Physician Assistants group backs compromise stance on reparative therapy


Yesterday, I reported the action taken by the House of Delegates of the American Academy of Physician Assistants regarding reparative therapy. I want to provide more detail in this post. As you can see from the association’s daily conference newsletter, the resolution was changed to reflect AMA policy and thus was a step back from the exclusive proposal submitted by the Committee on Diversity.

The policy described above (slightly different from what I reported yesterday) is:

The AAPA opposes psychiatric treatment specifically directed at sexual orientation, such as “conversion” or “reparative” therapy, which is based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or based upon the a priori assumption that the patient should change his/her homosexual orientation.

The original resolution proposed by the Committee on Diversity discounted any evidence that demonstrated benefit for change therapies. I helped construct a substitute resolution that found support from some, but not enough of the delegates. The substitute resolution respected religious, and sexual orientation diversity.

Robert Spitzer supported the substitute resolution and provided a letter of support for it.

In the end, the delegates opted for a stance that opposes seeing homosexuality as an illness and coercing clients into counseling for their sexual orientation.

UPDATE: Apparently, the discussion regarding the various reparative therapy motions was intense. At one point, John Fields, president of the Vietnam Veterans Association of Physician Assistants read several paragraphs from the Spitzer letter on the floor. At that point, AAPA president Mary Ettari asked the Delegate Speaker to address the House of Delegates to question the source of the letter. According to Mr. Fields, sitting presidents rarely interrupt meetings to address the entire House. According to Ms. Ettari, she questioned the letter because she had not seen it before, it was not on letterhead and it was not signed in ink by Dr. Spitzer (there was a digital signature). Apparently by some miscommunication, the letter never did make it to the PA leadership. Ordinarily, colleagues would give each other some trust about such things, but the debate over this resolution seems to have eroded this usual stance.

UPDATE: The AAPA issued a news release today regarding a variety of actions taken at their convention. Thanks to David Roberts for pointing this out. The relevant point to this post is as follows:

The HOD voted to oppose attempts to “cure” homosexuality and adopted the following resolution about reparative therapy: “The American Academy of Physician Assistants opposes any psychiatric treatment directed specifically at changing sexual orientation, such as “conversion” or “reparative” therapy which is based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or based upon the a priori assumption that the patient should change his/her sexual orientation.”

70 thoughts on “Physician Assistants group backs compromise stance on reparative therapy”

  1. Thanks Michael. Sorry Ivan. So my question goes to Jayhawk – where do you recieve the information that most ex gays remain celibate??

  2. Jayhawk commented that, based on his experience, the “majority of ex-gay people will remain celibate.” I have to tell you that has not been my experierince — as least not with ex-gay men. Many of them continued to “fall and repent” — that’s not celibate. Almost every ex-gay man I have spoken to has admitted privately that they continue to masturbate to gay fantasies (something straight men don’t do). Would they be considered celibate?

    Some (like me) married but eventually had gay affairs. Some claimed to be completely celibate — even from masturbation, but these were few and far between Some who were already bisexual to some degree were able to limit themselves to sex only with their wives — and were very happy with this. I don’t think its fair to say that the majority remained stricly “celibate”. The majority of ex-gays I have met admit that they still struggle with some sort of same sex behavior.

  3. Mary,

    I did mention something about celibacy, but I certainly didn’t mention that ex-gays are usually celibate. It could be you meant respond to something Jayhawk said? If not, cut and paste what I said and I’ll explain what I meant. Sorry about the confusion.

  4. Jayhawk,

    What about the people who have no fears or misconceptions about celibacy and marriage, but who only want marriage (a large majority), and who see that marriage is a part of their set of values (and I disagree that marriage isn’t a good reason to be in RT — I believe it very much is)? Do you think just sending them to therapy to learn to live and to adjust to celibate lives is a sincere, ethical and sensitive answer? Do you think there’s more that can be done? Are there any other options? Do we just leave it at celibacy??

    You seem to leave marriage as the very last option, as if we’d avoid it at all costs, until we can no longer. Don’t we have a duty to somehow try to give these struggling people the best chance they can live the kind of life they’d like to live, this being for many, heterosexual marriage and a family? If you don’t know how to do this, why isn’t someone proposing to work on this or to come up with a better answer.

    No one knew how to cure cancer (I’m not comparing the two), so they went off and did research to work out how… They wanted to cure it, so some went to work out how to make that a reality.

  5. I am disinclined to discuss this subject with you anymore. I have my reasons, and they are not your reasons.

    And the door closes again. As I said in the original thread at XGW, if you don’t want to share, then say so. But it casts a shadow on your credibility that you are unwilling to share such basic information, especially since your claims go far beyond what even Exodus suggests.

    We have to expect some degree of transparency when discussing such issues, or else how do we avoid debating someone over lies assumed to be fact? I could go to PFOX, claim to be ex-gay, and argue issues for any number of reasons. Without being candid about some things, how could they tell I was not being honest?

    These are serious issues, and what people read here and at XGW and other blogs could make a significant difference to their thinking. Your reasons for pulling back every time the questions turn to you disturbs me, and it should anyone interested in the truth and integrity of such discussions.

  6. Mary,

    I think you may have addressed that question to me – the one about celibacy. The fact that a majority of ex-gay people will remain celibate comes in part from talking to many of them, and in part from the low success rate of ex-gay men being able to establish genuine attraction to women. – it is very small

    Let’s not confuse getting married and having kids with being straight – or even ex-gay. Gay people have been getting married and having kids since the beginning for all sorts of reasons, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t gay.

  7. David Roberts,

    I did not say e-mail me privately. I said I would provide AN e-mail with a word doc.

    To write answer to those questions takes more time and thought. I want the answers to be clear and free of offensive language ( as this is a very sensitive issue) Yes, I do work – and writing in these blogs do not always require in depth personal revelation. So for example, this is an easy post to write. (FYI – I have been asked by others to write my story or share it and it is taking longer than expected)

    David Roberts, I am disinclined to discuss this subject with you anymore. I have my reasons, and they are not your reasons.

  8. Eddy is completely right when he suggested let’s at least acknowledge that no one seems to find this site by accident. We all have strongly felt compassion and concerns about gay and ex-gay issues.”

    I acknowldge it and apologize for my diatribes. They come from a lifetime of watching gays be mistreated (often at the hands of the church) and my own history of haaving been targeted for abuse and violence. They were recently sparked by the revelation of Cameron’s hatred towards gays. I know YOU guys (those who regulary post here) are not the bully but are motivated by genuine compassian for GLBT people — even though we may strongly disagree on what is best for them.

    Eddy, I don’t believe I HAVE taken your words out of context, but I know it bothers you that I keep repeating them, so I will quit provoking you (grin). I pray that the change movement someday DUMPS the confusing labels altogether! It would be so much simpler if those we used to call “ex-gay” would simply TELL their stories, describe their change and define terms if the terms don’t (as Alan Chambers put it) “accurately describe what the change process is all about…”

    Clarity and simplicity of language would do SO much to propel the “change” discsusion forward. And I would personally feel less vexed. (grin) Take care everyone. Again, my apologies for getting so hot under the collar.

  9. I did not answer question in an XGW because it would have taken up far too much room.

    First, no one constrained the amount of space you could use to answer the questions, so that’s just not a factor. Second, as an example, when you were asked a simple question about the era in which you graduated high school (to clarify one of those inconstancies) you replied

    “For the sake of my family I don’t like to give out specifics like where, who, when. Sorry.”

    Then you requested that if anyone wanted to know more, they could email you privately. At that point you said you were also too busy at work to comment further and you started commenting over here more.

    No one is persecuting you Mary, but contrary to most commenters (from all over the spectrum) at XGW, I don’t have much reason to trust you. You started out over there sounding like a member of PFOX, and morphed into the gay man’s best friend. When people making serious decisions about their lives read that you “woke up one day and weren’t gay,” I am partly responsible if I don’t call attention to the fact that you have not been candid in your support of such an extraordinary claim.

    Again, you know where the thread is, and if you want to be more forthcoming you may reply to it.

  10. Ivan,

    I am curious, where do you get your information that most ex gay people will live celibate lives??

  11. I’m sorry – I had Jayhawk on my mind and BTW, thanks Jayhawk. My last post was to David Roberts.

  12. No Jayhawk, Please be explicit.

    I did not answer question in an XGW because it would have taken up far too much room. When I suggested that I would provide an e-mail with a word doc – I was denounced for doing so. I still have that blog and my answers.

    But what inconsistencies are you talking about – please don’t play with me and say – you know where…. because I don’t find any. You may have misread or are reading more into a statement – or perhaps I did not complete a thought or have put in a typo – ….. So please, if you are going to accuse me of something be exact and provide the information. Otherwise – drop it.

  13. Ivan –

    If the question has to do with certain people who don’t want to be celibate we really need to examine what their fears are about celibacy. Often, feelings towards celibacy have to do with preconceptions or misconceptions about what it might mean for their life. Clients also need to be told the truth – that the chances of them having a successful relationship with people of the opposite sex (assuming they aren’t bisexual) is not that good.

    Anyone in RT needs to understand that the goal is one of holiness and alignment of values – NOT marriage. If they are in RT simply because they fear discrimination or because they want to get married, then we should question whether RT is really for them. Wanting to get married is not a good reason to be in RT!

    When all of this is cleared up, then and only then should people be allowed to see if they can develop legitimate attractions towards women.

  14. Ivan –

    My apologies – with all these different lines of discussion I have forgotten the question 😉

  15. Mary –

    I absolutely agree – no one has a right to take that anger out on you. I wrote what I did just because some – not you – don’t seem to understand where the anger comes from.

    BTW – that is wonderful that you support gay rights and gay marriage – gay people should be able to respond to that kind of support by supporting you as well.

  16. What incoonsistencies – please provide those. Thank you.

    You know where the thread is, and the questions are still there where you left them unanswered.

  17. Jayhawk,

    I am well aware of what gay people endure on a daily basis. I am ex gay. It does not give anyone the right to take their anger out on me. I am not ex gay for pay, I endorse and support gay rights and marriage, the hate crime bill etc…

    I agree that the ex gay groups should not participate in politics and stay away from that. If those people want to engage in politics – do so under a different name and away from gay people – even gay people trying to change. Political positions do not equal spiritual standards for oneself.

  18. Michael said something he’s said in at least one other post, “It’s the sissy standing up to the bully…” I have one huge problem with that: THE BULLY ISN’T HERE!

    I’d venture to say that 98% of the bloggers on this site share surprisingly similar political views. My suggestion for all of us: save the ‘sissy standing up’ thing for the bully; here on the site, let’s at least acknowledge that no one seems to find this site by accident. We all have strongly felt compassion and concerns about gay and ex-gay issues. I bet most of us relate very strongly to the ‘sissy standing up’ imagery. But let’s agree to save it for the bully–not waste it on each other.

    I bet if we spent less time taking the angry detours, we could really make a difference. If we reacted to a poorly chosen word or phrase with a simple “what did you mean by that?” rather than a diatribe… If we inquired rather than assumed… If we actually treated each other with respect for the common concerns that brought us here… Yeah, we could make a difference. But the mutual respect is key.

    And Michael, the fact that you still chose to use the ‘vex the media’ phrase (taken out of context from one of my blogs here) after I’ve already responded to you twice explaining my objections….well, I guess that about sums up your respect for me.

    And, finally, back to topic. (Quick! Think! What WAS the original topic here?) Oh, yeah, my take on the discourse (and lack thereof) surrounding the new statement re: reparative therapy. Ooops! I can’t. Visions of tiny, out of context, snippets run through my head. Back to observer only status.

  19. Afterthought: Maybe if “the other side” expressed more openly and readily THEIR anger at homophobia, violence and hatred, I could express it less. As it stands now, it feels like the two leading “change organizations” have to be badgered into doing the right thing.

    For example, even though Alan Chambers has expressed his PERSONAL opposition to the mistreatment of gays — and is to be commended for that — neither group has strongly denounced Cameron, the man. EXODUS only recently disavowed his “research” — but neither group has yet denounced what Dr. Throckmorton refers to as Cameron’s “disturbing” and “abhorrent” ideology. NARTH still quotes Cameron in support of its mission — and EXODUS still remains strongly aligned with NARTH. This erodes ANY trust I might otherwise have in EXODUS.

    As of todays’s date, neither group has adopted and posted an OFFICIAL anti-hate. anti-bullying, anti-violence policy — and EXODUS has had more that THIRTY YEARS to do so. I believe Alan IS working towards this, but why the delay?. How long does it take to OFFICIALLY stand against hatred and violence? Why can’t this be done by the end of June?

  20. Michael,

    You said if there was such a thing it was well earned. That concerns me greatly. Do you endorse such behavior or not?

    To anyone who questions the truth about threats etc… please refer to Warren Throckmorton as he can verify info.

  21. Timothy asked: “Maybe not fair, Michael, but more effective. Wouldn’t you agree?”

    Honestly, Tim, I don’t know. Perhaps, I need to learn to be angry in a calm. cool and polite way. Take some lessons from Ghandi or something. In the face of all the anti-gay hatred, sometimes an angry “NO MORE!” seems to be the only thing I have left.

  22. Well said Michael. Mary, I think you need to understand what gay people have to endure on a daily basis from the religious right and ex-gay groups. The kind of talk Michael mentioned happens often, and gay people have to listen to people like Alan Chambers and James Dobson say that they don’t deserve the same rights that they enjoy – that they should be treated as second-class citizens – and then they wonder why some gay people are so angry!!!

  23. Do you think it’s fair to expect gays like me to play nice verbally when confronted with such anti-gay hatred?

    Maybe not fair, Michael, but more effective. Wouldn’t you agree? I think we all have to fight that urge to hit back… I know Mary has had to call me on it. Ultimately, though, it’s better to change than defend it.

    I have the additional problem of being a Sagatarius… a sign known for having no tact. So that’s my excuse. (However, being a Sag I’m also very skeptical about star signs) 😉

  24. Ivan –

    I apologize but that hasn’t been my experience. Being married and being ex-gay doesn’t make anyone holy. Most ex-gay people I know realize that they will probably spend most of their lives in a celibate way. Those who have an obsession with getting married are often taught to idolize marriage over celibacy as if it is a holier and better state – and it is not. In fact, marriage is often very difficult and provides many distractions to a relationship with God. NOT that marriages can’t be good and holy, it is just that they aren’t any better for people than celibacy – it depends a great deal on the person, and most ex-gay people, the evidence shows, will live celibate lives. That’s all I was saying

  25. Timothy,

    No, you probably haven’t heard of violence against reorientaion therapists’ because most are in the closet 😉

  26. Mary: As a Christian and the surivivor of a terrible anti-gay hate crime that nearly killed me and took my best friend’s life, I have never endorsed violence, vandailism or anything of the sort.

    The anger you feel is not directed at you personally. I apologize. I don’t think you are an evil person. It is a defensive, generalized anger toward those who use “ex-gay” language in a dishonest manner to “vex” the media and confuse the general public, towards those who insist that homosexuality is sick, sinful, and that gays will burn in Hell if they don’t “change”, towards NARHTian “experts” who suggest that gender variant kids should be “teased and ridiculed”, that slaves “had it better off”, that gays want to destroy the family and all of Western civilization, that we want to recruit or molest “their kids”, that we should be tatooed, quarantined, castrated, incarcerated, fired, evicted, exterminated — and toward any group that would stand silently by while others advocate such things.

    You expect me to remain calm in the face of all that ? It’s more than I can muster. It’s not just anger. I think it is righteous indigation. Do you think it’s fair to expect gays like me to play nice verbally when confronted with such anti-gay hatred? It’s the sissy finally standing up to the bully — and NO, I don’t think that’s you personally, Mary.

  27. “It is not right no matter who you are to threaten violence, vandalise, commit acts of violence against others with whom you do not share the same opinion.”

    I guess I’m not seeing the violence. And I read the anti-gay press which runs headlines for every instance of a gay person somewhere behaving badly.

    Are there incidences of violence against RT therapists about which I haven’t heard?

  28. Michael,

    You have projected alot of your anger and hostility onto me. But I am not your enemy. I have in no uncertain terms agreed with you on the rights of gays and the mistreatment of gays by other people. Remember, I was there. Now, can we move beyond that in this forum?

    That you call my comments a bit whiney, I will only say that I am speaking the truth. Some gays and gay activists have become so hostile and violent that they have stopped others from expressing their viewpoint. This keeps other si n their own closet.

    It is not right no matter who you are to threaten violence, vandalise, commit acts of violence against others with whom you do not share the same opinion.

  29. “Most people who don’t want to live gay and who believe the bible doesn’t permit homosexuality want to get married and don’t want to be celibate.”

    True. But if RT doesn’t work, you’re back at square one.

    Incidentally, if one isn’t attracted to the opposite sex, there is very little distinction between celibacy and marriage – except that in the later case one feels pressured to perform or feels guilty for denying their spouse.

  30. Jayhwak,


    I can’t even tell if you’re responding to my blog comment. What do you mean exactly?

    Most people who don’t want to live gay and who believe the bible doesn’t permit homosexuality want to get married and don’t want to be celibate. Many gay Christians and ex ex gays “whine”, using Michaels term, that you can’t possible live celibate — It’s too cruel. Many agree with that, but they don’t have any other options until new ones present themselves. I think the question still stands.

  31. This seems an all-to-frequent refrain:

    We would (a) provide proof that we can change sexual orientation, (b) have more “pro-change” therapists if only those nasty, hostile gays would let us. That sort of attitude strikes me, frankly, as a bit “whine-y”.

    It also irks me when the other side points out that many gays (like myself) react defensively when we are told that we are sick, sinful, “parasitic”, more likely to molest kids, trying to destroy the family, etc. Pro-change folks shake their heads and say: “Wow, those gays sure are mad…Must be something about being gay that upsets them…Maybe the idea that that can change upsets them…

    These myopic attitudes overlook the mistreatment of gays throughout history — as well as present-day “researchers” like Cameron who advocate ongoing mistreatment (and organizations like NARTH that endorse Cameron.) It’s kinda like a concertation camp guard remarkling — “Wow. Have you ever noticed how sad, upset and skinny these Jews are?”

  32. IVAN –

    In addition, even most gay and ex-gay people, in our out of RT are celibate anyway. That is what is so confusing about the claims of change by Exodus and other groups like them. When they say “change”, more often than not they simply mean celibacy

  33. IVAN –

    The solution to that problem is simply asking gay people to be celibate. The Church has been asking gay people to do that for centuries, and some of our most holy and respected historical figures have been celibate. Even Paul seemed to suggest that celibacy was a better state than marriage if one can handle it.

  34. Dr. Throckmorton,

    Can you elaborate on this point you made. What did you mean?

    “people who want to change want to do this because they believe changing their impulses is the only way to be in alignment with their faith. While I personally do not agree with this stance, I can only provide perspectives.”

  35. I believe that is true presently, but if you open the door so that clients are led to believe the attempt to change is a viable option, it is my belief that you will see people wanting to change for all sorts of reasons – the main one, in my book, being the fact that being gay in our society is much more difficult than being straight – or at least “ex-gay”.

    What would you say to someone who came to you and claimed they wanted to change to be more in line with their values but discovered that they were really just tired with the way society treats homosexuals?

  36. If there isn’t any empirical support, shouldn’t the resolution also oppose GAT in the same way it opposes RT, to be fair? Shouldn’t whatever is applied to RT also be applied to GAT in all resolutions on approaches to sexual identity conflict? Isn’t there a major double standard?

    That said, don’t those who oppose RT “because it hasn’t proven to be effective” realize that there are people genuinely conflicted who will never see the Bible as permissive of homosexuality, and who don’t want to be celibate, or can’t be? I’ve often wondered why they never offer a solution. Do they care about those people, or is it only about opposing RT because it challenges assumptions people have about homosexuality, and the people who are left without a solution (assuming RT is completely in effective), well… who cares about them. I sometimes wonder, is there genuine care about harm from RT? I don’t know. If there was, I don’t think they’d only be challenging it. They’d offer better or different solutions.

    Look at it this way:

    FACT: RT doesn’t work

    FACT: Some people with sexual identity issues will never accept or understand the Bible to permit homosexuality. Some may disagree, but surely, they can at least understand that some people don’t see it their way.

    I haven’t yet seen those opposed to RT offering a genuine solution to the above, or at least proposing or trying, or proposing to try to find a solution.

  37. MFT = Marriage and family therapist often affiliated with the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists;

    MSW = Masters of social work often affiliated with the National Association of Social Workers

    LPC – Licensed Professional Counselors often affiliated with the American Counseling Association, or one its divisions.

  38. Jayhawk said:

    This is of course a hypothetical scenario, but what if a black person went to a doctor and asked to be white, would we indiscriminantly give him the means to do this?

    This is indeed a hypothetical and one I am not sure how I would address. I have never had the experience. I do not think these are analogous situations however. This is where we may disagree. Sexual behavior is normed by the belief system of most people who come to me in distress. They want to find ways to better live by their faith. If I can help them do that, why wouldn’t I? The only reason I can think of is that I would be so totally uncomfortable with their belief system that I could not possibly work within it.

    In my opinion, people who want to change want to do this because they believe changing their impulses is the only way to be in alignment with their faith. While I personally do not agree with this stance, I can only provide perspectives. Clients chose their values and beliefs.

  39. I’m not sure I understand the big deal with these resolutions. People who are so conservative that they feel the need to change their orientation almost always seem to find a way to do that, regardless of the position of the mainstream organization. So what is the real issue here?

  40. I am deeply saddened to hear that you have ben impacted personally, Warren. That is unfair. But my point is that the hostility against the change movement has been earned, in part. It is sad that a moderate, compassionate and professional man like yourself is targeted. It is equally upsetting that gays have been targeted for abuse for centuries and that it still is like pulling teeth to get the change movement to call for an end to that abuse.

  41. Warren – when you get a few minutes, would you mind answering my previous question! I know you’re busy. Thanks.

    BTW, what are all these acronyms: MFT, etc….?

  42. Ivan – Last I looked into this, no. But one must ask, effective for what? If the answer is reducing sexual identity conflict or religious conflict, then I do not know of any.

    I am going to do a quick search later this morning and will note anything I find.

  43. Michael,

    Sadly, I can’t support this, for obvious reasons… But anyhow, I was in touch recently with someone who was writing a paper on sexual reorientation at a MAJOR American university, (ranked in the top 25 in USA in most of their departments) where several of its professors helped with this students paper, relating their own successful experiences of with clients of reorientation therapy.

    This student knew who I was, but couldn’t/wouldn’t give me the professors names fear of backlash. I was shocked to find out such psychologists’ exist in a secular and very prominent American university, but that’s about the time when I really wondered how many more are “in the closet”.

  44. I have been attacked professionally for my stances. I lost a consulting position with the largest behavioral health care company in the world due, in part, to misunderstandings about my views. Then when I was reinstated to the position, I was attacked, as was Magellan.

    In my profession, I am maligned on professional listservs in ways that would land others in front of ethics boards if it was done for other reasons. I have been accused of “ethnic cleansing” in professional circles with no apologies and no call for same. I felt personally threatened and intimidated at the National Education Association convention several years ago. Make no mistake there is hostility and I understand therapists who do not want the hassle.

    Michael – MFTs are the most tolerant bunch, along with perhaps my group the American Mental Health Counselors Association. So you may not see this in your professional circles. However, the NASW and ACA are places where it is hazardous to one’s career to take even my moderate, client-centered stance.

  45. Mary: My point is that is has “ALWAYS been OKAY to refer people to a variety of choices.” Referring clients to therapists more in line with their personal faith has NEVER been prohibited and has NEVER been grounds for revocation of one’s license — or any sort of official disciplinary action of ANY kind. Therapists have every right to follow their conscience. You say that skillful, compassionate, honest, non-NARTH/non-EXODUS therapists are out there, but too just too scared to come out.

    If “pro-change” therapists have received threats, that is certainly unacceptable. You have made these claims before. Could you provide any documented instances where this has occurred — to back up your suggestion that there are MANY pro-change therapists — but most of them are too scared to say so?

    As for Eddy’s comment about the “crowd” being “hostile” — what do you expect? Applause? Perhaps the crowd is hostile because it has been routinely (1) lied to, (2) manipulated with sneaky language and “over-promises”, (3) threatened that they would burn in Hell if they didn’t change, (4) told they were “sick”, (5) have been threatened with having someone else’s morality legally imposed upon them, etc.

    Perhaps the crowd is hostile because it takes almost a year to issue a simple anti-hate/anti-violence statement. NARTH STILL uses a hate-monger like Cameron in support of its “change” therapy and EXODUS remains closely tied to NARTH. Do you think this instills confidence?

    If the change movement really cleaned up their act, my hostility would lessen considerably. Until that happens, it’s unreasonable to expect approval and support for the movement.

  46. Dr. Throckmorton,

    Help me out on this one: Is there “good scientific evidence” that GAT is effective?

  47. Mary,

    I visit this site regularly and read most commentary in anyway related to ‘ex-gay’. After reading a number of your comments, I HAD to come out of hibernation long enough to verbally applaud you. Your main point of concern is one that I also share and you’ve demonstrated more patience in trying to communicate it to this (mostly) hostile crowd. (I think you’ll know the particular thread I’m referring to…)

    I toyed with writing more but have so far been interrupted by 3 phone calls. I’m taking that as a sign that I’ve said enough. Know that I’m out here appreciating you even if I don’t chime in!

  48. I am grateful today that I do not have to give up my faith in the teachings of the church I belong to in order to find some peace around my same-sex attraction.

    ME TOO

    And I am grateful that in every major metropolitan area in the country (and some pretty small ones too) there are churches that preach Christ’s extravagant welcome to all and joyously welcome their gay brothers and sisters into the fold without any insistance on changing orientation or living a life devoid of that special person who makes life complete.

    I believe there are many out there who have been silently struggling to maintain their faith in a loving God even though they may struggle with there sexuality.

    Yes, I believe this to be true. But thanks be to a gracious God, more and more churches and leaders are beginning to question the old assumptions and beginning to revisit scripture to find that God has all along been there with a message of reconciliation. Just as God brought a fresh wind of equality on the old “Bible-based” notions about race and gender, the Holy Spirit is sweeping the nation with a fresh understanding on orientation. I predict that within 25 years there will be very few protestant churches that still preach the old paradigm.

    But, of course, we live today. And each of us has to search our conscience to find God’s direction for how we should live. And those who seek celibacy while holding out hope for change certainly should not be criticized for living according to their convictions.

  49. I have some of the same concerns as Jayhawk. As long as I can remember, the authors at XGW have maintained the right of someone to attempt to change as long as they are given accurate information on just how unlikely that is and what it may involve, what change really means, etc. Basically, that we slice through the propaganda and make sure they understand reality. I mean, you used to have Exodus claiming 70% success rate, and even now Mike Haley of FOTF says everyone can do it. This is just form outer space somewhere.

    But I must confess that I find myself in an ethical dilemma at times wondering if we should be doing more to dissuade that course of action. It’s not because we have been attacked by some of the extremes over our stance (we have), but just because I know that I could never recommend such a course to anyone I care about in good conscience, so there is a feeling of hypocrisy when we don’t say more against even trying.

  50. I just felt the need to clarify my last post. What I meant to say is that currently, gay people do not get to enjoy the same rights as straight people do, and they are persecuted for their differences. This mere fact might cause some to seek change. What do you do about people who want to change simply because they do not want to be discriminated against? This is where the African-American-wanting-to-be-white scenario came from.

  51. Mary and Warren – this is where I have a problem. Given the opportunity the vast majority of gay people said in a Time article that they would not seek that change. But there are many people out there who want to change simply because they are different and they don’t want to see themselves as different. There is an ethical dilemma in this for me.

    Do we make a person’s reason for seeking therapy a point of concern? If you offered any of a number of other minorities the possibility to become “white”, I’m betting many would choose that. Currently the odds are stacked against gay people – most can’t have their marriages recognized in the eyes of the law, most can’t express their feelings out in the open for fear of persecution, every day I read of stories where someone was verbally or physically abused for being gay. Are you saying it is ok for someone to seek therapy regardless of the reason? This is of course a hypothetical scenario, but what if a black person went to a doctor and asked to be white, would we indiscriminantly give him the means to do this?

  52. Mary,

    I could not agree with you more. I was very angry this morning because I was reflecting on the years of time I wasted listening to the voices saying there was no way of changing these feelings. What I realize now is that I cannot change my attraction, but by surrendering my will to change and learning to trust others who are supportive of me as a human being, I have learned how much change is possible. I am grateful today that I do not have to give up my faith in the teachings of the church I belong to in order to find some peace around my same-sex attraction. In fact I have found far more support from some in my church now that I can share with them my struggle. I do not expect them to condone what I have done in the past though and I would never attempt to force this on them.

    Thanks for your comments. There is definitely another way of looking at this issue and I believe there are many out there who have been silently struggling to maintain their faith in a loving God even though they may struggle with there sexuality. I hope they find this support in a loving and compassionate church, they are out there.

    Michael, I did not say the evidence is for sexual orientation I was only referring to the brain and many other behavior traits that were once thought to be hard-wired and are now being shown to demonstrate much plasticity. So don’t put words in my mouth either. I just have not closed my mind the idea that change is possible. In addition, I have had to avoid a great deal of “help” because of the blatant left-wing ideology that many “therapist” have. I too am thankful that Dr. Throckmorton offers a balance that I think is extremely helpful when discussing this issue. I only hope that others pick up on the need for this kind of balance in this debate.

  53. It sure would have saved my years of wandering around in the idea that once your gay you must stay that way.

    If you tell me you dropped a brick and it fell to the earth, I will probably believe you. If you tell me it floated up to the sky, I will be asking for a bit of proof. Your comments about your life have been rather inconsistent at XGW, and when pressed you claimed privacy and possible threats against your “family.” I don’t think it is reasonable that you keep making that statement as though there was no challenge.

  54. That’s the whole point Michael, – if it is OKAY to refer people to a variety of choices without exclusion then more MFT’s and LCSW’s might be willing to come forward with the help. If you are excluded from anything except referring people to gay affirming therapist then no one comes forward.

    As you say – who would you refer someone to – you don’t know because many are afriad of retaliation, discrimination, threats to family, etc… and many just don’t speak up anymore. Maybe now they can. It sure would have saved my years of wandering around in the idea that once your gay you must stay that way.

  55. Given that the AAPA began with an exclusive resolution and arrived here, my read of the situation is that they did not act to oppose all approaches, just those which are coercive and based in a pathology-view of homosexuality. If not, there would have been no need to change the original language.

  56. Sorry, Warren, but at times I do pick up a a tone of frustration in your comments — that that APA and other organizations aren’t more supportive of “change ministries” and therapies. I do respect where you personally stand on these issues. I think you are fair and compassionate. I am sorry if I offended you.

    Mary accuses me of putting words in her mouth. She was complaining that people couldn’t get (legit) help — and it seemed to me that she believed that therapists were somehow officially PREVENTED from giving alternative referrals — or that they needed the APA’s permission or something. They never have needed such approval — and they don’t now. As far as I know, it has NEVER been unethical to refer a patient to someone more closely alligned with the client’s values. As a therapist, I do it with some frequency.

    I am glad that Mary is happy. I am not saying that people have not found “change”. I do believe that people can and DO make BIG changes in their lives. What I DON’T believe is that 100% gays become 100% straight — that’s all. I have no — repeat NO — objection to people living in accordance with their valuies. I do not believe that everyone must agree with me to be happy or that my negative experiences are universal.

    I suspect that Mary was “always referred to some gay affirming resource” because therapists simply didn’t know of any good alternatives. As for me, the two main reources (EXODUS and NARTH) are out of the question because of their blatant right-wing political agenda, their being less than honest about what “change” means and/or affiliations with hate-mongers like Cameron.

    Even if I believed that gays COULD become straight, even if I was “change-affirming” — where would I refer clients? Warren is the only person I know that I could refer to with any sort of preofessional confidence. And as for ANON2, where is this good scientific evidence that sexual orientation can change from gay to straight? I am completely open to reading it if someone can supply it.

  57. Michael – I am surprised by your response. I have been very clear where I stand on these matters. I want freedom for clients to pursue their values. The original statement would have made very difficult for practitioners to refer patients to therapists who could help them modify anything about their sexual behavior or identity.

    And how many times do we have to go over this: there is no definitive science on change (how much, how often, for whom) secondary to therapy.

  58. It seems to me that what both Mary and Warren want is the APA stamp of approval for their belief that therapists can and/or should try to change a person’s sexual orientation, if that’s what the client wants. Without good scientific evidence, you’ll never get that.

    On this I must agree. One should not expect this anymore than one should expect scientific support for an exorcism. If a person finds their sexual orientation incongruent with their beliefs, then that is a real problem, in as much as any matter of faith can be a problem for the one confused. The professional medical community should not be required to embrace a “solution” which involves trying to change one’s orientation. That is neither science nor therapy.

    We just posted what was reported, without the spin.

  59. Michael,

    That scientific evidence is available it is just that many at this time are unwilling to look at it with an open mind because we are still stuck in a an old paradigm that say the brain is hard-wired early and is unchangable. Thank God that is beginning to be studied more closely.

  60. I’m curious about a word choice between that which was reported previously and this clarification. It may well change the meaning entirely. The word “that” was replace with “which”.

    Let me give you an example of how that can change meaning:

    Don’t eat pie that is fattening


    Don’t eat pie, which is fattening

    The first sentence allows for the eating of non-fattening pie should it be found. The second defines all pie as fattening and gives an absolute prohibition.

    So to did the wording of the resolution change from

    The AAPA opposes, the use of … therapy that is based upon the assumption…


    The AAPA opposes psychiatric treatment specifically directed at sexual orientation, …, which is based upon the assumption…

    Perhaps I’m reading far too much into a word change. However, gramatically the above statement states that the AAPA opposes ALL therapy directed at changing sexual orientation as it is all based on either the notion that homosexuality is a disorder or on the notion that it should be changed.

  61. And besides that, show me one method of clinical approach that ALWAYS works for one type of behavior. JUST one that ALWAYS works.

    You can’t.

  62. Michael,

    Wow! You sure have read alot into what I said. Before, when I brought up the issue of discussing my sexuality with someone – I was always referred to some gay affriming resource – not what I wanted. Everyone, it seems, is so scared of political retribution or career suicide if they even hint at the idea that someone would not want to be gay and that that is okay. And at the time I wasn’t even religious!

    In the future, please don’t put words into my mouth. I sincerely mean that. Your comment borders on picking a fight.

    I know we see different sides of this issue. But your expereince is not the only experience out there. Niether is the experience of those who have gone to religious centers or untrained people. Yes, and a few have gone to NARTH without much change. But those are NOT, I repeat NOT the only experience out there and that should be publicised and expressed along with all the other varying experiences.

    I have gone through an INCREDIBLE amount of change, understanding, new self satisfaction, and peace since having been given the opportunity to freely express myself in therapy without someone trying to push me one way or the other.

    And so having APA give the permission for those at the first line of health care contact to supply resources of varying opinions and not just one side is a welcome relief – WOW! I could have saved years of isolation had I NOT believed the gay community that there are only religious’ out there who actually approach this issue. I HAD NO IDEA that real MFT’s, LCSW’s and others in the mental health care industry work with sexuality issues without forcing gay affirmations.

  63. WHAT? With all due respect, that’s just silly. As far as I know, MFT’s and LCSW’s have always been able to “offer resources” and give “help”. There’s no law against that. You can’t lose your license for “helping”. You can certainly help clients make lifestyle changes, resolve family problems, overcome addictions, explore their values, etc.

    This has always been allowed. It seems to me that what both Mary and Warren want is the APA stamp of approval for their belief that therapists can and/or should try to change a person’s sexual orientation, if that’s what the client wants. Without good scientific evidence, you’ll never get that.

  64. I am glad to see this. Hopefully, more MFT’s, LCSW’s etc.. will be able to offer resources (legitimate) that will help people. Until recently (within the last 5 years), I never even knew that a person could recieve help.

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