Gabriel Arana On His “So-Called Ex-Gay Life”
April 11th, 2012
It’s been a while since we’ve heard from Gabriel Arana. His gig as web editor at The American Prospect has kept him pretty busy. Also keeping him busy lately is the work that he’s done in this remarkably personal account of his experience in ex-gay therapy as a patient of Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, a co-founder of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH). While a freshman in high school, Gabe’s parents discovered the he had a crush on another boy at school after snooping through his emails, they signed him up for Nicolosi’s therapy:
After our initial meeting, I spoke with Nicolosi weekly by phone for more than three years, from the time I was 14 until
I graduated high school. Like a rabbi instructing his student in understanding the Torah, Nicolosi encouraged me to interpret my daily life through the lens of his theories. …I came to believe that my attraction to men was the result of the failure to connect with my father. Whenever I felt slighted by my male friends —- for failing to call when they said they would, for neglecting to invite me to a party —- I was re-experiencing a seminal rejection from my father.
…My parents were surprised at how the therapy blamed them for my condition. Initially, Nicolosi had told them they were one of the cases that did not fit the mold of the “triadic relationship” —- in other words, that my sexual orientation was not their fault. Once it became clear that Nicolosi held them responsible, they disengaged. They continued paying for therapy but no longer checked in with Nicolosi regularly or asked what he and I talked about. I was happy to defy my parents. Whether the grievance was that my curfew wasn’t late enough or that my parents didn’t give me enough money, I had a trusted authority figure validating every perceived injustice. Any complaint became evidence of how my parents had failed me.
As I progressed in therapy, I felt that I was gaining insight into the source and causes of my sexual attractions. The problem was, they didn’t go away…
Gabe started therapy in 1998, the same year that the ex-gay industry began its major public relations offensive with a full-page ad in the New York Times and other major newspapers featuring ex-lesbian Anne Paulk, a major cover story in Newsweek featuring Paulk and her ex-gay husband (and Focus on the Family employee/Exodus International board chairman) John Paulk, and television commercials featuring Michael Johnston. John Paulk and Johnston would later fall to scandal, Paulk when he was photographed by Wayne Besen in a gay bar in Washington, D.C., Johnston when it was revealed that, despite being HIV-positive, engaged in unprotected sex in orgies with men he met on the internet. But in those heady days in 1998, the ex-gay movement made significant inroads into America’s consciousness, not only to the detriment of gay people, but to their families as well for bearing the blame for their children’s sexuality. But mainly to the detriment of the clients, which is where Gabe’s account becomes harrowing. It all came to a head a few years after counseling while Gabe was off to college:
Realizing how close I was to impulsively deciding to kill myself, I went to the college dean’s office and said I was suicidal. He walked me over to the Department of Undergraduate Health, and I was admitted to the Yale Psychiatric Hospital. During the intake interview, I had a panic attack and handed the counselor a handwritten note that said, “Whatever happens, please don’t take me away from here.” I had signed my full name and dated it. More than anything, I feared going home.
It was gray and cold my first night at the hospital. I remember looking out the window of the room I was sharing with a schizophrenic. Snow covered the ground in the enclosed courtyard below. Restless, I gathered a stack of magazines from the common area and flipped through the pages, noticing the men in the fashion advertisements. I tore out the ads and put them in a clear plastic file folder. I lay down in bed and held the folder against my chest. “It’s OK, it’s OK, it’s OK,” I murmured.
In this article, Gabe talks with two other former patients of Nicolosi’s: BTB’s Daniel Gonzales and Ryan Kendall, who testified at the Prop 8 trial about the harm he experienced in ex-gay therapy. In the sometimes very small world of the ex-gay movement, Ryan and Gabe were paired up as therapy partners. Ryan lived in Colorado, Gabe in Arizona, and they would talk on the phone a few times a week to form “genuine nonsexual bonds.” Seriously, you really need to read the whole thing all the way to the end when Gabe catches up with Nicolosi a decade later.
A Fishing Expedition to “Cure” the Gay: Bad Parents? Difficult Birth? Freemasonry?
January 31st, 2010
Patrick Strudwick, a British reporter for the Independent, went under cover posing as a gay man wanting to be cured. His journey began at at a conference in London last spring put on by Joseph Nicolosi, founder of the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality. From there, Patrick underwent “therapy” with one of Nicolosi’s acolytes:
She begins her wound hunt by asking about my family. I tell her that I have a close relationship with my parents and that they always gave me huge amounts of love, so I didn’t understand why Nicolosi says that homosexuality is caused by inadequate parenting. “Well, there was something happening within your family dynamics that led to your depression,” she says.
Lynne explains that people only identify as gay when they are already depressed. “There’s a confusion, there’s an anxiety, there’s a lot of pain,” she says. “Often the thought can be, ‘Oh I’m confused about my sexuality so I must be gay’.” She says that at the heart of homosexuality is a “deep isolation”, which is, she says, “where God needs to be”.
“Did you have a difficult birth?” she asks. No, I say. Why?
“It’s just something I have noticed. Often [with homosexuality] it is quite traumatic, the baby was put into intensive care and because of the separation from the mother there can be that lack of attachment.”
She moves on. “Any Freemasonry in the family?” No, I say, again asking her to elaborate. “Because that often encourages it as well. It has a spiritual effect on males and it often comes out as SSA.”
When you catch a cold, you generally know you caught it from a virus. Bipolar bipolar, Schizeophrenia, Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome can be caused by a number of things — typically biological in the first two, specific stressors in the third. But rarely when dealing with a real pathology is one forced to undergo a wide-ranging fishing expedition where any insignificant detail can then become the thing that causes everything to go wrong. And if they can’t find what they’re looking for — Freemasonry? Really? — they’ll just keep digging, even if nothing is there:
I began to constantly analyse why I found particular men attractive. Does that man represent something that’s lacking in me? Do I want him because he looks strong which must mean I feel weak? Did something happen in my childhood? The therapists planted doubt and worry where there was none.
My experiences, I learn, are typical. I speak to Daniel Gonzalez, one of Nicolosi’s former clients. “Conversion therapy is a very complicated form of repression,” he says. “It’s a way of convincing yourself that your same sex attractions have some alternate meaning. It continued to haunt me for years.”
I also speak to Peterson Toscano, who spent 17 years in Britain and the US trying every different reorientation treatment available. He says simply: “It’s psychological torture.”
Media Coverage Of Love Won Out Protest In Colorado Springs
October 26th, 2008
The Colorado Springs Gazette ran an article which quotes three people involved in planning the counter protest, Nori Rost (local Unitarian pastor), Wes Mullins (local MCC pastor who is also an ex-gay survivor), and ends with a fabulous quote by yours truly:
But Daniel Gonzales has a different view. The 28-year-old Denver resident will be one of four panelists at the “Love Came Out” event, where he’ll talk about embracing his sexual orientation after years of trying to change it while attending faith-based reparative programs.
“It all boiled down to trying to make up excuses for what was causing my attractions and convincing myself that my attractions had some other meaning and ultimately could be ignored or pushed aside,” Gonzales said.
“If that sounds like a fancy way of saying ‘repression,’” he said, “that would be exactly right.”
I haven’t been able to find the local Fox affiliate’s coverage online but here’s NBC’s coverage (in case you want more of me):
Denver Marriage Sit-In Particpants And Ex-Gay Survivor Activists To Speak Sunday At Soulforce Event
May 29th, 2008
Denver residents Kate Burns and her partner Sheila Schroeder will be speaking Sunday at MCC of the Rockies about last year’s sit-in at the county clerk’s office. Since the focus of the gathering is on Soulforce activism also speaking will be ex-gay survivor activists Daniel Gonzales and Christine Bakke.
MCC Of The Rockies
(10th & Clarkson in Denver)
Sunday, June 1st from 1-3pm
This forum is after the normal Sunday service so there won’t be any religion for those of you averse to such things.
Nicolosi: Gays Would Be “Jerking Off In Hamburgers All Over”
Another former patient of Dr. Joseph Nicolosi comes forward
May 3rd, 2008
Earlier this week, Daniel Gonzales provided his reaction to the recent Byrd, Nicolosi & Potts paper that appeared in Psychological Reports. Daniel’s comments were based on his own experience as a former patient of Dr. Nicolosi’s:
In my first session of therapy with Dr. Nicolosi he repeatedly pressed myself and my father, who was there with me, asking us if I had been molested as a child — which I hadn’t. In fact, much of that first session was focused on “digging around” for the supposed cause of my homosexuality.
Gabriel Arana, a Cornell University grad student and columnist for the Cornell Daily Sun, has come forward to write about his remarkably similar experience with Dr. Nicolosi in a recent column:
For three years I had weekly sessions with Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, president of the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH). Dr. Nicolosi thought that homosexuality was a pathology, a sublimated desire to reconnect with one’s lost masculinity. The theory: under-attentive fathers and over-attentive mothers create gay children. The purpose of therapy was to put me in touch with my masculine identity and thereby change my sexual orientation.
Years after I stopped therapy, I requested the case notes, knowing they would be destroyed after seven years. They provided an annotated collection of long-forgotten events. Next to the description of an argument with a male friend, Dr. Nicolosi scribbled “needs to look at the real source.” This was code: whatever the problem, it would be traced back to my lost masculine sense of self; I was angry because my friend had not paid attention to me as my father had not. Much of therapy also involved uncovering the numerous ways in which my parents had cheated me (as a teenager, I was more than happy to blame things on them).
According to Arana, Dr. Nicolosi didn’t try to conceal his utter disgust with gay people:
Disgust with what was termed the “gay lifestyle” was implicit in therapy. I remember Dr. Nicolosi telling me, in response to the question of whether one could easily contract HIV from semen, that if this were the case then gays would be “jerking off in hamburgers all over” to infect people.
That is was passes for ethical professionalism at NARTH. As does this:
…I know Dr. Robert Spitzer’s study well. Dr. Nicolosi asked me to participate in it, but instructed me not to reveal that he had referred me; while he wanted his organization’s views represented, he did not want to bring into question the study’s integrity.
The Spitzer study is the famous ex-gay study that purported to show that people can change their sexual orientation. However, the study was stacked with people who had a vested interest in demonstrating change. According to Dr. Spitzer, “the majority of participants (78 percent) had publicly spoken in favor of efforts to change homosexual orientation, often at their church,” and “nineteen percent of the participants were mental health professionals or directors of ex-gay ministries.” Among that 19% was Alan Chambers and Randy Thomas, Exodus International’s president and vice-president.
By the way, this is not the first time we’ve seen allegations that Nicolosi advised his clients to lie to Spitzer. Daniel Gonzales described a very similar conversation with Nicolosi nearly three years ago:
Nicolosi told me it would be great if I could represent the positive/success side of ex-gays in this study. Joseph Nicolosi asked me to lie to Spitzer when I called in for my study interview by denying Nicolosi had referred me. Turned off by this attempted manipulation, I never went through with taking part in the Spitzer study.
Hat tip: Ex-Gay Watch
My Submission For The Memphis Ex-Gay Survivor Art Show
February 17th, 2008
Acrylic paint and Sharpie on wooden block and parchment craft paper
Nikon D70 @ 50mm, multiple exposures at 1/20 f8, ISO 400
Natural illumination supplemented with halogen work lamps
Just a reminder “Deconstructing The Ex-Gay Myth, A Weekend Of Action And Art” is next weekend in Memphis. For a full schedule of events click here.