gay therapy

An ad in my Facebook feed for a Gay Therapy Center, which briefly gave me pause because of an ambiguity in the Adj + N composite gay therapy. Now, Adj + N composites, like N + N compounds, are notoriously open to multiple understandings, even if we restrict ourselves to general patterns for the semantic relationship between the two parts. In this case, I had a moment of deep unease that gay therapy was to be understood as a treatment composite, parallel to treatment compounds: pain therapy, flu therapy, cancer therapy, etc. ‘therapy to treat condition or disorder X’. Thus viewing homosexuality as a disorder, which would make gay therapy here a synonym of the now-conventional label conversion therapy, for a scheme that proposes to treat homosexuality and cure it.

But, whew, no. The Gay Therapy Center in San Francisco (with a satellite center in Los Angeles) offers “LGBTQ therapy to help LGBTQ people love themselves and each other” — with the composite gay therapy understood as ‘therapy for gay people, to help / benefit gay people’. Indeed, the Facebook ad offered brief videos showing male couples embracing affectionately (other ads have female couples as well). A still from one of these:

Background: the adjective gay, in particular as it is used in gay + N composites like gay march, gay marriage, etc. From NOAD:

adj. gay: 1 [a] (of a person) homosexual (used especially of a man): the city’s gay and lesbian people | a gay couple | my friend is gay. [b] relating to or used by homosexual people: a gay bar | the gay vote can decide an election. …

(Note: even people who don’t use the nouning of gay to refer to a gay person (a gay, a phalanx of gays, etc.) are comfortable with the usage in sense 1b, which allows for covertly nominal reference.)

Background: the ambiguity of N + therapy compounds and Adj + therapy composites. Just sticking to general patterns of combination, the range of uses is considerable. With the N dog and its Adj counterpart canine in dog therapy / canine therapy, at least these:

‘therapy for dogs, to help / benefit dogs’, ‘therapy using dogs’ (for comfort or support), ‘therapy by a dog’ (especially in dog therapist / canine therapist, see note below), (and even) ‘therapy to treat an infestation of dogs’ (the treatment constructions)

On dog / canine therapist and dog / canine therapy, see my 6/3/18 posting “The canine therapist” (with an instance of the Therapist cartoon meme).

On conversion therapy. From Wikipedia:

Conversion therapy is the pseudoscientific practice of trying to change an individual’s sexual orientation from homosexual or bisexual to heterosexual using psychological, physical, or spiritual interventions. There is no reliable evidence that sexual orientation can be changed, and medical institutions warn that conversion therapy practices are ineffective and potentially harmful.

Sexual behaviors and patterns of sexual desire can change over time, of course, in complex ways, but the Wikipedia entry is directed at institutionalized schemes for causing such changes.

One Response to “gay therapy”

  1. Queer linguistics blogging | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] A blog mostly about language « gay therapy […]

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