Response to Merton Strommen, Part 2
An essay by Emmy Kegler
Addressing Merton Strommen’s “Genetic” Argument
The Counterpoint featured in the January 2007 issue was both encouraging and disheartening. I believe that a refutation of the “genetic” argument is beneficial to the gay-lesbian-bisexual community, since there are many genetic or genetic-related traits present in human variance which we as a culture strive to overcome – obesity, short-sightedness, alcoholism, for example. Genetic predisposition alone does not lend support to the GLBT civil rights movement.
However, in his assertion of the positive aspects of reorientation therapy, Strommen neglected to note an important aspect of sexuality that may clarify the effectiveness of such measures. Sexual identity as straight, gay, or bisexual is a self-identification. It is not a medical diagnosis that one receives from an objective lab result or a qualified physician. It is, primarily and essentially, an understanding of the self, by the self, based on the evaluation of personal emotions, experiences, and beliefs. I believe that we should take people at their word – that if a brother or sister in Christ tells me that they feel and experience a desire for the same sex, and so they identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual, then I am inclined to believe them. Yet I also am inclined to understand when, later, the same brother or sister finds that self-identification to be wrong. In the same way that long-term reflection provides a better view of any aspect of the self, new experiences and emotions – including those revealed by intelligent and objective therapy – can provide a better understanding of one’s sexuality.
Strommen quotes that the Spitzer study of homosexuals who sought therapy to change found that the majority “did not find the homosexual lifestyle emotionally satisfying.” I must confess that I find myself confused as to why they would identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual, if such relationships were not emotionally satisfying! Sexual orientation is not just about sexual desire – it also includes emotional, mental, and spiritual desire. Were a brother or sister who believed themselves to be GLB to come to me with such concerns, I would encourage therapy as well – not because I believe that all gays and lesbians can be changed, nor should be changed, but because I believe that a true understanding of one’s sexuality will lead to emotional, spiritual, and sexual fulfillment. I believe that the people in Spitzer’s study sought therapy because they sensed that their identity as a gay man, lesbian woman, or bisexual person was not accurate to their true self – and so, for them, reorientation therapy was successful.