by Stephanie Logan
(Part 2. New readers can click here to start at the beginning of the story.)
Since I was a serious kid, I held tightly to the church and, as someone riddled with anxieties, held tightly to the assurances the church gave me. It is funny to me now that I recognize just how many of those anxieties were produced by the teachings of the church who then, like a snake oil salesman, offered a cure that only they could provide.
As a teen, I was already studying doctrine and my only social outlet outside of school was the church. So, by the time I graduated high school I had internalized all the myths the church tells about the LGBTQ+ community. Though, at that time the discussion was only about “the gays”. Gay men were said to be mentally unstable, had absent fathers and overbearing mothers, were potential pedophiles always hunting young boys to take advantage of, and they were cursed by God himself with the judgement of HIV. An acquaintance from my Christian college days even wrote his seminary thesis *proving* from scripture that HIV was God’s end-times judgement on gay men (that passes for academics in our country).
According to the church, gays, and by extension all members of the LGBTQ+ community, were the other: a group of people who needed to get saved and become straight but should never be trusted, socialized with, or loved in any genuine sense of the word. God was going to judge us because of them.
But, perhaps because of my dad, I had significant cognitive dissonance. The ideas promoted by the church never sat right with me. Often my empathy won out over the indoctrination, but I could never let such weak, ungodly thoughts linger. The type of faith system I was raised in – the kind with constant talk of judgement and altar calls to “get right” with God – had taught me to police myself. Every time my mind strayed in its judgement, I would head to the kneeling altar to repent. It seems so strange to me now that not judging others and choosing to love my neighbor at one time made me feel guilty.
My years in one of our denominational colleges only solidified my childhood training and surrounded me with external reinforcements. During that time, I became a regular listener to our college radio station and I seldom missed an episode of Focus on the Family and listened to quite a few other broadcasts. As a child of divorce with a gay dad, I figured that I needed all the godly wisdom I could receive to get the Christian family thing right. I didn’t want my children to live a childhood like I had. So, I started taking personal steps to make myself the kind of godly woman who would be a good wife and mother. I left no stone unturned. I even got a minor in Family Ministries.
While in college and until I was in my thirties, I was fully convinced of the Christian Right’s so called pro-family cultural belief system. And I lived it. And just to be sure I was covering all the bases, I chose to be ecumenical in my reading and studied from the writings of the Catholic church, Mennonites, various Baptists, and reformed faiths along with my own denomination’s authors. I prayed over my children in the womb and lovingly sang hymns and worship songs to them when they nursed. They were each “dedicated to the Lord” in infancy as was our church custom. And because my husband and I were involved in professional ministry, we were in church regularly for much of their younger years. When we started homeschooling, the exposure to conservative Christian teaching only increased. I left no stone unturned in my attempts to please God, the church, and my husband. Rearing my children right and living a godly life were my only goals.
So, when my son was around age four and I began to realize that he was not like other boys his age, I became very concerned. I had noticed things before that point, but by age four he was socializing much more, and the differences became more apparent. That happened to coincide with the release of Dr. James Dobson’s book Bringing Up Boys. I was busy with three children under age five, so I borrowed the audio copy from our church library so that I could listen as I worked around the house.
The day that I listened to chapter nine, The Origins of Homosexuality, my whole godly family dream fell to pieces. The child Dr. Dobson described – the one struggling with “pre-homosexuality” – was my son. It was glaringly obvious to the mother who had spent nearly every moment with him since he grew in her womb. And I panicked. I panicked because Dr. Dobson regularly described how our country was bound for hell and needed to repent and the gay community was so often at the top of his list for being a destructive force. The fears and anxieties built, it seemed, at the speed of light. There were more than a few nights that I didn’t sleep.
What kind of person would my son be?
What about my family? What would they do?
What about the church? What would they think?
We were to serve the church overseas. What would this mean?
What had I done wrong?
I shared my concerns with my husband who had a rather flippant response. He wasn’t home much, and he didn’t see what I did. He was also having an affair at the time, so his focus wasn’t on our home even when he was there. But Dr. Dobson had written about a doctor somewhere who was certain about the origins of homosexuality and knew the cure. My husband agreed that I could call the Focus on the Family hotline and find out more information. I think he agreed just so that I would calm down, but I was hopeful, nonetheless.
The next day I called and spoke with a phone counselor who shared the doctor’s phone number with me. And this is how I ended up on my first phone appointment with Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, a notorious reparative therapy practitioner and author of the booklet, A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality. Reparative therapy is a subset of conversion therapy that is now illegal in many places (as it should be).
Dr. Nicolosi had a calming voice and he seemed kind. I think that is common among those in his profession. As I sat on my bed, heart racing in my chest, I described my son’s daily habits and common behaviors. I also described his interactions with me and my husband. Dr. Nicolosi then told me his theory of how children developed homosexual “tendencies” and how his methods of guiding behavior would remove any such tendencies. He assured me that we were early to catch it and would therefore have no problem fixing it. When I told him that we were moving overseas, he said that he could give us guidance to use in day-to-day life. He asked me to make another appointment during which my husband would also be on the phone, so that he could discuss the necessary steps with both of us. I did and later that week the three of us had a long phone conference.
Dr. Nicolosi’s prescribed advice could be summarized as follows:
- Center the father in your son’s life. Mother should be less affectionate and more distant and direct son to his father as often as possible.
- Father should accept generous affection from your son and return that affection generously.
- Any effeminate behavior or play with girl centered toys should be ignored. The air in the room should be neither condemnation nor praise – just indifference.
- Specifically masculine centered play, dress, behavior, and social events should be praised and take priority in your son’s life.
And so, it began. For the next 13 years I was as obedient to Dr. Nicolosi’s prescription as possible. And, as any good Christian parents would, we attended services nearly every time the doors of the church were open, listened to Christian radio, and surrounded our family with every Christian thing possible which meant that our children had a near constant diet of anti-gay teaching. And, as my son grew, I watched him with constant anxiety as he never shook those tendencies and the light faded from his eyes.
Former evangelical homeschool mom and one-time missionary and pastor’s wife, Stephanie Logan, aka Snicklefritz, writes from her life story and four decades of experience in the evangelical movement. Her views and stories are her own.
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