Saturday, October 14, 2006

More on Early Developmental Factors - Glesne

POST #4:
a conversation between pastor/author David Glesne and pastor/author Lars Clausen. Today Glesne writes about studies of early factors leading to homosexuality. Glesne includes some of his pastoral view of God and faith, including: all people are equally worth in the sight of God, we live in a broken world, and our identity is in God and we must not be careful to confuse this by basing our identity in our sexuality.

Dear Lars,

I am grateful for the tone of this conversation and am hopeful because of it that we and our readers can benefit from the discussion.

In the spirit of narrowing our focus and proceeding step by step (a good idea!), I’ll respond here to the first of the two points in your response, that having to do with early childhood development. I intend to take up your second point in the next post.

Responding to comments regarding early factors leading to homosexuality:
The question that is being asked in chapter 2 of Understanding Homosexuality is, “What can we say about the cause(s) of homosexuality?” In addition to what is written there, let me add some additional thoughts here.

As one looks at the literature, the two main candidates for cause are 1) constitution which some call Nature, and 2) environment which some call Nurture. So here is the old Nature vs. Nurture controversy that enters into so many discussions.

Constitution, as we know, has to do with genetics, with being born that way. To put it very simply, there have been many studies and suggestive papers written saying there may be some evidence towards people with exclusive homosexual orientations having some genetic abnormalities. But if I understand correctly, most people have now come to the conclusion that there is no current conclusive evidence for chromosonal abnormality. Gay-activist researchers themselves (see Dean Hamar and Simon LeVay, for example, on pages 24-25, and Camille Paglia’s comment) have been desperately searching for a genetic element to homosexuality and have openly admitted to their failure to do so.

Steinbeck, an associate professor of medicine at New South Wales and head of the division of endochronology and metabolism at Prince of Wales & Prince Henry hospitals has written a paper entitled, “Of Homosexuality, the Current State of Knowledge,” in which he reviews quite a lot of the genetic and hormonal evidence and he concludes that there is no firm evidence to support any constitutional disposition. His conclusion fairly represents, I believe, most people’s views at this time.

On the Environment Side there is considerable evidence pointing to some influence of family life and early relationships. Though still inconclusive, yet certainly the psychoanalysts and others have come up with a pretty consistent picture.
Bieber in 1962 did a study with homosexual males who were in psychoanalysis compared with heterosexual males in psychoanalysis.
Evans in 1969 did a study with non-patient homosexual males vs. non-patient heterosexual males.
Sander and Robins in 1974 again did a study with non-patient homosexual men and women.
The picture they produced is fairly similar. It is essentially this picture I try to accurately portray on pages 34-38 which I will not reiterate here.

But I want to turn to your more specific concerns, Lars. The concern is voiced that in spite of the qualifications in the text (i.e. that honest researchers are not really sure what causes homosexuality and that early destructive family dynamics is not the only or even necessarily the greatest contributing factor to the development of homosexuality), sources are quoted in my book that argue strongly for evidence of these early family dynamics. You are then concerned that fathers (and mothers) may feel terrible that they had done something wrong upon hearing about this evidence.

Let me respond with a number of thoughts. When I spoke about this in a sermon to my congregation, being very sensitive to this very issue, I made clear that this was not to place blame on anyone. One does need to be very sensitive when talking about the evidence. I would always point out here that the human being is a very complex creature. We are each one of us a cluster of our biology, our physiology, our hormones and our social relationships. We are each different and unique individuals influenced by different combinations of many factors. With regard to homosexuality there are those who become homosexual who had a healthy relationship with parents while growing up. Others may have a certain amount of genetic predisposition. Others may have family relationship factors. For others it may have been teaching about sex in their family. For still others factors may have included the attitudes in the church about sex mixed in with family relationships etc. etc. So a strong word of caution, it seems to me, must always be given that these contributing factors are not 100%. There are some homosexuals without these background factors as well as certainly some with these background factors who do become homosexual.

Since the complexity of the matter in my estimation is captured best by Jeffrey Satinover (page 39), I’ll quote him here:

“Like all behavioral and mental states, homosexuality is multifactorial.
It is neither biological nor exclusively psychological, but results from an
as-yet-difficult-to-quantify mixture of genetic factors, intrauterine influences, postnatal environment, and a complex series of repeatedly reinforced choices
occurring at critical phases of development.”

So as one inquires into possible causes of homosexuality, these strong qualifications need to be made as one follows where the evidence leads. The sources used in the book do point to strong evidence for factors but the qualifications are there as a strong word of caution that these contributing factors are not 100%.

The intention in pointing to the evidence must never be to hurt someone or to make them feel bad. But having said that, our therapeutic culture does us no favors with its insistence on always having to feel good. Reality is much more real than that. As a Christian I look at the world and see a world now that is abnormal and broken and sinful of which I and everyone else is a part. That is what is. In the midst of my brokenness there is pain and hurt that I inflict upon myself and others, including my children. That is why I am so thankful that Jesus Christ entered into my broken world and into the hurt that is caused by my brokenness, to bring forgiveness and healing of those hurts and pain. As a Christian I can actually embrace the brokenness and hurt without them crushing me because Christ is there facing them with me. If we as parents in our sinfulness and brokenness bring pain upon our children – including the pain of homosexuality because of negative relational dynamics - then the Good News is that Jesus came for both us and them - and that reality is our hope.

I would like to comment also on a point that comes to light at the end of this section in the dialogue with your lesbian friend. We may be running ahead of ourselves here but I believe it is worth commenting on here. The comment is made that your friend will not be taking part in these discussions because of past frustrations with having to try to convince others of the worth of her being.

My heart aches when I hear this, especially if in past discussions, people have in any way seemed to lessen her worth as a person. Lest there be any reader of this blog who like her is wavering with similar thoughts about remaining in this conversation, let me say as clearly as I can that I believe every human being has equal worth in the eyes of God and should therefore have equal worth in our eyes. Whether heterosexual or homosexual or bi-sexual or transgendered, we have equal value and worth in God’s eyes.

But I would go on and say that this value and worth is not drawn from our sexuality. Let me speak personally here. My identity is found in God’s view of me, and if I understand Scripture correctly, God sees me as a human being made in His image and likeness. My identity then is not that of a heterosexual man. For me, drawing my identity from my sexuality would be to shift the ground of my identity subtly and idolatrously away from God. Rather, my identity is drawn from God. My identity is derived from having been created in God’s image and then that broken image (because of sin which separates me from God) being restored in Christ. Let me assure you from my side of the conversation that no one in this discussion will have to try to convince me of their worth or value. In my mind, that is already a given.

I’ll press pause here and pick up my response to your second point which has to do with the use of data and statistics on my next post.



Nadine Anderson said...

I have enjoyed reading these exchanges, and shall continue to do so. With much difficulty, I read and summarized Glesne's book. In doing so I had many pages of ranting in response to him, that would indeed shut off the conversation if I shared it. So I shall leave it to the more even tone of Lars' respopnses to keep the conversation going.

In one of the responses earlier, someone objected to the fact that the references Rev. Glesne uses are 13+ years old. Yes, that is a pity, but getting newer data is hard and not likely to be happening. I have a Ph.D. in social psychology -- that means I am trained to do that kind of research, though I am not now doing it. There is not a lot of support money out there for collecting recent unbiased data on homosexual behavior, so we are often left with the need to use very old data. Bell, Weinberg, and Hammersmith (1981) did one of the best studies on causes of homosexuality in that they interviewed around 3000 gay menn and lesbians and about half as many straight people. They found that there is no simple answer to what causes homosexuality, but the psychoanalytic view of weak father / strong mother was not supported. They found a fair number of gay men with that combination, but they found more straight men with that experience. As they said, if you cannot differentiate homosexual from heterosexual development, you cannot say what causes either. Unfortunately, I've never seen and have been told they never pub;ished the data on heterosexual behavior.

I would look at the studies he cites -- I think their sponsorship suggests a negative view of homosexuality. It is hard to collect unbiased data on socially sensitive issues. Thanks for the web page citation someone gave earlier on another psychologist's view, I will follow that up. Nadine

Dr.Joe said...

When one studies reporrts of studies in the major journals of psychiatry, pschology, Sociology, and Pediatrics, one finds the opinkion and conculsion that sexual orientation is caused by multiple factors including genetics, hormonal, hypothalamic, and environmental. But the fact is that no one knows, really, what makes one persdon heterosexual and another hmosexual and still another bisexual. It is a false conclusion to say that, since a gene or definitive cause has not been found, it cannot be genetic. Noone knows this. One thing that is generally accepted is that noone chooses their sexual orientation. It is a given. It is a gift from God. Homeosexuality is a deviation from the norm but is not deviant. Studies of twins, of genome scans, of hypothalamic cells, of hormonal influenceand others ,even though none are specifically profof of origin of sexual orientation, are generally accepted in academic circlesd to point to biological factors and the old suggestions that a domineering mother or an absent or weak father as causitive factors have beedn pretty well been dismissed. If you read articles in Dr. Nicolosi's circlesx, you get the impression that the parents are the main factor. The m mainline professdioanl societies tonot agree with this belief.
If you ask any gay person when they chose to be gay, they will tell you that it is something they discovered, not chose. Homosexual orientation is not more a disorder than left-handedness.
I want to thabnk both Dr. Glesne and Lars Clausen for the respectful, cautious and sincere dialog that is occuring.

Tim Fisher said...

"My heart aches when I hear this, especially if in past discussions, people have in any way seemed to lessen her worth as a person."


I think your argument here is very difficult to sustain. Or to put it another way, it is difficult to believe. On the one hand, speaking of a lesbian woman who chooses not to participate in this discussion, you lament when "people have in any way seemed to lessen her worth as a person." On the other hand, you present so-called statistics that illustrate gay and lesbian people as sexual and moral freaks. I am speaking especially of pages 43 and following, where you opine that gay and lesbian people are, as a category, prone to eating feces and mosesting children. Your use of statistics in this section of your book is, as Bell and Weinberg themselves have said, "ludicrous." (Obviously, to call it "ludicrous," Bell and Weinberg were not speaking about YOU in particular, but rather about the same kind of use to which you are putting the data. In this section, you use data that cannot possibly be considered representative.)

We should not be surprised at all when somebody feels devalued in such discussions. (By the way, the lesbian woman in question never said anything about her identity being ULTIMATELY grounded in her sexuality. "My identity is found in God's view of me," you write. But. Of. Course. Nobody said their identity was found elsewhere. By and large, it is the disapproving straight community who has "sexualized" the discussion of GLBT people and their identities.)

But I find there to be another, deeper insult, one that GLBT people often experience in these conversations-—and one that I experience, too, even though I am a straight man.

One of the ideals of the relationship between married people is the mutual sharing of selves. This description of married love (a mutual sharing of selves), at least as expressed as an ideal, holds for all married couples—-even those who cannot or do not wish to have children. Seen in this way, married life is a vocation. It is a way for people to do God's work in the world, to mirror, in their love for each other, God's total love for the world (or at least, to approximate this total love).

We are committed to one another in such a whole and entire way, in all of the facets of our lives, in all things physical, emotional, and material, that we become, as Genesis puts it, "one flesh." The mutual sharing of shelves. One flesh. Any other kind of life, any life where such sharing is disallowed, is "not good," as we are told in Genesis.

When we then think about what is at the center of our faith, which is where we are said to be "in" Christ--in the "Christ moment," as it were--we see too that the Christ moment is a sharing of selves. In Christ, we take on the divinity of Christ, and Christ takes on our sin and our death. Christ is the Word become flesh. So are we all.

So, as we should all understand, sex is not just for making babies. It is also for love, and anything that is for love is also for God. A church that disallows gay and lesbian people from forming loving, committed relationships that are the vehicles for the mutual sharing of selves is a church that devalues the incarnational aspect of ALL our married lives. In effect, such a church puts up a stumbling block before our knowing the Christ of the cross.

Talk about an attack on marriage-—including my own marriage. Talk about an attack on faith.

So I guess that's why I feel all of us, single or married, gay or straight, have something at stake in the church's debate. And we should all take great offense when any of our relationships are categorically declared prone to freakishness and immorality.

Even so, I feel I can remain engaged in the discussion.

Grace and peace,

Tim Fisher
Minneapolis, MN

Chris Savage said...

Dr. Glesne,
While I appreciate your reasonable tone and your apparent ability to accept anyone and everyone into your life as equals, Lars has raised a crucial point which, so far, you have failed to respond to. That is, while you appear to equivocate and qualify many of the statements and statistics in your books as only applying to a subset of homosexuals, THERE IS NO SUCH QUALIFICATION *IN* YOUR BOOK!

Why is this important? Simply put, it has been sent an huge number of church leaders, leaders who have the ability to influence the way many people approach this topic. And if these leaders misread the intention of your words, something that will be quite easy to do given the lack of qualification you have written into the text of your book, they will spread a very distorted view of what you are putting forth as a primer, if you will, for "understanding homosexuality".

I would ask that you respond to this. Is it not unfair of you to back away from the things in your book now that they are in the hands of all these pastors, and say, in effect, "Oh, I wasn't talking about all homosexuals..."??? Particularly since there is little, if any such equivocation in the book itself???

Tim Fisher said...

October 16, 2006

Dear Dave,

It's pretty hard to know where to begin with your chapter two. To anyone who has actually done the research, chapter 2 sets off numerous red flags.

Let's look at the so called "distant father" effect, which some people claim leads to homosexual orientation in males. Here is what Katherine Wilson, of the Gender Identity Center of Colorado, has to say about the extant research. (Note: she is here talking about early theories of the "distant father" syndrome, put forward by researchers such as Bieber and Socarides):

"[P]roponents of psychoanalytic theories of transgender etiologies relied on clinical study populations and anecdotal cases (Stoller, 1968). Zucker and Bradley (1995, p. 336) acknowledged the "likely bias in our clinical population," and called for "epidemiological studies of larger populations." They concluded that "boys who came from father-absent homes were, if anything, less feminine and/or more masculine" (p. 245) [Zucker, K. and Bradley, S. (1995). Gender Identity Disorder and Psychosexual Problems in Children and Adolescents, New York: Guilford Press.] See"

Or, let's hear what D. Michael Quinn has to say about the existing research:

"[C]laiming father-son emotional distance as the explanation for male homosexuality is similar to claiming that right-handedness causes homosexuality merely because most homosexuals are right-handed.[8] The equation "abdicating fathers, homosexual sons" is a theory based on isolating homosexual experiences from human experiences generally.[9] Typically, authors whose "reparative therapy of male homosexuality depends on "a failed relationship to father" do not acknowledge such well-known studies of father-son "failure" among American males generally.[10]" From : Dr. D. Michael Quinn in Same-Sex Dynamics among Nineteenth-Century Americans: A Mormon Example (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1996), pp. 4-6 (notes renumbered). Available on the web at

Or, here is what Bailey et al, concluded in their large 1995 study:

"Gay and heterosexual sons did not differ on potentially relevant variables such as the length of time they had lived with their fathers. Results suggest that any environmental influence of gay fathers on their sons' sexual orientation is not large. . . .Psychoanalytic theorists (eg., Bieber, 1962) have . . . hypothesiz[ed] that, as children, homosexual individuals identified with their opposite-sex parents. In men, such atypical identification supposedly results from an unusually dose mother-son relationship coupled with a distant father-son relationship. In women, according to psychoanalytic theory, an especially antagonistic relationship with the mother impedes identification. Consistent with the theory, gay men tend to recall their fathers as having been emotionally distant and lesbians tend to report poorer relationship with their mothers (Bell Weinber, & Hammersmith, 1981; Van den Aardweg, 1984). However the effect size compared with heterosexual individuals is weak and causal interpretation of the findings is problematic (Bed et al., 1981; Freund & Blanchard, 1983). From Bailey, Bobrow, Wolfe, Mikach (Northwestern University): "Sexual Orientation of Adult Sons of Gay Fathers" in Developmental Psychology. 1995, Vol. 31, No 1, 124-129"

And here is what Carl S. Keener and Douglas E. Swartzendruber report the following in regards to Marmor's 1998 research:

"Marmor concluded that "[o]ver fifty variables in maternal, paternal and sibling family patterns have been found in male homosexuals-loving mothers, hostile mothers, loving fathers, hostile fathers, idealized fathers; sibling rivalries; intact homes; broken homes, absent mothers, absent fathers, etc." [. . . .] Furthermore, careful studies of non-patient heterosexuals with non-patient homosexuals have shown "no consistent relationship between the nature of the family constellation and subsequent sexual orientation.
(Keener and Swartzendruber)" Marmor (1988) Homosexuality: Is etiology really important? Journal of Gay & Lesbian Psychotherapy 2: 19-28. Keener, Carl S. and Douglas E. Swartzendruber. Does Homosexuality Have a Biological Basis?

Please note, Dave, that I do not present the above as some kind of "proof" against your claims. Instead, my goal here is merely to show what real social science looks like. It seems pretty clear to me, Dave, that your research is very, very selective. You list a few studies here and there but leave out the great majority that contradicts your claims. Instead of doing the real work of research, and then analyzing and accessing what you find, you seem to have just gone to advocacy websites that you happen to like and just grab quotes. Your Rekers quote from p. 36 is one example. Here's what you write:

"Dr. George Rekers is an expert on Gender Identity Disorders and has authored dozens of scholarly research papers on homosexuality. In 1982 he wrote Growing Up Straight: What Every Family Should Know About Homosexuality . He is also editor of Handbook of Child and Adolescent Sexual Problems published in 1995. Dr. Rekers has stated [Rekers quote ]"

And here is what your source,, presents the same point.

"Dr. George Rekers, an expert on Gender Identity Disorders, is author of dozens of scholarly research papers on homosexuality and wrote Growing Up Straight: What Every Family Should Know About Homosexuality in 1982. He is also editor of Handbook of Child and Adolescent Sexual Problems, published in 1995. Dr. Rekers stated in 1995, that [Rekers quote]"

Readers will notice that you have basically just lifted, almost verbatim, the introduction to Rekers straight from the "traditionalvalues" website. Now, my point here doesn't really have to do with attribution or plagiarism. No, instead, my point is that your book shows strong traces of a very sloppy and selective research method on your part. For instance, it seems fair to say that you actually have no idea where those "dozens of scholarly research papers on homosexuality" were published. You did not read any of them, much less assess their quality, much less compare them to other studies addressing a similar topic, much less evaluate what other researchers have said about Rekers' work.

Do you know, for instance, that Rekers bases many of his claims on the work of Paul Cameron? As you and I have discussed privately, Cameron's work is widely discredited. Both Cameron's and Rekers' testimony has been thrown out of court by judges (the two of them like to act as "expert" witnesses in court cases, especially ones dealing with gay/lesbian parenting).

That's enough for now.

Grace and peace,

Tim Fisher
Minneapolis, MN

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dan Grayne said...

Thank you, Lars, for sharing your continuing blog dialog with Dave
Glesne. I feel that both of you are speaking very sincerely and
honestly with each other and that there is a mutual respect in what you both write. I like the tone very much. This has value - you are not talking past each other.

In response to Dave's latest installment when he speaks of
"brokenness" and how "nurture" (or lack thereof) of a father may have contributed to the homosexuality of a child (and the pain this must cause), I would like to know if he would apply the same criteria to a parent whose child grows up to be heterosexual. In other words, the assumption I hear is that homosexuality is per se "abnormal" or "less than" heterosexuality and thus is in need of "repair" (through Christ).

This was the same assumption (the assumption that homosexuality is somehow related to "brokenness") that undergirded the study that was done in response to my coming out as gay after I was elected provincial bishop in my AELC Synod. Of course, there were no LGBT people on the study commission and so the whole tone of the study was about something being "broken" and "sinful" and how all that needed to be redeemed and made whole. Even the cover of the study booklet depicted a man and woman (presumably gay and lesbian)with downcast eyes as if they were looking down in shame upon themselves.

Anyway, that assumption needs to be challenged constantly becausehuman sexuality, in all its forms, whether caused by "nature" or "nurture" or both, is a gift from God and should be embraced as such.

Thanks again for engaging in this meaningful dialog with Dave Glesne.


Tim Fisher said...

Dear Dave,

The more I look, the more problems I find.

Dave, you should know the drawbacks of relying on secondary sources when making sweeping conclusions. Or, in your case, tertiary (and whatever comes after that) sources. Such is your use. "Homosexual Urban Legends" from

You quote this site which cites David Finkelhor saying that "boys victimized by older men were four times more likely to be currently involved in homosexual behaviors than were non-victims." But there is more to that story of that study. See for a discussion of the speciousness of using this quote as anything resembling a representative conclusion. Indeed, Finkelhor himself argues against such a use.

Finkelhor takes great pains in his work to provide what he sees as the proper caveats and nuances, lest his findings be misconstrued to "increase our culture's already intense fear of homosexuals" (p. 196 of the very same book that you quote, Dave: "Child Sexual Abuse," 1984) In this same book, Finkelhor reports solid evidence that "5% of the homosexual men reported childhood sexual experiences with adults. Such a small figure means that childhood sexual victimization can have little to do with the source of most homosexual behavior" (p. 197).

Finkelhor also says the following:

"In practical terms, what would be suggested by this connection [between abuse and homosexual orientation], if borne out elsewhere, is not that parents or professionals try to thwart a boy who shows an interest in homosexual sex. Rather, they should make sure that the boy is not under any misconceptions that he "must be a homosexual" as a result of his experience (197-198)."

I'm sorry, Dave, but your scientific work in this case seems to be an instance of what, in a theological context, would be called prooftexting.

Grace and peace,

Tim Fisher
Minneapolis, MN

Dave Glesne said...

Responding to Dan Grayne:
Glad you are part of this conversation! You ask if I would apply the same criteria to a parent whose child grows up to be heterosexual. If I am understanding you correctly, my answer is yes.

I believe that all of us to some extent are sexual deviants with aberrations of fantasy and behavior. There is not one of us that is the perfect being that God intended us to be when He made us male and female. We are all broken and fallen and thus all of us - homosexual and heterosexual alike - are in need of Christ's redeeming.

Permit me go a step further and fill out a thought. As I say in the book, I believe the norm for sexuality is heterosexuality which is firmly rooted in the scriptural teaching on creation and reinforced over and over again by the negative condemnations of homosexual behavior. Homosexual tendencies like, for example, extreme expressions of anger are the result of the brokenness of the fallen world. Homsoexual practice, then, represents a move away from the one flesh ideal that God intends for the most intimate of human relationships and heterosexuality represents a move toward the one flesh ideal God intended.

So if we allow our homosexual orientation to govern our lifestyle, our behavior is moving us away from God's ideal. If we allow our heterosexuality to govern our lifestyle within the right context, our behavior is moving us toward God's ideal.

And then just to say, sexual sin is not worse than other sins although obviously it does involve other people and therefore can and most assuredly does produce worse effects.

Karin Ramsay said...

My compliments to Lars Clausen and Dr. David Glesen for the fascinating discussion. Many churches other than Lutheran are conflicted about the subject of homosexuality, the gay "lifestyle" and the gay agenda. The tone established by the two of you allows us to feel this is a reasonable discussion perhaps headed toward new understanding rather than wider divisions that became evident after from many hotly debated sessions I have witnessed.

In reviewing the letters the two of you wrote to begin this discussion, questions came into my mind re: the validity of the statistics:

* How were the persons who became the statistics identified and invited to respond to the surveys that they answered?

* Were the surveys oral or written? .. given individually or in a group setting? .. in one particular locality or across a wide geographical region?

* Are the questions they were asked available to be published here?

As to the "success rate" of ex-gay programs:

* How long after entering or completing a program was the "success" declared? .. by whom? .. and against what standard?

* What is the definition of "success of an ex-gay program"?

* Have those who claim "change" agreed on a definition of their "change" and what is the definition?

* Are there plans to follow up on the same people with the same survey at any time in the future?

Again, I appreciate the obvious expertise of both of you and especially appreciate the tone of this discussion.


Karin K. Ramsay, Denton, Texas.

G. Armour Van Horn said...

Tim, the sequence you are looking for is primary, secondary, tertiary, quaternary, quintenary, and then I'm just as lost as you. But then, I've never needed to go as far as quaternary myself.

But really, how much difference does it make exactly what causes a person to be homosexual? Henry and Eleanor had four sons, but only Richard (the one we know as The Lionheart) was gay. And so was Alexander, but not Tamer Lane or Attila, which brings up the second question of how much difference it should make to anyone outside their immediate households whether or not an individual becomes gay?


Tim Fisher said...

Hi Van,

It shouldn't make any differance at all.

Tim Fisher

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