Ex-gay Andy Comiskey says that being gay is about self-absorption and lack of self-restraint — but gays can change.
In an interview with reparative therapist Dr Joseph Nicolosi, of NARTH, Comiskey says he can’t help but see gay activists as conflicted. They are denying their God-given selves, he says, and efforts to promote same-sex marriage are vain attempts to prove “how good and normal I am.”
But the exchange opens with the issue of sexual orientation change and whether “anyone can be completely free of homosexuality.” Comiskey, whose Exodus-affiliated Desert Stream Ministries runs the Living Water program to help gays find “healing from sexual and relational brokenness,” replies that he has “heard people report that.”
Nicolosi pushes Comiskey further:
Nicolosi: There are men that I’ve worked with who have said, “I have no more homosexual desire.” In our final sessions, they may consciously try to conjure up the old gay fantasies, the porn images, whatever, and it’s just nothing: “That’s it. Finished.” I tell them, “I’m sorry to have spoiled your fun.”
Comiskey: Yes, I can understand that.
Nicolosi: Or a man sees a good-looking guy in a gym locker room and he says to himself; “I remember I used to get a charge from that, but I just see him now as a nice-looking guy and that’s it.”
Clearly Nicolosi, who earlier alluded to Exodus International’s apparent turnaround on the subject of change, wants Comiskey to say unequivocally that gays can essentially be cured of their homosexual orientation. He claims his own clients get to the stage where they feel no sexual attraction whatever towards other men. But Comiskey instead talks about a “continuum” of change, where people make a “movement” from gay to straight attractions. Everyone’s at different stages, he says, to which Nicolosi responds that “some are able to go two steps; some, ten steps.”
And then the quibbling begins. Nicolosi posits a scenario where a man sees another man and gets a “zap,” a feeling of “Wow!” in the genitals or chest. He acknowledges that gays recognize that feeling as homosexuality, and he even says it is the same bodily response. But if that person tells himself the feeling is simply his “old way of relating to men,” is it homosexuality? Nicolosi says no, and Comiskey agrees.
In other words, you’re healed from your homosexuality, even if you still get an erection over a hot guy. With the bar set so low, is it any wonder Nicolosi’s success statistics are so impressive?
Comiskey tempers his response by saying that the person who gets the same feeling but interprets or experiences it in a new way is still working on his problem:
I would say [it's not homosexuality]. That momentary experience indicates that the person continues to work out a clear sense of self-acceptance in the light of seeing another man to whom he may be tempted to abdicate himself. I don’t see that as an indicator of essential homosexuality, but as an indicator of continued integration that he is still working out.
Evidently still uncomfortable that Comiskey is still not affirming that gays can be “totally free from homosexuality,” Nicolosi presses him again:
Would you agree that “still working out” might mean that in two years, he may walk down the same street, pass the same guy and feel nothing or almost nothing, thinking to himself: “Oh, nice looking guy… next,” and nothing more?
“Exactly,” Comiskey replies.
Feeling those gay attractions and reinterpreting them is what healing is all about, he continues. It’s part of contributing to one’s integrity as a “normal man.” To accept the alternative — being gay — is to live “small, within that closed horizon of fantasy and self-absorption.”
We self-absorbed fantasists think highly of you, too, Andy.
We’re left with the same story the ex-gay movement has been telling for forty years: We used to be gay and now we’re healed. Scratch the surface, and you find the real story is this: We still have same-sex attractions; we just manage them differently now.
Comiskey’s Desert Stream Ministries is an affliated ministry of Exodus International, the ex-gay organization currently trying to play both sides of the divide and rebrand itself as inclusive but still conservative.