Harvest House Publishers
Chapter 1: Answering the Basics
Chapter 2: Answers for Families
Chapter 3: Answers for Friends
Chapter 4: Answers for the Church
Chapter 5: Answers for Men
Chapter 6: Answers for Women
Chapter 7: Answers for Those Desiring Change
Chapter 8: Answering Theology
Chapter 9: Answering Culture
Chapter 10: Answering the Gay Community and Agenda
Chapter 11: Answering Science
Chapter 12: Answering Your Need
THIS BOOK MAY BE YOUR FIRST SERIOUS INQUIRY into homosexuality. Perhaps a friend or loved one has recently admitted a same-sex attraction. Or maybe the nightly news or morning paper has caused your concern. Perhaps you, yourself, have experienced attractions to your own sex and are wondering, Am I a homosexual? And if I am, can I do anything to change my sexual orientation?
For whatever reason you’ve picked up this book, you have questions. And some of them may be the most basic queries imaginable, such as What is homosexuality?
This first chapter deals with some of these most basic questions.
1. What is homosexuality?
Most people assume homosexuality to be little more than a sexual act between two individuals of the same gender. This is far too simplistic a view of this multifaceted topic. Anyone interested in this subject must take four areas into account: physiological psychic response, identity, behavior, and lifestyle options.
God created each of us as a complex creature. We have needs that must be met in order for us to grow and mature. When these needs are not met, we establish immature coping mechanisms that often work directly against God’s original intent for us. Frank Worthen, the founder of Exodus International, explains this phenomenon this way:
Psychic response is a technical term for what many people refer to as a “homosexual orientation.” Though many people claim that they have experienced visual or sexual attraction for the same sex “as long as they can remember,” there is a progression in a person’s life that leads to a homosexual psychic response. A child may start out with a need to compare himself with others to see if he measures up to societal standards. When he feels he doesn’t compare favorably with others, he develops admiration for those traits and physical characteristics he feels he does not possess. Admiration, which is normal, may turn to envy. Envy leads to the desire to possess others and finally, to consume others. This strong desire becomes eroticized somewhere along the way, eventually leading to homosexual psychic response (also known as sexual thought life or fantasy).
When these psychic responses take root, some people carry out these fantasies first through masturbation and later in actual sexual behavior with another male or female. But the physical act itself does not indicate a homosexual orientation. Many young boys who engage in homosexual behavior later end up with no vestiges of homosexuality.
The problem in today’s social climate is that more and more individuals are taking on a gay identity simply because they need to find their place. Many who would rarely have experienced a struggle with homosexuality find themselves comfortable in this identity because of society’s “anything goes” mentality.
Other people embrace a gay identity after years of physiological psychic response. Their behaviors create an identity in which they take comfort or even pride.
Homosexuality includes varying lifestyles. Some gays only engage in anonymous and relatively rare sexual encounters and tend to live in constant fear of being found out. Others “come out” and become active, politically motivated members of the gay community and associate only with those favorable to like causes.
As you can see, homosexuality is multidimensional, and individuals can land anywhere on the spectrum of these four basic components. What does this information mean for you? Don’t just take a friend or loved one’s confession or proclamation of homosexuality as evidence that he or she is engaging in same-sex sexual behavior. Talk to him or her to develop a deeper understanding of what the admission means.
2. Do homosexuals choose to be gay?
Let me answer this one directly: No! And in case you didn’t hear me, let me speak up: NO!
This continues to be one of the myths of homosexuality that uninformed people perpetuate. Christians or conservatives may say to a homosexual, “I have a heart for those in your community, and I love you.” And then as if to drive a splinter under the fingernail of the hand they’ve just reached out to hold, they add: “But you and your friends have to realize that homosexuality was your choice.”
I can tell you from personal experience that virtually no one chooses homosexuality and the resulting pain and rejection that comes with it. No child or adolescent approaches the smorgasbord of sexual orientations and says, “Hmm…I think I’ll take that one.” On the contrary, most homosexuals try to deny the existence of their same-sex attractions, to pray it away, or to repress it until they become so discouraged by their inability to master the desires that they “come out.” Attributing this struggle to the willing choice of any individual not only conveys a lack of understanding but adds to the tremendous shame seared into many homosexuals’ hearts.
So let me say clearly again: No one chooses to feel attracted to someone of the same sex. However, men and women do choose how they will act on those feelings. When the pain of this struggle captivates the heart, some people believe their only option is a homosexual identity and lifestyle. That’s where choice comes into play: actively participating in a homosexual act.
One last important note on this subject: As harmful as the “you chose to be gay” argument is another oft-repeated phrase, all too frequently seen on the signs of conservative protesters at gay events: “God didn’t create Adam and Steve, He created Adam and Eve.” Anyone who thinks this is cute or helpful couldn’t be more wrong. Flippant expressions like this make whoever’s saying them look foolish, and their underlying malice directly contradicts Scripture. Remember Solomon’s advice: “He who winks maliciously causes grief, and a chattering fool comes to ruin. The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life” (Proverbs 10:10-11). Excise this quip from your vocabulary and instead choose to offer life!
3. What is the difference between the terms “gay” and “homosexual”?
These terms are often used interchangeably, but they have some very real differences. Knowing what they are can help you offer advice and counsel to those who seek your input.
There really is no such thing as a homosexual. As strange as that may sound, it’s true. We are all biological heterosexuals. To be sure, some heterosexuals, through a combination of factors, find themselves dealing with a homosexual problem—and when I use the term “homosexual” in my answers, I’m referring to men and women who, because of these various factors, find themselves attracted to members of their own sex. But to firmly identify oneself as a homosexual is to buy into the false idea that two distinct, valid, immutable orientations exist.
Still society will continue to use the term “homosexual,” so here are some basic differences between that word and “gay”: Men and women who experience homoerotic desires, fantasies, and attractions are those most likely to identify themselves as homosexual. However, not all homosexuals think of or classify themselves as “gay”—a term with decidedly sociopolitical overtones, one that is as much about identifying oneself as a member of a community than identifying oneself by sexual orientation. As Dr. Joseph Nicolosi explains, some men “experience conflict between their values and their sexual orientation.” These individuals would never be comfortable claiming a gay identity.
The ultimate rule of thumb? All gays are homosexual but not all homosexuals choose to identify themselves as gay. Another helpful distinction is that those who seek to walk away from homosexuality can be referred to as “non-gay homosexuals.”
4. If I’m having homosexual fantasies, does that mean I’m gay?
Fantasies alone don’t make you homosexual. A homosexual is a person who consciously accepts that label and begins to act out on his or her feelings. Many, many people have engaged in fleeting same-sex experimentation, but that doesn’t make them homosexual, either. On the other hand, some people who have never engaged in homosexual behavior have a tremendous homosexual problem.
Regarding your personal situation, the first relevant question is this: How often do these fantasies occur? A single episode does not mean you’re homosexual. However, if these fantasies persist, the potential for a serious homosexual problem exists, especially if they go unchecked or if you encourage them through pornography or masturbation.
Some Native Americans believe that each of us has within our hearts a white dog (good) and a black dog (evil) fighting for control. As would be the case in real life, the dog that is nurtured has the best chance of thriving. The same is true of the fight for your heart. Whichever dog you are feeding is going to become dominant and take over. You need to do all you can to overcome the undesired “dog.” Find someone knowledgeable about the root causes of homosexuality if you find these fantasies continuing and becoming increasingly frequent. But please don’t allow one (or even a few) episodes of homosexual fantasy to paralyze you from living as God has created you—heterosexually.
5. Is homosexuality preventable?
The prevention of homosexuality in children has become one of the primary emphases of research within the ex-gay movement. That represents a shift from the traditional focus, undertaken by Exodus International and like-minded ministries, which have spent most of their energies spreading the message of redemption. These ministries have often been the only hope people struggling with homosexuality (and their family members) have had when seeking answers and assistance.
In recent years, however, attention has shifted from not only redeeming homosexuals but also preventing homosexuality. At the leading edge of this movement are Dr. Joseph and Linda Nicolosi, authors of A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality, in which they spell out some important steps parents can take to offer an atmosphere in the home that will increase the chances of their children growing up secure in their gender identity. “Gender nonconformity in childhood,” the Nicolisis note, “most researchers agree, is the single most common factor associated with homosexuality.…Unfortunately, many members of the mental health profession—psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers—think it is unnecessary to inform parents of the possibility of a homosexual outcome.”
They continue by warning that “despite parents’ key role in forming the gender identity of their sons and daughters, many of them are astonishingly unaware not only of their own behavior with an emotionally vulnerable son but also of their child’s resulting deficits.”
Unfortunately, parents’ most common responses when faced with their children’s gender nonconformity are not helpful.
The Nicolosis warn that many parents erroneously express sentiments such as “ ‘It’s just a phase; he’ll probably outgrow it.’…Or they claim, ‘It’s no big deal. He looks so cute—he’s just trying to get attention when he dresses up like a little girl.’” This mentality “stems, in part, from the fact that our culture has made it increasingly hard for parents to determine what gender development is normal and what is abnormal, what is worth worrying about and what is not.”
So when do you need to start worrying? “The answer is,” the authors suggest, “a certain amount of cross-gender play is tolerable. However, if your son does not give it up quickly, you will need to take a look not only at his behavior but also at yours.”
Mixed messages regarding gender saturate our culture, and many parents don’t know what to think. They often feel confused and paralyzed by the conflicting values and opinions.
The Nicolosis have documented this phenomenon well. One teacher, they note, assured a mother who was confused by her son’s gender nonconformity not to worry because “it’s perfectly healthy— he’s getting in touch with his feminine side.” Another off-base adviser said, “Don’t intervene. What he’s doing is in no way a problem. You don’t want your child to be a stereotyped macho man, do you?” Yet most mothers intuitively know something is askew.
The Nicolosis note: “Many parents who do finally consult a psychologist have been worried about their [child] for months, and many of them for years, but have done nothing about it.”
So what are parents to do? The Nicolosis suggest that “the first step in intervention is for parents to educate themselves. This often means correcting false information. Gender—our sense of maleness and femaleness—is not merely an arbitrary social construct. It is, rather, a basic and essential way in which we humans participate in society and express ourselves within the real world.”
The next step would be to assess the health of your marriage. “[Most] couples who come to a therapist looking for help with their child are experiencing disharmony in their relationship. The wife will complain, ‘My husband is so hard to reach. He’s just not emotionally connected to me or the kids.’ The husband will respond, ‘The truth is that she’s a major control freak! If she would just back off, I’d get more involved.’”
Now, let’s take a more in-depth look at how parents should handle issues of gender nonconformity in their children.
Since our children first learn what it means to be male or female from familial interactions, moms and dads must carefully consider how their efforts, dysfunctions, emotions, and affirmations can affect their sons—both positively and negatively.
Everyone knows that moms are important, yet moms must be aware of their level of involvement. In fact, the Nicolosis suggest,
without realizing it, mothers can become overinvolved in their son’s lives. In some cases, this behavior may have arisen because of a mother’s need to attend to her son’s childhood illnesses. In fact, a number of studies have shown a higher than average correlation between adult homosexuality and early childhood medical problems. Mothers of homosexual men tend, in our experience, to be expressive, extroverted, emotionally accessible, engaging, and highly involved in the boy’s life. The mother’s problem might be that she is too invested; the boundaries between her and her son are not clear.…Sometimes mothers overinvest in their sons for their own needs, because they have not found emotional intimacy in their marriage.
Parents should also consider what the Nicolosis refer to as
the Classic Triadic Relationship.…Repeatedly, researchers have found the classic triadic (three-way) relationship in the family backgrounds of homosexual men. In this situation, the mother often has a poor or limited relationship with her husband, so she shifts her emotional needs to her son. The father is usually non-expressive and detached and often is critical as well. So in the triadic family pattern we have the detached father, the overinvolved mother, and the temperamentally sensitive, emotionally attuned boy who fills in for the father where the father falls short.
Like mothers, fathers must be aware of the impact they can have on the healthy formation of their son’s gender indentity.
Psychoanalysts have long recognized the importance of the father in the boy’s development and in his separation from his mother. Some analysts have referred to the father as a “breath of fresh air” from overinvolvement with the mother. Dad can be the knight in shining armor with whom the child can play, while being distinctively different from his mother.
The Nicolosis suggest that the best type of father is “salient (which is…being benevolent and strong)” and one “worthy of emulation.”
The Nicolosis go on to address four key things fathers can do to help solidify a relationship with their sons that can promote a healthy gender identity. First, dads need to be keenly aware of not rejecting their sons if the sons have rejected them. “Many fathers of gender-confused sons simply give up and leave the boy to his mother. This is a big mistake.…Your task is to pursue your son, push through his defensive detachment, and with steady and consistent efforts, to become an important person in his life.” Secondly, “Dads must remain committed. Maintaining the parental team is very important, but generally the most challenging problem is keeping the father involved on a consistent basis. In fact, the difficulty of maintaining Dad’s active, daily participation is the most common obstacle to successful therapy.” Next, dads must learn to listen for feelings. The Nicolosis want to make sure their readers understand that “while we have been placing much of the focus of intervention on gender-appropriate behavioral change, we must not forget the true task, which is emotional bonding with the same-sex parent. And in this focus on achieving behavioral change, the child’s feelings can easily be overlooked.” And lastly, they suggest four ways for fathers to develop closer relationships with their sons.
Much is involved in imparting healthy gender identities in boys, but this brief overview can aid you as you assess the atmosphere in your home.
Many of the same family dynamics that impart a healthy gender identity in boys are helpful for girls as well. So the first place to start is with the strength of the parents’ marriage, being mindful that little eyes are watching.
Another influence—especially if the daughter has brothers—is the family’s attitude toward feminine things. One of the roots that can often lead to a wounded female psyche is the light in which women are portrayed. Diane Eller-Boyko, a psychotherapist and ex-lesbian, makes this clear:
Our culture especially honors the masculine—strength, dominance, achievement, striving. That creates in many women a neurotic split from their authentic natures. The woman represses the inner hurt and pain, and starts to identify with the masculine. It is out of the unhealed places of the wounded feminine psyche that she becomes aggressive and loud.
The importance of a healthy relationship with Mom is also vital. Mothers who are too self-absorbed, unwilling or incapable of nurturing, or detached will affect their daughters’ developing gender identity negatively. The Nicolosis repeat the words of one therapist who bluntly summarized the problem relationships she came in contact with while working with women who struggled in this area:
The little girl who turns to homosexuality never has a chance to create herself. She is a creation of her mother, whose self-love she was meant to enhance.…Mothers seemed to use their children as sometimes desperately needed, sometimes desperately repudiated extension of themselves.
But she’s quick to point out the importance of Dad’s role as well.
When these little girls tried to turn to their fathers, they did not fare much better. Preoccupied with their business deal, the men sporadically paid attention to their daughters, overstimulating them, and then appeared to forget that they were around.…These fathers, when they took the time to react at all, responded to their daughters as persons who had to be made over in their own, masculine image.
Parents need to assess their attitudes toward femininity and make sure that they’re relating to their developing daughter in healthy, productive ways.
A safe environment is also essential for young girls as they develop a healthy gender identity. Few things are more damaging to young women than abuse—whether personally experienced or observed. You must protect your daughter from abusive situations at all costs. Seek professional help to work through abusive situations.
This is only a superficial look at prevention. You can find a deeper examination of the role of parental influence in A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality by the Nicolosis. Another excellent resource is An Ounce of Prevention by Don Schmierer.
Excerpted from 101 Frequently Asked Questions About Homosexuality by Mike Haley. Copyright © 2004 by Harvest House Publishers. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.