A letter to Curtis Travers


Dear "Curtis"

I do not judge or condemn you for wanting to change your sexual orientation. Been there, done that. Many have sought what you seek through religious conversion, groups like Exodus International, 12 Step programs like Homosexuals Anonymous (HA), or "reparative therapy" as touted by Dr. Joseph Nicolosi and Dr. Elizabeth Moberly.

I am currently working on a book on the so-called "ex-gay" movement from a sociological/scientific/religious perspective. I have studied their claims, met with leaders, authors, psychologists, "patients;" attended meetings, interviewed at length men and women who have sought to be changed or "cured."

Most of these people are not crazy, rabidly homophobic or self-loathing. Many are sincere people who no longer wish to be gay or never identified with the label "gay" to begin with.

Why would someone wish to change their sexual orientation? The reasons are complex and vary (and have often been trivialized or misunderstood by the gay press) so I will try to avoid generalizations. However, the more "ex-gays" I met, I noticed several distinct backgrounds emerging:

(1) ABUSE: Many persons desiring change had suffered physical, sexual, or emotional abuse as children or adolescents. Several had been victims of rape or incest. People who have endured such traumas often feel guilt, alienation, powerlessness, rage... If you were raped by your father, or beaten black and blue by an alcoholic lover, you might have some slight sexual aversions and emotional wounds too!

(2) PERCEIVED RISK OF PERSONAL LOSS: Persons who feared loss of inheritance, employment, public celebrity or social position, spouse and children, military service, political career (sound familiar, Curtis?), parental support, religious affiliation or pastoral office were usually closeted homosexuals.

Some of these people were married with kids because they believed a wife would "cure" them. They learned to their disappointment that it did not. One young man was threatened to be cut out of millions in cash, real estate, stock and corporate holdings if he did not change. Talk about pressure! I met protestant pastors and missionaries who had been disciplined or defrocked because their sexuality became known. I met a bisexual former gym instructor at an all boys school who was booted out for jacking off with a student. I met a father whose wife threatened to divorce him and deny custody or visitation with children.

I know of a U.S. congressman who went through reparative therapy and was "cured." He was later caught performing "oral sodomy" on a black guy at Washington, D.C.'s Lafayette Park. He was not reelected.

(3) HOMOSEXUALITY WAS INCOMPATIBLE WITH THEIR VALUE SYSTEM: These were not all fundamentalists as most people think. Many were Roman Catholic, a few were Eastern Orthodox, Quakers, Methodist, Pentecostal/holiness, Episcopalian, Jewish, what have you. The homes they came from were usually very conservative though not always. A member of Exodus, one of its leaders in fact, was raised by his pastor as a gay man in a liberal mainline denomination.

Some people when they experience religious conversion have a kind of euphoria that overrides or sublimates sexual feelings for a while. Others convert to Christianity in hopes that God will change them.

(4) AIDS/HIV--Either they, a lover or a friend have contracted the dread disease or they are scared witless of getting it so they want to become heterosexual to lower the risk of exposure.

(5) BAD HOMOSEXUAL EXPERIENCE: Abandonment, infidelity, alcoholism, abuse, promiscuity, prostitution... you name it. The leader of the Washington, D.C. Exodus group is a former male prostitute and companion of Roy Cohn. The self-loathing Roy Cohn is enough to make me want to change into a pumpkin!

(6) OBSESSIVE/COMPULSIVE/ADDICTIVE PERSONALITY: Alcohol, drugs, sexual compulsion, pornographic "addiction," overeating... are these causes or symptoms? I dunno. Did they drink so much because they didn't wanna be queer or didn't wanna be queer because they drank so much?

(7) INNOCENTS: People who were sexually inexperienced--nothing wrong with that--or virgins who had no idea how, where, or even why to have a sexual encounter with another of the same sex. They were usually younger (under 25) or older (over 50).

(8) LONELY: People who had sought happiness with other men and not found someone compatible. They might be a little overweight, balding or unattractive, quirky, finicky or whatever. Or they might be very good-looking, yet shy. For whatever reason, they have not found Mr. Right.

(9) PEOPLE LIKE CURTIS: These are people who wish to make a long term life commitment to someone special with whom they can set up house, have children, live openly with the approval of their friends, parents, employers. They detest the gay ghetto and subculture and are alarmed by the voracious promiscuity of some of its devotees. They do not wish to live in the demimonde of the gay "lifestyles" they have seen on TV and have heard in horror stories. They usually have seen little of the gay world beyond smoky discos and bathroom stalls. They have strolled through Kansas, but never been to Oz.

(10) BISEXUALS: Many of these are married and rather than accept what they are and come to terms with their spouse, they seek to eradicate half of their being through therapy. They are the source of the best success stories.

There are other types out there, Curtis Travers, but they have one thing in common: NONE OF THEM WERE ABLE TO BECOME HETEROSEXUAL WHETHER THEY SPENT 6 WEEKS OR 16 YEARS IN THERAPY. NONE. You will not find any case histories of persons who have PERMANENTLY BECOME HETEROSEXUAL.... UNLESS you include TRANSSEXUALS. I guess that would qualify on a technicality.

Yes Curtis, those are the facts. If your therapist believes he can change you, he is a fraud. The American Psychological Association as well as the American Psychiatric Association are both reviewing whether to ban persons who practice reparative or conversion therapy on homosexuals because:

(1) Homosexuality was declassified as a disorder in 1973-74.

(2) No empirical evidence exists that suggests that any therapy (chemical, hormonal, electro-shock, hypnosis, religious, castration, lobotomy etc.) has EVER successfully converted a homosexual into a heterosexual per se.

(3) The abnormal rate of suicide, depression, self-destruction among those who tried to change.

(4) No therapists are saying, "I was queer, now I'm not, I'll prove it to you."

(5) Many gay therapists now say, "I'm gay, I love it, I love my partner, this is how I dealt with it." Gay Affirmative Therapy (GAT) is all the rage. Yes, you could live a celibate life, a closeted life, or a make believe hetero life. Did you ever see the movie THE IMITATION OF LIFE? It was about a little black girl who didn't want to be black and grew up trying to pass for white? Rent it babe. It really spoke to me.



(a) March into the gas chambers. (b) become a peroxide Nazi and condemn the rest of us. (c) Become a prison camp collaborator and sell out the rest of us. (d) Help us fight and overthrow the Nazis.

Remember the French Vichy collaborators who thought they were doing the right thing to accommodate the Nazis and adjust to their world? Remember what happened to them after the War was over and the Nazis lost? Don't you want to be on the right side of the battle?

I hope you figure things out. No one said life was easy.

The preceding letter originally appeared in Gaynet-Digest in response to a young man's open plea to talk to anyone who had sought to change their sexual orientation whether successfully or not.

ANDREW OF AMERICA is a gay humorist and social commentator with a degree in religion. He is a former youth minister and his work has appeared in more than two dozen LesBiGay and mainstream publications. His columns and notorious Top Ten Lists regularly "zappear" in Gaynet-Digest. His actual identity remains unknown to facilitate his infiltration of several anti-gay groups including Exodus International. He currently resides somewhere in the South with his boyfriend and his cat. Both are black. His archives are maintained by Brent Payton at the TX-MOTSS Digest Webpage.
General information: Jeff Walsh
Design and HTML: Jase Pittman-Wells
©1996 Oasis. All Rights Reserved.