Chicago Tribune article almost features sexual identity therapy

Today’s Chicago Tribune has an article by Sean Hamill that comes close to differentiating sexual identity therapy from conversion therapy. I say close because Mr. Hamill interviews antagonists of conversion therapy but then comes pretty close to describing the work I do as the other side of the issue. Here is one quote from me that I apparently did not survive the editing process:

“I don’t say, ‘Here’s how you become straight,’ ” Throckmorton said. “I say, ‘Can you move forward with a value and do the things that are good to do and right to do, that you believe in?'”

I remember saying this: “I don’t say, ‘Here’s how you become straight,’ ” Throckmorton said. “I say, ‘Can you move forward with a life you value and do the things that you believe are good to do and right to do, that you believe in?'”

The article also places our work (Yarhouse and me) in the context of the ex-gay movement. I supposed that is fair given that I often work with people who desire to live according their Evangelical beliefs. However, readers might also assume that what we do is synonymous with conversion or reparative therapy, which would be unfortunate. I do know Mr. Hamill faced heavy editing on this one and the title is not chosen by the author.

24 thoughts on “Chicago Tribune article almost features sexual identity therapy”

  1. couples always sort it out or split leave them too it!!!! Gay or hetrasexual what is the diffence there are always problems it is without a doubt a persone/couples problem!!!! Life is easy for some and difficult for others and we all cope the best way we can, for the record most people find it hard but we are the survivors and god bless us!!! jxx

  2. Amaleia,

    LOL! I hope that’s your real name. I like it.

    Re the self-hatred. It’s one of the first things that my church ‘went after’ after I got saved. I would try to justify why I had every reason to hate myself–or later, some part of myself but was constantly reminded that none of this was news to God. He knew it when He reached out to me. So, if God saw my weaknesses and loved me anyway–in spite of them…it’s a bit audacious for me to go on hating myself.

    I know we are called to hate SIN but how do you extend that to hating YOURSELF? Again, God knows where you’ve been. He knows in what areas you still struggle or stumble–and He understands. There’s a balance of course. We shouldn’t take grace or forgiveness for granted but, it serves no godly purpose to indulge in self-hatred–in fact, self-hatred actually tends to serve ‘the dark side’. (You hate yourself–or a part of yourself–ti makes you reluctant to present yourself to God in prayer. A sense of ‘I don’t deserve anymore grace or forgiveness’ begins to cut us off from fellowship. Cut off from these resources, we stand alone and pretty much defenseless to ‘the onslaught of the enemy’.)

    LOL! Somehow I’ve found myself humming “Just As I Am”…

    BTW: just curious, I’m guessing your blog name is pronounced either Ah.MAH.lee.ya or Ah.MAH.lay.ya; is either correct?

  3. Ministry done well results in a reduction of self-hatred along with growth in self-acceptance. Many people I work with do hate themselves for having impulses they disagree with. This ordinarily is counterproductive.

    I disagree about breathing. I am glad it is involuntary 🙂

  4. The last comment of the article is totally ridiculous. This woman is not understanding the basis of all ministries and/or religious meaning. We are all full of self-hatred in some part of our lives where we wish to change. It does not mean I totally hate myself just because I do something I wish I didn’t. And I know God loves me unconditionally. However, holding her point of view to the extreme—-what is the point of trying to become a better person at all—-because trying to change anything just means one hates one’s self?????? Not at all. I know the conflict. The thinking that being gay is “who I am” instead of a “behavior I do”. Therein lies the problem. EVERYTHING we do is a choice—including breathing—if we want to hold extreme points of view. It amazes me however, that the Christian view is amost always characterized differently than what it truly is. Jesus was radical. Here’s a thought—-what about just accepting everybody—–with all our collective problems—-and allowing Jesus to work on all of us—–in His own time—-and each our own understanding. Meanwhile, our job is to love each other. Amaleia

  5. I debated allowing the last two comments in this thread. Please keep discussion to the post and not to personalities of the commenters.

    There is a simple way to resolve this. The man in the article has a view of himself based on his attractions and behavior. Actually that view has evolved somewhat but that is another matter. Being out and gay does not of necessity involve bathhouses and the like and it does not involve wives. Being same-sex attracted might and frequently in my clinical work it does. What one makes of this is what sexual identity integration focuses on.

    Clinical reality and objective reality are two different experiences. I hope we can distinguish the two here in our conversations.

  6. Timothy – in now way did I say that that was what I believed. I pointed out that you do not want people calling you something you believe to not be true of yourself. Stop misquoting and taking people’s comments out of context please.

  7. Argue all you like – but it goes back to you not wanting the christian right calling you sick and in need of help.

    Oh, hello. There’s the real Mary.

  8. Why is it that some people do not take a person on that person’s word. If a man says he is gay then he is gay. You may not like the idea that he cheats on his wife. You may not like the idea that bath houses are primarily filled with gay men. But they are and that was his gay experience. I’m not saying that he was not cheating on his wife and exposing her to danger. But a lot of guys cheat on their boyfriends and that’s gay, too. And they expose their boyfriends and husbands to danger. Amd many gays have said again and agin about married men – “Oh, he’s really gay” You’ve heard, I’ve heard.

    So because Jeff describes his behavior as gay – so will I. Because people like Micheal ( aorry to use you as an example) call himself gay and knew it all along – so will I. And because you call yourself gay Timothy – so will I call you gay.

    Just because you don’t like his behavior doesn’t mean he is not gay. And I am not the one saying he is gay based on my own interpretations – I am basing it on his own definition and experience. Argue all you like – but it goes back to you not wanting the christian right calling you sick and in need of help. I support you calling yourself gay – end of subject. I support Jeff calling himself gay and end of subject. And those definitions are different for the two of you.

    Unfortunately, life is vague and ambiguous and not always as clear and focused as we would like it. That bothers people. But that is what life is – alot of life.

  9. By his experience – yes it does. Yours is not the only gay experience in America. Nor was mine.

    Actually, what we are getting back to here is that words have no real meanings in your argument, but instead mean whatever you say they do. Timothy already gave you an excellent explanation of why you are wrong.

  10. I’m sorry, Mary, but no!!

    I’m not arguing about his experiences. They are what they are. But I refuse to stand by and allow you to claim that cheating on ones wife is “gay behavior”. The funny thing about gay behavior is that it doesn’t include wives.

    Yes the sex he was having was gay sex. And yes it probably was with gay people (or other closeted “straight-identified” guys). I’m not arguing whether his sexual activities were gay behavior.

    But his lies and double life are not gay behavior – by definition. They are closeted. They only occur with men who claim to be straight.

    And as far as I’m concerned that is the bigger issue. Any sexual activity he was having is between Jeff and God. But his cheating and lying and sneaking involved his wife as well.

    So no, Mary, you don’t get to just decide that gay now means “cheating on one’s wife”. You do not get to claim that something is “gay behavior” just because you want to.

  11. By his experience – yes it does. Yours is not the only gay experience in America. Nor was mine.

    We get back to someone else telling another person what his/her experience was/should/ought to be. Aren’t we all trying to get away from that?

  12. Anon2

    I believe you are misreading me. I agree that all of our culture – gay and straight – has a great deal of emphasis on sexuality.

    I was not saying that his sexuality would be disapproved. But his double life would most definitely not be considered acceptable.

    Living in the closet is not something of which the gay community approves.


    Simply because Jeff – or you – claim that something is gay does not make it so.

  13. Timothy,

    It is the glamorizing of sex in the gay subculture (and in many ways the straight culture, as well) that caused me to desire the kind of closeted acting out that you are describing. I do have some difficulty with your claim that most gay people would not agree with the behaviour demonstrated by Jeff because in many ways I have seen that it is a very vocal part of the gay subculture that has been promoting the image that you say is unacceptable. All one has to do is read some of the magazines that have been available to the public for years now. Unless these are things that are only available north of your border. In which case I guess you will just ignore this comment. This stuff was not being presented to us from the “ex-gay” people. This same material was often very much against organized religion, largely because religion stood for something different than what these magazines were promoting. I guess the advice of friends is still the best option don’t read the stuff and don’t pay any attention to what they are saying. Sometimes easier said than done.

  14. Using Jeff’s words and assuming they were not misquoted “… this is my time to be gay…” That was Jeff’s gay experience. So I was taking it at face value. Adding nothing more or less.

  15. But Jeff’s behavior was gay and it is part of being gay for some men.

    I quite disagree – because Jeff’s behavior was not limited to indiscriminate sex. It also include infidelity, lies, and endangering the emotional and perhaps physical health of his wife – which is NOT “part of being gay”.

    I think it fair to say that most gay people would find Jeff’s behavior unacceptable. While he probably would not be lectured much about his indiscriminate sex habits – as long as he was discrete – he probably would find that the greater gay community was not very accepting of his sneaking and cheating and lying.

    Jeff’s behavior, the living of two lives, is not a gay thing. It’s a closet thing and only practiced by those trying to identify as straight.

  16. Warren,

    I am happy to see that you have moderated your position and now differentiate yourself from the “ex-gay” cure programs advocates. The best thing that I have experienced personally is putting behind me all the lies and untruths that ex-gay proponents put out about gays (which I continue to work to expose).

    Michael Hamar

    Norfolk, Virginia

  17. Given the comment from Dr. Throckmorton, I re-read the Trib article with new eyes. It does feel like your therapeutic framework is being associated with a conversion or reparative approach. To me, that is unfortunate. I would argue that being linked with “ex-gay” doesn’t bring you much credibility in the wider culture.

  18. Scott – You get no disagreement from me. It is two different things to bring out of control behavior under control and to limit same sex behavior at all. One or both may be the focus of counseling.

  19. While I acknowledge that what you do is different than straight reparative therapy, I don’t see how you can classify yourself as not being part of the larger ex-gay movement, since the religous right clearly uses your prestige to justify their theological positions on homosexuality (Focus on the Family for instance – didn’t you use to link to their site on Not being confrontational, I just think marketing yourself as an ex-gay ministry is probably more honest, both to you and to your prospective patients.

    I’m reminded of my own pre-GCC biblical counselors, who based their therapeutic methodologies on reality therapy, but then claiming that they weren’t practicing reality therapy, but something new.

    Take care, Dr. Throckmorton.


  20. But Jeff’s behavior was gay and it is part of being gay for some men.

    My point is that the behavior he is uncomfortable with is not the only way to express a gay sexuality. Someone trying to live their values should also consider moral and responsible expressions of gay sexuality.

    I know that some faith systems do not see any ‘moral and responsible expressions of gay sexuality.’ But, I don’t believe there are any arguments regarding whether faith systems are/aren’t a choice.

    Seeking help for something you perceive as a problem with yourself is a self-love thing, I agree.

  21. When are they going to move away from the idea that self hatred is the motivating factor of change?? Everyone who approaches therapy goes in with some dissatisfaction of themselves (otherwise they would not be there) and that is not self hatred. That is self love.

  22. Sorry – but isn’t that the way. Your words are skewed as the listener/reader decides?

  23. [gay] “was all about gay bathhouses, clubs and anonymous sex with men”

    I am glad that the example from this article (“Jeff”) feels like he is more at peace with himself–truly!

    What bothers me is that the behaviors he quotes above are not necessarily gay and are not limited to a gay sexual expression. It is entirely possible to be a gay person and never have gone to a bathhouse or had anonymous sex. Gay people are also in monogamous, long-term relationships. Also, there are plenty of straight people who express their sexuality in ways exactly akin to the behaviors with which “Jeff” was uncomfortable. Equating gay with irresponsible sexual behaviors is dishonest.

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