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    I’m pathological, you’re pathological

    Jon Rowe’s recent post on homosexuality in the context of the DSM has been deservedly linked by everyone (via Ex-Gay Watch for me). Mike notes that the implications cut both ways: “Those who would today classify homophobia as a mental disorder might want to reconsider.” He’s tacitly referring to this paragraph of Jon’s:

    The “regrettable tendency” to which I refer is the (mis)use of the concept of “mental illness” to enforce moral or social norms. Back in Socarides’s day, it was the 1950s style social conservative morality which was “medicalized.” Today it’s PC. Previously, homosexuality and other behaviors which violated “traditional morality” were “mental illnesses.” Today “racism” and “homophobia” are mental illnesses (or at least, some folks within the profession seriously advance this notion). As Pete Townshend put it: “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

    On a related but slightly different topic, I always get a charge out of the social conservatives who believe homosexuality is caused by abuse during childhood and/or that gays should go in for “reparative” therapy. These are often the same sorts of people who in general–and, in my view, quite correctly–are highly suspicious of Oprah-style recovered memories of molestation and who in any case believe that adults should get a grip on themselves, stop foisting responsibility for their own character development off on their parents, and carve out a life with the resources they have.

    If you’re gay, though–well, then to some people, you must have been sexually abused as a child (even if you have no such memories and know your parents and other elders would never do any such thing). And you’re supposed to consult a helpful therapist to help you riffle through your inner filing cabinet looking for, you know, some incident when you were three and Dad took away your Tonka truck in a fashion that made him seem to be withdrawing from you emotionally (or worse). It’s all very odd.

    5 Responses to “I’m pathological, you’re pathological”

    1. Connie says:

      There ARE people who are expressing homosexual behaviors because of childhood abuse. They might just as easily re-express the sexually aggressive behaviors they experienced as children, or be acting bi-sexual, or a-sexual as a result. How childhood abuse manifests is unique to the individual, but it can and does happen. I don’t know how many there are in the grand scheme of things, I would suspect the number to be incredibly low (about 2-3%, but I have no data and neither does anyone else) but denying it is (in my opinion) unhealthy.

      If there are any “gay cures” these would be the people who would be affected by it.

      But it is also just as possible for someone to stop behaving gay (and I’m not referring to demonstrating bad taste in clothing or to suddenly deplore Madonna), without changing their core sexual attraction. They might opt for celibacy or enter into a hetero relationship. They aren’t “cured,” they’re just suppressing, which is also a choice to be respected. We can all be suspicious about it, especially the underlying reasons for doing it, but if someone wants to suppress their natural inclinations, I’m going to get out of their way.

    2. Sean Kinsell says:

      Oh, sure, but what you’re talking about is different. What people decide to do with their lives is their business. If religious conviction convinces someone that homosexual behavior is bad, then fine. If actual documented or remembered abuse means that someone’s homosexual behavior is screwed up in nature and he or she can’t work though it and turn out not gay in the end, also fine. Or if someone just decides that straight is the new black–you know, whatever. People are in charge of their own lives.

      What I was addressing here was the way some people–I don’t know whether all of us have encountered them, but a lot of us have–conveniently opine that all homosexuality must have been caused by some kind of abuse or trauma, which (to them) means that the only way for gays to be happy is to go through de-gaying therapy. People who hold such opinions conveniently get to dodge such sticky questions as whether it’s possible for people to be happy in gay relationships even if God says homosexuality is a sin. They’re the ones who hang on the every word of an ex-gay activist who details how drugged-up and exploitative his friends and lovers were when he was part of “the gay lifestyle” but simply disregard the testimony of those of us who have friends who would take a bullet for us and whose relationships have been healthy.

    3. Connie says:

      I think it’s important to recognize that a lot of those folks who are “cured” were never gay to begin with.

      What’s also important is to note the folks who were “cured” only to be “uncured” after their kids were born. The need to breed is overwhelming and a lot of gay men in their late 30s suddenly feel the need to have a family. I don’t know if nature provides some sort of temporary override or if they were simply fooling themselves, but there are a lot of women who find themselves in these situations (with a man they truly loved, who now realizes he’s gay again). It’s tragic squared.

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