XOXO XX XY Newsflash: Gay is okay, despite what your therapist tells you

I’m back for my second year, mostly because having a sex column is a good party trick. Try it - go to a party, introduce yourself as a sex columnist (make up the paper, or just say you’re me) and I guarantee you will have melted the ice so fast you’ll be in Caribbean waters. People in line for the bathroom especially have no shame. Still, while it makes me new friends, I don’t think this is what my parents had in mind when they encouraged me to do what I love.

Last month the American Psychological Association voted that health care professionals should refrain from telling clients that they can “pray the gay away.” Why it took until 2009 for this to take place, I have no idea. You would figure that the respectability of the Kinsey scale (a chart that measures sexual orientation) for the past 60 years would have sped the decision up a little, but no such luck.

Anyway, the American Psychological Association, with 150,000+ psychologists across Canada and the United States, voted 125 to 4 that members should not tell clients that they can become straight through therapy.

For years, reparative therapy, or sometimes conversion therapy or reorientation therapy, was used as a means to try to turn gays and lesbians straight. While there are secular reparative therapy programs, the majority are religiously affiliated, predominantly Christian.

Some of the methods used to convert gays into heterosexuals include: pairing them up with an older same sex buddy (because, according to psychologist/theologian Elizabeth Moberly, homosexual desire is to compensate for a lack of bond between father and son), having male patients in the fetal position on the lap of a male therapist (method of therapist/Evangelical Christian Richard Cohen), or behavioural modification which can range from masturbatory reconditioning to electroconvulsive therapy.

In 1997, the American Psychiatric Association declared that "There is no published scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of reparative therapy as a treatment to change one's sexual orientation.” To put this to rest officially, the APA assigned six members to examine 83 studies on reparative therapy written in the past 40 years.

APA isn’t banning reparative therapy, though, rather just strongly encouraging its members to exercise caution in suggesting reparative therapy. They do advise finding different methods than deprogramming for religious convictions and sexual orientation to co-exist, ranging from celibacy to switching churches to one with a more queer-friendly stance.

"Practitioners can assist clients through therapies that do not attempt to change sexual orientation, but rather involve acceptance, support and identity exploration and development without imposing a specific identity outcome," the report says.

Besides, it may be too early to tell, anyway, to send Tommy and Sue to Camp GayNoMore. According to Ritch Savin-Williams, a clinical psychologist at Cornell University, teenagers don’t categorize their sexuality as clear-cut as adults. They haven’t pinpointed exactly how many teens are actually queer - studies show it is somewhere between 5% and 24%. In other words, they have absolutely no bloody clue. Furthermore, they’re less likely to say they are gay, even with same-sex encounters or attraction.

Part of this may be pressure from peers, or simply uncertainty. Both teenagers and psychologists see sexuality as fluid, and as not defined by sexual experiences. Keep in mind though, that we also live in the time of “I Kissed a Girl” and Girls Gone Wild - that’s going to affect some of the same-sex experience, the exhibitionism. Some people make out in front of others because they don’t really care where they do it, and others do it strictly because other people are there. The findings are pretty shallow, but that could be because Savin-Williams is giving the media just a taste of his book The New Gay Teen. I will keep you informed on that, if I ever get around to reading it.

All right, there you go, you’re all caught up. Welcome back.

Megan Drysdale

Enjoy it? Share this on Facebook


© 2011 The Capilano Courier. phone: 604.984.4949 fax: 604.984.1787 email: editor@capilanocourier.com