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The church has fashions of non-sexual same-sex love. Why don’t extra homosexual Catholics learn about them?

In a recent episode of the Jesuitical Podcast, Eve Tushnet spoke to presenters Ashley McKinless and Zac Davis about conversion therapy and the harmful effects this practice can have on the mental and spiritual well-being of gay and lesbian Catholics. Ms. Tushnet spoke to nine people who had undergone this type of therapy for a contribution to the June issue of America, and in this conversation she shares her stories and suggests how the Church could better guide and guide gay Catholics.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Ashley McKinless: First of all, can you just define what conversion therapy is?

Eve Tushnet: It is every form of therapy that sees a change in orientation as the goal. The aim of therapy is to turn you straight.

Zac Davis: What are some of the philosophical foundations behind it?

One of the things that became clear to me when I started speaking to people who had this experience of formal therapy to change their orientation was how much of it was consistent with things that I and other gay Catholics were doing had never heard of any therapy or counseling of any kind. The underlying assumptions are fairly widespread in Catholic circles. And they include things like the idea that people become gay because of negative experiences, especially in childhood. So when you haven’t gotten along with other boys or girls who may have estranged you and later become gay or have a bad relationship with your parents of the same sex. There are a number of different theories that people put forward.

I think this origin story idea is one of the greatest because it gives an explanation of how therapy might help, how fixation might work.

People who had this experience of formal therapy to change their orientation were how much of it resonated with things I and other gay Catholics who had never tried any therapy had heard.

But there is a deeper assumption that the experience of being gay is purely negative, and that the experience cannot teach you anything about itself. There is no gift it can offer you or the Church. If you go into therapy and it works for you, you will break up into the heterosexual majority. And any gay feelings or experiences you had before can somehow be brushed aside and leave no trace of what it means to you to be Catholic or to have your experience of God.

And I think everyone I spoke to for this article ultimately went through a process – regardless of where they ended up, whether they stayed Catholic, whether they were still practicing Church teachings on sexual ethics, or whether they were in another Church was a different way of living – I think they all worked through that underlying belief and came to the conclusion, “No, there is something valuable here. In the experience of being gay, I am actually told something to be thankful for. And I don’t have to see that just as something to reject or flee. “

AM: When a gay Catholic is undergoing conversion therapy, what are they being told about themselves and what dangerous effects can this have on their self-esteem?

One of the things some of my interviewees said was that part of the power of the conversion therapy narrative is that it is often based on real world experiences that many people have had. [But] not everyone. I wouldn’t say that I felt particularly conflicted with other girls. I have a good relationship with my parents, but many people of all sexual orientations have difficult relationships with their parents or same-sex peers.

Part of the power of conversion therapy narrative is that it is often based on real-world experiences that many people have had.

People are told some things that can often resonate because they are based on shared experiences, and one respondent even suggested that it can be argued that for some people the timeline is backwards. You began to realize that you are different from other boys or that you are different from the model your parents want you to be, and that is the cause of the conflict. But the conversion therapy model explains that the conflict is what causes the homosexuality. And so people hear that and they say, well, I have both. This reinforces an idea of ​​themselves that is essentially absent, and the conflicts they have are unique to them because they are part of this stigmatized group that they often pressured by their therapist to keep them secret. It becomes the focus of a deep sense of inadequacy.

ZD: What happens then? You have done all of these things and are still “broken”. Where is a person?

Several people basically said the same thing, namely, “I’ve tried all of these things. I went to therapy. I was with someone of the opposite sex. I had a religious calling. I’ve tried building stronger bonds with people of the same sex, maybe that would help. And none of that made me different in my sexual orientation. I’ve tried everything.”

And at this point people either become completely desperate and think about suicide a lot, or they give up the other way. They say whatever is right for me, it won’t be what these people tell me.

All of the people I interviewed had to build their spiritual lives from scratch, including those who were still practicing Catholics.

All of the people I interviewed had to build their spiritual lives from scratch, including those who were still practicing Catholics. Because what they had been told, what the Catholic faith demanded of them, had completely failed. And at that point either, well, I am unable to be obedient. And that’s why I’m just cut off from God with no hope of returning.

Someone commented on your article, “You can’t call someone intrinsically dysfunctional and then expect nothing bad to happen.” Then she said she was lucky [since] it came out relatively undamaged. Do you think the way the church speaks about homosexuality needs to change radically, both from official judicial sources and on a more mundane level?

I would say there are really two things that would be particularly helpful. One is the language of “disorder”. Catholic intellectuals will say, “Oh, this has a long and varied history, this word is actually about the laws of nature and about getting your desires right.” But when people hear it, especially homosexuality, the modern one In the past so often treated as a psychiatric disorder, they hear psychiatric terms. We use the word disorder now mainly to talk about things like substance abuse or post-traumatic stress disorder, things that can be treated psychologically. And because that’s how Americans and many Westerners have long handled homosexuality, it is of course interpreted in that context. And of course, people hear it as, this is a disorder that needs to be corrected.

The second thing that I think would do very well is to save models of same-sex love, to say that same-sex love is good. And the church has ways to guide you in it.

The second thing that I think would do very well is to save models of same-sex love, to say that same-sex love is good. And the church has ways to guide you in it. Not only will the Church say, “Have you tried to love someone of the opposite sex?” But we will say that we actually have guidance and some wisdom to share with you when it comes to meeting someone of the same sex To love sex.

I think of biblical examples like David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naomi, Jesus and all the disciples, but especially his intimacy with John, the beloved disciple. These are images that are deeply woven into the history of salvation. They are incredibly rich in theological resonance and they are the love between two adults of the same sex. You are not marital; they are not sexual. You are something else. There is something beautiful and sacred that is open to everyone. It was kind of enlightening when I said wait, all that stuff is actually already there.

What do you say to people who would be happy if the language changed, but who feel deeply called to a relationship that includes sex with someone of the same sex?

I do not claim to have any arguments as to why Church teaching is what it is. Why is this stuff in scriptures the way it is? I think at the end of the day, at least for me, it’s a vote of confidence for so many gays. Christians here have profoundly damaged the trustworthiness of the church’s witness. And so I’m not going to blame anyone who says, “Well, I don’t trust the church the way you do on this matter, sorry.”

Christians here have profoundly damaged the trustworthiness of the church’s witness. And so I’m not going to blame anyone who says, “Well, I don’t trust the church the way you do on this matter, sorry.”

I was wondering if you have any constructive advice for someone who is gay and struggling with a lot of these things, or if there is someone who is a friend and notices that their friend is really having trouble putting all these pieces of the puzzle together.

Some of the greatest things were just finding other people who had some of the same experiences or who were just gay and Christian I think, especially for the people I spoke to who were still trying to live the Catholic sexual ethic or [were] open to it. Crucial to them was that they could find people who were not ashamed of being gay, who were practicing Catholics themselves.

I didn’t know anyone who was gay and catholic and would actually try to do this stuff the way you are told. And I’ve made a lot of mistakes because of it and done a lot of things that I regret. And I think that for many of my interviewees it is so important to find community.

There will be a point in your life where you will be grateful to be gay and you might wonder, what would that mean? What would that look like? What are the things in this experience that I can be thankful for? Regardless of what happens to me, whether I find the things I think I’m looking for, whether my beliefs change, what things can I look back on and say, “Okay, there’s something good here; this is something I can just be thankful for ”?

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