Robert Elster was in so-called "ex-gay" ministries for 20 years. Convinced by these groups he was cured, he married his wife Judy for 15 years and they have two children.
Unfortunately, the marriage ended because Robert had not become straight. He had been sold false hope and bought into what he now calls his "inauthentic self."
Today, he lives as an out, proud openly gay man in California.
It seems a fascinating process, by which a person can BELIEVE that he does not sexually desire his own sex and desires the opposite sex, while all along in reality sexually desiring his own sex and not sexually desiring the opposite sex.
Perhaps there is scope for work to be done by researchers and psychiatrists, in looking at what the psychological mechanisms are by which this "fish can fly" self-deception takes place.
No doubt there are standard, recognised psychological mechanisms involved in this process. But I'm not aware that anyone has published any extensive work on relating these mechanisms to the particular "ex-gay" self-perception. It would be illuminating, I think, for someone to research this aspect in detail with a view to explaining just what might be happening psychologically in these cases.
Such work, if published as a book, would make a very useful companion volume to Tanya Erzen's "Straight To Jesus", Mr Besen's excellent "Anything But Straight", and Wilson & Rahman's superb "Born Gay, The Psychobiology of Sex Orientation".
The speaker in this video (who must be praised for his dignity and candor) mentions that one out of his "graduating class" of fifty, has maintained a "non-gay" married life. It would be most interesting to listen to a truthful and candid interview with that one person, so as to know the nature of his sexual desire - is he truly heterosexual in desire now, or simply a still-homosexually-oriented man actively deciding to maintain his marital fidelity? Or something in between?
posted by Phil, at
6/05/2008 5:06 PM
Phil: It is actually a very common phenomenon. I call it "We know what we want to know." Thus a mother knows her sone is gay, but is 'shocked' when he tells her. Someone knows he's sick, but doesn't go to the doctor until it's too late. You don't have any money, but you buy the new car anyway.
posted by Ben in oakland, at
6/05/2008 5:32 PM
Well, Ben, I'm not sure the three scenarios you outline all involve quite the same psychological mechanisms. But I'm not qualified to say. I still think it would be interesting if someone did some research on this as it pertains to the "ex-gay" industry's victims
posted by Phil, at
6/05/2008 6:19 PM
It's called "denial".
And since that lone 1 in 50 still living the straight life is almost certainly in denial, it would be impossible to have a truthful conversation with him.
The other word that might explain it would be: "brainwashed".
Not sure what else you'd be expecting to find. And what exactly is a psychological "mechanism" anyway? Are you talking about evolutionary psychology?
posted by Eshto, at
6/06/2008 2:30 AM
No Eshto, I wasn't talking about evolutionary psychology.
Perhaps "mechanism" wasn't the right word. Maybe "process" or "operation" or "phenomenon" or something else, would be better.
I'm not a psychiatrist or a psychologist, and don't got no book larnin' about psychological processes. Perhaps "denial" is indeed the correct name for a recognised process that is going on. I think there might be an interesting book's worth of material, were an expert in psychology or psychiatry to focus on "ex-gays" and examine what, if any, recognised psychological phenomena are occurring.
If it's "denial", then I as a lay person who doesn't know all that "denial" means, think it would be interesting to have an expert explore and dissect how it applies in these cases - how it works.
I am inclined to believe as you do, Eshto, regarding the one "successful graduate". It would be most interesting to find out.
posted by Phil, at
6/06/2008 11:35 AM