Culture of Life
‘You Are Not Really Gay’
Dr. Joseph Nicolosi challenges the notion that homosexuality is genetic-and has the results to prove it
BY Karen Walker
December 7-13, 1997 Issue | Posted 12/7/97 at 1:00 PM
Joseph Nicolosi Ph.D. is the founder and clinical director of the Thomas Aquinas Psychological Clinic, which is devoted primarily to the treatment of homosexuals. He is also the executive director of the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH).
Nicolosi received his doctorate in clinical psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology in Los Angeles and is a licensed clinical psychologist. He is a member of the American Psychological Association, the California State Psychological Association, and the Society of Catholic Social Scientists.
Nicolosi has written two books— Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality and Healing Homosexuality: Case Stories of Reparative Therapy. He is a Catholic and an outspoken advocate of the efficacy of reparative therapy for homosexuals, having positively treated more than 400 homosexuals in 13 years of practice. The following interview, conducted by Karen Walker, is reprinted from the Nov. 30 issue of Catholic Twin Circle.
Walker: What is reparative therapy?
Nicolosi: The word “reparative” implies reparation. It's a psychoanalytic term that means the behavior of homosexuality is an attempt to repair something that is missing within the person.
We believe that same-sex affectional needs—such as attention, affection, and approval—are what's missing in the homosexual. He desires to have male connectedness, to feel belonging and acceptance from another man, which is a part of masculinity—to be loved [in a healthy way] by a man.
He did not get these from his father, for whatever reason. The male homosexual extends the alienation he felt from his father to all other males.
I tell all my clients: “You are not really gay. You are a heterosexual with a problem, with a developmental deficit.”
They are relieved, always, because now they are not apart from everyone else.
Reparative therapy gets its foundation from the natural law.
How did you get involved in the treatment of homosexuals?
There was absolutely no information or discussion during my training program on the cause and treatment of homosexuality. It was just one of those politically incorrect things that nobody talked about.
But, as I started doing the work, I saw a disproportionately high number of individuals who were unhappy with their homosexuality, and I began to notice certain trends. The primary trend I noticed was that they all had a deep hurt or grievance toward their father, a disappointment in the early father-son relationship.
I've treated more than 400 men over a 13-year period. Today, I see between 35 and 40 clients a week, and 95% of them are men who are dealing with unwanted homosexuality.
Is anyone else doing reparative therapy for homosexuals?
Absolutely. There are psychotherapists around the country who do reparative therapy. One of NARTH's functions is to provide a nationwide referral list of therapists for anybody who is interested.
What is NARTH?
NARTH was formed primarily as a response to the gay agenda in the American Psychiatric and Psychological (APA) associations.
Gay activists within the APAs wanted to make the treatment of homosexuality unethical. They wanted the APAs to say that the only acceptable therapy was to affirm their gay identity.
NARTH was formed to provide support to therapists who want to do this work (reparative therapy), who want to assist people in overcoming their homosexuality and to defend the right of clients to receive this treatment.
Our current membership is about 700.
In 1972, the diagnostic guidebook for therapists was changed so that homosexuality was no longer classified as a mental illness. More recently, media attention has been given to an APA resolution. Would you explain this resolution?
In 1992, the American Psychological Association was picketed by people who didn't want to be gay. They wanted reparative therapy to remain available.
On the other hand, pro-gay groups had been lobbying to make reparative therapy unethical on the grounds that they claimed it doesn't work and it does damage, hoping that the APA would vote to totally discredit reparative therapy. But the pro-gay lobbyists were not successful.
Basically, what the APA resolution did was to reiterate its guidelines for all psychotherapy, emphasizing that people should not be coerced, people should not be manipulated into therapy, and that they have to give full consent. This is true for any therapy.
So the resolution, we think, won't really have much practical impact.
Is there any evidence that reparative therapy works?
We can make reference to over 300 professionally published studies that have shown reparative therapy to bring about change. You can go back in the literature and find such studies back in the 1920s.
Besides that, NARTH has just completed its own two-year research project. We have more than 860 individuals who say that they have experienced varying degrees of sexual reorientation change and over 200 licensed psychotherapists who say they have participated in the successful treatment of homosexuality.
There's lots of information, but it's being politically covered up.
Would you comment on the seven-part series on homosexuality that came out earlier this year in
Basically, it was an extensive review of the entire question of homosexuality—historically, culturally, the Church's response to it, the moral issue, the ethical issue, and what is homosexuality.
I thought it was a very good document—very fair, very scientifically and morally grounded, theologically grounded. It made reference to my writings very generously, which gave me the assurance that my work is in keeping with Catholic theology.
I think there is a real battle going on in the Catholic Church today. The Vatican documents are very solid and very sound. And at the bottom of the hierarchy of the Church you have the orthodox laity who see very clearly that homosexuality is not a God-given condition.
But I think that in between, especially in the United States, you have a lot of progay ministries that promote the idea that gay is normal and natural for some people. I think that's a very serious mistake.
I really believe that the principles of reparative therapy are in keeping with the principles of Catholic theology and certainly with Christian anthropology.
Christian anthropology says that we are all heterosexual in our nature. What's happening is that there is a slow erosion of that and a subtle introduction of a gay anthropology.
The gay anthropology says that God made two kinds of people—heterosexual and homosexual—and that for this population of homosexuals, same-sex attractions are normal and natural. I think that's a serious problem.
How is Catholic academia handling this?
I can tell you about my own experience.
I just came back from Notre Dame University. There was a great deal of resistance on the part of the faculty and some gay activist students to having me speak to the student body. In fact, the head of the counseling department— who is a priest, by the way—wrote a one-page disclaimer saying that “I think nothing good can come of Dr. Nicolosi's presentation.”
I pointed out to the audience: “How can you say this? There may be someone in the audience tonight who doesn't want to have these feelings, who wants to overcome it, and this might be exactly what they're looking for. This might have given them some answers, some hope for the first time in their life, so how can you say that?”
The student body reacted very positively. Alot of students told me that what I said made sense of what they thought intuitively.
What is the reaction of the Church in America?
What I think is going on in the Catholic Church in America, especially at the [clergy] level, is that we have become so sensitized to protecting the sentiments and feelings of one minority, namely gays, that we are forsaking the needs and wants of another population, namely the non-gay homosexual—the person who wants to change, who may be having homosexual feelings but who does not want to assume the gay identity. I think the Catholic Church is really neglecting them.
The Protestant Churches are doing much more to actively support the ministry of the homosexual who wants to overcome his homosexuality.
It's pathetic to think that only 10% of the dioceses in this country have an orthodox ministry to homosexuals, which is called Courage. There should be one in every parish.
But some dioceses say they are addressing this issue, for example in Los Angeles and Chicago, by setting up gay ministries.
No, they are not. I think they are making a terrible mistake, even in the title of their ministry.
The Los Angeles archdiocese calls it The Office of Gay and Lesbian Ministry, and in Chicago it's called AGLO (Archdiocesan Gay-Lesbian Outreach). They are using the political term “gay.”
Why do you think this approach is so wrong-headed?
It's wrong-headed, first of all, because many gay priests are running these organizations. They tend to be the ones who are most interested in these particular kinds of ministries. They have their own personal agenda, which is to soften the Church's teachings to accommodate gays.
I don't believe you can be gay and Catholic. Gay ministry tries to elevate homosexual attractions to the level of normal, using the argument of celibacy to make the two attractions equal. It's an incredible sleight of hand.
I'm still amazed at how Catholic priests are either not seeing the implications of the gay ministry or are seeing it and being silent about it.
True ministry brings people into the fold; it shows they are, at core, the same. But the gay ministry talks about gay gifts and gay spirituality—all divisive, separatist concepts that drive people apart and not together.
Why do you think a person cannot be gay and Catholic, especially if he or she remains celibate?
It's a contradiction in ideology.
You can be homosexual and Catholic, which is to say: “I have these attractions and these feelings, but I know that they're wrong. Whether it be biological or psychological, I see it as a disorder.”
But, when you say “gay,” you say: “This is what's normal and natural for me. I may have to be celibate, but my same-sex attractions are normal and natural for me.”
That's a very important distinction. [Catholic] doctrine tells us very clearly that the homosexual component within the person is an intrinsic disorder. It doesn't mean that the person is in a state of sin, but it is an intrinsic disorder.
So the use of the word “gay” implies that a same-sex attraction is normal?
Exactly. The label of “gay” implies: “This is who I am. God made me this way.” From that, we go to the next step of “gay spirituality,” which says that gayness is a gift.
I think that's another big mistake. If there are any gifts that come from homosexuality, the gifts come from a person countering his homosexuality. They don't come from the homosexuality itself.
I mean if there are any spiritual or psychological gifts that comes from alcoholism, it doesn't come from the alcoholic condition, it comes from your efforts to heal and to understand yourself to overcome your alcoholism.
It's not the disorder itself that's a gift; it's my bearing it as a cross that's a gift.
We're not hearing that in gay spirituality. This is an important point. It's my orthodox Christian, Catholic response to my inclination toward sin that will give me my gift, not the homosexuality itself.
Thomas Aquinas says very simply that good does not come out of evil; it's how we respond to the evil that brings good.
Given your years of experience and research, do you think anyone is born gay?
Because anyone who knows anything about genetics knows that a specific gene is for a specific trait. For example, there's a gene for blue eyes or left-handedness.
Something as complicated as homosexuality could not come from a single gene.
For example, you can't say a person has a good basketball-playing gene. You could say that someone has a height gene, or an eye-hand coordination gene, or an aggressive gene, which all make you a better basketball player. But, there's not a single basketball-playing gene.
Homosexuality is too complex a set of behaviors. There's no such thing as a sexual-preference gene.
At best, we can say that there might be what we call a temperamental predisposition. We see repeatedly the classic triadic relationship—a distant, detached father; an over-involved mother; and a temperamentally introverted, sensitive son.
A boy with a more extroverted temperament would have some difficulties with such a family structure, but he would be less likely to be homosexual.
Do you want to add anything else to this discussion?
Yes, the American Public Philosophy Association in Washington, D.C., held a wonderful two-day conference at Georgetown University, called Homosexuality in the American Public Life.
Again, the president of Georgetown University dismissed it as unimportant.
But it was the first two-day conference with 23 top-quality national speakers who spoke about homosexuality in the non-gay-affirming way. It presented how we are being manipulated by the media and by many of the cultural leaders—unfortunately, including members of the Church—to accept homosexuality as normal and natural. It also presented reasons why we do not accept it as normal and natural.
The responses were from the sociological area, educational area, cultural area, psychological area, and the religious area. More than 400 attended, including Orthodox Jews, priests, and a wide variety of people interested in the subject of homosexuality in the public life.
Have you ever had a gay activist change his behavior?
Yes. I helped one man who had participated in 800 to 1,000 sexual contacts.
Today, the man is married, has a daughter, and runs a Christian bookstore. The first year of therapy he had three contacts, the next year he had one contact, and in the last four years he has had no contacts.
He is not a Catholic, but his Protestant pastor supported him and met with him for coffee every Sunday night. His entire Church knew and even helped pay for his psychotherapy.
Now I speak to him once every six weeks just to check in and see how he's doing. He's doing fine. He's happily married.
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