Thursday, June 4, 2009

one man's tale of sexual orientation modification

In my experience, one of the most difficult populations to work with (in my field of work) are closeted Latino gay men.  Oftentimes, there is a self-hatred so ingrained within themselves that they lack the motivation to change their health behaviors because change would be pointless.  The depression is so deep they don't see a way out of it.  Rather than deal with the depression, they get high, they get drunk, they have sex without protection with prostitutes or women they randomly meet (in order to feel manly). 

There are two forces at work here:  Machismo and religion.  I understand that Machismo is a multifaceted problem but it comes down to this--Real Men/Manly Men are not attracted to other men.  So, if a man is attracted to other men despite his ability to change, he is both not a Real Man and weak because he is not strong enough to change.  When you come from a country with a very patriarchal social structure, there is much weight placed on one's manliness, basically from birth.  And the burden of not conforming to what is expected of you can damage one's psyche. 

As far as religion goes, Latinos tend to be very religious.  Often, religion and culture is so intertwined that it is impossible to distinguish the two.  Just go to Mexico City on December 12 and you'll know what I mean.  For the most part, most Christian faiths do not accept homosexuality, even condemn homosexuality and profess that homosexuality is an impediment to heaven.  And because every good Christian strives to lead a pious life and to make God happy, the closeted Latino gay man has no option but to change.

Except homosexuality is not a choice so how can one change that part of themselves?

According to one particular man we treated, his church thought they had the answer.  M had been going to this particular church for many years and was struggling with coming out.  He wanted to please God by changing who he is but felt that wasn't possible.  That is until M confessed to a minister during a counseling session how he thought he was gay and the minister told him that he had a cure. 

The cure?  Well, M had to lock himself in a room for 4 days.  He had to fast the whole time and only drink water.  And he had to pray to God every minute of the day.  According to the minister, if that didn't work, he was destined to go to hell.   

M did the cure exactly as it was described to him.  It turns out he was destined to be hospitalized.  For exhaustion (apparently it doesn't just happen to Lindsay Lohan).

Moreover, M wasn't 'cured.'

Through a lot of help from my staff, M left the church and came out of the closet.  Not only is M no longer depressed, but he has found the strength within himself to tell his story to others who find themselves in the same situation. 

M is still very religious.  He attends a different church now.  He now believes that God made him just as he is and will love him no matter what.  M still needs to battle against the Machismo of our culture, but at least he has reconciled with his God.

1 comment:

Generation Next said...

Wow, what a powerful story. That must be incredibly difficult but thank goodness for people like you who can help!