Psychotherapist Joe Kort, MA, MSW, has been in practice since 1985. He specializes in Gay Affirmative Psychotherapy as well as IMAGO Relationship Therapy, which is a specific program involving communication exercises designed for couples to enhance their relationship and for singles to learn relationship skills. He also specializes in sexual addiction, childhood sexual, physical and emotional abuse, depression and anxiety. He offers workshops for couples and singles. He runs a gay men's group therapy and a men's sexuality group therapy for straight, bi and gay men who are struggling with specific sexual issues. His therapy services are for gays and lesbians as well as heterosexuals. His articles and columns have appeared in The Detroit Free Press, Between the Lines Newspaper for Gays and Lesbians, The Detroit News, The Oakland Press, The Royal Oak Mirror, and other publications. Besides providing therapy for individuals and couples, he conducts a number of groups and workshops for gay men. Now an adjunct professor teaching Gay and Lesbian Studies at Wayne State University's School of Social Work, he is doing more writing and workshops on a national level. He is the author of 10 Smart Things Gay Men can do to Improve Their Lives. or

* Gaydar (gay'.dahr, n.): (1) The ability that lets gays and lesbians identify one other. (2) This column--where non-gay readers can improve their gaydar, learning more about gay men's psychology and social lives. Also, (3) a regular feature where gay readers can discover the many questions and hassles their straight counterparts--and themselves--must face!


A. Fear, hatred, disgust of feelings of love for members of one’s own gender.

B. Prejudice based on personal belief that Lesbians, Bisexuals, and Gays are immoral, sick, sinful or inferior to heterosexuals.

Results in:

  • Fear of association with Lesbians, Bisexuals and Gays
  • Fear of being perceived as Lesbian, Bisexual, or Gay
  • Fear of stepping out of “accepted” gender role behavior

Also known as Homonegative.


A. Assumption that all people are (or should be) heterosexual.
B. Belief in superiority of heterosexuality and the inferiority of homosexuality.
C. Rights and privileges given to heterosexuals and denied to Lesbians, Bisexuals, and Gays.

  • Marriage (Gays and Lesbians cannot marry anywhere in the U.S.)
  • Housing (Gays and Lesbians can be evicted from housing just for being Gay and Lesbian)
  • Employment (One can be terminated from employment just for being Gay and Lesbian)

Revealed in:

  • personal behavior
  • institutional policies
  • cultural norms

More Definitions: (See previous week for other terms.)

Heterosexual: A person or young person who has a continuing affectionate, emotional, romantic, and/or erotic attraction to the opposite gender

LesBiGay: A recent term, formed by combining Lesbian, Bisexual, and Gay male, to refer to non-heterosexual people, i.e. lesbians, gay men, or bisexual.

Being Out or Out of the Closet: A term, which means being open or public about being lesbian, gay or bisexual. A closeted person hides the fact that they are lesbian, gay or bisexual. Some people are “out” in some settings (for example, with friends) and not “out” in other settings (e.g. at work or with family).

Life Partner, Partner, Significant Other and Lover: Some of the terms that lesbian, gay and bisexual people use to identify those people with whom they have made a commitment in their romantic or sexual relationships.

Fag, Dyke, Faggot, Lezzie, Homo, Queer, Fairy, Fruit, Pansy, and Sissy: Terms used to insult lesbians, gays and bisexual people.

Information about Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual People

1. Certain mannerisms or physical characteristics cannot identify Lesbian, gay and bisexual people. People who are lesbian, gay or bisexuals (Bi-Attractional) come in as many different shapes, colors and sizes as do heterosexuals. In fact, many heterosexuals portray a variety of so-called lesbian and gay mannerisms.

2. Most lesbian, gay and bisexual people are comfortable with being their biological sex: they do not regard themselves as members of the other sex. Being lesbian, gay or bisexual is not the same thing as being transsexual, where a person feels that they are the wrong biological sex.

3. The majority of child molesters are heterosexual men, not lesbian, gay or bisexual women and men. Over 90% of child molestation is committed by heterosexual men against young girls. The overwhelming majority of lesbians and gay men have no interest in sexual activity with children.

4. Sexual experiences as a child are not necessarily indicative of one’s sexual orientation as an adult. There is a huge difference between sexual activity and sexual attraction.

5. Many, and perhaps most, lesbian, gay and bisexual people have early heterosexual experiences, but are still lesbian, gay or bisexual; many avowed heterosexuals have had sexual contact including orgasm, with members of their own sex, but are still heterosexual.

6. Some lesbian, gay and bisexual people know at an early age -- sometimes as soon as 7 or 8 years old -- that they are attracted to their own sex. Some people learn much later in life, in their 60’s or 70’s. Some research indicates that sexual orientation is determined between birth and age 3. And, having said all that, no one knows what causes sexual orientation.

7. It is impossible to convert heterosexuals to being homosexual. Based on what is known about sexual attraction, this is simply not possible, nor is it possible to convert homosexuals to being heterosexual.

8. Although homosexual “seduction” does occur, it is far less common than heterosexual “seduction”, and, in fact, it may be even less common due to the fact that heterosexuals may react with hostility to sexual advances from members of their own sex. This misinformation, together with the misinformation about molestation, is the basis for attempts to keep lesbians and gay men from working with children.

9. Homosexuality is not a type of mental illness and cannot be “cured” by psychotherapy. Although homosexuality was once thought to be a mental illness, the American Psychiatric and American Psychological Associations no longer consider homosexuality to be a mental illness. some people believe that it is the prejudice against homosexuality that needs to be cured.

10. Most psychiatric and psychological attempts to “cure” lesbian women and gay men have failed to change the sexual attraction of the patient, and instead, have resulted in creating emotional trauma. Many lesbians and gay men have known heterosexuals who tried to convert them to being heterosexual, without success.

11. Lesbian, gay and bisexual people have the same range of sexual activity -- from none to a lot -- as heterosexuals do. some lesbian, gay and bisexual people are celibate, some have been in monogamous relationships for decades, some have had several lovers across a lifetime, and some have many sexual partners in a given period of time.

12. If you think about all the heterosexuals you know, they, too, fall across a spectrum of sexual activity and types of relationships. What is different is that we have gotten more information about the sexuality of lesbian, gay and bisexual people and little information about the diversity or depth of their relationships.

13. For example, the only “homosexual” stories generally covered by the mainstream media are sensational ones -- a gay man accused of molesting school boys, or only photographing unusual dress at Gay Parades -- while the everyday lives of most lesbian, gay and bisexual people are effectively kept secret or never discussed in a matter-of-fact way.

14. Many people accuse lesbian, gay and bisexual people of “flaunting” their sexuality when they talk about their partner, hold hands or briefly kiss one another in public. And yet these are activities that heterosexual couples do all the time -- in fact, some heterosexual couples do much more than this in public. Who’s flaunting their sexuality?

15. There is no single “gay lifestyle”. In fact, there is no standard heterosexual lifestyle. Think of all the heterosexuals you know. How many have similar “lifestyles”? for example, although some people might like to think that a “normal” adult lifestyle is a heterosexual marriage with 2 children, less than 7% of all family units in the United States consist of a mother, father, and two children living together.

16. Although there are many widely held stereotypes about people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual, the most accurate generalization might be this: lesbian, gay and bisexual people are different from one another in the same way that heterosexual people are different from one another.

17. People who are lesbian, gay and bisexual work in all types of jobs and they live in all types of situations. They belong to all ethnic and racial groups. they are members of all religious, spiritual, and faith communities. They have different mental and physical abilities. They are young, middle-aged, and old.

18. Whatever is generally true about heterosexual people, is probably true about lesbian, gay and bisexual people, with two important exceptions: their sexual attraction is different and lesbian, gay and bisexual people are affected by homophobia and heterosexism in powerful and unique ways.

19. Each day, lesbian, gay and bisexual people must face prejudice, discrimination, and oppression because of their sexual attraction. This affects decisions about jobs, family, friends and housing...virtually all aspects of what most people would consider “everyday” living.

20. Sometimes the oppression escalates into acts of verbal and physical violence. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force received reports of 7,248 incidents of anti-gay violence and victimization in the United States; actual levels are presumed to be much higher. In surveys of lesbian, gay and bisexual people, 52% to 87% have been verbally harassed, 21% to 27% have been pelted with objects, 13% to 38% have been chased or followed, and 9% to 24% have been physically assaulted.

21. Despite all of this, many lesbian, gay and bisexual people live proud, fulfilled lives. Many are committed to educating others about homophobia as well as caring for themselves and other members of their communities.

Queer Eye for the Straight Community

Over the years other minority groups have changed how they wish to be referred to in an attempt to change how they are treated. A good example of this is the African American community has changed the way they self-identify going from “negro” to “colored” to “black” to “people of color” to the now politically correct term “African American” that they wish to be called today. Actually, “negro” and “colored” were labels coming from non-African Americans.

These days, the GLBTQ (Gay, Lesbian, Bi-attractional, Transgendered and Questioning) community have also changed how we self identify. “Homosexual” has become a negative word as the words “negro” and “colored” would be to call an African American person. The best thing these days is to ask how someone self-identifies. Even many women, both lesbian and straight, are starting to write the word “women” as “womyn” so to recognize their separation and difference from men.

For us all to get along it is important to be respectful of each other’s selfidentification. As a therapist, I may not like to use the word “homosexual” however if a client comes in and does not identify with the word “gay” and self-identifies as “homosexual” that is the word I use. Using the word “gay” is affirmative and refers to a lifestyle of being out and open about one’s sexual and romantic orientation. Many folks in the beginning of coming out are not comfortable with using the word “gay”. Likewise, a heterosexual who enjoys sex with the same gender however might identify as hetero-emotional and not see themselves as gay or homosexual. They would refer to the word “homosexual” as a “freaky” side to themselves in behavior only.

When I was a young boy, degrading, humiliating names like “faggot” and “queer” were hurled at me repeatedly. Today, younger kids and teenagers use the word "gay" to degrade and humiliate others. "That is so gay!" you can hear in school corridors and in the malls. It’s reminiscent of slang expressions like, "I Jewed him down," or "I was gypped.” These verbs have become so overused that people use them without even knowing where they originated or how it offends people. Today, however, we see the word "queer," once a pejorative, often being used in a positive way. Dozens of books and articles are getting published with Queer in their titles, and the term has come into common, affirmative usage by lesbians and gays as well.

Originally, the adjective “homosexual” was mostly derogatory or pathological, as in calling someone a "known homosexual." Today’s "homosexuals" don’t want to own that title, because its negative connotations remind us of the bad old days. The “sexual” part of the word reflected the homophobic belief that homosexuality is primarily or “only” about sex, which it isn't. The labels “gay” and “lesbian” were therefore adopted, to the extent that today’s reparative therapies often refuse to use the word "gay" because of its affirmative connotation!

Then bisexuals were included. These days—again, removing “sex” from the word—the politically correct term would be “bi-attractional.” Gay culture then adopted the acronym GLB to welcome in bi-attractionals. Next to come on board was “transgendered,” an umbrella term for drag queens, drag kings, transvestites and pre-and post-op sex reassignment individuals; and so the acronym changed to GLBT. When those questioning their orientation came into the fold, the acronym expanded again to GLBTQ.

As a result of the addition of letters maybe it all just seemed to much and the best letter for us is just "Q" for Queer. We see it in the media "Queer as Folk" on Showtime and now the hysterically funny and well done "Queer Eye on the Straight Guy.”

These days it is important to know these terms:

1. Lesbian: A woman or young woman who forms her primary loving and sexual relationships with other women; a woman or young woman who has a continuing affectional, emotional, romantic, and/or erotic attraction to someone of the same sex. Some lesbians prefer to call themselves “lesbian” and they use the term “gay” to refer to gay men; others use the term “gay” to refer to both gay males and lesbian females.

2. Gay Male: An affirmative word for a man or young man who forms his primary romantic and sexual relationships with other men; a man or young man who has a continuing affectional, emotional, romantic, and/or erotic attraction to someone of the same sex. Women use this word as well (see above).


“Homosexual” is an outdated term and offensive: It historically refers to a lesbian or a gay male. Homosexual is a clinical and technical term that is not generally used by lesbians or gay men to refer to themselves or their community. For example, a person refers to themselves as gay or openly gay not admittedly homosexual or a practicing homosexual. These latter terms have negative stigmatized connotations. This term is also widely used by Reparative Therapists and Religious organizations to reinforce that homosexuality is negative and that “gay” is an affirmative lifestyle.

3. Bisexual or Bi-Attractional: A person or young person who has the potential for or forms affectionate, emotional, romantic, and/or erotic attraction with members of either gender.

4. Transgendered: A person who is expanding the societal boundaries of female and male genders. This includes people who are undergoing sex/gender reassignment (transsexuals) and transvestites/cross dressers. Transsexuals and transvestites may be heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual. An example might be of a heterosexual woman becoming gender reassigned as a man and now self-identifies as a gay man. His gender is now changed however his sexual and romantic orientation has not.

5. Homoerotic: The enjoyment of watching two men or two women being sexual with one another. It is also a man eroticizing his sexual contact with another man and a woman eroticizing her sexual behavior with another woman. The person enjoying this might be straight, gay or bi.

6. Hetero-emotional: A man or woman who is heterosexually emotionally attached and drawn to members of the opposite gender and sexually attracted to members of either same gender and/or opposite gender.

7. Homo-emotional: A man or woman who is emotionally attracted and drawn to members of the same gender and sexually attracted to members of one’s own gender and/or opposite gender.

8, Questioning: A person who is undecided and/or confused about their sexual and romantic orientation.

9. LGBTQ: An umbrella acronym to refer to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered and Questioning community.

10. Queer: A mostly political term to describe gay, lesbian, bi-attractional and transgender persons. It is an umbrella term to refer to the gay community as a whole. This can be a simpler way to refer to the queer community without all the letters! Examples in media that this is becoming more acceptable are “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” and “Queer as Folk”. Many gay and lesbian self-help books now use the word queer in its titles and contents.

I have to admit I still cringe when I hear the word queer. It takes me back to the playground where I was made fun of and put down. However, I am getting used to it as it is used more and more. When in relationship with someone "queer" my judgment is the best thing to do is to ask them how do they self identify and what would they like to be called. I prefer to be called gay. That is how I self-identify. How do you self-identify

About Intentional Dialogue

This month has been all about reactivity and defensive styles that get in the way of people relating to others in relationships either with family, friends, colleagues and romantic partners. I am publishing an excerpt from my book on the Intentional Dialogue which helps people, couples particularly, learn how to have a dialogue in the face of hight reactivity and turtle and hailstorm relationships. The Intentional Dialogue keeps people from using their Old Brain and staying in their New Brain.

Imago Relationship Therapy has a wonderful communication exercise that I use with most every couple—including my own relationship. The communication exercise is called the Intentional Dialogue and is actually the foundation to all Imago techniques. This Intentional Dialogue has three parts—mirroring, validation and empathy. It offers couples ways to communicate and be in dialogues, not monologues

Our partner is trying to convey a message. Most often, we’re waiting our turn—not truly listening. We are sitting in our own reactivity, not truly hearing our partners’ point of view.

Dialogue involves mirroring. One partner sends information, on one topic, until entirely finished, in short declarative sentences starting with “I.” Receiver doesn’t interpret, diminish or magnify the message, but simply reflects what was said, until Sender says “There’s no more . . .”

Deceptively simple! But therapists do it all the time. You’d learn these basic reflective listening skills in an emergency crisis center. Carl Rogers, a well-known psychologist, found people felt more connected and understood when therapists used these reflective listening techniques. It was brilliant for Hendrix to suggest that partners use it with one another.

What did your partner say? “I’m upset that you don’t appreciate it when I clean up.” You—the Receiver—say, “You don’t feel I appreciate your cleaning up the house. And you’re upset?” Then you add, “Did I get it? Is there more?”

This doesn’t stop until the Sender feels heard and understood.

Saying Did I get it? sends the message that you’re really trying to understand what your partner’s saying. Is there more? tells him that your ears are open and you do want to hear.

This Couples Intentional Dialogue counteracts intimacy-blocking behaviors like dominating a conversation, interrupting, interpreting what you think he’s really saying and finishing his sentences, being overly critical and judgmental, or too close-mouthed and not paying attention. Dialogue stops.

The second part is validation. After your partner finishes what he says, you validate what you heard, from his point of view.

For most people, this is difficult. You—as Receiver—nod. “What you’re saying makes sense. I can see why you’d think this way.” This isn’t agreement, simply validating his point of view. You’re looking through his glasses, not yours, affirming the way he views the world. Yours isn’t the only way to view conflicts in your relationship!

We gays and lesbians have been told over and over that what we think and feel is wrong, so validating can be hard. Saying to someone, “That makes sense” can feel like a stretch, especially when you don’t agree. In our society, what makes one person right makes another wrong.

IRT suggests simply suspending your point of view, temporarily. Let your partner’s reality to surface too. You keep your reality, and validate his.

The last part is empathy. Imagine what your partner might be feeling, given what he’s said. You validate not just his words but his feelings. We aren’t taught to do this as well as woman do so, as a therapist, I spend lost of time helping men be empathic with one another.

After the Sender is complete and the Receiver has mirrored, validated and empathized, then the couple switches. Sender becomes Receiver and Receiver becomes Sender. Still on the same topic, so as not to stack up issues, allowing both partners’ realities to exist.

Afterward, if the conflict isn’t settled, IRT implements many other communication techniques. Pick up Dr. Hendrix’s books to learn more!

Mike and I first learned this couples dialogue at a weekend workshop that, to become an Imago therapist, I had to attend. I recall thinking, If Mike and I are in such bad shape that we have to talk like this for the rest of our lives, then it’s not worth it! It felt tedious and mechanical. And it is! But later, after practicing it for a while, we learned that it helped us hear each other more accurately and deeply. Now, we use it only if we’re too reactive. It’s saved us from a lot of fights that, before, would have spun out into hurting each other’s feelings.

Most couples therapists will tell you that reactivity is not helpful in handling communication between partners.

I didn’t know this myself, having come from a family where if something was on your mind, you just said it. Whether another person was willing and wanted to hear you was irrelevant. Needless to say, this doesn’t work, but I brought this useless belief into my relationship with Mike.

IRT teaches that if you want to speak to your partner, make an appointment. Sounds trite but it works. The partner who has a frustration tells the other what it is. “Is this is a good time to discuss it?” If the other says no, then the two negotiate for a better time. We recommend that couples not wait more than 24 hours, allowing for Sender to learn patience and Receiver to be ready to be fully present in the dialogue.

More about this dialogue can be learned by reading Dr. Harville Hendrix’s book, Getting The Love You Want: A Guide for Couples.

People-Based Therapy: Imago for Gay and Lesbian Relationships

In a society that sees most relationships as disposable, lesbian and gay relationships are seen and treated as even more disposable. Thus, when conflict arises and the relationship becomes more difficult, it seems easier for lesbian and gay couples to give up on the relationship rather than face the struggle together.

Many lesbian and gay couples do not have children, the legal or religious sanction of marriage, family and friend support, or public recognition to reinforce a reason to stay together. Imago relationship therapy offers these couples a reason to stay in the relationship.

Custom Made Love

The premise is that conflict between two partners is normal and is supposed to happen. We pick partners who resemble familiar love and carry the positive and negative traits of our primary caretakers who raised us. Then the conflicts which appear in relationship are the unresolved issues from childhood in disguise. Each partner’s healing and individual growth depends on the two staying together and resolving these differences. In other words, we return to the scene of the crime in childhood, only this time we solve the crime in adulthood.

Gender Neutral

Imago relationship therapy is so important for our community because it offers, for the first time, a theory and practice that is not gender based, but rather more people-based. We do not have the approval of society allowing us to learn about dating and romantic love with members of the same gender during adolescence or early adulthood. In fact, most gays and lesbians spend most of their early lives running from each other and ourselves for fear of discovery and being scorned by society. A great deal of time is spent in early childhood and young adulthood conforming to heterosexuality. It is very traumatic to question one's true identity and, when discovered, to then feel it necessary to keep it secret from one's inner self, the outside world and one’s own family. So, imagine the difficulties lesbian and gay couples face in attempting to come become more intimate with each other. Imago offers hope.

Acceptance vs. growth for all couples

Relationships challenge us to learn more about ourselves; to stretch into aspects of ourselves that are undeveloped, and to deal with things differently than we learned in childhood. In Imago therapy, one partner may make a behavior change request of the other partner. Behavior Change Requests (BCR) are things you ask your partner to consider changing which cause you frustration within the relationship. Imago offers a technique to ask for this and have your partner be willing to provide a behavior change that is done safely and effectively. However, when a partner is asked for a behavior change request, the request itself can trigger old memories and feelings from childhood about being "forced" to conform to someone else's idea of how to be and thus losing one's identity. This is a stumbling block for some gay and lesbian couples and some get trapped here.

Your Partner Holds The Blue Print For Your Individual Growth

Imago relationship therapy teaches couples that sometimes giving your partner what they want is so very hard to do, because the very thing that they are requesting is what you need to do for yourself. The promise of Imago is that by giving your partner what they want, you are in fact healing yourself. Therefore, gifting your partner with what they ask for is an opportunity healing things from your childhood. For lesbians and gays, however, childhood was a time where we were asked to change who we were at the core. So to change meant to lose one’s self. Granting a BCR to your partner is an opportunity to discover that you will not lose yourself by complying. By gifting your partner, you learn that nothing psychically dangerous will occur and that your relationship will deepen.

Differences between partners on various issues can be very threatening to all couples, gay and straight alike, but particularly to the gay or lesbian couple. Our society treats gays and lesbians badly for being "different" than the norm. This attitude imprints upon us that differences are not okay which makes for more sensitivity and suspiciousness at having to conform for anyone again. So, when these differences and conflicts arise for the Gay and Lesbian couple, it can feel like confirmation that society’s attitude is correct and that our relationships are doomed to failure. Unfortunately, many people leave their relationships prematurely based on this misinformation.

Here again, Imago normalizes the tension and difficulty that all couples go through and terms it the "power struggle"—a quite necessary stage for growth of the individual and the relationship. This creates yet another anchor for lesbians and gays to stay in the relationship.

The only time the concept of the “good of the power struggle” does not apply is when domestic violence or active addictions going untreated are involved. That is not an effective source of conflict that can be resolved with couple’s therapy. That demands more serious therapeutic intervention for the individuals in the coupleship first.

All in all, Imago relationship therapy provides the hope and reinforcement gay and lesbian couples need and deserve, just like our heterosexual counterparts.

"Wanted: Meaningful Overnight Relationship"

When I saw this saying embroidered on a pillow, I bought it to display in the office where I do my relationship workshops, because it reminded me of statements that clients and workshop participants have made to me over the years. They usually ask me why they cannot find Mr. or Ms. Right and why they keep having short, quick and unsatisfying relationships.

In reply, often I ask them questions like these:

  • Are you doing what you say you should do to find a relationship?
  • Does your lifestyle support and leave room for a long-term relationship?
  • Is your behavior and lifestyle in line with whatever agreements you’ve made with your partner?
  • Are you satisfied with your decision about how you are in your relationship?
  • Are you in charge of your decisions about your sexual acts, or are they in charge of you?

My clients frequently tell me how very depressed they are at not being in a relationship. They complain that other gay men want nothing but quick sexual hook-ups. Lesbians state that all other women are either “heterosexual” or “already in a relationship.” Even heterosexual men and women make similar comments, like, “All the good men are gay” or “All the good women are married.” Unconsciously, however, they often use these as excuses to end relationships abruptly and to have quick one-night stands. They protest that they really do want a relationship, and that being single, seeing others enjoying relationships makes them feel lonely and left out. Also, some clients are in relationships but having “meaningful” outside encounters, claiming they do so because their current relationship feels unsatisfying and lacks the intimacy they crave. Very often, they’ve made their relationship a unilaterally open one, without their partner’s knowledge or consent.

Other clients have all sorts of rationalizations for not entering into a committed relationship. If single, they hesitate to commit to the real work and self-examination that any solid relationship requires, and cannot be honest with themselves about that. For partnered individuals, the reasons are much the same, and often called “exits” from the relationship’s intimacy. For others, a “meaningful overnight relationship” is all they want. They feel shamed by society’s pressure to get married or at least in a committed dating relationship.

If they’re interested only in short-term dating, then as a therapist I try to help them accept this about themselves and be accountable for it. There’s nothing wrong with “meaningful overnight relationships” if, in fact, that’s what you want and are clear about it—both to yourself and your sequential partners. It’s less effective when you keep telling yourself that you want a full, committed relationship, but still keep going to the baths, meeting others at gay bars for one night stands, or conducting affairs with married men. This can signify a lot of things, many of which I’ll address in a moment.

Often I see clients who compulsively act out quick, short, problematic relationships—either romantic, sexual or both. They are often troubled by this, for reasons other than brevity. which is what brings them into therapy. Others have managed to convince themselves they do want to behave this way; that it’s what they really want. On further investigation, however, we find that actually, they’ve adapted to their compulsive, impulsive needs rather than exploring them and gaining control over them. As with other forms of addiction, their needs are in control of them.

When I first heard about sex and love being an addiction—and a very common factor in “overnight” relationships—I just laughed. How absurd that sounded! How could these two things, both so sacred and core to who we are, constitute an addiction? But after seeing many of these clients, I quickly learned that in fact, it wasn’t sex or love they were addicted to, but internal chemicals. The “rush” of attraction and arousal made them feel better and provided an intoxicating, addictive high. They compulsively sought relief from loneliness, isolation, and early childhood trauma like abuse, neglect and physical and sexual abuse. In fact, sex and love addiction isn’t even about sex or love, but is far removed from either one.

Sexual Addiction is a disguised form of some sort of early childhood trauma. (For more on this topic click on Ironically, sexual addiction’s whole purpose is the unconscious attempt to keep intimacy at a distance. So overnight relationships are all that can be —or want to be—accomplished. Most of the acting out is actually just a higher form of masturbation. One client told me that for him, sex is like “theater.” He invites strangers into his “play” and has them “act out” their parts through role play so he can have an orgasm. These are not intimate, reciprocal relationships at all, just a solo act with others playing roles with the sex addict as audience.

When we experience romantic love, the main internal chemical called phenylethalimine (or PEA for short) is mainly activated. Strong evidence suggests that PEA and thus, sexual arousal are highly induced by the presence of fear, risk and danger. Its molecular structure is similar to amphetamine. In our bodies, it is naturally strongest when first released and we are in the presence of our object(s) of desire—whoever or whatever that may be. In other words, it’s PEA, adrenaline, and other internal chemicals like endorphins that people become addicted to, and not sex.

Love addiction is caused by much the same internal chemicals. But the high is different, though, in that the person is addicted to the feeling and experience of being “in love with love.” This, the honeymoon period of relationships, lasts only from between six and 18 months. Its only long-term purpose is to bond two people together. Known as romantic love, this is the first of love’s three stages. (For more on this topic, click on If someone is addicted to romantic love and the feeling wears off (as it’s supposed to do), he or she ends the relationship and goes on to a new one. They never do the “work” that any intimate long-term relationship requires.

I help my clients decide whether they want short-term or long-term relationships. If you’re interested only in fun and having pleasant, affectionate experiences, then it’s fine to decide to be in relationships for the short run and to move on when they’re no longer exciting. However, it’s important to be honest about what you’re doing with yourself and your dating partner du jour. Does each of you understand that when the relationship is no longer fun and has moved into a more serious mode, you want to end the relationship—pleasantly? Many decide to do this. There’s honestly nothing wrong with it, as long as everyone involved behaves with integrity, knows it, and consents to it.

Many are torn between wanting only this transitory thrill but also the satisfactions of a deepening, long-term relationship. Usually, however, you cannot have both. Longevity involves conflict and recognizing differences, along with the fun. Only at the beginning are relationships totally enjoyable, with all the conflict and irritations minimal to none.

Especially after they’ve been together for a while, many couples decide to be non-monogamous and agree to open their relationship to include others. In fact, studies show that 75% of gay male couples are non-monogamous after passing their five-year mark. You can read more about this in David Nimmons’s book, The Soul Beneath the Skin. Overall, the research into non-monogamy among gay couples is positive, because a sharp distinction exists between emotional and sexual fidelity. Some couples decide to have three-ways only; some decide to play separately from each other, while others mix it up.

All in all, with any of these “meaningful overnight relationships,” problems arise for couples if secrecy is involved, in that the contract between the partners is one thing and one or both partners were doing another. If any couple wants to be non-monogamous, making it work within their relationship requires a lot of dialogue, communication, and trust. Trust is broken if an agreed-upon contract changes and neither partner tells the other. That is cheating.

For singles and individuals, the problem with meaningful overnight relationships is that if compulsivity is involved, it can lead to addiction. It’s also problematic for an individual to say he wants a long-term relationship, while exhibiting behavior that contradicts that. Otherwise, it is up to you as an individual whether you want “meaningful overnight relationships” and how you want those relationships to run.

Intimacy with your partner—and yourself—requires honesty, communication, self-awareness and integrity. It demands that you say and be who you authentically are, to yourself and potential partners. It means being upfront, aware, conscious, open and communicative—all of which takes a lot of work. Most people are not up for it, because it is often painful, rife with conflict and overall, basically not a lot of fun. But the truth is, doing the painful work can be extremely satisfying, even fun. The two aren’t mutually exclusive; both can come together. It’s up to you to decide.

Your Sexual Map

People say they can tell a lot about a person by knowing their friends. Well, if you know your sexual fantasies and desires, you know a lot about yourself as a person. Sexual fantasies are a result of your psychological makeup. They are not separate they are a part of you—an extension of your psyche. Sexual fantasies, however mundane or bizarre, are attempts compensate for the guilt and fear or worry each of us carries over from childhood. In the book Arousal: The Secret Logic of Sexual Fantasies, author Michael Bader states, “the details of the fantasy sometimes offer clues” into that persons childhood or history. Bader is clear that he does not believe that one’s orientation is shaped by childhood. That, like temperament, is stable and unchanging. But sexual arousal is imprinted from childhood.

In other words your peak erotic experiences and fantasies have coded information about you that can be helpful in understanding yourself better. It can even help you find Mr. Right! All you have to do decode the erotica of your desires. Our sexual map is determined early on in childhood. We observe and absorb how others love or neglect or abuse us and that becomes our “love map”. This map becomes a template for what we seek out for pleasure in our adulthood.

In my work with men who suffer sexual addictions and compulsions, it has been most helpful going right to what turns them on the most sexually. Here I discovered that sexual fantasies and desires can help tell a lot about a person. As difficult as that is for clients to talk about, once they reveal their sexual fantasies and interests we find plenty of information necessary to help them stop the compulsive behavior. I’ve learned from sex addicts that if you can uncover the disguised material or story, the non-sexual parts of it, then I’ve been able to help them a lot better. Now I’m bringing this new theory and discovery to even healthy fantasies and it’s not to pathologize. It’s about knowing ourselves better as gay men.

Most people, gay and straight alike, do not know if their sexual fantasies are healthy or unhealthy. While gay men are more inclined to act out their sexual desires and fantasies more openly than their heterosexual counterparts, there still lies confusion as to what is positive and self-affirming and what is not.

I think all sexual fantasies are healthy. There are some that should never be acted on because they might be putting the person who has them or someone else at risk. For some men, they discover that regular or preferred sex with escorts is a form of “paying for love”. They were not loved as children by their caregivers. Other men are compelled to be dominated and spanked and take orders in an effort to be disciplined in ways they were not as a child. Others want to dominate and be in charge as in life they feel helpless and powerless. Some like to be humiliated by golden showers, being spit on and verbally abused. This could mean they struggle with maintaining a sense of pride in one’s self.

This does not mean one has to stop the fantasies or change their desires or behaviors. It does, however, mean that if the issue is finding more pride in one’s life, finding a way to be loved without paying, and feeling more powerful and making an impact on others in their environments and relationships. This can provide a map in how to improve your life.

There’s nothing wrong with that fantasy and there’s nothing wrong with doing it. But what I would want to help someone do is explore why they have that fantasy. Not in a negative way but in a positive way. What do your sexual fantasies and desires mean about you?

Ex-Gay or Sexual Anorexic?

The term sexual anorexia isn’t a common term. Anorexic usually describes people with an eating disorder who can literally starve themselves to death. Similarly, many people think that sexual anorexia means sexual starvation, or depriving oneself of sexual pleasure. They link it to having a low sex drive.

In his book, Sexual Anorexia: Overcoming Sexual Self-Hatred, Patrick Carnes—who coined the term sexual addiction—writes about sexual anorexia as a disorder that parallels sexual addiction and compulsivity, based on childhood sexual trauma. He describes it as “an obsessive state in which the physical, mental, and emotional task of avoiding sex dominates one’s life.” The sufferer is preoccupied with avoiding sex, and finds sex repulsive—which is quite different than having a low libido or simply being neutral and not interested in sex. For the most part, people with low sexual drives are not avoiding sex; they are unable to activate their libido, no matter how hard they try. They simply have no interest, because their desire has been squelched or is non-existent. They may be avoiding a partner who wants sex more than they do, but they are also trying to avoid having to face a low sexual desire.

Sexual Anorexia is defined by a set of characteristics that sufferers typically experience:

  • A pattern of resistance to anything sexual
  • Continuing that pattern of avoidance, even though they may know it’s self-destructive (ie: harm a marriage, prevent relationships)
  • Going to great lengths to avoid sexual contact or attention
  • Rigid or judgmental attitudes toward sexuality—their own, and others
  • Resistance and avoidance of deeper, more painful life issues
  • Extreme shame and self-loathing about their bodies, sexual attributes and experiences
  • Obsessing about sex and how to avoid, to a point where it interferes with normal living
  • Possible episodes of sexual bingeing or periods of sexual compulsivity

The sexual anorexic’s primary goal is to find ways not to combine intimacy with sex. Both men and women can suffer from this disorder, and most keep silent about it. They initially feel out-of-sorts and don’t speak openly about their apathy for fear of being judged negatively in today’s society, which values sexual behavior so very highly.

Other symptoms of sexual anorexia can include: a desire to control one’s body, sexuality and environments; terror and high anxiety of being sexual or appearing sexual in any way; and anger and self-hatred. Negative associations about sexuality are usually formed by some sexual trauma or abuse—possibly incest by a family member such as a mother or father, sibling, grandparent, aunt or uncle. It could be sexual abuse by an older neighborhood boy or girl, a clergyman, teacher, or anyone older who imposes their adult sexuality on the child, leaving them feeling terrified, powerless, angry and often blaming themselves—and contributing to their own self-hatred.

Children should not be exposed to any form of sexual contact for many reasons, one of which is that they are not ready, physically or developmentally, to handle it. In adulthood, many trauma survivors become sexually anorexic or sexually addicted. But neither disorder is really about sex: it arises from the initial loss of control over what happened to them as children. Adult sexuality imposed on a child impedes the child’s own sexual development, so they either act out (in sexual addiction) or acts in (becomes sexually anorexic). This helps them feel that they are protecting themselves from further sexual betrayal and sexual insult.

Also, as Carnes’s research demonstrates, many sexual anorexics come from rigid homes with very judgmental parents who condemn sex in highly negative terms. In many cases, one of the parents is punitive with their children on sexual issues. Both parents are authoritative, closed to new ideas and demonstrate little or no affection. Children must measure up to their parents’ expectations, without being able to negotiate the rules. They’re forced to withdraw inside themselves to find affection and love on their own. Suddenly, their world begins to feel unsafe. As Carnes points out, this leads the child to adopt four core beliefs:

1. I am basically bad and unworthy.

2. No one would love me if they really knew me.

3. The world is dangerous

4. If I have to depend on others, my needs are never going to be met.

This, I believe, is why men and women drift into the “ex-gay” movement and decide to suppress their homosexual urges. Reading Dr. Carnes’s book explains why someone with a gay sexual and romantic orientation would go to great lengths to fight their natural sexual urges.

Many religious homes are very judgmental about homosexuality. Ex-gays go through exaggerated attempts to repress, control and avoid their sexuality—in a way that parallels the dynamics of sexual anorexia.

It is particularly interesting how family issues of a sexual anorexic parallel the societal issues around gays and lesbians. Society tries to—and often succeeds in—imposing a deep-seated terror of sex onto gays and lesbians for having sexual desires toward the same gender. Gays and lesbians face the risk of emotional and/or physical abuse and rejection, sexual self-hatred, shame and self-loathing, and rigid judgments about what their sexual interests are. According to the religious morality that many preach, heterosexuality is superior to homosexuality. They preach that only heterosexuals should be granted rights and privileges, because of what gays and lesbians did in their bedrooms the night before. “Hands off gays and lesbians” homophobes preach, “and do not demonstrate love and affection for them”. What they do sexually “makes us sick!” say many homophobes and heterosexists. Love the sinner, hate the sin these folks say. However their actions of passing laws against gays and preaching anti-gay rhetoric is no different than the restrictive homes where sexual anorexics grow up in families that are sex negative and overly judgmental.

It makes sense to me that many men and women of homosexual orientation don’t want to come out and declare themselves gay, and be forced to face this hatred and contempt spewed by many families, society and religions. They would choose to self-identify as “ex”-gays, live a lie, and become sexual anorexics.

Ex-gays who have come to see me talk about believing their homosexual urges were sick and wrong. They believe their homosexuality is a sexual addiction and try to use Patrick Carnes’s model to set boundaries around their “sexual acting out” behavior. They speak of hating themselves for having these homoerotic urges and would never consider acting them out. Instead, they work hard at repressing them. Preoccupied with any feelings toward the same gender, they’re extremely judgmental toward those who do live out their homosexual orientation, sexually and romantically. They tell me they don’t believe me when as I say I’m happy in my life as a gay man.

Ex-gays go to extremes to avoid sexual contact with the same gender, even if it means behaving in hateful ways—such as trying to pass legislation against gays. I strongly believe that those in the forefront of the ex-gay movement suffer from sexual anorexia and self-hatred about homosexuality, which was taught to them as children. So many come from families, cultures, and communities that disdain homosexuality, and have incorporated this to such an extreme that they can never fully actualize themselves as the gays and lesbians they were meant to be and truly are. Along with their true sexual orientation, they have shut down their capacity to be loving and accepting, particular toward other gays and lesbians.

Since I published my book, 10 Smart Things Gay Men Can Do To Improve Their Lives and my being a part of, I can’t tell you how many emails I’ve received from ex-gays and “those who love them,” telling me about other ex-gay websites, books, and organizations, and criticizing me for not promoting the “other side” of being gay—that is, the ex-gay side.

Some do it nicely, sending me emails like, “Have you seen [a certain] site on changing one’s sexuality? Check it out.” Some are cowards, not leaving a return address, and telling me I am “going to hell” —even though being Jewish, I don’t believe in hell! The fact is, these folks simply cannot live their lives as ex-gays without being judgmental of those who live their lives as openly happy gays and lesbians. Ex-gays make a lifestyle of promoting themselves as the “healthy” alternative, as though gays and lesbians are pitted against them! It doesn’t, and shouldn’t have to be this way. If they were truly happy and aligned with how they choose to live, they would just live that way with very little fuss. They would maintain their own organizations, but not try to impose their thoughts and beliefs on others.

I’m not against those of a homosexual orientation who choose not to live as gay or lesbian. I do quarrel with their constant attempts to pass laws against me and send me emails me telling me I’m bad and wrong for living the life I do. Based on everything I’ve read and observed, I believe that ex-gays can be correctly diagnosed as sexual anorexics.

First They came for Bert and Ernie

As the years go by, a growing number of cartoon characters have been forcibly “outed.” I am amazed that anyone would be concerned about the sexual and romantic orientation of any imaginary two-dimensional figure.

First it was poor Bert and Ernie of Sesame Street . These two beloved American figures were minding their own business, taking baths together, singing silly songs together (probably Broadway tunes), sleeping in the same twin beds—with a picture of them both together over the headboard. Best buds they were! Bachelors at best. And then in 1990, the Reverend Joseph Chambers, a Pentecostal minister from Charlotte, North Carolina, decided that they’re a gay couple.

"They're two grown men sharing a house -- and a bedroom!" bellows Chambers, whose radio ministry is broadcast in four Southern states. "They share clothes. They eat and cook together. They vacation together and have effeminate characteristics. In one show Bert teaches Ernie how to sew. In another, they tend plants together. If this isn't meant to represent a homosexual union, I can't imagine what it's supposed to represent."

The Children’s Television Workshop and Sesame Street both issued a statement defending the characters saying that these two were, in fact, not a gay couple. Since then, nevertheless, Bert and Ernie have largely kept their distance from each other, onscreen. They are still friends, and my young nephews still say “Bert ‘n’ Ernie” in one breath. But the baths have stopped, and their pictures together are gone.

Then in 1999, Rev. Jerry Falwell outed a Teletubby who was minding his own business and having fun with the other three Teletubbies. But he was purple (lavender!), carried his magic bag (a purse!), spoke in a high voice (effeminate!) and wore a triangle (symbol of gay pride!) on his head. The Itsy Bitsy Entertainment Co. reassured everyone—including good old Jerry--that the Tinky Winky—whom they license as dolls and in many other formats—is not gay.

I was so upset about all of this that in 2000, when my partner and I were married under Reform Judaism, we tied small figures of Bert, Ernie, and Tinky Winky together with a rainbow ribbon with a note that read, “A Perfect Family.” Since there was no bride at our wedding, so no bouquet or garter belt available, Mike and I threw big dolls of Bert and Ernie. My nephew, then aged three, thought that all weddings were like that—aimed at him and him alone!

Now James Dobson—founder of Focus on the Family, a right-wing Christian group - has singled out SpongeBob Square Pants, who has his own half-hour cable show on Nickelodeon. Dobson accused SpongeBob, or maybe his creators, with "promoting the gay agenda"—and has proudly continued claiming that on his web site. Also, SpongeBob’s new video, "We Are Family" calls for tolerance of all people and is to be shown in schools. (That song is a gay anthem, and Diana Ross even appears in the video!—not that makes the video gay!)

Actually, SpongeBob has been under suspicion for a while now and is a gay icon for some. But his creators deny that he is gay, and have also stated that those who think he is should “increase their medications.” Too funny—and how clever, to suddenly put the whole argument in an adult perspective!

But why are no female cartoon characters ever outed? Organizations for the Reparative Therapy of Homosexuality and religious organizations for the Ex-Gay movement, and NARTH—the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality—always target males.

Can we talk about Peppermint Patty from the Peanuts comic strip? She is clearly a lesbian, and it’s obvious that she is in romantic love with Lucy, always following her around. She even has a friend Marcie—clearly a lesbian—who calls her “Sir”! And what about Velma from “Scooby Doo”? Her hairstyle is very butch, and she always wears sensible clothes and shoes.

And what about the Power Puff Girls? Those three flying tomboys can throw punches and save the day, one half-hour at a time, better than any man in Townsville!

Why do those who oppose homosexuality make so little fuss about these lesbian cartoon characters, aside from a small uproar on the Internet? Because the vast majority of homophobic and anti-gay attacks are made by sexist patriarchal men—and some women like Concerned Women of America (WOA) - who require rigid gender roles. These men will allow women to stray, as long as it is for their benefit and pleasure. Straight men buy and rent DVDs of lesbian sex for their erotic entertainment. But these same good ole boys get disciplined for not conforming to strict gender roles. Their punishment is to be outed as gay—as if that is the worst insult “a real man” can endure.

If Bert and Ernie, Tinky Winky, and SpongeBob are gay, then I’m glad to be alongside them as a real-life, openly gay man. I can’t wait until Buzz Lightyear, that Muscle Beach spaceman from Toy Story, comes out. Now, he is HOT!

18 Things to Consider Before Coming Out

Coming out is a lifelong process. It is also a very brave and big decision. Here are some things to consider before coming out.

1. Be clear about your own feelings about being gay. If you are still dealing with a lot of guilt or depression, seek help in getting over that before coming out to parents or other non-gay people. If you are comfortable with your gayness, those to whom you come out to will often see that fact and be aided in their own renewed acceptance of you.

2. Timing can be very important in coming out. Be aware of the health, mood, priorities and problems of those with whom you would like to share your sexuality. The mid-life crisis’s of parents, the relationship problems of friends, the business concerns of employers and countless other factors over which you have no control can affect another’s receptivity to your information.

3. Never come out during an argument. Never use coming out as a weapon. Never encourage parents to feel guilty for having “caused” your sexual orientation – because they didn’t.

4. When coming out to parents or family, try to affirm mutual caring and love before launching into your announcement about your gay or lesbian life.

5. Be prepared that your revelation may surprise, anger or upset other people, at first. Try not to react angrily or defensively. Try to let other people be honest about their initial feelings even if they are negative. Remember that the initial reaction will not likely be the long-term one. Ultimately the individuals who have really faced and dealt with their homophobia may be far more supportive than those who give an immediate but superficial expression of support.

6. Emphasize that you are still the same person. You were gay yesterday and will be gay tomorrow. If you were responsible and caring yesterday, likewise you will be loving and responsible tomorrow.

7. Keep lines of communication open with people after you come out to them – even if their response is negative. Respond to their questions and remember that they are probably in the process of reexamining the myths and stereotypes about gay people which we all have learned from our culture.

8. Be sure that you are well informed about homosexuality. Read some good books about the subject and share them with individuals to whom you have come out.

9. Encourage your parents or others to whom you come out to meet some of your lesbian and gay friends.

10. Remember that it takes many gay men and lesbians a very long time to come to terms with their own sexuality and even longer to decide to share the fact with others. When you come out to non-gay people, be prepared to give them time to adjust and to comprehend the new information about you. Don’t expect immediate acceptance. Look for ongoing, caring dialogue.

11. If you are rejected by someone to whom you have come out, do not lose sight of your own self worth. Remember that your coming out was a gift of sharing an important part of yourself which that person has chosen to reject. If rejection does come, consider whether the relationship was really worthwhile. Is any relationship so important that it must continue in an atmosphere of dishonesty and hiding? Was the person really your friend or simply the friend of someone he or she imagined you to be?

12. Remember also that the loss of a friend is not the end of the world. Coming-out decisions must be made cautiously, but integrity and self-respect are extremely important in the long run.

13. A casual or offhand approach often works best with work mates and relatives. Sometimes a confrontational situation can be avoided simply by being honest, in a conversational way, about whom you live with and date, and how you spend your leisure time. The other person is given a chance to recognize the circumstances of your life and to admit to your homosexuality without being obliged to make some immediate response on this issue.

14. Remember that the decision to come out is yours. Don’t be guilt-tripped into it by people who think that everyone must come out or by snooping people who ask impertinent questions. You can usually decide when, where, how, and to whom you wish to come out. At this stage in our society, full public declarations about one’s sexuality are not necessarily the best decision for most people.

15. Try not to let your family and close friends find out about your gayness from third parties such as neighbors or the media. Try to tell them personally beforehand.

16. Whenever you come out, reflect upon the experience and learn from it.

17. Never let yourself be pressured into coming out before you are ready.

18. Coming out is one the most difficult things we do in our lives. It won’t always go well, but most of the time it is a very freeing experience.

©2006, by Joe Kort

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