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Unintended Change in Sexual Orientation

I mentioned briefly in the comments section after this post on my blog It Doesn’t Matter Who You Love – Part II , that, while there are some people who seek change in their sexual orientation and find it, and some do not, there are also examples of some who do not seek change and find it.  The examples I had in mind of the latter included two case studies, one documented in 1976, the other in 1993.

The first was a case of a man who sought treatment for stuttering:

“A case report is presented where homosexuality apparently ‘spontaneously remitted’…while the patient underwent treatment for stuttering.  The change in sexual orientation [was]…possibly…induced through generalization effects from treatment of the relevant phobic aspects of the stuttering problem to the associated social aspects of the sexual problem.”*

The second was a gentleman who asked for help with significant social phobia:

A twenty-three year old man sought help for issues with shyness, and anxiety in relating to others.  “He avoided speaking in groups and was prone to extreme blushing and anxiety, which he often controlled with alcohol.”**

The man, according to the case study, “stated that he was ‘gay,’ that he was content with this, and that he did not want his sexual orientation to be a treatment issue.  He had been aware of his homosexuality since his mid-teens and was sexually active exclusively with homosexual males.  He was not aroused by females, and had never experience heterosexual intercourse, as his erotic fantasies involved males only.”***

He was placed on 75 mg. / daily of phenelzine.  Four weeks later he became:**

 “…more outgoing, talkative and comfortable in social situations.  He spoke spontaneously in groups without blushing.”***

But he also:

“…reported a positive, pleasurable experience of meeting and dating a woman.  During the next two months, he began dating females exclusively, reportedly enjoying heterosexual intercourse and having no sexual interest in males.  He expressed a desire for a wife and family, and his sexual fantasies became entirely heterosexual.”***

“In retrospect Mr. A decided that the combination of his anxiety when approaching and meeting people, the teasing rejection by heterosexual males [which he had reported in childhood] and the comfortable acceptance by homosexual males who pursued and courted him had helped convince him of his homosexuality.  Passive homosexual behavior allowed him to avoid the severe anxiety experience when initiating courtship.”***

Before the red flags start flying, please read the following:

“It is important not to overvalue individual case studies.  Although they open up a line of speculation consistent with other observations about homosexuality, the vast majority of homosexual men who use antidepressants for depression or anxiety disorders do not change their sexual behavior.  Instances such as these also suggest – as noted earlier – that there may be many different ‘homosexualities.’…These findings should not be taken to mean that men and women who want to leave homosexuality should immediately begin taking medication.”**

As a PT, I certainly understand the proper place of case studies.  They are a means of educating one to what is often noted to be a unique occurrence, and serve to spur on further research and investigation, rather than to make a definitive case.  In light of the current political and cultural atmosphere in the US, I believe it is imperative to keep an open mind to the complexities of human sexuality.  I very much agree that there may well be “many different ‘homosexualities,’” and a one-size fits all approach is not appropriate for those who may be seeking change in their orientation…or, as in these particular cases noted above, even for those who are not.

I post these examples here in an attempt to remind people that human sexuality is complex, and we don’t have all the answers – the case is not closed, and “once gay, always gay” does not hold true for everyone.  There are many possibilities, and it’s important not to paint oneself into a corner.


*J.E. Porter, “Homosexuality Treated Adventitiously in a Stuttering Therapy Program:  A Case Report Presenting a Heterophobic Orientation,” Australia and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 10, no. 2 (1976), pp. 185-89.

**Jeffrey Satinover, Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth, pg 189-192,  Hamewith Books, pub 1996

***D.H. Golwyn and C.P. Sevlie, “Adventitious Change in Homosexual Behavior During Treatment of Social Phobia with Phenelzine,” Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 54, no1.(January 1993), pp.39-40.

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