Tag Archives: psychology

A reader recently asked what I think of reparative therapy — therapy aimed specifically at getting the gay out, so to speak.

I’m not too sure. I’m not a fan of the name, first of all. All therapy is reparative therapy, ‘cuz we’re all broken,1 so calling this kind reparative therapy is a little like saying: Yeah, but you’re a mess! You like dudes!

There’s also such a thing as too much self-improvement. For a long time, I focused so much on fixing my faults and idiosyncracies — I don’t mean the SSA, I mean other stuff — that I was wearing myself out, twisting myself into unnatural positions.2 I didn’t stop short, for example, at facing my fears: I’d do things like going to play basketball just because it scared the poop out of me, or trying to develop a friendship with a man just because he was kind the man who I find intimidating.

Facing your fears is good and necessary. I’ve faced a lot of them, and it has helped me live more freely. But it isn’t what life is about, and it is easy to get hung up on the process. You shouldn’t let fear stop you from playing basketball — unless you just plain don’t like basketball. You shouldn’t let fear stop you from finding a new friend — unless you don’t particularly like the guy. It can be a hard balance to find, and I’m still struggling with it.3

Now that I’ve got the disclaimers out of the way: there are therapists and organizations out there who have a balanced view of the issue. I think People Can Change is one of them.

They, and the healing weekend they run, focus on dealing with what they see as the root causes of SSA: isolation, father-hunger, shame, rejection. They are geared towards dealing with these things. Whether or not you believe that these issues play a part in the development of SSA,4 I don’t think anyone will say that dealing with them is unhealthy.

So, seriously, check them out!5 I don’t like everything about them, but take a look and see what resonates. Once I get around to adding a “recommended resources” section — hey, I have a full-time job, and this ain’t it — they’ll be first on the list.

1 There is a crack, a crack in everything; / That’s how the light gets in. — Leonard Cohen
2 Cut it out. Dirty mind.
3 I recently told my older brother that Sure, I’d come play basketball with him, but/because I’m kind of terrified of it. He said: You’ll have plenty of opportunities in life to deal with being terrified. No need to invent them. Then he asked if I’d like to come to dinner; his wife was making enchiladas. “Unless, of course,” he added, “you’re terrified of enchiladas.” See, this is what older brothers are for: wisdom and mockery, within a sentence of each other.
4 And whether or not the phrase “the development of SSA” makes sense to you at all. Cue, I suppose, Lady Gaga.
5 If you heard this in Strongbad’s voice, then can we be friends?

Round Two with Mr. Shrink — I’ll have to come up with a better pseudonym than that — gets another mixed review. On the one hand, he had some good insights about my family, stuff I’ve actually never thought of before.

On the other hand, he also got a bit snarky when I said I’m from a family of eight. And when I said that no, I didn’t believe in contraception, his response was that the Catholic teaching on contraception “puts lovemaking in a box.”

Ewwwww. I hate it when people use the word “lovemaking.” Who is he, Al Green? And, seriously: puts it in a box? How is birth control not a box? How are condoms not a box?

Maybe I should be seeing someone who pisses me off with a little less frequency. Seriously, the secular therapist I saw when I lived out west was easier to take than this guy. At least with a non-Catholic you know where you stand.

That’s it! I’ll call him Dr. Switzer! After my favorite skit ever. Speaking of boxes. See below.


I just met with my new shrink for the first time. When I told him I was Catholic, he went “Oh boy” — and said that he was, too, but that the Church’s teaching on homosexuality was something that he struggled with. He gave me a hard time when I described my same-sex attraction as “something wrong with me.” During the course of our 50 minutes, he also used the phrase “who you are” in reference to my SSA; and observed that it must cause me conflict to know that I can’t ever marry a man because “the Church says no.”

Responding the last part, I laughed and said, “That’s a funny way of putting it.” I won’t marry a man, but it’s not because “the Church says no.” In a sense, it’s not even because God says no. Even though both of those things are true. It’s because I’ve thought it through, and the idea of marrying a man makes no sense to me. It doesn’t square with anything that I know about the world. I can’t take the credit for this — I see the world the way I see it because my parents, and all of Catholic tradition, have taught me to think for myself.

That being said, he had a point. It’s not healthy for me to think of myself in terms of what’s wrong with me, and he’s right to steer me away from that kind of thinking. He also said that he isn’t planning to try to steer me towards accepting a homosexual relationship as a possibility. I believe him.

But, folks, same-sex attraction is something wrong with me. It’s not a wrongness that goes to the core of me, but it is a defect. If someone had never heard of homosexuality and I told them the things that go through my head when I see a good-looking guy, they’d say: You want to put your what in his where? It’s common sense. Gay sex makes about as much sense as eating chalk, and pica is still recognized as a disorder by the APA1. Last time I checked.

So. We’ll see how next week goes. Dissent aside, he also showed compassion, understanding, and a good amount of intuition. But if this guy tries to — as the saying goes — impose his value system on me, I’ll be taking my business elsewhere.

1 In case you didn’t feel like clicking the link: “Pica is a medical disorder characterized by an appetite for substances largely non-nutritive (e.g., metal, clay, coal, sand, dirt…ash, gum, lip balm, etc.” Makes me think of Isaiah: “Why spend your money for what is not food, your wages on what fails to satisfy?”