what is ssa?

SSA is the abbreviation for Same Sex Attraction and is commonly referred to in the world of counseling and gender-assignment studies as a condition where an individual might have a same-gendered proclivity, but not officially designate themselves as “gay” or “lesbian.” Most often, these individuals live a heterosexual lifestyle and consider themselves “straight,” but struggle in silence with their emotions and attractions.

Joseph Nicolosi, PhD., has done extensive research and writing concerning the appearance of SSA and/or gay-tendencies in men and women. His work, considered to be controversial by some in the gay-acceptance movement, is seen as honest and unbiased by those in the mental health field who have no agenda regarding homosexuality. Nicolosi’s research has unearthed several different keys that hold true in a majority of individuals’ lives and go the distance in explaining some of the roots of SSA.

  • Nicolosi, as well as Elizabeth Moberly, PhD., have discovered that a break in connection with the same-gendered parent often leads to the feeling of “I’m different” and a lack of relational skills with the same gender. In other words, a boy whose father isn’t around either physically (due to work, abandonment, divorce, etc.) or emotionally will often feel disconnected from being male and tend to identify more strongly with females.
  • Additionally, when someone says, “I’ve been this way as long as I can remember,” the break with the same-gendered parent seems to be earlier — before 3 years of age.
  • Nicolosi and Moberly both go on to explain that gender-modeling takes place long before the parent thinks it is happening; children watch, observe, and (as I believe), God creates them to long for connection and absorb what it looks like. So a young boy who doesn’t have a father in his life who engages him, plays with him, and cares for him will be missing a “piece to the puzzle” that will haunt him later in life. Gender-modeling isn’t just something that happens when the child is able to concretely think and observe what an adult (in this case, a man) does; it’s not just peeing while standing, shaving on a daily basis, or going hunting, it’s living life. It’s relating in a healthy manner to the wife and mom in the family, helping out with chores, imparting little bits of advice and wisdom during everyday life.

All of that said and understood, SSA becomes a puzzle that we can begin to piece together. Let me set the stage a bit:

A young boy isn’t properly nurtured by his dad, and his mother tries to make up the difference. For whatever reason, his dad is uninvolved and under-attentive. This boy wants to connect with his father, but is unable to, and the father is unable/unwilling to bridge the gap to connect with his son.

  • As this boy grows, he will learn more from his mother than his father. But he still craves the connection with his dad, just as God created him to crave.
  • The boy will want to understand what it means “to be male” and “what men do,” but he will have to learn this either through his mother’s lens or through observation, which might not be pretty. His father might be involved in things that are considered typically “male” such as pornography, or his father might be verbally, emotionally, or even physically abusive towards his wife. The boy will pick up on these things and understand that “this is what men do.” And if he sees his mother being hurt by some of the things his father does, he might react in an opposite manner and take on tendencies and personality traits that are diametrically opposed to what he sees “a man do,” which can further complicate the gender-assignment equation.
  • As the boy grows, he will likely long for an older boy to “teach him how to be a man,” especially if his father is still not actively-involved in his growth and maturity.
  • This boy will have wounds that will be visible to those who are also similarly wounded and might become prey for those with a predatory nature.
  • This boy will feel “different” because he is still looking for that male companionship and male-modeling that he didn’t receive, and although he will have female friends, he will be unable to fully understand heterosexual romance because the more basic need of male-modeling (and what it means to be heterosexual) will still be unmet.
  • The message this boy will pick up from current culture is that if he feels different, he must be different. And different in this setting means “gay.” Which, according to the definition of the world, is entirely okay.
  • The boy will wonder if he is gay, and will probably struggle with wanting to see other guys’ bodies as a means of comparison and understanding what it means to be male, and his own self-doubt paired with the message of the world will send him reeling to a place where he’d rather not go: to the identity of “being gay.”

And therein lies the rub. The boy, looking for something a father can provide for him, will find those who are more than willing to “explain” and “show” him things, but none of which will provide him that missing puzzle piece. It will be satisfying on one level, but the boy (who may have grown in to a man now) will understand that the satisfaction is fleeting. That there’s still “something missing,” but he probably won’t understand what it is. He might think that in the next encounter with another man (or in the next relationship), he will find it. He might also attempt to engage in heterosexual relationships, trying to convince himself that he is straight and deny these forays in to gay behaviour.

Both Nicolosi and Moberly express sentiment that resonates with me fully: these individuals are looking to meet a legitimate need in a sinful way. Instead of embracing these people who are struggling and looking for connection, the Church tends to shove them away and not discuss these things or provide a place where legitimate connection can take place in a non-sexual manner. Connection and relationship are what we were created for. Genesis 1:26 shows the connection within the Godhead in regards to creation and the fact that we were created to be in relationship with God and others, just as the Father, Son, and Spirit are in relationship with each other. And yet, in American Evangelicalism, we ignore this. We don’t foster relationships where people can be real. We don’t talk about sexual things or promote this kind of honesty, and in this way, we continue the bondage that those who struggle with SSA are in.

Nicolosi and Moberly both acknowledge that there are other factors that go in to SSA and homosexual acting-out; abuse and molestation are certainly high on the list, and in fact, if you talk to any number of men or women who deal with SSA (desired or undesired), you’ll find a common thread of being neglected and then pursued by someone who saw their weaknesses and used them for their own selfish desires, sinful as they were. This compounds the feelings of isolation (and explains why there is such a large percentage of people with SSA who have suicidal ideation and/or have attempted suicide) and adds the victim-mentality to their list of reasons they can’t trust and form connective relationships.

My encouragement to you as you read this is to open your heart and mind to what God would teach you about SSA. If you struggle with it, there are resources to help you figure it out. Check out the blogroll at the bottom of the site. If you love someone with SSA, these same resources will help you. If neither of these situations ring a bell with you, chances are good that you know someone who struggles in this way. And chances are very good that they don’t feel “safe” enough with you or others in their lives to talk openly and be themselves. Try to build deep, abiding relationships that are non-judgmental, no matter what your personal bias. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), and acting out on SSA¬† is not a worse sin than gossiping, lying, or filching pens from the office supply cabinet. It just looks different. God can and will restore that which has been lost or stolen, but we have to be willing to “go there” and allow the raw emotions to come out so God can heal them. We can be agents of change, hope, and relational connectivity…if we dare.

God is calling us to more — will you let Him work through you to heal others?

His and his,
~Cori.

This entry was posted on 201236H Jun 2008 and is filed under Path to Healing, Sexual Brokenness, SSA. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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