Abomination: Homosexuality and the Ex-gay Movement

Abomination I just finished watching the new DVD, Abomination: Homosexuality and the Ex-gay Movement, created by the Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists. The DVD features three ex-ex-gay people and a mother of a young woman who committed suicide, with the implication that the suicide was directly due to her ex-gay involvement. The video intermingled footage from the ex-ex-gays with interviews with Wayne Besen, Jack Drescher, David Scasta, Robert Spitzer and other professional commentators. In many ways, it is structured much like I Do Exist in format.

The stories from the non-professionals were very poignant and compelling. I thought they were quite articulate and believable. The ex-gay ministries they attended used many of the gender re-arranging techniques that often is singled out for ridicule (e.g., lessons for guys in how to cross and uncross their legs, make up sessions for girls). Richard Cohen is singled out by name for his tennis raquet beating, and client cuddling. As I have noted in past blog entries, there are things done in the name of reorientation that are bizarre and potentially quite damaging. In my opinion, if social conservatives were more self-correcting, then these excesses and strange practices would not be considered part of the mainstream. I can understand how critics would find the most bizarre stuff and attempt to paint an entire world view with the brush of the strange. I would expect that from an advocacy group. I don’t expect it from the psychiatrists who made this video.

Ariel Shidlo said on camera that almost anything has been used in ex-gay therapy and then listed many modalities of treatment and methods of intervention. However, no research has been able to point out what on that list leads to the harm described by the people on this video. We should try to find out what leads to poor outcomes and what leads to the positive outcomes that others report.

There were distortions on this video. Shidlo and Schroeder’s study was presented as a study of how ineffective change was, citing 13% positive outcomes. It was not mentioned that the study was designed to understand those who were harmed and did not directly appeal to those who felt benefit from therapy until the study was nearly completed. The study was not a representative study and in that sense is a counterpart to the study of those who said reorientation was helpful conducted by Robert Spitzer. David Scasta said that the professions considered “the data” in arriving at their consensus against reorientation therapy. He did not mention that: one, the professions had issued negative advisories in advance of data and two, that there are no representative studies of reorientation therapy. Wayne Besen again said all founders had gone back to gay, distorting the actual LIA and Exodus histories. In fairness, I suspect his part was filmed before Michael Bussee came forward and acknowledged that he and Cooper were not the only founders of Exodus.

In all, as with most videos of this genre (mine included), the strongest aspect of the film was the stories of real people. I would never try to argue with their experiences and found myself wanting to talk to them to find out more about what they had experienced and what could be learned. However, due to the limitations I noted, I suspect the video will mostly preach to the choir.

37 thoughts on “Abomination: Homosexuality and the Ex-gay Movement”

  1. Karen,

    Point 1

    Regarding your point #1 – the Christian worldview says we live in a fallen, imperfect and sinful world. People can’t escape being wounded by that sin in some way.

    That was not at all what I was talking about. I was pointing out that the assumption that everyone has a “wounding that lead to false beliefs” that can be healed is a “one size fits all” idea that is doomed to failure. When you find those without these wounds that you assume exist, you aren’t prepared to deal with reality.

    When faith runs into fact, it isn’t always fact that’s wrong. The history of Christianity is filled with those who had a “Christain viewpoint” and then went on to do evil and harm. Please don’t let your predetermined viewpoint outweigh the mind that God gave you.

    Point 2

    I know you think that you have defended your position. But – to my own (admitedly biased) perspective – you have actually illustrated my point.

    I discussed the problems I have with ministries that go out and use language that has different meaning than what the hearer hears. And your response was to use more of this language. Please realize, Karen, that it really is improper to change the meanings of words like “orientation” and then use them in a public setting without explaining the change. It’s very very similar to Bill Clinton telling the public he didn’t have sex with that woman, but not telling them that he had redefined the word sex. It’s frustrating. And I believe that it is wrong because – intentional or not – it is deception.

    I have no problem with using the term “same-sex attracted” and in this venue I generally do. However, you have to realize that there are persons who are same-sex attracted and there are those who are not. And regardless of anyone’s desire to dance around this fact, it remains.

    And the rest of the world calls this distinction (which does exist as an identifier between those who are same-sex attracted and those who are not) “orientation”. You may not like the word and don’t have to use it. But you cannot decide it means something else entirely.

    I think the ex-gay ministries would do themselves a favor if instead of deciding that there is some Christian vocabulary that supercedes the one that has definite meanings, they would just said what they meant. And saying “my identity is in God” does not change the recognition that some people have different colored skin, taller bodies, foreign origins, and same-sex attractions nor does it remove the words race, height, nationality, or orientation from the lexicon.

    It is not idolatry to say “I’m black” or “I’m Irish” or “I’m gay” (or “I’m same-sex attracted” if you prefer). We can disagree about what that means in regards to behavior, but you don’t get to decide that “idolatry” has a new meaning which includes recognition of simple facts.

    Point 3

    We can disagree about whether it is moral to destroy a mind to save a soul. I don’t want to argue that point because we don’t have a common agreement on what is acceptable and appropriate for same-sex attracted Christians.

    But please, Karen, don’t say that your “ministry doesn’t force anyone to do anything about their sexual desires and behavior.”

    On the day that you stop lobbying, writing articles, and marching in rallies to enforce laws that adversely effect the lives of gay people, then you can start thinking that you don’t force anyone to do anything. On the day that you stop giving cover for General Pace or Ann Coulter or any of the others who give society permission to harrass and disparage gay people you can begin thinking that you don’t use force. And on the day that you stop saying that protecting children from abuse or seeking to protect one’s loved ones is “pushing a homosexual agenda” we can start the discussion about force. And don’t tell me “I don’t personally do that” because you are a willing and active part of a movement that does exactly that, and I don’t hear you standing up to Alan Chambers and Regina Griggs and Peter LaBarbera.

    Your movement makes it perfectly clear that gay people have a choice: reorient or lose your job. Reorient or lose your housing. Reorient or don’t serve your country. Reorient or lose your health insurance. Ex-gay leaders have lobbied on ALL of these positions.

    Sorry if I seem intolerant of this claim. But it isn’t true and I’m sick of hearing it.

    I’m not totally opposed to ex-gay efforts, Karen, but I am opposed to deception, arrogance, and abuse. All I ask is that you quit knee-jerk justification and take a good hard look at what you do and ask yourself if it wouldn’t be better to be fully honest, humble about your assumptions, and whether loving your neighbor includes taking away health insurance and parental rights.

  2. Dustin if you ask me questions about what I believe and why in a respectful and civil manner, I will do my very best to answer them. What you desire is a defense of your ad hominem attack, and that I will not give you.

    A mature understanding of Scripture is able to distinguish between the literal and metaphorical. Jesus was using metaphor in the statements that you quoted. (Which is also sometimes true of the Prophets as well.) The passages about sexuality found in the Law and Pastoral Letters are literal, though still subject to interpretation.

    FYI – I don’t serve a local congregation, though I did for almost 20 years. I was pretty consistent about sharing the hard realities of Scripture with them, regardless of the issue.

  3. Dustin – I allowed your post because you are new here as far as I can tell and you attempt to make a point. I will advise you to refrain from judging others’ motives or name calling. I believe Karen is being very honest in her description of her views. Calling her dishonest is a non-starter. A reminder to all – keep comments to ideas and evidence and logic in favor or in contrast to them.

    Also, regarding discussions of religious doctrine. I am reasonably tolerant of this as long as the tone is tolerant. Given that our frequent topics and my personal interests lie in the intersection of sexuality, religion and public policy, such discussions are relevant. But I do not want to see arguments about who is right. We probably all believe we are right in our view or else we wouldn’t hold to it. However, there will be no understanding or reflection if folks are yelling at each other.

  4. Karen,

    I think what you are doing is dishonest.

    You claim that you are trying to teach people Scriptural values. Answer me this: is loving your family members a “scriptural value”? No, it is not. Jesus was very clear about this when he said the following:

    “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26

    Is self-mutilation as a means to avoid sin a “scriptural value”? Yes, it is. Jesus was again very clear when he said the following:

    “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.'” Mark 9:43-47

    I know you are a pastor, so you are used to “interpreting” scripture in order to make it appealing to your congregants. So before you respond, let me head you off at the pass because it’s integral to my point about you being mendacious.

    In the first case, you’re probably going to say, “It says hate, but it really means love less.” This is such disgusting spin, because, while it is true that if I hate someone I do, in fact, love them less than someone whom I don’t hate, it is also true that I do not love the person I hate at all! Calling hate “loving less” is an attempt to disguise the fact that a hated person is not loved at all.

    In the second case, you’re probably going to say, “Jesus was speaking metaphorically and insisting that harsh measures need to be taken to combat sin.” Fair enough, but by what standard did you judge Jesus’ words in this instance to be a “metaphor”? You obviously didn’t use scripture as a standard, because scripture is the very thing being interpreted.

    So my question for you is this: if you can spin Jesus’ mandates that you must hate your family members and dismember yourself to avoid sin, why are liberal Christians wrong when they spin biblical injunctions against homosexuality? Why is it that the “gays are evil” passages are literal whereas others have malleable meanings?

    Is it because gays are a safe target for condemnation?

    Is it because you modify the meanings of passages that would otherwise affect your own lifestyle?

  5. Warren,

    Fair enough. I hope you can understand why I am angry. Karen applies scripture strictly when it denigrates gay people who are already pretty abused in our society, but scripture becomes loosy-goosy if it would otherwise start nailing the vast majority of her congregation or herself. And it’s not just Karen who does this, it’s practically all evangelical Christians. But Karen should have the right to defend herself from the charge that I’m levelling at her, so perhaps her response will make things appear more clear.

    Furthermore, Karen uses religious doctrine as her basis for her anti-gay behavior, so I think that I have the right to call religious doctrine into question as my own right of self-defense. She and other like her are the ones who have chosen to bring scripture into the subject of sexuality. Fine, then let’s talk about scripture!

  6. Karen,

    You are right on. I concur with much of the experience you are talking about. Keep on caring and loving all who struggle with same-sex attraction, whether they choose to work on changing their attractions or not and whether they are successful at changing or not. They are still children of God. In time the science will regain some balance on this issue and we will all be expected to do the same.


  7. Well, here goes another attempt to respond again.

    First, some personal background. I used to be (for lack of a better term) “pro-gay” in my worldview – for the first two decades of my young adult life, at a time when it wasn’t culturally popular to do so. I wasn’t an activist, so don’t ask for “credentials” in that area. But I did make my beliefs known to family and friends, especially at seminary in the early 80s.

    About ten years ago, I changed my mind. Many reasons, but primarily I discovered my assumptions – genetic determinism, immutability, judgemental Scripture – were pretty much based on hogwash. Just wanted to get that out there in case anybody on the blog had already decided I’m a life-long, ignorant conservative.

    So, Timothy, I no longer even subscribe to the idea of “sexual orientation.” I think that it’s a cultural construct avanced to primarily serve a political purpose. (And wholly based on self-experience and self-report.) It doesn’t jive with Christian categories, and so I use different terms, concepts and “constructs” to describe homosexuality, such as same-sex attraction and behavior, desire and temptation, and sanctifield sexuality.

    So, to your recommendation that I reconsider my worldview – been there, done that. Thanks, but no thanks.

    Regarding your point #1 – the Christian worldview says we live in a fallen, imperfect and sinful world. People can’t escape being wounded by that sin in some way.

    Your implication in your point #2 that the choice of words I used might be “deceptive” and “artificial,” and done deliberately, is insulting and slanderous. My language isn’t muddied; you don’t agree with it, and probably don’t even understand it in an experiental way.

    Methodist Bishop Timothy Whitaker put it this way, and I wholeheartedly concur …

    “The main reason I prefer to refer to someone as a person who experiences same-sex attraction rather than as a ‘homosexual’ or ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian’ is because this way of speaking is more fitting for the church, which views all people as persons created in the image of God. That is, the church views our identity in terms of our relationship to God, not in terms of our sexual identity. Once the church succumbs to the idea that our basic identity is sexual rather than theological in nature, then the church has already lost its way in the discussion.”

    We’re talking idolatry here, Timothy. Don’t you think for Christians that might just qualify as a “big issue?”

    And finally, your point #3. You and I disagree about what response is caring. To leave someone in sin, which mitigates against their experiencing “fullness of life” and jeopardizes their relationship with God, is the most uncaring thing I can think of. That’s what folk like Wayne Besen and others do when they claim the ONLY option for someone who experiences same-sex attraction is to accept it.

    My ministry doesn’t force anyone to do anything about their sexual desires and behavior. We don’t go out and drag LGBT persons in off the streets and beat them over the head with the Bible. We state what we believe God’s revealed will is for sexuality (and that directed mainly to the church), we encourage believers to live consistent with that revelation, and we offer our services to those who desire God’s grace and transformation in their lives.

  8. As an ordained pastor, it is not my call or duty to help people live in accordance to the values they believe. It is my call to help them live (or encourage them to live) in accordance with Scriptural values – as best I can understand and communicate them.

    Which is why I used the words “…living in accordance with the values you believe…”. I quite understand that as a minister your own Scriptural values take precedence over any other values.

    And I think that you very clearly illustrated three things that I find discomforting about the Exodus affiliated ministries.

    1. Presumptions about homosexuality that do not seem to be universal or true to specific individuals. “The recipient recalls past wounding in his/her life that has led to false beliefs and sinful, dysfunctional behavior.”

    There is no reason to assume that a recipient ever had past woundings. I would hope that you consider that in your efforts.

    2. The muddying of language. “…a new orientation as a new creation in Jesus Christ…”.

    The misuse of common language may feel empowering or like you are reclaiming the language for Christ. But deceptive or artificial usage of words hinders your credibilty. Accidental or careless misuse may only lead to confusion – but deliberate deception is sin.

    3. Disregard for the care of the participant.

    Although you do not prefer the way that I phrased the choice, you confirmed by conclusions. If given the choice between someone’s mental health and their conforming with your values on sexuality, for you there would be no hesitation. You would choose conformity with your values.

    (You will note that I do not say “Biblical values” as I don’t agree with your conclusions about what the Bible says.)

    Now I can’t tell you that you should change your religious convictions or that you are “wrong”. But I will suggest that perhaps a value system that places conformity over mental health may deserve some further consideration. And a faith system that seems to have little to no concern about harm caused by “gentle” insistence is certainly worth some further introspection.

    I am not, Karen, trying to criticize you directly (though it probably reads that way). I just want to challenge you to consider that being “not gay” may ultimately not be the single biggest issue in a person’s life. And refusing to care for a person and do what is best for them may well be a far bigger sin than any sexual sin.

  9. Karen – I agree that the minister has a different role than the therapist. Our guidelines are geared to therapists and for both ideological sides is in a way a compromise. We agree not to push an ideology either way. However, I believe people of various faiths can decide to pursue what they believe to be their calling, even if it creates psychological tension or distress. A valued life may not be a high score on a psychological test of happiness.

  10. Thanks Dr. T, Timothy and Michael for answering my question. It was very helpful.

    I also want to respond to one of Timothy’s comments … “Now, I’m sure you would both prefer a healthy happy ex-gay person (or living in accordance with the values you believe). But given the choice, I think you would choose orientation shift over mental health.”

    The short answer to that is “no.” As an ordained pastor, it is not my call or duty to help people live in accordance to the values they believe. It is my call to help them live (or encourage them to live) in accordance with Scriptural values – as best I can understand and communicate them. If there’s a conflict in interest, Scripture wins.

    Sexual ethics aside, when I served a local church, the “conflict of interest” (I’d call it sin) showed up most often in materialism and racism. No way in the world would I have helped people adjust to that to live happier, healthier lives.

    Choosing “orientation shift over mental health” isn’t how I would frame the choice. I believe that Christians are called to sanctified sexuality – to willingly submit their sexuality to the purifying and transforming work of the Holy Spirit. (1 Thessalonians 4) If the outcome of that is lessened temptation, changed desire and behavior – and a new orientation as a new creation in Jesus Christ – wonderful! If the outcome is continued struggle with SSA – also wonderful, since God has a purpose for struggle, which is increased reliance on Him. (St Paul and the thorn in the flesh.)

    “Happiness” isn’t a goal of the Christian life; joy is. And joy isn’t mutually exclusive to suffering.

    To put flesh to this, let me briefly describe a healing prayer model that will probably become a core component of our ministry. Similar to Inner Healing Prayer, which has been around for decades, it is directed by the Holy Spirit. The recipient recalls past wounding in his/her life that has led to false beliefs and sinful, dysfunctional behavior. Jesus is invited in – not to remove the memory, but to heal the emotions, beliefs and behavior that attach to it. (This capsule does not do justice to the process, and I can supply more information if you email me.)

    Does this prayer model pass muster with professional theraputic standards? I don’t know. (And really don’t care.) Does it honor the person’s values and journey? Yes. Is the hope a revelation of truth and an experience of transformatin – sanctified sexuality? A resounding yes.

    It seems to me that from your answers, the main recourse therapists have to worldview conflict is referral. Transformational ministries could be more insistent (gently, one hopes) about truth claims. That’s mainly what I’d wanted clarified, so thank you all for doing that.

  11. Karen,

    Thanks for responding.

    Clearly we differ in our religious perspectives. I probably place greater emphasis on Matthew 25 while I suspect that you have other Scripture that you see as more compelling to Christian life. And that’s fine.

    (incidentally, I don’t agree with your distinction about Jesus only challenging ceremonial law – I don’t see that in Scripture. But I don’t think this is the place for that debate.)

    My point is this: Warren’s approach (if I may so presume) sets as a goal the mental heath of the individual and seeks to care for the psychological and/or emotional need of the individual. It recognizes that the end result may be a gay person, but at least it will be a healthy happy gay person.

    The goal of many ex-gay ministies, however, is to create an ex-gay person. The end result may be a very screwed up unhappy ex-gay, but at least they will be ex-gay.

    It’s all a matter of purpose and priorities.

    Now, I’m sure you would both prefer a healthy happy ex-gay person (or living in accordance with the values you believe). But given the choice, I think you would choose orientation shift over mental health.

  12. Karen – For more detail, I refer you to our sexual identity therapy framework. But briefly, I think therapists should try to work within the value framework of the client unless it erodes the competence of the therapist. And then if therapy is hindered by the worldview clash, ethical therapists make referrals.

    Political or ideological loyalties of therapists may be relevant if they detract from therapy and then therapists should refer. Let’s put this in another context. If I have a conviction that attending movies is morally wrong, should I counsel people who not only attend movies? In the church where I was converted, the teaching was that long hair, rock and roll and movies were just as immoral as illicit sex. For therapists with those beliefs, would the value conflict be similar to what you posed, Karen? For them, the universe of clients might be quite small — unless of course the clients were coming to counseling to overcome rock and roll.

  13. Timothy … I’m not assuming any specific or particular behavior goes along with self-identifying as gay or lesbian. The behavior would, of course, be as unique as the individual.

    My take on Jesus is quite different than yours. I believe he got in trouble for confronting/challenging/changing human tradition/teaching and some of the ceremonial law, not the moral requirements of Torah. (Actually, he said he came to fulfill the law, not abolish it. ) “Practical needs” for ministry were usually congruent with Torah observance – the woman caught in adultery, for example.

    I also don’t think one can divorce ministry from theology. (Ideology is not the same thing.) If so, it becomes social work or therapy or something else, but not ministry.

    The American Mainline churches are dying, Timothy, for the very reason that you laud. For decades they have put the so-called needs of people ahead of Christian truth. In doing so, they’ve become almost indistinguishable from the culture and thereby irrelevant.

  14. Karen asked: “is the therapist obliged to support that decision?”

    I am a therapist, and for me the answer is “NO”. The therapist is not “obliged” support ANY client decision. Simply because the client wants it, doesn’t mean the therapist has to sign on. Both client and therapist should act in congruence with their beliefs.

    If the therapist has a seriious moral or ethical problem with a client’s decision, he or she might simply say so (in the most respectful and non-judgemental way possible) — and suggest to the client that this particular client/therapist relationsip is not a match. Perhaps a different therapist would be more suitable. That’s OK. I do it with some regularity and clients seem to respect me for it.

  15. Karen,

    Very good questions.

    But I think perhaps you have you priorities a bit askew (if I’m reading you correctly).

    First let me interject the brief caution that we not assume anything about “attendant sexual behavior”. There are many gay people who have made the decision to avoid sexual behavior either indefinately or until they are in commited covenanted relationships – and they too would fall into the category of “not want to attempt to change”.

    I think (and Warren can answer this better) that a therapist would provide such therapy as they felt they could give without conflict with their own convictions and at that point redirect the patient to someone who shares their values.

    Your concern seems to be that a therapist would be obliged to refer the patient while prayer-based ministry would not. This concern takes into consideration only the interests of the therapist or minister and completely ignore (or presumes) what is in the best interest of the patient.

    While I don’t think that you are insincere, Karen, this is one of the concerns I have with ex-gay ministries – they put the ideology (or theology) ahead of the ministry. From a secular viewpoint, that’s abusive and horrific and cult-like.

    From a Christian viewpoint, that is precisely the battle that Christ had with the religious leaders of his day. They criticized him because he put the practical needs of people ahead of the law. I think the church would have more credibility with the world, both gay and straight, if it put the needs of people ahead of the need to control people.

  16. I have a question – or series of questions, perhaps – that I’ve been thinking about. Not fully developed, so please don’t bash any of this for not being as precise as it could be. (And perhaps this isn’t the right spot to post it, either.) But here goes …

    I am assuming that a therapist, even a Christian therapist, is limited by the professional ethics of client autonomy and self-determination. If, when working with a man or woman who experiences SSA, the client concludes that he/she does not want to attempt to change (however one defines it) and has no moral qualms about self-identifying as gay or lesbian with the attendant sexual behavior, then is the therapist obliged to support that decision? Does that then raise integrity issues with a conservative Christian therapist who believes that homosexual behavior is sinful?

    It seems to me that prayer-based ministry models run less risk of situations that could compromise conservative/evangelical belief. I am truly curious how that works out for therapists.

  17. Almost too much to address here. Yeah, too much but I will shoot at some stuff.

    Nice to have you comment Karen. You are certainly correct about Exodus ministries not being all the same. On the other hand, I would say that my experience with Exodus over the years would lead me to think gender stereotypes are important to many, but not all, of the ministries.

    The lengthy post by Kathy is hard to digest. This section puzzled me:

    How can any APA professional ever be so certain and

    dogmatic about whether most homosxuals are “happy” or

    not? “Happiness” is defined by who’s standard? There

    is no documentation of any research indicating this to

    be so; nor will there ever be, except alot of

    subjective comments, not based on the scientific

    method. Btw, there isn’t any documented research about

    most homosexuals being “successful” either, just alot

    of political posturing, opining and subjective

    comments in the literature. How in the world do you

    weigh and measure, “happiness”? You are defeated

    before you even start, because there would never be an

    agreeable definition and standard about what the word


    I have a hard time understanding people who do not believe there is such a thing as a homosexual or who doubt the existence of categories of sexual orientation but then lump all same-sex attracted people together and say they aren’t happy or successful. Practically, surveys find that happiness relates to a variety of life style factors independent of sexual orientation. Gays tend to report a bit more depression, substance abuse and anxiety but the overlap is great and a large share of gays in any such survey reports no real mental health problems. Physicians report higher depression rates than non-physicians, so what should we do with them?

    Irving Bieber, Masters and Johnson, Lawrence Hatterer, Charles Socarides, Elaine Segal — The value in the work of these individuals are appreciated primarily by psychoanalysts. You are not impressing the lion’s share of mental health folks with these names, as important as they might be.

    Anon – Bell & Weinberg’s explanation may not be the only plausible one but, to me, it seems to be a reasonable possibility. Controlling for bias is straight from Research Methods 101 and they attempted to explore this. After 25 years of therapy and seeing folks bring in books with all kinds of faddish theories, I believe that smart people can believe some unlikely things if it seems to help them make sense of their situation. My point in quoting them was to note that they found the same thing as Nottebaum et al.

  18. Kathy,

    I read your comment with some amusement. Let me give you some unsolicited advice you may want to adopt when trying to sound reasonable in this debate:

    1. Excessive use of adjectives and superlatives does not give the appearance of thoughtfulness. It does, however, suggest over-familiarity with the type of reading material found in check-out lines.

    2. Comparing something to Spitzer’s study does not reflect favorably on its credibility

    3. When determining the credibility of claims, it is reasonable to look at bias. This is not an ad hominem attack – I think you misunderstand the term. Ad hominem arguments are attempts to discredit the messenger so as to distract from the message.

    It is entirely reasonable, for example, to look at party affiliation of someone saying, “the Democrats have the best plan for the economy”. If all the people making such a claim are in the Democrat Party leadership, well that does impact whether one believes the claim.

    4. To argue that gay people do not live happy or successful lives because there’s no set definition of happy and successful is, frankly, silly and childish.

    I think Warren could probably better explain this, but from a psychological point of view there can be some measure of contentment (I’m not a pro in this area).

    Nonetheless, I think that the point the APA is making is that most gay people live lives that they perceive as happy and successful and not significantly limited by orientation. To argue otherwise is preposterous. You start entering the realm of measuring others by arbitrary measures designed solely to come up with your predetermined negative conclusion. And then people laugh at you.

    5. (and finally) I think it probably doesn’t suit you well to argue from the rare exception.

    Surely you will admit (or I hope that you are capable of admitting) that very few gay people come to some self-determination that they do not want to be gay for reasons that do not include familial or religious pressure. As you have assigned yourself some affiliation with Exodus Youth, surely you are aware that all (or essentially all) of the participants with Exodus are religiously affiliated.

    The APA used “some” to discuss those who are religiously or familially influenced. I would have used “nearly all”. By dismissing this group entirely and focusing on the very very small number who come to this decision without such pressures, you seem unreasonable and extreme.

    I think you have good points to bring to the debate, Kathy, but try to keep from making the most obvious of mistakes.

  19. Anon,

    In a court trial, jury members are often reclused and, if not, they are instructed not to read the newspapers or watch news reports that may discuss the case. This is not because those who read or watch are more intelligent, but because “facts” and conjecture may be introduced which could bias their thinking.

    It certainly seems consistent that if a correllation was determined between those who read specific pieces of literature and those who held specific beliefs, it most likely was not coincidental. To come up with some other explanation (they are more intelligent) and then be indignant that your (rather unlikely and totally unsupported) assumption wasn’t selected suggests to me that it isn’t Bell and Weinberg who were being illogical.

  20. Warren, you mention the Bell/Weinberg book Sexual Preference. I’ve read that book, and thought that its authors were extremely biased and that their reasoning was unsound. As an example of bias, consider their discussion of the effects of reading books about homosexuality on homosexuals’ ideas about the origins of their sexual orientation (p. 20):

    ‘…respondents who knew that psychoanalytic theory attributes homosexuality to the influence of domineering mothers and detached fathers might more readily describe their parents this way than would those unfamiliar with this theory, even though, to an impartial observer, it might not seem that the mothers in question were particularly dominant or the fathers particularly detached.

    Accordingly, we asked homosexual respondents whether they had read books or articles about homosexuality or attended scientific lectures about it. Then we tested every homosexual-heterosexual difference to see whether it was associated with our respondents’ exposure to these theories. Where differences appear to involve only those who reported knowledge of the literature, we consider their reports biased and hence do not report them.’

    Bell and Weinberg failed to consider other possible explanations for this difference. For example, it is at least theoretically possible that those homosexuals who had read books or articles about homosexuality were more intelligent than those who had not, and therefore in a better position to make judgments about the matter.

    It is also theoretically possible that, whether they were smarter or not, reading books about homosexuality helped them to understand something that they would not have understood otherwise.

    I suppose it must have been sheer embarassment about the political incorrectnesss of these possibilities that prevented Bell and Weinberg from even considering them. They might just as well have declared that those homosexuals who had not read the books were biased, and excluded them from the study. Probably that would have produced different results.

  21. Warren,

    Tim from the yahoo group exgaydiscussion

    had this to say about the APA.


    So here’s just a few counter-arguments to the American

    Psychological Association ludicrous statements found on there website .

    Can Therapy Change Sexual Orientation?

    http://www.apa. org/pi/about. html

    http://www.apa. org/topics/ orientation. html#cantherapyc hange

    Can Therapy Change Sexual Orientation?

    1) APA’s Answer:



    “It does not require treatment and is not changeable.”


    “Some therapists who undertake so-called conversion

    therapy report that they have been able to change

    their clients’ sexual orientation from homosexual to

    heterosexual. Close scrutiny of these reports however

    show several factors that cast doubt on their claims.

    For example, many of the claims come from

    organizations with an ideological perspective which

    condemns homosexuality. Furthermore, their claims are

    poorly documented. For example, treatment outcome

    is not followed and reported overtime as would be the

    standard to test the validity of any mental health

    intervention. ”

    My response:

    This is the most outlandish denial and revision of APA

    history on which I’ve ever laid my eyes, and

    irresponsible refusal to give due recognition of the

    multitude of articles documenting change in the most

    prestigious journals of medicine and psychology

    literature. Why? Because, it is shamefully in full

    denial of the 40+ years of approximately 1000+ case

    history and documented research articles on this

    subject. It is as if someone tore out from every

    History of Psychiatry and Psychology book, published

    in the 80’s and earlier, the very pages about

    documented reorientation research and treatment! (Or,

    maybe it was an international book burning that

    somehow escaped my notice?) This denial of reliable

    and substantial documentation is tantamount to revisionist

    history.How is this official statement coming from the APA any different?

    Throughout the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, and even into

    the 90’s, most of the forerunners of the reorientation

    therapies and treatment, who were APA researchers and

    therapists; such as Irving Bieber, Masters and

    Johnson, Lawrence Hatterer, Charles Socarides, Elaine

    Segal, etc., dedicated indefatigatably their entire

    professional lives to an extensive and quite

    challenging caseload of patients and clients, and/or

    the cardinal and grueling work of a researcher.

    Contrary to the APA’s statements, “Close scrutiny of

    these reports however show several factors that cast

    doubt on their claims”, and “…their claims are

    poorly documented”, for example, Irving Bieber’s

    research involved extensive analysis of the gradual

    process of change of ego-dystonic SSA clients and

    patients in the 60’s, then many of the same in the

    70’s, and again in the 80’s. He found that more than

    one-third of those he interviewed indeed reported to

    experience a complete change, or a significant shift

    towards heterosexuality (somewhat like Spitzer’s

    analysis in 2000 of those who experienced change, or

    at least adequate functioning in a heterosexual

    relationship) .

    Bieber, who resided and practiced in NYC, passed away

    in the 90’s, and there were actually gay activists

    shamefully protesting, and disrupting the peace and

    privacy of his own funeral! (If they could, they

    probably would do something similar to Bieber’s

    remains as what occurred to Wycliffe – desecrate his

    grave, dig up his bones, set them on fire, and throw

    his ashes down the toilet!)

    So, what are these “factors” that the APA claims to

    shed doubt on, if not totally disqualify,

    reorientation research, mentioned in the APA

    statement? Well, there is no further elaboration about

    what they may entail. So who knows? This is where a

    professional organization, such as the APA, should at

    least include a footnote and reference, when making

    such claims, if they are truly concerned about

    scientific accuracy, over sociopolitical advocacy.

    But, I do have a sneaking suspicion that there are no

    substantial factors. These doubts most likely involve

    speculation, subjectivity, and a priori assumptions,

    such as the following:

    2) APA’s answer:

    “…many of the claims come from organizations with an

    ideological perspective which condemns

    homosexuality. .”


    “Even though most homosexuals live successful, happy


    My response:

    Any logician will tell you that this APA statement

    commits the common “ad hominem” error, finding fault

    just because it came from a particular source, rather

    than judging the veracity of the content. I would

    expect this kind of ignorant and foolish circular

    argument to come from folks less sophisticated and

    aware of the psychological issues; not the APA! In

    addition, the statement infers that all organizations

    that would have an opposing view to theirs’ must not

    be sophisticated or aware, or may even be

    intellectually dishonest, and not to be trusted. Wow!

    If this isn’t a perfect example of the teapot calling

    the kettle black, I don’t know what other would be!

    How can any APA professional ever be so certain and

    dogmatic about whether most homosxuals are “happy” or

    not? “Happiness” is defined by who’s standard? There

    is no documentation of any research indicating this to

    be so; nor will there ever be, except alot of

    subjective comments, not based on the scientific

    method. Btw, there isn’t any documented research about

    most homosexuals being “successful” either, just alot

    of political posturing, opining and subjective

    comments in the literature. How in the world do you

    weigh and measure, “happiness”? You are defeated

    before you even start, because there would never be an

    agreeable definition and standard about what the word



    The APA’s answer:

    “…some homosexual or bisexual people may seek to

    change their sexual orientation through therapy,

    sometimes pressured by the influence of family members

    or religious groups to try and do so.”


    “The American Psychological Association is concerned

    about such therapies and their potential harm to

    patients. In 1997, the Association’ s Council of

    Representatives passed a resolution reaffirming

    psychology’s opposition to homophobia in treatment and

    spelling out a client’s right to unbiased treatment

    and self-determination. Any person who enters into

    therapy to deal with issues of sexual orientation has

    a right to expect that such therapy

    would take place in a professionally neutral

    environment absent of any social bias.”

    My response:

    Now, what about the folks who are not pressured by

    family, nor their church, synagogue, or mosque? I

    believe the word, that would most probably define

    their motivation to seek therapy, would be

    “self-determination “, which the APA so far is

    hypocritically denying, disrespecting, discriminating,

    even warning against, and not giving any measure of

    support to such folks. Nor are these folks, if they

    totally depended on the APA and its resources, who are

    seeking treatment, according to their set of values

    andf philosophy of life, going to find a

    “professionally neutral environment, absent of any

    social bias”. What does “neutral” and unbiased mean?

    I suppose within the world of the APA bubble, it means

    our way, not yours. Shame!

    I’ll end here.

  22. For what it’s worth … There is not a “one size fits all” for Exodus member ministries. Our ministry – Transforming Congregations – doesn’t work with individuals at all. We try to equip church leaders to make their churches faithful, welcoming environments where folk can journey toward sanctified sexuality. (1 Thessalonians 4) Many of the other leaders I know – none of whom are in the national spotlight – use a variety of spiritual approaches, usually based on some form of prayer. They don’t consider it “therapy” and do not advertise/promote it in those terms.

    Because of some of my lingering feminist commitments, I don’t personally relate to conservative teaching about male/female and find much of it stereotypical. But I don’t disrespect those who do, and I know that some of it has been helpful to men and women who have struggled with unwanted SSA.

    We in the so-called “ex-gay” movement don’t all march in lock-step. To assume or claim we do is misinformed and insulting.

  23. Warren,

    It’s a good thing you never were a gay guy going through reparative therapy. They’d have found your “root cause” in no time and have you on masculization classes immediately. Get rid of that sissy softball, put down the books, you need football and auto mechanics!!*

    Thanks for the personal input. It helps understand why you so readily see through the stereotypes and assumptions.

    * tangent – can anyone really do home auto mechanics any more? I looked under the hood of my car last week and was dumbfounded. I could maybe change the battery and the air filter but stuff that I used to be able to do – like replace an alternator or radiator hose – I couldn’t even find.

  24. I’ll defer to CK on this, but isn’t Alanis’ Ironic really about tragedy?

    I think there is overlap obviously but I think the Bell & Weinberg findings are probably pretty accurate. In my practice, I have seen very little difference in parental conflict between straight and gay clients. Sampling is everything though. Studies I have seen show a very small effect for parent child relationship, with much overlap between gay and straight samples.

  25. Perhaps, however, those gay men and lesbians who did not seek change experienced more satisfying childhood relationships.

    So it may be that if Dr. Dobson can convince fathers to be loving and attentitive to their sons, the result may be more gay sons that are content with their orientation and don’t seek therapy.

    Cue Alanis: “…It’s like raaaaaaain on your wedding day, a free ride when you’ve already paid…”

  26. Jim – This is a bit long but I think it speaks to your point. This is an excerpt from a paper being written currently by Gary Welton and me about multiple pathways to same-sex attraction.

    Why do ex-gays often report sexual abuse and/or poor parental relationship (Paulk, 2003)?

    •Sexual abuse is associated with a host of adult sexual, adjustment and mental health problems. These people will look for help more frequently.

    •Religious people with these backgrounds will look to the church for help more frequently than mental health professionals.

    •We wonder if there are real differences on a host of dimensions, including traumatic quality of history between those who seek sexual identity therapy and ministries and those who seem happy in a homosexual adjustment.

    Throckmorton (2002) noted this possibility for those whose parenting might have been perceived as poor and those who did not:

    Nottebaum et al. (2000) asked participants if they had good relationships with their mothers and fathers while growing up. The gay male/lesbian participants described a significantly better relationship with parents than did the Exodus group. The Exodus men especially disagreed with the questions. At least two broad possibilities exist to help clarify this finding. First, the gay men and lesbians who decided to change had childhood experiences different from those who identified themselves as gay (and who continued with that identification). Perhaps those who seek reorientation really do demonstrate a childhood pattern similar to the one predicted by ex-gay theorists Moberly (1983) and Nicolosi (1991) . Perhaps, however, those gay men and lesbians who did not seek change experienced more satisfying childhood relationships. If this hypothesis could be supported by additional empirical work, then perhaps reparative theory may only describe those gay men and lesbians who are significantly distressed by their sexual feelings. Another perspective is that each group interpreted their experiences in keeping with the theory of causation of same-sex feelings most acceptable to them. Given that many Exodus groups assert a specific reparative theoretical view of causation, the participants in Exodus could experience a need to reinterpret their experiences through this theoretical framework. Additionally, the report of the gay male and lesbian sample may then have been a better-than-actual representation to avoid fitting the traditional stereotype.

    •Studies of parental factors and child abuse frequently rely on volunteer samples (e.g., Paulk, 2003).

    •As has been made clear from twin research, the volunteer effect can significantly skew results. (e.g, compare Bailey and Pillard’s 52% concordance for MZ twins with a volunteer sample to Bailey, et al.,’s 11% with a population based sample).

    •We believe a similar volunteer effect is likely to impact studies of environmental factors such as parental relationships and child abuse.

    •Bell et al., (1981) found differences between gay men who had been in therapy and gay men who had not sought treatment. For the non-therapy group, there was no relationship between detached-hostile fathers and later homosexuality; whereas for the group who had been in therapy, this variable explained more of the variance than for the entire group (8.4%). Fewer differences were noted for women.

  27. Ken,

    I was thinking the same thing as I was listening to Nicolosi talk about the “prehomosexual” effeminate boys he treated in his practice. Well, of course effeminate boys would be dragged to his clinic, I thought. After all, we can see them. But what about the boys we don’t see? Was the reason I wasnt’ dragged off to therapy related to the fact that I wasn’t effeminate?

    There’s another question that I think deserves a lot of study, and that is the role of child sexual abuse. From what I read, this is an extremely common experience among adults who seek to change their sexual orientation. Also from what I read, adults who report having been sexually abused as a child are either more likely to be more uncertain and uncomfortable about their sexuality, or, in older studies that asked it another way, are more likely to report being bisexual.

    So I’ve often thought there were two lines of inquiry that would be very interesting: effeminacy/masculinity of men seeking change, and histories of sexual abuse of men seeking change. But this would only be relevant when compared to a control group of men who don’t seek change.

  28. I recall reading through NARTH and other conversion therapy websites years ago and thinking they were only dealing with a subset of gay men (those that would be considered effeminate) because of the characterizations I read (and some of the “treatments”).

    I think it would be interesting to know what percentages of gay men seeking treatment would be classified as effeminate or masculine (or something in between).

  29. As a gay man, I fit perfectly the stereotype of the boy who was never good at sports, bookish, fearful of bigger kids, etc, etc.

    But guess what: my two sons fit the same stereotypes. Yet they’re both decidedly straight.

  30. Thanks for sharing that Timothy. I think your descriptions are similar to lots of guys gay, straight and in between.

    For myself, I feel quite sure someone could find evidence of something reparative, even though I have never had a gay moment in my life. I was forced to play baseball, but did well in it, playing a year in college as a catcher. I willingly gave it up for music though. I did continue to play softball as an adult.

    My dad and I did not get along, although I now have a respect for him I did not feel when he was alive. He was mechanical but I decidedly was not. I held the flashlight but did not know a wrench from plyers. My lack of interest in such things was the source of much tension. Pre-teen years, I was clearly a mama’s boy, fearful of bigger kids and hung around with girls a lot. I was bookish and fanciful, writing stories and songs as a kid. A lot of guys thought I was weird. My redeeming quality to the neighborhood guys was the fact that I was a pretty good baseball player. I do remember crying once after a game because I felt sorry for the other team who lost. I was teased a lot for that 🙂

    I could go on but I personally don’t “get” it either. However, I know many men who do feel that there is some connection between their sense of masculine presence and their sexual attractions. I do not doubt them and I continue to seek to understand this. At the same time, I am pretty sure that this connection is not universal among men with same-sex attractions.

  31. Thanks Warren. I guess I just wanted to get a feel for whether their criticism was justified (if all ex-gays use those procedures) or just stereotyping (if only a few exteme cases did). I guess the answer is somewhere in between.

    As for me… I remember really wanting to start little league. Then I played on the team that was the worst in the whole league. And I was probably in the lower third of that team. I don’t think we won a game and if I got a hit, I don’t remember it. I was done with that.

    Unfortunately the kids my age moved out of my neighborhood when I was around 8 so I didn’t have a lot of chances to get good at team sports. I did play with the youth group but they were all older (they let me play anyway because my dad was the pastor) so naturally I pretty much sucked. But I recall being taken along and trying and having fun (somewhere stored in my memory are the rules for handball) though not often a winner.

    Add to that the indignity of my family’s ideas of appropriate clothing. At school, I couldn’t be on the “skins” team and my shorts were pants hemmed at the knee (how did I ever survive PE? I must have really had supportive teachers).

    So, team sports… not so good. But both brothers (8 and 10 years older) were stars (oldest bro was football team captain, both were No. Cal wresting champs) so my memories involve lots of going to football games and wrestling matches with my dad. I was enough younger (and they married very young) so I didn’t benefit from their expertise.

    I recall the first time I skiied with my brothers and had more natural ability. It did feel good (OK, really good) but I don’t recall any “manliness” associated with it. Just the fact that there was SOMETHING sports related that I could do better.

    Because my dad was a preacher and modeled reading and studying and didn’t play catch or do auto repair, I don’t recall thinking that certain tasks were more masculine or less masculine.

    My best friend at around pubescence was a family of wild kids that spent most of their time in trouble. Although I would spend time with them on weekends, somehow I never got in trouble, they usually toned it down for me and I had enough sense not to say anything when they didn’t – like being on the tressel when the train came, or innertubing down the river (though I really never learned to swim well – another oddball religious thing).

    I learned to change the oil at 16 because it needed changing and my brothers could show me. Same with fixing a flat. There was no question that I’d be doing it rather than paying someone… or that my dad would never consider doing it himself – he knew his automotive abilities were limited to turning the key. Car stuff wasn’t “guy stuff”, it was “I can’t afford to pay someone else” stuff.

    My family’s other occupation was housing construction (both brothers built houses and my father supplemented his income with construction) so I was always around hammers and saws. My first jobs were helping lay subfloor and then working for a family friend at an autobody shop sanding cars and cleaning floors.

    I can’t recall being called a “fag” at any point growing up though I was a crybaby for too long. I seem to recall getting along really well with bullies who, for some reason, told me their insecurities. Thinking back, that was kinda odd.

    I wasn’t in the jock crowd in highschool but I knew them all and was welcome on the peripheral. I was in a fraternity in college – actually was up for national recognition in the house and was the first ever “greek man of the year” at my university.

    Do I cross my legs “the right way”? No. I tried to as a kid but it actually kinda hurts so I gave up. Do I change my oil? Nah, no where to dump it in LA and JiffyLube is cheap. Don’t play football but I bowl. I took karate in college for a semester but that’s been ummm more than a few years. I used to shoot pool but that’s been a while. I won’t watch sports on TV (it’s too frustrating to not be able to control what you see) but I share Dodger season tickets. I work out and keep in shape. I can cook and sew and refinish furniture if need be, but I can’t decorate, am a slob, and hate barbara streisand 🙂

    This is a lot of info, but I really am trying to see how the stereotypes apply to my life. I just don’t get the reparative emphasis on “macho guy” stuff. I simply cannot fathom how “learning to be a guy” would have any impact whatsoever on my orientation or, for that matter, what they could teach me.

  32. I never was interested in sports, and I can’t say I’m any poorer for it. But my inability to change the oil, I blame that on my Dad. He never changed the oil either.

    Oh my God. Maybe Nicolosi was right!

  33. That is a good question Timothy. One of the ministries locally does not do that. At Exodus I have talked to several ministry leaders who do not subscribe to these notions. And in my 2005 report, I noted that 4 of the 28 research participants thought these gender exercises were harmful. Not big numbers I know but there may be a minority of people in this arena who reject such things. Some people I suppose find some of that stuff helpful. One participant said at the time, it was nice to learn how to play sports, but in hindsight it did not make him feel less gay. So for some people those “interventions” are benign.

    I hope other readers chime in on this one.

  34. Warren,

    I’ve not seen it yet but, sadly, I didn’t much expect that this would try to be balanced.

    But I do wonder something. And I’m not trying to be snarky when I ask this:

    Do you know of any ex-gay ministries that do not employ any of the gender re-arranging techniques? Are there any that do not think that gay people are at some level gender confused?

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