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re: If you really try, you can become a heterosexual
I am disappointed that some are already reacting with alarm about this
study. Of course some lesbigays can make satisfactory heterosexual
adaptations. I did, and sexuality had nothing to do with why my treasured
5-year-old heterosexual marriage fell apart almost 30 years ago. It seems
to me obvious that bisexual engines can run on one piston or on seven.
The best response to the study, it seems to me, is to ask other questions
about the reality that it documents.
For example, why should one should want to operate on one or two pistons
when an alternative exists to operate on six or seven pistons.
Given the vast difference between hetero- and lbg- privilege, what is the
role of social pressure to conform to heterosexist expectations? What
effects do these non-erotic realities have on the spontaneity and honesty
which lovers have a right to expect of one another?
To what degree have those in this study who have adapted heterosexually
been able to affirm other lesbigays who chose not to? That would for me
be a significant measure of their comfort in their adaptation. (It's
similar to asking a teetotaler whether she makes the choice freely for
herself, or demands all others around to make the same choice.)
How many of those who have adapted heterosexually are open about their
lesbigay history with their partners and with their communities? That
would for me be a significant measure of how much the adaptation has been
motivated by love as opposed to hetero privilege.
At the World Council of Church meeting in Harare, Zimbabwe in December
1998, a woman from Swaziland asked me how I felt about healed homosexuals.
"Would you want your daughter to marry a 'healed homosexual,'" I asked,
She twinkled back: "You're not a mother so you need to understand that I'm
not likely to give my approval easily to anyone my daughter might choose
to marry! However, I can say one thing with certainty, if a healed
homosexual were to seek to marry her, I hope very much that he would be
honest with her about that before the marriage."
I noted how important it is to demystify sexuality and to create a safe
space for such candor: right now the stigmas against homosexuals make such
candor a rare commodity indeed.
I honor Spitzer for his important efforts early on to take us off the
disease list, and I welcome his new study as an opportunity to address the
larger issues to which it speaks.
Lutibelle/Louie, a Kinsey 5
Louie Crew, English Dept., Rutgers University, Newark, NJ 07102
http://newark.rutgers.edu/~lcrew/lbg_edir.html "The best way to find out
about new research on issues of sexuality"--Chronicle of Higher Education
> Study: Some Gays Can Go Straight
> Gay Rights Activists Blast Report
> By MALCOLM RITTER
> .c The Associated Press
> NEW ORLEANS (May 9) - An explosive new study says some gay people can turn
> straight if they really want to.
> That conclusion clashes with that of major mental health organizations, which
> say that sexual orientation is fixed and that so-called reparative therapy
> may actually be harmful.
> Gay rights activists attacked the study, and an academic critic noted that
> many of the 200 ''ex-gays'' who participated were referred by religious
> groups that condemn homosexuality.
> Dr. Robert L. Spitzer, a psychiatry professor at Columbia University who led
> the study, said he cannot estimate what percentage of highly motivated gay
> people can change their sexual orientation.
> But he said the research ''shows some people can change from gay to straight,
> and we ought to acknowledge that.''
> He is scheduled to present his findings Wednesday in New Orleans at a meeting
> of the American Psychiatric Association, and said he plans to submit his work
> to a psychiatric journal for publication.
> Presentations for the meeting were chosen by a committee of the association.
> Selection does not imply endorsement by the association, said John Blamphin,
> director of public affairs for the association.
> The issue has been hotly debated in the scientific community and among
> religious groups, some of which contend gays can become heterosexuals through
> prayer and counseling.
> Major mental health groups say nobody knows what causes a person's sexual
> orientation. Theories tracing homosexuality to troubled family dynamics or
> faulty psychological development have been discredited, the psychiatric
> association says. The American Psychological Association says most scientists
> think sexual orientation probably comes from a complex interaction including
> biological and environmental factors.
> Spitzer spearheaded the APA's 1973 decision to remove homosexuality from its
> list of mental disorders. At the time, he said homosexuality does not meet
> the criteria for a mental disorder, and he called for more research to
> determine whether some people can change their sexuality.
> Spitzer, who said he does not offer reparative therapy and began his study as
> a skeptic, said the research was paid for out of his department's funds.
> He conducted 45-minute telephone interviews with 200 people, 143 of them men,
> who claimed they had changed their orientation from gay to heterosexual. The
> average age of those interviewed was 43.
> They answered about 60 questions about their sexual feelings and behavior
> before and after their efforts to change. Those efforts had begun about 14
> years before the interviews for the men and 12 years for the women.
> Most said they had used more than one strategy to change their orientation.
> About half said the most helpful step was work with a mental health
> professional, most commonly a psychologist. About a third cited a support
> group, and fewer mentioned such aids as books and mentoring by a heterosexual.
> Spitzer concluded that 66 percent of the men and 44 percent of the women had
> arrived at what he called good heterosexual functioning.
> That term was defined as being in a sustained, loving heterosexual
> relationship within the past year, getting enough satisfaction from the
> emotional relationship with their partner to rate at least seven on a
> 10-point scale, having satisfying heterosexual sex at least monthly and never
> or rarely thinking of somebody of the same sex during heterosexual sex.
> In addition, 89 percent of men and 95 percent of women said they were
> bothered only slightly, or not at all, by unwanted homosexual feelings. Only
> 11 percent of the men and 37 percent of the women reported a complete absence
> of homosexual indicators, including same-sex attraction.
> Psychologist Douglas Haldeman, who is on the clinical faculty of the
> University of Washington and has published evaluations of reparative therapy,
> said the study offers no convincing evidence of change.
> He said there is no credible scientific evidence that suggests sexual
> orientation can be changed, ''and this study doesn't prove that either.''
> He also said the participants appeared unusually skewed toward religious
> conservatives and people treated by therapists ''with a strong anti-gay
> bias.'' Such participants might think that being a homosexual is bad and feel
> pressured to claim they were no longer gay, Haldeman said.
> Some 43 percent of the sample had been referred to Spitzer by ''ex-gay
> ministries'' that offer programs to gay people who seek to change,
> organizations Haldeman said are chiefly sponsored by religious conservatives.
> An additional 23 percent were referred by the National Association for
> Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, which says most of its members
> consider homosexuality a developmental disorder.
> David Elliot, a spokesman for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in
> Washington, also criticized the study because of the main sources of its
> ''The sample is terrible, totally tainted, totally unrepresentative of the
> gay and lesbian community,'' he said.
> Spitzer said he has no proof that participants were honest. But he said
> several findings suggest their statements cannot be dismissed out of hand.
> For example, he said, participants had no trouble offering detailed
> descriptions of their behavior. Spitzer also said the gradual nature of the
> change they reported indicates ''it is not a simple made-up story.''
> AP-NY-05-09-01 0139EDT