Now there is a title with more than a double meaning.

Recently readers sent two websites to me to review. As I did, I was struck by a similar reaction which I will explain shortly. The websites are Julie Harren’s Homosexuality 101 and Joe Kort’s new blog Straight Guise.

Let me take the second one first. Briefly:

Straight Guise will explore the many reasons men have sex with other men, only some of which have anything to do with homosexuality or bisexuality.

In a nutshell, he proposes that anytime someone says they have changed from gay to straight, if they are telling the truth, they were never really gay in the first place. He says:

If there are any success stories by someone practicing RT [reparative therapy] or helping someone stop same sex attractions, the individual was not gay from the start. In other words those who state they have helped someone go from gay to straight or be relieved or same sex attraction are simply describing someone who is heterosexual who may have been acting out homosexual behavior having nothing to do with their sexual orientation.

He lists a variety of ways that straight men can through trauma or emotional trouble come to a homosexual orientation. He sounds like a reparative therapist (therapist who believes homosexuality results generally from poor same-sex parenting and peer relationships) in his descriptions of a couple of straight guise scenarios. For instance, he says abused men can reenact their abuse through gay sex and offers a very interesting case in point.

However, the most reparative scenario of all is…

Father Hunger: These are heterosexual men who crave affection and attention from their fathers and seek sex with men as a way of getting that male nurturance and acceptance.

In reading, one must keep in mind that Joe is explaining straights who act gay not gays who are really gay. So in the universe of father hungry men, I guess one might see gays who have father hunger who are really gay, straights with father hunger who are really straight but act gay, and straights with father hunger who are really straight. I wonder if there are real gays who have father hunger who act straight. Maybe they have mother hunger. Are bisexuals just hungry? The glass is half empty? What about lesbians? We’ll get to them in a minute (they always have to wait).

Speaking of father hungry gays, Julie Harren’s video Homosexuality 101 provides a quick course in reparative drive theory and at least for men, the hypothesis that perceptions of a disconnect with dad lead to homosexual behavior. Ironically, on at least the father hungry male, Mr. Kort and Dr. Harren may agree that such a father-deficient developmental history can lead to homosexual behavior. The difference of course is that Joe believes he is explaining a type of gay-acting straight man and Julie believes she is explaining almost all gay men.

She also has some thoughts about lesbians. Above the others, I was pretty stunned at the description of one type of lesbian. She says, “somewhere, maybe very early on, maybe even in infancy there was a break in the relationship with the mother.” As examples, she says that maybe the infant-lesbian-to-be was hospitalized or the mother was hospitalized or suffered depression, but whatever it was, something happened to impact the relationship at a critical period. In infancy? She then says, the mom and daughter may have gone on to have a pretty good relationship. If that is true, then how do you “fix” such a thing? Sounds like an argument for a critical period to me where once set, the picture cannot be altered. I doubt that is what she intended.

What is striking to me about both of these efforts is the how little research can be offered in support. These are theories but they are presented as fact. Joe offers some interesting and I think compelling vignettes and I am quite sure Julie could do so as well. In fact, they probably would look very similar working with a male client who had abuse or father deficits in the background. Both would likely work toward insight and provide support for the client’s values (as would I). However, they both begin with different presuppositions: Joe believes a priori that anyone who changes in some fashion was never gay and Julie assumes that the same-sex attracted person is not really gay but off-track developmentally. One point of this article is to point out how clients in therapy may have similar therapeutic courses and outcomes working with therapists with very different worldviews.

Troubling to me about both of these theories is that they are not readily falsifiable. How can we tell who is correct here? Joe simply says, if you changed you weren’t gay (even if you thought you were) and reparative drive theory asserts that if you’re gay you had a disruption in your parenting (whether you know it or not).

Recently, the American Psychological Association initiated a task force to review approaches to therapy that aim to change sexual orientation or even behavioral expressions of sexual orientation. Some observers are concerned that the APA may ban or severely limit approaches which seek to alter homosexual behavior in clients.

I wonder: Would the APA limit/ban either of these therapists from conducting their work based on their theories/methods and if so, why and if not, why not? Does Joe Kort get a pass because even though he does much the same thing as Julie Harren with some clients, he says he is actually returning a person to his “true sexual orientation?” Wouldn’t Julie say about the same thing?

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Warren Throckmorton, PhD is Associate Professor of Psychology and Fellow for Psychology and Public Policy at Grove City College in PA. His personal blog is at www.wthrockmorton.com.

 

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