Joseph Nicolosi, founder of ex-gay group NARTH and trainer of many other ex-gay therapists, is back with another brief article attempting to explain his perspective on the nature of homosexuality. Earlier this month, he explained that his patients can get over their supposed “addiction” to gay porn by simply making friends with more men. This week, he offers a convoluted description of homosexual behavior as an addiction to acting out a fantasy that compensates for a wounded gender identity:
Joyce McDougall has investigated the central role of “theatre and role-playing” in non-typical forms of sexual activity, including homosexuality. She is among the few contemporary psychoanalysts willing to study such forms of sexuality. McDougall understands “sexual theatre” as an acting-out of intrapsychic sexual forces in a symbolic attempt to resolve an identity conflict. In this regard she confirms the classic psychoanalytic understanding of “perverse” (as the term was used in previous years) sexual activity as being rooted in identity confusion. Noting the repetitive-compulsive nature of these role enactments, McDougall found that while her patients complain about the constrained structure of these “erotic theatre pieces,” they could not abstain from their enactments: “…and have to do it again and again and again” (McDougall, 2000, p.182).
What Nicolosi is trying to suggest is that gay people (and “the extreme case of transsexuals”) were somehow sent the wrong messages by their parents about how they are supposed to understand their own gender. This leads to a sense of inner conflict that they then address through compulsively trying to fulfill that “false” identity. Essentially, he thinks that gay people are just actors cast in the wrong role who don’t know how escape the performance because they believe they are trying to fix some kind of “past trauma” by acting it out.
Stepping back from that gobbledygook, it’s actually easy to make sense of how these perpetrators of fraud arrive at such nonsense. The obvious explanation for why there are gay people who don’t want to be gay is because they exist in a society that condemns homosexuality; they are taught from a young age that being gay is wrong and something to be ashamed of. Mainstream social science recognizes this reality, which is why the recommended professional practice is to affirm same-sex orientations to help resolve the inner conflict.
Ex-gay therapists take the opposite approach. They assume same-sex attractions are a defect by default. Thus, they need to invent other explanations for why people feel conflicted about having them. And like most aspects of ex-gay therapy, the easy solution is to blame the patient. Nicolosi’s gibberish is a means of doing just that. It’s a gay person’s fault he’s gay, it’s a gay person’s fault he feels bad about being gay, and only by accepting that shame and blame can that gay person attempt to find recovery. That’s the insidious message behind ex-gay therapy.