I simply accepted this condition right now,” he wrote. “I would be denying what I’ve come to believe—what I believe I know—to be the causes and potential cures of this condition in my case.” Some people say that change isn’t possible, but he thinks that with God all things are, and he at least wants to try to do his part.
Chris’ situation is sad, but it seems to be moving somewhere. He told me how he had cried daily for the first two years of his same-sex attractions, knowing that he was becoming someone he didn’t want to be. But during the third year he found a good therapist and began making progress. …
Other than his confessor and therapist, I’m the only person who knows. His parents would be devastated—his mother wondering whether she had caused it, his father fearing he had failed his son. His roommates and friends wouldn’t know how to take it. Others on campus would encourage him to embrace his true self: They’d label him a homosexual and call him gay. But he’s not—and neither does he want to be: Sexual attraction, he thinks, doesn’t define a person.
Indeed, he particularly fears coming out about his attractions while struggling against them, which would get him labeled a repressed homosexual, the gay-basher who himself is queer, the gay kid who thinks it’s just some disorder. All he wants is to live chastely and try to make progress in addressing the causes of his same-sex attractions. But at the modern American university, this is anathema. For all their celebrations of diversity and pledges of tolerance, this choice is not to be—celebrated or even tolerated.
Like many schools, Chris’ university has an LGBTQA center (an official office supporting “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer, and allied” students). Had he been seeking advice on how to embrace his same-sex attractions, perform sexually as a gay man, or develop a romantic homosexual relationship, he would have been welcomed. Wanting instead help to live chastely, he found nothing. Worse than nothing, he found rejection. Such centers routinely sponsor public lectures attacking Christian responses to same-sex attractions, calls to chastity, and attempts to seek therapy.
You might think Chris could find help at the university’s religious-life center. But with pink pride triangles on every interior door, that office, too, has embraced the gay-pride movement. The college hosts an annual Pride Sunday Liturgy in lieu of regular chapel worship—for pride, apparently, is the proper liturgical response to homosexuality—and sponsors public lectures with titles such as “Overcoming Christian Fear of Homosexuality.”
Fortunately, the Catholic chaplaincy on campus is vibrant and orthodox. The chaplain gave Chris solid if general spiritual advice—regular prayer, reception of the sacraments, and a life of charity—but he wasn’t sure how to tailor it to a young Christian experiencing same-sex attractions. So he suggested Chris work with a therapist to address the psychological causes of his attractions.
And Chris tried. He went to his school’s health center to see a psychologist, but she was hostile. When he asked for a referral to see a Catholic therapist, she all but called him crazy for refusing to give in to his nature as homosexual. In the end, his university health insurance wouldn’t cover all the cost of an outside therapist, and he obviously couldn’t turn to his parents.
Sexual confusion can be found anywhere, but it is particularly pronounced on college campuses, where to the general human confusion is added approved promiscuity and an institutional rejection of anything traditionally Christian or conservative. Is there any student more alienated or marginalized on campus than one who experiences same-sex attractions but who doesn’t embrace them? Silence is forced upon him, and his entire life experience is discounted: He suffers same-sex attractions, he doesn’t want to, and he seeks to be made whole again. This doesn’t seem so extreme a narrative, and yet there are very few, if any, campus groups devoted to supporting these students.
There’s more. Read the rest here.