Sexual Identity Fraud & the Restorative Potential of Reparative Therapy
Last May, Mirjam Heine delivered a TEDx talk titled "Pedophilia Is a Natural Sexual Orientation." "Anyone could be born a pedophile," said the German medical student. "Pedophilia is only the sexual preference for pre-adolescent children." It is "a thought, a feeling," an "unchangeable sexual orientation just like, for example, heterosexuality."
Heine's primary message was that, since pedophiles cannot act on their desires without creating "a disaster," our attitude toward them must change. We should differentiate between pedophiles who feel sexual desires toward children but don't act on them and pedophiles who sexually abuse children. We must do this, she said, so that pedophiles will feel accepted in society and be less likely to act on their desires.
Unsurprisingly, the talk provoked a firestorm of backlash, prompting TEDx to remove the video. "After reviewing the talk, we believe it cites research in ways that are open to serious misinterpretation," read the tepid explanation. "This field of science is developing, and the definition of the condition is just one of many points that are in debate across the global scientific community."
It was a mindless punt to the global scientific cloud, but it provides the rest of us an opportunity to examine the pedigree of this "developing" field of science. It's a story that begins, interestingly, in Germany.
The LGBTx Shot Heard Round the World
The first public coming-out in modern history took place on a bright August morning in 1867, when 42-year-old Karl Heinrich Ulrichs spoke before more than five hundred jurists, including members of the German parliament and at least one Bavarian prince. He spoke of a certain "class of persons" (he called them "urnings") who were suffering persecution solely because "nature has planted in them a sexual nature that is opposite of that which is usual."
Ulrichs' objective was the repeal of Paragraph 175 of the German Penal Code, which criminalized sodomy. He was eventually shouted down, but historian Robert Beachy compares him to Martin Luther in that he challenged prevailing beliefs and launched a revolutionary movement. (If you find that a stretch, Ulrichs compared himself to Jesus, interpreting the shouts as "a call to: 'Crucify, crucify!'")
Ulrichs, a lawyer and open homosexual, advocated prolifically for "urning emancipation" until his death in 1895. With no supportive data or evidence, he asserted his theories as the initiation of "a scientific discussion based on facts." But who needed evidence? Until Ulrichs, medical science had explained sodomy in moral terms—as a willful perversion and the product of sexual excess. Beginning with Ulrichs, wrote Beachy, "it became possible now to imagine that certain individuals were attracted innately to their own and not the opposite sex." And so, on little more than persistent raw gumption, Ulrichs prepared the way for an imagined medical understanding of sexuality.
The Invention of Sexology
In 1896, one year after Ulrichs died, Magnus Hirschfeld founded the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee (SHC), widely regarded as the world's first gay rights organization. Hirschfeld, too, maintained without evidence that sexual orientation was innate, but he posed same-sex attraction as a congenital defect, analogous to a harelip or cleft palate, that should be tolerated and accepted. Like Ulrichs, his primary objective was political change, but his approach added medical "scholarship" to the discussion, as reflected in the SHC's founding motto, "Through science to justice."
It was the SHC that hatched the "science" of sexology. A physician and avid nudist, Hirschfeld conducted research, beginning with surveys to determine the size of the homosexual population. This, of course, precipitated debates about the traits and behaviors to be tabulated. Did effeminate mannerisms count? Feelings of attraction? Or only same-sex sexual activity? Beachy doesn't make clear which criteria won out, but Hirschfeld's results, published in 1904, estimated that about 2 percent of German men were exclusively homosexual—a new term coined during this era.
With the help of SHC cofounder Max Spohr, a Leipzig-based publisher, the SHC engaged in direct political activism and popular "education" through its "Propaganda Commission." By 1914, Hirschfeld had mailed nearly 100,000 "enlightenment brochures" to cultural influencers in the press, the legislature, the academy, and the church. He produced journals of sexology and opened a library "to serve the enlightenment." He expanded the concepts of gender and sexual fluidity, eventually working out a schema of at least 43 million distinct subjective combinations of identity. Somehow, he simultaneously maintained that all of them were congenital, a mammoth conundrum apparently lost on the activists.
Though Hirschfeld did hold a medical degree, his science was little better than Ulrichs'. To both men, if the phenomenon of same-sex attraction could be observed to occur, then the occurrence itself constituted, ipso facto, evidence that the behavior was natural and non-pathological. For Ulrichs, the reasoning went like this: "I feel it. Therefore, it is natural and good." Hirschfeld simply culled his data from a larger sample and effectively concluded the same thing: "Many people feel it and do it. Therefore, it is natural, good, and biologically determined."
Obviously, those are paraphrased summations, but Beachy reports the historical details behind all this in his fascinating 2014 chronicle, Gay Berlin: Birthplace of a Modern Identity.
The Subjective, Self-Affirming Science of Sexology
The only science Beachy reports on that might qualify as empirical is a 1912 experiment conducted by Austrian physiologist Eugen Steinach. Called "distortive experimentation," it involved transplanting the gonads of rats and guinea pigs—implanting ovaries into males and testicles into females. When each animal developed behaviors and characteristics associated with the opposite sex, Hirschfeld took it as "solid evidence of the biological basis for sexual behavior." (If TEDx wants an example of misinterpreted science, this would be a good place to start.)
We have no way of knowing if it ever occurred to Hirschfeld that the experiment merely confirmed the biological link between sexuality and the sex organs themselves, which actually are biologically determined. Even Beachy, a friend of the LGBT movement, betrays a hint of skepticism toward all this new science, noting frankly in his introduction "the 'feedback loop' that connected the 'homosexual street' and the medical professionals, a circuit of subjective self-avowal and medical study that fashioned a new sexual identity." One of his primary theses, in fact, is that the modern concept of an inborn condition with a corresponding identity was a German "invention" (his term).
The most disturbing aspect of Berlin sexology brings us tragically back, full circle, to the disaster of pedophilia. "Berlin meant boys," wrote Christopher Isherwood in his memoir. As the new "cultural canon" (also Beachy's term) supplanted the old, boys were sexualized in literature and film, while criticisms of the depictions were met with charges of "moral narrowness." As early as 1886, Berlin was such a common destination for voyeuristic sexual tourism that police commissioner Leopold von Meerscheidt-Hüllessem himself gave tours of the city's nightspots. The police department kept a special Päderastenlist (list of pederasts), and a 1908 newspaper article wrote about a Päderastenclub (club of pederasts). And it's not clear that law enforcement prioritized curbing the practice.
"[The Germans] are not satisfied simply being pederasts, like the rest of the world. They have to invent homosexuality," wrote French journalist Octave Mirbeau. "They study pederasty, just as they study epigraphy." Berlin was "full of buggers from America who bought boys cheap," wrote lesbian author Djuna Barnes. Weimar Berlin, says Beachy, became a city of "ambient prostitution."
Returning to Heine's talk, I suppose one could spin all this into a sunny progressive narrative whereby society no longer harbors pedophilia but rather accepts pedophiles to prevent pedophilia. But there's still a disastrous dilemma here for modern sexual liberals. If sexual orientation is an inborn trait that determines one's identity, pedophiles are "born that way," too. The logic of LGBT demands applies equally well to LGBTP.
Better Alternatives for Men & Boys
With an alternative approach, though, there is a way one can see clear through to a hopeful resolution of these conundrums. It begins by asking a reasonable but unpopular question: What if sexual orientation is not innate or fixed?
In 1980, Dr. Joseph Nicolosi (d. 2017) opened a counseling practice in Encino, California, where he soon found himself specializing in helping men who were troubled by their same-sex attractions. A man of facts, Nicolosi came to see that the whole gay narrative was built on lies—the biggest two being that people are born gay and that they cannot change. Once convinced of this, he maintained against fierce opposition that "gay" was a make-believe, inauthentic identity—"an identity that is a simple answer for a complicated, psychological problem."
At the very time when mainstream psychology was capitulating to a sexology untethered from sound science, Nicolosi took a more compassionate, person-centered approach to sexual identity disharmonies. Trained in psychoanalytic theory, he drew instead upon reparative drive theory, which dates back to the early 1900s and finds its grounding in the classic view that healthy human sexuality harmonizes with the design of the human body.
According to this school of thought, same-sex attraction is taken as a cue that something, usually some kind of trauma, has caused the homosexual person's sexual identity formation to go awry. As a result, he has become defensively detached from other men emotionally and is trying to make up for this loss through sexual contact.
LGBT activists vehemently oppose reparative therapy, portraying it as an attempt to "repair" the homosexual. But this is not what it is, says Nicolosi. It is called reparative therapy because the homosexual behavior is understood as a man's attempt to repair himself—to get that masculine connection he never got in his formative years. In reparative therapy, the therapeutic relationship itself is an effort to establish a healthy, nonsexual attachment with the male therapist. In reparative therapy, the focus is not on sexual behavior, but on thoughts and feelings.
The first step is simply to inquire: What are you looking for? What's motivating you? Nicolosi "provided a clear framework for understanding the gaps in . . . development that contribute to the sexualizing of unmet emotional needs later on in life," said Andrew Comiskey, a former client and subsequent founder of Desert Stream Ministries. "He was a well in the desert, if you will, of [sexually 'enlightened'] Southern California."
The activists say that reparative therapy is harmful, but Nicolosi's research actually showed the opposite. As clients seeking change began to understand where their homosexual feelings came from and to address the underlying trauma, they felt better and reported improved well-being in statistically significant numbers.
Although it's crystal clear, now, that sexual orientation is not innate, there's little chance that LGBTx activists will drop their opposition to reparative therapy. But the rest of us can love them in the face of their opposition by getting educated and spreading the word about its restorative healing potential.Terrell Clemmons
is Deputy Editor of Salvo and writes on apologetics and matters of faith.Get Salvo in your inbox! This article originally appeared in Salvo, Issue #47, Winter 2018 Copyright © 2024 Salvo | www.salvomag.com https://salvomag.com/article/salvo47/the-rise-fall-of-lgbtx-ology