CAUSE & PREVENTION OF HOMOSEXUALITY
BY DR. JAMES DOBSON
June greetings to you! This is a busy month, as spring gives way to summer and many families begin piling in their cars to take that long-awaited vacation. It’s also the month in which we celebrate Father’s Day-an observance that, while largely fueled by greeting card companies, nevertheless provides us with an excellent opportunity to recognize the importance of a father in the lives of his children. Indeed, the scourge of divorce, broken homes, and even busy schedules have deprived millions of children of a father’s critical presence in their lives. My prayer is that, beyond simply setting aside a day to recognize fathers, our culture will once again embrace and promote fatherhood and its irreplaceable role in the lives of the next generation. Because good fathers play such a vital role in the development of healthy sexual attitudes in children, and because the absence of fathers can be detrimental to them, I want to devote my letter this month to the subject of sexual identity in kids and the forces that influence it.
And that takes me back to March, when I was a guest on the Larry King Live program. During that hour-long interview, Mr. King asked me several brief questions about the origins of homosexuality. I commented briefly that, while individuals are not born with this condition, neither do they typically choose it. Unfortunately, our conversation then veered all over the map and Mr. King never came back to ask me the obvious follow-up question: “Then what does cause a person to be attracted to the same sex?” Consequently, we have received a number of letters and phone calls here at Focus on the Family from confused viewers asking me to clarify the point I was making. I will try to do precisely that in this letter.
Chapter 9 of my latest book, Bringing Up Boys, provides a definitive explanation, I believe, regarding the origins of homosexuality. Let me quote the following excerpts, which should be of extreme importance to every parent who is raising one or more boys. I pray that this discussion will be helpful in that context. (Note: because this chapter in its original form runs more than 8,000 words, the passage that follows represents only the issue of “origins and prevention” of homosexuality. Some of you may want to track down a copy of Bringing Up Boys to obtain the full text.)
The letter that begins this excerpt contains some disturbing expressions from a 13-year-old boy. Please read with discretion.
The Origins Homosexuality
A few years ago, I received the following scribbled note from a very troubled youth. He wrote:
Dear Dr. Dobson:
I’ve been putting this off for a long time so I’m finally writing you a letter. I am a thirteen year old boy. I have listened to your tapes [Preparing for Adolescence] but not the complete set. I did listen to the one on sex though.
Getting to the point, I don’t know if I have a serious problem or a passing? (I don’t know the word for it). All through my life (very short) I have acted and look much more like a girl than a boy. When I was little, I would always wear finger nail polish, dresses, and the sort. I also had an older cousin who would take us (little cousins) into his room and show us his genitals. I’m afraid I have a little sodomy in me. It was very hard for me to write what I just did. I don’t want to afraid. That was hard to write too. Let me explain further.
Through my higher grades in school (I’m in seventh grade) kids have always called me names (gay, fag etc.), and made fun of me. It’s been hard. I have masturbated (I guess) but gone too far. When I was little (not that little) I tried to more than once to suck my own penis (to be frank). That sounds very bad and looks even worse to read it. I pray that nothing is wrong with me.
Very recently I have done such acts as looking (maybe lusting, I pray so hard that I wasn’t) at myself in skimpy underwear. Whenever I wear it I feel a like sexual sensation. Yesterday in the bathroom (in front of the mirror), I wiggled my body very rapidly, making my genitals bounce up and down. I get a little bit of that feeling mentioned above as I write this. After I did this, I immediately asked forgiveness of God, went in the shower but did it again there. I prayed more and felt very bad. I talked with one of my pastors and told him at that point I probably preferred a man’s body over a woman’s. Now that was hard to say! He said he didn’t think anything was wrong with me (I don’t know how else to say it. He apparently thought it was passing), but I feel
very badly and want to know why. The pastor mentioned above is one I go to for advice very often.
About my spiritual life; I came to Christ only about a year ago but have grown very much. I have also done lot’s wrong. I am a Mennonite. What denomination are you? I have been baptized and am well liked in the church (I think). I’m afraid if I am not straight (that’s much easier to write) I will go to hell. I don’t want to be not straight. I don’t try to be not straight. I love God and want to go to heaven. If something is wrong with me, I want to get rid of it.
Please help me.
I was deeply touched by Mark’s letter. I know him well even though we have never met. He is representative of many other preteens and teens around the world who have awakened to something terrifying within-something they don’t understand-something that creates enormous confusion and doubt. These kids often recognize very early in life that they are “different” from other boys. They may cry easily, be less athletic, have an artistic temperament and dislike the roughhousing that their friends enjoy. Some of them prefer the company of girls, and they may walk, talk, dress and even “think” effeminately. This, of course, brings rejection and ridicule from the “real boys,” who tease them unmercifully and call them “queer,” “fag,” and “gay.” Even when parents are aware of the situation, they typically have no idea how to help. By the time the adolescent hormones kick in during early adolescence, a full-blown gender-identity crisis threatens to overwhelm the teenager. This is what Mark was experiencing when he wrote. And it illustrates why even boys with normal heterosexual tendencies are often terrified that they will somehow “turn gay.”‘
There is an additional dimension of pain for those who have grown up in a strong Christian home. Their sexual and feelings produce great waves of guilt accompanied by secret fears of divine retribution. They ask themselves, How could God love someone as vile as me? Mark even felt condemned for jumping up and down in the shower and for feeling the excitement it created. (That titillation by the sight of his own body is a classic symptom of narcissism, or a “turning inward” to fulfill his unmet gender-identification needs.) He either had to figure out how to control this monster within or, in his understanding, face an eternity in hell. There is no greater internal turmoil for a Christian boy or girl than this. At the top of Mark’s letter he wrote, “I may sound very bad. I hope I’m not that bad.”
Poor kid! Mark is in desperate need of professional help, but he is unlikely to get it. His parents apparently don’t know about his travail, and the pastor he trusts tells him it will pass. It probably
won’t! Mark appears to have a condition we might call “prehomosexuality,” and unless he and his entire family are guided by someone who knows how to assist, the probabilities are very great that
he will go on to experience a homosexual lifestyle.
What do we know about this disorder? Well first, it is a disorder, despite the denials of the American Psychiatric Association. Great political pressure was exerted on this professional organization by gays and lesbians (some of whom are psychiatrists) to declare homosexuality to be “normal.” The debate went on for years. Finally, a decision was made in 1973 to remove this condition from their Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). It was made not on the basis of science, but was strongly influenced by a poll of APA members, which was initiated and financed by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. The vote was 5,834 to 3,810. The American Psychological Association soon followed suit. Today, psychologists or psychiatrists who disagree with this politically correct interpretation, or even those who try to help homosexuals change, are subjected to continual harassment and accusations of malpractice.
The second thing we know is that the disorder is not typically “chosen.” Homosexuals deeply resent being told that they selected this same-sex inclination in pursuit of sexual excitement or some other motive. It is unfair, and I don’t blame them for being irritated by that assumption. Who among us would knowingly choose a path that would result in alienation from family, rejection by friends, disdain from the heterosexual world, exposure to sexually transmitted diseases such as AIDS and tuberculosis, and even a shorter lifespan? No, homosexuality is not “chosen” except in rare circumstances. Instead, bewildered children and adolescents such as Mark find themselves dealing with something they
Third, there is no evidence to indicate that homosexuality is inherited, despite everything you may have heard or read to the contrary. There are no respected geneticists in the world today who
claim to have found a so-called “gay gene” or other indicators of genetic transmission. This is not to say that there may not be some kind of biological predisposition or an inherited temperament that makes one vulnerable to environmental influences. But efforts to identify such factors have been inconclusive. Despite this lack of evidence, the gay and lesbian organizations and their friends in the mainstream media continue to tell the public that the issue is settled that gays are “born that way.” Time and Newsweek splashed “promising findings” to that effect on their covers. Time titled their story “Search for the Gay Gene,” and Newsweek proclaimed, “Does DNA Make Some Men Gay?” Oprah devoted several slanted television programs to the subject, and Barbara Walters said recently, “There is a growing body of opinion that says that people are born homosexual.” Even though entirely false, this politically motivated information (or disinformation) has done its work. According to a Harris Poll in February 2000, 35 percent of the people polled believed homosexuality was “genetic.”
There is further convincing evidence that it is not. For example, since identical twins share the same chromosomal pattern, or DNA, the genetic contributions are exactly the same within each of the pairs. Therefore, if one that characteristic too. That is not the case. en one twin is homosexual, the probability is only 50 percent that the other will have the same condition. Something else must be operating.
Furthermore, if homosexuality were specifically inherited, it would tend to be eliminated from the human gene pool because those who have it tend not to reproduce. Any characteristic that is not passed along to the next generation eventually dies with the individual who carries it.
Not only does homosexuality continue to exist in nations around the world, it flourishes in some cultures. If the condition resulted from inherited characteristics, it would be a “constant” across time. Instead, there have been societies through the ages, such as Sodom and Gomorrah and the ancient Greek and Roman empires, where homosexuality reached epidemic proportions. The historical record tells us that those cultures and many others gradually descended into depravity, as the apostle Paul described in Romans 1, resulting in sexual perversion in all its varieties. That ebbing and flowing with the life cycle of cultures is not the way inherited characteristics are expressed in the human family.
Finally, if homosexuality were genetically transmitted, it would be inevitable, immutable, irresistible, and untreatable. Fortunately, it is not. Prevention is effective. Change is possible. Hope is available. And Christ is in the business of healing. Here again, gay and lesbian organizations and the media have convinced the public that being homosexual is as predetermined as one’s race and that nothing can be done about it. That is simply not true. There are eight hundred known former gay and lesbian individuals today who have escaped from the homosexual lifestyle and found wholeness in their newfound heterosexuality.
One such individual is my co-worker at Focus on the Family, John Paulk, who has devoted his life to caring for and assisting those who want to change. At one time, he was heavily involved in the gay community, marched in “gaypride” parades and was a cross-dresser. Ultimately, John found forgiveness and healing in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and he has walked the straight life now since 1987. He is happily married to Anne, a former lesbian, and they have two beautiful children. Despite a momentary setback when he entered and was discovered in a homosexual bar, which delighted his critics, John did not return to his former life. There are hundreds of stories like this that offer encouragement to those who want out of the gay lifestyle but
have no idea how to deal with the forces within. I would be less than honest if I didn’t admit that homosexuality is not easily overcome and that those who try often struggle mightily. But it would be equally dishonest to say that there is no hope for those who want to change. Credible research indicates otherwise.
Psychologist George Rekers says there is considerable evidence that change of sexual orientation is possible-with or without psychiatric intervention. He wrote, “In a sizable number of cases…the gender-identity disorder resolves fully.”
Dr. Robert L. Spitzer, a psychiatric professor at Columbia University, created a firestorm in May 2001, when he released the results of his research at a meeting of the American Psychiatric Association. Spitzer, who had spearheaded the APA’s decision in 1973 to declassify homosexuality as a mental-health disorder, says his findings “show some people can change from gay to straight, and we ought to acknowledge that.” This was not what his critics wanted to hear. We applaud Dr. Spitzer for having the courage to examine and then expose the myth of inevitability.
With that, let’s return to Mark’s story to explore what is going on within him and other boys who are experiencing pre-homosexual urges. We also want to consider what causes their sexual identity disorder and what can be done to help. To get at those issues, we will turn to the very best resource for parents and teachers I have found. It is provided in an outstanding but yet-to-be-published manuscript entitled A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality, written by clinical psychologist Joseph Nicolosi, Ph.D. Dr. Nicolosi is, I believe, the foremost authority on the prevention and treatment of homosexuality today. His book will offer practical advice and a clear-eyed perspective on the antecedents of homosexuality. I wish every parent would eventually read it, especially those who have reason to be concerned about their sons. Its purpose is not to condemn but to educate and encourage moms and dads.
~Dr. Nicolosi has permitted me to share some quotes from this manuscript that will answer many questions~ These are some of his words:
There are certain signs of prehomosexuality which are easy to recognize, and the signs come early in the child’s life. Most come under the heading of “cross-gender behavior.” There are five markers to diagnose] a child with “gender-identity disorder.” They are:
1. Repeatedly stated desire to be, or insistence that he or she is, the other sex.
2. In boys, preference for cross-dressing, or simulating female attire. In girls, insistence on wearing only stereotypical masculine clothing.
3. Strong and persistent preference for cross-sexual roles in make-believe play, or persistent fantasies of being the other sex.
4. Intense desire to participate in stereotypical games and pastimes of the other sex.
5. Strong preference for playmates of the other sex.
Perhaps you are concerned about your child and his or her “sexual development.” Maybe your son or daughter is saying things like, “I must be gay,” or “I’m bisexual.” You’ve found same-sex porn in his room or evidence that he has accessed it on the Internet. You’ve found intimate journal entries about another girl in her diary. The most important message I can offer to you is that there is no such thing as a “gay child” or a “gay teen.” [But] left untreated, studies show these boys have a 75 percent chance of becoming homosexual or bisexual.
The onset of most cross-gender behavior occurs during the pre-school years, between the ages of two and four. You needn’t worry about occasional cross-dressing. You should become concerned, though, when your little boy continues doing so and, at the same time, begins to acquire some other alarming habits. He may start using his mother’s makeup. He may avoid other boys in the neighborhood and their rough-and-tumble activities and prefer being with his sisters instead, who play with dolls and dollhouses. Later he may start speaking in a high-pitched voice. He may affect the exaggerated gestures and even the walk of a girl, or become fascinated with long hair, earrings and scarves. In one study of sixty effeminate boys aged four to eleven, 98 percent of them engaged in cross-dressing, and 83 percent said they wished they had been born a girl.
The fact is, there is a high correlation between feminine behavior in boyhood and adult homosexuality. There are telltale signs of discomfort with . . . boys and deep-seated and disturbing feelings that they [are] different and somehow inferior. And yet parents often miss the warning signs and wait too long to seek help for their children. One reason for this is that they are not being told the truth about their children’s gender confusion, and they have no idea what to do about it.
It is important to understand, however, that most of my homosexual clients were not explicitly feminine when they were children. More often, they displayed a “nonmasculinity” that set them painfully apart from other boys: unathletic, somewhat passive, unaggressive and uninterested in rough-and-tumble play. A number of them had traits that could be considered gifts: bright, precocious, social and relational and artistically talented. These characteristics had one common tendency: they set them apart from their male peers and contributed to a distortion in the development of their normal gender identity.
Because most of these men hadn’t been explicitly feminine boys, their parents had not suspected anything was wrong, so they had made no efforts at seeking therapy. Many clients have told me, “If only-back then when I was a child-someone had understood the doubts, the feeling of not belonging-and tried to help me.”
But make no mistake. A boy can be sensitive, kind, social, artistic, gentle-and be heterosexual. He can be an artist, an actor, a dancer, a cook, a musician-and heterosexual. These innate artistic skills are “who he is,” part of the wonderful range of human abilities, and there’s no reason to discourage them. But they can all be developed within the context of normal heterosexual manhood.
In my opinion (and in the opinion of an increasing number of researchers), the father plays an essential role in a boy’s normal development as a man. The truth is, Dad is more important than Mom. Mothers make boys. Fathers make men. In infancy, both boys and girls are emotionally attached to the mother. In psychoanalytic language, Mother is the first love object. She meets all her child’s primary needs.
Girls can continue to grow in their identification with their mothers. On the other hand, a boy has an additional developmental task-to disidentify from his mother and identify with his father. At this point [beginning at about eighteen months], a little boy will not only begin to observe the difference, he must now decide, “Which one am I going to be?” In making this shift in identity, the little boy begins to take his father as a model of masculinity. At this early stage, generally before the age of three, Ralph Greenson observed, the boy decides that he would like to grow up like his father. This is a choice. Implicit in that choice is the decision that he would not like to grow up to be like his mother. According to Robert Stoller, “The first order of business in being a man is, ‘don’t be a woman.”’
Meanwhile, the boy’s father has to do his part. He needs to mirror and affirm his son’s maleness. He can play rough-and-tumble games with his son, in ways that are decidedly different from the games he would play with a little girl. He can help his son learn to throw and catch a ball. He can teach him to pound a square wooden peg into a square hole in a pegboard. He can even take his son with him into the shower, where the boy cannot help but notice that Dad has a penis, just like his, only bigger.
Based on my work with adult homosexuals, I try to avoid the necessity of a long and sometimes painful therapy by encouraging parents, particularly fathers, to affirm their sons’ maleness. Parental
education, in this area and all others, can prevent a lifetime of unhappiness and a sense of alienation. When boys begin to relate to their fathers, and begin to understand what is exciting, fun and
energizing about their fathers, they will learn to accept their own masculinity. They will find a sense of freedom-of power-by being different from their mothers, outgrowing them as they move into a man’s world. If parents encourage their sons in these ways, they will help them develop masculine identities and be well on their way to growing up straight. In 15 years, I have spoken with hundreds of homosexual men. I have never met one who said he had a loving, respectful relationship with his father.
Many of these fathers loved their sons and wanted the best for them, but for whatever reason (perhaps there was a mismatch between the father’s and son’s temperaments), the boy perceived his father as a negative or inadequate role model. Dad was “not who I am” or “not who I want to be.” A boy needs to see his father as confident, self-assured and decisive. He also needs him to be supportive, sensitive and caring. Mom needs to back off a bit. What I mean is, don’t smother him. Let him do more things for himself. Don’t try to be both Mom and Dad for him. If he has questions, tell him to ask Dad. She should defer to her husband anything that will give him a chance to demonstrate that he is interested in his son-that he isn’t rejecting him.
But this natural process of gender identification can sometimes go awry. The late Irving Bieber, a prominent researcher, observed that prehomosexual boys are sometimes the victims of their parents’ unhappy marital relationship. In a scenario where Mom and Dad are battling, one way Dad can “get even” with Mom is by emotionally abandoning their son.
Some fathers find a way to get involved in everything but their sons. They lose themselves in their careers, in travel, in golf, or in any number of activities that become so all-important to them that they have no time for their boys or for that “one particular son” who is harder to relate to because he does not share Dad’s interests. Perhaps the activities this particular son enjoys are more social and less typically masculine.
I’ve even seen fathers who did not necessarily have other distracting interests but simply remained emotionally removed from the entire family. I saw one father-an immature and inadequate man who emphatically told his wife, before the son was born, that he did not want a boy-completely reject and ignore their son and dote on their daughter. Apparently threatened by the idea of having another “man in the house,” this father made his displeasure so clear that, by the age of two, his son was (not surprisingly) wearing dresses and playing with a doll collection.
For a variety of reasons, some mothers also have a tendency to prolong their sons’ infancy. A mother’s intimacy with her son is primal, complete, exclusive; theirs is a powerful bond which can deepen into what psychiatrist Robert Stoller calls a “blissful symbiosis.” But the mother may be inclined to hold onto her son in what becomes an unhealthy mutual dependency, especially if she does not have a satisfying, intimate relationship with the boy’s father. She can put too much energy into the boy, using him to fulfill her own needs in a way that is not good for him. In reparative therapy [a psychologist’s name for treatment of homosexuals], effeminate boys yearn for what is called “the three A’s.” They are: their father’s affection, attention and approval.
If [a father] wants his son to grow up straight, he has to break the mother-son connection that is proper to infancy but not in the boy’s interest after the age of three. In this way, the father has to be a model, demonstrating that it is possible for his son to maintain a loving relationship with this woman, his mom, while maintaining his own independence. In this way, the father is a healthy buffer between mother and son.
Recalling the words of psychologist Robert Stoller, he said, “Masculinity is an achievement.” [He] meant that growing up straight isn’t something that happens. It requires good parenting. It requires societal support. And it takes time. The crucial years are from one and a half to three years old, but the optimal time is before age twelve. Once mothers and fathers recognize the problems their children face, agree to work together to help resolve them, and seek the guidance and expertise of a psychotherapist who believes change is possible, there is great hope.
Once again, this short synopsis from Dr. Nicolosi’s book offers the most insightful understanding of the subject. The bottom line is that homosexuality is not primarily about sex. It is about everything else, including -loneliness, rejection, affirmation, intimacy, identity, relationships, parenting, self-hatred, gender confusion, and a search for belonging. This explains why the homosexual experience is so intense-and why there is such anger expressed against those who are perceived as disrespecting gays and lesbians or making their experience more painful. I suppose if we who are straight had walked in the shoes of those in that “other world,” we would be angry too.
There is much more useful information in Nicolosi’s manuscript. If you as a parent have an effeminate boy or a masculinized girl, I urge you to get a copy (it will be available this November) and then seek immediate professional help. Be very careful whom you consult, however. Getting the wrong advice at this stage could be most unfortunate, solidifying the tendencies that are developing. Given the direction the mental-health profession has gone, most secular psychiatrists, psychologists, and counselors would, I believe, take the wrong approach-telling your child that he is homosexual and needs to accept that fact. You as parents would then be urged to consider the effeminate behavior to be healthy and normal. That is exactly what you and your son don’t need! You do need to accept the child and affirm his worth regardless of the characteristics you observe but also work patiently with therapist in redirecting those tendencies. When deciding to seek that help, however, you must be aware that for many pre-homosexual boys, the signs may be more subtle, such as an inability to bond with same-sex peers, feeling different and inferior, or a discomfort with one’s gender. Sometimes a visit with a professional is needed just to determine whether or not a child is at risk.
To find a ministry, support or a counselor who understands and accepts the perspective I have described, you might want to contact one of two outstanding organizations. They are:
Exodus International North America
PO. Box 540119
Orlando, Florida 32854
888-264-0877 (toll free)
National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH)
16633 Ventura Boulevard, Suite 1340
Encino, CA 91436
It is the mission of these caring people to be of help to people such as you. Another resource is Focus on the Family, which has an outreach called Love Won Out. It offers seminars and information to those seeking help. (This dynamic one-day seminar offers love, hope and compassion to families that have been negatively affected by homosexuality. Dr. Nicolosi is a keynote speaker. Additional speakers include John Paulk and other former homosexuals who are experts in the field of recovery and gender identity. In fact, there are several Love Won Out conferences scheduled to take place in the coming months. Here are the cities and dates:
June 22 in Kansas City, MO; September 7 in Pasadena, CA; November 2 in Washington, DC; February
23, 2003 in Austin, TX; April 26, 2003 in Detroit, MI; June 21, 2003 in
Portland, OR; and September 20, 2003 in Toronto.
If you or someone you love is struggling with homosexuality, or if you are dealing with a child whose sexual identity is confused, I urge you to consider attending one of these gatherings. Please call us at 1-800-A-FAMILY for more information.)
I’ll close this letter by referring again to Mark and other boys who appear effeminate, gender-confused, or chronically uncomfortable with same-sex peers. Parents, you have no time to lose. Once more, let me urge you to seek professional help for those who appear to be in difficulty, and pray for them every day. Fathers, begin applying the principles outlined by Dr. Nicolosi, and by all means, give your boys what they most urgently need: YOU. Your loving presence is one of the most important factors in their healthy emotional and spiritual development.
Time and space do not permit me to continue this explanation now. As it is, I feel badly about sending you a letter of this length. Perhaps I can return to the topic sometime over the next few months, if there are no other pressing matters to discuss. In the meantime, I extend my best regards to you, and ask you to call or write us here at Focus on the Family if we can be of assistance. Or, you can consult our Web site at www.family.org. We would love to be of help to you and yours.
Thank you for your continued financial and prayerful support of this ministry.
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED BY FOCUS ON THE FAMILY, JUNE 2002, PAGES 1-8. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.