22 thoughts on “Wired article on flexibility of sexual attractions”

  1. May interrupt this incipient brouhaha by reminding all of us that our experience is just that — our individual experience. What happened to me (you) in change or not change cannot be generalized to others.

    At the same time, there is something that is real about all of this that some of us want to understand. So terms are important for science and public communication.

    Now, here is where I probably need another post. Thinking about sexuality probably requires more terms than less. We need to be clear about attractions, desire, preference, impulse and intent to behave. When change occurs in any of these areas, the person may experience themselves as having changed in toto.

    To wit: two clients. Both experienced what appeared to me to the same level of change in sexual attractions (K5 to K2), but one was happy with that and considered himself straight, whereas the other was not happy with that and said to himself — I still am attracted to men, that means I am still gay and it did not work. He now considers himself gay, even though many of us here might think of him as bisexual — both of these guys actually would probably be labeled bisexual.

    To wit two: Some guys I work with are basically and automatically attracted to men, but acquire attraction to one woman – their wife. They seek help in keeping their marriage because they value it over breaking it off. They need a way to think about their most basic sexual urges that doesn’t lead to behavior they would rather not engage in. Are these guys bisexual? Well, I don’t know. I suppose, but not in the same way as someone who is attracted in general to both genders at the same time. Check out my post on bidirectional attractions for more on this.

    I think the description issue is complicated because not all people seem to be bidirectional in their love-sex capacity. Or at least it is inconceivable to the person, so it may seem it couldn’t be that way for anyone.

  2. Timothy,

    With all due respect – you are not the one living my life. And if sexuality were just about penises and vaginas then we would all be in danger. I just do not see sexuality in the same way you do.

  3. Changing your mind on what you think (really think about when you think about sex) And the outcome – or how a person develops a new thinking about sex – will depend on the person and how they allow themselves to change.

    Your full name isn’t Mary Baker Eddy, is it? 🙂

    What do we mean when we say ex gay? For me – it means I’ve changed.

    It sounds as though you say you are heterosexual because you changed your mind. With all due respect, that just doesn’t seem to me to be credible.

  4. Edgar,

    Almost everyone seems to agree that a homosexual person could develop into more of a bisexual person.

    No. That is not true. I do not believe that the vast overwhelming majority of homosexual persons could develop into bisexual persons.

    Perhaps some percentage can. And perhaps some can become heterosexual, I don’t know.

    But most do not change to any significant degree. And for most, acquiring some minimal (usually fleeting) attraction is far from adequate to justify marriage – it is far too frequently a recipe for disaster and pain.

  5. Also, I do believe that the brain continues to be flexible throughout our lifetime. And a person can deliberatley change their mind by finding new ways to think and understand. If a person goes into change their sexuality and they only focus on sex, sex ,sex then they are not focusing on the thoughts that lead up to sex or the thoughts that are in process while searching for sex or a partner or whatever. That to me is the key. Changing your mind on what you think (really think about when you think about sex) And the outcome – or how a person develops a new thinking about sex – will depend on the person and how they allow themselves to change. So the experience of change is as varied as the thoughts in the universe. What do we mean when we say ex gay? For me – it means I’ve changed. Somedays that looks different.

  6. Michael,

    For those of us who have changed – I do believe we see sex and sexuality in a different way than those who have always been attracted to the opposite sex or those who are gay. We have experienced change deep in our heart most of all. You seem to focus alot on the genital aspect of sexuality and I have provided examples of where that aspect breaks down – as a person can be physically stimulated but the heart and emotions just do not follow. And I wonder If I find a woman attractive then do you say I am bisexual? I don’t say that – but will you? Because I remember the good parts of my lesbian years does that mean I am still part lesbian (bisexual) or am I just one of those who does not have to be disgusted with my past? I mean, really, and you know it, many gays have sought to call any deviation of complete extreme hetersexuality – bisexuality. And I do think it has to do with politics and civil rights. If we took politics out of the equation – I am certain we would allow people a greater latitude in definition.

  7. For the rocord, I am not trying to be the “language police” — I am just asking those in the “ex-gay: camp to be CLEAR with us about what they mean when they use their special words. There seems to be TREMENDOUS resistance to just telling the TRUTH in SIMPLE, COMMONLY UNDERSTOOD TERMS.

    I strongly believe that people are free to BE, FEEL and CALL themsleves whatever they please — but using words in a purely PERSONAL way does not increase communication and understanding — unless the speaker is willing to define terms. Is that really too much to ask?

    Let me be CLEAR: It is their right to live in accordance with their faith. I am not frightened by the idea that many folks may be bisexual to some degree. I am not frightened that a rare few may be able to change %100 percent. I am not trying to “polarize”. I just want CLARITY and less confusion.

    Bottom line: The question “Can Gays Change” depends ENTIRELY on what you mean by “gay” and what you mean by “change”. Anyone can become “straight” or “former homosexual” by coming up with their own personal definitions of the words.

  8. Pam,

    I think the problem gays have with the term ex gay (and I kind of agree with them) is that if you can truly change your desire from 0-100% for the opposite sex then the right winged conservatives are going to use that as a political tool to deny them rights.

    I have met plenty of people who live somewhere along the spectrum (whether they were gay mostly or straight mostly or bisexual or whatever) and by anyone’s definition they should have a right to love whomever they choose and set up a household and pass on inheritance, medical insurance etc… It doesn’t matter in my opinion it shouldn’t matter at all. Unfortunately the religious people make politics their God and dictate. That’s why gays are so interested in what exactly ex gay means. IMHO.

  9. Then what is the ‘debate’ about. Almost everyone seems to agree that a homosexual person could develop into more of a bisexual person. And if that person wants to settle down and marry someone of the opposite sex (for any reason including religious, political, social, personal, ect) then why would anyone complain?

    Of course, some people have never had an attraction to the opposite sex and for them change may well be impossible. For others it is possible. Shouldn’t everyone have the right to self determination?

  10. I remember the first time someone suggested that Tdub was bisexual to me on my blog. I was a bit miffed about it but responded politely. Then, I got to thinking about it and decided it just didn’t matter to me what we/he were called by whoever. What was most important at that time was that Tdub and I were living faithfully to one another. I remain thankful for these sorts of safe havens (here, XGW, and blogs like mine) where we can discuss this stuff and really listen to one another. I see so many places online where folks just continue to talk right past each other over and over again.

  11. Fair enough – I did not see the Joan Rivers interview. I disagree with his assessment if he were to use that on me.

  12. Michael,

    One of the problems I am having with all of this language police is that for a number of years I heard many voices of people who where pushing for gay rights saying there is no such thing as “bisexual”, it is just someone who has not accepted they are gay. That to me was very wrong and I still feel it is wrong. The only reason I can see someone doing such a thing is because of an attempt to sway the opinion of those who do not understand this issue or really do not care. The attempt to polarize the issue has been extremely damaging to many who struggle with same-sex attraction, because as others on this site have said many times it is not a black or white issue as far as attractions are concerned. My feeling is that many more would consider themselves to be bisexual and rather than trying to sway others into ones own camp, perhaps it is time that we all let each other find what is comfortable for them and the value system they have chosen to follow.

  13. Mary: You are mistaken. I am not defining Joe Dallas. I am describing Joe Dallas based on my personal conversations with him, debating him on the Joan Rivers’ Show, reading his personal testimony and listening to how he describes his OWN experience. As far as I know, all of his gay and straight sexual experiences were voluntary. He was not raped.

    He may not use the word “bisexual” to describe himself, but he admits in his own personal testimony (complete with photo), which I have in my possession, that he was attracted to BOTH, has had sex with both and continues to have attractions to both.

    That meets the commonly understood meaning of the term “bisexual” — even if it may not be how HE defines himself. But then again, we are back to YOUR argument that words mean whatever the speaker wants them to — and that no one has the right to challenge it. You seem to be arguing that personal connonation is what really matters and that the commonly understood, denotative use is less important.

    I am not the one who said that we are “not one end of the (Kinsey) spectrum or the other — we are all both”. Joe did. I didn’t say that an “ex-gay” was not “ex-homosexual”. Joe said it. I did not say that “ex-gay” was “just a convenient way of saying a Christian WITH homosexual tendencies who would rather not HAVE those tendencies.” Joe said it. He excused the fuzziness of the term by explaining that “ex-gay” “just rolled off the tongue a little easier” — on a public radio interview in 1991. Do I need to point out that “rather not having tendencies” does not make someone “EX” anything? Wishes aren’t realities.

    I did not say that “change” didn’t mean moving from “one end of the (Kinsey) spectrum to the other” but a move closer to the heterosexual end. HE told Joan Rivers that — and I have a tape of the show to prove it. I am sure Joe has his own personal spin on what the words mean, but most English-speakers would determine that he is describing a BISEXUAL experience, not a strictly heterosexual one.

  14. Michael,

    Then you are defining Joe Dallas instead of having him tell you how he sees and defines himself.

    Really, the body can be stimulated and we don’t have a whole lot of choice over it. Women sometimes report having an orgasm while being raped and that would not mean that she wants to be raped for her sexual pleasure. It can be very confusing and upsetting. Men sometimes report having an erection while being raped and that does not mean they are gay or want to be raped. It means, that the body responds to stimulation – sometimes when we really don’t want it to.

  15. N.C. said: “I think this is most realistic outcome an ex-gay can hope for, that is, adding on new attractions on top of pre-existing old attractions.”

    Joe Dallas of EXODUS said something similar when Gary and I debated him on the Joan Rivers’ Show. He explained that the “change” he was talking about was “not a change from one end of the spectrum to the other” since “we are all basically both…”

    Wouldn’t “basically both” be bisexual?

  16. Jay, you said: “After all, wouldn’t adding on additional attractions to the opposite sex be more likely than a complete shift in attractions?”

    I think this is most realistic outcome an ex-gay can hope for, that is, adding on new attractions on top of pre-existing old attractions. To completely wipe clean the old attractions seems VERY unlikely. However, to add on new attractions seems to be a very attainable goal for some.


  17. You know, but a lot of younger people are role playing online and giving expression to ideas without having to venture too far. Some will find that they want to take it a step farther – others will just play the game.

  18. I think this scares the hell out of everyone. Straight people don’t want to entertain the thought that they could fall for someone of the same sex. Gay people don’t want to admit that they could fall in love with someone of the opposite sex. But these things happen and everyone needs to be honest about it.

  19. In my experience, bisexuality is almost always the missing part of the discussion of “change”. Many of the ex-gays I know admit they already had some level of bisexual interest, attraction or curiousity. Is a person who once “identified” himself as “gay”, but had attractions and sexual encounters with both sexes — who then makes a conscious decision NOT to act on the gay feelings — “ex-gay”?

  20. That certainly is interesting. Personally, I don’t know anything about online sexual encounters. I certainly didn’t know they were so common as to have articles written about them. But this does bring up something that I’ve had on my mind for a while: in both the church and the gay community, the concept of bisexuality (or attraction fluidity) seems to be fading. I’ve never heard any ex-gay organization say anything about bisexuals, and that seems strange.

    After all, wouldn’t adding on additional attractions to the opposite sex be more likely than a complete shift in attractions?

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