Neil Whitehead on etiology of sexual orientation

This could have been titled, sexual identity therapy and neutrality, Part 2.5.

Often, NARTH is viewed as a monolithic group touting neo-psychoanalytic theories of sexual orientation. However, there are those who have spoken at NARTH annual conferences who do not hold such views and offer alternatives. Recently, a reader sent a link to an article by Neil Whitehead regarding twin studies that is a case in point. Dr. Whitehead and I have corresponded frequently about our views of cause. Independently, we have come to similar conclusions. The following paragraph counters the stereotypical developmental theory so often associated with NARTH:

Only a small percentage of sissy boys from the general population become homosexual as adults (11). This is even more true of other factors which have been researched and publicized in the media, and leads to a another important rule of thumb: “Only a small minority of those exposed to any predisposing factor become homosexual.”

This may be a surprise to some clinicians, who may have found high percentages of sissiness, tomboyishness or same-sex parent deficits in their clients. But that is a clinical sample – out in the extra-clinical world, surveys show that only a small percentage of those with poor same-sex parent relationships become homosexual. For whatever reason those factors have often become extremely influential in such clients’ lives and must be taken very seriously; but because they are minor factors in the whole population, clinicians must not force everyone into the same box, which may be uncomfortable, or simply not fit. They must be open to any unusual factor which has been important for the specific client.

With regard to variations in sexual attractions, the research on twins is a serious challenge to both environmental and biological determinism. Another reason for theoretical neutrality in working with those conflicted with same-sex attraction is the state of current research regarding antecedents to adult sexuality.

APA sexual identity therapy symposium

APA conference

The symposium went well with about 130 in attendance. Here are my power point and notes that were distributed. Later, after I get permission from the other presenters, I will post their slides as well.

APA symposium

In the picture below, Lee Beckstead and I are fielding a question; Mark Yarhouse is trying to get us off stage so the man on the left can start his presentation. APA symposium

Above, from left to right, are Mark Yarhouse, Erica Tan and yours truly. Lee had to run off to another session. Thanks to each of the presenters and especially Mark and Lee for organizing the symposium.

San Francisco: A nice place to visit

Golden Gate Bridge

My heart is safe but this beautiful spot on earth has my attention. I am blogging from a little cafe in Sausalito and have had a nice day. Through the miracle of wireless, I have been able to work most of the morning and see sights through the afternoon. Perhaps it says something about me that the first place I wanted to go (my first time here) was the Fillmore (couldn’t get in, a band was setting up). Haight-ashburyFrom there, I went to Haight-Ashbury (trippy), to Castro (colorful), then to the Mission District (amen), then over the Golden Gate Bridge (wow!) and now here in Sausalito (very hip).

That is my attempt at a travelogue.

Well, Blakeslee just called so I am heading back to the city of the all time home-run king.

Tomorrow, the APA convention…

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Press statement from Omaha gay organizations about Gaylibrary.com

Statement by the boards of Citizens For Equal Protection of Nebraska (CFEP); Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) Omaha Chapter and Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) Omaha Chapter:

Contacts: Bob Dorr, PFLAG, 402-333-7064; Michael Gordon, CFEP, 402-714-3810

“While CFEP and the PFLAG Omaha and GLSEN Omaha Chapters respect the spirit of freedom of speech, we do not condone violence in any way, shape or form. Any web site statements that suggest violence as an option in responding to injustice against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are absolutely inappropriate, unconscionable and beyond the pale.

“We have met with the developer-owner of GayLibrary.com and of several related web sites and expressed our concerns about some material on those sites. The developer-owner has cleansed the sites of language that, we believe, could encourage violence. We will help the developer-owner stay vigilant to make certain that no such language reappears. We are discussing what further action we might take such as contacting other groups to relay our concerns.

“The GLSEN Omaha and PFLAG Omaha Chapters and CFEP have worked hard for many years to end bullying in our K-12 schools, and particularly to end bullying and harassment based on real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. We believe in safe schools for ALL students, faculty, staff and patrons. Members of PFLAG Omaha, GLSEN Omaha and CFEP serve as presenters and panelists in an Omaha-area program that promotes safe school environments for all youths. Our Safe Schools program reaches 50 or more audiences each year, including many college classes of future teachers. Our groups always have advocated staying within the rule of law and wouldn’t dream of deviating from that principle.”

These gay organizations clearly take this issue seriously and have responded with an appropriate statement. I hope one of the other groups contacted will be the Rainbow Outreach where Brian Wyant remains coordinator. I also would like to see Mr. Wyant issue a statement as well.

UPDATE: 8/19/07 – Brian Wyant is no longer listed as a board member/coordinator on the Rainbow Outreach website.

Check this out in the gaylibrary.com: Update

A website under development in the gaylibrary.com family of sites is www.gaysafety.org which reads:

Gay Safety is under development as an additional to the Gay Library and will be up and running at the end of September 2007. Check back often.

While many already possess such self defense and military skills, it is necessary for the worldwide gay-allied community to acquire a relatively-uniform knowhow and expertise to defend and enforce human rights against human rights violators, using lethal force as needed to prevent and punish violations.

The Stonewall Rebellion celebrated on Christopher Street Day each year in the month of June serves as a reminder of our capacity to hold the top human rights violators and their bloodlines accountable for GLBT persecution. There is not a single nation on Earth where such violators and their bloodlines can escape our retribution when they violate our human rights.

The gay-allied community will always outnumber the top human rights violators and their bloodlines, and will always have access to every weapon imaginable. Regrettably yet realistically, lethal force is required in retribution to enforce human rights when politicians, businesspeople, and “nonprofit” leaders turn corrupt and catastrophically fail to meet their obligations to uphold the human rights of all family members, gay and straight, young and old, male and female, without exception.

The silence from Omaha is very loud.

UPDATE – 8/15/07 – The violent statements have been removed from the “gaysafety.org” site. Here is a screen capture of the site containing the disturbing material. Other offensive material has been blocked from view on the gayhumanrights.org and gaystraightalliance.org sites.

UPDATE – 8/16/07 – Yesterday, the Christian Post published an article online about this set of sites. As noted above, the sites have been cleansed of offensive messages. A PFLAG of Omaha media representative, Bob Dorr, has emailed to say that his group will be making a statement soon in response. Mr. Dorr takes these messages seriously and expressed gratitude to me for letting him know about they were on these sites.

Sexual identity therapy and neutrality, Part two

In this second post about therapeutic neutrality, I want to discuss what it does and doesn’t mean in sexual identity therapy. Again, I want to react to some of the thoughts from Dr. Nicolosi in his article, Why I Am Not a Neutral Therapist.

Dr. Nicolosi writes:

What will happen when the uncommitted (“neutral”) therapist hears his client revealing self-destructive behaviors that are statistically proven to be associated with SSA? How will he interpret these behaviors? Staying out of philosophical territory with the client would require a sort of “Rogerian neutrality” that even Carl Rogers himself couldn’t live up to. I can’t imagine any psychologist who actually does this therapy on a regular basis believing that such an approach would be successful.

This needs to be unpacked a bit. First of all, when clients, either gay or straight or in between, describe self-destructive behavior, I believe therapists should confront the consequences to the client and others of this behavior. Asking clients about the consequences and pointing out denial is a standard therapeutic stance. SIT can be used by directive and non-directive therapists. There is nothing in the SIT framework that prevents the confrontation of self-harm.

What Dr. Nicolosi seems to be implying about the behavior of homosexuals in this paragraph, he make more explicit in the next:

Along the way, clients always report a host of maladaptive, self-defeating behaviors that restrict their maturation. The successful clinician must have an understanding of the meaning of these common factors. He will also observe fundamental distortions of self-identity. Once seen, how can these factors — including their meaning and likely origins — be ignored?

Apparently, he sees self-destructive behaviors in all of his clients. I do not, and in my research investigations, I have not found this to be invariably true. Statistical association is not cause nor does statistical significance implicate an entire group of people. I have addressed elsewhere on this blog, to wit:

Thus, it would be inconsistent with the research on psychiatric risk to deny members of at-risk groups “even the possibility” of a “fulfilling life,” whether partnered or not. Higher risk, yes; inevitable mental health maladjustment for all members of a group of people? No.

To further address Dr. Nicolosi’s question: when maladaptive, self-defeating behaviors are evident, therapeutic respect for the client’s value position does not mean that these behaviors are ignored. They are not. However, not all clients who are attracted to the same sex have the same issues. The SI therapist does not assume that all same-sex attracted clients have the same concerns, problems, issues, behaviors or backgrounds. This is more like theoretical neutrality; the SI therapist interprets the literature to depict a varied clinical landscape, not one of uniform histories and dynamics. We also do not tell clients that being attracted to the same sex assigns them to a life of despair and promiscuity. Nor do we tell them that their attractions to the same sex mean one thing. In the advanced informed consent phase, we discuss the research on the health and mental health correlates of behavior. Thus, if we have a client who is engaged in risky behavior, we inform them of the risks. If we learn that a client’s draw to the same sex has some historical referent, we certainly help that client process the issue. However, we do not assume that all attractions to the same sex mean the same thing, or that such attractions are of necessity tied to some historical set of deficits.

Dr. Nicolosi then contrasts himself further:

As Charles Socarides once said, the therapist must be neutral in judging the client, his behavior, and his choices; but he cannot be neutral about the condition of homosexuality.

Indeed the SI therapist is open to the distinct possibility that sexual preferences derive from multiple pathways and follow multiple trajectories. The SI therapist agrees with APA past president Nicholas Cummings who said: “There are as many kinds of homosexuals as heterosexuals. Homosexuality is not a unitary experience.”

So to summarize, SI therapists are not neutral when confrontation of self-destructive behavior is warranted, but we do not presume a uniform set of antecedents and outcomes of homosexual attractions. I guess you might say, we have an “Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

Gaystraightalliance.org update: Owner silent on disturbing content

On August 8th, I reported on a website owned by Brian Wyant of Omaha, NE/Council Bluffs, IA that contained disturbing messages justifying violent retribution toward bullies. There has been much discussion here and elsewhere whether or not these sites have been hacked to include these messages. As of this writing, the original offensive statement has been changed to the following:

VIOLENCE IS A STARK REALITY FOR CHILDREN GLOBALLY. TORMENTORS REMAIN PATHETICALLY SILENT OR HARASS THE GRIEVING FAMILY WHEN BULLIED CHILDREN COMMIT SUICIDE BUT DISINGENUOUSLY BECOME VOCAL WHEN REMINDED OF THE FACT THAT THESE DAYS BULLIED STUDENTS MAY CHOOSE RETALIATION RATHER THAN KILLING THEMSELVES; EVIL TORMENTORS THINK THEIR VERSION OF RELIGION GIVES THEM SPECIAL RIGHT TO TORMENT GAY CHILDREN UNCHECKED; EVERY 2 MINUTES IN THE USA ANOTHER GLBT AMERICAN DIES FROM HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS

Since August 8th, the messages on this page have changed several times. The above message may be a response to the scrutiny this family of sites has been getting. Numerous efforts have been made by me and others to contact Brian Wyant. He has yet to return a call or answer an email. Several people around Mr. Wyant have told me that they have talked to him about the messages on the websites. According to representatives of PFLAG of Omaha and the Rainbow Outreach (GLBT Community Center in Omaha), Mr. Wyant is aware of the messages and the content of his sites, but he has yet to contact me or other bloggers who are trying to reach him. One person associated with PFLAG of Omaha told me that he thought it was a series of “dirty tricks” by a hacker that is responsible for the disturbing messages. This representative who prefers to remain anonymous told me that Mr. Wyant told him that he checks his site “every 30 minutes” to remove the offensive material.

Indeed the site says repeatedly that it is updated daily, and just in the days I have been checking it, it is updated frequently and yet some disturbing material remains. And some of that material is very similar to the material that has been taken down. One particular disturbing popup page advocating violence and anarchy was removed on August 10. On that day a message appeared at the top of the page saying “hacks are being fixed on this site.”

The message about hacks being removed is now down. Even so, some disturbing messages remain. This one advocates vague punishments toward opponents and is found on the main section of gayhumanrights.org.

Equal protection/equal justice under law is the defining foundation of a democracy. The Rule of Law is irrelevent in regions that violate this irreplacable principle of democracy and human rights. If you live or enter one of these areas, be prepared to do whatever it takes to punish human rights violators. Also visit the top human rights violators and their bloodlines to ensure they never know a moment of security for their crimes against our people, our children, our family members, our friends, and our allies.

and this one in reference to states without recognition for same-sex unions:

This region has forfeit credibility, having succumb to majoritarianism rather than maintaining the basic requirements of a sustainable democracy. Equal Protection under Law, the foundation of democracy and human rights, does not exist in these jurisdiction. There is no reason to uphold any law within this jurisdiction or to preserve the bloodlines of oppressors. Top human rights violators and their bloodlines should be visited and held personally accountable for killing gay family members. It is worth noting that speciously named concept “separate-but-equal” has never been Equal Protection.

Note the use of the term “majoritarianism.” While in itself this is a reference to political views that do not of necessity promote retribution or violence, it is idiosyncratic enough to make me wonder if the author of these statements on the main website may also have authored the extremist material on the now removed popup page. I also found this term one other place that is troubling. On the website for the Rainbow Outreach the same term is applied to Nebraska.

The State of Nebraska has an anti-democracy, anti-family, anti-human rights constitutional amendment violating Equal Protection Under Law, the foundation of democracy and human rights (hypocritically, the State motto is Equality Before the Law). The amendment, installed by majoritarianism, says the State will not recognize any relationship at all between same-sex couples (marriage, civil union, domestic partnership, etc).

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At this point, I am reluctant to conclusively connect the dots but there is enough material here of concern that it would be good to hear from Mr. Wyant.

Why is this important? I am quite concerned about the tone and specifics of these writings. What if Mr. Wyant promotes these websites to the youth/others he is involved with in Omaha? Even what remains is inflammatory stuff and he apparently is in a position of leadership (on the board of the Omaha Metro GLBT Community Center) and influence in the gay community of Omaha. Retaliating against the oppressors may sound noble on a website, but it would be awful on the front page of newspapers. Analogy – Even though I am pro-life, I would not want for my kids a youth leader who believes laws should be ignored because abortion is legal or that abortionists “and their bloodlines” should be “visited” with vague retaliation. And I certainly do not want an influence who holds up retaliation or suicide as an either-or scenario for bullied kids (“THESE DAYS BULLIED STUDENTS MAY CHOOSE RETALIATION RATHER THAN KILLING THEMSELVES”). If this is a “dirty trick,” I believe it is long past time for Mr. Wyant to take control of these websites and make this clear.

Note that Exgaywatch is reporting similar information and concerns this morning with more emphasis on technical aspects of website.

Gay-straight alliance website implies bullying justifies murder

UPDATE – 8-9-07 – I regret that the wording of my post implied that GLSEN or the GSANetwork may have been behind the gaystraightalliance.org website and the hateful messages there. I did not mention GLSEN in my post because I knew this was not their site. However, calling it “the Gay-Straight Alliance website” was confusing and I do apologize for this. I am investigating the situation and suggest readers review the comments on this post for some good information on the owners of this site. I continue to advocate an email to the site owner to register your views.

UPDATE – 8/9/07 – Lending some credibility to the hackery-theory of the gaystraightalliance.org theory, the message at the bottom of the page has changed slightly and now ends with this statement: “EVERY 2 MINUTES IN THE USA ANOTHER GLBT AMERICAN DIES AS A RESULT OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS.”

I have contacted the company who owns this site and several other leads to get a comment with no success.

Well, I wasn’t sure how else to title this. I do not like hyperbolic sounding posts or claims but what else can you make of this tag line from the Gay-Straight Alliance website?

WITHOUT GSA ACCESS, STUDENTS ARE FORCED TO SIMPLY KILL CLASSMATES WHO TAUNT & BULLY – SHOOTING, STABBING AND POISONING ARE THE COMMON FORMS OF RETRIBUTION. FAR TOO MANY GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS LIKE BULLYING CHILDREN TO THE POINT WHERE RETRIBUTION AGAINST CLASSMATES AND FACULTY IS ONLY OPTION TO REDRESS RELENTLESS HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN MANY REGIONS. SPECIOUSLY-NAMED “PRO-FAMILY” LEADERS ARE CHILD MOLESTERS WHO MAKE MONEY STIGMATIZING HOMOSEXUALITY TO SILENCE GAY VICTIMS.

“…forced to simply kill?” “…the only option?” “…child molesters?”

If you would like to write the Gay Straight Alliance and suggest a less volatile message, here is the address info@gaystraightalliance.org.

Companion website gaylibrary.com has this love note:

WITHOUT EQUAL PROTECTION UNDER LAW, THE HEART OF DEMOCRACY, USA DEMOCRACY ENDED (DEAD IN 47 STATES & FEDERAL, RULE OF LAW ENDED WITH IT AND NO FORCE ON EARTH CAN RESTORE IT SO VISIT HOMES OF TOP HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATORS & THEIR BLOODLINES AND PUNISH THEM IN RETRIBUTION); GOVERNMENTS LIKE SINGAPORE SHOULD END PERSECUTION TO AVOID GENOCIDAL RETRIBUTION; NO REASON TO PRESERVE OIL INDUSTRY, BOTANICAL INDUSTRIES, OR ENVIRONMENT IN WORST REGIONS; GAY SKI WEEK SEPTEMBER 1-9, 2007 QUEENSTOWN, NEW ZEALAND.

I like how messages of violent retribution are coupled with an announcement for “gay ski week.”

Sexual identity therapy and neutrality, Part one

Continuing the discussion about sexual identity therapy, I want to contrast our framework with both gay affirming and reparative therapies on the dimension of value neutrality in two posts. As a springboard for my thoughts, I want to quote from an article by Joseph Nicolosi on the NARTH website called, “Why I Am Not A Neutral Therapist.” He led with this explanation:

A Christian psychologist contacted me to discuss reorientation therapy for SSA men. Hoping to find a politically “safe” compromise with the APA, he was anxious to avoid value judgments and remain noncommittal about homosexuality. The solution, he thought, would be a simple behavior modification program. Speaking from my 25 years of experience in this field, I told him I found his approach naïve and ultimately unworkable.

Then he adds:

“Furthermore, why should I refuse to discuss philosophical issues with clients,” I told him, “when gay-affirmative therapists are working very hard as boosters of their philosophy? They tell clients that same-sex feelings are ‘sacred.’ They push them to revolutionize society’s and the church’s attitudes. Any client’s conviction that heterosexuality is the norm will be redefined by the therapist as a ‘psychological illness — homophobia.'”

“The fact is, neutrality fails for clinicians on both sides of this issue,” I told the psychologist. “Clinicians like you and me, who believe that humanity was designed for heterosexuality, must speak up about our philosophy. These men with unwanted SSA want boosters, allies, advocates, as they claim their masculine identity — someone who believes in them and stands strongly at their side.”

Dr. Nicolosi parallels his disclosure of reparative drive theory as an ideology to what he believes gay affirming therapists do with clients but from an opposing perspective. After all, if it is ethical for gay affirming therapists to promote homosexuality as a moral good, then why shouldn’t reparative therapists promote heterosexuality as God’s design?

Before I discuss this further, one might question whether gay affirming therapists or therapists in general really have a worldview on the matter. I cannot go into this exhaustively but a statement from the APA’s Clinton Anderson from a recent AP article by David Crary suggests there are favored and disfavored religious views on matters gay. Speaking about religious views which are at odds with homosexual behavior, Dr. Anderson said:

“We cannot take into account what are fundamentally negative religious perceptions of homosexuality — they don’t fit into our worldview,” Anderson said.

So can therapists be neutral?

In my view, not all therapists can practice in a neutral manner. In our sexual identity therapy framework, we have clear guidance which allows for referrals when value conflicts impair what therapy has to offer a client. In other situations, the role of the therapist is to assist clients clarify their own perspectives and work toward congruence. For clients who do not know what they believe, it can be very valuable for the therapist to refrain from imposing a religious worldview or stigmatizing conservative religious views.

Some people want a non-neutral therapist on either side of the worldview spectrum. Perhaps they would not be happy with sexual identity therapy. My investigations into this arena suggest that retrospective assessments of therapist helpfulness are associated with therapists not attempting to impose a contrary value position on to the client. And so, I continue to believe that SIT occupies a niche that offers something not available in ideologically-driven approaches. For those who are still figuring things out or have not felt successful with other approaches, our framework could provide something different.

Part two will explore where the sexual identity therapist isn’t neutral.