Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Factors leading to homosexuality and Using statistics.

POST #3:
, a conversation between pastor/author David Glesne and pastor/author Lars Clausen.

Clausen responds today by narrowing the focus to two points: Glesne’s section on early developmental factors that contribute to homosexuality, and the use of data and statistics to represent homosexual life and practice.

Dear David,

Thank you for your reply to my email, and for this gift of blogging together. Those who have read Straight Into Gay America know that journey and that book are based entirely in my experiences of life and other people. Our conversation is new territory for me, the arguments about the merits and demerits of homosexuality. Someday I expect these conversations will be relegated to the pile of arguments that include racial superiority, gender superiority, and the eugenics movement that have all been popular in our country at one time or another. For now, discussions about homosexuality remain important conversation in our church and culture, and I appreciate our engaging it together.

Thank you for replying to my questions about
  • Early abuse leading to homosexuality
  • Statistics about the gay “lifestyle.”
  • The reality of a gay agenda,
  • The statistics for change from homosexuality to heterosexuality.
In my original letter I wrote these as some of my areas of concern with Understanding Homosexuality. It’s probably good that we narrow our focus and take this conversation step by step, keeping our messages shorter in the hopes that readers will stay with us.

I’d like to reply to your comments about early developmental factors that contribute to homosexuality. (pages 34-38). I want to do this in two ways.
  • One is to consider the suggestions you make about factors leading to homosexuality.
  • The other is to look at the data and statistics you are choosing and ask what I believe are two important questions.
  1. By what criteria do you and I choose which data and statistics we hold to be reliable?
  2. Are data and statistics determinative of the way we address homosexuality, or are they simply supporting arguments for my existing understanding and your existing understanding of homosexuality?

Early factors leading to homosexuality:
Thank you for your qualifications in your book to your section on early factors leading to homosexuality, (“honest researchers are not really sure what causes homosexuality…(34)” and also “this is not to suggest that early destructive family dynamics is the only or even necessarily the greatest contributing factor to the development of homosexuality.(37)”)Still you quote sources that make very strong arguments:

Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, president of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality.

“Homosexuality is a developmental problem that is almost always the result of problems in family relationships, particularly between father and son. As a result of failure with father, the boy does not fully internalize male gender identity, and develops homosexuality. This is the most commonly seen clinical model.”

I suggest that even with your qualifications, the use of this quote would make fathers of gay sons feel terrible, that they had done something wrong. Now, I’m a story guy to the core, but I admit I don’t go around asking gay men whether or not they’ve had a failure with their father. So, I’ll ask our readers now. If you’re gay and you can offer a story of whether or not the father failure model describes your homosexuality, please add a comment.

My own experience questions Nicolosi’s conclusion. Many people I talk to report knowing that they felt different as kids, and when they look back they realize that they’ve been LGBT as far back as they can remember. It’s possible the cause is from family relationship problems, but these stories from people put real questions to those who claim homosexuality is a developmental problem.

Further, I started thinking about parents I know who have gay children. You write in this section about the striking theme that fathers are often absent, critical, or rejecting, and weak when compared to the mother. So, I started thinking about my friends and acquaintances and their sons:

  • former bishop Martinson who has a gay son
  • former bishop Eggertson who has a gay son
  • former bishop Chilstrom who has a gay son
  • Mr. Johnson, the retired school administrator who is the father of Pastor Jeff Johnson
  • Mr Reitan, the lawyer who is the father of Jake Reitan. All of these are strong fathers, and all of their sons are strong leaders, whether in music, pastoral care, or activist leadership.

I wonder how many nights that because of the data that Nicolosi presents and which you use in your book, that even these strong fathers have gone to bed at night wondering how they have failed their child and caused their homosexuality. For the two sons I know out of these five examples (Reitan and Johnson), neither would report that father failure caused their homosexuality. For gay readers of this blog, please add a comment about whether you perceive your homosexuality to be a developmental problem stemming from family relationship problems.

There’s another quote I find troublesome in the text of Understanding Homosexuality. Despite the qualifications about not knowing the dynamics that cause homosexuality, this quote from author/counselor Robert Hicks is included in the strong closing position of the sections on early family experience and early homosexual experience. As a reader, one might easily infer that this statement speaks more loudly than your qualifications.

“In counseling gay men for twenty years, I have not had one yet whom I would say had a normative childhood or a normative adolescent development in the sexual arena…”

Wow. Again, I think of parents reading this. Would they find your careful qualifications in the text consoling, or would they take this “expert data” with them, to bed at night, wondering at what they or others had wrought upon their beloved son or daughter who turns up gay. Readers…any comments…any stories of normative adolescent development in the sexual arena? I’m sorry I didn’t ask every person I met on my Straight into Gay America tour about their family development and their norming sexual experiences. But if I did, and if I was told what a normative childhood was, I bet I could find many who had normative childhoods.

Hicks is dealing with counselees. This group doesn’t seem to be a good representative sample for which to close your extremely important sections on early family development and early homosexual experiences. I’ve been in counseling myself, and I’ve studied deeply into my own family dynamics. Those family dynamics helped me learn about my qualitites and characteristics (anger, compassion, relationship to rules and institutions, love of adventure, etc) Still, no counselor ever said to me, “Ah, this is why you’re heterosexual.” My sexuality was normative, heterosexual, therefore not a malady to be dissected and fixed. My lesbian friend Ellen Maxon wrote me last week, at the beginning of this dialogue

"I have been involved with several of these discussions on ecunet and for me they very quickly become too insulting and frustrating - trying to convience someone about the worth of my being - soooo I most likely will not be joining -"

The use of Hick’s data brings me to my second points:
By what criteria do you and I choose which data and statistics we hold to be reliable? Shall data and statistics determine the we address homosexuality, or are they supporting arguments for my existing understanding and your existing understanding of homosexuality?

I’ve heard from knowledgeable LGBT friends that they don’t agree with the NARTH data. (The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality.) I haven’t looked into NARTH myself, because I’ve simply spent my time listening to people’s stories, but since you suggested them as a source of your data, I’m going to take a look and learn a little more. I’ll get back to you on what I discover and we can dialogue about NARTH. Perhaps some of you readers can help all of us understand NARTH better ( For the purposes of this discussion it would be good for us to know the sources we’re basing our comments on.
As I do this, I ask you to share what makes for good data and good statistics in your work of understanding homosexuality. The various players in the debate about homosexuality are using widely divergent data and statistics to support their viewpoints. If you and I can agree on what constitutes reliable data, this may help us move forward.

One thing that seems important to me is comparing apples to apples. For example with the Hicks data you’re quoting a counselor talking about twenty years of clinical situations. But the subtitle of your book is “perspectives for the local church.” I think that data representing everyday society or everyday church members would be more suitable for a book that is providing perspectives for the local church.

As another example of comparing apples with apples, a section of the book that I found very challenging was your description of a “fuller picture of what we are facing as a society (44)”
You wrote to me, “I surely don't mean to imply that all homosexual persons are involved in the gay lifestyle,” but this is not at all clear from this section of your book, pg. 43 ff. You write at the beginning of the section, “it would be well to look briefly at the lifestyle of homosexuals.” This reads as an over-arching statement, which, as it is written, includes all homosexual people. I find no qualifications listed in this section.

In my first reading of your book I assumed you were talking about homosexual people in general, and I believe most of your readers would assume the same. In your letter to me you nuance this by calling it the “gay-lifestyle.” In the book I see no qualifications that an average reader in the pew would pick up on. Instead, you write that you are offering this section as an antidote to “gay propagandists” who “would like to portray homosexuals as mature, monogamous, loving individuals who form and maintain long-lasting, stable relationships in society.”

In your letter to me you quote Gregory Rogers in his report on "The Gay Report.." "It needs to be said that we are not asserting that all, or even a majority of gays partake of the above practices. Yet in the book you write that some follow the monogamous life, but “very, very few.” You then go on to cite the Institute for Sex Research.

Dave, I’m very concerned here. Your letter to me states some needed qualifications, but the book which has gone out to every church in the ELCA appears to have none of these qualifications included as it presents this data.

If I read page 43, it appears that I fall into the category of a gay propogandist. Why? Because I can name dozens of long term same sex partnerships, including many that I wrote of in Straight Into Gay America. Again, I did not ask each LGBT person I met whether they did what you report as statistics: that 90% are promiscuous, that men average between 20 to 106 partners in a year, that 92% of homosexuals lick one another’s anus, that 29% urinate on one another, etc, etc. Blog comments welcome. If you’re LGBT do these statistics represent you or those you know? I’m not trying to be either funny or mean by asking for comments here. But I didn’t ask these questions of the people I met, and you’re citing them as statistics to give a picture of “the lifestyle of homosexuals.” Bloggers, help us understand.

One more note. Even if gay men like to lick one another’s anus, what does that prove? I’m in a loving sexual relationship with my wife. Would a list of our sexual motions and activities be germane to this present discussion?

When I read through this section the first time, I asked myself, are these the fidelity statistics and activities of everyday LGBT people? You have acknowledged in your letter that these are not the everyday statistics, yet they are presented in your book, without qualification as the “lifestyle of homosexuals,” with “very, very few,” exceptions.

After the presentation of your statistics you write, “The homosexual acts described by Dr. Monteith are taking place regularly in homosexual lifestyle encounters. We never read or hear about them from gay activists who want us rather to think of loving, caring, monogamous homosexual couples sitting on park benches with their arms around each other. But this is the gay lifestyle.”

I admit it Dave, I get hot and bothered when I read this section. It is so extremely different from the picture I gained with everyday LGBT life during my tour Straight Into Gay America and the many LGBT people I have come to know over the years.

Thank you for the qualifications that you provided in your letter, but I fear that none of these qualifications are in this section of the book. 11,000 ELCA congregations now have these statistics as their guide for Understanding Homosexuality. This troubles me.

We have much to chew on together. Thanks for hearing these concerns about the secitions on early development, early homosexual encounters, the use and representation of data, and my question about what data we should consider acceptable for this discussion.

I look forward to your words, and to our journey ahead.



Dawn said...

Adults seeking counseling are already outside of what we would call the "normative" group. Whatever experiences they report will skew any data reporting from within the group of counselees. Let's talk about percentage of GLBT counselees vs. straight counselees, then talk about "non-normative" from within each of those group and tally percentages. Are there real correlations or only assumed ones?

Secondly, I was raised in what I would consider a "non-normative" family group, and believe my siblings would agree. We had a mother & father yes, but they (especially Dad) had inappropriate boundaries, behaviors, conversation, etc. I am a lesbian. Sure, I was influenced by my experiences with Mom and Dad -- as were my brother and sister, both of whom are older than me and STRAIGHT. I'm sure many other gays & lesbians whose experiences are considered "non-normative" also have siblings who lived through many shared experiences. What sets the gay or lesbian apart? Answer: no one knows. It can't simply be these "non-normative" experiences. Data collection will likely never answer this question.

In talking with straight friends, many of them had "non-normative" experiences as well -- sexual or physical abuse, alcoholic fathers, rape, etc. They are straight. I am not. There has to be more to homosexuality than childhood or adolescent "non-normative experiences"...

I've been in counseling periodically as have both my siblings. And, all of us at different points in our lives attempted suicide. We are just starting to correlate the anxiety and depression with our family dynamic, and are working together to heal. However, I am still the only GLBT person in the immediate family. I lift up this situation to show that "non-normative" dynamics may or may not influence one's sexuality. I can't even say whether it did or did not, so how can anyone else presume to know? All I know is I was a "tomboy" long before I was conscious of any "different" family dynamic... So here's one GLBT person's story about her dysfunctional family -- let's just not forget that I am not an only child, and many other GLBT folks have straight siblings as well. And ours is certainly not the only dysfunctional family around...

shamrock_isle said...

my one comment would be...

What is normative? Cause I had what many would call a "normative" upbringing...mother, father, younger brother... we had the pets, the nice yard and could have had the literal white picket fence...In the grand scheme of things I would have to say I am a pretty "normal" adult if there is such a thing but if one were to look at my family now and my family system in general it was/is just as strange weird and crazy as many other people...

I know a significant number of gay and lesbian people who had "normative" families and "non-normative" families. I bristle at the assumption and what I read as the ascertation that my gay and lesbian friends seemingly had absentee and/or abusive parents...Personally I think you will find dysfunction in every family and that honestly it doesn't have a lot to do with family members sexuality or gender identification.


Anonymous said...

Not all conservative psychologists buy into the reparative therapy ideas. One who does not is Dr. Warren Throckmorton. His website is and his blog is He does something called sexual identity therapy that also allows for change but does not fault parents.

sjr said...

still waiting.

Dave Glesne said...

Responding to sjr:
Sorry, sjr, I posted the response on the Monday, October 9 post. Please go there.

Anonymous said...

I am a gay 18 year old male college student and athlete. I don't act feminine, have anonymous unprotected sex with random guys, or prey on little kids. In other words, I'm nothing like the stereotype religious conservatives use to label gay people. I had a happy, normal childhood and a healthy, normal relationship with both my parents. Homosexuality isn't anyone's fault, certainly not the fault of the parents, and sexeal preference is not chosen and cannot be changed. Anyone who says different is ignorant or a bigot. I think it's caused by a combination of social, hormonal, and genetic factors. Choice plays no part in it. Many homosexual kids commit sucide because of this. Also, homosexuality isn't a "problem." It's natural, and people should try to accept it instead of making futile attempts to change it. The are only hurting themselves by doing so.

Anonymous said...

I hope you are aware of the fact that homosexuality is not a "condition". It is as unpredictable as gender, and comes with birth. Just because many people do not disover their sexual orientation until they are older, does not mean it's "developed". It's no different than heterosexuals, who, also, do not take and intrest in the opposite gender until they are sexually developed. If you are not aware of these factors, i hope that you are at least aware that you are making a complete fool of yourself.

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Anonymous said...

I am a gay college student who does not believe homosexuality to be a disorder per se, but I do believe it is psychological in nature.