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How Does Change Happen?

When you consider that homosexuality is caused by an inability to identify with one’s gender during childhood, it only makes sense that the struggler’s success at eliminating homosexual attractions will depend on his or her ability to retrieve this identification and affirmation later in life.

Dr. Elizabeth Moberly, author of Homosexuality: A New Christian Ethic, writes, “Homosexuality… needs to be solved through relationships. The solution of same-sex deficits is to be sought through the medium of… nonsexual relationships with members of the same sex.”

Psychologist Gerard van den Aardweg, in his book, Homosexuality and Hope, writes, “Man has a natural drive to identify with his gender. A boy wants to belong to the world of other boys and men, a girl to other girls and women. A longing for being recognized as one of the boys (or girls) is also inherent in boys and girls with inferiority feelings concerning their masculinity or femininity respectively.”

Anything that creates a sense of disconnection between a child and his or her gender can cause homosexual attractions. Along these same lines, I’ve found that anything that creates a sense of connection or reconciliation with one’s gender can eliminate homosexual attractions. This connection can manifest itself in many ways. The influences that have been the most potent for me are:

  • Nonsexual touch from members of my gender
  • Surrogacy (substitute parenthood)
  • Camaraderie with members of my gender

Nonsexual Touch

If you consider that touch is one of the primary ways that one receives love from parents during the formative years, it makes sense that those who feel rejected by or alienated from their parents didn’t receive much touch from them during their infancy.

Same-sex touch is a prerequisite for healthy heterosexuality because it works as a bonding agent between children and their gender. In fact, it is well documented that in many primitive cultures, adult male homosexuality does not exist because boys go through a rite of passage with the older men of a village.

Between the ages of nine and fourteen, boys go through what is called the “body longing stage.” This is when boys crave physical affection from their fathers and their same-sex peers. During this time, boys will hit, punch, wrestle, horse around, and smack each other on the butt.

For many males, the need for same-sex touch gets fulfilled during participation in team sports, in which it is okay for guys to touch each other in nonsexual ways without being called “homosexual.”

Nonsexual touch among same-sex individuals can be referred to as “homosocial” behavior. Homosocial behavior is one way that males connect to and identify with each other during the formative years.

When a boy’s need for same-sex touch is met, his desire to be close to men physically will slowly fade. However, those of us who weren’t “athletic enough” as children, or who were rejected for whatever reason, probably did not receive the healthy same-sex touch we needed. We are stuck in the “body longing” stage and require touch from other males, even as adults, to complete our development. The process is similar for females.

In the book Unwanted Harvest, Mona Riley writes, “Children who have not had healthy relating with their same-sex parent or surrogate and who thus approach adolescence with a severe deficit in same-sex bonding may continue to seek the intimacy they were denied.”

Some research suggests that physical touch can also be used to reeducate the neurology of the brain concerning physical attractions. Research from Saulk Institute that shows that the brain’s neural networks may actually reconfigure themselves in response to certain experiences. The study found that in people who read Braille after becoming blind, the area of the brain controlling the reading finger grew larger. According to Dr. Kenneth Klivington, “It’s a feedback loop: the brain influences behavior, behavior shapes experience, experience affects the organization of the brain, and so forth.”

So it is with sexual behavior. Erotic, sexual touch with someone of our own gender reinforces the connection between same-gender intimacy and sex. This stifles our ability to internalize affirmation from males in a way that will quench our same-gender attractions. According to Dr. Nicolosi, “Those men who have been less sexually active have better prognoses. Considering the habit-forming nature of sexual behavior, the more homosexually active the client is, the more difficult the course of treatment.”

On the other hand, fraternal, nonsexual touch from members of our gender will forge a connection between male intimacy and friendship (camaraderie) that is vital to the process of overcoming homosexual attractions. When a struggler can learn to be physically close to members of his gender without becoming sexually aroused, he may experience the kind of connection that he needs to heal the wounds of his past and transition into heterosexuality. At first, even fraternal love may evoke an erotic response, but as the brain is rewired to receive touch without also receiving sex, that will change.

Surrogacy

Homosexual activity is often an unconscious attempt to recover the same-sex parent’s love through sexual intimacy with a member of one’s gender. Richard Cohen writes, “Today significant emphasis is placed on sexual identity and sexual behavior. One primary cause of this preoccupation is the lack of intimacy within the family. The pursuit of sex then becomes a substitute for [parents’] love.”

The best way to eliminate the need for a substitute is to get the real thing. Those wishing to overcome same-sex attractions should make every effort to reconcile with their parents if those relationships have ever been compromised. Some of us experienced abuse, neglect, and other forms of rejection from our parents, but harboring bitterness only fuels our homosexual desires by emphasizing the disconnection that took place. One ex-gay man put it very well: “If you want to experience victory over your homosexual attractions, forgive your parents.”

Often one must work through unimaginable amounts of anger toward mom or dad for any injustices they may have committed. Because one’s inability to identify with his or her gender is often connected to one’s inability to express anger during the formative years, expression of anger toward mom or dad as an adult can be an important healing tool. As Nicolosi has said, “Anger is a link to our own identity.” Furthermore, if the anger is released constructively, it should make it easier for the struggler to forgive mom and dad for not providing what was needed in order to facilitate heterosexual development.

It should be noted that parents are not always to blame for the homosexuality of their children. However, the struggler will likely still need to express anger, and the parents should allow it.

The disconnection that occurs between a child and his or her same gender parent while growing up is often what facilitates the disconnection that takes place between a child and his or her gender as a whole. Therefore, reconciling with one’s parents can open one up to reconciliation with one’s gender.

The proper processing of unresolved anger, followed by the forgiving of past hurts inflicted by mom or dad, will free the homosexual struggler to receive the love and affirmation of their parents that they need in order to facilitate this reconciliation, assuming mom and dad are willing to give it.

For those of us whose parents may be unable or unwilling to help us through the process of gender reconciliation, we must complete it through a surrogate (substitute parent). Mona Riley writes, “When children become insecure in [their identity], their blocked, God-given longing to enter fully into their gender identity may begin to express itself in longings to bond with a substitute parent.”

The process of surrogate intervention can be further helped through the therapeutic process known as reparative therapy. There are many psychotherapists successfully treating homosexuals today. Because these therapists understand the issues facing the homosexual struggler, they often serve as the perfect surrogates. According to Dr. Nicolosi, “In a relationship with a same-sex therapist, a client can find some of what he missed in the failed father-son bond.” This concept applies to females as well. (For a list of psychotherapists trained in this area, contact the National Association of Research and Therapy of Homosexuality.)

Although surrogacy is vital for those whose homosexuality resulted from a lack of bonding with one or more of their parents, certainly not every occurrence of homosexuality has to do with one’s parents. I know some homosexually oriented people who had very healthy relationships with their parents while growing up. For them, the process of gender disconnection may have taken place between them and their same-gender peers. In these cases, an individual’s reconciliation to his or her gender is begun by reconciling with his or her same-gender peers. This is where camaraderie comes in.

Camaraderie

During my adolescence, I felt like I was always on the outside looking in, watching as other boys connected with each other but somehow unable to figure out for myself how in the world they were doing it. I felt as though I had missed this “initiation into maleness.”

One of the ways I have recovered this initiation and reconciled with my gender is through camaraderie with my peers. Often the men through whom I experience the most healing are those in whom I see characteristics that represent masculinity to me. These characteristics are often the very qualities I am searching for in myself, qualities that I may initially be attracted to in an erotic sense. According to E. Kaplan, “It seems apparent that some homosexuals choose as sexual objects people who have characteristics — physical, personal or both — in which they themselves feel deficient.” F. Weiss writes, “The [sexual] partner is often the externalized symbol of the lost, repressed part of his own self, for example, his ‘masculinity.'”

Although I may initially feel a sexual attraction, because I have refrained from sexual activity, I have learned to internalize these relationships in a nonsexual way. Even casual relationships with guys who represent masculinity to me have allowed me to be initiated into, or reconciled with, my gender. In fact, I’ve learned to internalize even the subtlest forms of masculine affirmation, such as being asked by a male peer to sit next to him on the bus or being invited to tour a German castle with him.

Another way that I have achieved camaraderie with my peers is through my ability to perceive similarities between them and myself. Often during small group sessions at church, guys will get together to discuss our struggles and our victories. Many of the things we share are similar, and I find myself thinking, “Oh, he struggles with that too. He’s just like me!” When I see aspects of my personality in other males, it’s like my own masculinity finds a harbor.

CHAD W. THOMPSON
Loving Homosexuals as Jesus Would (2004) Brazos Press: Grand Rapids, Michigan

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