Page last updated at 22:25 GMT, Thursday, 26 March 2009

'Treating' sexuality: Your reaction

A report suggests that a significant minority of mental health professionals are still offering treatments for homosexuality despite there being no evidence that such methods work.

Here two people offer contrasting reactions based on their personal experiences. We have changed their names to protect their identities.

Jane, 30, Derby

Philip, 37, Hampshire

JANE, 30, DERBY

Protest
Jane says she was given bad advice when she was vulnerable

I was surprised and shocked to see therapists are still offering treatments for homosexuality.

After following advice from a doctor I ended up marrying a man even though I knew I was gay. I am now divorced with two children from that 'straight' relationship. I suffered physical and emotional abuse for six years

When I was 18 I went to the doctor because I was depressed. I had found out during my birthday celebrations that my girlfriend of two years had started seeing a man.

This was very traumatic for me as I had sacrificed my university plans to stay with her and, in hindsight, I was still very vulnerable and naive about my sexuality.

On asking my doctor for advice and support, he suggested that it was OK that I had had a relationship with a girl and that is a normal part of growing up.

He went on to advise me that I should follow her lead and find a man for myself as this was also the normal path to take.

In my naivety, depression and poor judgement, I did just that, despite my own acknowledgement of my sexuality.

I began spending more time with a male friend. We became closer, and he effectively became my emotional support.

I started going out with him out of a sense of obligation - something which I - and he - now realise was terribly wrong. I knew I wasn't attracted to him.

Married with children

Within a year I was nineteen, married and had my first child.

I took motherhood very seriously. And I felt even though I had made a mistake it was my fault and I'd just have to make the best of it

Our relationship was never healthy we were always breaking up and getting back together.

But I took motherhood very seriously. And I felt even though I had made a mistake it was my fault and I'd just have to make the best of it .

Six years later I finally realised I couldn't do it anymore. I was living a complete lie.

I went back to university where I met my current, female, partner and we had a civil ceremony last year.

I feel very strongly about this issue. It seems that people are not willing to say it is simply wrong to tell vulnerable people that they can be 'cured' or their sexuality 'curbed'.

If the doctor had said something different to me, or simply not mentioned sexuality at all, everything could have been different. It had a legacy - it damaged me and my husband and my children.

PHILIP, 37, HAMPSHIRE

As someone who is ex-gay I feel the real problem is that psychiatrists will not help people who want to change, and organisations like Stonewall assume that sexuality is set.

I'm not saying homosexuality doesn't exist, just that some people can change.

I came out in my teens and had a number of relationships with men. But the relationships never lasted long and it never felt quite right.

One doctor just advised me to go out and get a boyfriend.

At the time I was struggling with depression stemming from my experience of an abusive, alcoholic father. But every time I sought counselling, they focussed in on my sexuality.

Over a ten year period I saw three GPs and around ten counsellors. I just felt they were not listening to me and only wanted to talk about me being gay. One GP just advised me to go out and get a boyfriend.

I was studying to be a youth worker in college. During my research I began to look more at the key scientific studies on sexuality.

I was surprised to find little evidence that people are born gay and remain so. I was even more surprised to find out that the ground-breaking American Kinsey Reports on human sexuality suggested that people's sexuality can be fluid.

Childhood trauma

I grew older and began to deal with issues that had traumatised my childhood. I also became more comfortable with the idea that sexuality itself could change.

It became apparent that my attractions began to change. I started looking at women more and men less. I would now describe myself as heterosexual.

I am also Christian and also got involved with a Christian organisation that helps people struggling with sexuality. But I do feel that my religious identity was incidental to my change in sexuality.

I am now self-employed as a counsellor and life-coach. I have come across people who have had similar problems.

I do not seek to 'cure' people. I have an open mind. In fact, I have actually been able to help people who are comfortable with their homosexuality but have been unable to deal with past traumas.

So I see the flip side to the report. The report suggests that 4% of mental health professionals would attempt to change a client's sexuality. That means 96% would not.

The existing orthodoxy is that sexuality is set and cannot change. I simply believe this is not the case.


What do you think of the issues raised by these two people? Are you someone who used to be gay but are now happily married to someone of the opposite sex?
Please share your comments and suggestions using the form below.

In most cases a selection of your comments will be published, displaying your name and location unless you state otherwise in the box below.

Your comments:

I believe that sexuality is not all black and white, gay or straight. Its shades of grey and depends on the individual involved and their inner needs and desires. Homosexuality can not be cured because it is not an illness or a disease. It exists through out nature and always will do. Let people live their lives with respect and privacy, after all when you love someone it doesn't matter if they are male or female....its still love!
PJ, Huddersfield

Few therapists seem to recognise that sexuality is a unique thing, like a fingerprint. If someone is gay or lesbian it doesn't mean he or she will fancy the same people, or will never fancy or have sex with someone of the opposite sex. Bisexuality needs to be discussed more also, as well as the possibility that, say, someone could be hetero in their twenties and gay in their thirties. People are unique, and so is their sexuality. But it's up to individuals to find out their own sexuality. Therapists should only be encouraging people to achieve this aim, to understand and accept themselves. Therapists are not there to answer questions such as Am I gay? or Can I be "cured"?
John, Brighton, UK

The moral of this story, like many other situations, is to leave well alone unless someone wants to change. Too often society expects everyone to conform to its concept of "normal", with dire consequences for anyone who dares to be different. We should celebrate diversity instead of seeking to destroy it.
Paul Robinson, Abingdon, UK

I am gay and open and happy with this and feel I have known this since I was first sexually aware. I have friends who have been married with children and are now happy in a gay marriage. I actually agree that sexuality is probably fluid for some people. Any good therapist should empathically put themselves in the position of their client and help them to make the changes in their life that will get them to where they will be happy. If this means a 'gay' person being happy in a mixed gender relationship, fine. As long as the therapist is not pushing their own views or judging the situation - they should help the client achieve whatever they want. If this includes helping them to 'get straight' then fine!
Steve Watson, High Wycombe

There is no such thing as "used to be gay", there is no such thing, this is just people hiding from who they really are because of the sick society we live in. I personally find all this highly offensive and may I ask, whatever happened to equal rights? What's next, news of a lady who "used to be black"?
Callum, Edinburgh

Despite what the picture says, homosexuality IS a choice to some extent. You can't help who you are attracted to, but this is a small part of what it takes to make a relationship work. Some gay people can be very happy and successful in heterosexual marriages, others can not. It is entirely an individual thing and to say either viewpoint is wrong is as bad as the other.
Ieuan, Port Talbot, UK

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