Anyways, someone left a comment on “Wake Me When I'm Straight” that I wanted to address in detail.
“I recently interviewed someone who has been helped through "exodus." they help people walk out of homosexuality. the guy i was interviewing seemed to believe that the "distant dad, too close mom" was true for him and others he ministers to. now to my question...hmm...i'm not sure I can formulate a question. there is one in mind somewhere, but don't know how to articulate it. I guess i'm just a little hesitant to agree with what you're saying. What if those narratives people create are true? I don't think there is no way to prove it or disprove it, right? why is "reductive and boring" a bad thing if it is the truth? Thanks”The difficulty is that the smothering mother/distant father narrative is a narrative. Narratives aren't “true” or “untrue” in an objective sense. They're a means of structuring subjective experience in order to extract meaning from it. Subjectivity is, by definition, not subject to the same laws of objective truthfulness as objective reality. The laws of truthfulness for this realm are similar in some ways, but ultimately they are more aesthetic in character than those for the objective sciences. A narrative is part of the way that a person structures their life in order to make of it a “masterpiece,” a work of art complete with a coherent plot structure, obstacles faced and overcome, villains, lovers, big reveals, character development and a stirring climax.
What this means is that a person is constantly making decisions about how to experience and process their memories. People are constantly telling and retelling their own stories to themselves. I have absolutely no doubt that people in Exodus, and people in Courage who accept the reparative therapy story, have come to understand their memories in this way. Others who, for whatever reason, find these narratives repellent will deliberately shape their memories in order to negate or deny any evidence that might support them. On the whole, though, the evidence is necessarily going to be there for anyone who is willing to do the work to substantiate the theory.
With regards to the “distant father” part of the narrative, as Leonard Cohen says “It's Father's Day and everybody's wounded.” Having a “father wound” is not a characteristic trait of queer men, it's a characteristic fact about human beings. It's what skeptics call a “Barnum Statement,” that is, a statement which sounds like it really gets at the depths of a profoundly private personal reality, but which could really be applied to the vast majority of people. Such statements are, incidentally, the stock-in-trade of phone psychics and cold readers; there are lots of things that people think are really secret and individual that are nearly universal, and if you know what they are you can convince lots of folks that you have psychic powers. Most people, if they were dedicated to the cause, could find evidence that their fathers were distant or insufficiently supportive, because most men have difficulty with expressing their emotions, with voicing their approval, etc. If all of my straight readers would step back for a moment, and try to search their childhood for deep, perhaps even hidden, evidence that their father wasn't really there for them, emotionally, physically, the way that a representative of God the Father ought to be, I'm sure that they'd be able to dig up more than enough to substantiate claims that they too have a “father wound.”
Likewise with the “overattached mother.” Mother's are naturally strongly attached to their kids. They're naturally apprehensive about male aggressiveness. They're naturally protective – especially if they happen to have a child who is sensitive and/or subjected to bullying, which is pretty common with “effeminate” boys. In short, the narrative described by the reparative therapists is a narrative that could be formed out of the experience of almost anyone who was willing to buy into it, anyone who was willing to shape and construct their personal history to meet the theories of the psychotherapist who was offering them hope of release from painful personal circumstances. In the case of gay men in therapy, the psychological motivation to find evidence to substantiate the psychotherapist's theories is overwhelming – especially since reparative therapists tell their clients up front what kind of personal history they are going to discover in the course of therapy.
Anyways, I risk exceeding the attention span of internet readers. I do have some positive things to say about the reparative therapy narrative, which I'll try to address in my next post.