In Part 1 of this multi-part series, I set the scene for my covert expedition into the definitive ex-gay conference, “Love Won Out.” Since then, I’ve received numerous inquiries about what really happens in an ex-gay conference. No, there isn’t any electro-shock therapy or being forced to participate in stereotypical straight guy activities. However, there is a smart, calculated series of presentations meant to beat-in the message that it is indeed possible to leave homosexuality.
They laid down the gauntlet with the first speaker, Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, the president of the National Association of Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH). Since every single reputable medical and scientific organization condemns ex-gay therapy, it was important for the conference to try and build credibility with the audience by starting off with the “science” of the ex-gay world.
Dr. Nicolosi presented his “findings” that he says are based on his work with over 1,000 men with unwanted homosexuality. He flat out says that there is no such thing as a homosexual and that man’s body was built for a woman, so homosexual behavior violates natural law. Nicolosi paints a detailed picture of what family and social factors contribute to the desire for man-on-man love.
Are you gay men ready to find out what made you “choose the homosexual lifestyle?” Your mother (whom you have a special relationship with) was “overly emotionally involved with a strong personality” and your father (whom you have an “antagonistic” relationship with) was “quiet, withdrawn, non-expressive and/or hostile” and you, young gay boy, were “temperamentally shy, timid, introverted, artistic [and] imaginative.”
The father-son relationship is particularly important –- Nicolosi addressed the fathers in the room and said, “Fathers, if you don’t hug your son, another man will.” I looked around at all the parents and many were noticeably distraught at the “realization” that they were responsible for gaying up their kids.
After pontificating about “the condition of male homosexuality,” they finally touched upon the gay women. At least Dr. Nicolosi professes to base his theories on the scientific method -– for women they haven’t been able to find that one silver bullet cause of “lesbianism.” Instead, they hide behind a muddled casserole of various studies on the matter and they justify it by joking that “women always tend to be more complicated than the men.” This drew ruckus laughter from the misogyny-loving crowd.
Dr. Melissa Fryrear from Focus on the Family presented the “variations of lesbianism” which include women who just “dabbled in same-sex experiences,” women who emotionally immerse themselves with other women (but would never act out sexually), younger girls who hook up because they think bisexuality is in right now, and finally “classic lesbianism,” which they spent the most time on.
Alright all you “classic lesbians” out there, it's your turn to find your gay root. You clearly had a series of broken family relationships. Your mother was either emotionally distant, weak, manipulative, domineering, your best friend, or self-consumed. Glad they narrowed it down. As for your father, he was unprotecting, inattentive, unadoring and unsupportive. This all made you quite insecure and it inhibited you from effectively relating to men.
I don’t want to oversimplify their message, they also touch upon other lesbian-inducing activities like abuse, molestation and making generalizations against men after isolated negative experiences (e.g., he cheated on me, so I will now swear off men).
With each word they said, I looked into my own past. My mother was the opposite of overbearing and my father was always involved and present in my life, he supported me at every single sporting event (gasp, yes even gay kids can play sports) and we maintain a great relationship to this day. At the time, I felt relief that the description didn’t describe me perfectly, but in retrospect, it doesn’t matter if the presentation mirrored my life completely. I am sure many LGBT people will read this analysis and say “wow, that was my childhood.” But I guarantee that just as many straight people grew up in similar circumstances.
The truth is that no one definitively knows if there is a so-called “gay gene” or if there really are social factors that contribute to same-sex attraction. I, like most other LGBT people, stopped caring about the nature vs. nurture argument a long time ago. It doesn’t matter to me why I was attracted to men from such a young age, what matters is that I am not harmed nor shamed for having said attraction.
The people inside the Megachurch that day did not feel the same way as me. They were hungry and desperate to find out what caused them or their family member to deviate from what they interpreted as God’s will. In front of them stood a Christian man who spoke like a scientist and fed them answers to their questions. Just minutes into the ex-gay conference, the audience was hooked and ready for more. Any well-reasoned arguments about long-standing American Psychological Association (APA) positions detailing the harms of ex-gay therapy would now be met with regurgitated sound bites about how social science organizations are activists in the pocket of the powerful homosexual lobby.
As far as my experience, I had maintained my “at least they are still crazy” attitude throughout the first session. Little did I know that I was about to be hit with one of the most compelling and convincing presentations I have ever experienced … from a real-live ex-gay man.
This is part 2 in a multi-part series detailing Adam’s experience at the Focus on the Family “Love Won Out” conference. Stay tuned for Part 3 coming soon. Read part 1 here.
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