The first part of this post is here. The final part will be published tomorrow.
I’m not a Freudian, so I don’t believe that every human interaction is secretly about sex. But a straight man, being straight, treats women differently from how he treats men. He instinctually reacts to women in one way, and to men in another. And a gay man reacts to both men and women differently from the way a straight man does.
Sexual attraction is the flower, not the root, of who we are as men and women. In other words, sexual attraction is not an isolated part of experience, but is tied to (and maybe resultant from) the way we interact with men and women in general: how we feel about them, what we believe about them, what we believe that they believe about us, what we expect from them, what we expect them to expect from us. It ain’t simple.
So if there is such a thing as orientation change, it would have to involve something like a total overhaul of the way a human being relates to other human beings. But, leaving aside the question of whether such an overhaul is possible, is it even desirable? In my experience, the answer is “Yes — sometimes — to an extent — depending on the person — probably.”
If there’s nothing wrong with the way a person relates to other people, then there’s nothing to heal, nothing to cure. But what I’ve seen over and over again, in my readers, in the men I’ve met in support groups, in various autobiographical accounts, and most of all in myself, is a deep and abiding relational brokenness. I’m talking about men who are scared of other men; who feel judged and excluded by them; who instinctually consider themselves different from, less than, and separate from other men; who feel that they have no place within the community of men.
That’s a very big deal. I don’t know (and I don’t believe anybody does know) the precise relationship between homosexuality and this kind of disenfranchisement from masculinity. I don’t know whether the disenfranchisement causes the homosexuality, or vice versa, or whether they are both caused by some third thing.
I also don’t know whether homosexuality is always accompanied by this deep sense of disenfranchisement, or only sometimes. I do know that it doesn’t work both ways: which is to say, gay men often feel disenfranchised, but not all disenfranchised men are gay. I know plenty of guys less secure in their masculinity than I am who would nevertheless much rather see Eva Green in a bathing suit than Daniel Craig.1
I believe that, if orientation change is at all possible, it will have everything to do with addressing this disenfranchisement. Does that mean that the re-enfranchised gay man will stop being attracted to men and start being attracted to women instead? I don’t know. I doubt that this will always happen, and if it does happen, I doubt that it will happen thoroughly.2
But regardless of whether it happens, surely this disenfranchisement is a great evil, and if we can do anything to heal it, we should! There have been few lacks that I’ve felt more keenly than the lack of masculine community, and few blessings greater than the experience of that community. The knowledge that so many men still exist without every having experienced that community, and yet still long for it with an ache that is all but physical, is with me daily.
This is, if not the sole reason for this blog, at least the primary one. The brokenness I’ve seen among gay men is a brokenness I saw first in myself, but myself as I was ten years ago. Somehow I’ve found my way out of it, at least partly, and I want to leave a trail of breadcrumbs for anyone on the same path.
To be concluded tomorrow.