Saturday, September 11
Ex-ex-gay Peterson Toscano: Guest Post
The following is by Peterson Toscano and this was originally written for the New Statesman.
Being gay myself, many folks consider me an expert on all things gay. Did Alexander the great have a male lover? What does the Bible say about homosexuality? For my bay window, should I use lace or chintz curtains?
As a gay theatrical performance activist, the most common question I get is: “how old are you?”
Such a rude question, but completely understandable because of my wild past including the 17-year quest to transform myself into a heterosexual with side trips to Zambia, England, and Ecuador plus a five year marriage. They look at my fresh, young face and wonder 'how did you do all that?' I explain that I am a 42-year-old, non-smoking vegan who moisturizes (It is never too young to start!).
The second most common question I get is: “do people choose to be gay?”
When someone is romantically and sexually attracted to someone of the same-sex, is this nature or nurture? Genetics or a mere whim?
This is a scientific question, best left to scientists. No one knows for sure although researchers have amassed a body of evidence that points to biological factors leading to a same-sex orientation.
One recent study by J. Michael Bailey at Boston’s Northeastern University revealed that among identical twin brothers, if one is gay, the other has a 52 per cent chance of being gay. (Fraternal twins show a 22 per cent chance while brothers who are not twins and do not share the same genetic code show only an 11 per cent chance of both being gay). According to a 1997 Canadian study, Anthony Bogaert of Brock University in St. Catharines discovered that the more brothers in a family, the higher the chance that the youngest ones will be gay.
No one has yet discovered the “gay gene”, but, then again, scientists have yet to discover a gene that causes some people to be left-handed.
Human sexuality is highly complex. We all start out in the womb as female, and then mom’s body puts some of us through a hormonal rinse cycle, which turns us male. With such a complicated transition who can say if all humans are 100 per cent male or female. Scientifically speaking we determine someone’s sex according to many factors, not simply the bits between our legs.
But I stray into murky embryonic waters. Back to choice. Did I choose to be gay?
Yes, on September 21, 1972 in 2nd grade (age 7) I said to myself: “Although most people treat gays like crap and only heterosexuality is represented and celebrated in my world, from this time forth I choose to like other boys instead of girls. Sure others will bully me, maybe even beat me up, but hey someone’s got to be society’s punching bag."
Actually, no, I never chose to be gay. In fact, for nearly two decades I even tried choosing NOT to be gay.
Growing up I knew I was different from the other boys around me. When puberty hit and all my male friends went crazy for girls while I went crazy for my male friends, I understood the difference—I was gay, a homo, a queer, a fagot. From messages I heard on the playground, in the media and at church, I determined gays are sinful and abnormal. Instead I wanted to be a good boy.
So, at the age of 17 after giving my heart (and the rest of me) to Jesus, I embarked on a journey to straighten myself out. I spent 17 years and over $30,000 USD on three continents attempting to change or at least suppress my same-sex attractions. I discovered the Ex-Gay Movement, which promises that homosexuals can live gay-free lives. I reasoned that if being gay were a choice, a product of a dysfunctional upbringing in the midst of a lost and dying world, than surely with the power of God and the guidance of ex-gay ministers, I could “un-choose” being gay or at least choose the right thing for a change.
No surprise, it didn't work. Change was not possible, at least not a change in sexual orientation. But through the years of trying I did change. I became suicidal, filled with shame and self-loathing. The ex-gay process left me depleted, discouraged and depressed. It caused emotional, psychological and spiritual harm.
No, I never chose my same-sex attractions. Also, after I came to my senses and came out of the closet, I did not choose to be “gay”—to act gay according to the current standards and stereotypes presented in both the gay and straight media. Instead I chose to be authentic, to no longer demonize my sexuality, to integrate my faith with the rest of my life. I did choose to be a Christian, a Quaker, a vegan and an activist, but I never chose to be gay.
Theatrical Performance Activist
Posted by Jacob Woods at 8:38 AM
Labels: ex-ex-gay, Ex-gay, Guest Post, Homosexual, homosexuality, Paying for sexual reorientation, Peterson Toscano
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Peterson's experience seems to be in agreement with my hypothesis that those who have (or claim to have?) successfully undergone a gay-to-straight conversion program have been bisexual in the first place. That means, those of us who don't have enough "residual" heterosexuality in their personality, won't be able to pull off this gay-to-straight conversion.
The sentences I like most are "No, I never chose my same-sex attractions." and "Instead, I chose to be authentic (...)". My respect!
Be careful on proving your theory. Theories can't be made or proven based upon anecdotes alone. I don't want to undermine the significance of Peterson's story, but theories can not be proved or disproved based off just anecdotes alone.
You are right, it's not even a theory yet. Back in high school, I learned that a hypothesis may advance into a theory, if it is shown to make correct and meaningful predictions. I am not aware of a study showing that bisexuality correctly predicts success and homosexuality correctly predicts failure of reorientation therapy. At present, my statement is hypothetical - a "hypothesis". And you are right again, one anecdote is not enough to advance my hypothesis into a theory :-)
Peterson's experience is highly relevant indeed, and it's great that you got him as a guest commentator.
It (bisexuality) doesn't predict success... I am bisexual and I have gone through years of ex-gay therapy and I am still bisexual. There was a time I chose to only be with men, but it never changed my orientation. Sexual orientation is based on attraction and not on actual sex acts... I knew I liked women before I was having sex with anyone. Anyway, Peterson's experience is normal as far as I can see from experience in trying to change and not being able to do so and becoming depressed and suicidal. The APA even acknowledges the harm of repairative therapy...
Some speculate that the APA only "acknowledged" the harm of reparative therapy for political reasons. But sexuality by many experts in the field usually define whether one is gay bisexual or lesbian by two modes of affection. One being physical attraction, and the other being emotional attraction. The actual sex acts between two people of the same sex would be considered homosexual before. So yes you are correct to a degree Amanda as many teens who are straight will participate in homosexual acts out of pure curiosity.
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