RESPONSE TO NYT ON EXODUS CAVE: Renunciation of Gay "Cure" Introduces False Concept of Cure
By Gary L'Hommedieu in Indianapolis
Special to Virtueonline
July 7, 2012
Yesterday The New York Times reported that Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International (EI), known as "the leading force in the so-called ex-gay movement," announced to the group's annual meeting that there was "no cure" for homosexuality, thus scuttling one of EI's core beliefs.
Sounds like the president was repenting of his organization's very raison d'Ítre, and of course that's exactly what he was doing. The Times concluded its report with a succinct opinion as to why such public repentance suddenly came into play by one of the movement's true believers.
Based on an interview with the editor of ex-gay web site The Times wrote, "Mr. Chambers was trying to steer the group in a moderate direction because 'they were becoming pariahs' in a society that is more accepting of gay people."
That makes good sense. Sexual politics, and especially gay sexual politics, has been about politics as much as it's been about sex from the beginning. The history of the removal of homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) of the American Psychiatric Association in 1973 is a story of intrigue, theatrics and intimidation -- in a word, anything but science. The term "sexual orientation" came out of this same high-water phase of APA's scientific development.
It was as if Saul Alinsky and ACORN had come to the APA out of concern that the psychological "haves" were abusing the psychological "have-nots." That was, after all, the only real issue. This is what justice has come to mean in America's politicized society: the ability of clever people to captivate those of unsteady conscience in a contrived game of Robin Hood.
We can understand that Alan Chambers caved under the relentless pressure of gay activists and their growing army of sympathizers. No one wants to be stigmatized for life, and Chambers, an ex-gay, knows the pariah's stigmata firsthand. No doubt he had hoped to "cured" of that as well as his sexual proclivities when he left behind the life of an active homosexual.
It is the term cure that needs further emphasis in this surprising development in one of the strategic arenas of the sexual-political debate. Fight for rights to that term determines who gets to define sexual norms for the present generation and the next. This is at least part of the reason why pro-gay hostility to the prospect of a cure for unwanted homosexual desires is always at a fever pitch. It is a strategic necessity that gay indignation be maintained at a menacing level at the thought of a "cure."
I offer no update on the pathology of mental disorders, nor am I competent to comment on homosexuality from the standpoint of mental health. For that matter, I have no argument about whether there is a cure for homosexuality. Groups like APA and EI will bat that back and forth indefinitely. That's their raison d'Ítre.
My question is, what do we mean by cure?
According to a Times interview with Chambers, "virtually every 'ex-gay' he has ever met still harbors homosexual cravings, himself included." The implied meaning of "cure," then, is to change not only one's unwanted sexual behavior but also one's unwanted sexual cravings, fantasies, and ideations. A cure would mean their total absence even in memory. It would mean that old habits leave behind no traces, no familiar muscular responses.
While the elephant is no longer in the room, the space once occupied by the elephant remains glaringly empty. And yet any recollection of the former occupant of that space is taken as proof that he's still there.
Such a standard of "cure" exists nowhere on earth.
I wonder how many recovering alcoholics know that, in spite of years of hard fought sobriety, their occasional or perhaps frequent cravings proved that they were still pathologically alcoholic. Alcoholics at least have a sober understanding of the concept of cure. They can be still alcoholic but recovering without suffering the abuse of those who would turn alcoholism into an identity for their own purposes, one that the addict is obligated to maintain.
That is what is at stake in the homosexual debate -- defining homosexuality as a distinct category of being. Only by such definition can homosexuality be called a norm, apart from "normal" as a mere product of the times. A product of the times is symptomatic of those times, and thus still couched in the logic of pathology. To be normatively human the homosexual condition can't even be a lifestyle. It must be elevated beyond time and so become part of human nature.
Chambers caved on the main issue. I don't wish to add to the ranks of his critics -- he has them on all sides. -- but I think the implicit concept of cure that now enters into the debate is catastrophic, and not just for the sexual front of the culture wars.
In the world of real pathologies, cancers go into remission, and sometimes a patient is declared "cured," but that patient continues to visit her oncologist. And even if she is cured of the spread of the cancer, the scars of former surgeries and chemotherapies leave unmistakable signs.
The same is true of sexual pathologies (and homosexuality is not the only one). Sex is a powerful area of the human psyche. Crossing lines in sexual behavior is like playing with fire. It does real damage, and while it is possible to return outwardly to the former boundaries, it is impossible to go back across those lines as if we had never crossed in the first place.
Try this as an experiment. If you are recovering from any pathological indulgence whatsoever, STOP THINKING ABOUT IT RIGHT NOW. Pretend that whatever you felt as pleasurable or positive was really miserable and negative. Can't do it, can you? Does that mean you're not "cured" after all? Of course not. It means that now is no time to play at heroics. Now is no time to judge ourselves by standards of perfection. Now is the time to get back to safety and do whatever it takes to stay there. Now is not the time to pretend that a miracle has occurred and that we are immune to things that dominated us so easily before.
Homosexual activists, like all Alinsky's children, are strategic thinkers who are expert in exploiting a weakened conscience. They're clever in the use of words -- particularly using the same word in two different senses and pivoting between them in a way that morally disarms an opponent. The end result is intimidation and the inevitable cave-in to pressure.
The abuse of the word "cure" is just one example. If I speak of cure now in an abstract sense and now in a relative sense based on your partial (but satisfactory) cure from illness, I will leave you confused as to whether or not your operation was a success. The fact that you can now return to a full life will leave you thinking nothing has changed. You will think that, if you were "really" cured, you would rise up as if the initial diagnosis had never been made. Such "perfection" defeats the whole purpose of a cure.
Cure from SSA (same-sex attractions) is possible if by that we mean the ability to live a normal heterosexual lifestyle. Many thousands have done and continue to do so. There is no human being who lives without temptations and "cravings," particularly if that person has a history of any kind. No one is ever completely satisfied, especially in the area of sex.
For the purposes of actual healing, to identify perfection as the minimal standard of cure is to doom healing practitioners to inevitable failure. To set miracle as the baseline for recovery is to damn even the soberest addict to a darker hell than he has hitherto experienced.
The Rev. Canon J. Gary L'Hommedieu is Canon for Pastoral Care at the Cathedral Church of St. Luke, Orlando, Florida, and an occasional contributor to VOL
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