FAIR Examination 7: Therapy and same-sex attraction–David Matheson

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David Matheson is a licensed professional counselor at the Center for Gender Wholeness in Salt Lake City, Utah. His practice focuses on helping people with unwanted same-sex attraction.  David received his Masters of Science degree in Counseling and Guidance from Brigham Young University in 1996. Afterwards, he practiced for seven years as a psychological assistant under Dr. Joseph Nicolosi.  During his tenure, he co-created the “Journey into Manhood” experiential weekend with Ben Newman and began serving on the board of directors of People Can Change.

He is an active member of the Church and shares how the gospel of Jesus Christ has influenced his desire to serve men with same-sex attraction.  He talks about some modern approaches and how these approaches fit within the stances of major medical institutions and the relationship with the Church.  He shares stories of success as well as some potential for harm associated with therapy.  He clarifies some common misconceptions around therapy and the need to make this therapy available for those seeking it.  He talks about how family, friends and leaders can help people with same-sex attraction and how that fits in with their duty to bear one another’s burdens.

14 thoughts on “FAIR Examination 7: Therapy and same-sex attraction–David Matheson

  1. Pingback: 13 January 2012 | MormonVoices

  2. shamedestroyer

    Literski,

    I’m sorry Ted Cox has left his faith and now views his purpose in life is to destroy the faith of others. History is full of miserable people like Mr Cox who walk away from good things but can’t leave them alone. I am Mormon and I struggle with SSA. I attended the JIM weekend with a lot of apprehension. I pushed against my own shame and embarrassment to be authentic and to not detach from other participants. I emerged with a new hope and strength that I’ve never felt before. It’s been six weeks and life has had its ups and downs, but I am different and others, including my wife, have noticed. I’m more expressive, more assertive, and more fun to be around. I’m initiating adventures with non-SSA male friends that I would never have done in the past. Just as people who are curious about the Mormon religion should go to the source to learn about it, someone curious about unwanted SSA should go to someone who struggles with it to compassionately learn more. Red flags should go up when you read that someone misrepresented himself “undercover” so that he could become the resource for the world on something he completely doesn’t understand. Do we listen to someone who starts from a place of manipulating dishonesty or to someone who is vulnerably experiencing the challenge itself?

    I applaud Dave Matheson and others like him who have broken the silence for so many people that need exactly what they are providing. “By their fruits ye shall know them.” If JIM and other methods yield strong, authentic, masculine men who are aligned with their values, why give valuable time to people who are weak, inauthentic and far removed from values that bring lasting peace and happiness?

    Jerry

  3. literski

    Jerry,
    It’s certainly true that Ted Cox is both (a) heterosexual and (b) a former member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mr. Cox makes both of these facts quite clear at the beginning of his article. Your claims that Mr. Cox is “miserable” and “now views his purpose in life to destroy the faith of others,” however, are completely groundless. In fact, his only comment with regard to the LDS church is his frank disapproval of the LDS church’s political campaigns against marriage equality. If you truly had a wonderful experience with Mr. Matheson’s therapy, why can’t that stand on its own? Why do you need to denigrate Mr. Cox, attributing “misery” and evil intent to him, in order to shore up your own different opinion?

    As I read Mr. Cox’s article, I don’t get the impression that he attempts to portray himself as an expert on the imaginary diagnosis of “SSA.” After all, one can’t be an “expert” on a made-up malady that only exists in the minds of religionists who attempt to portray gay men and lesbians as mentally ill or otherwise “broken.” All Mr. Cox does is describe what he personally observed and experienced during the so-called “Journey into Manhood” weekend. I notice that you don’t dispute his description in any way.

    All that said, there is definitely a serious ethical question involved when a person poses as someone they’re not, in order to gain access to information or experience that would otherwise be denied. In our society, the answer to that question depends largely on the circumstances at hand. Law enforcement officials, for example, do this routinely with our approval and gratitude. Mr. Cox justifies his choice as an attempt to expose the dangers which the APA and other experts have cited in programs such as Mr. Matheson’s. Unlike you, I’m not willing to take the mere fact that he left the LDS church ten years ago as conclusive evidence that Mr. Cox has lied about his motives.

    I wish you the best, Jerry, as you seek to become a “strong, authentic, masculine man.” After all, by becoming a “strong, authentic, masculine man,” you’ll be just like many of the openly gay men I’m acquainted with.

  4. shamedestroyer

    Literski,

    Thank you for your well-wishes because I intend to continue my journey as a man so that my life is more aligned with who God intends for me to be. Homosexuality is a huge malady and there is plenty of growing evidence that people are diminishing this struggle. Your agenda is clear and I’m sorry I can’t help you see otherwise.

    Jerry

  5. Joshua Johanson

    Literski,

    I think we all see what we want see. If you go to the weekend looking for flaws, there are plenty to see. If you go to the weekend looking for help and support, there is plenty of that too. Mr. Cox cannot possibly understand what a place like Journey into Manhood is for someone with same-sex attraction who is looking to deal with it from a gospel perspective. The weekend was incredibly helpful for me and set me on the road to self confidence and acceptance. I have been to some functions of Alcoholics Anonymous to support friends who deal with that, even though I myself do not have any attraction to alcohol. To the outside perspective, it seems weird, but the proof is in the pudding. I don’t get it, but it helps my friends. Ted Cox would do well to understand that he cannot possibly understand the value of such programs unless he himself is looking for help with these issue.

    Besides that, there is obvious bias in his piece. I will outline them for you:

    1) He started this journey with the purpose of exposing the evils of the ex-gay movement. He started off the journey biased. What a waste of time to go through a whole year only to report that it isn’t as bad as you thought it was. He had to make something out of it.

    2) He equated slandering Journey into Manhood with marriage equality. Journey into Manhood does not pose a threat to marriage equality. Their purpose to help gay people achieve their goals of celibacy or fidelity in a heterosexual marriage, not to attack those who want same-sex marriages. I happen to have a heterosexual marriage, and I find it to be the height of hypocrisy to equate so-called “marriage equality” with slandering organizations that support me in my marriage. If you or Cox were really concerned about equality, you would support the option for gay people to receive the help they need in order to obtain the family situation that they desire. You and Cox are not interested in equality, but the inequality of putting same-sex relationships ABOVE opposite-sex relationships for people with same-sex attractions. I don’t claim to support marriage equality, but I take offense at people who equate marriage equality with attacking me and my marriage.

    3) His bias is evident in the way he cites the APA’s stance. He quotes the APA as saying their is no hard evidence that it works, and there is soft evidence that it doesn’t work. What he fails to mention is while there is no hard evidence that it works, there is also no hard evidence that it doesn’t work, and while there is antecdotal evidence of harm, there is also antecdotal evidence of benefit and success. Let us read it directly from the APA:

    There are no studies of adequate scientific rigor to
    conclude whether or not recent SOCE [sexual orientation change efforts] do or do not work to change a person’s sexual orientation.

    Although the recent studies do not provide valid causal evidence of the efficacy of SOCE or of its harm, some recent studies document that there are people who perceive that they have been harmed through SOCE, just as other recent studies document that there are people who perceive that they have benefited from it.

    So yes, there is no evidence of adequate rigor to show it works, but nothing to show it doesn’t work either. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence of benefit which Cox seems to have missed. Continuing on from the APA

    “These reports of perceptions of harm are countered by accounts of perceptions of relief, happiness, improved relationships with God, and perceived improvement in mental health status, among other reported benefits.”

    “These groups counteracted and buffered minority stress,
    marginalization, and isolation.”

    “some individuals modified their sexual orientation identity (i.e., group membership and affiliation), behavior, and values.”

    So to summarize, Cox report is biased, as evidenced by (1) his stated purpose in going under cover, (2) his misguided understanding that marriage equality is best served by slandering organizations that support opposite-sex marriage for those who want it, and (3) misrepresenting the APA’s stance to give credence to his stance.

    As a final testimony, I can say that my life has been richly blessed by Journey into Manhood. If it weren’t for David Matheson, I wouldn’t have my beautiful wife and son at my side today. The joy I feel with my family does not compare to any joy that I have ever felt before. I am in daily gratitude that I live in a day and age where such programs are available.

    I understand that not everyone had the experience that I have had, but just because someone had a bad experience does not mean that I haven’t been richly blessed.

  6. literski

    Jerry, be assured that I respect your personal choice to conform your behavior to your faith. The same kind of choice is made every day by people from a wide variety of faiths, most often in the form of outright celibacy. That’s not my choice, but it’s a completely valid choice.

    That said, your wording gives me pause. If I read you correctly, you seem to equate being “a man” with being heterosexual. The traits our society perceives as “masculine” or “feminine” have very little to do with sexual orientation, Jerry. I’m sure you’ve met heterosexual men who could be considered “effeminate,” just as I have. Chances are, you’ve also met gay men who strongly reflect what our culture considers “masculine,” even if you didn’t know those men were gay. There are innumberable openly gay men who are atheletes, auto mechanics, carpenters, plumbers, law enforcement officers, and every other traditionally “masculine” role in society. There are innumerable heterosexual men who engage in traditionally “feminine” hobbies or occupations. Contrary to the supposed “treatment” modalities of some organizations, “butching it up” by learning to play basketball isn’t going to make you heterosexual.

    From my own study and experience, being “a man” has nothing to do with sexual orientation. Rather, I believe that being “a man” is about integrity. It’s about having your thoughts, words, and actions together in alignment. It’s a tall order, and every one of us has work to do in that vein. The closer each of us comes to that ideal, the better world this will be.

  7. literski

    Joshua, I appreciate your thoughts. I’d point out, of course, that there is no such thing as true objectivity. It would be fair, for example, to suggest that you started your post with the purpose of exposing the evils of Ted Cox, or that you are biased in the way you interpret the APA stance. The danger isn’t in having a viewpoint. Rather, the danger is in pretending to be “objective” when you have a viewpoint. Mr. Cox is pretty clear where he comes down on the subject; he’s not hiding anything.

    Your first suggestion regarding Mr. Cox’s “obvious bias” (as opposed to hidden agendas) seems to assume that no reasonable person could find fault with “ex-gay” programs (an odd term, since Matheson denies there’s such any thing as a gay person in the first place, so how could they be “ex-gay?”). You strongly suggest that Mr. Cox is lying when you say that he “had to make something out of it,” yet you don’t actually refute any of his observations. One could just as easily say that because of your “obvious bias,” you “had to make something out of” Mr. Cox, in order to discredit him.

    You suggest that Mr. Cox equated “slandered Journey into Manhood,” yet you give no examples. (By the way, since “slander” is by definition an oral utterance, you can’t “slander” anyone in a written publication.) If Mr. Cox wrote falsehoods about JIM, which is what you appear to be claiming, what are those specific falsehoods?

    Where did Mr. Cox ever say that gay men shouldn’t be allowed to engage in opposite-sex marital relationships to conform to their faith, or seek support in that choice? You seem quite desperate to portray yourself as the victim of openly gay men who advocate for marriage equality. You even claim that anyone who supports marriage equality for same-sex couples is directly “attacking” your own opposite-sex marriage. If I speak from my own experience, expressing the view that opposite-sex marriage is an unwise choice for gay men, how is that trying to make you “unequal” before the law? Even Dallin Oaks, the most publicly outspoken opponent of marriage equality among LDS leaders, has strongly cautioned against homosexually-oriented persons marrying a member of the opposite sex, unless “real (i.e. emotional, mental, and sexual) attraction” exists. Is Dallin Oaks oppressing you and “attacking your marriage” now?

    As for the APA’s stance, I suggest you read the report, rather than whatever sentences Mr. Matheson or his associates excerpted for you. While the APA does not take a stance that so-called “sexual orientation change therapy” should be banned, it only encourages it as a tool in managing behavior (as opposed to orientation) for those whose values (religious or otherwise) conflict with same sex relations. Many supposed “therapists” or “counselors” commit outright fraud by claiming to change orientation. Such practitioners charge hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars for “therapy” that has no scientific basis, and when a client’s sexual orientation doesn’t change, these criminals blame the client, claiming “lack of motivation,” “lack of faith,” or some similar excuse. That’s primarily where the APA sees harm in these programs–they create false expectations which almost inevitably fail, launching the client into greater psychological/emotional distress. In some cases, these clients have been so brainwashed to believe they are “broken” and “failures,” that they take their own lives. If those facts are “bias,” then I’m quite comfortable being called “obviously biased.”

    I’m glad that you feel you’ve found joy in your life, Joshua. I don’t know how long you’ve been married, but I certainly wish you the best. Please don’t take it as an “attack on your marriage” though, if I point out that I was once in the same position you are. Sometimes what seems joyful for 2-3 years becomes endurance after 7, and immensely painful after 15.

  8. Joshua Johanson

    >> Joshua, I appreciate your thoughts.

    Thank you. My hope in doing this podcast was so that there would be more understanding on this issue. I hope you take my comments as explanatory instead of inflamatory.

    >> I’d point out, of course, that there is no such thing as true objectivity.

    That is very true. For example, FAIR doesn’t claim to be unbiased. I have been richly blessed by the work of Dr. Matheson, so I am very biased in his favor. I didn’t mean it as a slur that he was biased, I could just as easily make a list as to why I am biased, nor did I mean to say he lied. I wasn’t on his weekend, and while some parts of the story seem very different than what I experienced, I cannot tell that they didn’t happen because I wasn’t there. Just because he is biased doesn’t mean he is wrong, anymore than it means I am wrong. However, his bias should be considered when reading his piece, as it should be considered when listening to FAIR.

    >> “ex-gay” programs (an odd term)

    Agreed. I used it because it was common, not because I think it is the best term.

    >>You suggest that Mr. Cox equated “slandered Journey into Manhood,” yet you give no examples. (By the way, since “slander” is by definition an oral utterance, you can’t “slander” anyone in a written publication.)

    Perhaps slandered was an imprecise term. I probably meant “speak ill of”. His piece was not very supportive. My point was that if he truly wanted to support marriage equality, he should be supportive of opposite-sex marriage for gay people as well and the organizations that support us. He seemed to have in his head he needed to “speak ill of” these organizations in order to support marriage equality, which I found hypocritical.

    >> Where did Mr. Cox ever say that gay men shouldn’t be allowed to engage in opposite-sex marital relationships to conform to their faith, or seek support in that choice?

    While gay men should be allowed to do that, I strongly suggest they do not. Marrying someone simply to conform to one’s faith seems problematic. It is naive to believe that is the reason why most gay men seek opposite-sex marriage.

    While Mr. Cox didn’t say we shouldn’t be allowed to marry who we choose, it seemed the whole point of his piece was to be negative against our lifestyle and the organization that supports it. How is that marriage equality?

    >> You even claim that anyone who supports marriage equality for same-sex couples is directly “attacking” your own opposite-sex marriage.

    Quite the opposite. I said “If you or Cox were really concerned about equality, you would support the option for gay people to receive the help they need in order to obtain the family situation that they desire.” I know many people in same-sex relationships who do manage to support both same-sex marriage and opposite-sex marriage for gay people. Cox’s piece was not supportive of both options.

    >> If I speak from my own experience, expressing the view that opposite-sex marriage is an unwise choice for gay men, how is that trying to make you “unequal” before the law?

    I don’t think I mentioned anything about the law.

    >> Even Dallin Oaks, the most publicly outspoken opponent of marriage equality among LDS leaders, has strongly cautioned against homosexually-oriented persons marrying a member of the opposite sex, unless “real (i.e. emotional, mental, and sexual) attraction” exists. Is Dallin Oaks oppressing you and “attacking your marriage” now?

    No, because although I orginally had no sexual attraction to females, through the help of people like Dr. Matheson, I did develop a real emotional, mental and sexual attraction to my wife. I appreciated Elder Oaks remarks, and used them as a guideline in finding my wife. I had decided that I wouldn’t marry anyone I wasn’t sexually attracted to, and I am glad I waited until I found someone who fulfilled my yearning. I think Oak’s advice is incredibly sound and I recommend it to everyone who asks.

    I found a lot of people have problems with Oak’s statement because they think it is impossible to develop a real attraction for the opposite sex if they have never done so previously.

    >>As for the APA’s stance, I suggest you read the report, rather than whatever sentences Mr. Matheson or his associates excerpted for you.

    Neither Dr. Matheson nor his associates provided any quotes. Rather, I provided them for him. I found them by reading the report myself.

    >>While the APA does not take a stance that so-called “sexual orientation change therapy” should be banned, it only encourages it as a tool in managing behavior (as opposed to orientation) for those whose values (religious or otherwise) conflict with same sex relations.

    Agreed. My point was that Cox’s piece left the reader with the impression that the APA’s stance on SOCE was entirely negative, when in fact they do believe that SOCE worked to manage behavior, as you said. I disagree with the APA on many points, but it bugs me when people represent the APA’s position as more extreme than it actually is. From the Church’s perspective, which is the whole reason why FAIR is involved in this podcast, it is managing behavior that really matters.

    >> Many supposed “therapists” or “counselors” commit outright fraud by claiming to change orientation.

    Part of the problem is that I think different people have different definitions of change in orientation. According to the APA “Sexual orientation also refers to a person’s sense of identity based on those attractions, related behaviors, and membership in a community of others who share those attractions.” (http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/sexual-orientation.aspx) Many people in the “ex-gay” community (for lack of a better word) use the APA’s definition, and as the report said, behaviors, identities and membership can be changed. To see what Journey into Manhood means by “change”, see http://www.peoplecanchange.com/change/whatwemean.php

    >> Such practitioners charge hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars for “therapy”.

    Have you ever looked at the price list of therapy these days? Therapy bills stack up over time. If they didn’t charge thousands of dollars it would be considered charity, not therapy.

    >> that has no scientific basis.

    You should check out NARTH. It talks a lot about the science behind this. Among other things, it quotes peer reviewed articles. This was the psychological standard at one point, going back to Freud. I am glad there has been much progress since those days, and you may not agree with some of their conclusions, but to say it has no basis in science is inaccurate. Much of what I experienced at Journey into Manhood was very similar to techniques applied to other fields of psychology. I was listening to report on NPR about working with at-risk inner city teenagers, and their process was almost exactly what I had experienced at JiM. They even talked about helping teenage boys become real men.

    >> When a client’s sexual orientation doesn’t change, these criminals blame the client, claiming “lack of motivation,” “lack of faith,” or some similar excuse.

    There is potential for harm. I think it is helpful to understand what is helpful and what is not. I think Dr. Matheson did a good job in talking about some of these things that you bring up. I sometimes worry that arguments get blanketed to all therapy is good or all therapy is bad, when reality there is definitely a lot of both out there. Evergreen and Exodus do warn against these type of psychologists. Dr. Matheson isn’t one of them. While that type of stuff is out there, I think it is very rare in the professional realm.

    >> That’s primarily where the APA sees harm in these programs-they create false expectations which almost inevitably fail, launching the client into greater psychological/emotional distress. In some cases, these clients have been so brainwashed to believe they are “broken” and “failures,” that they take their own lives.

    The APA said there is a potential for harm, and I agree with that. Potential for harm doesn’t mean harm exists. There is a potential for getting AIDS with gay sex, as our first interviewee found out, but that doesn’t mean everyone who has gay sex has AIDS.

    I think overexagerating the APA’s stance is problematic in that it drives these therapies underground, where there is less professional oversight, and makes it more difficult for people like me to receive quality care. I think a lot of these problems would be solved if there were a more mainstream approach with professional oversight. I’m glad Jouney into Manhood is reaching out to us, and I wish the APA would as well.

    >> I’m glad that you feel you’ve found joy in your life, Joshua. I don’t know how long you’ve been married, but I certainly wish you the best. Please don’t take it as an “attack on your marriage” though, if I point out that I was once in the same position you are.

    I don’t think I have revealed enough about myself for you to know you were in the same position that I am in. I am a lot more than a gay man in a straight marriage.

    >> Sometimes what seems joyful for 2-3 years becomes endurance after 7, and immensely painful after 15.

    As can be true with other types of marriage. Heterosexual divorce rates is incredibly high as well. And to be completely fair, same-sex relationships typically suffer an even shorter shelf life. I think it is unrealistic to expect these type of marriages to be free from the same problems that plague other marriages.

    I also know many gay people who are happily married to an opposite-sex spouse after more than 15 years of marriage.

  9. literski

    Perhaps slandered was an imprecise term. I probably meant “speak ill of”. His piece was not very supportive. My point was that if he truly wanted to support marriage equality, he should be supportive of opposite-sex marriage for gay people as well and the organizations that support us. He seemed to have in his head he needed to “speak ill of” these organizations in order to support marriage equality, which I found hypocritical.

    Okay, I think I understand better where you were coming from on this point. Perhaps I can fill in a gap here. Many religiously-motivated opponents of marriage equality attempt to support their position by claiming that sexual orientation is a choice, and that marriage equality would encourage a sinful choice. These folks, such as would-be “First Husband” Marcus Bachman, often promote so-called “ex-gay therapies” intended to change that “choice.” In this way, “ex-gay” programs become a tool in the fight against marriage equality. The more important threat presented by these programs, of course, is the emotional and psychological damage that some of them can and do produce.

    I found a lot of people have problems with Oak’s statement because they think it is impossible to develop a real attraction for the opposite sex if they have never done so previously.

    I think Oaks’ statement is best considered in light of the Kinsey Scale. While the Kinsey Scale is admittedly attached to some problematic research, the basic idea is sound. There are people who are truly “100% heterosexual” with zero attraction to the same sex. There are people who are truly “100% homosexual” with zero attraction to the opposite sex. The vast majority of people fall somewhere in between, and can make successful behavioral choices depending on how far to either end of that spectrum their attractions fall. If a person is (for purposes of argument) “60% homosexual,” they may be able to successfully harness that 40% heterosexual attraction as the focus of their behavior and commitments. They certainly have a better chance of success in that endeavor than a person who is “90% homosexual.”

    Part of the problem is that I think different people have different definitions of change in orientation…Many people in the “ex-gay” community (for lack of a better word) use the APA’s definition, and as the report said, behaviors, identities and membership can be changed.

    Absolutely, and that is why several practitioners have begun to speak far more carefully in this regard, as Mr. Matheson did in this interview.

    You should check out NARTH. It talks a lot about the science behind this. Among other things, it quotes peer reviewed articles.

    I did “check out NARTH,” back when I was desperately trying to maintain a “straight married Mormon” identity. Much has been written about the credentials of NARTH experts and the “peer review” their writings are subject to. Their answer (see, for example, writings of Dr. Byrd) is to claim that the entire APA is disreputable, deceived, and politically motivated.

    Much of what I experienced at Journey into Manhood was very similar to techniques applied to other fields of psychology.

    As both a participant and staff member in transformational work for men, I agree that several aspects of what Ted Cox describes are common to transformational retreat practices. I would suggest, however, that these practices can be misused. To the extent that JIM seeks to help men overcome personal barriers and become more self-actualized, I applaud such efforts. To the extent that JIM seems to essentially define self-actualization as heterosexuality (whether identity or behavioral), I personally worry about the well-being of participants.

    I don’t think I have revealed enough about myself for you to know you were in the same position that I am in. I am a lot more than a gay man in a straight marriage.

    Joshua, if I offended you it truly wasn’t my intention, and I apologize. I only intended to point to our common experience as homosexually-oriented men who were/are trying to maintain LDS faith standards and an opposite-sex marriage. I’m sure we have many differences between us.

    Heterosexual divorce rates is incredibly high as well. And to be completely fair, same-sex relationships typically suffer an even shorter shelf life. I think it is unrealistic to expect these type of marriages to be free from the same problems that plague other marriages.

    I don’t think any rational person expects same-sex marriages to be inherently more enduring or less challenging than opposite-sex marriages, Joshua. I would point out, however, that opposite-sex marriages in our society often enjoy a level of community support that contributes to their stability. Particularly in states/countries where same-sex marriage is specifically banned, opposite-sex relationships receive far less community support, both socially and economically. This difference in level of support is a significant factor in terms of relationship longetivity. Even the social commitment inherent in marriage is a contributer, in itself, to relationship longetivity. The formalization of the relationship gives people greater pause when they are tempted to split over life’s challenges.

    I think it’s fair to say that all things being equal, a gay person has a much better chance for an enduring marriage with a member of the same sex, than he/she would in an opposite-sex marriage. Likewise, a straight person has a much better chance for an enduring marriage with a member of the opposite sex, than he/she would in a same-sex marriage. I’m not saying it’s impossible for a gay person to remain happily married to an opposite-sex partner for life, of course. It’s just a substantial hurdle which shouldn’t be blithely ignored with “oh, faith will carry us through!”

  10. Joshua Johanson

    >> Many religiously-motivated opponents of marriage equality attempt to support their position by claiming that sexual orientation is a choice … In this way, “ex-gay” programs become a tool in the fight against marriage equality

    So I feel like collatorative damage here. We are nothing more than pawns in a big chess game. We are simultaneously used and abused by both gay rights activists and conservatives, with neither group really caring about OUR interests. Do we benefit when conservative fabricate our successes to attack you? We garner as much homophobia from the conservatives as you guys do. Many people in the ex-gay movement support legalization of same-sex marriage. I think you are attacking the wrong group. We are struggling to make sense of this world. Take it out on them, not us.

    >> and that marriage equality would encourage a sinful choice.

    I think you should have the freedom to create same-sex relationships, but who you have sex with is most certainly a choice. I think one mistake same-sex marriage supporters make is trying to pass off gay sex as something they can’t choose. Conservatives don’t buy that. That is why they keep saying being gay is a choice, because liberals keep saying gay sex is not a choice. Saying gay sex is not a choice disregards gay people who choose not to have gay sex. They estimate there are 4-5 members with SSA in every ward. Many Mormons know gay people who choose not to have gay sex, and don’t buy the argument the born to have gay sex argument.

    >> The more important threat presented by these programs, of course, is the emotional and psychological damage that some of them can and do produce.

    Some of them, which is why I am glad Dr. Matheson talked about some of the potential for harm. Just because some cause harm, doesn’t mean the whole movement is dangerous. How is your mentatlity any different from conservatives who want to stop you from having gay sex? They believe unprotected gay sex is harmful, (and have much harder scientific evidence to back it up) and therefore, out of concern for you, they rally against all forms of gay sex. You are doing the same thing. There are some forms that are harmful, so you are rallying against all forms. There comes a point where you have to let us make a decision, even if you think it is harmful for us.

    One of the problems I see is that this issue becomes so politicalized, that opinions on what is good and what is not is more about the side of the political spectrum you are on than any concern for the people involved. Ideally, I would like people to be able to set political differences aside and just look at what would be good for the people in question, not whether it furthers or hinders their political position on whether gay sex is a choice.

    I think same-sex marriage supporters feel threatened by the fact that some gay people are chosing not to have gay sex, and feel obliged to speak ill of us, so that we are marginalized and forgotten. They like to isolate us from all our support and therapy, which makes it easier to paint us as lonely and desparate, and then garner sympathy when we commit suicide from lack of choices. Isn’t that what Cox did, in the name of marriage equality? He spent a long time talking about how isolated, needy and sexually repressed the people who went to JIM were, but isn’t that exactly why they went to JIM in the first place? Shouldn’t they get help if they are in such a desperate state? But gay rights activists don’t hesitate to use our numbers to beef up their own but then forget about us when talking about marriage equality. They say “You should vote no on Prop 8 because 2-3% of Californias are gay, but let’s forget many of them are celibate or heterosexually married.” The number they should be using is the number of Californias who are in committed, monogamous same-sex relationships, not everyone with same-sex attractions.

    We are the victims of both sides of the culture way. I like the way the APA task force put it when they “described these religiously-oriented ex-gay groups as a refuge for those who were excluded both from conservative churches and from their families, because of their same-sex sexual attractions, and from gay organizations and social networks, because of their conservative religious beliefs”

    >> There are people who are truly “100% homosexual” with zero attraction to the opposite sex.

    I had no attraction to the opposite sex until I went to Journey into Manhood and went on to meet my wife. People told me I could never be attracted to a woman and here I am, head over heals for my wife. I was lied to, fed message after message of gloom and despair, and I am upset about it. I spent years thinking that I was too horrible of a person to ever deserve a wife and kids, but here I am, in constant gratitude over my beautiful family. I want all gay people to have a fair shot at receiving this joy, even if they currently have zero attraction to the opposite sex, like I had.

    >> Absolutely, and that is why several practitioners have begun to speak far more carefully in this regard, as Mr. Matheson did in this interview.

    I think we are both thankful for this. We are both harmed when people are not careful in the words they say.

    >> To the extent that JIM seeks to help men overcome personal barriers and become more self-actualized, I applaud such efforts.

    Which for many of the men, is reason enough to go to JIM, and why JIM needs to exist.

    >> To the extent that JIM seems to essentially define self-actualization as heterosexuality (whether identity or behavioral), I personally worry about the well-being of participants.

    I have felt very self-actualized through heterosexual behavior. I set adherence to the law of chastity as my definition of self-actualization before I went to JIM. In fact, the only reason I went to JIM is because they would support me in that definition. I knew I needed help, but was too scared to go to a more mainstream counselor for fear that they would tell me I needed a boyfriend. I think everyone deserves to be able to go to a counselor who will help them with their goals.

    You can worry about me, and I can worry about you, but in the end there has to come a basic allowance for individual choices and freedoms. I disagree with gay sex, which is why I don’t have it, but I don’t spend my time going and attacking that choice and the organizations that support them. It is all about learning to get along in a pluralistic society, which is a lesson I think many gay right activists have yet to learn.

    >> I would point out, however, that opposite-sex marriages in our society often enjoy a level of community support that contributes to their stability.

    I think there should be more support for same-sex relationships. I am thankful that the Church supported employment and housing rights, for example. Again, I don’t see why the fact that same-sex relationships need more support justifies giving our marriages less support. Two wrongs don’t make a right. There really isn’t anywhere in the country that gives community support for gay people to live openly and honestly in a monogamous opposite-sex relationships.

    >> The formalization of the relationship gives people greater pause when they are tempted to split over life’s challenges.

    Which is why I support such formalization of same-sex relationships.

    >> I think it’s fair to say that all things being equal, a gay person has a much better chance for an enduring marriage with a member of the same sex, than he/she would in an opposite-sex marriage.

    I disagree. I think that is an assumption that gay right activists wish others would take for granted, and people aren’t falling for it. From the statistics I have seen, there are about 700,000 same-sex couples (both married and not married) in the US and 4 million opposite-sex couples where one person is attracted to the same sex. Even in today’s society, more people with SSA choose to form committed relationships (whether married or not) with the opposite sex. I seem to remember that one place estimated over half of same-sex couples openly admitted to having sex outside their relationship, whereas less than a third of gay people in opposite-sex relationships made such an admission. I don’t remember where I heard that, but those are the figures that stick in my head. I would definitely argue that, despite not having much community support, our relationships are longer and more faithful than same-sex relatinoships. I am only talking about gay people, since I don’t believe you can just choose to be straight so their relationships aren’t really even an option.

    I think loving everyone and respecting everyone’s decisions would help both gay people in same-sex and opposite-sex relationships attain the type of relationships that they seek.

    >> It’s just a substantial hurdle which shouldn’t be blithely ignored with “oh, faith will carry us through!”

    I totally agree. If any of the FAIR interviews left that impression, let us know!

  11. literski

    So I feel like collatorative damage here. We are nothing more than pawns in a big chess game. We are simultaneously used and abused by both gay rights activists and conservatives, with neither group really caring about OUR interests.

    Joshua, I understand that you feel beseiged. I can’t speak to why conservatives might take issue with so-called “ex-gay” programs. Speaking from the left, however, I think you suffer from the bad reputation of your past and present peers. Consider the history of such programs, as well as their present status. Mr. Matheson is very careful (at least in this interview) to explain that his work is directed only toward assisting people like you, who are attracted to the same sex, but wish to behave in accordance with personal values which prohibit same-sex relations. Be aware that this approach is really quite recent.

    The simple reality, Joshua, is that enormous abuses have taken place, and continue to take place, within the “ex-gay” community. Some religious practitioners have engaged in physically and emotionally violent “exorcisms,” claiming that “casting out demons” will make their gay congregants heterosexual. Many gay and lesbian teens have been, and continue to be, held against their will in long-term residential programs. Many gay men (including my first LDS missionary companion) have been subjected to electroshock and/or chemical “behavior modification” regimens. Even within LDS Family Services, we continue to hear of counsellors who insist they can change a client’s sexual orientation (not just behavior).

    The more cautious approach taken by Mr. Matheson is due, in part, to gay activists, who have protested the above abuses and challenged the extravagant claims made by many of the above practitioners. The more vocal people like you are in clarifying your actual goals (i.e. behavior management, as opposed to actual sexual orientation change), the more likely you are to escape being painted with the broad brush of your past and present unsavory “cousins” in the “ex-gay” community.

    People told me I could never be attracted to a woman and here I am, head over heals for my wife. I was lied to, fed message after message of gloom and despair, and I am upset about it.

    Clearly, in your case, these people were wrong about your individual potential for attraction to the opposite sex. There is a wide spectrum of sexual orientation, and we err when we start telling someone else who they are capable of being attracted to. It would be ridiculous for me to tell you that you are incapable of being attracted to a member of the opposite sex, or sustaining a lifelong marriage with such a person. It would be equally ridiculous for you to tell me that I am capable of doing the same thing (trust me, I tried that route for 18 years!).

    I have felt very self-actualized through heterosexual behavior.

    I would suggest that self-actualization is broader than simply who you have sexual relations with. In a Mormon context, self-actualization is really exaltation, and I’m pretty sure you’re not there yet. :-)

    I knew I needed help, but was too scared to go to a more mainstream counselor for fear that they would tell me I needed a boyfriend. I think everyone deserves to be able to go to a counselor who will help them with their goals.

    I think it’s very unfortunate that you felt that way, Joshua. “Mainstream” counselors assist the client in identifying and reaching their own goals, even if that means referring them to another counselor who can better assist them. While it’s fair for a counselor to help you explore alternative possibilities, you shouldn’t work with a counselor who tries to push you to violate your own values. I certainly wouldn’t continue seeing a counselor who tried to push me into heterosexual relations, and you shouldn’t see a counselor who tries to push you into homosexual relations.

    You can worry about me, and I can worry about you, but in the end there has to come a basic allowance for individual choices and freedoms. I disagree with gay sex, which is why I don’t have it, but I don’t spend my time going and attacking that choice and the organizations that support them. It is all about learning to get along in a pluralistic society, which is a lesson I think many gay right activists have yet to learn.

    Joshua, I’d suggest that many people need to learn that lesson. Just as you think “many gay activists” are telling you that you can’t be married to a woman, a great many very vocal conservatives (including so-called “ex-gay therapists”) are certainly telling me that I can’t be married to a man and that I “must change” my sexual orientation.

    Again, I don’t see why the fact that same-sex relationships need more support justifies giving our marriages less support.

    If you believe I suggested such a thing, you’re mistaken.

    I disagree. I think that is an assumption that gay right activists wish others would take for granted, and people aren’t falling for it.

    Joshua, “better chance” does not mean “only chance.” Notice that I said “all other things being equal.” Motivation is a factor. Religious values are a factor. There are many factors which play into individual situations. Would you agree that all other things being equal, a man and a woman who are sexually/romantically attracted to one another have a better chance at a successful marriage than a man and a woman who have no such attraction for one another? If so, then it’s just as valid to say that all other things being equal, a gay man and a gay man have a better chance at a successful marriage than a gay man and a straight woman. This speaks to generalities, and is not a prediction about your particular marriage.

    From the statistics I have seen, there are about 700,000 same-sex couples (both married and not married) in the US and 4 million opposite-sex couples where one person is attracted to the same sex.

    I’m curious where you got that “4 million” number, Joshua. The methodological challenges in obtaining a count of “opposite-sex couples where on person is attracted to the same sex” would be quite daunting, to say the least. It would also suffer from definitional problems, since “attracted to the same sex” can vary from outright homosexuality to varying degrees of bisexuality.

    I seem to remember that one place estimated over half of same-sex couples openly admitted to having sex outside their relationship, whereas less than a third of gay people in opposite-sex relationships made such an admission.

    That’s an interesting measure of what people may or may not admit to, Joshua. Since many “gay people in opposite-sex relationships” are engaged in those relationships due to religious objections to homosexuality, perhaps they’re motivated to be less than forthcoming about their “outside” sexual activity. Of course, if we were measuring the value of relationships by the incidence of genuine monogamy, even opposite-sex marriage between heterosexuals wouldn’t fare very well.

    I would definitely argue that, despite not having much community support, our relationships are longer and more faithful than same-sex relatinoships.

    I would definitely argue that you have no legitimate data to back up such an assertion. Religionists love to quote alleged statistics on the non-monogamy and supposed “average length” of same-sex relationships, but they invariably rely on a 2003 study which was based in Amsterdam. There are some important methodology issues in that study, which the anti-gay and “ex-gay” folks don’t want you to hear:

    (1) At first, the study was limited to gay men aged 18-65 who had at least two sexual partners in the previous six months, thereby eliminating monogamously partnered gay men from the data pool.

    (2) Several years into the study, all men over the age of 30 were removed from the data pool, which artificially limited the length of time the “counted” relationships could have lasted. As one commentator noted, you don’t find many 29 year olds in 15 to 30 year relationships!

    (3) The participants were asked about the length of their current “steady relationship,” which was left undefined. Therefore, a “steady relationship” could mean “we’ve been dating for several weeks.”

    Joshua, clearly you feel that gay men in opposite-sex relationships have been unfairly maligned. If you wish to correct that grave injustice, perhaps there’s a better approach than unfairly maligning openly gay men in same-sex relationships.

  12. Joshua Johanson

    >> Speaking from the left, however, I think you suffer from the bad reputation of your past and present peers.

    Who are my peers? Just because I follow the law of chastity you put me in the same group as violent exocists? When you judge people based on preconceived notions, that is called prejudice. Yes, I do suffer from the prejudices of the gay community. I also suffer from prejudices from the right. Just because I have same-sex attractions, they put me in the same category as the half naked gay pride marchers. It all comes down to prejudice, from both sides.

    I understand that there are reasons behind the left’s prejudice against me, but it still boils down to prejudice and bigotry. I don’t want to be associated with exocists. I don’t want to be associated with people who force their lifestyle on others. You should judge us on our words and our own actions, not on the words and actions of people that you want to associate us with. This podcast was not about forcing people to change who don’t want to change. It was talking about the options available to those who do want to change.

    And it isn’t like Mormons have been very popular with the right either. An openly gay Mormon, like myself, is probably the opposite of what the right would like to promote.

    >> The simple reality, Joshua, is that enormous abuses have taken place, and continue to take place, within the “ex-gay” community.

    There are abuses everywhere. There are abuses in the gay community, and there are abuses in the straight community. Many people associate gay people with pedophiles. Do you think that is fair? Do you like being associated with people you have nothing to do with? Yet, you associate me with people that I don’t want to be associated with. Just as pedophiles is a small percentage of the gay community, so are violent exocists a small percentage of people who promote the law of chastity. The gay community has a lot of baggage with it – the AIDS epidemic, rapant promiscuity and indecency. Many people are so quick to want to shed their own baggage and yet so slow to forget the baggage of others. The only reason I mention the baggage of the gay community is because you have brought up the baggage of those who promote the law of chastity.

    >> Even within LDS Family Services, we continue to hear of counsellors who insist they can change a client’s sexual orientation (not just behavior).

    Each counselor is different. I went to LDS Family Services and got an LDS counselor recommended by them. And you know what he told me? He told me I could be a good Mormon even with a boyfriend. He brought in a guy who was having gay sex but claimed to be living the other principles of the gospel. Yes, my experience of a counselor who didn’t respect my wishes was through LDS Family Services. You and I obviously live in a different generation. The LDS Church has never taught that same-sex attraction can go away with therapy. Even Kimball only ever spoke of the practice of homosexuality.

    >> The more cautious approach taken by Mr. Matheson is due, in part, to gay activists, who have protested the above abuses and challenged the extravagant claims made by many of the above practitioners.

    I am thankful to the gay community for that. However, as I said earlier, I also think they have isolated us from help. They have spread lies about ex-gay groups, silenced those who have changed their sexual orientation, and have lobbied the APA to the extent that the APA has turned their backs on us. They have changed public opinion to the extent that many in the public believe gay people cannot help but have gay sex, and that straight marriage is a bad thing for them. There have been people in my wards who have told me that my marriage would never work. I hear Mormons tell me that playing sports won’t help me be more straight, or that I can never change. Even faithful members of the church have turned against me and my goals because of the lies spread by the gay community, and I am bitter about that.

    >> The more vocal people like you are in clarifying your actual goals (i.e. behavior management, as opposed to actual sexual orientation change)

    I think I said I previously had no attraction to women and thanks in part to JIM I was able to develop an attraction to my wife. That is more than just changing behaviors. Besides, according to the APA’s definition of sexual orientation as being associated behaviors and community, a change in behaviors would constitute a change in sexual orientation.

    >> It would be ridiculous for me to tell you that you are incapable of being attracted to a member of the opposite sex, or sustaining a lifelong marriage with such a person. It would be equally ridiculous for you to tell me that I am capable of doing the same thing (trust me, I tried that route for 18 years!).

    >> Joshua, I’d suggest that many people need to learn that lesson. Just as you think “many gay activists” are telling you that you can’t be married to a woman, a great many very vocal conservatives (including so-called “ex-gay therapists”) are certainly telling me that I can’t be married to a man and that I “must change” my sexual orientation.

    I think both of us agree on these statements. I am glad we are coming on some agreements. Overall I think we agree on more issues than it seems, since we only talk about areas where we disagree. As I said, I am glad we are communicating.

    >> I think it’s very unfortunate that you felt that way, Joshua. “Mainstream” counselors assist the client in identifying and reaching their own goals, even if that means referring them to another counselor who can better assist them.

    Mainstream counselors do not do that anymore. They do not respect your wishes and there aren’t any mainstream counselors to refer people to. If they try to help us, they risk loosing their jobs. There was a woman in my ward who lost her job because she tried to help a client reach his goals of changing sexual orientation. The APA has been abundantly clear that they do not support using SOCE to try to change sexual orientation. The only reason NARTH exists is because the APA has turned their backs on us. They are more interested in appeasing gay rights activists, who as I explained earlier have a deep prejudice against us, than they are about helping clients.

    >> Joshua, “better chance” does not mean “only chance.” Notice that I said “all other things being equal.” Motivation is a factor. Religious values are a factor. There are many factors which play into individual situations. Would you agree that all other things being equal, a man and a woman who are sexually/romantically attracted to one another have a better chance at a successful marriage than a man and a woman who have no such attraction for one another? If so, then it’s just as valid to say that all other things being equal, a gay man and a gay man have a better chance at a successful marriage than a gay man and a straight woman. This speaks to generalities, and is not a prediction about your particular marriage.

    I understood what you said. I personally believe, all things being equal, a gay man will have a better shot of being in a fulfilling, monogamous and long-term relationship with a woman than with another man. To me, all things being equal would mean the gay man is sexually attracted to his partner and open and honest with him or her. Like you said, this speaks to generalities. You may very well not fit in that generality.

    >> I’m curious where you got that “4 million” number, Joshua.

    I looked it up and it seems I was wrong. It was 4 million people are in such a marriage, making 2 million marriages. I got it from the Straight Spouse Network:

    http://www.canada.com/life/Straight+partners+discuss+total+shock+husbands+coming/5178808/story.html

    >> I would definitely argue that you have no legitimate data to back up such an assertion. Religionists love to quote alleged statistics on the non-monogamy and supposed “average length” of same-sex relationships, but they invariably rely on a 2003 study which was based in Amsterdam.

    You are the one who made the assertion that gay people do better in same-sex relationships than opposite-sex relationships. I disagreed. I may not have hard evidence to support my disagreement, but you don’t have hard evidence to support the original assertion. The 50% figure was not from the Amsterdam study, since I am aware of its flaws, but from The Gay Couples Study reported in the New York Times:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/29/us/29sfmetro.html

    This study is used by the left, not by the right.

    >> Joshua, clearly you feel that gay men in opposite-sex relationships have been unfairly maligned. If you wish to correct that grave injustice, perhaps there’s a better approach than unfairly maligning openly gay men in same-sex relationships.

    I am not one to malign gay men in same-sex relationships. You were the one making the wild assertion that same-sex relationships are better for gay people than opposite-sex relationships. If you make such a claim, don’t be surprised if I come to defend myself. You have been maligning the ex-gay community the whole time, and then take offense when I dispute your assertion?

    I personally don’t think it matters whose relationships are better or whose communities are better, because everyone should be able to choose what is best for themselves. I am glad JIM exists, because it provides an option for gay people with conservative values to be supported in their life choices. I think that people who malign JIM because they associate them with people who force heterosexuality on gay people are prejudice and hypocritical. I feel that by taking away our options, maligning our community and telling us that our choices are impossible, invalid, or inferior than their relationships, many in the gay community are forcing their lifestyle on us, which is what they are accusing us of doing.

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