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Snake in the Weeds: Issues with Mixed Orientation Marriages

June 14, 2012

Mixed Orientation Marriage

My latest post, Club Unicorn: How a Marriage Subverted Modern Sexual Thought, is up at Wheat & Tares. It is my reaction to the viral post from Josh and Lolly Weed coming out about their mixed orientation marriage.

As is usually the case with my Wheat & Tares posts, preparing for and writing this post was difficult. I was collecting material for days, and although I was able to write the first draft in one (rather draining) sitting, I realized that at 2300 words, the post was far longer than I wanted it to be. However, I wanted to try to cover all the bases.

Even more, though, I wanted to keep the post streamlined and avoid derailing the post. So I eliminated some sections that I thought commenters would latch on to if they were present. Of the sections I eliminated, the one section that I wish I could’ve kept the most– and thus I will include it here below — was the following section on the heartache found from many mixed orientation marriages. See what I had for that section below:

* * *

Heartache from Mixed Orientation Marriages

Many people are skeptical of what Josh and Lolly are doing. They point out that the idea of a mixed orientation marriage isn’t anything new, especially given historical social, cultural, and religious pressures for men to marry. These skeptics point out further that of the many mixed orientation marriages that have existed, many of them haven’t exactly ended well. Laurie’s post today at Doves and Serpents provides a testimony of the heartache experienced from mixed orientation marriages, but there are so many blogs and so many articles and so many books I could link to here.

In fact, today, Slate discussed (and dissected) a study that at first glance appears to show that the children of gay and lesbian parents perform worse on a range of economic, educational, social, and psychological outcomes. Ultimately, another Slate author pointed out that the study’s methodology mean that the results actually show that mixed orientation marriages — and particularly those that break apart or end in divorce — are correlated with those worse outcomes. As William Saletan writes:

What the study shows, then, is that kids from broken homes headed by gay people develop the same problems as kids from broken homes headed by straight people. But that finding isn’t meaningless. It tells us something important: We need fewer broken homes among gays, just as we do among straights. We need to study Regnerus’ sample and fix the mistakes we made 20 or 40 years ago. No more sham heterosexual marriages. No more post-parenthood self-discoveries. No more deceptions. No more affairs. And no more polarization between homosexuality and marriage. Gay parents owe their kids the same stability as straight parents. That means less talk about marriage as a right, and more about marriage as an expectation.

…so it seems like the skeptics have reason to be cautious of Josh and Lolly’s marriage.

* * *

…that was the section I had cut out. But now that I have a full post to work with, I want to elaborate. As I mentioned above, there are so many blogs and so many articles I could link to about mixed orientation marriages that have ended in heartache. The sad reality is that many, if not most mixed orientation marriages don’t work out. Here’s one story from a woman who was in a mixed orientation (as the straight wife) that was posted today, also in response to Josh’s blog. A snippet of Ashley’s story with Matt:

Neither of us understood at the time that homosexuality, like heterosexuality, is at the very core of your essential being.  I can base this belief on my experience with Matt and the fact that throughout my life as a Mormon in the theatre community, I have yet to meet one person who said that they used to be gay, but now they are as straight as an arrow.

That night with Matt in his car, I didn’t understand even a little bit, that he, as a true-blue homosexual, was not able to appreciate my femaleness in the way that I would need, that women need.  During our marriage, we did have sex.  It was mechanical.  It felt wrong.  It was like a chore.  It was a way to relieve tension…sometimes.  Other times it only created more tension.  It was not intimate in any way.  Oh, I had orgasms…from time to time…especially once I hit my 30′s.  But I could also give myself orgasms, if you know what I’m sayin’.

We both were on our own individual roller coaster of depression, denial, angst, and wanting to die.  A roller coaster we stayed on for 13 years.  And while we were each on our own separate coaster, our kids were on the ground watching us, wondering why we were on a ride that we weren’t enjoying, and why we couldn’t be on an enjoyable ride all together.

Good times existed.  Like I said, we were best friends.  We enjoyed many of the same things.  We laughed a lot.  We were both hilarious.  Both involved in theatre, heavily.  Also, because we were in therapy off and on our entire marriage, our communication skills were superb!  But there was always a pit in my stomach.  A voice in my head telling me, “There is something more,” over and over.

 Responding to Ashley’s post at Young Stranger, John wrote:

It seems uncouth to me to point out that Ashley’s experience is the majority experience in relation to mixed-orientation marriages. I don’t like to emphasize that, because I understand how pointing that out may feel dis-spiriting to those who are in mixed-orientation marriages and are making them work. But it’s a fact, and facts cannot in their nature be uncouth. We have to learn to adjust to them and incorporate them into our understanding of reality.

And unfortunately, there are far too many who have abused, are abusing, and will abuse stories like Josh Weed’s… Who seem unwilling or unable to incorporate that fact about how this works for the majority into their understanding of reality, and who seem unwilling to hear stories like Ashley’s. So, uncouth or not, it feels necessary to put it out there.

So that’s that. For the rest of the article, I would like to talk about other reservations and problem points I had with Josh’s article.

Choice and Agency?

Josh writes in his original post:

One of the sad truths about being homosexual is that no matter what you decide for your future, you have to sacrifice something. It’s very sad, but it is true. I think this is true of life in general as well. If you decide to be a doctor, you give up any of the myriad of other things you could have chosen. But with homosexuality, the choices seem to be a little bit more mutually exclusive.  If you are Mormon and you choose to live your religion, you are sacrificing the ability to have a romantic relationship with a same-sex partner. If you choose a same-sex partner, you are sacrificing the ability to have a biological family with the one you love.  And so on. No matter what path you choose, if you are gay you are giving up something basic, and sometimes various things that are very basic. I chose not to “live the gay lifestyle,” as it were, because I found that what I would have to give up to do so wasn’t worth the sacrifice for me.

He phrases his choices in terms of comparing sacrifices (and after this section, lists that he would have to sacrifice biological children, the church, Lolly, etc., if he pursued a gay relationship.) But there are several issues with this discussion.

Firstly, he has no basis for comparison. Part of what makes his rave reviews of his own sex life problematic is that he has no way of comparing sex experiences, since Lolly is the only person with whom he’s had sex. He can’t compare the intimacy-rather-than-lust-based relationship he has with Lolly to a gay relationship, because he’s never pursued any gay relationships.

Secondly, though, the playing field is not level. Many of the sacrifices he alludes to throughout the post exist because society doesn’t accept and support gay relationships as well as it could and should. John Gustav-Wrathall has made this point on his blog:

Imagine a Church where there are no penalties for being gay and in a same-sex relationship. Where no one views me with a jaundiced eye, no one treats me differently, where, if I want my relationship to be blessed by the Church or sealed in the temple, all I have to do is present myself and my husband just as anyone else would present themselves. Imagine such a Church.

Then the onus of figuring out the ethical, spiritual, and personal dimensions of choosing a same-sex relationship versus an opposite-sex relationship would be totally on me.

Would that make such a choice easier or harder? I don’t know. But would it instead allow me to focus on the qualities of each type of relationship choice, the inherent limitations and opportunities presented by one type of a relationship versus another, rather than social pressures? Yes.

The Meaning of Sexual Orientation

Josh describes his choice as a choice to select “intimacy” over “visual attraction, lust, and passion.” He even claims that he has a happier marriage as a result of this more intimate connection than many of his (straight) friends! The problem is that Josh’s understanding of sexual orientation doesn’t seem to match what many people’s understanding of it is. To quote Nick Literski’s comment at my Wheat & Tares article:

 As you mature, however, you realize that relationships and sexuality are about more than sex. Homosexuality isn’t just about who you’re sexually attracted to; it’s about who you’re emotionally and romantically attracted to. It’s about the kind of genuine intimacy that nearly every person wants to experience in their primary relationship. For a gay man, that kind of relationship is ultimately going to be found with another gay man, not with a woman. As one matures, the need for that intimate relationship becomes more important than the sex—and the fact that it’s missing is much more painful than just missing out on the sex you want. If Joshua Weed genuinely thinks homosexuality is just about “passion” and “visual attraction,” then I’d suggest that tells us about where he is in his own sexual/emotional maturity. It’s certainly not a prescription for the masses—even though the opponents of marriage equality will certainly treat it as such.

The reduction of sexual orientation to sex is convenient for Josh’s narrative, but it doesn’t ring true.

And for that matter, that’s what plays into two of the most common reactions to Josh’s story. After reading his post, two reactions I saw so often were: “Josh must be bi” and “Josh’s marriage will never work out.” The former response took him at his word that he has a sexually fulfilled relationship with his wife, but if that’s the case, then that suggests he is in part “emotionally and romantically attracted to” women, thus moving him in the bisexual category.

The latter response, however, takes him at his word that he insists he is gay, not bi. If this is true, people point out, then Josh’s relationship is inevitably going to produce the sort of sentiments that Ashley writes about.

The Elephant in the Room: Conflicts of Interest in Therapy

The biggest concern I had with Josh’s post, however, was the fact that he serves as a marriage and family therapist…now, this, on its own isn’t really problematic.  But as a person who assists gay and lesbian individuals and who counsels them, the question would be: what advice does he offer them?

Already, it’s pretty clear that no matter what caveats he has on his blog entry, there will be those who will take his words and say, “If this gay man can do it, then anyone can!” Notwithstanding that 1) it’s not guaranteed that he can do it (Josh and Lolly aren’t out of the park, so to speak), and 2) even if they can do it, it’s not certain if Josh has a similar definition of “gay” as the rest of us do.

What’s interesting is doing some digging around about Josh’s therapy practice. On his professional website, among his specialties, he mentions:

Unwanted same-sex attraction

So, what is he telling those who struggle with “unwanted same-sex attraction”? Is his goal to get them comfortable with their sexuality…and with their potential to love and engage in relationships with members of the same sex?

Over at The Daily Beast, a reader of Andrew Sullivan discovers Josh’s employer, LifeSTAR.

Just for fun, I googled “LifeSTAR ex-gay.”

First result. It got worse.

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35 Comments
  1. Seth R. permalink

    The problem is – bias of the LDS Church, your straight parents, traditional marriage society and all those people isn’t the only factor here. It’s not the only source of bias that people with homosexuality face. They face an equal amount of bias and judgmentalism from the pro-gay sex crowd as well. You only have to read the sheer hatred and bigotry of the comments over at Queerty about Josh Weed to get a sense of this. He’s a fake, a traitor, a psychopath, and pathetic damaged man, a societal menace.

    The problem is Andrew – there’s a reason the only blog posts you see out there are from people who ultimately sided with the “choose gay sex instead” crowd.

    Because anyone who wants to admit to being gay, but committed to a heterosexual relationship immediately gets crucified by BOTH sides. He gets hostility from his straight friends, and he gets outright hatred from the gay community. Who wants to deal with that?

    It’s really a no brainer that the only people who blog about this are people who picked a side where they can find supporters and friends. People who came out and chose homosexual sexual expression may have sad stories of rejection by family, friends, church, and community. But look at the comments on their blogs. Do you notice something?

    They’re all wildly (and even desperately in some cases) supportive and enthusiastic. These people were rejected by one community – but they found another one.

    What do people like Josh Weed find? Who supports them?

    I’ll tell you right now – the people in the traditional marriage camp are usually just as uncomfortable with Josh Weed as the people in the gay sexuality camp. They don’t appreciate his flat declaration that his homosexuality cannot be cured, that his solution may not work for all or even most people in his situation. He makes them uncomfortable too. A SMALL minority of conservatives may be willing to cynically overlook this in order to score points in the social debate. But more of them are going to be like several conservative bloggers I read who called Josh a lying wolf in sheep’s clothing. How many of his relationships at church or in family are going to become strained now that he’s out?

    And just look at the overwhelming hatred he’s been the target of from the pro-gay sex camp. Who wants to put themselves in that position?

    The fact is, there’s a lot of people like Josh who don’t want to have gay sex for personal reasons. But they have nowhere to go – no support group anywhere. And nothing but fearful insecure hostility from the people claiming to be tolerant about this, and nothing but cold indifference from the people who do not claim to be tolerant on this subject.

    In fact, a rather underreported phenomenon in the gay relationship community is gay guys who are attracted emotionally to men, want to be in same-sex partnerships, but do not enjoy anal sex, but feel pressured (and even coerced) into performing it for their partner. The phenomenon is a lot more common than you think. No one talks about this sort of stuff, because it’s not convenient to the narrative. No one talks about the high incidence of rape and abuse in the gay community, the social bullying, the coercion, and all that other stuff that goes on.

    But let me be clear – I think the conservative marriage crowd has no one to blame but themselves for the problems the gay community is facing. By harshly rejecting and driving away gays – forcing them into the closet, a whole myriad of problems have developed in the community in secret. And due to the hostile and defensive stance the gay community has been forced to adopt – they’ve rendered themselves incapable of recognizing or addressing these problems.

    • With respect to:

      I’ll tell you right now – the people in the traditional marriage camp are usually just as uncomfortable with Josh Weed as the people in the gay sexuality camp. They don’t appreciate his flat declaration that his homosexuality cannot be cured, that his solution may not work for all or even most people in his situation. He makes them uncomfortable too. A SMALL minority of conservatives may be willing to cynically overlook this in order to score points in the social debate. But more of them are going to be like several conservative bloggers I read who called Josh a lying wolf in sheep’s clothing. How many of his relationships at church or in family are going to become strained now that he’s out?

      I think that more and more, people (especially the ex-gay movement) are realizing that talking about “curing” homosexuality is a non-starter. They are realizing that even for those who would be most desperate to believe that it is possible as a consciously chosen effort are not really going to buy this. So I see Josh’s post as just the latest narrative in this sort of movement: “So, here, I’m gay, and I’m definitely, totally gay, but I choose to look past my sexual orientation and now I have this great relationship with a woman. Also, I do therapy, so maybe I can help you too!”

      To the contrary, I don’t see a “small minority” of conservatives who are willing to cynically overlook in order to score points. I see overwhelming support for Josh Weed’s choices.

      P.S., way to go on strategically making the focus about “gay sex” at every junction, as if gay relationships are just about gay sex, or that the other elements are totally unimportant or irrelevant to discussion homosexuality. And then from there, you strategically make “gay sex” be equivalent to “anal sex.”

  2. Thanks for putting it all in one place, Andrew. Well done.

    Seth R., I’m all for supporting those who, though gay, find themselves in heterosexual relationships, raising children, trying to make the best of it. They have a hard row to hoe, and I respect their choice to respect a vow they made unwittingly or in error, their choice to provide stable homes for their children in spite of the personal hardships they endure in doing so.

    What I *don’t* respect and *cannot* support is:

    1. People who engage in telling *others* to embark on such relationships — because the vast majority will fail within 10 years, usually leaving children in divorced homes suffering from feelings of loss and abandonment.

    2. People who counsel *adolescents* that who they are at the deepest core of their being is unacceptable to God and society and who help their parents try to force them to become something they are not. (Check it out: Josh’s biog on the LifeSTAR site screams in carefully coded terminology that this is his specialty: “As a therapist, Josh works with many people struggling with difficult life issues, but focuses his efforts mainly on adolescent and adult sexual addiction issues, with an emphasis on youth treatment. His work is dedicated to helping people combat patterns and beliefs that cause feelings of shame, hopelessness and despair. Josh also works helping those with sexual identity issues and unwanted sexual attractions and/or behaviors.”)

    3. People who, while claiming to have no particular political motivation or interest, and no desire to tell *others* that they should engage in a relationship like his (out of one side of his mouth), yet (out of the other side of his mouth), make their *living* from doing “ex-gay therapy,” and just happen to trot out their “profession ex-gay” (okay, professional still-gay-but-doing-the-straight-thang-perfectly-successfully-for-fun-and-profit) stories just — oopsie!!! — in time to try to influence a huge statewide referendum on the civil rights of hundreds of thousands of citizens of their home state.

    “Disingenuous” doesn’t even begin to cover it.

  3. The connections here keep getting curiouser and curiouser, as Alice would say. Turns out that the executive director of LifeSTAR counseling network, where Josh Weed works, is listed as a featured speaker on Evergreen International’s website, and LifeSTAR is listed as a resource for both Evergreen International and North Star International.

    http://evergreeninternational.org/Speakers.htm

    http://northstarlds.org/wow-resources/

  4. Seth R. permalink

    Interesting connections Lorian.

    If there is that connection, I agree that it’s problematic for Josh’s message – as it would paint him as being more ideological than he tried to position himself in his blog post.

  5. Anonforthis permalink

    The fact is, there’s a lot of people like Josh who don’t want to have gay sex for personal reasons. But they have nowhere to go – no support group anywhere.

    Hmm. I’m not sure that’s accurate. At least not often. Go read the comments on (Gay) Mormon Guy’s blog; the vast majority are from straight Mormons, and their comments are basically adulatory: “You’re so amazing!” “I’ve learned so much from your faithful obedience.” etc., etc., etc.

    Similarly most comments from heterosexual commenters were very supportive of the Weeds. I can’t really see how you can think those attitudes are only from a “SMALL [cynical!] minority.” There has been a great deal of support from the conservative crowd, and a lot of it is related to other comments along the lines of “See, gay people CAN be successful in traditional marriages.” Because of this, it isn’t really all that surprising that Bro. Weed has been considered, by some on the left, a sort of gay Uncle Tom character.

    In fact, a rather underreported phenomenon in the gay relationship community is gay guys who are attracted emotionally to men, want to be in same-sex partnerships, but do not enjoy anal sex, but feel pressured (and even coerced) into performing it for their partner. … No one talks about this sort of stuff, because it’s not convenient to the narrative.

    Again, I just don’t think this is accurate. Read Dan Savage sometime. In his articles he has said––on multiple occasions––that some people (including some gay people) just aren’t into certain sex acts (including anal sex) and may never develop a liking for them, and shouldn’t feel pressured to participate. This isn’t groundbreaking stuff. All the gay people I know basically would shrug and say, “Yeah, obviously.”

  6. Seth R. permalink

    I don’t disagree that gay people would be in agreement anon.

    I’m just saying that they don’t really appear to be doing a lot of thinking about what exactly that implies about the nature of homosexual expression.

    Doesn’t the fact that plenty of gay people don’t enjoy or want anal sex say something about what we should be considering “authentic” sexual lifestyle?

    Doesn’t it suggest that we ought to be a little more careful with the accusations of who is being authentic, and who is selling out or lying to themselves?

    Isn’t it at least a little disturbing that the American Psychological Association is supportive about a guy who wants a sex change operation, but immediately says “mental illness” when a guy wants to stop being homosexual?

    Note: I’m not one of those in the camp of “homosexuality can be cured.” I don’t think there’s much basis for concluding it can be. But I find the APA’s stance odd at best, hypocritical and unreflective at worst. I’m just saying there are closed minds aplenty in this debate. And they aren’t all on the conservative Christian side of the street.

    • Since “anal sex” isn’t the only “authentic sexual lifestyle” for gay sex, much less for the totality of “homosexual expression” and gay relationships, I would say that you’re begging the question here.

      I think that bringing up trans issues into the discussion is somewhat interesting…firstly, when you say “the American Psychological Association is supportive about a guy who wants a sex change operation,” this ignores the fact that the transition process isn’t something that the the medical profession says, “lol OK, go ahead.” It’s something that requires a ton of counseling, that quite frankly second guesses the transgendered individual a LOT. Through this process, there’s a lot of filtering out whether the person feels this way because of social stigma or something different. (It also ignores the fact that, the way the history has developed on transgender issues — if it were possible to change neurology/psychology, psychiatrists would probably jump on the chance to pathologize transgenderism rather than supporting transitions. In a body/sex vs. mind/gender incongruity, the question is what should be changed…we just don’t have a way of changing the mind/gender here.)

      And I mean, I guess there is a point to make that if gender is culturally situated then, that has impacts for trans issues…but still, it’s a bit of a different situation than for “a guy [who] wants to stop being homosexual.”

      You said in an earlier comment that “there’s a lot of people like Josh who don’t want to have gay sex for personal reasons.” But of these “personal reasons,” is it because of a personal neurological/physiological discrepancy between personality and body…or are these personal reasons related to culturally (e.g., religiously) inculcated values that oppose their personality?

      Josh isn’t saying, for example, that he’s a straight guy trapped in a gay man’s body.

  7. Huh, Seth? The fact that some gay guys don’t like anal sex equates to the idea that being gay is an “inauthentic lifestyle”??? I never knew that it was required that one have anal sex in order to be an “authentic gay person.” In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s not. Any more than it’s required that heterosexual couples have vaginal intercourse in order to be considered “authentic straight people.” Whether the majority do so most of the time or not is immaterial to whether someone can be authentically straight and not enjoy or prefer vaginal sex.

    Incidentally, “gay” is not a “lifestyle.” It is a sexual orientation. A lifestyle is something that you adopt, like being a cyclist who wears one of those funny tight uniforms, or enjoying vacations at clothing-optional resorts, or traveling in a motor home every weekend. Being attracted to the opposite sex is not a “lifestyle choice,” nor is being attracted to the same sex.

    The APA’s stance makes perfect sense. If something is an innate characteristic of personality, it cannot be changed by any amount of “therapy,” and the very idea that one would try implies that it is an “illness” or pathological condition. Sexual orientation is, by definition, an innate characteristic of personality, not an illness or pathology. Therefore it would be illogical and completely inconsistent for the APA to support the idea of practitioners offering “therapy” to “cure” one of one’s sexual orientation. It would be like a surgeon who offered to do surgery to “cure” people of having a liver or a pesky extra lung. We don’t do therapy to “cure” people of being attracted to the opposite sex.

    If someone develops the weird idea that it is “bad” to be attracted to the opposite sex, and they go to a therapist and complain of having this terrible attraction to the opposite sex, and asks the therapist to “cure” them of this terrible, unnatural attraction, should the therapist say, “Fine, let’s work on that,” or, “We need to figure out why you think it is terrible to be attracted to the opposite sex”? It would be unethical for a therapist to try to cure someone of being attracted in a normal manner to people of the opposite sex. Thus, it is also unethical (and pointless, and stupid, and damaging, and hurtful, and potentially suicide-inducing) for therapists to set themselves forth in an attempt to “cure” people of being attracted in a normal manner to people of the same sex.

  8. I’m not sure how a discussion of the perils of MOM ended up talking about various sex acts. Despite research on the fringes (that Seth is referring to), it is commonly accepted that sexual orientation exists and cannot be changed.

    In the end, mixed orientation marriage is a bad idea. Despite one or two couples for whom it apparently works for, the vast majority are led down a path of heartbreak and disappointment. It is disingenuous to give any other impression to young people thinking of marrying.

    We don’t encourage 17 year olds to marry for basically the same reasons.

    Where are the references to the numerous M.O.M that have failed? What about their kids?

    Finally, I am not entirely comfortable with how personal the discussion is getting in various places. Of course, the Weeds brought that on themselves by posting with their names and family photos. But it doesn’t feel quite right to me. With their family photo, I feel like it’s implying that by criticizing the idea they are espousing, you may be breaking up their family. Most people shy away from that, at least subconsciously. I’m not sure how to better explain it.

    • This reminds me of the expression “the personal is political.” I have never truly understood that phrase (and maybe I still don’t get it), but if this is a good example of that expression, then I’m starting to understand it.

  9. Seth R. permalink

    Lorian, that’s a rather dogmatic and ideological position that doesn’t really account for the subtle variation that actually exists in the homosexual population. The way you present this – homosexuality is something you either “are” or you “aren’t.” No in between, no ambiguity – “is” or “isn’t.”

    That simply doesn’t reflect the population makeup or reality of the homosexual community. In reality homosexuality is much more fluid and sits on a spectrum. Plenty of homosexual men are bi-sexual and attracted to either women or men. Some are attracted to one gender at one stage in their lives, and another gender at another stage. Some happily swing either way. Some aren’t really attracted to men at all, but enjoy participating in the lifestyle anyway. The blurring of the lines is even more pronounced among lesbians.

    It just doesn’t make sense to take the APA’s stance on this and dogmatically and close-mindedly call homosexuality an unqualified inborn and unchanging attribute.

    Because it isn’t for everyone. That just doesn’t reflect the reality of homosexual culture in the US.

    • I think that this is where a lot of different ideas are blended together. From a queer theoretical standpoint, yes, there are a lot of these things. But a big point of queer theory is not to say, “homosexuality is this” or “homosexuality is that,” but to point out that the existing structure of labels has issues.

      So, I mean, if you want to say, “maybe Josh and others should use different labels,” that’s different than saying, “*homosexuality* is much more fluid and sits on a spectrum. Plenty of homosexual men are bisexual.” (Even if you say the same is true for heterosexuality, so what’s the big deal? The big deal is…by making these claims, you’re already getting away from how people typically understand the terms homo, hetero, and bisexual. You are either unconsciously or deliberately using very different phenomena and putting them under one bucket.)

  10. Seth R. permalink

    aerin,

    Perhaps the “accepted science” on this is a little more ideologically driven than people today want to admit.

  11. Seth R. permalink

    aerin, your discomfort at the personalizing of this is understandable.

    But isn’t this just an inevitable result of our reality-show, tell-all, Facebook confessional culture that we’ve come to encourage and celebrate.

    And I’ll just point out that gay community has been personalizing this debate for years. How many of them repeatedly thrust narratives of gay youths committing suicide in an attempt to make their debate opponents feel like they’re “killing” gay teenagers if speak out in support of heterosexual marriage?

    Aren’t they doing (and have been doing) the same thing you are uncomfortable about here?

  12. 11- Seth you have a point, that this debate may reflect trends in current culture.

    What I was thinking of, specifically, was what their children will think of being included in this twenty, thirty years from now…their parents’ sex lives on the front page of slate. That’s what I was referring to. It’s one thing when two consenting adults invite that scrutiny; it’s another when minor children are brought into the mix.

  13. Seth R. permalink

    I think it’s going to be inevitable though – and it’s going to come from both sides of the debate.

    “I’m a lesbian with a partner, and look how lovely my kids turned out.”
    “I’m a recovering gay man with a wife and look at my adorable kids.”

    And vis versa. Especially when one of the debate points in the gay marriage debate actually deals with whether children are raised better by mixed gender couples than same gender (an area where any responsible researcher will tell you the studies and conclusions are in their infancy). The kids, like in a nasty divorce, literally are the battleground of this public policy debate.

    Like it or not.

  14. Seth, sexual orientation is most certainly on a continuum. That’s not in question. But that doesn’t make it a “lifestyle” or something to be “changed” willy-nilly. While some people who define themselves as “straight” have the capacity to be attracted to members of their own sex and vice versa, there is absolutely no reason to *impose* such by external agency (i.e., “therapy”). The APA has no standard that all persons who experience attraction to members of their own sex must be labeled “gay” and put in a box where they cannot escapt to straight-world, nor is this what I am suggesting (so please leave the broad brush and condescension out of the conversation, okay?).

    The point is that when a young person who experiences attraction to members of his/her own sex approaches a religiously-oriented therapist who, in defiance of APA professional standards, practices “reparative” or “ex-gay” therapy, s/he will be strongly encouraged or even coerced to adopt a standard that heterosexuality is the preferable position (or “correct” position) and should be striven for by means of suppressing or attempting to negate one’s own natural sexual orientation, whatever it may be. Whereas an ethical therapist would explore with the client to help them determine exactly what their sexual orientation is, help them become comfortable with that sexual orientation (straight, gay, bisexual, or something in between), and learn how to develop healthy relationships which meet their needs for intimacy in a manner which is most compatible with their own sexual orientation.

    When you say that there are many different people who fall at different points on the continuum, and that some of them are actually attracted to people of both genders, I don’t dispute this at all. What I dispute is your implication that this has some kind of generalizable implications for gay and lesbian people at large — like because someone else was married to a man and then later decided to marry a woman, this means that *all* people who define themselves as gay should be able to do so as well — that sexual orientation is “fluid,” on a population-wide level, and therefore must also be “fluid” on an individual level. Or even that because it might be fluid for one individual, it must be fluid for all. It’s simply not true, Seth, and attempting to impose such assumptions of “fluidity” on impressionable young people seeking help to understand feelings of attraction to their own gender by trying to talk them into the idea that they can “become straight” if only they pray and try hard enough, is irresponsible and damaging.

    If the individual seeking therapy is actually bisexual, and they decide at some point that they would be happier in a relationship with someone of the opposite sex, and would find such a relationship fulfilling, I doubt that any responsible therapist would have a problem with such an outcome. Therapists who follow APA guidelines are not trying to “make people gay.” They are trying to responsibly help people reach their *own* conclusions about who they are, and to accept themselves and behave in a healthy manner consistent with their own self-understanding. “Reparative therapists,” on the other hand, no matter how benign the rhetoric, aim to convince people that, if they cannot bring themselves to enter opposite-sex relationships, then they must resign themselves to lives of celibacy and isolation. This is not responsible or professional practice. A responsible, professional therapist does not impose his or her own value judgments on a client.

  15. Seth says:

    “Especially when one of the debate points in the gay marriage debate actually deals with whether children are raised better by mixed gender couples than same gender (an area where any responsible researcher will tell you the studies and conclusions are in their infancy).”

    Absolutely untrue, Seth. Responsible researchers, plus every major professional psychiatric, medical and social work organization in the country (and many international ones, as well) are in agreement that the respective genders and orientations of parents are not material to good parenting outcomes. There is 40 years worth of research on this topic, and every major peer-reviewed study agrees that, all other factors being equal, children raised by same-sex parents are every bit as healthy, happy and well-adjusted by all standard measures as compared to children raised by opposite-sex parents.

    (And don’t even try tossing Regnerus’ recent “study” in here, Seth. It’s already being denounced by professionals and researchers far and wide, since all he did was compare kids raised by two intact hetero parents to children raised in situations of divorce or abandonment in which the remaining parent had one or more same-sex relationships with people who functioned for varying lengths of time as step-parents. The outcome would have been the same if he studied straight parents who divorced and brought opposite-sex step-parents into the home. A valid study compares two committed same-sex parents who conceive or adopt a child into their relationship and raise that child to adulthood together, with two committed opposite-sex parents who do the same, with adoptioned children being of similar age and background at the time of adoption. Anything less than this does not constitute a valid study, as any responsible researcher will tell you.)

  16. Seth R. permalink

    Funny thing Lorian – how both sides claim every responsible researcher has favorable findings for them. Traditional marriage proponents claim that the data overwhelmingly shows that children do better with a male and female model as their caregivers. Gay marriage advocates call foul and claim those studies were flawed and point to their own studies showing good results. Then the other side points out those pro-gay marriage studies didn’t even control for gender orientation before reaching their conclusions.

    It seems clear to me – the more I delve into the studies on this – that the APA prematurely staked a position (call it “progressive” or “controversial” – whatever you like) based on only a portion of the available data and literature out there. Getting the APA on board may have been a bit of a coup for the gay marriage side, but it doesn’t really carry much weight with me – especially considering that the primary studies run by C.J. Patterson which the APA heavily cited in its position were methodologically flawed for the conclusions drawn.

    And where on earth are they getting these “long term” results from anyway?

    Gays haven’t even been adopting and raising kids for long enough to have a study sample (your “40 years” figure is absolutely ludicrous simply due to the social stigma factor alone). The whole thing is utterly speculative to begin with. Only in the last 5 years have we even had studies come in measuring the long-term impact on kids of “amiable” divorces conducted under the no-fault divorce system – and how long has that legal institution been around? Much longer than any trackable trend in gay parenting.

    No – I’m not confident that anyone really knows what they are talking about at this point. And, as my college psychology 101 teacher pointed out – the field of psychology changes its mind completely every 5 years or so. It’s probably the softest and fuzziest of the “hard” sciences. Plenty of academics don’t even consider it a science to begin with. Which makes it much more susceptible to social fads and trends.

  17. Seth R. permalink

    As for your earlier response:

    “Seth, sexual orientation is most certainly on a continuum. That’s not in question. But that doesn’t make it a “lifestyle” or something to be “changed” willy-nilly.”

    You are shifting the goal posts here rhetorically. I never used the words “willy-nilly.” You came up with that term all on your own. I never suggested trivializing anyone’s orientation or cavalierly trying to change it. There is no “willy-nilly” here. That’s a straw man you are trying to bring into play here.

    What I said was that there is a continuum, which indicates that change CAN happen. Which opens up the possibility that voluntary changing of orientation CAN be a valid solution for some individuals.

    What the pro-gay marriage narrative doesn’t like about this observation is that they’ve staked too much of their own position on the proposition that “they can’t help it.” This is beyond their control. A great deal of their feelings of self-worth, self-acceptance, and justification to society is hopelessly tied up in the argument of “my genes made me do it.”

    So anyone suggesting any ambiguity here – any suggestion that change may be within the power of even SOME of the population is just an incredibly threatening prospect. Which is why I would be absolutely crucified on Queerty if I tried to even suggest this. It would immediately trigger the “fight-or-flight” reflexes on half the commenters there. Adrenaline would take over, brains would shut off, and there would be an immediate attempt to drive the notion of possible change (even for some) out of the discussion entirely.

    Yes, the spectrum does have broader implications. Not to impose a reparative therapy model on all, or even most, homosexuals. But to suggest, that – as much as the folks at Queerty might loathe the idea – it’s entirely possible there’s a valid place for the stuff outfits like Evergreen are doing.

  18. Seth, the problem with your claim of “studies” which supposedly support the idea same-sex parenting lends inferior results as compared with opposite-sex parenting is that, when push comes to shove, and anti-gay advocates are asked to actually produce such studies, all they come up with are studies of single moms, most of whom are not even gay, and whose children, products of divorce and abandonment, do poorly as compared with children raised in intact homes. They claim that such studies prove the “need for a mother *and* a father in the home,” and therefore prove the “inferiority” of same-sex parenting. They do not, because they are not studies of same-sex parenting. The body of research regarding same-sex parenting (and it IS out there and it IS valid, your smears to the contrary), demonstrates no significant differences in parenting outcomes, regardless of the respective sexes of the parenting, when all other factors are equal. The ONLY studies which appear to generate data to the contrary are studies in which intact, 2-parent bio families are compared with families where divorce or abandonment, step-parenting or single parenting have occurred.

    As for this statement of yours:

    “What I said was that there is a continuum, which indicates that change CAN happen.”

    Here is your flaw in logic, blatant as anything. The fact that orientation exists on a continuum does not by any means indicate that “change can happen.” It merely means that people fall somewhere along a continuum.

    There is a continuum of skin tones between pale albinism and dark brown/black. Most people fall somewhere along this continuum, with a few occurring at each end. While there is a vast variety of shades, still each individual is a particular, basic shade of brown/tan/cream. One can get a tan and temporarily darken one’s skin tone, or have a spray-on tan which alters one’s appearance, but, absent such active efforts, one will pretty much always (leaving aside skin conditions) revert to one’s basic, native shade or skin tone. The existence of a continuum, and one’s classification as falling somewhere upon that continuum does not in any one indicate that one can move freely along that continuum, beginning life as an albino and ending life as a black person, or vice versa.

    In the same way, everyone (who is not completely asexual — and a few of those do exist) falls somewhere along the continuum between “absolutely and solely attracted to persons of one’s own sex” and “absolutely and solely attracted to persons of the opposite sex” (with allowances made for those who are, themselves, transgendered or intersexed, and for whom the concepts of “same-sex” and “opposite-sex” become somewhat more complex). The fact that I fall at, say 5.5 on the Kinsey Scale of 0-6, and you (for instance and purely hypothetically) fall at about 0.8 does not by any means indicate that I can “change” my orientation to a “1” or you could change yours to a “5.” Nor does the existence of a third person who is a “3” on the scale change the fact that I am a “5.5” or make me more able to change from that 5.5 to something closer to 0.

    In fact, even if I, for some reason, decided to leave my wife and marry a man, the mere fact that I did so, even if I had sex with him every day for 500 days in a row, would not make me any less a “5.5” on Kinsey’s scale. I’m attracted to women, and my basic, most emotionally and spiritually intimate relationships are with women. Physically acting out sex with a man would not change that, nor would any amount of “12-step groups” designed to make me “renounce” my sexual orientation. Nor would any amount of “sobriety” from having sex with a woman. I’ve gone for years at a time at various points in my life without having sex with a woman (and I’ve never had it with a man, nor do I wish to), and it hasn’t made me straight nor has it made me *want* to be straight. Sexual orientation is not a “changeable condition” influenced by “abstinence” or “therapy.” It is an innate characteristic as clearly defined as handedness or eye color. Complex, definitely, but not something which an outside agency or internal decision-making process can change, no matter what behaviors a person may or may not engage in and whether those behaviors are consistent with one’s sexual orientation or, as in Josh Weed’s case, not.

  19. Missed one thing:

    Seth said: “it’s entirely possible there’s a valid place for the stuff outfits like Evergreen are doing.”

    Only if one accepts as a basis of operations that there is something inherently bad, wrong or immoral about having an intimate relationship with someone of one’s own sex.

    • Seth R. permalink

      Not necessarily – you don’t have to assume there is something bad about it in order to support this. You might just join up with them as a lifestyle choice. Is that inconceivable?

      • Seth says: “Not necessarily – you don’t have to assume there is something bad about it in order to support this. You might just join up with them as a lifestyle choice. Is that inconceivable?”

        Seth, yes, it *is* inconceivable if one exercises even a modicum of empathy for another human being’s experience. The sex drive is an instinct as basic as the drive to find food, and only a step behind the drive to find food in its intensity and urgency over the course of a lifetime, though it may wax and wane at various points in development. Biological organisms exist in order to replicate their genes in the gene pool. This is the basic goal of existence towards which one’s sex drive is targeted, though depending upon how one’s sexuality is configured, this instinct to mate may lead one into less-procreative or non-procreative relationships (there are some sound evolutionary reasons for those, as well). But the drive is no less primal, and no more readily subliminated. All other physical drives (the drive to find food, the survival instinct, etc.) are geared to support this one main biological goal.

        There are certainly individuals who deny themselves the expression of this drive to mate. It IS possible to do, though doing so comes at a tremendous physical and psychological cost. Those who practice long-term celibacy, for instance, have much higher rates of testicular, prostate, breast and other cancers, and tend to have shorter lifespans. They have higher rates of suicide and depression, particularly if the their practice of celibacy is not in the context of a community (or “family”) of other celibates, as would be the case with monastic communities. But even in monastic communities, many of the consequences of long-term celibacy cannot be escaped, and there is a great deal of mental unwellness found in communities of monks and nuns, as well as the physical costs of continence.

        That said, when people adopt lives committed to long-term celibacy it is not typically done out of a casual desire to become a celibate just because it seems like a fun or interesting way of life. It is chosen as a life of self-denial because it is perceived as being “better” than the alternative of active sexual expression. The rapid decline in monasticism and participation in the celibate priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church in the last 50 years is in part due to more sex-positive attitudes in the general culture and even in the church, itself. Catholics used to perceive sex as “bad,” even, though to a lesser extent, within the context of marriage. Catholics were not suppose to have sex with their spouse for recreational purposes, because recreational sex was a sin. Sex was to be used *solely* as a means of procreation.

        People flocked to monasteries and convents for a variety of reasons, including respect, financial security and religious fervor, but among the underlying motivators and justifications for celibate monastic life was the church’s assertion that celibacy was a higher calling than that of marriage and its accompanying sex and procreation. Celibacy, as defined by the Catholic church prior to Vatican II, brought one closer to God than was possible for the non-celibate. As such, it gave one a place of higher respect in the community, as well. A boy of 23 would be called “Father” and treated deferentially by elders in the church and community. A young girl who entered the convent would be treated as a saint by her family, friends and people she met in the street.

        Since cultural shifts have defined sex more positively, even among Catholics in this country, there is less deference given to those in monastic/religious life. Catholic families are less likely to encourage their sons and daughters to renounce marriage and family in favor of celibate communities. In fact, they are more likely to be aware of the unhealth which is common among at least some communities of monastics, and to attempt to *discourage* young people bent upon such vocations. While there is still honor and respect in “giving” a son or daughter “to the church,” and still a certain amount of deference paid to priests and nuns, even the church, itself, now defines marriage and family as a vocation equally as high and as valid as that of celibacy. And while the church remains somewhat conflicted over the concept of sex-as-recreation (as evidenced by its continued refusal to authorize the use of birth control even for married persons), still, most Roman Catholic couples in the United States believe there is nothing with birth control and many couples use it, often with the permission and knowledge of their priests/confessors. And mosts priests in this country agree that married couples should engage in whatever types of sex within their relationship are most comfortable and fulfilling for both parties, regardless of whether those acts are “procreative” in nature.

        Buddhist monks and nuns practice celibacy, as well, also considering it a spiritual practice. They see sex and other physical drives (hunger, physical comfort, etc.) as distractions from the mind-focus needed to achieve enlightenment. Interesting difference, though, is that in Buddhism, monasticism is not, for most participants, considered a life-long commitment, but rather a practice which one utilizes for a period of one’s life, before going on to do other things, such as marry and raise a family. Celibacy during this time is a means to an end, not an end in itself.

        The point being that, in order to forego the primal drive to mate, to have sex, to form a bond of physical and emotional intimacy with another person, there must be a powerful motivator for doing so. For most people who adopt a commitment to celibacy, whether a life-long vow or a temporary period of abstinece, the motivator is religious in nature. There is a belief that, either the act of sex, itself, is wrong or evil; that the type of sex one desires to have is evil; or that celibacy is more honorable or righteous than sexual expression. And these beliefs are pretty much universally religiously-derived (even in the small percentage of self-described non-religious people who subscribe to them).

        Therefore, without the motivation of a religious belief or teaching which says that “sex is bad,” or that “homosexual sex is bad,” or that “sex is okay, but celibacy is more God-like and will allow you to reach spiritual planes not readily accessible to non-celibates,” there is no real motivation to engage in long-term celibacy.

        I’m not, by the way, saying that a religious motivator to celibacy cannot be valid, or at least, useful to some people. However, even in such cases, there are potential damaging consequences, and the majority of participants will be unlikely to be able to maintain perfect adherence to their commitment, often resulting in shame, guilt, and a variety of other consequences, depending up on the motivator.

        One such motivator is youth and marital status. Most societies and cultures (though not all) agree that sex prior to commitment to a spousal relationship is a poor choice, as it tends to result in sexually-transmitted diseases and pregnancies for which the participants are unprepared, and in offspring whose parentage and line of inheritance is unsecured. In this case, there is a reasonably valid social underpinning and justification for religious taboos against pre-marital sex, and therefore good cause for the practice of celibacy during the generally fairly limited time period between arriving at sexual maturity and beginning to engage in sexual relationships. Even here, however, the ability of the majority of individuals in this age group to completely comply with this expectation of celibacy is quite limited, and the external application of expectations of celibacy have been shown to have detrimental results (in that young people who have been given “abstinence-only” sexual education and pressured to sign commitments to remain celibate until marriage tend to be just as likely to engage in premarital sex, but, when doing so, are far *less* likely to use prophylactic measures against pregnancy and STDs).

        Another motivator for adopting a commitment to celibacy which is both religiously and socially derived and supported is in the case of a person whose sexual desires are exclusively of a violent, exploitative or otherwise damaging nature, such as serial rapists and pedophiles. One of the consequences of the Roman Catholic Church’s emphasis upon maintaining a celibate priesthood has been that people who experience their sexual desires and urges as being unacceptable to the church and/or society (a group which used to include more gay and lesbian people, but is growing less likely to do so, but which does and will continue to include persons who are sexually attracted to children, since society will not and should not accept sexual activity which is exploitative, harmful and nonconsensual). The RCC has succumbed to a common confusion between homosexuality and pedophilia, and has attempted to deal with its “Pedophile Priests” problem by conducting McCarthy-esque purges of homosexual priests from among its ranks. But the problem is not homosexual priests, but pedophiles, who are exclusively attracted to young children.

        By offering an institution (the celibate priesthood) in which it would appear that one’s sexual desires do not matter, and which promises to provide the means to “turn off” or sublimate one’s sexual self, *and* by granting those who join this institution a status of respect which exceeds the other members of the church and often surrounding society, the Roman Catholic Church has, in essence *courted* persons whose sexual desires are unacceptable to society, and has ended up with a priesthood which includes a vast number of pedophiles. Some probably joined out of an honest desire to suppress sexual desires they knew they did not want to give expression to — hoping that by their commitment to this celibate institution, they would be somehow relieved of this unacceptable urge to have sex with children. Others undoubtedly just saw the priesthood as a means of gaining access to trusting children of trusting parents in an environment in which the priest would be enormously respected by society and be considered above reproach.

        Either way, celibacy, no matter how committed the celibate, does not remove sexual urges or desires, which are, as I said at the outset, among the most primal instincts experienced by every sexual species. This means that the only realistic way to deal with sexuality and sexual desires over the long term is to channel them into a mating relationship with someone who is within the scope of what the individual finds desirable. For some people, this may mean a heterosexual mate. For some people, it may mean finding a mate of their own sex. Some people may be able to be satisfied with a mate of either sex (and the personality of the prospective mate may have more to do with the decision than does their genital configuration). For those whose sexual urges are dangerous, damaging and unacceptable in a civil society, such as pedophiles, it means that they must make a commitment to celibacy, but, in order to be successful at maintaining such a commitment, they must not have any access to those whom they sexually desire. They must not be permitted to live, work with or have access to children. The risks are far too great, because, as I said, there is no “cure” for sexuality. Sexuality is innate, and experience has shown that it is not changed or eliminated by religious beliefs or practices or by psychological therapies. Even torture does not eliminate sexual desire or change its objective.

        Suppression of sexual desire for those who are primarily attracted to members of their own sex is unnecessary. They are not harming anyone by engaging in consensual relationship with a person of their own sex. They are not exploiting or abusing. The only justifications which are offered for why a homosexual person should adopt a life of celibacy and attempt to completely suppress his or her sexuality are exclusively religious in nature. There is no secular justification for such an expectation.

        Therefore, unless one subscribes to the idea that homosexuality is inherently sinful, even in the context of a committed, monogamous relationship, there is absolutely no reason for groups like Evergreen and Exodus to exist. Their only “valid” purpose is to reinforce people’s beliefs in the “sinfulness” of homosexual relationships and to provide support to those who have accepted the idea that their innate sexual orientation is “sinful” in nature.

  20. Anonforthis permalink

    What I said was that there is a continuum, which indicates that change CAN happen. Which opens up the possibility that voluntary changing of orientation CAN be a valid solution for some individuals.

    Can you cite some studies here. It would be great to have actual data. I am aware of one study by Lisa Diamond (I think) at UofU that documented some cases in which female subjects’ sexual orientation fluctuated over a period of several years (if I remember correctly, it went in both directions: some who were primarily attracted to men become more attracted to women, and the opposite occurred in some other subjects). However, the study significantly noted that these changes were not the product of any sort of treatment or therapy. These changes then are not precisely “voluntary”; rather, they’re spontaneous. The cause of these changes isn’t very well understood. Also, I’m not aware of similar studies among men. (The 2001 Spitzer paper, once considered rather a coup, has in the last year been significantly undermined by the author’s disavowal of its conclusions and his acknowledgment that the many criticisms of his methodology were correct, invalidating his findings.)

    Now, I’ve heard it suggested that reparative therapy can have a positive effect when used in some cases of bisexuality; possibly it augmented latent heterosexual attraction, but I’m just assuming here. But there has been some rather compelling evidence that beyond being merely ineffective at making gay people straight, reparative therapy can actually cause harm to the homosexual men and women it purports to treat.

    I also read recently about an approach called (I think) “congruence therapy.” It basically accepts the psycho-sexual identity of the patient AND their moral/religious convictions, putting the focus on navigating that territory while recognizing that sexuality is almost certainly not going to change, often focusing on finding fulfillment in (maybe in spite of) celibacy. There may be some who would find such an approach helpful.

    In general though, I think even the most rudimentary requirements of professional ethics would insist that a therapist lay out the facts, including the likelihood of changing one’s sexual orientation (slim – none), the risks involved in trying to do so (further depression, suicidal ideation and attempts), and the parameters under which the therapist is willing to work (e.g.: “If X, Y, or Z happens, I will not be able to continue pursuing this approach in good conscience.”). Because there is potential to cause real harm, “change therapy” and its cousins ought to be treated like any other dangerous medical treatments with similar cost/benefit potential. The words “safe, legal, and rare” seem appropriate here.

    As someone who has participated in reparative therapy, I can say from experience that many (no doubt sincere) religiously-motivated therapists can be less than forthcoming about certain pertinent facts. My desperation combined with their promotion of dogma and optimism over fact and experience made for a powerful cocktail––one that, for me, was nearly lethal.

  21. Seth R. permalink

    Problem is – people actually do move along the spectrum. Which makes the analogy to race a bad one. There’s also quite a bit of literature out there (much of it from people who support homosexuality) on a “social constructionist” model that holds that one learns to think of oneself as gay or lesbian depending on the social context, opportunities, and language systems available to read one’s sexual feelings.

    And there have been a lot of poorly conceived therapies in the area of mental health in the past conducted with full professional approval. Problems with execution, however, do not automatically mean the goal was bad in the first place or shouldn’t even be explored.

    I’m ambiguous on reparative therapy. I don’t support or oppose it. It seems to me an area where dogma is driving the science rather than vic versa – and that applies to the pro-gay marriage camp as much as anyone.

    I’m not exactly the greatest expert in the world on the studies involved. But I know enough to be suspicious of science that seems so agenda-driven. You characterize my expressions of suspicion of the pro-gay marriage studies as a “smear.”

    Then what am I supposed to characterize your dismissal of the studies on the other side as Lorian?

    Isn’t that a “smear” as well? Unless both of us are willing to start dissecting the science in detail right here – complete with study citations, quotes and page numbers, I’m thinking we may both soon be reaching the limits of our ability to debate on this subject.

    However, I will say it’s been nice that you’ve been so polite about it. I don’t always get to debate calmly about this with people.

  22. Seth R. permalink

    Anon, that’s a responsible response. Thanks.

    I’ll tell you where I’m at right now. I’ve been reading advocacy pieces on both sides. These pieces often cite to various studies. However, I haven’t exactly gone down to the local university library and looked up the footnotes and delved into them. So my ready mastery of being able to throw out study citations in an online debate isn’t even remotely all that good.

    The essay I was thinking of as I wrote some of my own comments about sexual fluidity cited to

    -D. Browning & E. Marquardt, “Liberal Cautions on Same-Sex Marriage” (Witherspoon Institute, Princeton University, Dec. 2004)
    -D. Greenberg, “The Construction of Homosexuality” (The University of Chicago Press 1998)
    -D. Browning, “From Culture Wars to Common Ground: Religion and the American Family Debate (John Knox 2000)

    But, like most people who read essays – I haven’t gone and read the footnote sources myself. So I’m suspicious of the claims of both sides at present. Lorian may very well be spot-on with her criticisms of some of the studies she targeted. But I’m still highly skeptical of whether the critique applies to all sources currently being cited. Likewise, I’m skeptical of whether the sources being cited on the traditional marriage side are comprehensive or not.

    Kind of stinks how much actual real study we have to do just for a bunch of lousy Internet debates, doesn’t it?

  23. Seth says: “Problem is – people actually do move along the spectrum.”

    Problem with this argument is that not everyone *does* move along the spectrum. In fact, very few people (if any) go from 0-1 on Kinsey to 5-6, or vice versa. In fact, I don’t know of any evidence that anyone does so. People who shift between *relationships* with men vs. women tend to be those who fall towards the center of the scale and have an innate capacity to form satisfying sexual and intimate relationships with persons of either sex. That proves exactly *nothing* about people who fall to the extreme ends of the scale. And such people DO exist, Seth, despite your unwillingness to accept it. Perhaps you fall towards the middle of the scale and can imagine yourself in a relationship with someone of either sex, and therefore assume that everyone is similarly situated?

  24. Incidentally, I will agree that there is a shortage of studies which particularly study children raised by two fathers, since gay men have had far more difficulty in both adopting children and in hiring surrogates to give birth to biological children for them — consequently meaning that there have been fewer two-dad families over a shorter range of time than there have been two-mom families. The majority of studies of same-sex parenting have been conducting on families where there are two moms rather than two dads. We need more studies of two-dad families where all other factors are adjusted for (socio-economic status, age and condition at time of adoption, if applicable, etc.). But I see no reason to believe that outcomes will be significantly different than studies of lesbian moms and their children, which have been overwhelmingly positive when conducted by ethical researchers using valid comparison methodologies.

  25. Seth R. permalink

    You don’t need “everyone” to move on the spectrum. A few is enough to make my point.

    And I must have missed the part where I said I don’t accept that people on the extremes of the spectrum exist. Can you point me to where I said that?

    • You didn’t say that specifically, Seth. What you said is that sexual orientation falls on a continuum (agreed), and that the existence of this continuum serves as an indicator that sexual orientation is fluid and can be changed. It is no such thing. The fact that a few people may be able to, with sufficient motivation and usually for relatively limited periods of time, suppress their natural sexual desires and either sublimate them completely or adopt a sexual behavior which is unnatural for them, does not prove that change is possible. Nor does the existence of people who fall somewhere near the center of the continuum and actually *are* able to have satisfying relationships with persons of either sex in any way “prove” that sexual orientation can change. They don’t change sexual orientations. They are bisexual to begin with.

      The point is that the motivation for a person who actually is not attracted to the opposite sex at all, but who either marries someone of the opposite sex or elects to attempt to completely suppress his sexuality entirely, is nearly universally related to demands placed upon gay people by religious organizations. And if people wish to adopt those religious beliefs and attempt to force themselves into molds which are unnatural and most likely unhealthy for them, they are welcome to do so, but it is wrong for them to inflict suffering on innocent third parties (unsuspecting wives, or children who are very likely to be abandoned in divorce), and it is wrong to generalize the results of their efforts as either indicative of what can or should be expected of others who do not share their beliefs, or to legislate on the basis of such assumptions.

      As for studies, gay people have been raising our own and other peoples’ children for…ever, really. Remember that historically, most gay people have been forced into heterosexual marriage, and have ended up conceiving and raising children as a result. Gay people have been coming out of the closet in every-increasing numbers since the 1960s in this and many other countries, and have still continued to raise children conceived in prior heterosexual marriages. Many unwanted children of heterosexual parents have been raised by “maiden aunts” and “confirmed bachelor uncles.” Additionally, it has always been relatively easy for lesbians to conceive and raise their own children by way of either willing or unknowning donors. Since the 1970’s and 80’s it has been possible for lesbians to conceive their own children by way of anonymous donors through sperm clinics.

      Since the 1960’s regulations which made it difficult for single parents to adopt have been increasingly relaxed or done away with, particularly in cases of children with disabilities or who for other reasons have been considered “difficult to place.” Gay and lesbian couples have adopted children by way of such single-parent adoptions ever since that time, despite the fact in many or perhaps most cases, their spouse/partner was unable to also form a legal relationship to the child, at least until some states began allowing step-parent or second-parent adoptions by same-sex partners. Such adoptions picked up steam through the 1980’s and 90’s as the AIDS epidemic hit full stride and “AIDS babies,” babies born to drug-addicted, HIV-infected mothers, which tested positive at birth and were unwanted by most prospective adoptive parents, were rapidly shuffled off to gay foster parents and adoptive parents.

      Point is, there is a significant quantity of data, particularly on children raised by lesbian couples, dating back well into the 1970’s, and there have been several longitudinal studies on this population, which show that adult outcomes for children raised in these homes have been comparable to their opposite-sex-parented peers, such that all major professional organizations in this country have agreed that same-sex parents provide a quality of parenting and environment which is equally healthy and acceptable as compared with opposite-sex parents.

      Just as a “for-instance” (I’ll let you do your own work if you want to see more; there is plenty more out there), here is a review of studies published between 1978 and 2000. This was published in the Scandinavian Journal of Psychology:

      http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1467-9450.00302/abstract

  26. It is times like these (when I get into a discussion really late) that I wish I had comment numbering for this theme, rather than threaded commenting. I like the lowest comment to be the newest one, but there’s no way for me to respond to specific comments this way…

    ugh, I’ll be responding somehow in the next few minutes.

  27. Trev permalink

    This is a really good discussion, and I’m glad you guys are going through all the work to eloquently state your arguments and publicize them here. I hope I’m not the only one reading these and getting lots of value from it.

    I don’t want to jump in too much, but I just had to comment on

    “Not necessarily – you don’t have to assume there is something bad about [homosexuality] in order to support [‘stuff like Evergreen is doing’]. You might just join up with them as a lifestyle choice. Is that inconceivable?”

    If I’m reading that correctly, as a same-sex attracted young adult, my response is a surprised and unequivocal, “Yes! Yes, that is inconceivable. What on earth? Why would anyone want to put themselves through that as a ‘lifestyle choice’?”

    That sounds like the same kind of crazy talk I hear from people every now and then talking about how some hypothetical or heard-about-fifth-hand person adopts a “gay lifestyle” because it’s “cool” or “trendy.” Uh, no… it’s really not. Why would someone want to put him or herself through all that crap? Especially in the Church. Holy cow. It makes me sad that so many can’t seem to take gays seriously; it really is tragic.

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