Roots of reparative therapy – Momism as a root of homosexuality

Yesterday, I quoted the bookjacket of Their Mothers’ Sons by Edward Strecker which proposes smothering mothering as a culprit for the failure of boys to become men. Today, I want to quote a bit more from the book, specifically in reference to homosexuality. Of course, Strecker sees mom as being at root of the gay.

First,  I provide Strecker’s basic diagnosis of the sad lot of sons who find themselves in mom’s grips. Strecker’s laboratory was war. He lamented that over 3 million men dodged the draft or were discharged for psychiatric reasons during World War II. Strecker acknowledged for all people there is a inner battle between self-preservation and fighting for the greater good. Some men became valient fighters, even accepting with grace their wounds, whereas others wilted in the face of the demands of war. Why the difference? According to Strecker, it comes down to maturity. He wrote:

Why did the desire for self-preservation defeat one group of men, the their discredit, and not the other? The answer in ninety percent of the cases can be given in one word, IMMATURITY. The majority of men who failed, like the majority of men who fail for the same reasons in ordinary life, were IMMATURE. (p. 21; emphasis in the original).

So what causes immaturity?

You guessed it.


Strecker wrote:

Maturity is not an inborn trait; it is not hereditary. It is the result of early background, environment, training, and unselfish parental love…Given the opportunity of having known when he was eight to twelve years old, any one of the men who failed in his opportunity to serve in the armed forces because of neuropsychiatric tendencies, and, particularly, of having known his mother, a competent psychiatrist could have forecast with reasonable accuracy the boy’s future immaturity. In the vast majority of case histories, a “mom” is at fault. (p. 23).

For Strecker, immaturity, and therefore mom, is also at root of homosexuality. While he does allow for “biological deviations” as involved in homosexuality, he also implicates “mom and her wiles.” Strecker provides a letter from a teen who calls himself a “sissy” and a “mother’s boy.” The young man also describes homosexual attractions. Strecker’s then diagnoses the causes of the boy’s homosexuality from his letter.

The essential parts  are there, and unedited, and a study of them shows two familiar types of silver cords – “you will never find anyone quite as pretty and worthy of you as mom,” and “sexual intercourse is a horrible affair in which the husband is the beast.” Mom, as the paints her in his letter, in undoubtedly the ‘pretty addlepate’ who by her actions and what she has said and implied has poisoned the boy’s mind against normal, mature heterosexual living. In various ways, mostly devious, he has been made to know that no girl could measure up to his mom, so he veered away from the normal companionship with girls that a part of every high school boy’s life. Sex was degrading, unnatural, undesireable — his mom had told him so. Naturally, when completely entwined by these two silver cords, his normal, healthy masculine instincts were stifled. The result — a tendency toward abnormal sex life.

Strecker also points to mothers who really wanted girls as another force behind some homosexuality. He then invokes one of the many psychoanalytically based theories by suggesting that some men remain in love with mother past their childhood which results in overwhelming guilt. This guilt is then transferred to other girls and women as an adult. Thus,

heterosexuality in a complete way is impossible for him to achieve and he may turn to homosexuality in his need for some sex outlet, as the lesser evil. (p. 131)

Lesbians are almost ignored but not quite. Strecker saves some blame for dad:

All the same forces operate against the daughters of immature fathers — pops — as well as against the sons of moms. The pop who mentally seduces his daughter may implant a tendency toward lesbianism.

Strecker concludes:

I want to repeat that while innate factors often go into the making of homosexuality, yet the environmental influence is strong enough so that moms and pops are to blame. (p. 132)

Dr. Strecker provides no references or evidence for his statements beyond the letter from the young man. Readers are apparently expected to believe him because he is a psychiatrist and an advisor to the armed services. Strecker puts much more weight on mothering than current reparative therapists do, but, in my view, Strecker, writing in 1946, would fit in quite well at the 2011 NARTH conference.

Bullying is not a growth experience

UPDATE 2: The statement below has now been removed from the NARTH website. The first interview with Glatze is still available. Not sure what happened, the statement of regret was pretty shortlived (not quite a full day).

UPDATE: This statement has replaced the Glatze interview on the NARTH website:

Following the counsel of our friends at Exodus and others in the ex-gay community we have removed the Michael Glatze interview from our site. Some of his public comments have been found to be offensive to NARTH and hurtful to others. It is never appropriate to make some of the comments attributed to Mr. Glatze and we at NARTH wish to make our disapproval public.

You can see below what was there this morning. The first interview from 2007 is still available.

Yesterday, I posted about statements made by Michael Glatze on his blog about bullying being a growth experience for the bullied child. NARTH features Mr. Glatze as a possible role model for youth on their website here.


This is the second interview with Mr. Glatze that is on the NARTH website, and it is easy to see that their leaders believe he is someone who should be emulated. Given the philosophy of masculinity that he espouses with the approval of NARTH, one wonders why evangelicals continue to look to NARTH as a credible group.

While it is proposed by many in the NARTH camp that toughening up as a stereotypical male will eliminate same-sex attractions, there is little evidence to support the idea. It is not far from the “man-up” approach to the ideas of Glatze that one can “grow up” from bullying.

Here is another reminder of the real life consequences of such ideas. I call on NARTH to rethink this reparative notion, and take an unambiguous stance against bullying.

Please see the left column icon, Bullycide in America. All money from the sale of this book go to creating more awareness surrounding the need for schools to take a zero tolerance toward bullying for any reason.

Father-son estrangement: A straight guy problem?

Last Friday, I wrote about father-son estrangement and the new book by Joseph Nicolosi, Shame and attachment loss: The practical work of reparative therapy. Since then, I have looked off and on for illustrations of father-son estrangement in current events, literature and movies. Others are sending illustrations via email as well. Feel free to add examples in the comments section.

In these stories, both fictional and real life, the vast majority of abandoned or injured sons are straight. Of course, this is not research, but I reason that if the father-son disruption theme was so tied to homosexuality, I would find homosexuality in the sons. However, it looks like father-son estrangement is a straight guy problem.

Take this story, “Healing the Father-Son Wound” from straight guy John Lee.

Some of you may know what a rocky relationship I have had with my father. I was raised in an alcoholic home where there was tremendous physical and emotional abuse. I have written about this in my books as a way to heal and hopefully to help others. Because of my wound, I wandered through the swamps and deserts of a ten-year period of estrangement from my father. We didn’t see each other or talk during that time.

Lee goes on to describe a distant, shame-filled relationship which eventually resolved due to Lee’s efforts. This man was clearly “delight deprived,” as Nicolosi describes the typical situation he reconstructs from the narratives of his clients. It seems clear that Lee perceived his father as someone who fit the narcissistic, shaming father Nicolosi describes in Shame and Attachment Loss. On one visit, accompanied by his wife, to his father, he knew his dad was going to shame him.

My third visit was just before I came down with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Susan and I had spent about two hours at my parents’ house and were getting ready to leave when my father said, “Susan, did John ever tell you about the time…”

I froze in terror. I thought my dad was going to do to Susan what he always did to anyone who liked or loved me– tell a story that would make me look silly at best, stupid at worst.

As he began to talk, I began to shrink.

This sounds like it could come out of a reparative therapist’s casebook. Lee goes on to say that on this occasion, his father praised his son, which was completely unexpected. However, it seems clear that Lee’s historical feelings about his dad did not involve “shared delight.”

Remember that Nicolosi made inferences about the childhoods of both gay and straight males when he said recently:

In other words, that fact remains that if you traumatize a child in a particular way you will create a homosexual condition. If you do not traumatize a child, he will be heterosexual. If you do not traumatize a child in a particular way, he will be heterosexual. The nature of that trauma is an early attachment break during the bonding phase with the father.

There are many of these stories where straight males clearly felt traumatized (e.g., ignored, distanced, hated, unloved, etc.) by their fathers and did not become gay.  The experience of father-son estrangement seems universal with the longing for connection universal as well.

Related posts:

Shame and Attachment Loss: Going from bad to worse

Shame and attachment loss: Reparative therapy and father-son estrangement

Also read Fathers, Sons and Homosexuality for a father’s view of the reparative thesis.

Spontaneous change compared to therapeutically mediated change

Something has been bothering me, running around in my head since I did the brief series of posts on Dean Byrd’s review of LDS book, In Quiet Desperation (here, here and here).

In their review of Ty Mansfield’s book, Byrd et al make this statement:

The book inadvertently limits the power of the Atonement in the lives of people who struggle with homosexual attraction. As professionals with many combined years of practice in treating those with unwanted homosexual attraction, we have witnessed changes in the lives of many of these individuals, and the epiphanies have been many.

Like all emotional challenges, the outcome data has ranges of success. What is clear is that when the same standard applied to treatment outcomes of similarly situated difficulties is applied to the treatment outcomes of those with unwanted homosexuality, the results are remarkably similar. There is much in the professional treatment protocols that are compatible with the restored gospel. Appropriate professional help along with the healing powers of the gospel have repeatedly convinced us that there is no struggle for which the Atonement is not sufficient.

There are several things that bother me about these two paragraphs, but for now I want to focus on this sentence:

What is clear is that when the same standard applied to treatment outcomes of similarly situated difficulties is applied to the treatment outcomes of those with unwanted homosexuality, the results are remarkably similar.

Despite a claim of clarity, nothing is particularly clear to me about treatment outcomes for “unwanted homosexuality.” It is not clear to me what other conditions are “similarly situated” in comparison to same-sex attraction. This was not explained.

However, my thoughts about outcomes ran to the studies reported in the NARTH literature review of sexual reorientation, the Jones and Yarhouse study and the usual reparative therapy contention that change results were along a continuum – one-third dramatically changed, one-third somewhat changed and one-third not changed. However, whatever numbers one likes, one cannot put it in context without a control or comparison situation. Another term for this in this context is spontaneous remission. Don’t some people change in various ways for reasons unrelated to therapy?

Certainly that is the case for other situations which are the proper focus of therapy. Note this abstract for a study of improvement rated by patients at a community mental health center in Utah.

It was hypothesized that outpatient psychotherapy in a mental health center would result in an improvement rate of 65% or more, a spontaneous remission rate of 36% or less, and a difference of at least 29% from gain in improvement due to therapy. The analysis of 201 follow-up questionnaires supported all three hypothesis. A five-year follow-up questionnaire provided evidence for external validity in the form of a correlation between original improvement rate and subsequent need for outpatient treatment and inpatient treatment. The results were interpreted as being significant evidence for the efficacy of psychotherapy and for the validity of self-report method of measuring improvement and spontaneous remission.

Note that the rate of improvement was significantly higher than expected based on a spontaneous improvement rate of 36% or less. The authors had reasons to predict this rate and took it into account when assessing the meaning of a 65% improvement rate overall. 

My point is not to compare sexual reorientation to mental health improvement near Salt Lake City, Utah. However, I want to raise the issue that considering spontaneous improvement is important when one is communicating the meaning of changes reported without a control group. There are a couple of studies which have looked at spontaneous change, although none would be directly comparable to any current studies of sexual reorientation. Diamond found spontaneous change in her study of 100 women. In 2005, Kinnish, Strassburg and Turner reported varying levels of sexual orientation flexibility in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. Their report found that 19% of men and 17% of women in their sample moved in a heterosexual direction (from gay to bisexual,  or bisexual to straight — none went from exclusively gay to exclusively straight). In 2003, Dickson, Paul and Herbison reported spontaneous change in a New Zealand cohort. The chart of movement can be viewed here. Note that 5 of 15 went from some same-sex attraction to only heterosexual attraction and none from “major attraction to the same sex” to straight.  

While these studies are suggestive, they cannot be directly compared to existing studies of sexual reorientation.  However, the fact that some men with some same-sex attraction and many women might shift spontaneously should be taken into account when thinking about the role of therapy in mediating sexual orientation change.

The Dickson study is intriguing in that the results can be interpreted as supporting the existence of different types of homosexual orientation. About their results, the authors note in the abstract:

These findings show that much same-sex attraction is not exclusive and is unstable in early adulthood, especially among women. The proportion of women reporting some same-sex attraction in New Zealand is high compared both to men, and to women in the UK and US. These observations, along with the variation with education, are consistent with a large role for the social environment in the acknowledgement of same-sex attraction. The smaller group with major same-sex attraction, which changed less over time, and did not differ by education, is consistent with a basic biological dimension to sexual attraction. Overall these findings argue against any single explanation for homosexual attraction.

To me, this is a reasonable hypothesis. I believe there are multiple pathways to adult sexual orientation and for some, apparently the social context means more than for others. Also, for some the trait may continue to shift around through life with changing circumstances, yet for others, not at all.

UPDATE: In an odd attack piece, the gay website Queerty reads this post (actually the Crosswalk version) as a kind of strange defense of change therapies or change of orientation in general.  A commenter named Timothy (is it our Timothy?) gets the point, but whoever writes for them and the commenters thus far over there are clueless.

Mankind Project goes transparent

In 2007, I took some heat over my interest in and criticism of the Mankind Project. My initial interest was sparked by the suicide of Michael Scinto shortly after attending a New Warriors Training Adventure, the signature program of MKP. In addition to my interest in strange approaches to counseling, this program was doubly intriguing because reparative therapists and their supporters (e.g., Joe Nicolosi, Richard Cohen, Arthur Goldberg, Paul Miller) recommend NWTA as a way to reduce same-sex attractions.

Since then, MKP has made it plain that they do not recommend NWTA as a reparative therapy adjunct and they have become quite gay friendly. However, these reparative therapists have not back away from their support. For instance, Richard Cohen, in his book for parents of gay children, recommends that fathers and sons attend the weekend together.

One regular criticism of MKP relates to the secrecy of the activities on the NWTA weekends — and for good reason. Some men would surely not go if they knew of the sometimes odd things they would be asked to do. Some of the odd things are harmless but sometimes they can be upsetting. I list links to some on this blog, such as this one, called Killing Daddy. See this page for more about MKP and click this link for prior posts on the topic.

And so, it was with interest that I read a note from a reader who follows MKP. He noted that MKP is now going transparent. All of this is on my MKP page but here is a couple of sections of the memo.

Transparency and the NWTA: Next Steps

At the February 2009 Annual Meeting in Glen Ivy the Project Council approved a proposal moving MKP toward greater transparency. The full proposal is included at the end of this note, which is intended to let you know the work we’re doing to put the plan into action.

External Communications

This is the main focus of the initiative designed to increase candor regarding FAQ’s for men coming to the training as well as specifically addressing inaccurate criticism of MKP and the NWTA on the web.

· We are developing a set of FAQ’s to guide men in speaking with potential initiates about the training and the organization. You are encouraged to share information about the NWTA to the extent that it is requested, encouraging men to step into the mystery while answering questions honestly.

· The MKP public website is being revised to include the above material and appropriate “spoiler” warnings. It will include direct responses to some of the specific criticisms and misperceptions on the web (Houston Press, Haven Ministry, Rick Ross, Warren Throckmorton, Reid Baer, etc.)

MKP is going to talk more freely about what they do but they are going to respond to what some of us have published as “misperceptions.” Well, I look forward to finding out what those misperceptions are.

In any event, the proposal for transparency was apparently approved and will result in significant changes if this memo can be believed. Here is the context of the proposal for transparency and some of what is supposed to happen.

Transparency Regarding the NWTA


In our Confidentiality Agreement and the processes Secret Male Ritual and Integrating the Training we ask men not to share the processes on the NWTA. As an institution we maintain this secrecy in how we speak and write about our training. In the last few years we have been criticized on blogs, on websites, and in a suit for not providing sufficient details for men to make an informed decision about attending our training. The ManKind Project has been labeled a cult by some for our refusal to disclose what we do on the training. It is likely that at least some of these attacks could have been avoided if we had provided more information about the training. The cost of these attacks has been significant to MKP and to our centers. At the same time, most, if not all, of our processes have been described in various media, and in some cases our protocols have been made available on websites.

In many contexts, MKP as an institution and we as individuals highly value transparency, and around the globe organizations are being increasingly called to provide transparency about their activities. Nevertheless we have continued to hold an expectation that we can and should keep our NWTA processes secret. Many of us are concerned that knowing more about the training will make it less effective for participants. Others who read about our processes before attending the NWTA say it was still extremely impactful. I have spoken in depth with the Leader and Center Councils about how we hold secrecy and transparency, and the overwhelming response has favored transparency.


I believe that on balance, it will serve the ManKind Project to release our expectations of secrecy and step into transparency about our processes. I propose that MKP begin to provide disclosure about our processes to the extent it is requested by potential initiates and the general public. This means:

· Men who have done the NWTA will be released from any obligation to maintain secrecy about our processes, and will be encouraged to share information about the NWTA to the extent it is requested. This applies particularly to men involved in NWTA enrollment.

MKPers can now sing like birds about their experiences. Might as well, many of the processes and procedures are already on the web anyway. But this way, new initiates will know more directly from the people involved what they are getting into. While I still think MKP is a risky proposition given the lack of training of the leaders and the questionable efficacy of the processes, this move is a good one.

Not sure how many MKP or anti-MKP readers I still have but if you are out there, what are your reactions to this move? Do you believe it? Is it enough? Too much?