This is an archive of the article "Straight talk about homosexuality" in "TEENS" magazine, published in Singapore in 1994.
The information in the article was based on the now-debunked theory that gay men and lesbians can change their sexual orientation. The "authority" which the author of the article consulted was Sinclair Rogers, a former president of the right-wing Christian organisation, Exodus International, which champions the ex-gay cause.
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STRAIGHT TALK ABOUT HOMOSEXUALITY by Jacqueline Tan
"When I was young, I used to play with girls most of the time and this made me feel that I'm a bit girlish. I prefer guys to girls because of their looks. In primary school and even secondary school, people thought that I was gay and this hurt a lot. They called me names which made me cry. I had hoped that things would get better when I left secondary school. And in the first year I made a lot of friends who were very friendly to me, but after some time, things began uj change. I feel so hurt that they also think I'm gay. How can / be accepted by them? Am I normal to like guys better than girls?" C.W.
"I am a 12-year-old girl studying in an all-girls school. I like this girl, A, very much. I find her caring, helpful, cute and hardworking. Her friend told me that A likes me too. But 1 don't know if this is true because A seems very close to another girl, S. My friend says that J am a lesbian. Am I really one?" Steph.
These letters and many others like them have appeared time and time again in our column 4A Helping Hand'. They echo a very real concern amongst many teenagers - the underlying question being "What makes me a homosexual and am I gay if I like someone of the same sex?" The answer offered me has been that this is merely a phase teenagers go through and they will grow out of it. But often, this response has merely scratched the surface of the larger issue at hand and has not provided a deeper understanding of homosexuality.
TEENS took the opportunity to speak with Sinclair Rogers (see insert) who has more than a decade of experience behind him in dealing with such issues. His experiences have been deepened by the fact that he is a former homosexual who has since found a new heterosexual life with his wife and daughter. His answer: "You can turn away from homosexuality. Not everyone who is gay wants to be. There are CHOICES a homosexually-oriented person can make."
THE CRUCIAL YEARS
There is a place for emotionally satisfying healthy same-sex relationships and we never really out-grow them. But there is that special time from about five to fifteen when same-sex relationships are very important in solidifying our identity. When a child reaches the age of five, his or her focus is not on the opposite sex, but on the same sex for about the next ten years. He/she will look to the same sex for role modelling, acceptance and affirmation of their developing identity. During this stage, boys and girls are very same-sex orientated and they have affectionate and emotionally intense same-sex bonds, unions, friendships. These are not homosexual. In fact, they may even prevent the development of homosexuality later. At this stage, both boys and girls are pre-heterosexual or pre-homosexual. They are not yet fixed in their orientation, but are in what is known as the 'bonding process' where they begin to develop their relationships. After the period of same sex-bonding, when a youngster's needs are satisfied, then only will he or she move on.
OPPOSITE SEX - SOURCE OF ATTRACTION & ANXIETY
By age fifteen, the teenager begins to be aware of the opposite sex. In that awareness, there is both the attraction and the anxiety. It is very typical for the teenager to go through puberty and find the opposite sex of interest and the cause of a lot of concern. This is where they draw on models that they see in society, for instance boys like girls and girls grow up to like boys. They see this happening in all the pop culture around them and they see it in their home (hopefully), in a good parent model with father and mother relating to each other. They see their older brothers and sisters as they begin to date and have boy/girlfriends and they know that it is now their turn.
Yet there is anxiety, which is very normal. One guy might say: "I'm afraid to ask Siew Chin out, she might think I'm very nerdy. But his friend might reply, "You are nerdy, but go ahead and ask her out anyway." This is the kind of bolstering that people need from friends and even family, to cross that gap. It is only here that teenagers begin to learn to be comfortable relating to the opposite sex and lean towards the goals of marriage and parenting.
BACKGROUND OF SEXUAL MOLEST
However, there are people who never develop in this way. Many people whom Sinclair has worked with have never had satisfying same-sex relationships with their father, mother or their peers. Said Sinclair: "There are reasons why people don't develop heterosexually. I have worked on six continents, and while I don't know everything, I have witnessed certain universal trends over a decade of work in this field. And I have seen that pretty much regardless of the continent and culture, when people get involved homosexually, there are usually certain trends and patterns that you can expect to see in a person's history. For example, in my work in Singapore, over 80% of the male and female clients come from a background of sexual molest before the age of twelve".
He was quick to add that while (sexual) molest does not make you gay, it is a contributing factor to identity confusion. Sexual harassment such as molestation and rape does affect a person's self-esteem, ability to trust and his/her ability to relate. "Moreover, it will teach you things about sex you weren't supposed to know."
INSECURITY AND A NEED FOR ACCEPTANCE
The second pattern that he has also observed in his clients is the insecurity in their families. Many of them have admitted to having a broken relationship or a lack of a relationship with their parents. There was little sense of affirmation and little sense of being wanted in their parent-child relationship. This was especially so with parents of the same sex which posed a problem in one's identity formation.
Little girls don't derive their female identity from daddy, they derive it from mummy; little boys don't derive their male identity from mummy, they get it from daddy. So when there is a breakdown in the same-sex parent bond, we see, consequently, the drive in people to go looking for substitutes in other relationships.
A survey of homosexuals in San Francisco revealed that the number one reason for their involvement in the gay lifestyle was because of their need for acceptance. The second was intimacy. But these reasons have nothing at all to do with homosexuality. These are human needs which all of us have - gay or straight.
Adds Sinclair: "There are other social opportunities where people can find acceptance and satisfying loving relationships. They need not be homosexual activities... we don't believe that people are born gay. We believe that people develop homosexual orientations for a combination of many reasons. Even if there could be a biological influence for some, it would still not absolutely make the person become gay.
Is playing with Barbie dolls (or girls' toys) one of the reasons for a boy's development in homosexuality?
"I don't think Barbie is responsible lor the development of male homosexuality, though there have been studies in the 'sissy-boy' syndrome by Dr Green in the United States," said Sinclair. The 'sissy-boy' syndrome says that boys who do not get involved in regular rough-and-tumble play, who exhibit effeminate behaviour or play with girls' things like Barbie dolls are at a greater risk of developing homosexually. It is not because of Barbie, but it is because of how people will interpret their behaviour and label it: "Oh, you play with Barbie, and therefore you are not like the other boys. You must be homosexual."
These children are made fun of, rejected and labelled 'sissy' or 'queer' by their peers while growing up because they did not quite meet up with expectations. "That" he revealed "is true for about 90% of the gay men I work with, and maybe less so for the girls."
The effect of this labelling process can be profound. Psychologically, it is sometimes powerful enough to alter a person's concepts. Some boys do stop playing with girls' toys and try to conform, and they make fine progress. Other boys may feel very threatened and insecure, depending on how this is handled. They may withdraw even further from trying to conform. They may think, "I don't measure up, I have failed, why bother trying". So they are the ones who hang out with the girls and they don't try and compete with other boys. They are always on the outside looking in. That is a very typical response of the homosexuals who come to see Sinclair. They often feel that they have never belonged to the group of guys.
I have a crush on someone of the same sex. Am I a homosexual? The issue of crushes on same-sex individuals is a very real question for a lot of teenagers. And it does display typical anxiety because teenagers have not completed their development yet. Part of the anxiety is also due to the fear of attraction to the same sex. But actually, this is very normal. It is very much a part of the teenage years.
Girls and boys will have a deep desire to emulate the role-models they admire. The person that the girl or boy admires generally represents an ideal which they strive to achieve. The boy sees the soccer player and admires his strength, skill and manliness. Naturally he wants that, and so he develops a crush on the soccer star of the school. The same goes for a crush on one's teacher (of the same sex). If a girl admires a teacher in school and the teacher invests in her, makes time for her, she may develop a transitional infatuation on the teacher - which, as Sinclair is quick to point out, is not homosexuality. Rather, it is an emotional response which says "thank you tor appreciating me, thank you for making me feel valuable".
"I think she or he may be misinterpreting the strong attraction and emotional appeal that she/he feels for love. I don't think love is what she/he feels as much as admiration and appreciation. Added Sinclair: "While I think it is good tor the teenager to voice those feelings, it is not really appropriate for him or her to go up to someone of the same sex and say "I'm really in love with you". It's really not love anyway. Crushes and infatuations are strong emotional feelings but don't confuse them with love or appreciation directed towards someone. Many of us go through this. Just understand how to interpret what you are feeling. You're not homosexual and it doesn't mean that you are going to be. It means that there is something about that person that you really admire and appreciate, something that you might want for yourself, which is why that person becomes very important to you." Then at what point am I considered a homosexual?
The response to that is, a homosexual orientation does not become locked in until much later in adult life, like in one's twenties or thirties. (Even then, at that age, a person's homosexual orientations could also indicate that his/her development is still evolving and is still not complete.) It is unfair for a teenager to prematurely assume that he or she is a homosexual or a lesbian. The teenage years can involve experimentation - sexually, although that is unwise. But even it the teenager does experiment with sex with a person of the same sex... and even if he or she finds it pleasurable, that certainly does not make him/her a homosexual.
"Frankly when you stimulate nerve-endings, they are going to respond pleasurably. That does not define you as a homosexual just because your nerve-endings have enjoyed that stimulus," explains Sinclair. A lot of people draw that conclusion by thinking 'That man touched me and I responded this way or that girl kissed me and I felt that way. Therefore, because I liked it, I must be a homosexual".
"That's wrong", says Sinclair and it is a very natural though unfair and destructive conclusion. It puts a lot of fear into teenagers because they think that "if I did that and if I liked it, therefore I am gay". They are not. It just means that they are human. But you can move out of those phases and develop natural, proper and healthy relationships."
I like dressing up in women's clothing, am I a homosexual?
"I don't think these boys are homosexual, but I think they are at risk. My question as a counsellor would be. why do you like dressing up in women's clothing?" replied Sinclair.
Perhaps when the boys tried to conform to other boys, they never measured up. they were never good enough, they were rejected. So the only other available option is to dress up as the other gender (as girls). Very often, boys who dress up in female clothing have histories which show a lack of bonding with Daddy (or a similar male figure). The boy's developing masculinity is 'un-nourished' and he will move towards Mummy (usually). And he will pattern after her and will be labelled by other people - "you're sissy or you're homosexual." And the boy might feel "Well, if I am a failure as a male, then maybe by adopting a female identity, I might be more accepted."
Even if you are attracted to someone of the same sex, you probably have ii for understandable reasons; it doesn't have to control your life. Often, homosexuality is a symptom, not an identity. So if you are a teenager and you find yourself homosexually attracted, you have to realise that it could he temporary. Secondly, if you realise that it is an ongoing problem for you and you rccognise that it is homosexuality, you are not bad because of this. It does not mean that you are destined to live as a homosexual. But it you cultivate it, it will control you more and more in the direction of a homosexual way of life.
You may find that if you have a homosexual attraction, stopping on your own may not be easy. People get involved in homosexuality for understandable reasons. Once you stop what you do, you have to look at why you were doing it.
I have turned away from homosexuality and I have now found myself a girlfriend... but I still find myself attracted to other men. Am I really a homosexual at heart? Homosexuality is a learnt and acquired behaviour. So anything you cultivate will grow stronger. It you had a couple of homosexual experiences and you find that you do not want to continue for whatever reason, you are not going to have amnesia and say those experiences did not happen. (That's why experimentation is unwise). "So you tell yourself: "I experimented and I found that this is not what I really want in life. I had the capacity to enjoy it, but at the same time I realise that this is not what I want. And I'm going to grow beyond this." And you begin to grow towards the goal that is more important to you," said Sinclair.
For people who have been involved in homosexual experiences, they have to ask themselves, "Why did I get involved?" Was it for recreational sex?" If it was, then that is easily cured. For people who still have same-sex attraction but who still want to grow beyond it, they also have to ask themselves the same questions. "Why did I get involved? Why do I feel the way I do?" and "What can I do about it?"
But like if you want to stop smoking, if you want to stop being a drug addict, you have to make responsible choices and say, nobody can change me but me. I want to stop, therefore I will.
And if you are hungry for male or female love and admiration, that's not really homosexuality. There are healthy ways to find love, acceptance and admiration. If you missed out on all that, there are other social settings where you can find them. Interpreting what drives you is very im-portant. But if you choose to get involved in a gay lifestyle and surround yourself with people and places that affirm homosexuality, then you will strengthen your homosexual appetite and make it more difficult to overcome. Being around people who engage in the same lifestyle will sometimes hinder or roh you of progress.
"Not everyone who has a homosexual orientation wants to be a homosexual. Having a homosexual orientation is very different from pursuing a gay lifestyle which will reinforce a gay orientation. For many teenagers who do not know the whole story, a wrong conclusion will be drawn and they'll say "Well, I'm like that, therefore I have to live a gay life". They are mistaken. If you are homosexual! y -orientated, you have a few options. You can choose ro pursue a homosexual lifestyle or you can choose to have a homosexual orientation but remain celibate (not sexually-active), or you can choose to move beyond homosexuality, towards heterosexuality. Many homosexually-orientated teens do not know that they have these three options.
However, if you do nor want to move towards heterosexual i ry, it may not be easy. You don't just change and become a heterosexual. You begin a process of growth and you arrive at heterosexuality to some degree. You've learnt things and you have cultivated your homosexuality perhaps to a degree, but with perseverance, support and motivation, clinical studies show that you can move beyond the domination of homosexuality. These studies have shown that people have the best success rate of conquering their homosexuality between the ages of 18 and 35 when the orientation is still somewhat malleable.
In fact, 80 years of information have revealed that the homosexual has a higher recovery rate than does the drug addict or the alcoholic. "When we talk about recovery, we mean not only stopping homosexual behaviour, but also managing that impulse, diminishing that impulse and developing to some degree, a heterosexual impulse," said Sinclair. And this has been precisely what thousands of people have achieved. Some have gone on ro marry people of the opposite sex and are good husbands and wives, but there are also other ex-homosexuals who will never marry. These are the alternatives open to a person with a homosexual orientation. Bur often, these are alternatives that many do not know of.
Sinclair Rogers or "Sy" as he is also called, used to be a homosexual but is one no longer. His was a fixation that had its roots in a series of tragic circumstances which patterned his childhood. His alcoholic mother was killed in a car accident when he was only four. Prior to that, at the age of three, young Sinclair was sexually molested by a family 'friend'. Although the molestation did not make him a homosexual, it left him deeply confused, fearful of men as well as harbouring a powerful, perverted knowledge of sexuality.
His damaged sense of sexuality began to emerge when he entered his teens. His effeminate mannerisms and attempts at wearing make-up were symptoms of his deep-rooted gender identity confusion. Said Sy: "I grew up for twelve years being rejected for my mannerisms, and I well understand the hurt that people experience". To overcome it, he involved himself in 'macho' activities like participating in the Boy Scouts, and track and swim teams but they failed to make him more manly. He was ridiculed and taunted by classmates and this made him miserable.
In 1974, Sy joined the military where he surprisingly adjusted quite well without too much of the torment that had followed him throughout his years at school. He wasn't rejected for being feminine, though some men did avoid him. Others sought him out for secret (sexual) encounters - sex made him feel wanted. He was eventually stationed in Hawaii where he totally immersed himself in Honolulu's gay scene. He became involved in minor prostitution and even drug abuse. It was also in Hawaii where he was one of the Best Men to two gay friends, who were the first male couple to be married in that state.
At a crisis point in his life, Sy came to the conclusion that his only chance at finding love and acceptance was to become a woman and shed his failed male identity. In January 1978, he underwent a psychiatric evaluation process where his therapist diagnosed him a 'transsexual' and deemed suitable for sex 'reassignment' surgery. He had to first undergo continued therapy and live outwardly as a woman for a year and a half before the drastic surgery was possible. During this time, he worked in a clerical position with a contracting firm. He achieved much in his role as a woman as he was considered attractive and was popular in gay circles.
Yet despite all this outward success. Sy was increasingly unhappy at the way things were going. Through a series of events, he was unable to continue his therapy, nor go ahead with 'The Operation'. He began to see that changing his outward male appearance was not going to solve his internal struggles. And he began to ask "Is this all worth it?" Thinking that he had nowhere else to turn, he began praying and was re-ignited in the belief of God's goodness and mercy. That was in 1980.
At that time, his homosexual friends mocked him for trying to find a life beyond homosexuality. "They said I would be back in a week - a month - a year." But he never went back. He began working with a Christian ministry where he was warmly accepted into fellowship with other believers. It was especially significant that the men in the church accepted and 'loved' him. Until that point, his belief was that men either wanted to sexually use him or reject him. This time he was accepted as a man - by men. and he began learning to build healthy relationships with people of the same sex and grow comfortably towards heterosexuality. "Even now I am still not as masculine as many other men but much more masculine than I was 14 years ago."
Sy has been married since 1982 to a woman named Karen and they both have a lovely daughter. He has served as President of Exodus International, the world-wide network of Christian agencies which reaches out to the sexually broken. He is now on the pastoral staff with the Church of Our Saviour in Singapore working with CHOICES, an affiliate of Exodus International. It reaches people in Singapore who have a desire to overcome homosexuality or other sexually related problems. CHOICES offers consultation and counselling, weekly support group meetings, seminars/workshops and literature or tapes. Inquiries remain confidential.
CHOICES C/0 CHURCH OF OUR SAVIOUR 130 MARGARET DRIVE SINGAPORE 0314 TEL: 4747222 10 AM • 5 PM TUES TO FRI
The article was scanned by Jun-Zubillaga Pow. The scans were processed, OCRed and uploaded by Roy Tan.