- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 12, 2002

"Stevie" isn't like other 5-year-old boys. While his peers are into karate and video games, Stevie tiptoes around the house like a ballerina and plays with Barbie dolls. His favorite colors are pink and red.
The psychiatric world calls this behavior sex nonconformity or sex confusion.
In Stevie's case, what should happen next depends on with whom you talk.
"The parents need to let the child be who the child is," says Wayne Besen, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, a homosexual advocacy group. "The parents are usually more confused than the child."
But Joseph and Linda Nicolosi, who head the National Association of Research and Therapy of Homosexuality in Encino, Calif., say Stevie is showing signs of "pre-homosexuality." They are part of a small but vocal cadre who say homosexuality is treatable, even preventable.
If Stevie is treated while young, they say, his parents can keep sex confusion from becoming full-fledged homosexuality. They believe homosexuality is a disorder, the same label given by the American Psychiatric Association before the group's 1973 decision to remove it from a list of developmental disorders.
The Nicolosis, who have a 20-year-old son, are touring lecture and talk-show circuits to revive that idea, and James Dobson of Focus on the Family is helping. Focus' "Love Won Out" conferences promote the preventable homosexuality message, and Mr. Dobson's 2001 book, "Bringing up Boys: Practical Advice and Encouragement for Those Shaping the Next Generation of Men," emphasizes the influence parents have over their children's growth. Mr. Dobson is the father of two children and writes a syndicated column that runs in Sunday's Family Times section.
Even the Boy Scouts of America maintains that adults can affect how children develop. In 2000, the Supreme Court upheld the group's right to exclude homosexuals from leadership positions after the Scouts argued that homosexuals were poor role models.
The Nicolosis have put their thesis into a book titled "A Parent's Guide to Preventing Homosexuality." The title alone is enough to irk homosexual-rights activists.
"The main thing that is wrong is the idea that there is something 'wrong' with homosexuality," says Joseph Kort, a psychotherapist and adjunct professor of homosexual studies at Wayne State University in Detroit.
Human Rights Campaign's Mr. Besen agrees. "They try to masquerade political and religious opinion as science," he says. "Instead of being a researcher of integrity, [Mr. Nicolosi] comes from a viewpoint that being gay is bad. That colors his work.
"[Mr. Nicolosi] is patently dishonest about the lives of gay people. He claims that homosexuals can't find peace or be happy. That's not even debatable. Millions of gays are happy, including me. He takes stereotypes and tries to make them scientific, selling them to people who aren't familiar with gay people."
Mr. Nicolosi said he noticed a typical pattern when Stevie's parents sought counsel from him. Most pre-homosexual children have distant or strained relationships with their parents, he says, but the father-son relationship is especially crucial for a boy's developing sexual identity.
Pre-homosexual boys have "defensively detached themselves from the world of men," Mr. Nicolosi writes. "Mothers make boys; fathers make men."
This detachment starts with the father, either because he is too busy or because father and son don't share common interests. Pre-homosexual boys are much more likely to enjoy artistic or social activities, Mr. Nicolosi says.
Even though they have distanced themselves from the male world, these boys crave the maleness they see lacking in themselves, says "Setting Love in Order," a 1995 book by the Rev. Mario Bergner, former homosexual activist who is now an Episcopal priest and founder of Redeemed Lives Ministries in Chicago.
"When a man fails to receive [fatherly love] during childhood, a deficit is written into his story line of gender identification," he writes. "He may try to fill that deficit by a clinging, dependent attachment to another male. Or he may try to fill it through an expression of [erotic love], resulting in a homosexual neurosis."
"Preventing Homosexuality" has provoked some angry reactions. Shortly after Psychology Today ran an ad for the book, a well-known lesbian activist called to threaten the editor, the magazine said.
The ads also caught the eye of Robin Mathy, a lesbian and clinical-research fellow at the University of Minnesota, who wrote a critique of the book for Amazon.com.
"If parents do what they're suggesting," Ms. Mathy says, "what's going to happen is that their kids will become gay and [the kids] will be pretty miserable." The Nicolosis make a "a fundamental error, saying that by changing gender behaviors you can change orientation."
Sexual orientation, she says, "is pretty plastic" within a certain range, but homosexual children cannot be taught to be heterosexual. "Let's say that on a given day someone could bench press between 150 and 200 pounds. It would strain the imagination to say we could condition them to lift 500."
Mr. Nicolosi believes he is observing rather than stereotyping patterns. "Of course a lot of straight men had weak or negative relationships with their dads, too," he says. "But they were able to grow up with their gender identity intact. How? They found another male role model."
Regina Griggs, executive director of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Lesbians, a group based in Fort Belvoir, says family and friends play a major role in determining sexual orientation.
"It's labeling, which I consider environmental, that sets kids up," she says.
In school, she said, children often are told they are homosexual based on their appearances or actions.
"Can you say that homosexuality is preventable?" she says. "Absolutely, when we quit labeling children."
For children like Stevie, who display this behavior over a long period of time, the Nicolosis recommend counseling for the parents and child, even if the child is only 2 or 3. They also encourage parents especially fathers to take more active roles in their children's lives and play rough-and-tumble games with their boys along with other masculine endeavors. In Stevie's case, the father did not spend any more time with his son than before the sessions.
"We have laid out a game plan for supporting healthy gender identity development, and that's what parents can indeed attempt to do, to the best of their ability," Mrs. Nicolosi says. "For the single mother, especially, it's an uphill battle."
If Stevie decides later that he is homosexual?
"Parents can make it clear, lovingly, that they're grieved by their child's lifestyle choices," the Nicolosis say. "But we must love and stay close to all our children. They are, of course, always our children."

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