I have written the following lengthy comments in response to Jay’s latest post, and thought it would be useful to post if here as well.

Jay,

When I started work on my MA in psychology, the first paper I wrote was on the etiology (causes and development) of homosexuality. I think doing this research was one of the things that eventually led me to give up on my quest to become straight.

No one really has any idea what causes homosexuality. As with most psychological phenomena, research shows that BOTH environmental factors (nurture) AND biological factors (nature) influence the development of homosexuality. Most research also suggests that it is fixed in early childhood, and that it is more or less immutable (cannot be changed).

For me, the most interesting research into whether it is environmental or biological has been work with twins. A well-known longitudinal twin study looked at twins separated at birth. If one twin was gay, there was a 52% chance that the other twin was gay. Since in the general population, most research suggests that less than 5% of men are gay, the chances then of both twins becoming gay because of environmental factors should be 5% of 5% – or 1 in 400. Therefore, this was pretty strong evidence for biological factors causing homosexuality. Of course, the question of the other 48% of twins where one is gay and one is straight is still an important question. Obviously there is something going in the environment as well as in biology. Because of this, many people have compared homosexuality to alcoholism. Alcoholism runs in families, and has been shown to be influenced by genetics. However, some people with the gene that would make them likely to become alcoholics do not become alcoholics: there have been environmental (familial, societal, or religious) influences that stop them from becoming alcoholics. A similar thing is probably going in with homosexuality. I say this guardedly, for a couple of reasons: (1) There really is no substantial evidence of a “gay gene,” so the comparison to alcoholism breaks down right there. Most current researchers claiming a biological cause for homosexuality in humans believe it will be found in a hormonal process that takes place in the womb. (2) Psychological research has repeatedly run into dead ends when trying to identify the environmental factors that contribute to homosexuality. It is popular among ex-gay Christian ministries to talk about an absent father and domineering mother (for gay men), or an inadequate relationship with the same-sex parent, or childhood sexual abuse (all seen as types of emotional trauma) as causes of homosexuality. However, empirical research in these areas has proved inconclusive.

Of course, there have been many Christians who claim to have been healed of homosexuality. Their journeys have been long and difficult, even though they say it has been worth it. But their motivating factors have been fear of displeasing God, fear of displeasing their families, and possibly even fear of going to hell. (I guess I could put this in more positive terms: their motivating factors have been a desire to please God and their families, and their goal of going to heaven.) I understand it in terms of repentance – repentance meaning, literally, “changing your mind.” So, when you change your mind about your sexuality, you become straight. This seems to be another way of saying “fake it ‘til you make it.” I tried to do this until it became untenable to fake it anymore. As much as I believed God wanted me to be straight, I couldn’t make myself think that I was when my desires towards men were so powerful. However, from stories I have heard, some individuals have been able to convince themselves that their homosexual desires are evil, and that thinking that they are gay is a lie from the devil, and that the truth is that God made us all straight. They have repented, or “changed their minds.” And every time they inadvertently find themselves attracted sexually to someone of their own gender, they remind themselves of God’s decree against homosexual behaviour, and of the “truth” that they are straight, and somehow succeed in ignoring or having victory over the attraction/temptation. To me, this is simply being dishonest with one’s self, and I have decided I cannot live like this any more.

Sorry for how academic this comment is sounding, but your post struck a chord with me and I feel I need to be detailed about how empirical (scientific) research has helped me work through these questions.

The other issue for me was that none of the environmental factors really applied. While my father was not perfect, we had a good relationship most of my life. I never experienced abuse of any kind. My mother was/is strong emotionally, but I could never describe her as domineering. The model just didn’t fit for me.

Jay, I have been where you are at. You want to be a faithful, loving husband and father. You want to experience the full pleasure of heterosex. You want it to be satisfying for you, because that would make your life and the decisions you face so much easier. I feel the same way. If you want it “bad enough”, you might be able to do it. But there are many stories out there of many who have tried (for example, Peterson Toscano, Anthony Venn-Brown, Mel White) and eventually gave up in order to keep their sanity and self-respect.

That being said, I also want to say that you are in a good place. You are being honest, you are being true to your marriage vows. You are choosing to live in a way that seems right to you, in spite of your sexual desires. These are important and honourable decisions you have made – I have made similar ones, for similar reasons. But I find that the longer I live accepting myself as a gay man, the more I come to realize that my current situation must change. And ultimately I get to decide how to change it. Of course, our wives could make some decisions that force us to make some changes sooner than we might wish; we will still have choices to make if and when that happens.

Keep living each day with integrity, brother, and one day you will know what you need to do, whether it’s seeking to change your orientation or to embrace it.

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