A groundbreaking new film will spread hope to thousands of men struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction. The movie “Free to Love” tells the story of four men who found their authentic selves outside of the gay community through reintegrative therapy. The therapy did not seek to make them straight but to make them whole, and it addressed the root causes behind the same-sex attraction that brought these four men more shame than joy.
“I wasn’t liking who I was becoming, I wasn’t liking my behavior,” Nathan says in the film. “It wasn’t in line with my values. I didn’t feel like I was being my authentic self.”
“I sought therapy when I realized that these gay-affirming activities, and dressing in the gay man suit, putting on the gay man hat, it was really hard. It didn’t feel right,” Dennis says. “The changes in sexual orientation, they’re a result of a much deeper process of understanding myself, of getting myself unstuck from where my childhood left me.”
“Reintegrative therapy for me was finding the disparate parts of myself that had been lost and bringing them together and becoming whole,” John says. He recalls a men’s retreat years ago. Hearing a “roar of masculine voices,” he says, “I felt so fearful … I was like, ‘I don’t belong here.'”
After a year of reintegrative therapy, he attended the same retreat, heard the same “roar of masculine voices, and there was such a difference in my body. I loved hearing that, and I was like, ‘Let me in there! Let me in there. That’s my tribe, I belong.’ And that’s huge.”
Four men — Michael, Nathan, Dennis, and John — all rediscovered their masculinity through therapy. As a result, their unwanted same-sex attraction weakened or dissipated. But that was a byproduct, not the main goal, and they freely chose to undergo therapy knowing that might happen.
“Conversion therapy” has become a hot topic recently. California’s state senate just passed a bill to ban advertising for “sexual orientation change efforts” as a deceptive business practice. Groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) condemn conversion therapy as the province of quacks. LGBT activists insist that people cannot change their sexual orientation.
In an interview with PJ Media, Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, Jr., founder and clinical director at the Reintegrative Therapy Association, explained the crucial difference between conversion therapy and reintegrative therapy.
“Conversion therapy is broad, it’s ill-defined. There’s no ethics code, no governing body, and it’s practiced by unlicensed individuals,” Nicolosi told PJ Media. “In reintegrative therapy, the client is in the driver’s seat. The licensed psychotherapist uses evidence-based mainstream approaches — the same approaches used by clinics across the world — to treat trauma and sexual addiction. As those underlying dynamics resolve, the sexuality begins to resolve on its own, as a byproduct.”
The psychologist recalled the stories of thousands of men who reported similar trauma. “They consistently report to us a distant, detached, critical father, an over-involved intrusive mother, and they were temperamentally sensitive. That led them to long for male connection, but their closest friends were often girls. They report to us that they began sexualizing those unmet needs for male connection.”
Same-sex attraction sometimes results from psychological trauma, Nicolosi argued. When men are disintegrated from their masculinity, “girls are their best friends, they know women like the back of their hands,” but “men are mysterious, men are exciting, men are exotic, men feel unfamiliar to my clients.”
Nicolosi cited numerous studies demonstrating that sexuality is fluid, and can change in both directions. He referenced neuroplasticity, arguing that the regions of the brain connected to sexual preference do indeed change over time. He insisted that therapy should be designed not to support or reject same-sex attraction, but to get at deeper issues.
“I wanted to be loved, I wanted affection, I wanted to be cared about,” Nathan explains in “Free to Love.” “I wanted it from my father, and then, as a substitute, I wanted it from another guy. And when I wasn’t getting it from a peer, then I ended up turning that into a sexualized desire.”
“What I see now is that I had attractions that were a result of my upbringing, and those manifested sexually,” Nathan adds. “And once I dealt with — reintegrated, if you will — some of those issues, those attractions, first they dissipated, and now they’re virtually gone.”
“Because of my shame about my attractions to other men, I really made a very severe cut between me and other guys,” Denis says. “In that way, I did not fulfill this need for masculine connection, to be a man among men.”
Michael recalls hearing his friends “so excited at becoming an adult man, and I was afraid of that,” in eighth grade. “I think that is my experience of yearning for masculinity but being afraid to see it in myself, because I was afraid my own masculinity wasn’t enough.”
John describes his state of disintegration in terms of separating himself from what it means to be a man. “When I first began this process of looking at my beliefs about men and my beliefs about myself… Men were this way, but as a man I’m this way,” John says. “Men are strong, men are good-looking, men are stoic, they don’t have emotions. … Over here, I felt week, I didn’t feel good-looking, I didn’t feel I had what it takes.”
Reintegrative therapy involved correcting “these false beliefs.” Over time, John says he began “learning to accept myself and my masculine attributes and learning to remove the negative feelings I feel toward men.”
Addressing these underlying issues was far more important than focusing on sexual attraction. “Honestly, most of my therapy wasn’t at all about the whole sexual attraction thing,” John explains. “It would come up and we would work on different things, but it was always, ‘What is under there?'”
“I never at any point felt that my therapist was trying to coerce me or change me to think a certain way,” he says.
In fact, John recalls feeling frustrated when his therapist told him the same-sex attraction may not go away. “When I had a lot of shame and angst around my attractions, he said, ‘I’m not going to promise that those are ever going to go away.’ I was like, ‘That’s why I’m here!'”
John recalled the therapist’s response: “‘I can promise that they [the same-sex attractions] will no longer disturb you and that you will be living your life fully in whatever way you choose to and want to.’ And he was right.”
Nathan says he was given the same promise. “It’s not a guarantee. What you can be guaranteed of is dealing with wounds that you’ve had and becoming a more whole person,” he says.
Michael describes what the gay sexuality felt like to him. “When I’m experiencing same-sex attraction, I feel like everything turns in on myself. It’s all about me,” he says. “It’s like a star caving in on itself. It feels palpable, in my body, I feel intrinsically disconnected from the world around me.”
“When I step out of that into assertion and my full masculine self, I don’t feel sorry for being me,” Michael concludes.
None of these men are insisting that their experience is universal.
Nathan Spears, a clinical psychologist, explains in “Free to Love” that reintegrative therapists work to heal men of psychological trauma, whether or not they want to leave they gay lifestyle. “Some people like their homosexuality and want to keep it, but want to work on other things. That’s great, we work with them,” Spears says. “I want to come alongside them, I want to come alongside any group that feels maligned by society.”
This open-minded approach differs from some therapists, however. “I have clients who have gone to gay-affirmative therapists and they’ve been told that they have to continue that way of coming out more gay and accepting their homosexuality,” Spears says. “We don’t force the client to choose that path. We let them choose either option.”
In his interview with PJ Media, Nicolosi mentioned the California bill seeking to ban advertising for “sexual orientation change efforts” as inherently deceptive.
“It’s an unwanted intrusion of the government into therapy,” Nicolosi said. “Everyone should have the freedom and right to depict their own therapy goals. The clients should be in the drivers’ seat, not the politicians.”
“I’m the one saying that gays and lesbians deserve every option to choose their own path, to make their own decisions about their sexuality, including the option to explore heterosexuality, if that’s what they choose,” he added. The California bill involves limiting people’s options.
Nicolosi also clarified that most LGBT people would like to live and let live — only the hardcore activists oppose the idea that gay and lesbian people should be unable to pursue therapy that might involve trying out opposite-sex attraction.
“In healthy communities, people are free to come and go as they choose. But it’s unhealthy when individuals welcome a person into a community, but then try to block them when they try to leave,” Nicolosi says in the film. “That’s bullying and that’s wrong. And my clients have the freedom and the right to walk away from any sexual practice that isn’t right for them.”
Some LGBT activists would not only oppose gay people’s right to seek open-ended reintegrative therapy, but also attack these men who left the gay lifestyle after addressing their trauma.
“Where have we come now where you can’t even disagree with somebody who holds the LGBT community and its standards as gold and dismisses my perspective, to the point where I should not be allowed to have my perspective?” Michael asks in the film. “Now we’ve tipped the scale and gone to a completely destructive place.”
Follow the author of this article on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.
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