- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 30, 2000

A former Gallaudet University student will talk about the high degree of homosexual involvement among deaf people at a conference for former homosexuals this weekend.

Now attending the Evangelism Training Center, a Bible school for deaf students in Oklahoma City, Okla., Matthew Lieberman, 24, will speak about how he left homosexuality at a "Truth That Will Set You Free" conference at the Carnegie Institute. It is sponsored by Parents and Friends Ministries, a group for former homosexuals.

Mr. Lieberman was born deaf, and "the homosexual community is the one that embraced and accepted him," said his mother, Carol Lieberman. "My experience with Matthew has caused me to have a great love toward homosexuals. They are in a bondage they really did not choose to be in."

For years, however, Mr. Lieberman did not see his lifestyle as "bondage." Although he has dealt with homosexual desires since he was 10, it was not until he attended the prep school at Gallaudet University during the 1991-92 school year that he was able to act them out.

"I had a total of four gay roommates," he said in an e-mail interview. "If I wanted to contact homosexual friends, I could. I eventually got involved in a deep relationship with my best friend.

"D.C. has a very open gay community… . Gallaudet does not force anyone into the gay life, but they do encourage it… ."

After he graduated from Model Secondary School for the Deaf, the prep school, in the spring of 1994 and prepared to enter the university as a freshman, his family got wind of his lifestyle and ordered him to move off campus. His grandmother had seen an interview with former homosexual activist Anthony Falzarano on C-SPAN and suggested that Mr. Lieberman contact him.

Mr. Lieberman was not too keen on the idea. The ex-homosexual therapy meetings he attended in the District were for hearing people only, and he was quickly bored.

Still, "I knew what I was doing was wrong," he said. "I was looking for love in all the wrong places, and I knew I would never be fully happy inside until something changed."

A year later, he finally left Gallaudet, the world's only university for the deaf, which has 2,000 students. Posted about the stately, well-groomed campus at Florida and West Virginia avenues in Northeast are numerous notices of campus events, including some for homosexual student groups and awareness programs.

"We are accepting of everybody," said university spokesman Mike Kaika. "We understand this is not a deaf utopia, but we are trying our best to make everyone aware of others' beliefs and backgrounds in a comfortable setting."

Last Friday, at a campus colloquium featuring D.C. psychotherapist Christopher Vaughan, about 25 people listened to him speak on "Management of Unconscious Conflict in Young Gay Males: I Am What I Am." Mr. Vaughan, who is homosexual, talked about announcing one's same-sex preference.

"The tricky question is whether or not a person has come out to their family," he said. "For some, it is traumatic to look at parents and see yourself in a different way. Others may be completely OK with it."

Also listening to him were four faculty members who stated that they, too, are homosexual. Most staff and student queries were on the timing of one's announcement to family members.

"I go against mainstream media in saying that there are times when a person should not disclose that he or she is homosexual," said Mr. Vaughan. "If an individual's state of mind or well-being are at risk, I say wait."

Mr. Lieberman says he zigzagged between homosexual practice and abstinence until he attended a retreat for deaf Christians in 1996. What moved him most was a drama about Adam and Eve.

"There I realized I wanted to be a godly man," he said. "I realized that in this life we only have two choices: Choose God or our own way."

He became a born-again Christian that September weekend and, a year later, decided to join the same Oklahoma City drama group that had so moved him during the retreat.

"I did not leave the gay life for the heck of it [but] I left because I want to follow God," he said. "I trust Him to put changes in my life as time goes along."

He has now become an activist for ex-homosexual causes, a major theme at this weekend's conference, which starts tomorrow.

Speaking at the gathering will be the Rev. John Harvey, founder of Courage, a group for homosexual Catholics who wish to leave the lifestyle. Also on the docket is Charles Socarides, a pioneer in "reparative therapy," a controversial psychological method geared toward getting patients to leave homosexuality.

A New York psychoanalyst, he is president of the Encino, Calif.-based National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality and is also involved in preparations for the American Psychiatric Association's annual meeting in May in Chicago where reparative therapy is expected to be challenged.

The causes of homosexuality are fiercely debated between "nature" and "nurture" advocates; the former saying homosexuality is inborn and the latter saying homosexuality is impressed upon one during early stages of life through the absence of a parent or through sexual abuse.

NARTH's president, Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, a proponent of reparative therapy, says homosexual men report greater childhood sexual abuse by older males than do heterosexual men.

"It is hypothesized that the homosexually molested boy may label the experience as 'homosexual' based upon being found sexually attractive by an older man," he said. "The boy may then enforce the self-label through further homosexual behavior."

A spokesman from the Human Rights Campaign refused comment on a possible connection between childhood sexual abuse and homosexuality.

Mr. Lieberman says that he was never sexually assaulted, but that he was not emotionally close to his father and his deafness made for a very lonely childhood.

"I was so frustrated," he said. "No guy friends, no hobbies, just going home and sit and watch TV and work in the garden myself."

Now he has two friends at his school with whom he is thinking of teaming up for a new ministry to deaf homosexuals. As for his speech at the conference, he will deliver it together with his parents on Saturday, his 25th birthday.

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