What does change mean?

A commenter on the Brokeback article brought up the recent article by Tim Wilkins where Tim said he would not go see Brokeback Mountain because it would be tempting for him. Thus, if Tim still has attractions to men then is he really ex-gay or is he still a homosexual? Clearly, Tim believes he is post-gay at least, meaning that he has structured his life around his more recently acquired heterosexual attractions and not his homosexual attractions which may have initially seemed more natural. So if he has changed, then what does change mean?

I have met people who say they were completely unattracted to women, attracted to men and now completely unattracted to men and attracted to women. However, I have met many people who kind of switched emphases: they were mostly homosexual with some heterosexual attractions and are now vice versa. Many critics see this as being bisexuals switching home teams. I think this is change.

I also know others who haven’t changed their homosexual feelings very much but rather have added heterosexual attractions to their experience. I believe this experience also represents change.

Still others have had no change in homosexual attractions and little or no addition of opposite sex attraction and yet they commit to following the teaching of their faith which forbids all sexual expression outside of marriage. A person who makes that commitment certainly has had a changed mind.

In short, change means different things for different people. Inasmuch as ministries and conservative groups promote change, I would like to see them be more specific about what change means. I would also like to see critics of post gay people be less dismissive of their choices.

9 thoughts on “What does change mean?”

  1. Michael: When someone who had no attractions to the OS acquires them, that may mean they have become bisexual and it is change. It may not be change from exclusively gay to exclusively straight but it is change and it does represent a certain fluidity to sexual attractions that indeed research has demonstrated for some. See the Kinnish et all study in the 2005 Archives of Sexual Behavior.

  2. Dr. Throckmorton:

    In the example you give, the guy would be considered bi-sexual — having attractions to both sexes. Why is this so hard for youto grasp? The general public doesn’t have all this trouble. Most folks are real clear on these distinctions:

    Gay (or homosexual): having sexual attractions toward the same sex

    Straight (or heterosexual): having sexual attractions towards the opposite sex

    Bi-sexual: having BOTH.

    It’s really pretty simple.

    “Post” gay or “ex” gay just creates a semantic MESS. Let’s stop inventing terms to suit our prejudices and just SPEAK ENGLISH, OK?

  3. Spitzer also asked the wives of ex-gays and they reported marital satisfaction that was about average for married couples.

    He did? Would you mind checking that?

    I would also like to see critics of post gay people be less dismissive of their choices.

    I presume you’re not talking about criticising someone for living as a heterosexual? (or even as celibate) I can’t think of any such criticism, or of any critic that happens to be anti-straight — even from those quite a fair way off mainstream.

    I wish the same could be said in reverse, yourself included.

    The criticism is about the vile way exgay people like Tim Wilkins describes people such as myself, and about the utterly misleading way that they present “change” or the rates of “change”.

    Tim Wilkins’ site is full of all manner of rude and false nonsense, only one of which Boo mentioned.

    Therefore: if he cannot be truthful about other people’s lives, why should he be taken on trust about himself?

    But, suspending that, there is a great deal that has changed about Wilkins’ life: least of all that he is no longer an abused child of awful (heterosexual) parents.

    His life story has some plausible alternate explanations that many therapists would at least ponder if dealing with him. None of those explanations, unfortunately, say anything about changing gay to straight.

  4. “The longer I study this matter the less I am interested in the degree to which sexual attractions change.”

    Perhaps there’s a new slogan in there you can popularize:

    “Ex-gay: It’s not about changing sexual attractions!”

  5. I’ll say again that your post highlights the difficulty in measurement. Not all straights like oral sex; not all gay men do either, nor do all gay men engage in anal sex. Determining sexual attraction change via behavior is full of problems. The longer I study this matter the less I am interested in the degree to which sexual attractions change. People do not live by the hypothalamus alone but rather make life choices based on a collection of factors and desires, some of which seem consistent to the individual and some of which do not.

  6. At least, my impression is that a majority of heterosexual men enjoy performing oral sex on women. I don’t know what the percentage would be. However I still think it would be useful to determine what percentage of ex-gay men, meaning men who had NO opposite-sex attraction, now enjoy performing oral sex on their wives. If the percentage of the two groups was similar then I would think that would indicate that there had been a change in the sex drive of the ex-gay men. However, if we found among the ex-gay men that 0 percent of the men now enjoyed oral sex on their wives, that might indicate that no change in sex-drive had actually occurred.

    I’m just looking for some way that it can be shown that men who had no opposite-sex attraction are now actually aroused by the physical characteristics of their wives, their wives legs, breasts, hips, genitals.

    Marital satisfaction doesn’t tell much about the men’s physical arousal. People may find satisfaction in holding hands, walks in the park, or by enjoying living by God’s standards.

  7. Rob – No, not at all. But I think your post highlights the difficulty any researcher faces when trying to deal with this issue. No matter what measure of sexual arousal we use, there are criticisms of the method. Plethysmography for instance is a direct measurement of sexual arousal but it is unreliable. The evidence you call for would not be accurate either, because there are many men, even young men, who find this repulsive but have no attractions to the same sex.

    Self-report is mostly the route that is taken. Spitzer also asked the wives of ex-gays and they reported marital satisfaction that was about average for married couples. I think asking partners is a good check on self-report.

  8. Another good question is how do you measure change? Could Dr Throckmorton comment on how he measures change in his research. I imagine that if I were a researcher, my first question would be a very private but necessary question. I can’t think of anything else that can measure a man’s heterosexual desires than his desire to engage in oral sex on a woman, either oral-vaginal or oral-anal. I would ask ex-gay men how frequently they engage in oral sex with their wives, the duration of the sex, their state of erection , and their thoughts while engaging in this activity. I would then do a similar study on men who have always experienced opposite-sex attraction and compare the results. Is this along the lines of what is done in your research?

  9. I would like to see people like Tim make fewer dishonest comments like this:

    “Lest I sound uncaring to homosexuals, let me say to you (and you evangelicals need to hear this also) that I am aware of the unfathomable suffering which is part of same-sex attractions — despair, depression and darkness blacker than the bottom of the Mariana Trench.”

    Gee, it’s so good to know he cares.

    And just to beat the dead horse, there is no way to reliably verify the “change” Tim claims to have experienced. (Although the 700 Club lie detector test would have been interesting)

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