Thursday, October 1, 2009

Growing Up Straight


(continued from here...)

[WARNING; some pretty horrible stuff is said in this book about homosexuals. I'm reading/writing about this out of my own morbid curiosity and a need to delve into the roots of my culture's homophobia. But please be warned, it may be upsetting.]


"The possibility that one's child may become a homosexual seems, to Americans, as remote as it is repugnant. Yet the unpleasant truth is that homosexuality is surprisingly common in our culture..." -Stanley F. Yolles, (Director, Nat Institute of Mental Health 1964-1970.)

Thus begins this fascinating/disturbing book, written in 1968, no longer in print and sadly NOT found in the Goodreads archive. Which disappoints me... every page contains some shining example of sexism, homophobia, misogynism or whatnot, and I REALLY wish I could do those little 140 character updates that Goodreads allows for.

I'll just have to blog about it.

The two major assertions of this book: 1) Homosexuality IS a mental disorder. And 2) Homosexuality IS curable and preventable. And the bottom line is that Mom and Dad need to drop their drawers and bend over for a really good spanking for the sin of making their offspring gay. "Bad Mom!!" (for being seductive, incestuous, overbearing, and overprotective.) "Bad Dad!!" (for being a weakling, unable to protect the child from the ill effects of Mom.) Thus the authors delve into the parental pathology that created such a revolting aberration in their children. (Except where the authors do a bit of head scratching over the cases in which parents who where not "severely disturbed" somehow produced homosexual sons. The authors seems to feel that if the psychoanalyst probed deep enough, some parental defect would be found.)

Well, I'm reading this book mostly because of Elder Hafen's recent talk on the subject (a response to the APA's removal of homosexuality from it's list of Mental Disorders.) His own wording is much more circumspect, more sensitive to the feelings of the person with same sex attraction than is the tone of Growing Up Straight (and he thankfully leaves the sins of the parents out of the equation). I don't think he ever once refers directly to homosexuality as a disorder, no... he tiptoes back and forth, weaving in and out, bending over backwards in the sharing his personal feelings of sympathy for the suffering individual. Then goes into his conviction that homosexuality should NOT have been removed from the APA's list of mental disorders.

See... the operative word through out Hafen's talk is SUFFER. The poor individual has this terrible burden, sorrow and misery etc... which is fitting if the individual has a Mental Disorder. They SHOULD be suffering. If they are not... well then, what the hell does that mean? For although Hafen is much more sympathetic, like the authors of Growing Up Straight, he has no language to discuss the happy well adjusted homosexual person. (In Growing Up Straight, the authors briefly mention Hooker's research indicating homosexuals are as well adjusted as heterosexuals, but didn't have much positive to say about it, viewing it as an anomaly and poorly researched).

When I compare this to the recent efforts to de-stigmatize homosexuality, even in middle school, to help kids make the adjustment, gain the knowledge, gain the confidence and the understanding etc... all the stuff that DECREASES the suffering...
/sigh...
I have a feeling that's sort of inspired-by-the-advisary activism Hafen indicates should be avoided.
Because... damn,
If they aren't suffering...
Then... maybe... (/hushed whisper...) homosexuality is NOT a Mental Disorder....?!

14 comments:

Sean said...

I'm a Goodreads librarian, so I went ahead a created a record for the book, if you want to add it to your shelf. I don't have all the information on the edition you're reading, so it's kind of bare bones. If you provide me with the publisher, pub date, ISBN (if it has one), cover blurb, etc., I can add them.

Growing Up Straight

Sean said...

Also: I'm really enjoying your take on the book, especially since I'm way too chicken to read it myself. :D

Lessie said...

Wow, G. I'm glad you're doing this. I admit that when you bought it, I thought you were brave. I mean, better it be in your hands then, say, my dad's. But I'm with Sean, I don't think I'd have the nerve to read it once I had it home. I think I would have destroyed it.

G said...

sean! you're my super hero!!
emailing you the info! thanks!

adamf said...

The homosexual/morality issue is unfortunate for a number of reasons, but an important one to me is that it clouds the REAL issue, that being just plain morality. There are moral gay people and moral straight people. There are immoral gay people and immoral straight people. It is unfortunate that the entire lgbt community is lumped together, for they actually have quite a bit of diversity, not to mention differing attitudes and behaviors.

I have my biases, for sure. I believe in security, monogamy, commitment, love, emotion regulation (including controlling one's impulses), etc. etc. Those values can be upheld by anyone, gay or straight.

Thanks for the soapbox again. :)

tq said...

Could I possibly borrow your copy? I'd love to scan it and get a PDF floating around the interwebs.

G said...

tq- sure! um... but I'd better stop marking it up, huh?
:)

G said...

(only in pencil... can go back and erase... :)

Merinmel Caesg said...

I came across a disturbingly similar book on display for sale at the BYU Bookstore. According to an article in the Daily Herald, the premise of this book is that, "Parents can prefer and encourage heterosexuality in their children and can do so without disrespect or criticism for those who believe differently."

adamf said...

Interesting... only a matter of time before we get the unfortunate reaction to this unfortunate book, that of encouraging children to be homosexual. Seriously people, orientation is NOT the same as morality!

Idk, perhaps the book is geared for parents of bisexual kids? As in those who have somewhat of a choice? /slight sarcasm.

G said...

adam, this is interesting.. so far the authors haven't made many claims about 'morality' (other than the dangers of stds from promiscuous sexual activity), their underlying premise is that homosexual desires are kinda like a deformity. Well, to be precise; a mental illness. The urges themselves a sign of some serious wrongness in the individual's mind.
Hafen is more careful making claims about the person's nature (stuff about the attraction alone not being a sin, and your nature not being flawed etc...) but his basic premise is similar: homosexuality IS a mental disorder. Something wrong. Hafen, of course, touches a bit upon the morality aspect (i.e. DONT HAVE SEX OUTSIDE OF MARRIAGE, AND GAYS CAN'T MARRY).. but to me this particular dialogue centers more around the stigma of homosexual attraction itself. The abnormality of a person attracted to people of the same gender. (Tho Hafen never says it that way.)

Or am I misreading what you mean by the homosexual/morality issue?

G said...

Merinmel Caesg~ omg... wow. thanks for those links. rather heartbreaking; still so many parents beating themselves up over their 'failure' to keep their kid from becoming (*gasp!*) homosexual... :(

(and dude... so many kids feeling like freaks of nature, ostracized from family...)

(/hearing sweet refrains... "I have a family here on earth... they are so good to me....")

Bee said...

This, along with a lot of conference I watched, simple depresses me. It almost depresses me as much as all my friends facebook statuses that say they are just "SO INSPIRED" by conference. I think I'm uninspirable.

adamf said...

Not misreading. :)