Does Psychoanalyst Gerald Schoenewolf Have To Tell His Gay Patients They Can’t Be Straight?

Gerald Schoenewolf

Gerald Schoenewolf is a psychoanalyst (that’s the Freud-based branch of psychology) in New York, where he’s been practicing for 30-years. He is the founder of The Living Center, a psychoanalytic group that “offers eclectic psychotherapy. This means we use whatever method works with a particular patient. Hence, therapy may involve psychoanalysis, cognitive or behavioral approaches.” Lovely stuff. But what has us curious about Mr. Schoenewolf are his “subspecialties,” which “include the treatment of conflicted couples and psychotherapy with homosexuals who want to be heterosexual.” And that he’s been blogging about them. Things that make you go hmmmm?

“Not everyone who is gay is happy about being gay, and some gays feel deeply conflicted about it,” Schoenewolf writes. “Such gays often go into psychotherapy in order to talk about this issue and work through the conflicts that prevent them from being straight. This is nothing new.”

He’s right. This is nothing new! Enter the new part: “What is new is that in recent years the gay rights movement has taken offense at this form of psychotherapy. They gay rights movement is demanding that sexual reorientation therapy be banned and that psychotherapists be prevented from assisting gays or bisexuals who want to be straight. They have even pressured the American Psychological Association to pass new ethical rules regarding this issue.”

Alas, there is no way to “ban” a certain type of treatment. All the lobbying in the world can never get Congress to pass a law that forbids this therapy, nor does getting the APA to come out against it mean all the world’s psychologists will adhere to the rules. But at least he understands why gay groups are so critical of the therapy: “The movement claims that helping a homosexual to become heterosexual is giving into societal bias. It says if someone is gay, a psychotherapist should help him to accept his homosexuality. They even claim that sexual reorientation therapy is a form of brainwashing that may do harm to the patient. (I have occasionally done reorientation therapy and never brainwashed anybody; actually it is the gay rights movement, in my opinion, that is doing the brainwashing.)”

And the gay rights movement is militant!

The movement has been protesting and pressuring professional organizations for many years. In 1977, a group of gay psychiatrists broke into a meeting of the American Psychiatry Association and verbally harassed a panel of psychiatrists who were discussing the next manual of mental disorders. This group of radicals demanded that homosexuality be taken out of the category of sexual disorders. It was later done. The movement similarly pressured the American Psychological Association, the American Psychoanalytic Association and other organizations to normalize homosexuality. Soon nearly all professional organizations fell into step.

The movement didn’t stop there. In the 1990s it joined transvestites and transsexuals in pressuring the APA to normalize transvestism and transexualism. Eventually, the gay rights movement became so influential that it seemingly turned the APA into a gay rights advocacy organization. Now the movement wants the APA to ban sexual reorientation therapy. I believe the movement has gone too far and has become too controlling.

In fact, gays who have gone through sexual reorientation therapy—and many such cases have been documented—have now formed a group to protest what they see as prejudice against them by the gay rights people and their publications. “What about our rights to get help in changing our sexual reorientation?” they complain.

This is a curious observation from a man who, arguably, can wield much control over his own patients, but nobody goes around saying the field of psychology wields too much control over our brains. (Okay, our mother does.)

And just like a bigot who gets to fall back on his “but I have gay friends” line, Schoenewolf has a roster of patients to back up his theory: “Over the years a number of gays (usually with strong bisexual features) have come to my office for treatment specifically because they wanted to be straight. They wanted to make love to a woman, have a family and live a straight lifestyle. What was I supposed to say? ‘Sorry, you’re only allowed to be gay!'”

Without question, Schoenewolf is much more trained in psychology than anyone at this website — and our own combined years on the couch don’t count. But something always sounds off-putting about a trained therapist counseling men that, if they try hard enough, they can abandon the “lifestyle” they were born into. Much of therapy is about identifying problems and conflicts and finding solutions and resolutions; in psychotherapy, much of that work is done by examining your childhood and the family unit.

Which begs the question: Is the problem that these men desire to live a “straight lifestyle,” or that they’ve been prompted to feel so much shame about their homosexual leanings that going hetero feels like the only option?