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Homosexuality: The cultural mainstreaming of homosexuality

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  • Laura
    The cultural mainstreaming of homosexuality is liberating those seeking to escape it b7 Lynn Vincent When Stephen was 16, he told his mother he was gay. The
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 1, 2008
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      The cultural mainstreaming of homosexuality is liberating those
      seeking to escape it

      b7 Lynn Vincent


      When Stephen was 16, he told his mother he was gay.

      The year was 1998, and America was hovering on the verge of a new gay
      ascendancy. Comedian Ellen DeGeneres had just declared herself a
      lesbian, both on her television sit-com and in real life. The murder
      of Wyoming college student Matthew Shepard sparked candlelight vigils
      and pro-gay proclamations by public figures such as Sen. Ted Kennedy.
      The ensuing windfall of "hate crimes" legislation helped gay
      activists continue to reframe the homosexuality debate, from one
      about morality to one about civil rights. In 1999, California
      legalized same-sex domestic partnerships; the following year, Vermont
      sanctioned gay civil unions; and state after state made "sexual
      orientation" a protected class.


      "It was so easy in the culture to say, 'I like men. That's my
      preference,'" said Stephen, now 26 and working in Nashville's finance
      industry. The culture also made it easy for him to fall into an abyss
      of failed live-in relationships and anonymous sexual encounters. By
      2006, he felt buried alive.

      "I felt trapped by the gay-rights movement," he said. "I wasn't a
      part of it, but all my friends were."

      Paradoxically, though, it was the gay-rights movement that paved
      Stephen's way to healing: "Because it's easier to come out of the
      closet, it's also easier to find people who have found freedom" from
      homosexuality. "You now have people who have lived in the gay
      lifestyle and who have been hurt by it and are talking about it."

      Call it "ex-gay" liberation: While the American Psychological
      Association and establishment gay-rights groups still deny that
      people can change from gay to straight, several faith-based and
      secular programs for struggling homosexuals are reporting the same
      phenomenon—that by normalizing homosexuality in the culture, gay
      activists have de-stigmatized their lifestyle, and in so doing, have
      freed those fighting same-sex attraction to seek help without shame.

      "The fact that gay activists have brought homosexuality out of the
      closet has allowed us to open the closet door wide so that people who
      have suffered in silence can find healing options and alternatives,"
      said Arthur Goldberg, director of JONAH, an international Jewish
      nonprofit based in New Jersey.

      Tustin, Calif., counselor Joe Dallas agrees. In his own biblical
      counseling practice, he has noticed that teenagers are more likely to
      be honest with their parents about their sexuality, whether they are
      struggling with it or embracing it. "There is more willingness to
      talk openly about it, and that's a good thing."

      Exodus International, a Christian outreach to gays and lesbians
      seeking change, has seen a dramatic shift in the types of people
      interested in talking. More than half those attending the group's
      2007 annual conference in Los Angeles were first-time conference
      goers, a dramatic change from years past when the majority were
      repeat attendees. Rising interest prompted the group to launch its
      first-ever regional conference, held in Nashville last fall. As with
      the L.A. conference, the majority (60 percent) of participants were
      first-time attendees.

      Exodus has also seen growth in its fledgling church network, an
      interdenominational coalition of congregations that provide local
      support to those seeking freedom from homosexuality. Since its
      formation in 2006, the Exodus Church Network has grown to more than
      70 congregations.

      Stephen, the Nashville finance professional who walked away from
      homosexuality, said the growing number of churches providing a safe
      place to fight unwanted same-sex attraction shows that "churches are
      now realizing that the way they've handled this issue in the past is
      not the God-intended way to deal with any sort of bondage or sin. You
      don't berate people or shame them. Neither do you accept the sinful
      behavior. Instead, you lovingly show them the freedom from the
      bondage they've been in."

      Don Timone is a New York-based Catholic priest who has served for 25
      years as a spiritual director for Courage, a support group for
      Catholics who want to disconnect from homosexuality. Timone said he's
      noticed an increase in the number of parents attending Courage's
      summer conferences in search of help in dealing with a son or
      daughter who has come out. In years past, many Catholic families
      rejected their homosexual sons and daughters, guarded the sin as a
      dirty family secret, or both, he said. "Cultural changes have helped
      parents deal with their sons and daughters in a more compassionate
      way."

      Timone said he is also seeing more Catholic bishops actively seeking
      to launch support groups in their dioceses, another trend he pegs to
      the cultural visibility of homosexuality. "With massive media
      coverage, the church is now saying, 'These are good people who have
      been wounded in some way. Let's see what we can do to help them.'"

      The trend toward outreach is also present among Orthodox Jews,
      Goldberg reports. But he notes that there is a significant downside
      to all this: JONAH does see "a subset of people who have never really
      acted out with a person of the same sex, may or may not fantasize
      about it, or may have had one experimental activity," Goldberg
      said. "Yet these people have begun obsessing about the idea that they
      must be gay because society is telling them they must be gay."

      In decades past, men and women routinely brushed off fleeting
      thoughts of homosexual behavior. Now, though, gay activists have
      succeeded in planting a seed that says people not only can but should
      follow such thoughts with exploration and action.

      Encino, Calif., clinic psychologist Joseph Nicolosi said that trend
      has changed the demographics in his practice. In 1991, his average
      client was in his or her mid- to late twenties. Now about a third are
      teenagers. Public-school gay outreaches such as the Gay Lesbian
      Straight Education Network and "gay-straight alliances" have resulted
      in more kids claiming a gay identity at younger ages. "So that bad
      news is they're coming out of the closet earlier," said Nicolosi, who
      is president of the National Association for Research & Therapy of
      Homosexuality. "The good news is when they announce it to their
      parents, their parents are getting them into therapy quicker."

      In decades past, more kids waited until their college years to
      announce their homosexuality. By then, it was too late for parental
      intervention. Now though, like Timone, Nicolosi has noticed more
      parents intervening earlier and with positive results: "The
      adolescent is more inclined to renounce his gay 'identity' when he
      learns that it's not biological or inevitable, but the result of
      childhood trauma," Nicolosi said, adding that the countermanding
      influence of concerned parents is a factor gay activists typically
      overlook when promoting homosexuality to youth.

      The new openness is helping not only those looking to leave
      homosexuality, but also Christians who are battling homosexual urges
      but have never acted on them. Brad, a recent college graduate living
      in Manitou Springs, Colo., grew up in the church and has actively
      fought same-sex attraction for eight years. "All I ever heard was
      testimonies from people who went deeply into the gay lifestyle," he
      said.

      That didn't describe him and so, for years, he kept his battle
      private. But the effect was like that of a tight lid on a boiling
      pot. "It becomes this dichotomy where you feel you either have to
      live out the lifestyle or repress it in silence," he said.

      But through books he ordered from Exodus, as well as openness among
      his Christian family and friends, he has learned that it's OK to
      struggle—and OK not to elevate feelings above the Word of God.
      Instead, there's a third option, Brad said: "You can work through
      temptation just like every Christian has done through the ages with
      every kind of sin."

      http://www.worldmag.com/articles/13735
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