Going straight: Controversial therapy 'treats' homosexuality

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by Sarah Lucero / KENS 5

kvue.com

Posted on February 18, 2011 at 10:50 AM

SAN ANTONIO -- Same sex attraction: Are you born with it, or is it a choice? A little known, controversial therapy claims gay men and women can change their sexual orientation and "go straight."

We traveled to Houston to find a therapist to speak to us. All the others we approached said they were afraid of retribution.

"My therapist asked me, 'Why are you here?' I told him, 'I wanted to be heterosexual and I wanted my God given heterosexuality back," says Richard Campbell. He is part of quiet movement of people who say they don't want to continue living as homosexuals.

"I kept having relationship after relationship, trying to make things work, all the while feeling an emptiness inside," says Campbell. Three years ago he looked into gay conversion therapy which is also called gay reparative therapy.

"I knew because of my faith [and] tradition that I was not born gay. God did not create me gay," says Campbell.

"It's related to gender confusion because they did not feel comfortable in what was expected of them as males," says Michael Newman, a gay reparative counselor. For 25 years, he says he has helped, mostly men, ages 14 to 55, leave their homosexual lifestyle behind.

I asked him if he could actually convert a homosexual man into a straight man.

"I don't talk about converting, I talk about rediscovering heterosexuality," says Newman.

Gay conversion therapy is a controversial psychotherapy that's attempts to change a person's sexual orientation from homosexual or bisexual to heterosexual. Much of it is based on the idea that not properly identifying or bonding with a strong male father figure, can cause a boy to develop into a homosexual man.

"I'm not here to judge you, but I'm giving you a perspective that you're not hearing that people can change dealing with homosexuality and same sex attraction," says Newman.

"If the father is strong but not loving, it creates a fearful boy, and if the father is loving, but not strong, it creates a weak boy. So, my father was very loving, but he was not strong," says Campbell about his childhood experiences. Campbell says that's where his gender identity confusion started.

"If the little boy isn't identifying with, [or] he doesn't want to play with the other little boys, and he'd rather be by himself, or play with sisters, that's an indicator that the confusion is starting," says Newman. It's not the only indicator, but it can be a characteristic.

Newman says he changed his lifestyle nearly three decades ago. Campbell has been in therapy for three years. I asked him if he was no longer attracted to men.

"I wouldn't say no longer, I'd say it's diminished," Campbell replied.

But mainstream medical groups, like the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association have expressed concern about this type of psychotherapy. They say sexual orientation appears to be biological in nature.

Just like some of the local gay rights activists we spoke with, scientific groups say the therapy can have some potentially dangerous consequences.

"I think it can be repressed, but not changed," says Fred Anthony Garza about changing someone's sexual orientation. Garza is the president of Dignity San Antonio. That's the local chapter for Dignity USA, a national group that advocates for the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Catholics.

"The Catholic Church says we were created as we are, homosexual people....but that they would want us to be celibate and not act our sexuality out, but that we were created as homosexual people," says Nickie Valdez, the founder of Dignity San Antonio.

"You have a person who is hurt, depressed, who is seeking help, refuge. And you're saying, 'I can help you, give you this therapy. I can change your sexuality.' When, in essence, that cannot be promised," say Garza.

For his part, Newman says he makes no promises, nor does he try to force anyone to change, but for those who want to talk, he is there to listen.

"I don't condemn any one. It's their option what they choose to do, but he's listened to this, it's another perspective, and I'm available if people want to talk about that," says Newman.

Newman also says he is seeing an increasing number of teenagers and their families seeking this type of counseling and holds sessions regularly in the San Antonio area.

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