What a fascinating question

Via Twitter, the Conservative MEP Roger Helmer asks an \”interesting\” question:

Why is it OK for a surgeon to perform a sex-change operation, but not OK for a psychiatrist to try to \”turn\” a consenting homosexual?


28 thoughts on “What a fascinating question”

  1. Because the only thing that’s worse — for a leftie — than being called “racist” is being called “homophobic.”

    Of course, that wouldn’t matter so much had our dear lefties got their heads around the difference between support and un-opposition.

  2. Matthew, are you sure about that? I’m pretty sure there have been stories of ‘reversal’ operations, and requests, haven’t there?

    And in what sense could they ever be said to ‘work’, when they merely change your outward appearance?

  3. Tim, this is beneath you.

    Tim adds: Why? Why is a physical treatment acceptable and not a mental one?

    Note please, I’m not trying to say that psychiatric treatments “for” homosexuality work: I’m sure they don’t. But there are plenty of examples of “mental” treatments that do. Tom Robinson rather famously became rather hetero after falling in love with a woman.

    Take it further. Imagine that there were (and we leave homosexuality entirely aside here) two treatments for “being in the wrong gender physique”. One physical, one mental, both equally effective. Would the mental treatment automatically be worse, or unthinkable, for some reason?

    Take it even further: why is the physical treatment so approved of? There are plenty of feminists out there who say that to have tit implants is disgusting, a moral betrayal. Sorry, that’s the hand that life dealt you, deal with it.

  4. Being the cynical bugger I I suspect that it all comes down to ones definition of what is “right”.

    Should we try to make things better by taking them further from their naturally ordained state? Or should we try to make things better by doing the reverse?

    Personally I’d say both were right depending on the individual concerned.

  5. Tim,

    This is all a straw man argument. It is Roger Helmer “ragging on teh gays” – he’s not making a genuine or “fascinating” point.
    Can you point to any example of anyone ever saying physical treatment for a gender issue is acceptable whereas psychological treatement for a sexuality issue is unacceptable? What exactly does Mr Helmer mean by a psychiatrist trying ‘to “turn” a consenting homosexual’? He is presumably referring to the, usually religious and american, people who offer to “cure” homosexuality. I’m not an expert, but my understanding is that this is generally fraudulent. Sexuality doesn’t work like that. And I don’t know of any examples of anyone criticising someone, who genuinely wanted help with their sexuality issues, for going to a psychiatrist.
    As for sex changes, they are not merely physical treatments like a breast implant. As I understand it, sex change surgery in the UK can only be carried out after extensive psychiatric treatment. The idea that there is “politically correct” physical treatment for one thing and a “politically incorrect” psychological treatment for another is just not true. And I think you know that.

  6. “This is all a straw man argument. It is Roger Helmer “ragging on teh gays” – he’s not making a genuine or “fascinating” point.”

    Given this has opened up some very interesting debate here and at ‘Heresy Corner’, it seems he has made such a point, whether he meant to or not.

  7. “As for sex changes, they are not merely physical treatments like a breast implant…”

    No, they usually involve drastic surgery and hormone treatments for life. Also, legal changes such as changes to your (previously inviolate) birth certificate.

    None of which makes you the opposite sex to which you were born, at a basic cellular level, and anyone who thinks it does is deceiving themselves, with society’s knowing connivance.

  8. I recommend Zoe Brain’s blog for a better understanding of this issue. Zoe started out as Alan, then changed sex in her forties. Note, I don’t say “had a sex change”. She changed sex spontaneously.

    There are more than two genetic sexual types. In fact, the whole thing is so complicated, and my understanding of it so poor, that I leave anyone interested to browse Zoe’s archives. The point is that while I dare say it’s possible that some people want a sex change as part of a sexual fetish, in most cases there are genetic differences between them and straight men or women, and also between them and homosexual men and women. Being transgender is an innate thing at the level of our genetic make-up.

    Talking “cures” for homosexuality are very different to sex changes. They are intended to address homosexuality, and this isn’t what leads people to want a sex change (Brain remained attracted to women at first, for example). They are invariably rooted in a primitive, often religious, misunderstanding of and hatred of homosexuality, that leads people to imagine it’s something that needs to be “cured” – rather than the perfectly normal state of some individuals.

    Sex changes address a genetic difference from the norm, one that leads to people feeling “trapped” in the wrong body; the very idea of “curing” homosexuality is bigotry.

    But there’s more. In isolation, Helmer’s remark might have been just the wittering of an ignoramus. It didn’t happen in isolation, though. It was a remark, I think, calculated to de-legitimise homosexuality and sex changes, and to legitimise this primitive religio-conservative bigotry against homosexuality and transgender both.

  9. Because the current position of the mainstream left is that gender is a social construct whereas sexuality is innate.

    I actually think the biggest fear leftists have about therapy to change sexuality is that one day it might work – this would (1) smash their worldview and (2) they are willing to believe anything about conservatives, including that we’d try and force homosexuals into such therapy.

    Personally I’m happy for anyone to get any treatment they want from a physician, provided they give informed consent.

  10. If this is the same story that appeared in the Daily Fail it seems that it was an exercise in entrapment. The client came to the therapist (not a psychiatrist according to the Fail) and expressed a desire for help in overcoming homosexual urges. Numbers of people have that circumstance and at least some of them can be helped whatever leftists may think about it. The client elicted statements from the therapist as to her personal opinion about the moral wrongness of homosexuality and these statements are being used to attack the therapist. She should have been wary of someone trying to induce her to make statements that were in no way relevant to the course of the therapy. There seems to be not the slightest suggestion that she tried to force someone to stop being homosexual only that she agreed to help someone who had said he did not want to be homosexual and asked her to help him change. It may even be that he expressed anti-gay sentiments himself to help entrap her. She should have kept her personal opinion to herself within the context of therapy but that is no reason

  11. Because gender identity confusion is seen as a disorder that can be treated, while, since the 1970s, homosexuality has been seen as a normal variation of human sexual orientation, not a disorder.

    However, what ‘normal’ means here is a huge subject….

    For my part, I’d say that whether homosexuality is a disorder depends (i) on its origin and (ii) the homosexual’s own attitude to what is a spectrum condition — ie if he sees his condition as a disorder and he wants to be cured, he probably can be and should be helped.

    Regarding (i), whether the origin of homosexuality is wholly psychological (unlikely), or genetic (unlikely) or the result of intra-uterine hormonal fluctuations (more likely), then a cure is surely conceivable. It is an interesting question whether, given the technology, parents would choose to eliminate the possibility of having gay offspring because they want grandchildren. My guess is that, the likes of R Dwight and D Furnish aside, most would, all other things being equal.

    And that would suggest that most parents see homosexuality as a disorder — just as most parents would see Down’s syndrome as a disorder and not want another such child, even though they adore their Down’s syndrome child.

  12. All things being equal the two might be equal, but there is an awful lot of history about this. Supposed “cures” for being gay do not work, often with very real and terrible side effects. They also having a long history of being forced on people who have no real desire to be “cured”. There have been sex changes without the informed consent of the person involved, but nothing like the appalling history of people being forced to submit to being “cured” of there homosexuality, and the trail of suicides that it left behind.

  13. So Much For Subtlety

    Matthew – “Because sex change treatments work, and sexuality changes don’t.”

    I would like to see the slightest evidence that sex change treatment work. Given the massively high suicide rate among post-op transsexuals, the very high levels of dissatisfaction post-op and the general lack of any evidence that such operations help anyone.

    On the other hand it is well known that people can and do change their sexual orientation. There is no shortage of people who tried being Gay for a while, but ended up happily married. Certainly there is no shortage of people who were happily heterosexual who changed their minds. Now these have to be explained away by saying they were “really” something else and were, or are, fooling themselves, but it is a nonsense. There is no reason why anyone would think that it is not possible to help someone change their sexual orientation.

  14. So Much For Subtlety

    paul ilc – “Because gender identity confusion is seen as a disorder that can be treated, while, since the 1970s, homosexuality has been seen as a normal variation of human sexual orientation, not a disorder.”

    Which is to say it is a political decision. The American Psychiatric Association did not remove Homosexuality from their list of disorders because they rethought the entire basis of their profession. No one said Freud was wrong. They were bullied in to it, actually physically bullied, by the Gay lobby. There is no scientific evidence that gender identity confusion can be treated either.

    “And that would suggest that most parents see homosexuality as a disorder”

    But of course our Elders and Betters won’t allow us to think or say that.

  15. SMFS: Yes, that is my impression, too. But “the gay lobby” is a minority of homosexuals, most of whom just want to get on quietly with their lives like the rest of us. Personally, I regard someone’s sexual orientation with supreme indifference (unless I fancy her).

  16. So Much For Subtlety

    Tracy W – “Despite the title, this book spends a lot of time showing that Freud was wrong, quite convincingly I thought.”

    No one at the time. I thought that was obvious from the context. Homosexuality was removed from the (admittedly appalling) DSM in 1973 because of acts of physical violence by the Gay lobby. Not because there was a general consensus about the flaws of psycho-analysis. The “science” of Freud and psycho-analysis in general have continued to decline ever since, but this decline is not the cause.

  17. They were bullied in to it, actually physically bullied, by the Gay lobby

    I just noticed this and frankly find it unbelievable. Why didn’t the psychologists just call the police, if they were being physically bullied?

    As for removing homosexuality from the list of orders, I agree with you that it wasn’t the result of American psychologists rethinking the entire basis of their field – rather as I understand it, it was the result of the psychologists following empirical evidence that homosexuality wasn’t associated with other disorders (leaving aside such society-created problems as being harassed, attacked, arrested, open to blackmail, etc).

  18. “it was the result of the psychologists following empirical evidence that homosexuality wasn’t associated with other disorders ”

    Anal and genital warts have a much higher incidence in male homosexuals…
    AIDS…
    And Wikipedia:
    “In a Dutch study, gay men reported significantly higher mood and anxiety disorders than straight men, and lesbians were significantly more likely to experience depression (but not other mood or anxiety disorders) than straight women.” And this is in the very tolerant Netherlands.

    The ‘gay’ life is often rather sad.

  19. SmfS, actually I’ve just been googling a bit more, and it looks like it was not necessary to decide that Freud was wrong to remove homosexuality from the manual.
    From “Homosexuality is assuredly no advantage, but it is nothing to be ashamed of, no vice, no degradation; it cannot be classified as an illness; we consider it to be a variation of the sexual function, produced by a certain arrest of sexual development.”

    http://www.blogissues.com/2007/11/27/sigmund-freuds-letter-to-an-american-mother-of-1935/

    This is not a defence of Freud in general, even a clocked stop is right twice a day.

  20. So Much For Subtlety

    Tracy W – “I just noticed this and frankly find it unbelievable. Why didn’t the psychologists just call the police, if they were being physically bullied?”

    I have no idea. But at the 1970 APA meeting in San Francisco the Gay Liberation Front came to the conference. They shouted down people they did not like. They physically intimidated them. They interrupted speeches and seized the microphones during talks they did not like. As a response they were allowed gradually more of role at every meeting, until eventually the APA caved and, in a closed door meeting, they voted to remove homosexuality from the DSM IV. It was not a scientific decision.

    “As for removing homosexuality from the list of orders, I agree with you that it wasn’t the result of American psychologists rethinking the entire basis of their field – rather as I understand it, it was the result of the psychologists following empirical evidence that homosexuality wasn’t associated with other disorders (leaving aside such society-created problems as being harassed, attacked, arrested, open to blackmail, etc).”

    The same could be said for paranoia. Or any condition really. Patients sometimes have other disorders, but not always. People with bipolar tend to have that and nothing else.

    Nor do I think it is necessarily true. Gay people do tend to exhibit self destructive behaviours. Not on a large scale, but fairly consistently. You only have to look at the rate of new infections for HIV.

  21. “On the other hand it is well known that people can and do change their sexual orientation. There is no shortage of people who tried being Gay for a while, but ended up happily married. Certainly there is no shortage of people who were happily heterosexual who changed their minds. Now these have to be explained away by saying they were “really” something else and were, or are, fooling themselves, but it is a nonsense. There is no reason why anyone would think that it is not possible to help someone change their sexual orientation.”

    There’s a big difference between someone’s sexuality naturally changing during their life (which is perfectly possible AFAIK) and a psychiatrist changing that someone’s sexuality themselves (which is not possible according to research AFAIK).

    “they are willing to believe anything about conservatives, including that we’d try and force homosexuals into such therapy”

    Because of course, conservatives NEVER forced gay people to do ANYTHING, EVER.

  22. So Much For Subtlety

    Wuh – “There’s a big difference between someone’s sexuality naturally changing during their life (which is perfectly possible AFAIK) and a psychiatrist changing that someone’s sexuality themselves (which is not possible according to research AFAIK).”

    Sorry but there is no research that says it is not possible. They may be saying that it is not possible now, with the science as we presently understand it (if we can use the word science for psychiatry). We don’t do it, even research it, for political reasons, not for scientific ones.

    What is more, if they are capable of changing by themselves, there is every reason to think that if we understood that process, we could intervene actively.

  23. Sorry, late to this.

    It is well understood that it is possible to use conditioning to change people’s sexual preferences so that they can, for instance, become genuinely sexually aroused at the sight of a particular type of shoe, or when hearing a certain sound, or when holding a particular non-sexual object, or whatever. A lot of people choose to condition themselves this way: there’s nothing instinctive about getting aroused by having someone in PVC gag you and whip you. The Furries have established that it is possible to condition yourself into only being sexually attracted to people dressed in animal costumes, for crying out loud. The idea that all of this is possible but that gender is the sole exception to the rule for some reason needs some evidence.

    If I were gay and devout Catholic, I’d abandon the Church, but then that’s probably why I’m not religious in the first place. Some people want to stick with their anti-gay religion despite finding themselves to be gay. If those people want to enroll on some sort of conditioning course to try and turn themselves straight, well, I think they’re making the wrong decision, but it’s hardly unethical to try and help them achieve what they want.

    As for sex changes, if they worked, you wouldn’t need to take hormone pills for life, would you? I support people’s right to change sex 100%, but the technology doesn’t exist yet for them to exercise that right.

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