Hr. 3 Hatten English 10C
Persuasive Research Essay
Reparative Therapy: An Aim At Sexual Orientation Satisfaction
When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. When life gives you homosexuality, you have to be gay? Many people would argue that homosexuality is an innate characteristic and can’t be changed. However, just because something is natural doesn’t necessarily mean that it can’t be changed. Outside of the mainstream society and abandoned by the gay community, dwell those who have a desire to change what most people would declare unchangeable. And for these individuals to meet their demands, they seek reparative therapy, the conversion from homosexuality to heterosexuality by eliminating homoerotic feelings. Regardless of reparative therapy’s best intentions, it has sparked conflicts surrounding its patients, success and overall purpose Opponents of reparative therapy have rebuked this process as a “cure” for homosexuality. Nonetheless, supporters claim that it offers a chance of satisfaction to self-selected, non-gay homosexual individuals who want to become heterosexual. Reparative therapy doesn’t intend to purge or debase homosexuality, instead it provides guidance for sexually conflicted individuals to aid stabilization of their fluctuating sexual desires and maintain a constant heterosexuality throughout each individual’s life.
In order for anyone to even have a stir in this pitcher, one must accurately know why non-gay homosexuals seek reparative therapy and understand that reparative therapy grants the patient the right to achieve self-satisfaction, in this case, becoming heterosexual. Joseph Nicolosi, Ph. D. and author of Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality: A New Clinical Approach, explicates in his book that many homosexual men who seek reparative therapy aren’t really gay at all. They have an internal conflict, their daunting homosexuality, that is currently conflicting with their daily lives, whether it be “coming out of the closet,” their religion or dealing with pressure from the media and society (Nicolosi par 6-17). Furthermore, society aims to encourage embracement of one’s homosexuality. Hypocritically enough, society has not stopped its harassment on homosexuality, especially with the word “fa****.” At the previous Golden Globe Awards, Grey’s Anatomy star, Isaiah Washington ridiculed one of his cast member by calling him a “fa****,” who just so happened to be homosexual (Ingrassia par 5). This in itself derogatively denounces homosexuality. Now, who in their right mind would want to “come out” as something society seeks to parody and criticize at almost every single chance they get. For this reason, most patients of reparative therapy don’t have the desire to embody homosexuality in all its free essence. Instead, they channel towards the growth away from the homosexual spectra and gear their wants towards heterosexuality within their sexuality continuum, as described by Nicolosi and his treatment of over 400 conflicted individuals (Nicolosi par 1-6). Moreover, Nicolosi himself, also Executive Director of NARTH (National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuaily) and psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, Jeffrey Satinover, address that reparative therapy offers its sessions for self-selected individuals who are completely aware of what may or will happen as a result of reparative therapy. This grants the patient the right to decide if he wants to undergo reparative therapy, at his own costs, to satisfy his sexual orientation and does not obligate the individual to do anything he is not comfortable with (Berlau par 8).In this way, proceeding with reparative therapy is a completely individual decision made by self-selected individuals who feel that their homosexuality can be treated, therefore achieving their ultimate satisfaction as being heterosexual; more importantly, being free and content with who they really want to be and truly are.
Despite the pro-patient philosophy of reparative therapy, psychologists and other associates of reparative therapy have struggled to obtain sufficient evidence and results to conclude reparative therapy as a reliable and effective treatment. This lack of credible data has proven reparative therapy as an inconsistent procedure and a down-the-road waste of time and money. Not only will it be a burden to those who try, Dr. Rodrigo Munoz, president of APA (American Psychiatric Association) states:
There is no scientific evidence that reparative or conversion therapy is effective in changing a person’s sexual orientation. There is, however, evidence that this type of therapy can be destructive. (Kantz par 4)
Peterson Toscano, 42, is one among many patients who has experienced the failure and encumbering aftereffects of reparative therapy. As a gay man trying to become heterosexual, Toscano had undergone 17 years of reparative therapy and spent a whopping amount of $30,000 on the procedure, to later find out that he truly was a homosexual. In addition to his wasted efforts in becoming heterosexual, Toscano grew more and more melancholy as his life took a hard hit because of confusion derived from reparative therapy (Bane par 6-7). Toscano is not the only one who has experienced painful torment. Founder of Exodus International, Michael Bussee, is an active psychiatrist towards opposition of reparative therapy. Busee has filed countless reports about patients gone bad after reparative therapy. A couple of his founding includes a man who, after failed reparative therapy, brutally amputated his own genitals then followed up with a cleansing of the pain by using Drano, and a confused man who completely changed his sexual identity through transgender surgery in an attempt to be accepted by his religion (Wikipedia par 48). Without any care for what could possibly happen, reparative therapy gives patients wings then send them flying solo, deprived of any post-therapy practice, hoping to see them fly straight into heterosexuality, but when the patients hit rock bottom, it turns the other way and waits to gobble up future investments. Furthermore, without any tangible data that reparative therapy is effective, it relies on patient testimonies to prove its success. Unfortunately, relying on evidence from words is a fallible method. A study testing 200 individuals who qualified and agreed to do it, showed that some of the individuals who claimed to be heterosexual after reparative therapy had lied and denied their homosexuality. Most of the participants were thought to be telling the truth (Spitzer par 2). However, personal statements are less credible than factual evidence which can be acquired repetitiously with similar results. With reparative therapy’s lack of hard data to claim success and its deprivation of care for failed patients, it is an ineffective procedure inevitable to danger its fragile patients.
As unsuccessful as reparative therapy is, it is also perceived by the mainstream psychologists and psychoanalysts as a hopeless cause that is trying to “cure” homosexuality. About 30 years ago during the 1970s, homosexuality was voided from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a mental illness. Today, it is seen as a natural part of the human biology (Kantz par 4). Stubbornly, reparative therapy attempts to alter the natural behaviors a person is born with, despite various studies concluding homosexuality as a natural and unchangeable characteristic. One study carried out by psychology professors at the University of Chicago discovered that the homosexual male brain functions differently from that of a heterosexual one. By using technology to scan the brain of each participant, they found that the sex part of the brain, the hypothalamus, functions quite the same as if it belonged to an animal. Because animals use instinct to dictate their way of life, the study shows that sexual arousal in the participants are not by choice, rather it happens innately. The individual is naturally attracted to whatever stimulates his hypothalamus (Kotulak par 9-15). In addition to reparative therapy violating the science of homosexuality, it is also believed to rally movements against the gay community. In 1998, advertisements persuading conflicted homosexuals to engage in reparative therapy were growing abundant and quickly flared into a perception that only heterosexual people were capable of having a normal life. It also attempts to rid antidiscrimination laws that protect homosexuals. If a person’s sexuality can be changed from that of a minority group, such as homosexuals, into that of a majority group, such as heterosexuals, then homosexuals would not be able to claim laws prohibiting discrimination against minorities; they would not form a group qualified for protection laws because homosexuality is a choice (Haldeman p. 262). This clearly is not helpful for patients of reparative therapy, considering the fact that some patients during and after reparative therapy resume life as homosexuals. Reparative therapy has, in addition, given homosexuals the perception that they are dysfunctional and abnormal. It labels gays as mentally ill people and that in order to achieve happiness, they must become heterosexual. In 1998, the American Psychiatric Association Board of Trustees unanimously stated:
The potential risks of ‘reparative therapy’ are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior, since therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient. Many patients who have undergone ‘reparative therapy’ relate that they were inaccurately told that homosexuals are lonely, unhappy individuals who never achieve acceptance or satisfaction. (Herek p 3)
As reparative therapy continues to practice this malpractice, it has loss considerable support not only from the APA, the leading organization in sexual orientation therapy, but also from its failed patients’ families and friends as well. Kirsten Kingdon, the executive director of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), upholds the opinions mentioned by the APA. She and other members of PFLAG have found reparative therapy as a very destructive procedure when executed on patients. Members of PFLAG have primarily seen what has happened to those they know who have undergone reparative therapy and the results are catastrophic. They rally behind the APA and other organizations against reparative therapy in a battle to eliminate the practice of changing one’s sexuality and the dangers that come from it (Kantz par 8-10). For reparative therapy, a prominent message has been clearly received by those who oppose it: homosexuality is not a disorder and cannot be cured.
For the most part, it sounds like unsuccessful sessions and increased demand to prohibit reparative therapy should have silenced this practice. But like day compliments night, unsuccessful attempts have triumphant victories and prohibition has approval. For most patients, approval from Christian supporters has led many of them to victorious change in their sexuality. One of those people is Ted Haggard, a former patriarch of the New Life Church in Colorado Springs. After admitting to having a sexual relationship with a male prostitute, he was forced to resign. To save what was left of his dignity and move on with his life, he went through strenuous reparative therapy. Today, Haggard is still married to his wife, has four loving children and is seen by friends as “completely heterosexual” (Bane par 1). To some, Haggard’s story seems unbelievable, but to the conflicted individuals, it serves as a promise that reparative therapy makes and one that it intends to keep. Unlike other people who have struck reparative therapy as hopeless, Yvette Cantu is setting the record straight. As an analyst for the Washington-based Family Research Council and an ex-gay herself, meaning she has successfully gone through reparative therapy, she is crestfallen at why some would call reparative therapy a lost cause. She quotes, “It is unfortunate that the American Psychiatric Association has given up on homosexuals. I am living proof that homosexuals can change” (Kantz par 7-8). Cantu’s voice is not alone in the quest for reparative therapy. In a letter to defend reparative therapy from accusations made from the APA, NARTH president Charles W. Socarides writes:
To attack those who offer hope for homosexuals is to do harm to the patients and their families, and thus psychiatrists are used in the service of perpetuating a psychological disorder. It is an abuse of psychiatry to abridge the freedom of patients to seek help for a condition that they might find intolerable and painful. If they do not have psychiatrists, psychotherapists and psychoanalysts to turn to, their despair increases. Not to offer them help is to be untruthful, cruel, and intellectually dishonest. (Socarides p 157)
The individual’s rights and beliefs are also taken into perspective. According to Douglas Haldeman, Ph. D. in psychology, if the patient’s religion is of high priority and is contradicting his or her sexuality, it is more important to guide the patient towards wholeness, even if that results in a different sexuality. The individual was raised and constructed on that moral foundation. It dictates how the individual lives his or her life. At times of despair, the individual’s religion may offer hope and comfort. To contend that would mean to dismantle everything that person believes he or she is (p 262). To restrict an individual from pursuing his or her happiness is a violation of his or her inalienable rights. There is really no one to edify the individuals on what is right or wrong. The decision to undergo reparative therapy is based on the individual’s divine laws that lie within each one. They constitute their own actions and beliefs, and that’s something no psychiatrist or outsider can change.
When the facts are given and the truth is told, oh behold one side is more ethical. Sure, one can argue that unsuccessful attempts, dangerous aftereffects and lack of hard evidence are enough to convey what’s right, but more importantly, all of these possible situational scenarios come after what goes before: the patient’s right to pursue his or her happiness; it is what the patient wants and how he or she chooses to do it that determines the outcome. To ease homosexual patients in choosing their own treatment, mental health organizations have integrated policies designed to give these individuals the protection of their rights to seek reparative therapy on the basis that they and their psychologists don’t misconstrue homosexuality as a mental illness. No matter how different each patient views his or her sexual identity, no one has the right to convince which one is better, only to provide guidance to the conflicted patients (Haldeman p 262).