from Books & Reviews
By Richard Fitzgibbons, M.D.
This insightful discussion is from the 1999 book, Homosexuality and
American Public Life, edited by Christopher Wolfe. The author of this
chapter, Dr. Fitzgibbons, is a member of NARTH's Scientific Advisory
We have reprinted only a short excerpt here because of copyright
considerations. Other chapters in Homosexuality and American Public
Life are by different authors. The book is available from Spence
Publishing Company, Dallas, Texas, 1-888-SPENPUB or
We have reprinted only a short excerpt here because of copyright considerations. Other chapters in Homosexuality and American Public Life are by different authors. The book is available from Spence Publishing Company, Dallas, Texas, 1-888-SPENPUB or www.spencepublishing.com.
For a number of years, my area of expertise has been in the nature and treatment of excessive anger. Throughout my work, it became clear to me that the most important relationship in which men and women deny their anger is the father relationship. Since anger at rejecting peers or a distant father is extremely common among men who experience same-sex attractions, many men who struggle with SSAD have come to my practice.
My goal with these patients was not necessarily to change their sexual orientation, but to try to help them understand and overcome their emotional pain, which most often was the result of childhood and adolescent conflicts. In using the healing approach that I will describe, I found that many clients could resolve the emotional hurts which led to same-sex attractions and, as a result, over an extended period of time, that they were able to resolve their homosexual attractions and behaviors.
The first stage of the healing process is to understand the operative emotional conflicts. There are several different origins of same-sex attraction, and in addition, there is a marked distinction between the origins of homosexual attractions in males and in females.
The three most important risk factors for the development of SSAD in men are weak masculine identity, mistrust of women, and narcissism.
Weak Masculine Identity
Weak masculine identity is easily identified and, in my clinical experience, is the major cause of SSAD in men. Surprisingly, it can be an outgrowth of weak eye-hand coordination which results in an inability to play sports well. This condition is usually accompanied by severe peer rejection. In a sports-oriented culture such as our own, if a young boy is unable to throw, catch, or kick a ball, he is likely to be excluded, isolated, and ridiculed. Continued rejection can be a major source of conflict for a child and teenager. In an attempt to overcome feelings of loneliness and inadequacy, he may spend more time on academic studies or fostering comfortable friendships with girls. The "sports wound" will negatively affect the boy's image of himself, his relationships with peers, his gender identity, and his body image. His negative view of his masculinity and his loneliness can lead him to crave the masculinity of his male peers.
The second and crucial conflict in the development of a weak masculine identity is a poor emotional relationship with the father. A number of therapists characterize the childhood experiences of the homosexual adult as a form of defensive detachment from a disappointing father. As children and adolescents, these men yearned for acceptance, praise, and physical affection from their fathers, but their needs were never met. The profound inner void that develops from a lack of physical affection and father love can lead a man to promiscuous behavior in a misguided attempt to fill an emotional emptiness.
Another reason that some men have a weak masculine identity is poor body image. I have found that many active homosexual men are totally obsessed with other men's bodies. They often express hatred for their own bodies and desire the bodies of other men. A final reason can be a history of sexual abuse by older, more powerful children or by adults. Such abuse over a prolonged period of time may have made the child believe that he must be a homosexual.
Mistrust of Women
The second most common cause of SSAD among males is a mistrust of women's love. Feelings of mistrust may develop as a result of a difficult mother relationship or from experiences of betrayal by women. Male children in fatherless homes often feel overly responsible for their mothers. As they enter their adolescence, they may come to view female love as draining and exhausting. They want a relationship that is lighthearted and enjoyable and, by default, turn to male love. Feelings of mistrust may also arise from having a mother who was chemically addicted, overly controlling, possessive, or emotionally distant.
A very small percentage of homosexual men have experienced such devastating female betrayal in personal or professional relationships that they fear and avoid female love. Subsequently, they only feel safe making themselves vulnerable to a person of the same sex.
The major conflicts that lead to SSAD in women are, in my opinion, a mistrust of men's love, a weak feminine identity, or intense loneliness.
Mistrust of Men
A number of women who become involved in same-sex relationships had fathers who were emotionally insensitive, alcoholic, or abusive. Such women, as a result of painful childhood and teenage experiences, have good reason to fear being vulnerable to men.
Women who have been betrayed by a man after a long-term relationship often fear trusting other men and seek relief from their loneliness through involvement in homosexual relationships. Women who have been sexually abused or raped as children or adolescents may find it difficult or almost impossible to trust men. They may, therefore, turn to a woman for affection and to fulfil their sexual desires.
Weak Feminine Identity
The second most common cause of SSAD in women is a weak feminine identity. Three basic areas of conflict lead to such difficulty: mother conflicts, peer rejection, and poor body image. In those cases that involve maternal conflict, the woman usually had a mother who was emotionally distant and who had difficulty in affirming her child's femininity. Such negligence can lead to an inner sadness and emptiness which no amount of adult love can overcome.
This condition is far more rare than weak masculine identity, and this is why, in my view, male homosexuality is much more common than female homosexuality. The female role model, the mother, is much more likely to be affirming, to be giving, to be nurturing to her daughter than the father to his son.
Finally for some women, loneliness is also a major factor in the development of homosexual attractions. A number of women in their late twenties or early thirties have spent considerable time in a disappointing search for the right male relationship. The resultant loneliness and disillusionment about men may lead them into a sexual relationship with a woman.
Note: Subsequent topics covered in Dr. Fitzgibbons's chapter in the
book, Homosexuality and American Public Life are "Prevention," "Overview
of the Healing Process," "Giving Up the Anger," "Scapegoated Children
Carry Scars Into Adulthood," and "Childhood Sexual Abuse."