June greetings to you! This is a busy month, as spring gives way to summer and many families begin piling in their cars to take that long-awaited vacation. It's also the month in which we celebrate Father's Day—an observance that, while largely fueled by greeting card companies, nevertheless provides us with an excellent opportunity to recognize the importance of a father in the lives of his children. Indeed, the scourge of divorce, broken homes, and even busy schedules have deprived millions of children of a father's critical presence in their lives. My prayer is that, beyond simply setting aside a day to recognize fathers, our culture will once again embrace and promote fatherhood and its irreplaceable role in the lives of the next generation. Because good fathers play such a vital role in the development of healthy sexual attitudes in children, and because the absence of fathers can be detrimental to them, I want to devote my letter this month to the subject of sexual identity in kids and the forces that influence it.
And that takes me back to March, when I was a guest on the Larry King Live program. During that hour-long interview, Mr. King asked me several brief questions about the origins of homosexuality. I commented briefly that, while individuals are not born with this condition, neither do they typically choose it. Unfortunately, our conversation then veered all over the map and Mr. King never came back to ask me the obvious follow-up question: "Then what does cause a person to be attracted to the same sex?" Consequently, we have received a number of letters and phone calls here at Focus on the Family from confused viewers asking me to clarify the point I was making. I will try to do precisely that in this letter.
Chapter 9 of my latest book, Bringing Up Boys, provides a definitive explanation, I believe, regarding the origins of homosexuality. Let me quote the following excerpts, which should be of extreme importance to every parent who is raising one or more boys. I pray that this discussion will be helpful in that context. (Note: because this chapter in its original form runs more than 8,000 words, the passage that follows represents only the issue of "origins and prevention" of homosexuality. Some of you may want to track down a copy of Bringing Up Boys to obtain the full text.)
The letter that begins this excerpt contains some disturbing expressions from a 13-year-old boy. Please read with discretion.
A few years ago, I received the following scribbled note from a very troubled youth. He wrote:
I was deeply touched by Mark's letter. I know him well even though we have never met. He is representative of many other preteens and teens around the world who have awakened to something terrifying within—something they don't understand—something that creates enormous confusion and doubt. These kids often recognize very early in life that they are "different" from other boys. They may cry easily, be less athletic, have an artistic temperament and dislike the roughhousing that their friends enjoy. Some of them prefer the company of girls, and they may walk, talk, dress and even "think" effeminately. This, of course, brings rejection and ridicule from the "real boys," who tease them unmercifully and call them "queer," "fag," and "gay." Even when parents are aware of the situation, they typically have no idea how to help. By the time the adolescent hormones kick in during early adolescence, a full-blown gender-identity crisis threatens to overwhelm the teenager. This is what Mark was experiencing when he wrote. And it illustrates why even boys with normal heterosexual tendencies are often terrified that they will somehow "turn gay."1
There is an additional dimension of pain for those who have grown up in a strong Christian home. Their sexual thoughts and feelings produce great waves of guilt accompanied by secret fears of divine retribution. They ask themselves, How could God love someone as vile as me? Mark even felt condemned for jumping up and down in the shower and for feeling the excitement it created. (That titillation by the sight of his own body is a classic symptom of narcissism, or a "turning inward" to fulfill his unmet gender-identification needs.) He either had to figure out how to control this monster within or, in his understanding, face an eternity in hell. There is no greater internal turmoil for a Christian boy or girl than this. At the top of Mark's letter he wrote, "I may sound very bad. I hope I'm not that bad."
Poor kid! Mark is in desperate need of professional help, but he is unlikely to get it. His parents apparently don't know about his travail, and the pastor he trusts tells him it will pass. It probably won't! Mark appears to have a condition we might call "prehomosexuality," and unless he and his entire family are guided by someone who knows how to assist, the probabilities are very great that he will go on to experience a homosexual lifestyle.
What do we know about this disorder? Well first, it is a disorder, despite the denials of the American Psychiatric Association. Great political pressure was exerted on this professional organization by gays and lesbians (some of whom are psychiatrists) to declare homosexuality to be "normal." The debate went on for years. Finally, a decision was made in 1973 to remove this condition from their Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). It was made not on the basis of science, but was strongly influenced by a poll of APA members, which was initiated and financed by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. The vote was 5,834 to 3,810. 2 The American Psychological Association soon followed suit. 3 Today, psychologists or psychiatrists who disagree with this politically correct interpretation, or even those who try to help homosexuals change, are subjected to continual harassment and accusations of malpractice.
The second thing we know is that the disorder is not typically "chosen." Homosexuals deeply resent being told that they selected this same-sex inclination in pursuit of sexual excitement or some other motive. It is unfair, and I don't blame them for being irritated by that assumption. Who among us would knowingly choose a path that would result in alienation from family, rejection by friends, disdain from the heterosexual world, exposure to sexually transmitted diseases such as AIDS and tuberculosis, and even a shorter lifespan? 4 No, homosexuality is not "chosen" except in rare circumstances. Instead, bewildered children and adolescents such as Mark find themselves dealing with something they don't even understand.
Third, there is no evidence to indicate that homosexuality is inherited, despite everything you may have heard or read to the contrary. There are no respected geneticists in the world today who claim to have found a so-called "gay gene" or other indicators of genetic transmission. This is not to say that there may not be some kind of biological predisposition or an inherited temperament that makes one vulnerable to environmental influences. But efforts to identify such factors have been inconclusive. Despite this lack of evidence, the gay and lesbian organizations and their friends in the mainstream media continue to tell the public that the issue is settled—that gays are "born that way." Time and Newsweek splashed "promising findings" to that effect on their covers. Time titled their story "Search for the Gay Gene," 5 and Newsweek proclaimed, "Does DNA Make Some Men Gay?" 6 Oprah devoted several slanted television programs to the subject, and Barbara Walters said recently, "There is a growing body of opinion that says that people are born homosexual." 7 Even though entirely false, this politically motivated information (or disinformation) has done its work. According to a Harris Poll in February 2000, 35 percent of the people polled believed homosexuality was "genetic." 8
There is further convincing evidence that it is not. For example, since identical twins share the same chromosomal pattern, or DNA, the genetic contributions are exactly the same within each of the pairs. Therefore, if one twin is "born" homosexual, then the other should inevitably have that characteristic too. That is not the case. When one twin is homosexual, the probability is only 50 percent that the other will have the same condition. 9 Something else must be operating.
Furthermore, if homosexuality were specifically inherited, it would tend to be eliminated from the human gene pool because those who have it tend not to reproduce. Any characteristic that is not passed along to the next generation eventually dies with the individual who carries it.
Not only does homosexuality continue to exist in nations around the world, it flourishes in some cultures. If the condition resulted from inherited characteristics, it would be a "constant" across time. Instead, there have been societies through the ages, such as Sodom and Gomorrah and the ancient Greek and Roman empires, where homosexuality reached epidemic proportions. The historical record tells us that those cultures and many others gradually descended into depravity, as the apostle Paul described in Romans 1, resulting in sexual perversion in all its varieties. That ebbing and flowing with the life cycle of cultures is not the way inherited characteristics are expressed in the human family.
Finally, if homosexuality were genetically transmitted, it would be inevitable, immutable, irresistible, and untreatable. Fortunately, it is not. Prevention is effective. Change is possible. Hope is available. And Christ is in the business of healing. Here again, gay and lesbian organizations and the media have convinced the public that being homosexual is as predetermined as one's race and that nothing can be done about it. That is simply not true. There are eight hundred known former gay and lesbian individuals today who have escaped from the homosexual lifestyle and found wholeness in their newfound heterosexuality.
One such individual is my co-worker at Focus on the Family, John Paulk, who has devoted his life to caring for and assisting those who want to change. At one time, he was heavily involved in the gay community, marched in "gay-pride" parades and was a cross-dresser. Ultimately, John found forgiveness and healing in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and he has walked the straight life now since 1987. He is happily married to Anne, a former lesbian, and they have two beautiful children. Despite a momentary setback when he entered and was discovered in a homosexual bar, which delighted his critics, John did not return to his former life. There are hundreds of stories like this that offer encouragement to those who want out of the gay lifestyle but have no idea how to deal with the forces within. I would be less than honest if I didn't admit that homosexuality is not easily overcome and that those who try often struggle mightily. But it would be equally dishonest to say that there is no hope for those who want to change. Credible research indicates otherwise.
Psychologist George Rekers says there is considerable evidence that change of sexual orientation is possible—with or without psychiatric intervention. He wrote, "In a sizable number of cases…the gender-identity disorder resolves fully." 10
Dr. Robert L. Spitzer, a psychiatric professor at Columbia University, created a firestorm in May 2001, when he released the results of his research at a meeting of the American Psychiatric Association. Spitzer, who had spearheaded the APA's decision in 1973 to declassify homosexuality as a mental-health disorder, says his findings "show some people can change from gay to straight, and we ought to acknowledge that." 11 This was not what his critics wanted to hear. We applaud Dr. Spitzer for having the courage to examine and then expose the myth of inevitability.
With that, let's return to Mark's story to explore what is going on within him and other boys who are experiencing pre-homosexual urges. We also want to consider what causes their sexual identity disorder and what can be done to help. To get at those issues, we will turn to the very best resource for parents and teachers I have found. It is provided in an outstanding but yet-to-be-published manuscript entitled A Parent's Guide to Preventing Homosexuality, written by clinical psychologist Joseph Nicolosi, Ph.D. Dr. Nicolosi is, I believe, the foremost authority on the prevention and treatment of homosexuality today. His book will offer practical advice and a clear-eyed perspective on the antecedents of homosexuality. I wish every parent would eventually read it, especially those who have reason to be concerned about their sons. Its purpose is not to condemn but to educate and encourage moms and dads.
Dr. Nicolosi has permitted me to share some quotes from this manuscript that will answer many questions. These are some of his words:
Once again, this short synopsis from Dr. Nicolosi's book offers the most insightful understanding of the subject. The bottom line is that homosexuality is not primarily about sex. It is about everything else, including loneliness, rejection, affirmation, intimacy, identity, relationships, parenting, self-hatred, gender confusion, and a search for belonging. This explains why the homosexual experience is so intense—and why there is such anger expressed against those who are perceived as disrespecting gays and lesbians or making their experience more painful. I suppose if we who are straight had walked in the shoes of those in that "other world," we would be angry too.
There is much more useful information in Nicolosi's manuscript. If you as a parent have an effeminate boy or a masculinized girl, I urge you to get a copy (it will be available this November) and then seek immediate professional help. Be very careful whom you consult, however. Getting the wrong advice at this stage could be most unfortunate, solidifying the tendencies that are developing. Given the direction the mental-health profession has gone, most secular psychiatrists, psychologists, and counselors would, I believe, take the wrong approach—telling your child that he is homosexual and needs to accept that fact. You as parents would then be urged to consider the effeminate behavior to be healthy and normal. That is exactly what you and your son don't need! You do need to accept the child and affirm his worth regardless of the characteristics you observe but also work patiently with a therapist in redirecting those tendencies. When deciding to seek that help, however, you must be aware that for many pre-homosexual boys, the signs may be more subtle, such as an inability to bond with same-sex peers, feeling different and inferior, or a discomfort with one's gender. Sometimes a visit with a professional is needed just to determine whether or not a child is at risk.
To find a ministry, support or a counselor who understands and accepts the perspective I have described, you might want to contact one of two outstanding organizations. They are:
Exodus International North
National Association for Research and
Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH)
It is the mission of these caring people to be of help to people such as you. Another resource is Focus on the Family, which has an outreach called Love Won Out. It offers seminars and information to those seeking help. (This dynamic one-day seminar offers love, hope and compassion to families that have been negatively affected by homosexuality. Dr. Nicolosi is a keynote speaker. Additional speakers include John Paulk and other former homosexuals who are experts in the field of recovery and gender identity. In fact, there are several Love Won Out conferences scheduled to take place in the coming months. Here are the cities and dates:
If you or someone you love is struggling with homosexuality, or if you are dealing with a child whose sexual identity is confused, I urge you to consider attending one of these gatherings. Please call us at (800) A-FAMILY for more information.
I'll close this letter by referring again to Mark and other boys who appear effeminate, gender-confused, or chronically uncomfortable with same-sex peers. Parents, you have no time to lose. Once more, let me urge you to seek professional help for those who appear to be in difficulty, and pray for them every day. Fathers, begin applying the principles outlined by Dr. Nicolosi, and by all means, give your boys what they most urgently need: YOU. Your loving presence is one of the most important factors in their healthy emotional and spiritual development.
Time and space do not permit me to continue this explanation now. As it is, I feel badly about sending you a letter of this length. Perhaps I can return to the topic sometime over the next few months, if there are no other pressing matters to discuss. In the meantime, I extend my best regards to you, and ask you to call or write us here at Focus on the Family if we can be of assistance, or check our Hot Topics resource page on homosexuality. We would love to be of help to you and yours.
Thank you for your continued financial and prayerful support of this ministry.
James C. Dobson, Ph.D.
P.S. Our summer-long 25th anniversary celebration culminates next month with our "Family Reunion" weekend, July 25th through 28th. The centerpiece of this event will be a special evening service held on Saturday, July 27th at the Pepsi Center in Denver. Consider this your official invitation to join us for what is sure to be an historic night! Chuck Colson will be our keynote speaker for the evening, while Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman, Wintley Phipps and the Colorado Springs Symphony will provide music. We would be honored if you could join us in Denver as we celebrate God's faithfulness. Just call (800) A-FAMILY to request tickets and other relevant information, or register online. (And please note that, while the Pepsi Center holds 16,000 people, only 5,000 seats are still available as of this writing… so don't delay!)
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