Can you change your sexual orientation? According to Professor Robert Spitzer, the answer is "yes" - if you really want to. He recently presented to the American Psychiatric Association the results of telephone interviews with 200 homosexuals who claimed they had changed their orientation. He concluded that 66 per cent of the men and 44 per cent of the women had achieved "good heterosexual functioning" (whatever that may be).
John Smid, the leader of an American "ex-gay" group called Love in Action, also believes you can change which team you bat for sexually. However, candidates have to set aside at least 18 months of their lives and pounds 15,000 to change their sexual orientation through his ministrations; he's an "ex-gay" himself who is now happily married. Now he's aiming to make "real men" out of other homosexuals.
His clients are forbidden to wear ear-rings, "camp clothes" - including tight jeans or Calvin Klein underwear - or listen to Barbra Streisand or, in fact, any music other than "Christian music". Prayer is the most fun you can expect in his boot camp. Anyone who doesn't have a "personal relationship with Jesus", or who doesn't take as their role model of heterosexuality and masculinity Ned Flanders from The Simpsons, is unlikely to survive.
These days, most young, straight men would fail Smid's criteria of heterosexuality. Vast numbers of young, heterosexual men seem to be choosing "gayness", in the form of piercings, camp clothes, Calvin Klein underwear and a promiscuous lifestyle (albeit usually with women). It must be as puzzling to the younger generation as it is reassuring to The Daily Telegraph that a homosexual should want to pay pounds 15,000 to spend two years on his knees with nothing in front of him but a prayer-book.
Especially when homosexuality can be so good for your career. Freud, who thought homosexuality too commonplace to be a perversion, famously wrote to the anxious mother of a male homosexual that "homosexuality is no advantage, but it is no great shame either". Obviously Freud had never heard of Graham Norton. Recently tres gay Graham was offered pounds 6m to bring his gayness to the Beeb.
Difficult as it may be to believe, however, not every homosexual wants to be a camp TV presenter. With over 200 centres in the US devoted to turning gays straight, clearly there's a demand for a "cure" for homosexuality. Gay activists and many psychologists would argue that this simply comes from a religiously inculcated sense of guilt and self-hatred. After all, what would religion be without ludicrous strictures on sexual behaviour? Anglicanism?
Of course, "sexuality" and "being true to your feelings" are, in effect, the religion of choice of more and more people these days. …