Seeking the Heterosexual Within 

many ex-gays find themselves back in the closet

Wednesday, Aug 19 1998

Page 2 of 3

In Encino, NARTH, the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, refers clients to as many as 30 local therapists who practice what they call gay "reparative" therapy. Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, who heads NARTH, is the leading proponent of a "scientific" basis for ex-gay therapy.

Nicolosi took his doctorate in 1977 from the California Professional School of Psychology. Curiously, Nicolosi "doesn't remember" where the school was located when he attended classes. (A spokeswoman said the location was a storefront on the outskirts of MacArthur Park. The school now occupies four campuses throughout California, including one in Alhambra, and its mission statement advocates "combating discrimination in all its forms, especially . . . heterosexism.") Nicolosi also runs a Catholic counseling center, but says his reparative therapy is secular.

"It would be easy to dismiss our therapy as religiously motivated, but it's not. It's science," he says.

Related Stories

  • Laker Girls Auditions: 10 Dancers Explain Why It's Their Dream Job

    Most of the hundreds of young women who showed up at the Laker Girl tryouts on Saturday had been dancing their entire lives. Some went to Juilliard. Some danced with world-class ballet companies. Some were professional cheerleaders with NFL teams. Since dance is not a fairly compensated field even at...
  • Cali Lives Strong

    Californians spend more in federal taxes than they receive back in services. And the same can be said for healthcare. According to an analysis by personal finance site WalletHub, California barely makes the top 20 (number 19) among states when it comes to "return on investment" (ROI) for healthcare costs...
  • We Wish We All Could Be Caprice's Kind of California Girl

    “This is myself with my best friend at the time, frying my skin," says the across-the-pond celebrity Caprice Bourret while looking at old photos, nibbling a scone at high tea at the Culver Hotel. "I used to be such a California girl. I used to fry. Hawaiian Tropic, no sunscreen at all."...
  • Porn Flight 15

    California porn studio Kink.com, which last year came under scrutiny for a condom-free production in which a woman who afterward turned up HIV-positive had performed, said this week that it's opening facilities in Las Vegas. The company, which was investigated by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) following...
  • Eco Cheap

    Los Angeles has some of the highest rents in the nation, and our worst-in-America roads cost us dearly when it comes to wear and tear on our vehicles. But there's one thing we spend less on: Energy. Comparatively, whether we're talking about electricity or natural gas, we don't use that much. And that means...

Nicolosi claims a third of his clients are "cured," a third show "significant improvement," and a third don't change. "Their homosexuality is still there, but it is really no problem," Nicolosi says. He also claims the scientific literature supports him, although an APA study found the evidence that reparative therapy succeeds "less than compelling."

Nicolosi client Mark, 31, says his therapy had nothing to do with Christianity. The initial focus of his therapy was his "dysfunctional" relationship with his "big-time businessman" father.

"He never hugged me. He worked until 9 every night and played golf every Saturday," says Mark, a sales associate at a video store. His next step toward heterosexuality was to "work the program" by returning to full-time work, taking up painting and making straight male friends. And where to find these new friends? At Nicolosi's reparative men's groups.

"I call them nongay homosexuals," Mark says. "I've made four significant male friendships I know I will have for the rest of my life." Heterosexuality will come in its own time, Mark believes. "I'm not going to lie and say I have two girlfriends, but when I see a beautiful woman getting in her car now, I appreciate her."

Why do gay people want to convert? For many leaders, that's a stupid question with easy answers: oppression, discrimination, religious and family pressure, internalized homophobia. Mark says he was turned off by the gay-bar scene. For many evangelicals, particularly from rural states, an ex-gay group is the first place they can admit their sexuality to other Christians without being prayed over or exorcised.

"I would have jumped on this 35 years ago," says the Reverend Mel White, a former speechwriter for Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell who came out of the closet after many years. His book Stranger at the Gate details his experiences. "I hardly know a gay or lesbian person who hasn't been affected by the idea they could be cured."

But if recruiting is not a problem, backsliding is. The ex-gay dropout rate is so high, "ex-ex-gays" now have their own books and Web sites, which describe the movement as a horror show of coercion, guilt and despair.

One Web posting tells the story of an ex-ex-gay man whose therapist opened his first session by setting an hourglass on her desk. "The grains of sand represent how many people are dying and going to hell while we are here talking," she said. In another posting, ex-ex-gayer Tom Ottosen says Love in Action executive director John Smid suggested that he commit suicide rather than return to the "gay lifestyle." (Smid, reached by phone, says he might have mentioned the high risk of death by AIDS or stress in the gay "lifestyle," but never suicide.)

Perhaps the most notorious ex-gay defectors were Michael Bussee and Gary Cooper, who helped found Exodus in 1976. While stumping for the group, they fell in love. Crunch time came when they found themselves booked into a hotel room with only one bed. The couple married in 1982; Cooper died of AIDS nine years later. Their story was told in a 1993 documentary on PBS.

Bussee says that in all his years inside the movement, he never met a single homosexual who was truly converted to heterosexuality.

"If you got them away from the Christian limelight," he says, "and asked them, 'Honestly now, are you saying that you are no longer homosexual and you are now heterosexually oriented?' not one person said, 'Yes, I am actually now heterosexual.'"

Ex-gay poster couple John and Anne Paulk take exception to that kind of talk. John (his drag name was Candi), who recently took a job with James Dobson's Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs, got a lot of press after the ad campaign broke. He says he was very annoyed with questions raised about his wife's lesbianism, which apparently consisted of one post-collegiate affair.

Related Content

Now Trending

  • Foster the People's Downtown L.A. Mural Is Coming Down

    The controversial Foster the People mural downtown is coming down, the office of L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti announced today. Despite claims by the pop band that it had necessary permits and that the artwork was legitimately produced, the mayor's office states what we reported previously: The piece is on a...
  • Sexual Predator Is Targeting Females in Eastside Park

    A sexual predator is on the loose in an Eastside park, police warned today. Cops say the creep has targeted "lone females" walking in Ernest E. Debs Regional Park three times between January and July. He has groped, exposed himself and even attacked with a knife, the Los Angeles Police...
  • U.S. Reps Call For Federal Intervention in Dodger TV Blackout

    A group of local U.S. representatives wants the Federal Communications Commission to help end Time Warner Cable's blackout of Dodger games for competing cable and satellite providers. Negotiations to bring the team's games to AT&T U-verse, Charter Communications, Cox Communications, DirecTV, Dish Network, Mediacom, Suddenlink Communications and Verizon FIOS have gotten...
Los Angeles Concert Tickets


  • Street League Skateboarding Super Crown World Championship
    On Sunday, Street League Skateboarding touched down in the Galen Center at USC as part of a four-stop tour for SLS's Super Crown World Championship. The L.A. stop determined the roster for Super Crown, airing August 24th on FOX Sports 1. The final eight are Nyjah Huston, Luan Oliveira, Torey Pudwill, Shane O'Neill, Paul Rodriguez, Chaz Ortiz, Matt Berger and Ishod Wair. All photos by Nanette Gonzales.
  • Comic-Con's "Celebrity" Autograph Area
    A sometimes overlooked (but still incredibly unique) aspect of San Diego Comic-Con are the celebs available to sign autographs, as well as the autograph seekers themselves. If you've ever wanted to meet the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld or the guy who played Michelangelo in the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, chances are, as you wander the Autograph Area, you'll be able to connect with someone you didn't even realize you were waiting your whole life to meet! All photos by Rob Inderrieden.
  • Real Madrid Soccer Practice at UCLA
    Fans came out to greet world champion soccer team Real Madrid as they practice at UCLA. This is the first time that soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo has practiced with the team this year. All photos by Jeff Cowan.