Homosexual, heal thyself! – Nicholas Little

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The mental disorder of homosexuality was cured in 1973 by the healing powers of a boardroom majority vote. The Board of Directors of the American Psychological Association (APA) voted gay people back to good health and, when the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) was published in 1980, homosexuality had been removed.

It was, however, replaced by a new diagnosis. Like regular old homosexuality, ‘ego-dystonic homosexuality’ is characterized by a lack of desire for the opposite sex and attraction to the same sex. But ego-dystonic homosexuals experience both as “unwanted thoughts or feelings”. There aren’t a lot of diagnosed ego-dystonic homosexuals out there. By the time the revised DSM-III-R was published in 1987, ego-dystonic homosexuality had also been removed—it had been constructed and deconstructed as a mental disorder in a span of just seven years.

Lest we under-estimate the speed of progress or the fervour of that dissenting minority around the APA boardroom table…In 2010, a prominent London newspaper printed the experiences of a self described “happy, out gay man” who willingly submitted himself to conversion treatment in order to map its continued existence among accredited members of the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists[1]. Sadly, he had no trouble finding therapists only too happy to try and cure him of his same-sex desire. One service user who had undergone 17 years of conversion therapy described it as “psychological torture”.

Most homosexuals endure an entire childhood of attempted conversion therapy at the hands of family, friends and strangers. Yet we prove to be the most stubborn of patients. One effective antidote to the treatment is simply affirming to one another just how unconverted we still feel despite years of hetero proselytizing. “You still crazy?” “Yup. You?” “Uh huh.”

Online gay chat rooms have certainly helped with this. I was recently chatting on the Internet with a 19 year old guy, who told me about his girlfriend, what it was like growing up in Brixton as the son of Caribbean immigrants who faithfully attended a Pentecostal church, his plans to go to university in the fall and the booze-soaked holiday he’d take with a gang of friends before that. After chatting for a bit he asked:

James:
do u want me to cum over tomorrow?

Nico:
that could be fun. although i get the sense you’re still unsure how you feel

James:
yes

Nico:
to be honest, i’m not sure i want to be the source of another guy’s guilt or anxiety

James:
u got a point. why didnt u say any of dis b4?

Nico:
we were just chatting is all. meeting up could be fun too. or it could make you feel awkward and bad about yourself, which would just make me uncomfortable – or not turned on at the very least

James:
honestly – dis may sound weird – but i actually pray to stop wanking while thinking bout guys. but i just keep doin it. its like its got a hold on me

Nico:
sounds like prayer is something real and powerful for you. i feel bad that you have desires you wish you didn’t have

James:
i know dis may say sound weird but yr the only one i have opened up to

Nico:
well there’s a lot at stake for you if you open up. it’s a logical strategy to protect yourself by keeping things secret

James:
i know. so what to do?

Nico:
indeed, what to do? lots of guys have been in your shoes and there are different directions you can go in. each way is fine – it’s okay whatever you choose.
we each get our own life and get to choose what to do with it, which is exciting and intimidating… that’s life, i guess

James:
u sure?

Nico:
sure of what?

James:
the different directions thing that u said – u sure it’s okay whatever I choose? do u think i should just weigh out the pros and cons????

Nico:
well, i won’t lie to you: in my experience, men who feel sexual attraction to other men don’t change. the sexual attraction doesn’t go away.

James:
really? it’s not gonna go away?

Nico:
well, others might tell you differently and they are entitled to their opinion as well. but i bet if you think about your own experience, you recognize how you have tried to resist being attracted to other men, and how it is always there nonetheless. like it is part of who you are.
that doesn’t tell you what to do next, it just describes where you are at the moment. different men respond to being in that same situation in some pretty different ways – they choose to live all kinds of different lives. but that core feeling of attraction to other men, that doesn’t go away – in my opinion, at least

James:
i find men attractive but i keep it to myself and don’t act upon it

Nico:
and if that’s the route you choose and if it works for you and you find peace of mind, then that is absolutely fine. that’s one way to respond to what you’re feeling and it’s as legitimate as any other
it’s your life, you get to create it the way you want

James:
thats the way i handle things now but i dont think it works. cuz if it was working, i wouldnt be online looking for guys like you

Nico:
well, you may have a point there

James:
i dont know what to do

Nico:
well i feel for you. i can tell you’re being honest here and it genuinely causes you distress. it’s a shame for any person to feel bad about something that they know is coming from deep inside

James:
i know. it makes me feel sad

Nico:
i bet it does. and i bet it causes you stress. and you’re 19 and you should be enjoying yourself!

James:
i know. this has affected my school work

Nico:
i believe you

James:
nicholas, what should i do? i feel like i need psychological help

Nico:
i wish i could give you an easy answer that would solve all of this for you. i wish there was a way to solve it quickly and make sure nobody gets hurt
all i can do is give you a bit of advice — but you have to keep in mind that i am just one guy and obviously i am biased in the sense that i have chosen to go with those attractions to other men and to live my life as a gay man

James:
lol

Nico:
well i just think of what your parents would say! they’d say, “don’t listen to him, he’s a crazy gay man and he’s just trying to recruit you!”

James:
lol

Nico:
but really, i’m not
oh man, saying that just makes it sound like i am
look, the way i have chosen to respond to my attraction to other men is just one of many ways of doing it. it works for me but you may find a way that works better for you. i can offer you advice as another man who has been in the situation you are currently in – just keep in mind that my choices are exactly that: mine. you get to choose for yourself

James:
yes its true

Nico:
i told you for example that although my boyfriend is a gay guy, he’s made the choice not to tell his family. which is very different from the way i go about things. i don’t ask him to do it my way. he has his own set of pros and cons and he has made his own choice for himself.

James:
well i see guys in college but i dont take notice even if they are attractive. but if they are girls i can think wow. but when i get home and i’m on the internet and i see guys like u, then i think mmmmm. wow, i’m in shit

Nico:
in what sense? where is the pressure coming from?

James:
there is pressure becuz there is no one gay in my family. and i’m in a relationship and i think im genuinely in love with her

Nico:
i think you are too

James:
but then i also think yr cute…

Nico:
well that’s because i am. clearly!

James:
lol

Nico:
you don’t have to be gay or bi to see THAT

James:
too funny

Nico:
look, you’re about to enter a whole new world: you’re gonna leave college, leave home, and for the first time you will be living on your own at university. the world is entirely yours to explore and your job is to make good on that opportunity

James:
yes

Nico:
you get to be 19 years old ONCE in your life. it’s a pretty magic experience to step into adulthood and be totally in control. it’s scary, but it’s also exciting

James:
and so…

Nico:
and so… over the next couple of years, you’re going to collect all kinds of new experiences and it’s going to happen really quickly too
and they’re all going to just go into your brain and bounce around in there somewhere and without you realizing it, they’re going to create the vision of how you see the world
for some guys, religion and serving god is their #1 priority. that’s great. other guys decide self-realization and attaining all of their personal or career goals is their #1 priority. that’s fine too. some guys decide that family is most important to them and they are willing to put some of their personal goals on hold to make sure their family is safe and healthy. that’s great. some guys look for adventure, others are drawn to stability and security. either one is fine.
over the next few years, you’re gonna develop a stronger sense of what comes first for you. and the truth is: it doesn’t really matter what those priorities are
family, god, adventure, career, being a good friend, having lots of sex, working for a cause, making tons of money
they’re all worthy goals AS LONG as it’s true for you and you go about it with integrity
i know that’s a bit corny, but i honestly think that’s the most helpful thing someone could have told me when i was feeling the way you are feeling

James:
wow
i dont even know what to say
it would be great if i had a dad who could talk to me like this

Nico:
oh man

James:
my dad left me when i was young so… yeah

Nico:
you live with just your mom?

James:
yeah

Nico:
you grew up the same way i did then

James:
yeah. i think thats what made me have these feelings. cuz i only live with women

Nico:
you might be right. but then again, lots of men live only with women and are still sexually attracted to women

James:
thats true

Nico:
i bet your mum has worked real hard to make sure your house stays together, yeah?

James:
yes she did

Nico:
and i bet if you’re aware of how much sacrifice your mum has made to make sure you grew up in a strong home, then i bet you feel some real pressure not to let her down

James:
yes. that is 100,000% true

Nico:
i know it. i feel the exact same way

James:
dis may sound corny but u r a good inspirational speaker. and what u have said i will take into account

Nico:
haha, i dunno about that, but i do understand where you are coming from because i have been there myself. and a lot of other men have as well. they didn’t all go in the same direction with it, but it can be a comfort knowing that you didn’t invent this situation — it’s a dynamic that has played out many, many times before you

James:
now yr bringing psychology into it, innit? lol
the psychodynamic approach!

Nico:
too funny. anyway, all i can say is that you are on the right path, james. you said you do well in school, you’ve got yourself through college, you’re on your way to university, you’re working on the weekends, you have a girlfriend you’re into, you have a holiday with your mates coming up… that’s the way you do it, man. piece by piece, you just get to it and try to act with integrity. that’s all you can do.

James:
☺ thank you

Nico:
you’re entirely welcome.
whatever you end up choosing, don’t feel shame about it. if you’re going about things with integrity then you got no reason not to hold your head high and feel proud about it.

James:
yes i will. u r a great guy. thank you

Nico:
you’re a great guy too.

James:
i owe u

Nico:
not at all, it’s how guys like us make sure we survive. have a good night, man

James:
goodnite

James popped into my head quite a bit over the days that followed. I’m often amazed, living in London, how many different visions of the world converge in the exact same densely populated geography without ever necessarily interacting. How my own neighbourhood is full of dykes and veiled Muslims and Jamaican roti shop owners and orthodox Jews in fur-brimmed hats. How we all cover the same paths on the high street day after day, seeing each other but rarely taking any steps inside one another’s world. Which is usually alright with me. I’m glad the Turkish barbers are there for me when I need them and the druggies have a park to shoot up in without me having to immerse myself in their lives. Me and my faggy friends no doubt serve as their passing entertainment the same as they do for us. But talking with James did make me wonder how many of those people I see in my neighbourhood privately wish they could cross into other worlds. How many of them are ego-dystonic, living lives of unwanted thoughts and feelings?

The following week I got back in touch with James:

Nico:
hey man, you been alright?

James:
yes. you?

Nico:
yup.
i have a question for you: i’ve been thinking over what we chatted about last week. i went back and read it again and i thought that other guys in the same situation you were describing might find it useful to read something like that. to hear how another young guy is working it out

James:
ok. truth talks. so what do u want to do?

Nico:
well let me send it to you to read and you can tell me what you think

James:
ok

(Nico sends James the transcript of their last conversation with the intro about the history of homosexuality as mental illness. Long pause while James reads it.)

Nico:
I changed all the names and took out anything that might identify who you are or where you’re from

James:
yeah I noticed that. is that for yr work or something?

Nico:
no, I just did it cause I think it’s interesting.

James:
i didnt know that people thought the homosexuals had mental disorders

Nico:
a lot has changed in a short amount of time. at the end of the 1960s it was illegal to be gay. people were put in jail for having gay sex. and until the 1980s a lot of health professionals still considered attraction to the same sex to be a mental disorder. they tried to cure people of it

James:
lol
wow

Nico:
How would you feel if that conversation was printed somewhere so other people could read it?

James:
i think that would be a good idea
if i had stuff like that it would help me to figure out my sexuality earlier
wow. did that conversation inspire u dat much?

Nico:
it did, yeah. one way people like you and me eventually figure out what we want – and some of that confusion and guilt starts to disappear – is by talking to other guys in the same situation. at the very least, it’s helpful to know that there are other people like us out there and that we’re not crazy

James:
it’s true

Nico:
like you say, you didn’t know that gay guys used to be considered mentally ill. it seems nice when some of that history gets passed down and remembered. there have been a lot of guys exactly like us who just sort of disappeared because they were born in a different age

James:
yeah that’s true. i dont mind if it gets printed

Nico:
ok. and one other thing…

James:
yeah?

Nico:
you know how you were talking about your mum and how she raised you on her own? how you wonder if the lack of a father in the house has something to do with why you go online looking to chat with guys like me?

James:
hmmm… yes

Nico:
well there’s a musician from new york who’s been around for decades and he’s done some cool stuff. he talks a lot about the situation of black people in the US. he put a new album out this year and there’s a song where he’s talking about whether or not his home was broken and whether or not it makes him any less of a man.
i thought you might like to hear what he has to say

James:
ok

(Nico sends James a file of Gil Scott-Heron’s On Coming From A Broken Home – Pt. 2. Pause while James listens to it.)

James:
everything he says in that song is true

Nico:
absolutely!

James:
can I just say…
on behalf of all the “troubled teenagers”… thank you. there needs to be more people like u
dont get all excited doe… lol

Nico:
thanks man. you’re kind. but you’re definitely not troubled. i think you have everything sorted just fine

James:
u think I have mental issues, don’t u! lol

Nico:
well if you do, then we all do

On Coming From A Broken Home (Part. 2)
Gil Scott-Heron
© 2010 XL Recordings Ltd.

And so my life has been guided
And all the love I needed was provided
And through my mother’s sacrifices I saw where her life went
To give more than birth to me, but life to me
And this ain’t one of them clichés about black women being strong
cause hell, if you’re weak, you’re gone!
But life courage, determined to do more than just survive
And too many homes have a missing woman or man
But without the feeling of missing love
Maybe there are homes that are hurt
But there are no real lives that hurt will not reach
They’re not broken!
Unless the homes of soldiers stationed overseas or lost in battles are broken
Unless the homes of firemen, policemen, construction workers,
seamen, railroad men, truckers, pilots who lost their lives…
…but not what their lives stood for
And because men die, men lose, they are lost and they leave
And so do women
I come from what they called a broken home
But if they had ever really called at our house
They would have known how wrong they were
We were working on our lives and our homes
Dealing with what we had
Not what we didn’t have
My life has been guided by women
But because of them I am a man
God bless you, Mama
And thank you

References

[1] Strudwick, P. (2010, February 1). The ex-gay files: The bizarre world of gay-to-straight conversion The Independent.

Nicholas Little lived for several years in Ottawa, Ontario, teaching workshops on how to give better blowjobs and escorting for bi-curious bureaucrats on Parliament Hill. Since 2009, he has lived and worked in the United Kingdom. Email him at: nico [at] ickaprick [dot] com.