Why Gay Men Are Supposedly Disqualified From Discussing Ex-Gay Therapy

[Disclaimer: This post was written by a gay man.]

Joseph Nicolosi is one of the most prolific purveyors of ex-gay therapy. Not only is he a founding member of the ex-gay “professional” organization NARTH, but most of its other members are disciples of his ex-gay therapy methods, having been trained either directly by him or someone else who follows his methods. In a new blog post at NARTH, Nicolosi attempts to explain why men who openly identify as gay are thereby disqualified from discussing ex-gay therapy:

The adoption of this gay identity necessitates the abandonment of any hope that he could ever modify his unwanted feelings and develop his heterosexual potential. He must surrender his earlier wish that he could have a conventional marriage and family. So in order to internalize this gay identity he must mourn the possibility of ever resolving his unwanted homosexuality; i.e., he must grieve the loss of what he yearned for.

It is this process of grieving his own hopes and mourning his own dreams which prevents the person who later identifies as gay from believing that change is possible for others: “If I myself could not change, how could they?” Perhaps on a deeper level, this thought is also rooted in anger: “If I cannot have what I wanted for my own life, neither should they.”[…]

And it is that grieving process, that painful letting-go of one’s dreams, that has biased the gay person’s evaluation of the ex-gay experience.

Why should a gay man grieve for “his heterosexual potential”? Unsurprisingly, Nicolosi’s inherent assumption is that heterosexuality is superior — the ideal. He even attempts to distinguish between the “gay-identified homosexual persons” and “non-gay homosexual persons,” as if it’s the acknowledgment of one’s sexual orientation that matters more than the orientation itself. But of course, Nicolosi doesn’t actually believe anybody is homosexual; he says that “all people are heterosexual but that some have a homosexual problem.”


Nicolosi’s therapy methods are just as odd as his understandings of sexual orientation. He believes that gay men would look at less porn if they just had more male friends, but he also uses porn to help his patients “imagine” having different attractions. He thinks of gay men as actors who were cast in the wrong role who simply need to stop acting out some kind of “past trauma.” He has similarly said that he has “never met a homosexual who had a loving, respectful relationship with his father.” Using the claim that repressing homosexuality will improve family relationships (by catering to parents’ homophobia), Nicolosi preys upon a teenage clientele — teenagers make up 50 percent of his patients.

By Nicolosi’s own standards, he has no place to discuss either gay or ex-gay issues. Presumably straight (if not ex-gay himself), Nicolosi has explicitly stated his biases against homosexuality, and his professional reputation — and finances — are inextricably tied to his ability to justify the validity of ex-gay therapy. He has shown no regard for the many survivors of ex-gay therapy, including his own former patients, who have documented the shame-based therapy and explained how it harmed their lives. Indeed, he doesn’t believe there can be such a thing has a happy homosexual, and thus it’s unsurprising — and painfully ironic — that he distrusts anything “gay-identified” men might have to say about the nature of their identities.