July 16, 2019
I wrote yesterday about Amazon removing listings for a number of books about sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE), sometimes referred to by critics as “conversion therapy.” A particular target for Rojo Alan (the British LGBT activist who claimed credit for the change) and for other critics were the works of the late Dr. Joseph Nicolosi. He coined the term “reparative therapy” to describe his psychoanalytic approach to sexual orientation change. I have two of the books by Dr. Nicolosi that Amazon has banned in my library. While I have not read either cover to cover, I have read enough to know that they directly contradict some of what critics say about them. The two books are:
- Joseph Nicolosi, Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality: A New Clinical Approach (Northvale, N.J.: Jason Aronson, Inc. 1997)
- Joseph Nicolosi, Ph.D., & Linda Ames Nicolosi, A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2002)
One criticism of Nicolosi in particular stood out. Rojo Alan told the GayStarNews, “The books went into ways in which you can mentally and physically abuse your child.”
Here are some of the actual recommendations and observations in Nicolosi’s Parent’s Guide:
- Use “positive and affirming strategies.” (p. 15)
- The “at-risk boy needs (but does not get) particular affirmation from parents and peers.” (p. 22)
- [To a father:] “Just be there for Stevie emotionally. Maintain a warm, loving relationship with him and don’t let him pull away.” (p. 29)
- “I told Bill that Stevie did not really need therapy. ‘He needs his dad.’” (p. 30)
- (A father must) “do the little things—the everyday, caring, and loving things” (p. 31).
- Boys “need from their dads what we reparative therapists call ‘the three A’s’: affection, attention, and approval.” (p. 50)
- [Quoting another expert:] “Anything that parents can do to make their kids feel proud of their identity—as young men, as young women—will help the [treatment] process” (p. 154).
Nicolosi’s own work focused primarily on men, but his Parent’s Guide included a chapter on girls as well. It includes these points:
- For girls, “there should be a warm mother-daughter intimacy . . . . Indeed, a healthy relationship with Mom provides the most important foundation . . .” (p. 156)
- The father of a daughter “provides love and positive regard so that the girl will feel worthy of another man’s love.” (p. 157)
- “When a girl has been found to be involved in a lesbian relationship, the parents will probably be focused on stopping their daughter’s sexual behavior. But the girl herself is primarily concerned about her own feelings of loneliness, alienation, rejection, and poor self-esteem. A skillful therapist can offer concern for the girl’s feelings. . . . The father will need to assess his involvement in his daughter’s life. This will probably require a more supportive, less intrusive role for him. The mother, at the same time, will need to share her emotional self and her vulnerabilities with her daughter, and build a relationship of greater mutuality.” (pp. 163-64)
Some people suggest that SOCE tries to force boys into stereotypical masculinity. But it is actually pro-LGBT adults who often stereotype a child as “gay” (or even “transgender”) based on their personality traits. Here is what Nicolosi says:
- The “child should not be forced into a predetermined mold that will cause him to deny his fundamental nature—his natural gifts of creativity, sensitivity, kindness, gentleness, sociability, intuitiveness, or high intellect.” (p. 38)
- A “boy can be sensitive, kind, social, artistic, gentle—and heterosexual. He can be an artist, an actor, a dancer, a cook, a musician—and a heterosexual. These innate artistic skills are ‘who he is,’ part of the wonderful range of human abilities. No one should try to discourage those abilities and traits.” (p. 48)
Critics of SOCE often argue that it results from a “rejection” of the LGBT child. Does Nicolosi urge parents to reject their children if they identify as gay? The answer is clearly no:
- “Of course, no intervention can guarantee that a child will grow up heterosexual. . . . I trusted that Margaret and Bill would still love their son if those efforts were not successful.” (p. 32)
Last month, USA Today ran an article about Scott Dittman, a man who attended Pittsburgh’s LGBT Pride parade wearing a t-shirt offering “Free Dad Hugs.” More than 700 people took him up on the offer, with some becoming quite emotional—“you can see how damaged deep down so many of them are,” Dittman reported.
Yet Nicolosi himself wrote something similar, saying:
- Boys have a need “for a man’s attention, affection, and affirmation—a need to be hugged and held” (p. 30).
Maybe the distance between LGBT activists and the books they persuaded Amazon to ban is not as great as they think—if only they would take the time to read them.