fidesquaerens (marta_bee) wrote,

the California ban of therapies to "cure" homosexuality

ETA: I have officially been convinced I was wrong. Hey, it happens!;-) Feel free to keep commenting, but do check out my recent blog post following up on this.

Apparently, California has passed a law outlawing certain kinds of psychotherapies, specifically those that attempt to "cure" homosexuality.

This reminded me of a story I came across in I believe the New Yorker (I may be misremembering the source). It was about MSM's who didn't want to identify as gay for whatever reason. for some people, they had families including wives and didn't want to risk losing them. Other times, they liked being part of a religion that didn't approve of homosexuality, and I remember a few stories where they simply lived in more conservative areas of the country, small towns or whatever, and they thought they would become outcasts in their communities if they came out. These were men who were sexually attracted to other men, sometimes exclusively (homosexual rather than bisexual) - but other parts of their identities were more important to them than their sexuality.

The piece talked about various therapies for people in this situation, along with the ethics of treating patients. Options ranged from talk therapy to help these MSM's deal with the stress of staying in the closet, to drug therapy and/or behavior modification to reduce sex drive, to conditioning therapy to help these men develop attraction to women. I can't recall if the article said you could actually change your sexual attraction, but I think some psychologists did claim you could develop certain parts of your sexuality. (So if you were attracted to both men and women but were more attracted to men, and wanted to live as a sexually active heterosexual, you could do certain things that increased your latent attraction to women.)

The thing I remember most were some of the stories from the men in therapy. One man in particular, a middle-aged man from Staten Island, said his family and friends would view him as an outsider if they knew he had sex with men. Maintaining those relationships was more important than his romantic life, but he also didn't want it to be "just sex" and he didn't feel it was fair to another man to have a deeper romantic relationship he wasn't prepared to acknowledge. So he wanted a therapist who would help him set up his life that way. He said he thought it was cocky of people who didn't know him, to say he had to order his life the same way others did, making a romantic relationship at the center of it - who were they to tell him that the fact he had sex with men had to be the defining characteristic? I felt for the man, because that's not a decision I think anyone should have to make. But it struck me that there was a quiet sort of dignity in his decision. Kind of like the perpetually single (myself included) who don't define ourselves in terms of who we're in a relationship with - that's simply not the central element of our lives.

So there's a part of me that wants to celebrate this decision on California's part. I honestly do not believe homosexuality is a disease that can be cured. In a perfect world, people shouldn't feel like they have to prioritize between different parts of who they are, hide parts in order to have other parts accepted. But I also can't get that man from Staten Island out of my head. If a person decides with his or her therapist that this is the best course of therapy to achieve the goals he or she wants, do I really want the law taking that decision out of their hands? Even making them wait until the patient turns eighteen? That strikes me as... intrusive. Maybe if the law said the child had to request the therapy or something like that, I'd be more comfortable with it. But, while I'm not a libertarian, I do have a certain sympathy for the idea that government should stay out of personal decisions as much as possible. The reason I'm not a libertarian (one of them) is I think economic inequality is often a bigger barrier to liberty than a restrained government would be in a lot of cases. That doesn't mean I don't have respect for personal choices. And this law seems to get in the way more than it helps.

Thoughts? What do you think of this law? Am I over-reacting here?
Tags: libertarianism, political, sexuality
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