Beyond Gay

by David Morrison (Our Sunday Visitor Publishing, 1999, 288 pages, $14.95)

Today's “gay anthropology” rests on faith in two popularly supported social doctrines. The first holds that some individuals are “born gay.” The second warns that, for those who experience same–sex attractions, the only authentic response is to say, “Gay is who I am.’”

Those who cleave to these ideas will find their convictions challenged, if not threatened, by Beyond Gay, a first-person account of a man who left the “gay lifestyle” behind to find healing and wholeness in his Catholic faith.

But the book is more than an inspiring conversion testimony, for David Morrison intelligently balances observations about his personal life with astute social commentary. He discusses how politics within the Church and the American Psychiatric Association sometimes serve to reinforce erroneous thinking around homosexuality. He also describes the well-documented data indicating that the primary cause of male homosexuality is a developmental problem whose roots lie in anxious early-life relationships with parents and parent figures.

In his own life, Morrison relates what we reparative therapists call the “classic triadic relationship,” which has been so consistently established in the psychoanalytic literature. I have seen it hundreds of times in my own clinical practice. It's the case where a boy experiences his father as distant and detached, and his mother as over-involved.

Morrison remembers his own father as generally indifferent, and recalls his mother as making herself “all too accessible.” He writes, “I quickly understood that my family dynamic was she and I against my father.” In his early relationships with his peers, again we see several developmental themes common to the pre-homosexual boy — shame about his body, a feeling of inadequacy, and the sense of not belonging to the company of males, whom he eventually romanticizes from a distance.

He points out how fortunate are the sexually confused youngsters of our time who manage to escape the trap which ensnares so many others — the encouragement of teachers, counselors and society for sexually confused youngsters to label themselves “gay” before they are old enough to make an informed decision about such an essential issue. Without the opportunity to understand how feelings of gender inadequacy will lead to romantic idealization of same-sex peers, many young people have been led to believe the scientifically insupportable argument that “I was born this way,” or, if they are religious, “God makes people gay.”

The recent bishops’ document “Always Our Children,” by the way, reinforces the “gay” label, and many priests and bishops are now promoting the identity as valid even while reiterating the requirement of chastity. But Christian anthropology, backed by science, makes it clear that God did not design two kinds of people, heterosexual and homosexual. Morrison helps show that, when homosexuality occurs, it is not an authentic, God-given identity, but rather a struggle to make adjustments and find peace with a true, God-given identity.

Morrison speaks about the fear (so often reported by my own clients as well) of being genuinely seen by other boys for who he was, which resulted in the longing for a deep male friendship which never seemed to come. These longings became the foundation for later same-sex attractions: what he could not find in the usual way through friendship, he compensated for with the secret fantasy that one day he would find that one, special, “best buddy.” Those fantasies eventually led him into a gay lifestyle. In reparative therapy, we call this period the Erotic Transitional Phase: the time when the boy's emotional needs for same-sex attention, affection and approval become eroticized.

The author's reporting of his first homosexual experience at the age of 11 or 12 with an older teenage boy is also very typical in the formation of homosexuality. One-third of my own clients were sexually molested as little boys or young teenagers by older males. Their feeling of inadequacy and alienation from other males found a tension-releasing outlet early on in their lives, and this experience confirmed their suspicion that they might be gay. At the same time, it short-circuited any future attempts they might have made to experience normal, non-erotic male intimacy through the mutuality and equality of genuine male friendship.

As a young adult, Morrison at first tried to integrate his Christian identity with a gay identity. Thus he was at first drawn to the homosexual group Dignity, which seeks to integrate Catholicism with a gay identity. His disillusionment with Dignity led to a final struggle which revealed to him the cost of discipleship as he discovered those two identities (gay and Catholic) to be irreconcilable.

Morrison talks about his initial rebellion against Scripture and Catholic moral teachings, and acknowledges the Church's statement that homosexuality is an “objective disorder.” Many gay ministries within this country wish to simply ignore, explain away, or rationalize that powerful term which forces the homosexually oriented Catholic to make a fundamental decision. But without question, acknowledgment of that statement must be the “litmus test for orthodoxy” of any Catholic ministry. Many such ministries are diocesan-supported and flourishing around this country in spite of their failure to acknowledge that a gay identity cannot be “who a person really is” in the deepest and truest sense of human identity.

This is the first autobiography of its kind written by a Catholic, aimed at a Catholic audience and printed by a Catholic publishing house. It is even graced by a bishop's introduction. Here's hoping this book finds a wide audience — and inspires other gifted communicators to come forward, tell their stories and help build a new body of much-needed literature like this.

Joseph Nicolosi, Ph.D., of Enicino, Calif., is executive director of the National

Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality.