Gaydar*
Archive
2005
 

Psychotherapist Joe Kort, MA, MSW, has been in practice since 1985. He specializes in Gay Affirmative Psychotherapy as well as IMAGO Relationship Therapy, which is a specific program involving communication exercises designed for couples to enhance their relationship and for singles to learn relationship skills. He also specializes in sexual addiction, childhood sexual, physical and emotional abuse, depression and anxiety. He offers workshops for couples and singles. He runs a gay men's group therapy and a men's sexuality group therapy for straight, bi and gay men who are struggling with specific sexual issues. His therapy services are for gays and lesbians as well as heterosexuals. His articles and columns have appeared in The Detroit Free Press, Between the Lines Newspaper for Gays and Lesbians, The Detroit News, The Oakland Press, The Royal Oak Mirror, and other publications. Besides providing therapy for individuals and couples, he conducts a number of groups and workshops for gay men. Now an adjunct professor teaching Gay and Lesbian Studies at Wayne State University's School of Social Work, he is doing more writing and workshops on a national level. He is the author of 10 Smart Things Gay Men can do to Improve Their Lives. www.joekort.com or joekort@joekort.com

* Gaydar (gay'.dahr, n.): (1) The ability that lets gays and lesbians identify one other. (2) This column--where non-gay readers can improve their gaydar, learning more about gay men's psychology and social lives. Also, (3) a regular feature where gay readers can discover the many questions and hassles their straight counterparts--and themselves--must face!

Homo for the Holidays!


We gays and lesbians are still recovering from the trauma of the recent political elections; the passing of the bans against marriage for gays and lesbians. With the holidays approaching, my clients talk about how they dread the further trauma of going home to their families and not being able to—or feeling able to—be out and open with them about being gay. They call it depression, but I say trauma because it better expresses something emotionally charged and distressing that happens, leaving you nowhere to release and express the emotions.

Over the past weeks, I’ve listened to clients shout and weep, expressing their hurt, pain and fear at knowing they live in a state that passed a law against them. Among those they pass on the street, they wonder who might have voted to ban marriage for gays. They wonder—as I do—who betrayed us?

They really want to express their dismay at work, in their families, to their neighbors, but many don’t dare out of fear of rejection, alienation and abandonment. They do not want to experience the betrayal all over again.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (or PTSD), first identified in soldiers returning home from wars, is a psychological disorder that follows having endured life-threatening events. Later, psychologists noted that those who experienced other traumas such as natural disasters, terrorist incidents, serious accidents, rape and childhood sexual and physical abuse also displayed PTSD. Symptoms include difficulty sleeping and concentrating,, becoming easily startled and agitated, irritability, outbursts of anger, depression, intense anxiety, substance abuse, nightmares and flashbacks, and feelings of helplessness. We lesbians and gays are vulnerable to PTSD, because we often lack social and family support, get blamed for others’ homophobic and heterosexist remarks, and must live with the threats and dangers, perceived and real, of being discriminated against. And I would say the recent election was a natural disaster, in my humble opinion!

In my office, I see more lesbian and gay couples and individuals struggling on a daily basis with the media’s political views about us. Even if they aren’t planning to marry or currently in a relationship, this issue feels personal—as well it should!

For me, the days following the election results felt similar to how I felt after 9/11. and the passing of my mother-in-law, with whom I was very close]. Events seemed to be happening in slow motion. There was a silence all around me, and I felt numb. For years I have spoken about the covert trauma we feel each time some anti-gay rant appears in print or on the airwaves. The recent election made that trauma go overt.

It’s high time to start identifying the posttraumatic stress and depression we experience from having basic rights and privileges wrested away from us. It is time to claim back our rights, regardless of the passage of ignorant laws or what others do (and don’t) want for us. No longer should we wait for others to give us permission to heal ourselves.

This holiday, download your emotions. Don’t remain silent about being and living gay and lesbian. Even doing one thing differently with one institution, one group, one person can relieve your depressive PTSD symptoms and help you feel more empowered. Taking action is our one antidote to keep us from internalizing the hate and oppression coming our way, and treating ourselves and others badly as a result.

Avoidance, as in hiding, avoiding, fleeing, freezing, submitting—or conversely, fighting, shouting or being irrational—will only keep you traumatized. Herewith, some tips to keep yourself from being depressed during the holiday season, when many feel guilty for not feeling joyous.

How to be Homo For the Holidays

1. If you are not completely out, tell at least one family member, colleague, or friend that you are gay.

2. Take your partner home with you for the holidays, don’t go separately to your own families.

3. Refuse to keep silent about how you feel about this past election. Talk about GLBT issues with one group of people, be they friends, family, colleagues, or fellow students. You don’t have to get personal in terms of telling them you’re gay yourself; you can just express your feelings on the issue. Whether or not you’ve come out, that’s a step in the right direction.

4. If your religious institution supported the ban, write or talk to someone in that organization about how that impacted you.

5. Volunteer for a GLBT organization or donate to help them fight for our political and social rights.

6. Seek professional mental health help from a GLBT-affirmative therapist.

7. Write an editorial to your local newspaper.

8. Locate—and work for—GLBT friendly candidates

9. Write to the American Family Association, Women For America or another anti-gay organization and tell them you will not be oppressed by their hateful views.

10. Buy books on marriage and other rights for GLBT’s and be informed!

Whatever Form It Takes, Intolerance Hurts


Anti-Semitism. Being Jewish, I knew of the concept growing up but never actually suffered from direct acts of it. I knew epithets like "Jew boy, "kike," and "Jew them down" existed but never had any of these words or phrases directed to me personally.

I was raised in a Detroit Suburb of Michigan in the 1970s when it was predominately Jewish. My mother wanted us to be raised in a nice Jewish neighborhood and to be surrounded by "sameness."

I worked at a grocery store, and every holiday season both Christmas and Chanukah decorations were displayed. It seemed equitable. I believed at the time that the whole world was like that.

Equal opportunity. We had a token "non-Jewish friend in my social circle, a guy who found it endearing to be part of the group. I had plenty of opportunities to see other Jewish role models. Even as Oak Park began to become integrated, I still had a lot of contact with many other Jewish people.

I was first faced with being a minority in college, where I was the only Jew in a new social group. There were no menorahs displayed during the Christmas/Chanukah season, only Christmas trees. Even so, people were sensitive to the fact that I was a minority and endearingly referred to me as the "token Jew."

My friends and acquaintances were careful about what they said about Jews and asked me a lot of questions.

For the first time, I felt different. I knew the difference between being in the minority and being in the majority. But I also knew it on a deeper, more secretive level.

When growing up, I heard names like "faggot," "sissy," "pansy," "queer," "momma's boy," and "homo." Not only did I hear these terms in reference to others, I was called these things throughout my life. I have not received the same respect for my minority status as a gay male as I have for being a Jewish male.

Although I knew the term for fear and hatred of Jews anti-Semitism, I did not know there was a parallel term for gays and lesbians: homophobia.

Homophobia is the fear, disgust and hatred of sexual love for members of one's own sex. It is a prejudice based on a personal belief that lesbians and gays are immoral, sick, sinful or inferior to heterosexuals.

Although I know some non Jewish people in society feel this way about Jews, I have never encountered this fear, disgust and hate as a Jew to the extent I have as a gay person.

I did not follow the typical male patterns of most boys growing up. I could not throw a ball, I liked to play house and I disliked all sports. I was told by the other boys my age (as well as adults) that I "acted like a girl" and must be gay. It just so happened that I was gay and was mortified that I had been exposed.

At least as a Jew I could have turned to my family, friends or school if I had experienced an anti-Semitic attack. But as a little gay boy, I had nowhere to turn. I was bullied, spit at, punched, called names, humiliated and threatened. The schools did nothing to protect me.

My sixth-grade gym teacher told my classmates that my best friend and I must be "fags" because we spent so much time together.

I have an uncle who teased and taunted me, calling me a "little sissy girl." He told me I would never grow up to be a man.

He was right in that I was a "Sissy" by definition. But why was that so unacceptable? My sister was a tomboy and no one made fun of her.

After hearing all these derogatory remarks about homosexuals, is it any wonder that no one wants to be associated with or be seen as a gay or lesbian? There is more support to hate gays and lesbians than there is to love, accept or tolerate us.

Unfortunately, an extreme form of hate also exists, and that is death. Acts of violence toward homosexuals are tolerated and overlooked in this society. Heterosexuals are affected by this too, sometimes just as severely.

Little boys like me who do not follow the typical male patterns are labeled gay, when in fact, they might not be. They get harassed often just as I was. Men are touch deprived by other men for fear of being seen as gay.

The murder of Scott Amedure by Jonathon Schmitz after the two appeared on a taping of the "Jenny Jones" show is a perfect example of how homophobia hurts and sometimes kills us all. Mr. Schmitz admitted to killing Mr. Amedure because he was concerned what family members and others would think as a result of his television appearance, that he was gay.

Mr. Schmitz reported feeling humiliated by having a member of his own gender reveal romantic interest in him. Why is that humiliating? Because we live in a society that perpetuates that idea.

And now the lives of those two men are ruined because of it. One is dead; the other, jailed for life. Both suffered.

As an adult male, I still do not enjoy sports of any kind. I affectionately touch other men and I still lovingly kiss my father on the lips when we greet each other. And I am gay.

I am every bit a man. I think however, that what people did to me was tragic. As a gay little boy and young man, I was not protected and felt very much alone.

While there are anti-Semitic and homophobic people in this world who might see me as twice cursed, I see myself as twice blessed.

I am proud to be a gay Jewish man.

I was just married


I was just married. Some people would not validate that fact because as a man I married another man. If you asked most people if their wedding was political they would look at you as if you were crazy. It is a celebration, a spiritual and social event" they say. Politics is the furthest thing from their minds. While Royal Oak debates whether or not we as Gays and Lesbians qualify for civil rights and others fight against legalizing our marriages, most of us are simply going on with our lives. So having a wedding becomes political simply because it is not legal in Michigan. My partner and I decided we want to deepen our commitment and publicly share our love for one another, as any other couple in love wants to do. We had been together six and one-half years and decided to ask for support from our families and friends to honor our deepening partnership. So we decided to have a formal religious wedding.

As two men we ran into some difficulties as well as benefits that were sometimes humorous and sometimes serious. First, what were we going to call it? Some Gays and Lesbians call it a commitment ceremony, others call it a union. Vermont only went as far as to grant civil unions and is the only state to recognize the legality of our partnerships, but only within that state. For us, the words wedding and marriage fit the most since that is what it was. We are a couple of traditional guys, although some would challenge that just because our romantic love interest is in another male. Nothing traditional about that some would say. I beg to differ. Other difficulties developed as both of us being male, we knew nothing about planning a wedding. Women tend to be the force behind weddings and talk to their girlfriends, sisters and mothers and they support each other in the planning. Magazines are focused on the bride, language revolves around the bride as do Bridal showers, bridal dances, and bridal party. So we recovered from that by hiring a party planner. He took care of all the details. Next we had to decide where to have it. Thankfully Reform Judaism recognizes Gay marriage and I am a Reform Jew. Our wonderful rabbi agreed to perform the ceremony.

We considered ourselves engaged and decided to publicly declare it in print as other couples do. So we sent in our picture and announcement to a publication only to have it all returned with the reply, we are not ready for this right now. This hurt us greatly but Mike and I had a wedding to plan, this didn't stop us.

The next step would be selecting Gay friendly and supportive photographers, videographers, florists, bands, etc. That is where the benefit of our party planner would come in. He would face the homophobia in the search. And sure enough he did. I told the planner to assure them that this was a traditional, conservative wedding and nothing unusual would occur. Many people equate Gay with sex and so their minds focus on that aspect only. He said he had the most problems with the bands and that their concerns were about seeing the emotion between two men. We realized this is not a Gay issue so much as a society we live in that does not honor or support affection between men in general. Even with limited choices we found an excellent band.

The next obstacle to overcome was the throwing of the bouquet and garter belt since there would not be any to throw. We decided to throw Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street since they were outed as a gay couple years ago by some organizations, (they take baths together and sleep in same room together, this is modeling homosexuality). We honor Bert and Ernie as a fine Gay couple.

Registering for our gifts and marriage contracts and various things required a few changes to people's forms. We laughed at how when it asked for names of bride and groom, whomever filled it out made the other partner the bride. Hopefully someday there will be choice for groom and groom. Although we had some fun with this it also was sad that there is not a place for us in language with regards to weddings.

Next was the bachelor party. One luxury of being two men is that we could be at each other's parties enjoying each other and our friends. One straight male friend of ours found that after being banned by his wife from bachelor parties in the past due to getting into trouble, that his wife had no problem for him coming to a Gay male bachelor party.

Everything else went smoothly and as planned. Our family and friends were all there and we felt loved and held. We want to be out and open about our love and commitment. We wanted a place at the table and took it ourselves. We will not wait for others to decide what they think we should be. Mike and I will continue to be activists for the right to marry and for civil rights for Gays and Lesbians. Why should we not have the same privilege others enjoy? When people see and witness our romantic love and commitment and stop focusing solely on our sexual behavior, I think then changes will be made.

Joe Kort is a psychotherapist in Royal Oak in private practice. He is also Adjunct Professor at Wayne State University for Gay and Lesbian studies.

Couples Weekend Workshop overview


Have you just begun a relationship that you want to keep?

  • Want to resolve longstanding conflicts with your partner?
  • Want to decide if your relationship can be saved?
  • Want to make a good relationship even better?

This weekend couples’ workshop is based on Imago Relationship Therapy, as developed by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D. and explained his book, Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples.

Imago is the Latin word for image. Dr. Hendrix developed the premise that your personal imago is a composite of those people who influenced you most strongly at an early age. You find yourself attracted to people with much the same traits as your original caretakers. Unconsciously, then, you’ll bring unresolved childhood conflicts into your romantic relationship—giving your partner the burden of meeting those needs.

Both members of a couple tend to do this, of course. And without understanding why their conflicts arise, many people simply walk away from their relationship. But for most couples, even a conflicted partnership has vast potential for mutual healing.

These three days will help you learn:

  • Communication skills to improve dialogue with your partner and find solutions to conflicts
  • Greater compassion and understanding—of both yourself and your partner.
  • Why the unconscious forces that attract you to each other are also sources of friction.
  • How to get “unstuck” from the power struggle you are in with your partner
  • Ways to re-establish the excitement and intimacy of your very first months or years together.
  • How to achieve growth and lasting fulfillment—for both of you.

Imago Relationship Therapy provides a safe framework for couples to work through their conflict and frustrations. Through a series of communication exercises, partners reach a deeper understanding of what they’re really disagreeing about—and begin to move toward seeing each other as a friend and an ally. For couples who want to enhance an already good relationship, the weekend offers new techniques to deepen to the quality of their life together.

Through guided imagery and written exercises, you and your partner can fully share with each other—perhaps for the very first time.

You’ll have new opportunities for bonding and creating a positive, loving foundation. You’ll witness other couples working on their relationships, hear them share their insights, and see how they resolve conflicts.

This isn’t group therapy or marital counseling. You’re invited to participate in a supportive atmosphere, but never pressured into disclosing personal information.

Often couples come through the workshop and I never know what their personal relationship issues are nor do the other participants.

Emotional safety, comfort, and confidentiality is maintained throughout the weekend. We respect everyone’s privacy.

These workshops are worth at least three to six months of couples’ therapy. Participants vastly reduce the time it takes to learn various communication processes, so that they can get right down to work.

Information on Gay & Lesbian or Heterosexual couples weekends

Gay initiation classes provide vital message


For the past seven years, I’ve taught a course at Wayne State University for Master’s level social workers, on how to help their gay clients learn to be comfortable about their orientation. This class could be in jeopardy, if some folks here in Michigan have their way.

Fuss over a course “How To Be Gay: Male Homosexuality and Initiation,” scheduled this fall at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, seems to be voiced loudest by Gary Glenn, president of the Michigan affiliate of the conservative American Family Association. Mr. Glenn wants “to stop letting homosexual activists use our tax dollars to subsidize this militant political agenda” to promote “queer studies”. His agenda is to stop David M. Halperin’s class because he feels taxpayers shouldn’t be “forced to pay for a class whose stated purpose is to ‘experiment’ with the ‘initiation’ of young men into self-destructive homosexual lifestyle”.

Is the class I teach next on his agenda to remove? I teach my master’s level students in the field of social work to “initiate” gays and lesbians into achieving healthy self-esteem and becoming positive, hard-working, responsible people. Maybe Mr. Glenn overlooked my class because its title, “Social Work and Sexual Orientation,” doesn’t imply that it “initiates” anybody or help anyone do so —even though I do exactly that!

What would be the public outrage if Mr. Glenn and his AFA supporters felt the same way about university courses that “initiate” women, African Americans, Jews, and other minorities into understanding of their own specific political and cultural heritage? Should tax dollars be withheld from courses that teach these individuals to achieve healthy identities?

On my first day of teaching my sexual orientation course at WSU, I reviewed the class’s Gay Affirmative syllabus, along with informing the students that I was gay. An African American woman politely raised her hand and said, “I had no idea I had enrolled in a gay studies class.” She needed credits, and my class was the only one available to her, adding that her Christian beliefs did not support homosexuality and that is was a sin. But this was her last term, and if she wanted to graduate in June, she had to stay in the course.

Some of the other class members felt that because of her homonegative views, she shouldn’t be allowed to stay. But she said she related to gays and lesbians because when she “came out” with her Christian beliefs on homosexuals, others discriminated against her—and she felt that same way about my class not wanting her.

I assured her that I was open to her difference of opinion. All I expected from her was that she learn the gay affirmative stance I teach, to help gays and lesbians overcome homophobia and heterosexism. In her papers and class discussions, she could show that she’d absorbed my input, and could certainly add her own disagreements along the way. I urged the class to take the same stance--which they did. Our agenda was to honor everyone’s opinions and not enforce our own, much less make any one of us feel “bad” or “wrong.”

Each week, she listened to my lectures and our guest speakers. She wrote two required papers on the “initiation” of gays and lesbians into healthy, well-adjusted, affirmative lives. Yes, her papers did include her biblical views and moral beliefs that disagreed with my teachings—particularly that gays and lesbians can become well-adjusted. I, in turn, honored her opinions and judgments, which made sense to me because of the way she was raised and what she’d been taught throughout her life.

I empathized with her difficulty. Heterosexism—believing that a heterosexual orientation is superior, romantically and sexually, to all others—is hard to overcome. We’re taught this erroneous belief from early childhood, and its imprint remains unless we work hard to challenge it.

I didn’t agree with her, but was able to see her outlook from her point of view. By the end of the semester, she demonstrated her full understanding of many facets of “initiating” gays and lesbians. She hadn’t altered her moral or religious beliefs, and still felt that homosexuality was a sin. But she did graduate (in both senses of the word) with a wider understanding of what gay people must go through, and said the course “humanized her thinking of what gay people were like. She admitted she’d been horrified to learn that I was gay, surprised that I seemed so happy and well-adjusted--and troubled that I’d become so comfortable with “living in sin.”

I told her that she’d opened my eyes, too. What must it be like, to hold strong religious beliefs and not be able to express them freely, without others’ discrimination?

Again, I have no problem with her beliefs, or anyone’s, only with what people do with their personal judgments. I told her I hoped that as a social worker, she’d never provide treatment gay or lesbian because of her negative judgments. How could she assist them and help them feel good about themselves, if she herself didn’t approve of them? Much as she tried to help them, she would just be committing homophobia in her conviction that they were sinners. Thankfully, she agreed!

If only those like Gary Glenn and the people in the AFA could realize the acts of homophobia they are committing! It’s one thing to disagree over a class that helps students adjust to being gay, and dealing with those who are. It’s quite another to try and prevent anyone, academic or not, from offering information to those who want it and need it. Shouldn’t universities offer a class for people who take their righteousness and wield it as a weapon against others? To my mind, that is the biggest sin of all.

Anti-Gay P-Fox President Expelled from American Counseling Assocation for Life


This is a Devastating Blow For Outdated Pseudo-Science That Tries To Turn Gay People Straight, Says Besen

Author Wayne Besen today released a letter he uncovered from the American Counseling Association that "permanently expelled" reparative therapist Richard Cohen in 2003 for serious ethics violations. As the outspoken president of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Dr. Laura Schlessinger's ex-gay advisor, Cohen's expulsion casts a dark shadow over the disreputable practice of trying to change sexual orientation.

"The Right wing should be ashamed for promoting the work of a therapist who has been officially rebuked for egregious ethical lapses," said Wayne Besen, author of Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth. "That Cohen is the best the far right can find in support of their position that gay people can change underscores the quack-like pseudo-science that they rely on. It is time they end the charade that reparative therapy works."

According to the ACA's letter: "Mr. Cohen was found in violation of the following code sections A.1.a; A.1.b; A.5.a; A.6.a; C.3.b, C.3.f, and has not elected to appeal the decision taken by the ACA Ethics Committee within allotted timelines." (Please see below for full explanation of violations)

The letter referred to Cohen's violations which included inappropriate behavior such as fostering dependent counseling relationships, not promoting the welfare of clients, engaging in actions that sought to meet his personal needs at the expense of clients, exploiting the trust and dependency of clients, unethically soliciting testimonials from clients and promoting products to clients in a manner that is deceptive.

"It is no surprise that Richard Cohen violated the ACA ethics because reparative therapy itself lacks integrity and attempts to meet their agenda's need, not the needs of client's," said Joe Kort, psychotherapist and author of 10 Smart Things Gay Men Can Do To Improve Their Lives. "Of particular note is that Cohen's violations are self-serving as he is accused of violating standard ethics of protecting his client from dual relationships, marketing purposes, and testimonials."

Richard Cohen is the president of P-FOX, a group that recently placed an ex-gay billboard in Virginia (www.Pfox.org) and sponsored a controversial ad campaign in Washington DC's subway system. His website is www.gaytostraight.org and he is a conference instructor for the National Association for the Research and Therapy for Homosexuality (NARTH). Cohen is also the author of "Coming Out Straight", a book in which Dr. Laura Schlessinger wrote the forward.

"With intellect and care, he [Cohen] offers invaluable insight into the reason for same-sex attractions and, for those willing to brave it, he illuminates a challenging journey from isolation," wrote Dr. Laura in Cohen's book.

Cohen has also been prominently features on Larry King Live, The Ricki Lake Show, The Salley Jessy Raphael Show and 20/20. Reparative therapy is rejected by every mainstream medical and mental health organization in America.

Primary Responsibility. The primary responsibility of counselors is to respect the dignity and to promote the welfare of clients.

Positive Growth and Development. Counselors encourage client growth and development in ways that foster the clients' interest and welfare; counselors avoid fostering dependent counseling relationships.

A.5. Personal Needs and Values

Personal Needs. In the counseling relationship, counselors are aware of the intimacy and responsibilities inherent in the counseling relationship, maintain respect for clients, and avoid actions that seek to meet their personal needs at the expense of clients.

A.6. Dual Relationships

Avoid When Possible. Counselors are aware of their influential positions with respect to clients, and they avoid exploiting the trust and dependency of clients. Counselors make every effort to avoid dual relationships with clients that could impair professional judgment or increase the risk of harm to clients. (Examples of such relationships include, but are not limited to, familial, social, financial, business, or close personal relationships with clients.) When a dual relationship cannot be avoided, counselors take appropriate professional precautions such as informed consent, consultation, supervision, and documentation to ensure that judgment is not impaired and no exploitation occurs. (See F.1.b.)

C.3. Advertising and Soliciting Clients

Testimonials. Counselors who use testimonials do not solicit them from clients or other persons who, because of their particular circumstances, may be vulnerable to undue influence.

f. Promoting to Those Served. Counselors do not use counseling, teaching, training, or supervisory relationships to promote their products or training events in a manner that is deceptive or would exert undue influence on individuals who may be vulnerable. Counselors may adopt textbooks they have authored for instruction purposes.

Reparative Therapy and Health Insurance


Dear Joe,

How are Reparative Therapists (those working with homosexuals who wish to change their sexual and romantic orientation) still able to provide treatment to those who want sexual re-orientation when the American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association, National Association of Social Workers and the American Counseling Associations all are against this form of psychotherapy? Do they received third party reimbursement from insurance companies?

The way these so called reparative therapists (RT) and treatment centers get around these organizations which do not support their work is by using a diagnosis known as Sexual Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (302.9). This is in the DSM-IV which is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fourth Edition in the mental health field. These RT's also use depression and anxiety and other mood disorder diagnoses which insurance companies will pay for.

In other words, if a client comes in and want to "change" from gay to straight many therapists would say this person is "depressed" or "anxious" and give them codes for those mood disorders. Insurances rarely check to see what is contributing to the depression they simply want to know what they are paying for and monitor the depressive symptoms.

In terms of Sexual Disorder NOS, this diagnosis applies to the following individuals according to the DSM IV:

1) Marked feelings of inadequacy concerning sexual performance or other traits related to self-imposed standards of masculinity or femininity.

2) Distress about a pattern of repeated sexual relationships involving a succession of lovers who are experienced by the individual only as things to be used.

3) Persistent and marked distress about sexual orientation.

So you can see that number three would cover those who do Reparative Therapy. The Sexual Disorder NOS diagnosis is in the DSM IV for those gays and lesbians who are closeted and struggling with coming out. It is used wrongly by those doing RT for those trying to "behave as heterosexuals."

It would be great to see a group of folks start challenging insurance companies demanding that they get more information on what Sexual Disorder NOS is being treated for.

Sadly, these RT's could still use depression, anxiety and other mood disorders claiming that these folks need RT because their sexual orientation is causing their mood disturbances. In truth it is not the sexual orientation that is causing them distress but rather what is "done to them" regarding their homosexuality. Reparative Therapists simply continue the homophobic and heterosexist acts on these poor people and make a living from it.

Tell CNN To Cover The Facts About "Reparative Therapy"!


Last night CNN's show Paula Zahn Now aired a story on "reparative therapy" organization Love in Action.

CNN completely ignored vital information on this issue. Here are some examples:

  • The story did NOT include statements by the American Medical Association and American Psychiatric Association denouncing "reparative therapy."
  • The story did NOT talk about the virtually non- existent success rate of "ex-gay" programs.
  • The story did NOT discuss the serious emotional damage that "reparative therapy" can cause or the self-destructive behavior, including suicide, that "reparative therapy" can induce.

What did Paula Zahn's story include? An interview of Love in Action director Reverend John Smid strolling through a yard, extolling the virtues of his "ex- gay" program.

The story also included interviews with two young "Love in Action" graduates, one gay and one straight - making it appear to the viewer that the chances of success in reparative therapy are 50/50.

We at PFLAG know the chances of long-term emotional damage are very real for young men and women forced into "reparative therapy."

We must tell the media to accurately and comprehensively report these facts!

Please send an email to the CNN employees listed below.

Tell them you expect them to report the facts and tell the truth about all issues, especially an issue like "reparative therapy" that endangers families across the country.

If you'd like to see the story, go to www.cnn.com and look for the video called Going Straight.

Please send your email to the following CNN employees and please send a copy of your email to tthompson@pflag.org:, Victor.Neufeld@cnn.com, Mark.Nelson@cnn.com, Debra.Goldschmidt@cnn.com, Deborah.Feyerick@cnn.com and Paula.Zahn@cnn.com

Straights and queers both have 'body image' fears


Spring's right around the corner. Time to bring out your summer wardrobes and start waxing or shaving your body. But what if you are struggling with weight issues, low self-esteem, eating disorders, sexual addiction or other issues related to your body and it doesn't cooperate the way you want it to? What if those extra pounds you put on over the past winter won't come off or your body doesn't cooperate the way you'd like it to? For many lesbians and gays, the issue of body image is a strained one. In her book Looking Queer, Dawn Atkins explores how members of the GLBT communities think and feel about their physical appearance.

About now, my clients start talking about anticipating spring and summer. Some overweight lesbians complain of feeling self-conscious, and dread getting into summer clothes, let alone a bathing suit. Thankfully, Looking Queer addresses the plight of lesbians who closet themselves out of their concerns about their weight and body image: "Ironically, the lesbian-feminist standard of self-acceptance for women has created a taboo around worrying about weight and body image, going so far as to identify negative body image and obsessions as a 'straight women's thing'".

My gay male clients talk about their desire to start or increase a diet and work-out program. They try to create the perfect gym bodies: sculptured chests, buns of steel, and well-defined big biceps. But what if a man can't achieve a buff, hairless, well-hung, tanned or blemish-free body-or doesn't even want one? Many gay men feel themselves isolated for not achieving this happy, perfected ideal image.

I'm not exempt from feeling this pressure! Over the past few years, my partner and I have gone on a number of all-gay cruises. On our first trip, lying on my back in my bathing suit on a lounge chair, I realized I was surrounded by men without a single hair on their bodies, especially not on their backs. My back is covered with hair, and I wondered about getting emergency waxing before I stood up and exposed my back. For our next trip, I vowed to remove it. Screaming in pain-to the delight of my "dominatrix mistress waxing operator" who poured hot wax on my back and pulled it all off once it hardened-I vowed never to do this to myself again. I joked that she must have sold my back hair at the local carpet store, for use as an area rug.

Of course hair removal, dieting, and exercise can all be ways to look good and feel positive about your body. However, some obstacles prevent us from achieving these goals. As lesbians and gays, we're told to deny our bodies and bury our physical sensations. "Don't look at-or smell, or touch, or taste-another member of the same gender and enjoy it!" While lesbians have developed greater flexibility in how they define attractiveness, as females they've been handed messages like, "Don't be too sexual," and "Be thin for your man". From this socialized goal-to please the male gaze and resemble Barbies-women develop eating disorders. Binge-eating and purging help them feel in control of their bodies, and lesbians are not exempt.

The phrase "lesbian body image" isn't found in psychological literature, because of the belief that body image is a problem for straight women only, or that lesbians have gotten over worrying about it. This isn't true and only isolates those lesbians who haven't gotten over it!

For his part, a gay male-like males in general-is taught to be a sexual predator and develop a masculine physique. When he views sex as a means to feel in touch with his body, giving him permission to feel other men's bodies, sexual addiction can develop. Gay men spend hours at the gym, developing bodies that they can "wear" like a good Armani suit.

During childhood, sexual and physical abuse can also vandalize the healthy development of feeling in charge of one's own body. The perpetrator, when engaging in such abhorrent behavior, claims ownership of the child's body. Another common body-image disorder is sexual anorexia, where the sufferer limits or deadens his sexuality to the point of becoming asexual. Paradoxically, he or she becomes preoccupied with sexuality and views "being sexual" as dirty and disgusting. Although heterosexuals can develop this as well, in my practice, I see many gay men and lesbians who suffer sexual anorexia. We are more vulnerable to it, unfortunately, given the message that gays should abstain from sex, if not be completely celibate.

Were you unsuccessful in your New Year's resolutions to get the pounds off, stop the sexual acting or over-eating? If so, that might mean you should rid yourself and work through some of these issues. Take a look at what messages you were told about your body, what others have done to your body and/or your expectations of what your body should be.

Make it what you want it to be, because our bodies aren't owned by anyone but ourselves. Our community needs to move beyond the "looksism" and actively challenge the narrow, restrictive concepts of what it means to love and accept ourselves.

Making Addictions CRYSTAL Clear!


Drugs and alcohol are part of our American culture. Their use is rampant among gay men, since the bars are a main social outlet. The anxiety of walking into a gay bar and hoping to meet Mr. Right, or even make friends, can be excruciating. Alcohol and drugs can help to ease that anxiety.

Crystal meth has been in the gay community for a while and has hit Michigan big over the past year. If I can speak in my Jewish Mother voice I would say that any use of crystal meth is going too far. But in my professional understanding of the gay culture, I know the reality is that gay men use it. So, how much use is going too far?

Clients often ask me what level of drug or alcohol use points to an addiction, compared to mere recreational social use. Is it an addiction to use crystal meth only on the weekends? Is it recreational to drink until I get drunk—once a week? If I use drugs or alcohol only to socialize, does that make me an abuser?

People often believe they’re not addicted if they don’t crave the drug or alcohol, or if they’re not suffering withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit. They don’t realize that those symptoms affect only a small percentage of users at the later stages of severe addiction. Most people with drug and alcohol problems, even some chronic alcoholics and drug abusers, do not experience cravings or withdrawal symptoms.

Based on the Chemical Dependency model, there are three general types of drug and alcohol users— Recreational, Abusive, and Addictive, based on the following criteria:

1) Recreational Users drink or use drugs only on “special occasions.” These individuals can control their use and can start and stop whenever they choose. They can predict in advance how much they will drink or use and seldom suffer any negative consequences. They never get ticketed for driving under the influence (DUI) and don’t experience blackouts.

(Blackouts are different from passing out. A blackout is any period of time, whether it be five minutes to five hours, that you cannot recall, no matter how much you try. You can’t remember what others report you said and did while under the influence.)

Drug or alcohol use doesn’t interfere with their lives in any way. It simply enhances their social lives and is used in good fun.

2) Abusive Users also drink or use drugs recreationally, can control their intake, and can start and stop when they choose. For the most part, they can predict how much they will consume. But at times, these individuals’ use is out of control. They cannot predict the results and suffer negative consequences such as DUI citations (or if not given a ticket, being stopped for poor driving), blackouts, verbal and physical fights with family, friends or partners, and risking sexually transmitted diseases—to name a few.

But abusers will take these negative consequences as a wake-up call. To avoid the negative consequences, they either reduce their intake permanently or stop altogether. They may experience one or two further negative experiences from their abusive use of drugs or alcohol, decide never to indulge to that degree again—and they don’t. They take responsibility and are accountable for the consequences of their own use and resolve them immediately.

3) Addictive Users drink or use drugs recreationally too, but aren’t in control. When they experience a negative consequence they might stop for a while but not for long. Ultimately they return to their former amount and frequency and may even use more over time. They cannot predict how much they use or how often they use it and their negative consequences become abundant. The definition of addiction is any behavior or activity that interferes with your life in some way, but which you continue to do despite the negative consequences.

Unlike the abuser, the addict suffers many more negative consequences such as blackouts, DUI’s, and risks STD’s. Typically they will blame others for their own mishaps, complaining that “Michigan’s driving laws are too strict,” or “My friends and family complain too much.” They often truly believe their own excuses and will say, “I can stop whenever I want. I just don’t want to.”

If you’ve been experiencing loss of control, failed in your attempts to stop or cut down, increased your tolerance whereby you’re using more to achieve the same high as before, and continue to use in spite of negative consequences, then you have an addiction. I highly recommend you seek professional help immediately or attend an AA or NA meeting. For more information on where to find these groups call Affirmations at 248-398-7105. For more information on Crystal Meth go to www.tweaker.org

Am I a Sex Addict, or Am I a High-T?


I’ve been a specialist in the field of sexual addiction and compulsivity for almost 20 years. Clients will ask me if they are a sex addict by the specifics of what they’re thinking, doing, and/or wanting to do make them a potential sex addict. For example, does wanting sex every day, or twice a night make them an addict?

The surprising truth is that sexual addiction isn’t about sex at all. Sexual compulsives behave sexually, but the underlying reason for their behavior has to do with their “acting out” something else inside such as sexual trauma or other forms of childhood abuse or neglect. To determine whether they’re truly sex addicts and sexually acting out (SAO), many factors need to be considered.

Patrick Carnes coined the term sexual addiction in 1983. His work focuses on how “addictive sexuality feels shameful, is exploitive, compromises values, draws on fear for excitement, reenacts childhood abuses, disconnects one from oneself, creates a world of unreality, is self-destructive and dangerous, uses conquest and power, serves to medicate and kill pain, is dishonest, becomes routine, requires a double life, is grim and joyless and demands perfection”.

I ask heterosexual men and women alike to take the sexual addiction screening tests that can be found in Patrick Carne’s books, Out of the Shadows and Don’t Call It Love. For gay men, I suggest taking the test in my own book 10 Smart Things Gay Men Can Do To Improve Their Lives and for women, I recommend taking the test in Charlotte Kasl’s book Women, Sex and Addiction; A Search for Love and Power. While these tests are anecdotal and not research-based, they open a dialogue about one’s sexual behavior. If they point to possible addiction, then we start to examine what we refer to as one’s “sexually acting out” (SAO) behaviors.

To confirm or rule out sexual addiction, the following ten signs should be explored:

1. A pattern of out-of-control sexual behavior: Reflecting on one’s past can illuminate if this patterns exists. Usually someone with a sexual addiction doesn’t recognize it until his/her 30s or 40s, when patterns have been firmly established.

2. Severe consequences as a result of out-of-control sexual behavior: If you’re single and don’t have frequent contact with family and friends, then repercussions of your out-of-control sexual behavior may not occur as easily. If you hide your sexual behavior from your partner and others you’re close to, this too can result in your remaining unaware of your addiction. However, anyone with sexual addiction frequently incurs legal, medical, and relational consequences. These may include arrests at public restrooms, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), overindulging to the point of physical injury (ie: sores on one’s genitals), and a partner threatening to leave.

3. Persistent pursuit of self-destructive or high-risk sexual behavior: Do you frequently: have sex without using a condom; give oral sex and swallow; cruise public areas for sex, knowing you can be arrested; secretly log onto the Internet at work or at home and changing the screen as soon as someone approaches; or have affairs outside of your partnered relationship?

4. On-going desire or efforts to limit this behavior: You should be able to easily determine how much sex you want to engage in, and how often. Of course at times, you’ll let desire to overcome you and be spontaneous. But if allowing your desires to overcome you becomes the norm—where your desires are making the decisions, and not you—you might want to consider that you may have a problem.

5. Inability to stop, despite the consequences: If you never try to stop, you won’t know if an inability exists. I tell clients that after a negative consequence, most people who don’t have a problem, sexual or otherwise, will either greatly reduce the “offending” behavior or give it up completely. Those who continue in the face of unpleasant results usually have a problem.

6. Sexual obsession and fantasy are your chief strategies for coping : Obsession doesn’t mean thinking about sex every minute of the day—but of course, it can. It can take on the following forms: planning time for acting out sexually; ensuring that you'll have enough money to spend on SAO; lying and covering up your escapades; recovering from the effects of SAO; worrying about an STD or if you’ve passed it onto a partner; or not using up your libido so there’s none left for your partner.

7. Increasing your quantity—or variety—of sexual experience because the current level no longer satisfies you : Your participation in SAO is enhanced by naturally-produced internal drugs like as PEA, adrenaline, and endorphins. Tolerance to these drugs begins to increase, so that over time, you need to engage in more dangerous behaviors or take higher risks to get the same sexual high.

8. Severe mood changes centering around sexual activity: Sex should heighten your self esteem and intimacy with others. The course of sexual addiction usually ends in feelings of shame, depression, and despair over one’s SAO behavior. Beforehand, looking forward to sexual behavior usually boosts people’s mood. But afterward, the addict often reports a lack of sleep and therefore, being on edge and easily irritated. If you feel shame after sex, that could indicate there’s something wrong.

9. Inordinate time spent in looking for sexual experiences, engaging in them, or recovering from them : Sex addicts prefer the chase over the actual behavior; and so spend increasing amounts of time in Internet chat rooms while surfing for porn sites. They’ll waste hours, day or night in bathhouses, at bars and rest areas in search of numerous hook-ups. The sex they experience is often a disappointing letdown.

10. Reducing or neglecting other social, occupational, or recreational activities: The true sex addict prefers sexual highs and the thrill of the chase over simply being with others, getting work done at his/her job and/or making time for fun and recreation. None of us can totally balance life perfectly. But if you’re neglecting important areas of your life to spend time thinking about, planning for, looking for, and making time for SAO, that should cause you some concern.

Have you ruled out being a sex addict but still feel troubled by your sexual behavior? You may simply be: a high-T with a strong sex drive; in Stage 5 of coming out of the closet; or in romantic love—the first stage of a relationship; acting out childhood sexual abuse, or other forms of abuse or neglect that cause other forms of sexual discomfort.

Lastly, are you using sexual behavior to manage some affective disorder such as depression, anxiety, manic-depression, or ADHD? The solution is to read much of the self-help literature that’s available online and in bookstores and seek therapy with someone with professional experience in dealing with SAO.

The Men In the Mirror: Understanding Gay Men and Their Porn


In 1978, when I was 15 years old, there were no gay role models. I remember going to a local bookstore and seeing pornographic magazines on the very top shelf. Most were for straight men. There was also Playgirl, and surrounding it were some other magazines with men on their covers-Honcho, Playguy and Numbers. At the time, I thought they were for women. I wanted to see images of naked men, so I grabbed a Playgirl, put it inside another magazine, and went to another part of the store to read it.

It was exciting, everything that I had expected. I wanted more! So I went back to the section and, while no one was looking, reached for Honcho magazine, thinking it would be more of the same-for woman, like Playgirl. I was shocked and pleasantly surprised to see pictures and read stories about men with other men. I felt a surge of adrenaline, and recalled all the times my male friends talked about Playboy and Penthouse and showed me their fathers' porn. This must be what they felt when the viewed those photos! I didn't enjoy those images at all, and went to the back of those magazines to see images of couples in the ads in the back-so I could view the men. I especially enjoyed other ads in the back, on how men could increase penis size.

These magazines were designed for guys like me, attracted to other guys! I got lost in reading about a man who was sexually focused on another man's body and genitals. That was me! My heart was pounding like I was having a panic attack, worried that I would be caught. My genitals felt like they were on fire. I camouflaged the Honcho inside another bigger, thicker magazine, bought the outer magazine, got on my bike and rode home, feeling exhilarated.

I'd never stolen anything in my whole life, and wasn't proud of that. But I was happy to have man-to-man sex to read about. In my bedroom, I spent the next few weeks masturbating to the images and seeing a whole world of homosexuality open up.

I was shocked and titillated. This was right to me. This what I had dreamed about, fantasized about and wanted: men kissing other men, holding other men and, of course fucking and sucking them. I longed to date the other boys in my classes, but knew that was forbidden.

After I finished that magazine-and it no longer held the same excitement-I went back to that same bookstore. I couldn't let myself get caught, for two major reasons: I was underage, and it was gay pornography. What would my parents say? If the kids in school found out, I'd be humiliated and my secret would be out.

Back then, I had literally no images of gay men. Nothing! I was with a male therapist who encouraged me to date girls and saw my adolescence as a second chance at "healing and repairing my broken sexuality." I told him about stealing the magazines. He saw that as a result of my homosexual impulses and framed it as a negative expression. Even so, I kept stealing these magazines. Quite a collection accumulated in the attic over my bedroom, where I hid them. I'd take them in my backpack and pitch them in a garbage dumpster far away, only to accumulate more.

Once my therapist showed up at that bookstore during one of my "rituals" of taking these magazines. Embarrassed and humiliated, I said hello and I left on my bike-only to return, hours later. I was not going to be stopped.

After I turned sixteen, I drove my car to a bookstore far from where I lived to purchase those same gay magazines. Not allowed, I was told. I was underage. I then drove to a porno store. I walked in, not realizing I had to pay. Here were even more magazines on man-to-man sex. I could have spent hours in, there but the man behind the plate glass window spotted me and knocked furiously, shouting at me to leave. "You're underage and shouldn't be in here."

Curiously, he still sold me the gay porn magazine. I left, even more excited than ever that places like this existed. I added this magazine to my collection and learned more about gay sex and gay men.

Since I couldn't buy these magazines openly, I kept my ritual of stealing them from the local bookstore. One day, I caught another 16-year-old boy doing exactly what I had been doing. Someone like me? He put Playguy it inside another magazine and viewed it, looking around to make sure no one saw him. He didn't know I'd spotted him. I went into another aisle to watch and sure enough, he went to buy the magazine. He was successful and walked out. I followed him. He went into his car and drove away.

I followed him home. I couldn't wait to finally talk to another boy just like me. He had to be like me, looking at gay magazines and stolen one, just as I had. When he drove into his driveway, I was right behind him and I got out of my car and approached him.

I was unprepared for his reaction! He thought I had worked at the bookstore-was going to bust him for stealing-and denied having stolen the magazine. I told him I did it too and saw him do it. He told me to go away.

I did, and cried all the way home. Here was my chance to meet another flesh and blood gay male, but it failed. So I returned to stealing pornography until I left home for college and met other gay freshmen.

Pornography can be a source of recreational pleasure use and a rite of passage into gay manhood, but also a source of pain that interferes with one's life. Sam, 55 years old, was referred to me by another therapist who knew I specialize in gay issues and sexual addiction. Heterosexually married, with two grown children, he wanted to stop his compulsive use of pornography. He didn't identify himself as gay. He believed he must have been sexually abused as a child (but had no memory of anything close to that overtly or covertly), causing him to act out his sexual compulsive behavior. For years he had been using and abusing gay porn. Now, since the invention of the Internet, he was spending hours going to gay sites for images of men with other men. Seeing naked men alone wasn't satisfying. He needed to see images of men engaged with other men sexually, in any way.

Sam talked about how gay life was negative, and while he wanted to fall in love with a man, he didn't think that would ever happen for him. He was intrigued that I was gay and had self-actuated so well, but felt that he couldn't do the same. He said that if his wife and his children discovered his homosexuality, he would be "out on his ear." He didn't want to lose the life he spent so long to build, nor his relationships with his children. He was convinced that if he lived a life of being gay, he would be fired or forced into early retirement.

After his wife went to bed, he would spend nights on the Internet in various gay porn sites, masturbating for hours and postponing his ejaculation. He reported that often he would not have an orgasm from the images he saw and sometimes he would not even masturbate as he viewed the sites. Eventually I convinced him to go to the Mankind New Warrior Weekend, a workshop for gay, straight and bi-attractional men. This weekend was about initiation into manhood, which targeted his issue of feeling less than a man because of his homosexual urges.

He went, met some other gay men, and fell in love with one. During his time with this man, he stopped going to gay porn sites on Internet. He left his wife, came out of the closet, self-identified as gay and partnered with this particular man. Although he would still look at gay porn occasionally, the sexual compulsion was gone

We gay men have few rituals, if any, to initiate us into manhood. As a young Jewish man, my bar mitzvah served as a gateway. At least it was something. For many boys, sports serves as an initiation-which, unfortunately, a gay boy often doesn't like or isn't good at. Even if he is, he often feel there's something "different" about himself from the other teammates and not really "one of the guys." He may not feel acceptance or a sense of belonging.

As gay men, our initiation into manhood is usually on a sexual level-more often than not, in pornography. I'm not condoning or condemning pornography, but it can be an affirmative, acceptable way to explore one's gay manhood, especially for gay teens or closeted gay men with nowhere else to turn.

Homosexual pornography is so readily and immediately available that it makes sense that a gay teen or a closeted man's first exposure to gayness is through the doorway of sexuality. When I was a gay teen, I was looking for intimacy with another gay boy, but couldn't find it. When I stole gay porn for all those years, I see that as a way of "stealing" my sexuality, metaphorically. I was unable to express my natural sexual/romantic orientation and when I did, it was met with negativity. My therapist wasn't in favor of my being gay, even though I told him I knew I was. I couldn't date boys or talk about my crushes on them, and saw no role models of what being gay was about. Even when I chased that other cute boy who stole the magazine, he was too scared to be interested. The whole time I followed him, I thought about this possibly being my first love.

I understand now that I had to sneak and "take what I could get" to discover my own homosexuality. If I'd had MTV's Real World show or Will and Grace with gay characters, I might not have been so desperate as to be out of integrity and steal magazines to grab images of my homosexuality. So for me, gay intimacy and gay sex became equated-as I believe it did for my client Sam, and for most other gay men.

Providing therapy to gay clients, I never minimize the lack of nonsexual ritual and initiation we have had to endure. Our society lacks of images of men, particularly gay men, touching and expressing affection. Gay porn reconciles this lack, if only through sexuality. The heterosexually married gay man, like Sam, who lacks the courage to go to a gay bar or support group finds porn the easiest, safest way to explore his homosexuality. The closeted man, who fears being hated and marginalized if he comes out publicly, can find some comfort, knowing that no one will judge him in a bookstore, X-rated movie theater, or privacy of his own home.

Having pornography as one's initiation into gay manhood can feed into a man's feeling that being gay is forbidden and underground. Going to a "dirty" bookstore and sneaking around can make someone feel shameful, but also add to the excitement. During sexual excitement, an internal chemical in our bodies is activated called phenylethylamine, (PEA for short) that parallels amphetamines. Research finds that it is also released when two people first fall in love, most strongly in the presence of the romantic partner. It's also responsible for the sexually excitement men get in the presence of a paraphilia. During the release of this molecular structure in our bodies, we feel excitement, ecstasy, and euphoria. The higher the fear, risk and danger involved, the stronger the "hit" of PEA. It makes sense that this would increase the sexiness of porn and potentially hook gay men.

A recent client told me he was sexually acting out online, on porn sites and gay sex chatrooms. A guy he was instant-messaging sent him his pic, while my client sent him his. They discovered they knew each other from a gay social group they both belonged to. My client said he felt "exposed." This reduced the fear, risk and danger of talking to someone he didn't know. Suddenly the secrecy and forbiddance were gone-and he lost his interest for sexual acting out for the rest of the night.

Not every therapist agrees with the concept of sexual addiction. My own working definition of addiction is any activity that interferes in your life in some way, but which you continue, despite the negative consequences.

Patrick Carnes, Ph.D., has written extensively on the subject. In fact, he coined the term in the subtitle of his landmark book, Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction, 1 which helped a great many men identify behaviors that were causing them distress. Carnes's book didn't address gay men in particular, but his more recent Don't Call It Love: Recovery from Sexual Addiction, includes examples of gay men and their sexual behaviors. Eli Coleman, Ph.D., affiliated with the Program in Human Sexuality at the University of Minnesota Medical School, has written extensively on sexually compulsive behavior.2 He believes that what he calls sexual compulsivity is "driven by anxiety reduction mechanisms, rather than by sexual desire."

John Money, Ph.D., refers to "lovemaps" which, in your childhood, were created by your caretakers and the society and culture you were raised in. Healthy lovemaps evolve within a community or society that encourages affectionate caregiving and recognizes sex as natural, with no taboo or stigmatization. Money sees sexually compulsive behavior as the result of a lovemap "vandalized" through physical, emotional and sexual abuse, where children have suffered post-traumatic stress and injured their self-esteem, personal boundaries, and sense of trust.

I've found these three pioneering models to be effective in helping sexually compulsive gay men. The best approach may be different for different clients, though some benefit from a mixture of all three. For one, the addiction model may offer a behavioral and cognitive path to recovery. For another, whose behavior is an anxiety-reducing form of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), medication can help. Finally, viewing the behavior as a vandalized lovemap suggests inquiry into childhood and early abuse: "Who were your caretakers? How did you develop your concepts of love and intimacy?"

Most importantly from my point of view is that sexual addiction is any sexual behavior that's continued despite negative consequences.

John, 35 years old, came to see me knowing that I specialize in sexual addiction. He asked whether his "excessive" sexual behavior was interfering with his relationship. He masturbated "twice or three times" a day. But to achieve orgasm, he needed porn. This was his paraphilia. Since adolescence, he'd masturbated to images of muscle-bound men with huge penises. He'd purchase muscle magazines, watch Mr. Universe contests, and remain aroused throughout the show.

But why did those images arouse him, when images of nude men having sex did not?

John imagined that all these men were straight or bisexual. If he even imagined they were gay, that didn't arouse him. Over the years, he'd had sex with various men, but never enjoyed them as much as porno movies and magazines. He spent hours outside of health clubs and gyms where men worked out, masturbating his car with porn and muscle magazines. He spent hours at bookstores, looking for magazines featuring muscular men.

Every minute, he was on the Internet, seeking images of body builders to store on his computer, then masturbate to these images. He even surfed the Net at work and in parking lots, even though he worried about getting caught-and that this habit prevented him from finding having a good, solid relationship.

Enjoying images of body builders is a normal turn-on. But in John's case, it had become compulsive. Why? When we explored his childhood, he recalled his mother criticizing his alcoholic father for "not being much of a man," because he couldn't hold jobs and bills went unpaid. In arguments with his critical and emasculating wife-who treated John the same way-he never fought back. John recalled her laughing about how "poorly endowed" his father was. This never left his mind. At the school locker room, he was teased constantly for being smaller than the other boys. John knew he was within normal limits but, comparatively, was smaller than his classmates.

Also John's father was not around very much. He worked many hours and when he was not working he would be out drinking. John felt that his father just did not want to be home with his mother. Through therapy he discovered his feelings of loss that his father was not around more for him leaving him with this castrating emasculating mother.

This all matched up with how his father allowed his wife to treat him, never protecting him from her verbal abuse. In John's mind, body builders were "real men." How more masculine could they become?

He tried to stop using pornography. He didn't succeed. We agreed that he might be a sexual addict.

Most men don't need to examine their past history, when their sexual behavior isn't interfering with their lives. John, struggling with sexual compulsion, was forced to examine his sexual fantasies in order to decode his acting-out. He began to recognize that his compulsive interest in bodybuilders was his attempt to get closer to a stronger father figure, since his own had been weak and impotent. This helped us both understand why his bodybuilding men had to be straight or bisexual-being that his father was a heterosexual man in relationship with a woman.

During his therapy, John complained that I wasn't giving him enough time. If he wanted more time with me, he'd make attempts to call me and not want to pay. He'd get upset when I charged him for longer sessions, or not lower my fee if he came more than once a week. He also said I should work out more and that I was out of shape for a gay man. I listened for the themes and the negative transference here and pointed out how John was projecting his father's "lack of time" for him onto me. At first these interpretations angered him. He thought I was defending myself and minimizing his needs-more of the negative transference.

Through the therapy, I allowed for the negative transference toward me as a therapeutic tool. To help him more, I ultimately placed him in a gay men's group therapy in addition to his individual therapy. I also recommended he attend Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA). Current research shows that the best intervention for sexual addiction is individual, group and 12-step meetings. Relational healing is what is needed for this intimacy disorder. At one SAA meeting there was a gay body builder and John began to "fall in love" with him. This went against John's template of being interested only in straight or bisexual bodybuilders. Here was an opportunity to heal some of his compulsion and challenge his belief that he couldn't be attracted to gay men.

Unfortunately, John's distraction by this particular group member kept him from engaging with the other group members or using the meetings effectively. But this mirrored what he did in life. His preoccupation with pornographic images prevented him from developing healthy relationships. This was pointed out to him at the meetings, and he was challenged to either use the meetings the way they are intended, or be asked to leave the group. John was forced to make a decision. Would he let himself do the work he needed to and not let a "bodybuilder" distract him?

Through both the feelings he had toward this group member and me, he began to recognize that in fact they were transference of his feelings toward his father. While at first this felt shameful, he ultimately realized it was his shame of being neglected by a father who wasn't there for him.

I encouraged him to go to his father and make attempts at connecting with him. I told him it didn't matter what his father did with these repair attempts, because John was healing himself by going to his original source of pain and dealing with his feelings. We role-played various ways, with group members playing the role of John's "as if" father. With the group's help and support, he was willing to do this.

Ultimately, his father wasn't able-or interested-to talk about John's feelings and validate them. At first, this was devastating. John came back to individual and group therapy, crying and angry about his father's responses. But in group, he was less and less preoccupied with the bodybuilder and stopped asking for more time with me. His compulsion to act out sexually subsided. He went for longer and longer periods without using porn. Ultimately he met another man and began dating. While his interest in porn was still there, it no longer ruled his life.

Some men actually have aversions to gay sex and gay porn. They are either asexual or, as Patrick Carnes calls it, sexually anorexic. They show little to no interest in sex, and if the subject is addressed, it is repulsive to them. At times they have sexual binges but afterward, they are disgusted. Tony was a 38-year-old gay man who came to see me, struggling with being gay. He was in a five-year sexless relationship with another man, and bothered by the lack of sex and intimacy with his partner. He was sexual with himself occasionally and used pornography while masturbating, but afterward would feel ashamed and disgusted with himself.

He came from a strong religious Catholic family who never accepted his being gay. His sister forbade him from seeing his nephews as long as he was in a "homosexual relationship." In therapy, it became apparent that his avoiding his sexuality was an attempt not to feel his being gay. He had difficulty self-identifying as gay. He was able to see that being sexual with himself or his partner would go against his family's messages. I placed Tony in my gay men's group to help him with his internal homophobic feelings.

In dealing with his sexual anorexia, I asked that he bring in some of his porn that he had at home. My thoughts were to begin a pathway of him bringing what and who he was from underground. At first, Tony was vehemently against this It took approximately one year of exploring and talking about this before he was willing to do it. He worried that I was trying to "get off" on his stash of porn, or that the group would do the same. I checked out if the group would support him and witness his sexuality. It was important that no one make fun of him or judge him harshly rather to witness and establish a "rite of passage" into what he enjoyed sexually. Everyone agreed, and we created a "sacred space" around it to ritualize it. Shaking, sweating, riddled with anxiety, Tony brought in his porn magazines and showed us what turned him on the most. This was his work for a while, as he came in and showed us the images he enjoyed.

He hadn't told his partner that he even had porn. I recommended that he do so. This took another six months. With Tony, I believe we were dealing with an intimacy disorder. He couldn't be "witnessed" as gay in his family. The closer he was to his partner, the more obvious his gay orientation would be, separating him from his family even more. Tony was really less afraid of being gay than of what his family thought of him.

I encouraged Tony to stand up to his family about who he was as a gay man. He admitted he wasn't up for any of that! This would involve a high level of separation anxiety. Thus his sexuality remained stunted, and his relationship to his partner asexual.

At times, prescribing gay pornography to a client has been counterproductive. Josh, 35 years old, had been partnered for 5 years-and was addicted to Internet chat rooms where he would contact and ultimately meet other gay men. His boss threatened to fire him after catching him in a chat room online at work. A dedicated employee, he still found himself unable to stop putting his job at risk; and his partner also pressured him to get help. With me, Josh was glad to have identified his problem as sexual addiction.

But after some time in group therapy, individual therapy and Sex Addicts Anonymous, he found himself unable to get aroused or stay erect with his partner. He couldn't talk about his sexual fantasies with the group his partner or me. He also had a stash of pornography that involved bondage. I encouraged him to talk about his fantasies and interests with his partner, show him his pornography, to look at it together, and bring it into their sex play. These suggestions angered him. He felt I was going against the SAA program and viewed pornography as one of his boundaries.

I told him I don't think porn has to be a boundary for everyone. I honored that that was how he saw it, but challenged his thinking. Could it be helpful in being sexual again with his partner? I was trying to normalize it for him. Instead, it alienated him.

I like Sex Addicts Anonymous's philosophy that what's a sexual boundary for one person may not be for another. But Josh didn't, and felt that anything sexual outside the context of his relationship was counterproductive and shameful to him. Even after I stopped suggesting he bring his pornography into the bedroom with his partner, Josh became increasingly angry with me. Ultimately, he found another therapist and transferred out of group and individual with me.

One of the gay male community's best features is our free expression of sexuality. X-rated videos and DVDs are seen as a normal (if not mandatory!) part of a gay man's library. This isn't just a gay issue, but a "guy" issue-whether gay, bi-attractional or heterosexual, men are men. If straight guys were more honest, they would talk openly about the porn they enjoy and share their favorite sexual fantasies.

Many gay men feel a healthy entitlement to their sexuality-as do men in general, in our society. It is part of our conditioning. As males, we're granted much more permission to be sexual than women are. But that our sexuality can be an obstacle and get in our way if we have a sense of entitlement at the expense of our partners. But before it can be identified as a problem, something to heal, one has to ask: Is it interfering in my life?

Marty and Sam came to me about Marty's use of pornography. Sam believed that Marty was a sex addict and in denial. He felt Marty was comparing him to the images he looked at, even though Marty never made verbal comparisons.

Marty insisted he didn't have a sexual addiction and wouldn't stop buying and viewing his porn. He felt the problem was that Sam was a prude. Throughout his childhood, Sam's father had many extramarital affairs, and Sam found his pornography around the house. Marty, on the other hand, came from a very religious household that never talked at all about sex and sexuality.

Just because someone views pornography, he doesn't instantly have a problem. But I do believe that if one partner is bothered by the other's viewing porn, then there's a problem in the relationship, and I tell the couple so. In Sam and Marty's case, since Sam had a problem with Marty's porn use, they both had a problem.

What a couple wants to do around sexuality (or anything else, for that matter) isn't for me to judge. I have opinions, will share them with my clients, but in the end, I promote couples-as I did with Marty and Sam-to talk openly and honestly to one another about what they both want in their relationship.

To problems like this, a cookie-cutter approach isn't appropriate for all couples. I take into account both partners, their backgrounds, and try to get both to see how that's contributing to the problem. Sam might have been over-reacting to Marty's porn due to his own father's sexual behavior. Marty might have taken a stand against Sam's because when he grew up, sexuality wasn't addressed or allowed. Through Sam, he may have been rebelling against his family. In therapy with them, I told them both my thoughts.

I also did a thorough evaluation of Marty's sexual past. Was he acting out past sexual abuse? Was this really sexual addiction? Some feminists hold that objectifying others isn't healthy, but I think using porn recreationally can be a healthy outlet. It's safe, fun, and adds sexual excitement. Men are visual. The stimulation of viewing sexual images can prevent cheating outside the relationship.

Some partners, like Sam, see the looking at porn as a form of cheating, in itself. But again, this is a case-by-case assessment, as for some couples, pornography can be used as an emotional and psychological exit from the relationship.

For Sam and Marty, I didn't think this was the case. There was no indication that Marty was abusing porn or letting it take away from their relationship. Even Sam agreed that Marty was available, present and receptive to his sexual advances and activities.

With Sam, I explored the growth opportunity to allow Marty the ability to look at porn and to trust that this wouldn't send him off to cheat, like Sam's father. This was a chance for him to soothe himself, without needing Marty to calm him with compliance. I also helped Sam see the advantage of having a partner be honest and open about his using porn, and how many other couples sneak and hide this behavior, like his father. Again, I invited Sam and Marty to view the porn together. Both were uncomfortable with that idea, Sam more than Marty, and so decided against it.

By the end of treatment, Sam was getting used to Marty's pornographic use, and assuring himself that Marty was not his father. If the use became out of control, he'd address it then. Marty was willing to cut down his use-even though the frequency and amount were low to start with.

Some or more of this is controversial, I know. But as therapists, we're still pioneers in how to deal and what to do with sexuality. Pornography is exploding on the Internet these days, and isn't going away. People with intimacy disorders are inclined to go online and get a distorted view of what sexuality is. To me, the key to me is exploring with the client what it means to him. It's also about asking him to provide every detail of what he's looking at and for me, as therapist, to listen with a nonsexual ear. When a client talks about what kind of porn he looks at, I'm listening not so much to the data as I'm thinking about what it represents for him.

I strongly believe that sexual behavior and fantasy are an extension of our inner core-windows into another facet of who we are. Whatever gives you the greatest pleasure sexually is information about you. It's telling a story-not necessarily on a conscious level.

Regardless of your fantasies and what type of porn you enjoy, it's helpful to translate those fantasies into reality, albeit in nonsexual ways. You'll find parts of yourself that you've been seeking.

If a client enjoys fantasies about straight men, I suggest that he explore his relationships with important and influential straight men in his life, starting with his father. The answers could encourage him to find ways to make friends with straight men and accomplish some personal healing. This was the case with my client John viewing images of "straight" bodybuilders.

If a client enjoys being disciplined and spanked, then exploring how he was (or was not) disciplined as a child-and how he's disciplined in his life today-helps determine if he's trying to reconcile something he didn't get enough of (or too much of).

Another client said he enjoyed watching porn films of group-sex orgies, where "the men are insatiable and can never get enough." We explored his experiences with gay men-and other people, for that matter-and his feelings of inclusion or exclusion. This particular client never felt he belonged. After I encouraged he look at his sexual fantasy as a way of resolving that issue, he was motivated to find groups where he could feel comfortable, contribute, and receive from others.

The other side to this issue is being like Sam, the partner of someone who enjoys porn. His reaction (particularly his over-reaction) to the sexual expression was a window for him to examine his past and his inner self. Sam was able to use the opportunity with Marty's porn use as a way to heal old wounds with his father.

Pornography isn't bad or wrong, but even those whose sexual behavior is within normal limits can examine the underpinnings of his fantasy and see, as through a sexual window, who he is. For the sexual addict, decoding his fantasies can often reduce, if not eliminate, compulsive behavior as well as be a window into who he is. For others, it can be a way of self-actuating to more of who they are. It's a narrative about the client that can be used as a means for change and growth.

Are You A Sex Addict or Is It Just That You Are So Irresistible?


I’ve been a specialist in the field of sexual addiction and compulsivity for almost 20 years. Clients will ask me if they are a sex addict by the specifics of what they’re thinking, doing, and/or wanting to do make them a potential sex addict. For example, does wanting sex every day, or twice a night make them an addict?

The surprising truth is that sexual addiction isn’t about sex at all. Sexual compulsives behave sexually, but the underlying reason for their behavior has to do with their “acting out” something else inside such as sexual trauma or other forms of childhood abuse or neglect. To determine whether they’re truly sex addicts and sexually acting out (SAO), many factors need to be considered.

Patrick Carnes coined the term sexual addiction in 1983. His work focuses on how “addictive sexuality feels shameful, is exploitive, compromises values, draws on fear for excitement, reenacts childhood abuses, disconnects one from oneself, creates a world of unreality, is self-destructive and dangerous, uses conquest and power, serves to medicate and kill pain, is dishonest, becomes routine, requires a double life, is grim and joyless and demands perfection”.

I ask heterosexual men and women alike to take the sexual addiction screening tests (www.joekort.com/addiction1_JGH.htm) that can be found in Patrick Carne’s books, Out of the Shadows and Don’t Call It Love. For gay men, I suggest taking the test in my own book 10 Smart Things Gay Men Can Do To Improve Their Lives; and for women, I recommend taking the test in Charlotte Kasl’s book Women, Sex and Addiction; A Search for Love and Power. While these tests are anecdotal and not research-based, they open a dialogue about one’s sexual behavior. If they point to possible addiction, then we start to examine what we refer to as one’s “sexually acting out” (SAO) behaviors.

To confirm or rule out sexual addiction, the following ten signs should be explored:

1. A pattern of out-of-control sexual behavior

Reflecting on one’s past can illuminate if this patterns exists. Usually someone with a sexual addiction doesn’t recognize it until his/her 30s or 40s, when patterns have been firmly established.

2. Severe consequences as a result of out-of-control sexual behavior

If you’re single and don’t have frequent contact with family and friends, then repercussions of your out-of-control sexual behavior may not occur as easily. If you hide your sexual behavior from your partner and others you’re close to, this too can result in your remaining unaware of your addiction. However, anyone with sexual addiction frequently incurs legal, medical, and relational consequences. These may include arrests at public restrooms, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), overindulging to the point of physical injury (ie: sores on one’s genitals), and a partner threatening to leave.

3. Persistent pursuit of self-destructive or high-risk sexual behavior

Do you frequently: have sex without using a condom; give oral sex and swallow; cruise public areas for sex, knowing you can be arrested; secretly log onto the Internet at work or at home and changing the screen as soon as someone approaches; or have affairs outside of your partnered relationship?

4. On-going desire or efforts to limit this behavior

You should be able to easily determine how much sex you want to engage in, and how often. Of course at times, you’ll let desire to overcome you and be spontaneous. But if allowing your desires to overcome you becomes the norm—where your desires are making the decisions, and not you—you might want to consider that you may have a problem.

5. Inability to stop, despite the consequences

If you never try to stop, you won’t know if an inability exists. I tell clients that after a negative consequence, most people who don’t have a problem, sexual or otherwise, will either greatly reduce the “offending” behavior or give it up completely. Those who continue in the face of unpleasant results usually have a problem.

6. Sexual obsession and fantasy are your chief strategies for coping

Obsession doesn’t mean thinking about sex every minute of the day—but of course, it can. It can take on the following forms: planning time for acting out sexually; ensuring that you'll have enough money to spend on SAO; lying and covering up your escapades; recovering from the effects of SAO; worrying about an STD or if you’ve passed it onto a partner; or not using up your libido so there’s none left for your partner.

7. Increasing your quantity—or variety—of sexual experience because the current level no longer satisfies you

Your participation in SAO is enhanced by naturally-produced internal drugs like as adrenaline and endorphins. Tolerance to these drugs begins to increase, so that over time, you need to engage in more dangerous behaviors or take higher risks to get the same sexual high.

8. Severe mood changes centering around sexual activity

Sex should heighten your self esteem and intimacy with others. The course of sexual addiction usually ends in feelings of shame, depression, and despair over one’s SAO behavior. Beforehand, looking forward to sexual behavior usually boosts people’s mood. But afterward, the addict often reports a lack of sleep and therefore, being on edge and easily irritated. If you feel shame after sex, that could indicate there’s something wrong.

9. Inordinate time spent in looking for sexual experiences, engaging in them, or recovering from them

Sex addicts prefer the chase over the actual behavior; and so spend increasing amounts of time in Internet chat rooms while surfing for porn sites. They’ll waste hours, day or night in bathhouses, at bars and rest areas in search of numerous hook-ups. The sex they experience is often a disappointing letdown.

10. Reducing or neglecting other social, occupational, or recreational activities

The true sex addict prefers sexual highs and the thrill of the chase over simply being with others, getting work done at his/her job and/or making time for fun and recreation. None of us can totally balance life perfectly. But if you’re neglecting important areas of your life to spend time thinking about, planning for, looking for, and making time for SAO, that should cause you some concern.

Have you ruled out being a sex addict but still feel troubled by your sexual behavior? You may simply have a high sex drive; be in Stage 5 of coming out of the closet (http://www.joekort.com/articles17.htm); or in romantic love—the first stage of a relationship; acting out childhood sexual abuse, or other forms of abuse or neglect that cause other forms of sexual discomfort.

Lastly, are you using sexual behavior to manage some affective disorder such as depression, anxiety, manic-depression, or ADHD? The solution is to read much of the self-help literature that’s available online and in bookstores and seek therapy with someone with professional experience in dealing with SAO.

"You Belong to Me": The truth about sexual abuse


This article’s title reflects the perpetrator’s belief, that the victim now belongs to him/her, to do with as he/she desires; that his or her sexual needs, wants and sexuality overrules those of the victim’s. The victim will spend a lifetime unconsciously reenacting their original sexual abuse or, hopefully, working on healing it and removing the ill effects of the perpetrator’s abuse. For sexual abuse survivors, the nightmare is that they are forced to keep a sexual secret. Their tormentor threatens to harm them or someone they love if they ever tell. So they don’t—giving the perpetrator even more power. By not going through the healing process, the victim does belong to their perpetrator.

Sexual abuse complicates and confuses an individual’s developing awareness of sexuality. It does not make a person gay, straight, bisexual or force sexual or romantic orientation in any direction. However, it can imprint unwanted behaviors or absence of behaviors and desires—and herein lies the problem—leaving a person’s real sexual desires hidden, even to him/herself.

A Definition of Sexual Abuse

Whenever one person dominates and exploits another person through sexual activity or suggestion, using sexual feelings and behavior to degrade, humiliate, control, injure or or misuse, this qualifies as sexual abuse. In The Sexual Healing Journey: A Guide for Survivors of Sexual Abuse author and educator Wendy Maltz equates sexual abuse with a violation of a position of trust, power and protection, “an act on a child who lacks emotional & intellectual maturation.” It promotes sexual secrecy among its victims, so that even their own sexual drives, libido, orientation and desires become secrets to themselves.

Overt sexual abuse involves direct touching, fondling and intercourse , against a person’s will. A few examples include French kissing, fellatio, sodomy, penetration with objects, genitals and fingers, and masturbation. Use of force is typically involved—often physical, but more often psychological or emotional, such as difference in status or experience, as in employee/employer, adult/child, older boy/younger boy.

Covert sexual abuse is more subtle and indirect. Examples of this include prolonged hugs, sexual stares, inappropriate comments about body parts such as buttocks or genitals, shaming someone for the kind of man they are, (or more frequently, homophobic name-calling), or treating a child as an adult or even a partner for emotional support. Books like Pat Love’s Emotional Incest Syndrome: What to Do When A Parent’s Love Rules Your life and Kenneth M. Adams’s Silently Seduced: When Parents Make Their Children Partners: Understanding Covert Incest do a great job in reviewing and detailing covert sexual abuse’s negative effects.

Both gays and straights make the mistake of connecting sexual abuse with homosexuality. Their main rationale is that gays and lesbians, must have been sexually abused; and that being “homosexual,” means you are a pedophile. This derives from the old psychoanalytic theory that one’s sexual orientation is created in the first few years of development, and that if any trauma or negative influences “impair” it, then adolescence offers a second chance at correcting one’s heterosexuality gone wrong. Sexual abuse was assumed to be one of the primary reasons that one could get “confused” and turn away from innate heterosexuality.

Too many of today’s therapists still consider this true. Some therapists, even gay and lesbian therapists, still see adolescence as a time to help homosexual teenagers re-learn “how to be heterosexual.” Many insist that homosexual clients must have been sexually abused I have many gay and lesbian clients who still believe this, telling me they must have been sexually abused in their past, even if they have no memory of such a thing. And those who were sexually abused assume that the abuse explains why they’re gay. So the myth persists, and confusion continues over sexual abuse and its effects on gays and lesbians.

Contrary to what so many psychotherapists would like to believe, there is no evidence that sexual abuse can shape, much less create, anyone’s sexual orientation: The only thing it can do is confuse young people about what their sexual orientation really is. However, with good therapy and healing, the sexually abused can come to know their true sexual and romantic orientation, be it gay or straight.

Disclosing Your Sexual Abuse

Male survivors of sexual abuse often worry that in seeking help, they’ll be perceived as “less of a man.” They worry they will be seen as less masculine. Of course the male survivor of sexual abuse fears what others will think of him because, as Maltz says, “our society gives boys the message that men should be able to stand up for themselves and fight off danger. They’re also told that if a man gets hurt, he should go it alone instead of seeking help.”

Many people already believe the old stereotype that gay men are “more like women.” Even gay men themselves will discriminate against effeminate men, saying, “If I wanted women, I’d have been straight,” and many gay personal ads specify, “No fems.” This all creates the mindset that being gay—or at least, not a macho man—makes you less than masculine. So for gay men to tell others about their abuse would only add to the insult that they are less of a man. Imagine the profound double bind of being gay and having been sexually abused! “Because most abuse of males is perpetrated by other males,” writes Maltz, “heterosexual male victims may worry that they will be seen as homosexual if others hear the details of what occurred. Gay men,” he continues, “may wonder if the abuse made them gay.”

On the other hand, women are more inclined to go to therapy. They may not initially realize that they’ve been sexually abused, but should they discover it during therapy, they are more willing to deal with it head-on than their male counterparts. Lesbians are concerned that their therapist will try to insist that this abuse is what “turned them into” lesbians and/or might worry that this is in fact the case. Gay men also get this type of feedback and can worry about this. It’s important to arm yourself with as much information about sexual abuse as you can. Learn—for yourself,—where you stand as a sexual abuse survivor. Do not accept how your perpetrator, therapists, family or anyone else want to define you. You need to belong to yourself, as you really have all along!

Ex-Gay or Sexual Anorexic?


The term sexual anorexia isn’t a common term. Anorexic usually describes people with an eating disorder who can literally starve themselves to death. Similarly, many people think that sexual anorexia means sexual starvation, or depriving oneself of sexual pleasure. They link it to having a low sex drive.

In his book, Sexual Anorexia: Overcoming Sexual Self-Hatred, Patrick Carnes—who coined the term sexual addiction—writes about sexual anorexia as a disorder that parallels sexual addiction and compulsivity, based on childhood sexual trauma. He describes it as “an obsessive state in which the physical, mental, and emotional task of avoiding sex dominates one’s life.” The sufferer is preoccupied with avoiding sex, and finds sex repulsive—which is quite different than having a low libido or simply being neutral and not interested in sex. For the most part, people with low sexual drives are not avoiding sex; they are unable to activate their libido, no matter how hard they try. They simply have no interest, because their desire has been squelched or is non-existent. They may be avoiding a partner who wants sex more than they do, but they are also trying to avoid having to face a low sexual desire.

Sexual Anorexia is defined by a set of characteristics that sufferers typically experience:

  • A pattern of resistance to anything sexual
  • Continuing that pattern of avoidance, even though they may know it’s self-destructive (ie: harm a marriage, prevent relationships)
  • Going to great lengths to avoid sexual contact or attention
  • Rigid or judgmental attitudes toward sexuality—their own, and others
  • Resistance and avoidance of deeper, more painful life issues
  • Extreme shame and self-loathing about their bodies, sexual attributes and experiences
  • Obsessing about sex and how to avoid, to a point where it interferes with normal living
  • Possible episodes of sexual bingeing or periods of sexual compulsivity

The sexual anorexic’s primary goal is to find ways not to combine intimacy with sex. Both men and women can suffer from this disorder, and most keep silent about it. They initially feel out-of-sorts and don’t speak openly about their apathy for fear of being judged negatively in today’s society, which values sexual behavior so very highly.

Other symptoms of sexual anorexia can include: a desire to control one’s body, sexuality and environments; terror and high anxiety of being sexual or appearing sexual in any way; and anger and self-hatred. Negative associations about sexuality are usually formed by some sexual trauma or abuse—possibly incest by a family member such as a mother or father, sibling, grandparent, aunt or uncle. It could be sexual abuse by an older neighborhood boy or girl, a clergyman, teacher, or anyone older who imposes their adult sexuality on the child, leaving them feeling terrified, powerless, angry and often blaming themselves—and contributing to their own self-hatred.

Children should not be exposed to any form of sexual contact for many reasons, one of which is that they are not ready, physically or developmentally, to handle it. In adulthood, many trauma survivors become sexually anorexic or sexually addicted. But neither disorder is really about sex: it arises from the initial loss of control over what happened to them as children. Adult sexuality imposed on a child impedes the child’s own sexual development, so they either act out (in sexual addiction) or acts in (becomes sexually anorexic). This helps them feel that they are protecting themselves from further sexual betrayal and sexual insult.

Also, as Carnes’s research demonstrates, many sexual anorexics come from rigid homes with very judgmental parents who condemn sex in highly negative terms. In many cases, one of the parents is punitive with their children on sexual issues. Both parents are authoritative, closed to new ideas and demonstrate little or no affection. Children must measure up to their parents’ expectations, without being able to negotiate the rules. They’re forced to withdraw inside themselves to find affection and love on their own. Suddenly, their world begins to feel unsafe. As Carnes points out, this leads the child to adopt four core beliefs:

1. I am basically bad and unworthy.

2. No one would love me if they really knew me.

3. The world is dangerous

4. If I have to depend on others, my needs are never going to be met.

This, I believe, is why men and women drift into the “ex-gay” movement and decide to suppress their homosexual urges. Reading Dr. Carnes’s book explains why someone with a gay sexual and romantic orientation would go to great lengths to fight their natural sexual urges.

Many religious homes are very judgmental about homosexuality. Ex-gays go through exaggerated attempts to repress, control and avoid their sexuality—in a way that parallels the dynamics of sexual anorexia.

It is particularly interesting how family issues of a sexual anorexic parallel the societal issues around gays and lesbians. Society tries to—and often succeeds in—imposing a deep-seated terror of sex onto gays and lesbians for having sexual desires toward the same gender. Gays and lesbians face the risk of emotional and/or physical abuse and rejection, sexual self-hatred, shame and self-loathing, and rigid judgments about what their sexual interests are. According to the religious morality that many preach, heterosexuality is superior to homosexuality. They preach that only heterosexuals should be granted rights and privileges, because of what gays and lesbians did in their bedrooms the night before. “Hands off gays and lesbians” homophobes preach, “and do not demonstrate love and affection for them”. What they do sexually “makes us sick!” say many homophobes and heterosexists. Love the sinner, hate the sin these folks say. However their actions of passing laws against gays and preaching anti-gay rhetoric is no different than the restrictive homes where sexual anorexics grow up in families that are sex negative and overly judgmental.

It makes sense to me that many men and women of homosexual orientation don’t want to come out and declare themselves gay, and be forced to face this hatred and contempt spewed by many families, society and religions. They would choose to self-identify as “ex”-gays, live a lie, and become sexual anorexics.

Ex-gays who have come to see me talk about believing their homosexual urges were sick and wrong. They believe their homosexuality is a sexual addiction and try to use Patrick Carnes’s model to set boundaries around their “sexual acting out” behavior. They speak of hating themselves for having these homoerotic urges and would never consider acting them out. Instead, they work hard at repressing them. Preoccupied with any feelings toward the same gender, they’re extremely judgmental toward those who do live out their homosexual orientation, sexually and romantically. They tell me they don’t believe me when as I say I’m happy in my life as a gay man.

Ex-gays go to extremes to avoid sexual contact with the same gender, even if it means behaving in hateful ways—such as trying to pass legislation against gays. I strongly believe that those in the forefront of the ex-gay movement suffer from sexual anorexia and self-hatred about homosexuality, which was taught to them as children. So many come from families, cultures, and communities that disdain homosexuality, and have incorporated this to such an extreme that they can never fully actualize themselves as the gays and lesbians they were meant to be and truly are. Along with their true sexual orientation, they have shut down their capacity to be loving and accepting, particular toward other gays and lesbians.

Since I published my book, 10 Smart Things Gay Men Can Do To Improve Their Lives and my being a part of www.exgaywatch.com, I can’t tell you how many emails I’ve received from ex-gays and “those who love them,” telling me about other ex-gay websites, books, and organizations, and criticizing me for not promoting the “other side” of being gay—that is, the ex-gay side.

Some do it nicely, sending me emails like, “Have you seen [a certain] site on changing one’s sexuality? Check it out.” Some are cowards, not leaving a return address, and telling me I am “going to hell” —even though being Jewish, I don’t believe in hell! The fact is, these folks simply cannot live their lives as ex-gays without being judgmental of those who live their lives as openly happy gays and lesbians. Ex-gays make a lifestyle of promoting themselves as the “healthy” alternative, as though gays and lesbians are pitted against them! It doesn’t, and shouldn’t have to be this way. If they were truly happy and aligned with how they choose to live, they would just live that way with very little fuss. They would maintain their own organizations, but not try to impose their thoughts and beliefs on others.

I’m not against those of a homosexual orientation who choose not to live as gay or lesbian. I do quarrel with their constant attempts to pass laws against me and send me emails me telling me I’m bad and wrong for living the life I do. Based on everything I’ve read and observed, I believe that ex-gays can be correctly diagnosed as sexual anorexics.

The Face of Gay Americans


I am a Gay American too, just like New Jersey Gov. James E. McGreevey who came out as one in July, 2004. And for two days I felt like one after my partner and I were legally married in Massachusetts on August 19, 2004. We were finally admitted into the adult fraternity of the officially married, and for two days, we were legal kin.

For two days, I didn’t have to worry that should a medical emergency happen while on vacation, that one of us would be shut out of the emergency room. Not being his legal next of kin, you see, a hospital affords me no rights with my partner—the man I want to take care of in times of sickness. If I don’t, who will? His parents have died, his sister lives out of state, and the rest of his family has their own kith and kin to look after. I want this responsibility. But without the legal rights that marriage provides, I can’t do that.

Now that we have returned to Michigan, we’re legally strangers once again. I want to place a human face on our partnership.

Ironically, only four hours after our nuptials in Massachusetts were made legal, we learned that California had nullified the nearly 4,000 marriages it had licensed during the summer. What a letdown! Of course, we knew that the minute we returned to Michigan, our license would be null and void in our home state too—but we didn’t care. We wanted to go through the process regardless. We wanted a chance to be like grownups just like our heterosexual friends and get a legal license with our heads held high and look into the eyes of those issuing our license and be told that we belong.

On the Outside

As a Jewish American I know how much people change once they get to know someone, whatever their differences are from others. As an adult, I was suddenly a minority outside the Jewish community in which I was raised, surrounded by people who did not know much about Jewish people. In fact, someone used the phrase, “Jew me down” in front of me, not realizing that it was an insult.

As these individuals got to know me, their opinions about Jews changed. They told me that their view changed about Jews or they learned things they did not know. I put a human face on someone Jewish.

Insulting Words

Today, kids say, “That is so gay,” not even realizing that it’s an insult to their gay friends or gay teachers. If they do realize the insult, they rarely care anyway.

Before I came out as a gay American, people became acquainted with me. Once I told them I was gay, they told me if they knew that, they would never have gotten to know me as their judgments about gays were negative. They told me that they never knew someone who was gay; and that they have learned a lot, and their negative judgments about gays and lesbians either reduced or evaporated.

What about the children? I don’t think folks are thinking about the children involved in gay relationships. Like it or not, they exist. I have friends where if the birth parent dies, the other “parent” is not legal kin; and the child can be taken away and placed into foster care. Even if expensive legal documents drawn and in place, the children still risk losing the other parent; the only other parent they know.

In his book, Gay Marriage, John Rauch points out that marriage puts laws in place that allow spouses to make life-or-death decisions on each other’s behalf in case of incapacity. So without legal rights toward our partners and our children, taxpayer money will go to the care of these people. Even though we want to be the one’s involved and to legally take the responsibility, we are forbidden by law.

Often until something affects you, you don’t fully understand it. And once it affects you, there is a whole paradigm shift. I think that if taxpaying Americans realized that they’re paying for the care of the children and partners of gays and lesbians, the very people who legally would be the responsibility of, they would not be so closed to letting gays and lesbians marry. The human face it would put on that would be your own.

©2005 by Joe Kort



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