Monday, April 05, 2010

Situational Heterosexuality

Apr 5, 2010
MARRIED EX-GAY = SITUATIONAL HETEROSEXUAL
Situational heterosexuality is the most misunderstood concept 
in the ‘ex-gay’ and Christian worlds
By Anthony Venn-Brown © 2010

INTRODUCTION


‘Situational heterosexual’ is a term I’ve used for several years to describe myself when people have asked how I could have been married for so many years and yet be gay. This term has also helped people gain a clearer understanding of what really happens when someone who is homosexual marries someone of the opposite sex and claims change. Confusion about what really happens in these situations still exists and often wrongly reinforces the ‘homosexuality is a choice’ and ‘homosexuals can change’ myths.

How often have you heard someone say something like this ‘They couldn’t be gay, they’re marriedassuming that having a wife by your side and produced children means a person must be straight. When someone says that to me, I just smile......remain silent for a while having been a gay man in a heterosexual marriage) and wait for what I’m actually thinking to sink into the consciousness of the person who made the na├»ve statement.

‘SITUATIONAL HOMOSEXUALITY

The term ‘situational hom
osexuality’ is used to describe same sex behaviours in prison, the military, single sex boarding schools, or other sex-segregated communities, where members of those communities might engage in homosexual activity or relationships. Once they come out of that situation they have not become homosexual, they revert to their natural orientation; sex and relationships with the opposite sex. It’s only the situation that created the behaviour; the orientation wasn’t changed.


CONFUSION OVER BEHAVIOUR VS ORIENTATION

People who believe that a heterosexual marriage and children are proof that a person is no longer homosexual seem to be ignorant of the true dynamics of sexual orientation and have a simplistic view of sexual behaviour. Alfred Kinsey’s ground breaking research (late 40’s and early 50’s) in the area of human sexuality revealed many things. Whilst not all his discoveries have become standard psychological practise he opened the way for us to look at human sexuality in more realistic terms instead of making assumptions based on a Victorian, repressed and ignorant cultural mindset. Kinsey developed a seven point scale with 0 representing individuals who had only heterosexual intercourse and with 6 representing those who engaged in only same-sex activities. This created the concept of bi-sexuality and that some people may, from time to time, engage in same sex behaviours but not actually be homosexual in orientation.

Kinsey and his associates found that 37 per cent of the males and 13 percent of the females in their sample had had at least one homosexual encounter. Are these people homosexual in orientation, bisexual or heterosexuals who were playing up, being opportunistic or experimenting?


Further research over the last five decades has given us a more comprehensive understanding of sexual orientation.
Our sexual orientation involves brain wiring, thought processing, hormones and release of chemicals in the body with the final outcome demonstrated in our behaviour.
Our true sexual orientation is reflected by
:
1. The gender we are attracted to sexually
2. The gender we fantasize about
3. The gender we desire intimacy and affection with
4. The gender we are likely to fall in love with
5. The gender we want to partner with
 

6. How we identify ourselves
7. With all social, religious and legal restrictions removed and the opportunity to have sexual experience with either gender, which one would we honestly chose. Or as one person put it to me recently ‘In the morning, whose arms would you like to wake up in.’


So a person’s sexual orientation is determined by much more than their sexual behaviour. Or to put it another way, our sexual behaviour, solely, doesn’t indicate our sexual orientation. Genuine bisexuality would also include all of the above with either gender. Some people think they are bisexual because they have had sex with both male and female. I know I thought that for years but this is not necessarily true. For some people using the bisexual tag/identity is a useful and safe place for them to pause on their journey to accepting their gay self/identity.



CONFUSION OVER SAME SEX ATTRACTION (SSA) VS SEXUAL ORIENTATION

I’d like a dollar for every time I’ve received an email from someone seeking help telling me they are ‘struggling with same sex attraction’ (SSA). The term SSA is frequently used in the ‘ex-gay’ world by individuals and in their literature. The phrase 'same sex attraction' is usually a deliberate choice to move the person’s perception of their sexuality away from an orientation (which gives it a scientific basis and is innate) to a behaviour (which can be suppressed denied or 'possibly' changed).

SO WHAT IS ‘SITUATIONAL HETEROSEXUALITY’?

‘Situational heterosexuality’ is when a person who is same sex oriented enters a heterosexual marriage and has a degree of ‘heterosexual functionality’. This is not a change in orientation only behaviour; created by the situation.

HOMOSEXUALS IN A HETEROSEXUAL MARRIAGE – WHAT IS REALLY GOING ON?


You will often find men and women in the ‘ex-gay’ world speaking of their marriage as evidence that they are no longer homosexual. Those who are honest though, tell us they still have to deal with temptations, thoughts and desires towards the same sex. Some ‘ex-gay’ leaders in Australia have been honest enough to admit to ‘strugglers’ that ‘they will always walk with a limp’, meaning the gay never really goes away. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Alan Chambers, the director of Exodus (the global umbrella organisation for ex-gay ministries), sent shock waves through religious circles, when he stated that, "By no means would we ever say change can be sudden or complete," and that he was uncomfortable with the term 'ex-gay' as he doesn't think he's ever met one. Even after years as a husband and father he still struggles at times with homosexual temptation.

It’s not uncommon for men who have suppressed, denied and hated their same sex orientation to develop a sexual addiction or obsession. When they get married they have a sexual outlet which is free of shame and guilt and much more socially and religiously acceptable. This is a great relief for them
to finally feel ‘normal’, ‘wholesome’ even ‘pure’. As one research project clearly pointed out they had had sex with 100’s men once and sex with one woman 100’s of times. It is easy to see how they and others confuse this new found experience with the opposite sex as evidence of change. They do however conveniently ignore the fact that any infidelity within the marriage would never happen with another female, it would only ever be with a man.

What many of us have found out, finally leaving the heterosexual marriage to live as openly gay men and lesbians, that being true to yourself, instead of moving us into a life of promiscuity and sexual abandonment, actually releases us from the addictions and obsessions and new sense of morality and control emerges. Why didn’t someone tell me that when I was 18?


From my experience, working with 100’s of people in these situations, ‘situational heterosexuals’ rarely experience the depth, frequency or diversity of sexual experience that genuine heterosexuals couples do. One client sadly admitted to me that after many years of marriage he couldn’t recall one moment of intimacy, even though they had sex fairly regularly throughout the marriage. He didn’t actually know what intimacy was as his sexual experiences with men before he got married were mostly brief encounters with no affection or real connection, driven by his addiction and clouded with shame. It wasn’t till he came out and fell in love with a man that he discovered intimacy within that relationship and had a life experience to make a comparison. Others have confessed that in order for them to perform in the bedroom they had to fantasise having sex with men. Others, in the end, just tried to avoid it after years of feeling a sense of duty and obligation no longer worked. What a tragic situation for all concerned.

THE SADDEST THINGS ABOUT THIS SITUATION

This false assumption by many that a heterosexual marriage means a person is no longer homosexual has caused much unnecessary suffering.
  1. Well meaning Christians (and sometimes those not so well meaning) will often use these ‘ex-gay’/heterosexual marriages as examples that change is possible and pressure those who are gay or lesbian to reject their natural orientation. They do this with limited or no knowledge of sexual orientation or of the finer, personal details of these marriages. Too often parents and friends have been quoted as saying ‘look at so and so ….they changed…..they are now married with children, You can do it to with prayer and faith’
  2. Seekers of sexual orientation change who come to ‘ex-gay’ ministries are tormented and desperate. They hate being gay and will latch on to any possibility of change. The ‘ex-gay’/heterosexual marriage modelled by the ‘ex-gay’ leader is just the answer they seek. They look at the marriages and selectively ignore the honest confessions that these people still ‘struggle’. This false hope leads people into many wasted years trying to do the impossible, that is, turn from gay to straight. As one former ‘ex-gay’ leader in Australia said to me recently, after leaving his marriage to be true to himself, ‘For 20 years I was sold a very cruel lie’ or as Scott from Perth said ‘I lost my entire 20’s, I felt like I was robbed of what should have been enjoyable days of my youth’.
  3. The opposite sex partner will often believe they are 'called' to walk the journey with their partner to ‘heterosexuality’. As history has shown, rarely do these marriages last, leaving the heterosexual partner with a sense of betrayal and the feeling that they may have contributed in some way to their partner not changing. Or they are resentful that they have given the best years of their lives to a person who promised to love and be with them for life. A promise they were unable to fulfil. Former wives of 'ex-gay' men speak out here.
  4. And finally the children. One thing many people want in this situation is children. We want to be parents. I know I wanted to not only be husband but also a father. I believe now, I was more in love with the idea of being a husband and father (ie being ‘normal’) than I was in love with my wife. When the marriage finally breaks down, often during mid-life, the children are also traumatised and have to deal with the added shame that their Dad has ‘become’ gay or their Mother ‘become’ a lesbian. As many of these kids are a part of a Christian community the scandal is intensified. As my daughter Hannah said recently in an interview on the ABC If you are gay and get married hoping it will change you, then it is a very selfish act as you don’t know what hurt you will create in the generations to come.’
These are very tragic and unnecessary outcomes for all concerned.
  1. The person living with the false hope that one day they will be straight,
  2. The straight partner who is doing everything possible to create the ‘miracle’ and
  3. The children who are anticipating a lifetime of security with a Dad and Mum that will live and love together till death parts them.
Whilst I’m grateful for the years of married life and the lovely children and grandchildren I’ve had, I also have to live with the knowledge that I have been the source of the greatest trauma, pain and shame in the lives of the people I cared most about. Could I have turned back the hands of time I would not have chosen that for them or myself.

After Ron Brookman from the 'ex-gay" program Living Waters declared proudly that he recently  performed marriages for three men he had helped become 'ex-gay' a former wife of an ex-gay man had this to say.
I'm sad for Ron Brookman's wife, and for the wives (and children if these marriages don't make it) of the other two men he talks about in this interview. I'm sad for everyone who will believe what he says. I'm sad for myself... separated, now divorced from my Christian, closeted, gay-in-denial ex-husband (also in ministry). I'm sad for my ex-husband's first wife and children. I'm sad that he quite possibly will do this again to a 3rd woman because of fear and shame, and because of messages like this one from Ron Brookman that say that it's possible to be a "former homosexual". I support equality in marriage. I support honesty, authenticity, and integrity. I'm a Christian, but sadly the Australian Christian Lobby or Ron Brookman doesn't want or welcome my point of view. And... I should also have said that I'm very very sad for my ex-husband, and for all the unnecessary anxiety, depression, fear and shame that keeps him in the closet.


Twitter: @gayambassador
Website: www.gayambassador.com   

Anthony Venn-Brown is the co-founder and former leader of Freedom 2 b[e], Australia’s largest network of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people from Christian backgrounds. He is also an educator and consultant on LGBT/faith issues and leader in deconstructing the ‘ex-gay’ myth. Anthony’s autobiography 'A Life of Unlearning', details his journey from married, high profile preacher in Australia’s mega-churches to living as an openly gay man. Anthony has been twice voted ‘One of the 25 Most Influential Gay and Lesbian Australians’ (2007 & 2009) and this year was one of four finalists for the ACON Community Hero Award. He is also the founder and director of Ambassadors &  Bridge Builders International ( www.gayambassador.com )  .

35 comments:

  1. If there can be a thing as situational *homosexuality*, like there are in prisons, then Anthony's theory is 100% plausible!

    It's interesting that the bigots use the term "ex-gay" for someone they claim is "cured" of their homosexuality, but the LGBT community sure as *hell* never uses the term "ex-straight", do we?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, an ex-straight is heterosexual serving life in prison and engaged in situational homosexuality. In my estimate close to 80% of free homosexual males practice situational heterosexuality, after having being imprisoned by social norms. The damage these homosexuals cause to society, women and themselves can't be imagined.

      Delete
  2. Great post! Very clarifying.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Marlene.....yep your right...."ex-straight" doesn't somehow work does it....'former pretent heterosexual' might be closet to the truth.

    ReplyDelete
  4. The Journal Of The Gay And Lesbian Medical Association published a provocative theory in 2000 stating the following: homosexuality is natural in human beings, while heterosexuality is not! Main conclusions of the theory are:
    1. Humans do not possess a sexual instinct to engage in heterosexual intercourse.
    2. It was the rise in intelligence during evolution that made us lose our sexual instinct.
    3. Among other advantages the loss of sexual instinct made monogamy possible in a community setting.
    4. Lacking a sexual instinct, neither heterosexuality nor homosexuality is genetic in human beings.
    5. There are universal childhood sexual exploration behaviors that – if not checked by society/parents – have the potential to strongly bias the formation of a homosexual orientation development, over a heterosexual one, or a bisexual one.
    6. Heterosexuals vastly outnumber homosexuals in the world only because societies, needing to maintain their populations, strongly discourage homosexuality while encouraging heterosexuality!
    A website dedicated to this theory now exists at www.humansexualevolution.com .
    I welcome your personal comments and feedback.
    Yours sincerely,
    Christopher Gomes

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Christopher,
      Your first point "Humans do not possess a sexual instinct to engage in heterosexual intercourse" may be a bit flawed considering that the instinct of every organism is to reproduce and the only way humans can reproduce "naturally" is by heterosexual intercourse, so saying that humans do not possess the instinct to mate heterosexual is almost as saying that gays can change their sexual orientation, it is denying nature.

      Delete
    2. Do we need an instinct to reproduce? Given that humans at some point acquired the knowledge of what makes reproduction possible, namely heterosexual intercourse, did we need a sexual instinct to continuet to exist that would compel us to reproduice? I mean, we continued to reproduce after losing the sexual instinct, because we realized that in the harsh world of prehistory, producing children was the best way of ensuring ourselves care and protection in old age and infirmity. The proof in fact, that this instinct has died out in human beings is that, unlike all other sexually reproducing creatures, we can choose whether or not to reproduce. Losing the sexual instinct allowed us to maximize the intelligence potential of our evolving brain, and also allowwed us to live in pair bonds in close proximity to other pair bonds - without the inevitable conflict that would occur if we continued to possess a sexual insitnct (and the accompanying ability to sense sexual pheromones emitted by others of the opposite sex).

      Delete
  5. I can understand why the theory would be provocative.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi Anthony,

    I've been writing an essay on many of the same areas as you and I've been using the phrase 'functional homosexuality'. Gary Leupp in his book Male Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan, refers to a 'functional bisexuality'. Although he is coming from a social constructionist background I think we are all talking about the same thing.

    I have book marked your blog - very interesting.

    Paul, London

    ReplyDelete
  7. nice of you to drop by and thanks for your comments.....I use the term situational heterosexuality as people are often familiar with the term situational homosexuality. they are so similar....its always an unatural behaviour to the person which is determined by them within a situation.

    I often also speak about a level of heterosexual functionality......which of course is about being able to function......and thats about all.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The majority of homosexuals can reproduce once they enter into situational heterosexuality. In my estimate only about 10 percent of male homosexuals find sexual relations with women so repulsive that they can't engage in it. Think of a homosexual having intercourse with a woman to be akin to him jerking off. Keep in mind that not every heterosexual male can engage in situational homosexuality. In my estimate obtained from reading on male sexual behavior in prison settings it appears that over 80% of heterosexual males are capable of situational homosexuality.

      Situational heterosexual behavior is an area of study deserving close investigation. Prison bars need not just be physical things, they can also be internalized social norms, self loathing, and homophobia. This is the important thing to understand before entering into a proper understanding of homosexuality in our society. Men labeling themselves as gay are homosexuals, but most homosexuals have not embraced the gay identity and should thus not be called gay. Gay is an affirmation and celebration of homosexuality, something that the majority of homosexuals have yet to embrace.

      Delete
  8. Hey Anthony,

    I think this is excellent for people to see. Whilst I've never been in a heterosexual marriage, "religion" has caused major issues in the life of myself and my family. My mother was raised an orthodox Jew, and became a Christian when she married my father. I was raised a Christian, but broke from it when I realised I was gay. I finally declared myself celibate, and non-gay, and remained that way for a few years.

    I finally met my partner - oddly enough, and orthodox Jew himself, fell in love and had to somehow reconcile that with my own Christian faith.

    I think it is extremely important, especially in regard to the Abrahamic faiths to realise that homosexuality does not preclude you from holding these faiths as dear as anyone else does. It is an issue of morality, not sexuality. Bed hopping is morally wrong, whichever sexuality you are (in my opinion).

    Anthony, you are a true inspiration for me and so many people. It is critical that your voice is heard on behalf of many. Keep it up mate!

    Stuart Mead-Bergmann

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi Anthony,

    I love what you have written and obviously they come from experiences of yourself and others. However, when I read your last sentence in bold, I can't help but decide to post my comment here (which I never did anywhere). Your last statement arouses a differing view from me, simply because every decision we made in life forms part of who we are. Without having been through what you had (even though it may be painful for yourself and others), you may not have become the inspirational person today, neither would you have your understanding children and grandchildren. The pain your loved ones had been through even though unpleasant, had probably also make them more open minded than others as they had accepted you, and being open minded definitely will make life easier.

    Anyway, hands of time cannot be turned back. we will never know who else will be affected in a better or worse way if we had not chosen the paths we had already walked on.

    Charlie, Singapore

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hi Charlie..nice of you to comment. I totally get where you are coming from....and for many years would have used similar wording. people often have said 'well at least you had 16 wonderful years of marriage and have two beautiful daughters'....and that is true and I agreed. I did feel though it was often dismissive of the pain my and others ignorance caused on our lives. I think it is important to emphasise that.

    would I advise anyone to take a similar journey. that would be an emphatic NO! In the long run you will hurt to many people.

    We have however turned the pain and suffering into something positive. From my experience not everyone can do that.

    As I often say. In life you either become bitter or better. You responses to life's experiences determines whether we become the former of the later.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Oh, I didn't really mean that your wonderful years of marriage and understanding kids are some form of consolation. To imply this may be dimissive of the pain caused, I totally agree on this. I just feel that nothing is absolute and like you have pointed out, how life turns out largely depends on attitudes. Some are able to oversome pain, some are not.

    For someone who opt to take on a similar jounrney, they have to be mentally prepared to face the music that comes with it, whether it is the right decision, its hard to say. But your sharing of your experiences definitely will make someone think twice and if anyone were to decide to take on a similar path, hopefully one would be more mindful of what to expect and wouldn't be caught off guard and lose the balance. Even if one were to lose the balance, as everyone does from time to time, it can make a difference when there is empathy.

    About hurting others, there is no guarantee the other paths taken will cause less casualties. It is still up to the individuals ultimately.

    Anyway, I am not married, nor have the unique experience to procreate life. I am not envious of those who do, but at the same time I can see the bright side of it through the eyes of some people I know. Anything that makes people happy works, the hard part is to make everyone happy!

    Charlie

    ReplyDelete
  12. yes I agree with you Charlie.....no life is without its tragedies and challenges. It is up to the individuals how they respond to them. this has been the same for my wife and children. to cause them this pain and suffering was not intentional as you know.....it was a matter of following the truth and doing what was right. I came to a point in my life where I became completely conscious that I had been in denial and was living a lie.

    ReplyDelete
  13. well, i must say what the bible ay... a man a woman the end of discussion

    ReplyDelete
  14. So Anon does "end of discussion" mean you are not open to dialogue on opinions of the truth? I am hoping you realize that we here are totally supporting what the Bible says? Have you looked into the original interpretations for yourself, or are you accepting recent interpretations as the truth? I would be really interested to know how you came to the conclusion you have come to with your post :-)Blessings.

    ReplyDelete
  15. and when someone says something like "end of discussion" i don't give them any more energy. There are some people its best to leave in their ignorance.....especially when they hide behind anonymous. If you had something intelligent to say and you actually believed in you'd actually have the integrity to put your name to it.

    ReplyDelete
  16. These comments get my back up cos they are based in ignorance and all I want to do is to educate :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. interesting when someone has a strong opinion that isnt yours, that they are ignorent

      Delete
  17. the level of the comment demonstrates I think that we dont need to give any energy to a person like that or give then any credibility by allowing them to affect us emotionally. That way they have no power.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Anonymous,

    True. That is what the Bible says on face value.

    Please also refer to Deuteronomy 21:18-21.

    Ill see you on the 6 o'clock news.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Thanks for writing the article Anthony. I've posted it to a number of people.

    I don't like to think "at least you had 16 years...." I would prefer 'in addition, you had 16 years"

    It's good to see you following the path - and speaking out.

    Michelle

    ReplyDelete
  20. thanks Michelle.......yes I am very grateful for every one of those years

    ReplyDelete
  21. 40 years of marriage to my wife hasn't changed anything. I am still gay and now proud to be so. One of the hardest things I have done is to say goodbye to the gay man I could have been. It hasn't been fair on my wife either, but I will never leave her. Our situation is different. I am her carer.

    It would be libellous for anyone to suggest I have been "cured" and changed from gay to straight.

    ReplyDelete
  22. this is clearly an ignorant post as it ignores the natural state of bisexuality.
    is actually bi-phobic in nature. Please go and read some more books. bisexuality exist.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You should have read the article. Bisexuality does exist.

      A bisexual is a person for which the following is true for both sexes:

      1. The gender we are attracted to sexually
      2. The gender we fantasize about
      3. The gender we desire intimacy and affection with
      4. The gender we are likely to fall in love with
      5. The gender we want to partner with
      6. How we identify ourselves
      7. With all social, religious and legal restrictions removed and the opportunity to have sexual experience with either gender, which one would we honestly chose. Or as one person put it to me recently ‘In the morning, whose arms would you like to wake up in.’

      Delete
  23. of course bi-sexuality exists Unknown. This article is not denying that. research has shown that genuine bisexuality is more prevalent amongst women than men in that a woman will fall in love with another woman. Where as same sex experiences are often more prevalent amongst men without the emotion.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Great article A Valentine For My Gay Ex-Husband
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/judith-newton/gay-husband-valentine_b_2641159.html?utm_hp_ref=tw

    ReplyDelete
  25. Still married after 43 years, am a father and a grandfather. My wife is severely disabled with MS and I am her carer. The fact that I am gay has been medically proven in my case. I warmly agree with what you have said AVB. After years of self loathing and hatred, it has significantly affected both my children, and I deeply regret they had to endure all that. Living an authentic life where you no longer pretend to be someone you are not is SO important. If ever I have a male partner at some stage in the future, he is likely to be one very dearly loved man.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for sharing your story with us. You are a good man.

      Delete

Comments are not usually moderated. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Offensive, disrespectful or defamatory statements however, are inappropriate and will be removed.