Hope for Homosexuals
Interview by Melvin Rhodes
The Good News: What is homosexuality and how do you define it?
Joseph Nicolosi: Homosexuality is a developmental disorder. It has nothing to
do with sex. It's really the person's search for belonging, what we call the
three "As" attention, affection and approval. These are the normal, emotional
affectional needs, which have been sexualized.
GN: In your book Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality, you use the
expression "non-gay homosexual." What exactly is meant by that?
JN: Well, we make a distinction between homosexual and
gay. Unfortunately, too many people think they're synonymous and that's
due to the success of the gay activists who have sold people on the idea that to
be homosexual means they're automatically gay.
But there is a population we're concerned with, in particular, whom we call
the non-gay homosexual, which is to say they have same-sex attractions, they
have same-sex feelings, and they even engage in same-sex behavior, but they do
not identify with the gay sociopolitical identity. They see themselves as having
heterosexual values and want to live a heterosexual life.
GN: Is it possible to change from homosexual to heterosexual?
JN: Yes. There are many studies that show many men and women do come out of
homosexuality. We see more and more of the evidence, more and more of those
studies; and if the person is highly motivated there is a very good chance that
he or she can come out of homosexuality.
GN: How do you help someone who wants to change?
JN: They have to begin to understand the origins of their homosexuality. It's
not about sex. These are emotional needs, and in therapy you direct the
client to address these emotional needs. These needs usually go back to the
father - not having enough of the father's love, enough of the father's
affirmation, and they begin to get these needs met in more authentic ways, ways
that really transform a person rather than the sexual, which is a kind of
repetitive and nonproductive attempt at meeting those emotional needs.
GN: How long does the treatment take and does it last'?
JN: Usually the therapy is about two years. We're talking about once a week.
And long-term studies show it does last. In fact, these people, once they have
learned certain skills and insights, actually continue to get better long after
they terminate therapy.
GN: What other sources and support are available?
JN: We at NARTH [National Association for Research and Therapy of
Homosexuality] have a national referral list of therapists around the country
who see homosexuality as a developmental disorder and as a treatable condition.
Someone can call our main office to see if there is a therapist available for
them. Besides the professional assistance, we have ministries for ex-gays like
and a few other ministries around the country.
GN: What are the basic causes of homosexuality?
JN: The basic cause of male homosexuality is an emotional detachment from the
father or the father figure and that becomes the foundation of insecurity about
the person's own masculinity and his desire to make that male connection, that
male bonding. When that is frustrated, the male homosexual finds that he can do
it through sex, but, of course, sex does not give the quality of attachment that
GN: Are there any other contributing factors?
JN: One of the things that we are seeing that contributes is sexual child
abuse. About one third of the men in therapy with me report having been sexually
molested as little boys by older males which would include an adolescent male -
and that is much higher than the average population. Many studies show sexual molestation
between a boy and an older man as being the history of gay men.
GN: Do genetics play a role?
JN: There's been a lot of talk in the media about genetics or the biological
origins, but none of those studies have really proved anything conclusive. There
seems to be, what we concede to be, what we call a temperamental
disposition. This is to say that the boy has a temperamental, sensitive,
introverted and artistic side, but we need a family environment to really take
that temperamentally vulnerable boy and push him in the direction of
GN: In your book you use the term "gender identification."
Please explain what this is and why it's important.
JN: Gender identification is for a boy to really gender identify with
masculinity and for a girl to really develop her gender identity, which is to
say her femininity.
These are fundamental traits of human nature. There is so much talk today
about how a person can develop without the definitions or without the parameters
of gender, but that is not true. We all need gender as a fundamental support to
our personal identity. That is the foundation of the homosexual problem and in
the course of treatment that is exactly what we focus in on as being the target
GN: How do parents sometimes thwart this natural process?
JN: Boys need to be supported and affirmed in a masculine identity, even
though the boy or girl is biologically "hard-wired," to use a term, to be male
or female, they still need the active support and encouragement of the
Boys need masculinity to be affirmed by the family, by the mother and father,
and likewise for the girl in terms of her femininity, especially by the same-sex
parent — that is to say, the father for the boy and mother for the girl.
GN: In your book you state that an absent father is not the primary cause of
homosexuality. Rather, it is the boy's defensive detachment against male
rejection. What is defensive detachment?
JN: Defensive detachment is really the psychological armor, barrier or
defense of the personality which keeps homosexuality alive. You might see
defensive detachment as a sort of cell that protects the person and also
protects the homosexuality inside. It's an anticipation of being hurt and
rejected by other men. And this comes from the earlier rejection by the
The predicament of the male homosexual is that he is sexually attracted to
men but, because of his defensive detachment, keeps an emotional distance from
them. It prevents him from getting what he really wants, which is to have those
emotional needs met. So the focus of therapy is to get him to drop that
defensive detachment so he can allow himself to experience the healing benefits
of non-sexual, intimate male relationships.
GN: Is it desirable for fathers to be warm and affectionate with their
JN: It is more than desirous. It is essential. Fathers have to be warm and
physically demonstrative. We encourage fathers to hug and to kiss and to wrestle
and to have physical contact with their boys because when we listen to these
homosexual men they are so starved for male contact. All of them report almost
without exception, "My father never touched me." "My father never hugged me."
"My father never kissed me."
GN: Does divorce play a role in causing homosexuality?
JN: In a general sense yes, but in a specific way no, if the father continues
to keep a relationship with the son. We say in a general way yes, because the
family structure is designed to really enhance all the members of the family,
especially the children.
Someone once said what makes a young man spend time with a little boy is when
the woman he loves has that little boy. In other words, it's really his
relationship with the mother that connects him with the son. Most fathers who
are young men in their mid-to-late 20s aren't really going to spend time with a
little boy unless there is a relational context, meaning the woman in the center
keeps the relationship there.
GN: What percentage of Americans are homosexual?
JN: To be clearly homosexual, we believe it's 1.5 to 2 percent—at most 2
percent. We've been hearing 10 percent for the last 50 years, but that was due
to the Kinsey study --and it turned out that Kinsey himself was a homosexual.
Actually, Alfred Kinsey was a sadomasochist who derived sexual pleasure from
receiving pain, which is another story in itself. This is the man that
influenced generations through his Kinsey Institute and his biography just came
out revealing all this stuff.
Anyway, it's really not 10 percent—it's 2 percent. But even though we say
that about 2 percent are exclusively homosexual, we are assuming more homosexual
experimentation is acted out, especially with young and adolescent people.
GN: Are there comparatively more homosexuals today than, say, 100 years
JN: Again, we make the distinction between homosexual behavior and true
homosexual orientation. I think homosexual orientation is still the same but I
think there is more homosexual behavior. Also, we are seeing more homosexuals
take a more overt role in the culture. We are seeing them more readily on
television and in movies.
GN: What research led to the legalization of the gay lifestyle and homosexual
JN: You mean the 1973 decision by the American Psychiatric Association? That
was not scientific; that was purely a political decision. It happened in one
day. It was motivated out of compassion. The idea was that by normalizing
homosexuality, these people would not have to suffer social ostracism and social
criticism. While that was a good intention, you don't compromise science for a
sociopolitical end, which is what happened.
GN: Is lesbianism caused by the same factors?
JN: Basically, yes. There are some complicated factors but, basically,
lesbianism, just like male homosexuality, is really rooted in an emotional
breach between the daughter and the mother.
GN: What can a Christian male heterosexual do to help a Christian struggling
JN: I think we as Christian men need to realize that these are not simply
degenerate, perverted people, but they are basically individuals who are seeking basic,
authentic emotional needs that were
frustrated in childhood and have developed into a sexualized pattern.
We need not to condone homosexual behavior but to be supportive of those
Christians struggling with homosexuality and try to give them the understanding
and support and the emotional connection that we can offer them, which will help
them in the healing process.
GN: How can ministers help?
JN: By first of all being educated as to what homosexuality is, knowing that
there is a population of non-gay homosexuals that we really need to reach out
to. The pastor needs to have resources - therapists he can refer to whom he
trusts, ministries for ex-gays that can be supportive, books and materials that
he can recommend. That's an obligation the pastor has, I think.
GN: In the last few years. AIDS has become primarily a heterosexual problem
internationally. In the United Suites it still affects gays disproportionately.
Why is that?
JN: AIDS affects gays disproportionately because of the behavior that they
engage in, behaviors that will spread AIDS. Anal intercourse is the way of
spreading AIDS. And there is a great deal of sexual promiscuity and a lot of reckless
self-deceiving, self-destructive impulses
in gay men and they arc killing each other.
Paradoxically, all this talk about homophobia and hatred toward gays when you
think about it, who is really killing gays? Other gays! A very sad irony is that
they are killing each other through a behavior that should be associated with
love. Paradoxical, isn't it?
GN: How important are religious beliefs and church affiliation in overcoming
JN: I think it is very important. The majority of people who come to us are
Christian. The church means something important to them. God is a living,
powerful force in their lives. I think that their Christian foundation is a
sound support as a motivator - not only in terms of right and wrong, but it
actually gives them strength in the process of overcoming homosexuality.
A very interesting thing I have observed over the years is that many of the
men, almost without exception I would say, become more religious in the course
of therapy. Even if they began not particularly religious, at the end of two
years, with all the soul searching and really digging deeply into deep issues,
they become more religious.
GN:What can wives do to help?
JN: I think wives, number one, have to understand what is going on, what the
husband is really looking for, and have to be supportive of the husband's
She needs to understand that he needs close male friendships and she might
feel threatened by that. Especially if the husband has betrayed her trust in the
past, it will be difficult for her to really trust it will be a friendship and
nothing more. She has to be educated, she has to be informed, and she has to be
supportive of his healing process.
GN: Does pornography play a role in leading people toward
JN: I really think it does. I think that pornography on the Internet is
exacerbating the problem. It is not only increasing homosexuality, but it is
entrenching those who are already dabbling with homosexuality.
In other words, the greater exposure to pornography is making the healing
process more difficult. We see this — men who are still looking at the porn are
going to move slower in therapy than those who do not have it in their
GN:You said they need close male relationships. How can men
struggling with homosexual feelings have a close male relationship without those
feelings becoming sexual?
JN: Well, he's going to have those feelings. No doubt about it. And he
shouldn't be afraid of those feelings but he has to learn how to translate those
feelings into authentic friendship.
One of the questions I often ask a man just beginning therapy, I will say to
him, "Have you had the experience of being sexually attracted to a guy but when
you got to know him as a person and a friend, the sexual attraction
disappeared?" And they almost always say, "Yes." And I ask, "Why do you think
that was so?"
They have no answer for it. Because they have translated the mystique and
there is no more sexual energy there. It is now a friendship and when you
develop that kind of brotherly feeling, the idea of having sex is absurd. That's
exactly the process they have to go through time and time again until all men
seem like just other guys and there is nothing sexual about them.
Dr. Joseph Nicolosi
is a clinical psychologist. He is the president of
NARTH, the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, a
1,000-member organization. Dr. Nicolosi has successfully treated thousands of
patients to help men transition from homosexuality to heterosexuality. He is
author of several books, including Parent's Guide to Preventing Homosexuality
and Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality.
He has spoken at
hundreds of conferences worldwide and has appeared on hundreds of radio and
television programs around the world as the preeminent authority on reparative
therapy. He also heads the Thomas Aquinas Psychological Clinic in Encino,