Ron Schlittler reacts to my article about Sheryl Swoopes

Ron Schlittler of PFLAG reacts to an email query about my article on Sheryl Swoopes. I was cc:ed in this exchange. I have removed email addresses.

—–Original Message—–
From: Andy Derksen
Sent: Tuesday, November 08, 2005 3:16 AM
To: Ron Schlittler
Subject: RE: “Becoming out”
Dear Mr. Schlittler,

Hello. Please tell me how you compare the remarks of basketball player Sheryl Swoopes and Focus on the Family’s Bill Maier, re. the origins of individual homosexuality. I note from the article copied below that you disparaged Maier’s comments, but have apparently said nothing about Swoopes. How do you explain that?

Thanks and regards,

Andy Derksen

(This is Mr. Schlittler’s reply)

Hello Mr. Derksen,

Thank you for the opportunity to respond.

I have always maintained that women appear to have a bit more fluidity concerning their sexual orientation than men, as an honest interpretation of the research suggests. That, however, is not the same thing as “conversion” through the “therapy” advocated by religious ideologues.

Men, almost without exception the research also finds, experience their sexuality as hard-wired one way or the other.

So, it is disingenuous and self-serving of Warren Throckmorton to suggest that the Swoopes story is evidence that sexual orientation can flip like a switch.

I also have always maintained that some people are gay, some are lesbian, a few are bisexual and most are heterosexual. These are natural, healthy, normal variations of the human experience – also evidenced widely in the animal kingdom. And though individuals may
shift how they self-identify and express sexuality over time, as the evidence also indicates, basic innate sexual and affectional attractions do not change.

Though Throckmorton seems to insinuate I’ve been caught in an inconsistency by not commenting on Sheryl Swoopes, the fact of the matter is that I’ve simply not been asked – by him or anyone else until your note arrived.

Ron Schlittler
Deputy Executive Director
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays
1726 M Street NW, Suite 400
Washington, DC 20036
202-467-8180 ext. 226
“You Have a Home in PFLAG”
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After Mr. Schlittler’s response, Mr. Derksen answered some of the points as follows:

Schlittler: So, it is disingenuous and self-serving of Warren Throckmorton to suggest that the Swoopes story is evidence that sexual orientation can flip like a switch.

Derksen: Why should you assume Mr. Throckmorton is “self-serving” because he stands up for his convictions? Couldn’t I just as easily assume your email to me is self-serving? Why is pitching an argument self-serving on the other side but truth- and freedom-serving on *your* side? Are you suggesting the world’s selfless people are lined up on your side, while the other side as all the self-serving people?

Schlittler: These are natural, healthy, normal variations of the human experience
– also evidenced widely in the animal kingdom. >

Derksen: There are some animals that eat their young as well. Would you be okay with me killing and eating my baby (if I had one)? Why should we presume to take our moral cues from the animal kingdom?

Schlittler: And though individuals may shift how they self-identify and express sexuality over time, as the evidence also indicates, basic innate sexual and affectional attractions do not change.

Derksen: Isn’t it self-contradictory that you base part of your stance on what men “experience,” while at the same time refusing to consider the experiences of those who are now ex-gay? Isn’t that self-serving?

For the record, I do not know Mr. Derksen. I may have met him at a conference but I cannot place which one.

If anyone cares to take up the dialogue, feel free. I thought it was an interesting exchange.

Love Won Out Controversy

I found the article in the Bay Windows newspaper interesting. There were apparently lots of protestors including the anti-war folks. I found the author’s candor refreshing regarding the fear he felt at the sight of the protestors. There are some other aspects of the article I am looking into. If Joe Nicolosi really made the “joke” about the boy cracking his head, I would be offended at that and worried that some parents would take all that stuff literally. This paragraph made me cringe:

One such joke came at the end of a discussion about what he sees as an essential lesson that fathers teach sons: that danger can be fun. He said fathers begin to teach that lesson by tossing their infant sons into the air and catching them, to help build up their courage (never mind that plenty of mothers play this game as well, and plenty of parents play it with their daughters). He followed this discussion by saying, “Even if the father drops his kid and cracks his head a little bit, at least he’ll be straight,” a line that generated thunderous laughter from the audience.

Infants!? I hope he did not say infants. Toddlers sure, but infants? Please not infants.

Michael Jackson’s kids will be straighter than straight then. If tossing them kids around is good, then dangling them from balconies must be better.

I do agree that danger can be fun. All my kids think so, and nary a one was tossed or dangled or sent out in the woods in a sweathouse. I think I will stop while I am ahead.

Becoming Out – More on Sheryl Swoopes

Becoming Out

Sheryl Swoopes is arguably the finest female basketball player ever. No, check that, actually there is no argument, as a three time MVP in the Woman’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), and two time gold medal Olympian, she is the best. So when she came out of the closet recently, there was excitement in the gay and lesbian community about a high profile public figure declaring herself a lesbian.

Her story was featured in a recent ESPN magazine article where she said about her sexuality: “I didn’t always know I was gay. I honestly didn’t. Do I think I was born this way? No. And that’s probably confusing to some, because I know a lot of people believe that you are.”

The notion that people attracted to the same sex might not be wired that way from birth is more than confusing to some gay activists. It makes them indignant. When psychologist Bill Maier of Focus on the Family suggested the exact same viewpoint to the Washington Times several months ago, Ron Schlittler officer with Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays said in reply that such views advance “baseless fears and misguided claims about [homosexuals].”

No word from PFLAG on the Swoopes coming out.

The Swoopes story reminds me of one of the first columns I wrote about sexual orientation. Writing in 2003, I noted that the character Dr. Kerry Weaver on the television drama, ER, had gone from straight to gay in about one season. I wondered why change from straight to gay was accepted by gay activist groups who say sexual orientation cannot change. Had her character gone from gay to straight, the show might have been denounced as portraying an unscientific view of sexual orientation. After all, major mental health groups all say sexual orientation is unchangeable. I was attacked for using a fictional character to illustrate a change in sexual orientation that, critics say, cannot happen in real life.

Now comes Ms. Swoopes saying that she does not believe she was born gay. Moreover, she said in the ESPN interview: “I’ve been married, and I have an 8-year-old son. Being with a man was what I wanted. When I got divorced in 1999, it wasn’t because I’m gay.”

So she became gay?

Apparently so. As one who studies how people resolve sexual identity conflicts, her story is fascinating. She told the Houston Chronicle that she and her husband divorced for the same reasons that many people do: “Probably for about the last year, year and a half of my marriage we were just going in different directions. It got to a point to where I knew it was over with and really didn’t want to do anything else to make it work.” As she told ESPN, her divorce wasn’t due to a conflict over being gay.

In fact, she told ESPN that before she fell in love with her partner, Alisa Scott, she had not entertained any attractions to women. Before her current relationship, Ms. Swoopes said, “The thought of being intimate with her or any other woman never entered my mind. I’ve had plenty of gay friends I’ve hung out with, but that thought never entered my mind.”

I suspect there will be those who say she was in denial about her “true” sexuality but they would need to explain away most everything Ms. Swoopes said about herself. As far as bisexuality goes, Ms. Swoopes was asked directly by Cyd Ziegler of if her marriage really means she is bisexual. Ms. Swoopes answer: “Nope, I’m not bisexual.” She told that she began thinking of herself as gay after commencing her relationship with Scott and several years without feelings for men.

Ms. Swoopes has a different way of explaining her change. Her belief now is her friendship with Ms. Scott after her divorce was catalytic for the emergence of sexual feelings. About the transformation, Ms. Swoopes said to the Chronicle, “Maybe it was just the fact that I needed that comfort. Or maybe she was there for me to talk to and I just got very comfortable being around her. Talking to her, seeing her spirit … things evolved from there…”

Gay political groups may be ambivalent or worse about Ms. Swoopes story. Like PFLAG’s Mr. Schlittler, they often are quite hostile to those who describe changes in sexual identity. Since polls show support for gay political objectives is higher among people who believe same sex attraction is inborn, she may feel some pressure to change her story or her view of it.

Ms. Swoopes says she now feels free to be able to tell her story. Having gone from straight to gay, she might well understand the story of someone who has gone from gay to straight. Perhaps in an ironic twist, her coming out story might add credibility to an aspect of human change many experts and activists say cannot happen.
See also her interview with

Did Jesus Bless Homosexuality?

Did Jesus Bless Homosexuality?
Warren Throckmorton, PhD

Many gay religionists insist that Jesus never mentioned homosexuality and thus could not have opposed it. Often conservatives counter that He taught against any form of sexual expression other than heterosexual marriage, so He did not need to specify every sexual act outside of marriage for condemnation. What is the correct position?

Read the rest of the essay at