Sunday, February 10, 2008

Arrested Development

No. Not the show, Arrested Development. And it was an incredibly awesome TV show, probably my favorite of all time.

I'm talking about arrested development in the realm of reparative therapy. In reparative therapy world(not to be confused with the real world), arrested development is at the heart of every struggler's battle with his same sex attractions.
Arrested development basically means that the person is stuck at the age of 12, or thereabouts. I know and have known hundreds of 12-year-olds. One of the biggest issues they face is trying to decide just what sort of person they are or intend to become. They often pretend to be things they are not as a defense for their own feelings of inadequacy. Bingo. That description pretty much nails most gay men who are hiding in straight marriages. And let's face it, when you're married to a guy who's never been open and honest about his struggles, to the point that he's married you under the pretense of being straight, well, arrested development sounds like as good a diagnosis as any.

Here's where the theory breaks down. According to the basic tenants of reparative therapy, as a person overcomes these issues of arrested development, they will lose their same sex desires and become heterosexual in orientation. Right. Saying such a thing is like saying that all heterosexual men are developed past the age of 12. HA! We all know THAT'S not the case!

I've come to the conclusion that pretty much all of the more bizarre aspects of the reparative therapy Tdub participated in (all the things that made it different from regular therapy: the holding, touching, cradling, etc...) were not only ineffective at reducing same sex desires but harmful in that the boundaries of client trust and ethical practice were often broken or skewed to the point that they were unrecognizable.

What about the ex-gays who are happily married and claim they've overcome homosexuality? My response is, what about it? Even those folks, for the most part, are honest enough to admit that at best, their same sex attractions have decreased to the point that they are not significant enough to keep them from maintaining a healthy opposite sex marriage. That's still a far cry from making a complete exchange of same sex attractions for opposite sex ones. Or, to put it more clearly, of changing from gay to straight. Furthermore, I have absolutely nothing against ex-gays OR their marriages. I know the commitment it takes to keep it together and I actually applaud them for doing so, particularly in cases where they have committed to raising their children together.

I've made the statement before that reparative therapy works as long as the person keeps doing it. I still agree with that for the most part. If there is such a thing as good reparative therapy, I see it as basically a bunch of strategies to assist guys in managing their same sex attractions to a point that they are able to remain celibate or stay married to a woman.

And that, dear friends, is what I think about that. In case anyone was wondering.

And, if you're wondering where all this is coming from, just out of the's just coming out of the blue as I continue to process the experiences of the past several years.

love and grace,

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Ally said...

Grace, I *always* value your thoughts on these things...and just about any other thing you choose to opine about (if you'll forgive the dangling preposition).

grace said...

thanks ally! and, for the record, i'm all for starting a movement where dangling prepositions are accepted and valued just as much as those preposition who dangle not. how left-wing is THAT???

Ally said...

I dunno, Pam...they've run people out of Texas for less than that... =)

grace said...

true......i was just hanging out at your site a bit ago and listened to your lesson about advent...very inspiring....if you have the time...just whenever...could you email me and tell me about your ordination? I'd love to know that part of your story...if it's on your blog and i just missed it...just link me to it....

Anonymous said...

This is such a great post, Pam!

grace said...

Thanks Jarred!

Ally said...

Pam, I haven't written about my ordination, which took place long before I came to terms with myself and even longer before I came out. I recently sent a "coming out" letter to a group of old friends, many of whom were my mentors in ministry in those days, and in response I have been (informally) asked to renounce my credentials because I have, in the eyes of some, violated its terms. I'll be blogging a bit on it soon, so you'll get to read about it then. Or was there something in particular you were curious about? (Look, another dangling preposition!)

tdub said...

Hm. Arrested Development.
Great show. Even better theory.

About that--my own arrested development--I would say the boundary-pushing therapist was dead-on. About that, at least. Emotionally, I had not developed. Past 12, said he. But I don't see that as the core issue of my "same sex attraction." I simply see it, as I think you were hinting, as my state of being pertaining more to my inability to maintain myself. Because, yeah, we know a LOT of straights who are stuck emotionally at 12. A lot. And they're

For me, "growing up" emotionally (hopefully I'm at least 17 now LOL) has been about accepting who I am, embracing the good God created in me, and, for the lack of a better analogy, unashamed of the body “puberty” brought out in me.

Ok. Maybe that's a bad analogy or worse, an oversimplification. I'm just trying to support at least one of the points I think Grace is trying to make: breaking someone out of his/her arrested state of development does not necessarily straight make. But on the whole, a healthier person it just might bring out. I agree that for many in such a position, deciding “to be straight” (living a straight lifestyle) is the choice. Not the other way around (“not being gay”). If that makes any sense.

Grace, thanks for being so authentic and transparently honest.

[Hope it's OK to post here. I have wanted to before...but feel free to delete this!]

grace said...

ok...well...that's a wonderful way to say Happy Valentine's DAy! and I know you don't even like valentine's...but i'll take it as a great big valentine from you that you took the time to comment.

Thanks my friend!

Carol said...

The following is a long post - and I don't really oppose much that you say - I just want a forum to chime in...

The trouble with thinking that reparative therapy "works" is that the gay person has to keep WORKING at it all the time - there is nothing about that for the straight, self-accepting person. Although humans set standards for acceptable sexual, moral, and emotional behavior, it is not an ongoing war with one's own being if you are straight - going along with the socially-accepted gender norms.

In my limited experience (30+ years of being married to a monogamous but gay man) I am told that his gay desires would come and go - but only if he constantly suppressed them. This emotional mask led to further and further depression - to the point that he was near taking his own life when he finally came out to me. Although he and I loved (and love) each other, he is now free to be himself - with no illusions forced upon him to appear straight.

I have talked with other formerly-marred gay men who feel the same way (that the feelings came and went) - but many of their wives had way more to deal with because their husbands did not deny their attractions or their "gayness." This resulted in lies, deceit, and relationships that went outside of the marriage - all things which further damaged emotional support that is expected such as trust, closeness, honest communication, and monogamous sexual intimacy.

Other gay men who are still married, who believe that they love their wives, but who are in denial of their gay attractions, will say that their reparative therapy "worked." This is where I relate back to the attraction-flux of one's feelings, and I strongly do NOT believe that "happily-married ex-gays" are anywhere close to being non-gay. They still have the same sexual orientation, whether or not they have advanced emotionally past their adolescence or coming-of-age hurdles, REGARDLESS of whether or not they are participating in sexual behavior.

This "struggle" that is referred to in fundamentalist Christian circles, or groups that tout success in reparative therapy may be regarded as behavior-controlling, but making one straight it is NOT.

To the purveyors of reparative therapy, I wish I could adequately convey this pain that occurs to the SPOUSES who innocently buy into the lie that sexual orientation can ever be changed or fixed.

I will continue to wave red flags for all those young gay people who wish to marry an opposite-sex partner. Whether it is out of love, the desire for family, to please their extended family's or social norms, or if they somehow expect the gay feelings to be banished to god-knows-where - DON'T! To do so is unkind, unloving, dishonest, damaging, hurtful, disappointing, and WRONG.

MR said...

I agree with you that reparative therapy seems to do more harm than good. I absolutely believe gay sex is wrong, but unless there is an absolute miracle I encourage same-sex attracted men to remain celibate despite the pressure in many churches to marry a woman.

When I commented before I told the story of my failed relationship with a woman. Thankfully, she did not marry me. I appreciate the way you continue warn others about this dangerous situation.

On a lighter note, have you seen JR's humorous photo on It has a title "Reparative Therapy". In it he is firing a rifle at a target!

MR said...

Actually, that photo is on JR's Facebook site, not Flickr.

grace said...

Thanks Carol! Your voice and perspective are important. In fact, if you'd ever like to write a guest post....just let me know. It's a good way to get your feet wet as a blogger...or might be.

MR: Thanks for coming back and for your encouragement. I feel strongly, as you do, that we should do what we can to prevent the sort of tragedies that happened to me and to Carol. Add me on Facebook!