John D. Powell, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist. He was a staff psychologist at the University of Illinois Counseling Center from 1984-2007. During his 23 years there, he served in several capacities in addition to providing individual and group therapy: Coordinator of Intern Training, Chair of Trauma Response Team, Adjunct Professor in Psychology, and clinical supervisor for many doctoral trainees.
The National Association of Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) recently published a letter addressing some misconceptions and misinformation regarding NARTH. The letter is respectful in its tone and compelling in its content, as long as one holds the same views of homosexuality as NARTH. Their view is that people who are “dissatisfied with their unwanted homosexual attractions should be given the opportunity to choose their own path and to pursue change if they so desire.” The implication is that those who discover they are attracted to some individuals of the same sex but are uncomfortable with that attraction are probably not homosexual to begin with, and should therefore have the chance to “receive assistance in pursuing a different identity.”
While this sounds reasonable and respectful, NARTH appears to dismiss the fact that a vast majority of gay and lesbian youth and adults who have grown comfortably into their sexual identity have also experienced periods of dissatisfaction with their unwanted homosexual attractions during the coming out process. With few exceptions, gay and lesbian college students with whom I have worked described times during which they adamantly did not want to be gay. It is often a long and arduous emotional and interpersonal journey from initial curiosity and confusion to accepting their own identity. That journey almost always involves going through periods of profound fear of being gay and a longing that it not be true. These feelings are particularly intense in the early stages of coming out. Who would want to be gay or lesbian in a family, church, school, or culture that held such behavior as unacceptable, sinful, perverted, or shameful? With those messages in their ears, who would not have periods of “dissatisfaction with unwanted homosexual attraction?”