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To the editors:
I told my parents I was gay in the ninth grade—which made for a scared fourteen-year-old and two scared 45-year-olds. In their confusion and concern, they took me to meet with a local therapist. He turned out to be affiliated with the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality.
Eight years later I remember that meeting vividly: For more than an hour, the doctor served up outrageous, scarring distortions with a calmly clinical demeanor. I was told that as a gay man I could expect to be dead by 40, since I would almost certainly contract AIDS; that my professions of homosexuality meant that I had probably been molested as a boy; even that I couldn’t really be gay since, in a pre-interview with my parents, my dad had at one point interrupted my mom—thus proving that he wasn’t the weak, submissive father that a homosexual ought to have. Adult gays usually lived shallow, unfulfilling, empty lives—but if I wanted, he said, I could change. I tried to argue, but as a middle-schooler I was no match for a licensed psychologist three times my age. Riding home in the car, I couldn’t control my sobs. My parents, who had been misled about the nature of the “therapy,” were furious and appalled, and vowed I would never return.
The ex-gay movement thrives on the massive, internalized self-hatred that so many gay men and lesbians feel after constant exposure to an often homophobic world. Larry Houston sounds like a sincere man, and indeed, ex-gay missionaries may have the best of intentions. But instead of making vulnerable gay people feel comforted and safe, the movement teaches them to loathe themselves even more for failing to live up to an impossible, unnatural promise of change.
I shudder to think what would have happened to me if I had allowed that therapist to fit me to his psychological rack. I only hope that closeted Harvard students find the courage, the honesty and the loving support they need to avoid a similar trap.
Adam A. Sofen ’01
Woodland Hills, Calif.
Sept. 28, 2001
The writer is a former Crimson executive.
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