Yours truly is quoted in this article by Ed Fletcher on a Sacramento area Exodus ministry. Alan Chambers is also quoted as is Greg Herek. Chambers reflects on his experience:
Chambers said he grew up in the church, but as an adolescent discovered he was attracted to men. As a young adult he had relations with men. He said he found a church that would accept him and led him to the Exodus ministry.
He said for him temptation still exists, but he no longer wants to act on those feelings, has been happily and faithfully married for 11 years, and has two children.
“That is success for me. Not heterosexuality, so to speak,” Chambers said, “but a life that is congruent with my faith.”
Of course, the last sentence is music to my sexual-identity-therapy ears – at least coming from one (Mr. Chambers) who embraces Evangelical Christianity. I should take care to say that sexual identity therapy recognizes that the value direction of sexual identity work comes from the client. For Alan, given his core commitment to Christianity, this was the option that fit him best.
Others of course, do not find the same outcome.
Jacques Whitfield, a Sacramento attorney, said he tried for years to squelch his homosexual feelings and attended meetings with the group at Sunrise Community Church in Fair Oaks. Finally, he decided he couldn’t change.
“I was in the program because I wanted to do what is right. I wanted to preserve my family,” said Whitfield, who is the new board chairman of the Sacramento Gay and Lesbian Center. “And if this was a choice, I could choose not to be gay.”
Whitfield was married for 11 years and spent much of that time trying, with the help of the church, to resist his attraction to men.
“The people who run the program are well-meaning,” he said. “They love God and they want to do the right thing.”
“I don’t believe that sexual orientation is a choice,” Whitfield said. “I think you can abstain, but that doesn’t make you straight.”
The Mr. Fletcher brings in the professors.
Psychologists disagree that you can change sexual orientation.
“It’s maybe among the most controversial subjects you could bring up,” said Dr. Warren Throckmorton, an associate professor of psychology at Grove City College in Pennsylvania.
While some studies suggest people have happily changed, others chronicle harmful psychological effects of trying to change sexual orientation.
Throckmorton, who blogs about sexual identity at wthrockmorton. com, said he allows clients to set their own course. Throckmorton said research that relies on self-reported data isn’t conclusive.
Some people will report changing their sexual orientation through some form of counseling or therapy, but that doesn’t mean it actually worked or that trying it is worth the effort, said Gregory Herek, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis.
“Being gay is a perfectly normal sexual orientation,” Herek said.
Reading the comments section of this article, I am re-instructed in the role of observer bias. Several commenters take Mr. Fletcher to task for being too hard on religion, and then in the same thread, several others say he is too easy on archaic religious views.
86 thoughts on “Blog in the news: Sacramento Bee article on ex-gay programs”
Ed – Thanks for stopping by. I agree that we have a pretty good forum with informed, knowledgeable and passionate people.
RE your question with the brainscans. I think many children might not be able to understand their feelings or to make them fit into categories, so that’s why I thought a longitudinal study on GID children, following their development in time, might reveal more, given that the great majority of them grow up to be gay.
I third that on PainoMan.
I like the Piano Man. Play it.
I like the Piano Man and how he thinks too 🙂
I like the Piano Man. Play it.
I agree with you too Katie 🙂
Very interesting discussion. It may be that we are all so unique that each person’s causes and each person’s solutions are unique. If this is one of the most complex things about us, then I would expect that any attempts to change it or to deny it without it being changed would also be complex.
If I may express a few other points not specific to the discussion of research and samples, so hope I’m not going too far off track here: I do not equate natural as necessarily being good (some natural things may be, some natural things may not be). I do not equate the path of least resistance as necessarily being the best path (some paths may be, some may not be). I don’t view all suffering as evil (some may be, some may not be). I don’t view all things as relative, because my sense of justice regarding folks like Stalin and Hitler is inconsistent with all things being relative. I am but one follower of the One who said lose your life to find it, and deny yourself to follow Me; two things which at face value don’t make sense, at least at first. Even if I was abused, even if it was “only” emotional abuse, and because of my personality etc. I responded to it differently than someone else would, etc etc. I know One who empathizes and who suffered far worse, and for good reason. And I find that to be extremely comforting. Possibly even comforting enough to compensate for my having a question without an answer, because I know the One with the answer, and I choose to accept that as enough.
I wish the comments on the Bee’s website were are adult as the comments here about my story. Unfortunately, many commenters can’t stop the name calling long enough to have a discussion.
I agree with everything you just wrote — but again, you’re beginning with the gay population.
If you begin with the abused population, it seems to me to clear up something: That abuse which directly attacks one’s developing sexuality has often, though not in every case, has an effect on one’s developing sexuality.
And the reason this is important is because this population is being further injured by the political climate.
Just as people who are relatively content with their identification as gay are injured by the political climate — which, it seems to me, is becoming more sensitive to their cause.
Not so much for those who would like to be able to disintangle their feelings about being traumatized as children from their adult feelings. They’re pretty much told that they should accept that they’re gay and feel good about it, and if they don’t then they’re simply suffering from internalized homophobia.
And as far as gay men who were abused feeling that they were gay before their abuse, my guess would be that if they were abused before the age of between 7 and 9 that that assessment on their part is questionable at least.
It’s interesting to note that men are far more likely to evaluate their abuse as sexual initiation than women. Far more likely to evaluate it as pleasant at the time because they’re bodies responded as bodies do to stimulation. But women who experienced orgasims during abuse are still far more likely to report the abuse in negative terms, despite the physical reaction.
And lesbians are far less likely to claim that they already knew their sexual orientation before the abuse happened.
And both men and women find relief in realizing that they can better decide how they want to live their life as sexual/sensual beings once they address their abuse histories.
Researchers have been unsuccessful in gaining grants to study the effects of abuse on subsequent sexual development, which is one of the reasons that far less has been written about this than the never-ending search for the definitive bio-chemical cause of homosexuality.
And as far as heterosexuality: I’ve never felt simply born gay. I too clearly remember the questions, the looking-at-others as models, etc…. when I was younger.
At least for me, I don’t feel that my heterosexuality was relatively solidified until my late teens, early 20’s.
Can I prove it? Nope. But it’s certainly the way it feels to me.
If I could prove this about me, does that mean that others don’t have a greater, and earlier, bio-chemical driver? Nope.
Personally, a healthy sex life is important to me.
I have a tack???
I think we all know that sexual orientation – whatever that means – is developed through some combination of environmental and biological factors – this applies to heterosexuals and homosexuals alike. We don’t know what makes someone heterosexual anymore than we know what makes someone homosexual.
I was really just curious to know, of those gay people who were sexually abused, how many of them suffered this abuse after their orientation had already developed? I don’t know if anyone on here can answer this question because we don’t really know at what age orientation IS set – if it is at all. I’ve read about ages from very young to much older. And if we don’t know when SSA or OSA might be set into motion for an individual, it becomes difficult to say for certain whether any abuse actually caused a person to take on a sexual identity that did not match their orientation. There are theories that suggest that gay young people may suffer more sexual abuse than their heterosexual counterparts simply because of their isolation.
I’m curious about this subject, but the more I read the more I’m beginning to understand we really don’t know much about this, other than there are some gay people who were abused.
There’s a difference between saying that abuse leads to homosexuality, such that there’s a big effect when you get all the men who have ever questioned whether they’re homosexual or not, and saying that among abused men, there’s a high degree of impact upon sexual development.
For one thing — it seem apparent to me that there are those who probably have a bio-chemical pre-disposition….
And other who do not.
We know for sure that the majority of aristocratic men in Ancient Greece probably didn’t have a heavy bio-chemical predisposition. If, at times, 60% (a very conservative estimate when considering the height of the political demand for pederastry) of aristocratic men who had sex with other males were all grouped together, probably 3 to 10% could be argued had a bio-chemical predisposition. The rest? Just doing what the Ancient Greeks did.
Same with the Bonobos: There’s no indication that the Bonobos have a rampant gay gene (or feminizing hormonal washes, or anything else) whereas the Chimps don’t. Both groups are just doing what works socially/culturally best for them. And, sure, some Bonobos might have a bio-chemical predisposition, but ALL of them?
Same with Contemporary Bisexuality.
I’m socially liberal. Not socially conservative.
Think it’s very inline with my social liberalism to recognize that sexual abuse of children has an impact on them, and often right where the truck actually crashes — into the side of their sexuality.
And while you might have a sample of sexually abused men who have never questioned their sexual identity, this runs quite counter to my experience. When I first found out about Rob’s experiences as a child, I’ve spoken with a large, though certainly not scientifically valid, number of therapists — from all sorts of backgrounds and schools — and all of them see an extremely high correlation between sexual abuse and later sexual identity issues.
And again, all you or anyone else who is truly open and curious about the issue can log onto malesurvivor.org and see very quickly that the vast majority (not all) of men who have decided to deal with their history, have sexual identity issues.
I’ve spoken with several men who have never questioned their id as straight, and once you ask them why that is, the story gets a little more unsure. What they’ve done is worked hard at NOT questioning — they were smart enough and resilient enough to know that if they allowed themselves, they’d get stuck. But even so, yes, there was a frailty there, and a self-protectiveness.
Not simply an easy, taken- for-granted assurance of the type that could withstand being challenged.
Sort of like me — I knew if I ever went down the road of experimenting with drugs, I’d have a high probability of not being able to turn back because I had a hard enough time straight (no pun intended).
Anyway, if you’ve had experience with sexually abused men, my guess would be that 60 to 80% of those clients experienced some level of sexual identity confusion, only because I have yet to find any one therapist, or any group, or any source, who works sensitively with this population to say anything else.
Even those who feel as you do — that it can’t be the whole story — there has to be other factors — because not ALL sexually abused men suffer from sexuality issues…..
You’re right, not all do, but given the numbers, I doubt it’s going to come down to bio-chemical predispositions — except for about 3 to 10% of the guys.
This would definitely be interesting, however, many, many children show no signs of gender identy disorder and yet have the feelings of being attracted to their same gender – many times exclusively and at the exclusion of ever being attracted to the opposite gender throughout a lifetime. Since we have heard from a lot of adults that their same gender attractions began in early childhood, before they engaged in any actual sexual behavior/activity, wouldn’t it be beneficial to do random brain scans on children and then follow those findings to and perhaps adulthood?
Evan, no one should ever have hateful feelings toward oneself or others. Terribly unhealthy and unscriptural. It’s equally inappropriate to attach hatred to disagreement. This is a huge mistake made by gay-rights activists when reacting to Christians. It also has been a grievous error made by some Christians who cannot separate their condemnation of sin from condemnation of the individual sinning. They forget they are not without sin themselves.
I appreciate your understanding the need for some folks struggling with unwanted SSA to get help.
Yeah, I’ve seen people who never had sex (one religious man and one woman). They’re alive, alright, but they’re a bundle of nerves. 🙂
I know one guy who struggles with depression but is an atheist, just like his parents are and most people in his environment. So people can make, as Warren said, different attributions to the same problem they are going through.
As far as I can notice from my generation (born in the 80s) we are rapidly throwing away any hateful feelings towards ourselves or others and are aware of the choices we can make without living a lie. I guess we’re becoming wishy-washy in the eyes of God for not being hateful.
However, I appreciate that you are doing counselling with people who need support in their struggle with SSAs. It’s what I’ve always supported on this site and continue to do so, as long as that has nothing to do with imposing choices on those who are happy with the ones they’ve already made.
Evan, actually, those studies could prove the inverse: that same-sex feelings over time may cause observable brain anomalies.
Are you aware that some people see depression as a necessary part of life, and view it as a gift which leads to deeper faith? I view my 10-year struggle with major depression that way. I am far from alone in that view. I view my past struggle with SSA in the same way. A thorn in the flesh “to keep me from exalting myself.” God’s grace was sufficient … for Paul, and for us all.
You speak of sexual satisfaction as if it were a necessity, like breathing or eating. You are aware that people can live without sex, I presume. At any rate, gay people have the same rights as anyone else. Are there sex police on the roam, preventing them from having unnatural sex? Sodomy laws are history. Let them have their sexual jollies. Their rights end at redefining marriage, however. Just because it is hard to undo whatever led to their SSA, they want to rewrite the rules.
My bias is that of a Christian. I am called to be intolerant of sin. I am called to be clear and not “lukewarm” and wishy-washy. You must take up your dissatisfaction with God. It’s His message. Go on and tell Him He’s wrong. You are free to sit on your limb and saw it off the tree.
On the likelyhood that these differences are inborn or resulting from experiences you can check this thread, where we already discussed the issue to some extent. Check this comment to see my opinion.
What these studies prove is that there are some brain characteristics that, at least, make some more likely to have same-sex feelings. They do not prove that these areas cause them or that they are only inborn.
There’s a spectrum of symptoms for depression and different causes for them, but the result is dysfunction and pain, which is not the case for socially adjusted homosexuals. There is, arguably, a higher incidence of mental health problems among gays, which may be partly caused by discrimination and harassment, or may also come from a brain part involved in producing same-sex feelings and greater vulnerability to stress or to an aggressive environment. That does not prove that homosexuality has a disordered component, as you claim without bringing any argument. This is where your bias shows.
I think no one argued for special rights. It’s about giving the same rights for “straights” and “gays”. For instance, the right to marry should open a new possibility for gays to enter stable relationships that could lead to some degree of attachment. I think lack of attachment could be one cause for the forementioned higher incidence of mental health problems.
What about the men and women who do not share your beliefs? Do you think they must wait for other people’s agreement to have a sexual life or go through numberless therapies until they get the right for that? Some may have already done that without any change, so according to your view should they sacrifice their sexual life for your beliefs?
I agree, each must be left with his/her own conscience to make their choices and be offered help if they ask for it. There is no choice where force is applied.
Even, I don’t know what point you are making with the scans. You are saying the brains of homosexuals show differences. So? You could find many brain anomalies in all sorts of populations. Who knows which came first, the chicken or the egg? Is this supposed to be some kind of proof that homosexuality is inborn? What are you saying?
Thanks for the clarification.
Mary et al – I can see what has happened. Because I do not think sexual abuse is a major cause of SSA as a group, many have mistaken that I think it is not a source for certain individuals. If I said this somewhere please show me. I will retract it. Sexual abuse as a predictor of SSA for groups is different than abuse leading to identity confusion for individuals.
Ann (and Debbie if you are interested),
In the Savic study– the one with the brain asymmetry- most of them were 30ish. Just in case anyone has more questions, here’s the quote:
As far as I know, the subjects’ health status is checked in the process of selection, so it’s likely that any folks with a mental health history are not included.
Roughly the same applies to Bailey’s brainscan study.
It’d be very interesting to study teens who already identify their feelings as ‘exclusively homosexual’ but there would be some who would argue that it’s possible to be a passing phase. The best study could, IMO, follow children with Gender Identity Disorder from their diagnostic to adult orientation. However, this study would come with a high price tag.
I think it is easy to see there is disparity in reporting cases of sexual abuse. The definition of sexual abuse may be too tightly or loosely defined. If one looks at Hallman’s description of the next generation of lesbians we can see that many of the young women present with sexal abuse like symptoms but have never been touch. And as with most disucussions – men and women are different and react differently to situations.
Unlike Warren who thinks that sexual abuse is no big deal to those with SSA that have come from a sexually abusive past, I think sexual abuse (when mixed in with the right person) does cause a young woman or gilr to move in the direction of SSA. And it impedes the recovery from SSA if she chooses to move that way.
Do you know the ages of those who have received these brain scans? Are they adults who have already identified as homosexual and have had same gender sexual activity or are they of children who have not identified or had any sex but the scan shows a suseptibility?
Brain activity can only show changes; it cannot specify the source of such changes. What “proof” is in brain scans? Brain chemistry is known to be affected by stress and trauma. The emotions impact the immune system. Read some of Candace Pert’s neuropeptide studies.
Just look at depression and the difficulty in predicting or determining etiology. I have been saying for some time that there is an interesting similarity in the way the APA and the mental health establishment have medicalized depression (made it into a clinical disorder) and the way they have determined that homosexuality is a biological, inborn condition. The prognosis for recovery in both cases is grim in their view. The one requires longterm or lifelong medication while the other must be accepted as normal. The interesting difference is that depression is considered a disorder while homosexuality is not.
The psychodynamic set of theories,” as you call them, have identified some of the correct causes of homosexuality. I already cited studies that indicate CSA is twice as likely to be in the history of SSA people. I have nowhere said it always leads to SSA.
To answer your last two questions, I do not support special rights for homosexuals, regardless of where their SSA comes from. I support treating all people with dignity and I am opposed to discrimination in all forms. I do not believe in legitimizing sin and giving it favored status. It is enthroning man above God and worshiping the created instead of the creator. The degree to which SSA is a reversible condition depends on a number of factors. The motivation for change is being systematically reduced by the increased acceptance of homosexuality as normal. We’ve made a big, fat pillow for gays to fall into. Why change? Black is white. Bad is good. Sin is nonexistent.
Remember, having compassion for homosexuals and speaking the truth about their spiritual state are two different things. Do you lie to someone you love? I don’t. In this case, it is the same as condemning them. Man does not have the right to sin. We have the freedom to do so, at the risk of our own peril.
We have seen some clear differences in brainscanning studies which apparently make people in a certain interval of variation more likely to have an adult homosexual orientation. This is the kind of proof that the psychodynamic perspective must produce in order to be taken more seriously: how do abuse/family dynamics lead to less hemispheric asymmetry in the brain of homosexually identified people and how do they make a man get sexually aroused when viewing images of men but not women?
I have a number of questions for you.
If the psychodynamic set of theories have identified the correct factors that lead to homosexuality, then why are there homosexuals who were not abused? Did they make a choice for a particular reason and what would that be? Are they lying and hiding their sexual past? Is there nothing biological that would underlie their sexuality or did they simply acquire it by learning?
Finally, even if a homosexual orientation was caused by family dynamics would that make gays’ claims to rights illegitimate? If sexual orientation was caused by family dynamics or by abuse, that doesn’t mean that it’s reversible. You would have to prove that too.
It really doesn’t take a rocket scientist to imagine where having gay fantasies might lead one in regard to sexual identity development.
If a little boy laying down during quiet time at nursery school is approached by a male assistant teacher and this leads to touching of his gentials that feels good -that leads to confusion – it feels good but the little boy knows it is something that he shouldn’t let happen – this is an initiation to sex – add that the mix that he is told not to tell anyone and it can lead to lots of things that otherwise never would have happened. It isn’t until much later in life that this can, if ever, be sorted out.
There is another point to be made in this discussion, and that is the evolution of what was earlier accepted as a clear correlation, with studies to confirm it, into a muddied one in recent years. I am not a psychologist, but as a journalist, I do understand media manipulation as a PR weapon to shore up a cultural bias. I think we need to consider the degree to which concerns among gay rights activists over the Catholic Church abuse scandal leading people to believe that a high percentage of homosexual men are pedophiles (or vice versa) has inspired a PR campaign to delink child sexual abuse and homosexuality in all forms.
Just as the media and mental health guild organizations cooperated in normalizing homosexuality and making it appear to be mostly biologically rooted and immutable, they are also sowing seeds of doubt on the positive correlation between childhood sexual abuse and homosexual confusion later in life. In fact, they have debunked all environmental factors related to SSA. Further, they have contributed to linking all constructionist views of homosexual development with social — particularly evangelical — conservatism. Warren’s statement about social conservatives and their “divinely inspired” beliefs shows the extent to which he subscribes to this view.
Look at the degree of hatred for all things Exodus by the “enlightened” elitists. That says a lot.
“Psychodynamic Perspectives on Abuse: The Cost of Fear”
by Una McCluskey and Carol-Ann Hooper (2001) is another book that looks at the relationship between CSA and sexual identity confusion. These authors maintain that even when abuse victims (males, in this case) do not identify as homosexual, there is still a considerable amount of sexual identity confusion they must work through.
Another factor to consider is that there may be a high degree of reporting bias (denying sexual abuse or seeing it as an initiation rite rather than abuse) in those “representative” samples of gays that seem to show differing degrees of linkage with SSA and CSA than those in the “clinical” sample.
One thing we can and should agree on is that few notions are certain when studying so complex an issue, especially where self-reporting and memories are involved.
Sure, I see your point and it is clear that self-attributions are shaped by experience but what is also clear is that different people react differently to the same events. In 30 years of clinical work, I have seen clients who had no sexual identity issues after a history like you describe. They had other problems but sexual confusion was not one of them. Their heterosexuality was never in question. The idiosyncratic reactions require other individual and contextual factors to play a role in addition to the abuse.
Having said that, I never denied that abuse increases the likelihood of a non-heterosexual set of preferences. I am saying that abuse defined as at least one adult-child sexual contact has only a modest association with adult sexual orientation, on average. I am speaking about predictor variables for an entire group, not for individual people. If we are talking about gays as a group, the best studies show that more were abused than straights but not to the degree that we would say most homosexuality derives from abuse. Convenience samples find higher or lower levels depending on the sample. It seems obvious to me that people seeking help because they are unhappy are more likely to report lots of childhood problems. However, it does not follow that those factors caused their sexual attractions.
RE: bias. Sure, I have my biases. However, in this arena, it is hard to make a case that I am biased against the view that sexual abuse/neglect is causal in sexual attractions. I honestly don’t care what the causal factors are. If the data show something about cause whether pre or post-natal, then I will re-evaluate my views. In fact, my views have changed over the years, especially on the change of attractions matter, because of the clinical and research data. What I find is that social conservatives who believe in environmental factors like they were divinely inspired are the ones who refuse to consider new research.
To sum up, on an individual level, abuse is of course a potential shaping factor. Speaking of groups, one must specify the group. Groups of abused people have more problems and confusions. Groups of gays have somewhat more abused people, but not to the degree that you could predict a history of abuse with precision just by knowing someone’s sexual attractions.
Your tack is a bit like taking the entire Spider Monkey population, weeding out the ones with behavioral/social/sexual differences, then trying to figure out why they all have the differences.
Which is fine, interesting question, interesting study.
But it’s not the same study as taking the Monkeys with known traumatic backgrounds, and observing the outcome.
And the outcome is pretty well known, thanks to repeated studies which have been duplicated in a variety of labs.
Even fruit flys, in which a “gay” gene has been identified (and humans don’t have), can be induced into “gay” behavior through environmental factors when the gene is controlled for. No gene — yet homosexual mating behavior. Which, because it’s induced by stressful environmental factors, might better be described as non-selective mating behavior.
If a different political regime, as seen in Ancient Greece can promote homosexual behavior, it would seem logical that early and traumatic sexual experiences would also have an impact on one’s sexual development.
I’ve noticed that people who downplay the role of environmental factors are very reluctant to address Ancient Greece — or contemporary Mexican Bisexuality.
Or the Bonobos.
How ’bout you?
And again, if people would step back, it would seem intuitive to most that if a 6 year old was raped repeatedly, that that experience would have an impact on him — memories, memories charged with a great deal of emotions, etc…. What are memories? Visual and bodily happenings….. which can look a whole heck of a lot like fantasies — sexual fantasies…..
It really doesn’t take a rocket scientist to imagine where having gay fantasies might lead one in regard to sexual identity development.
Again, you’re addressing the self-report studies of gay id’d people who are asked if they suffered sexual abuse when young.
I’m not addressing these studies.
I’m addressing the studies involving people who already admit they were sexually abused as children.
This is important for a variety of reasons, two of them being: 1) Many people do not report that they were sexually abused until quite late in life, especially men because of the stigma, guilt, shame, etc….. and, 2) a man who id’s as gay and was abused by a male is likely to interpret the abuse as sexual initiation, not abuse. Until, that is, he’s ready to do so.
Ooops – that is not entirely true. I have heard some reliable sources state that GBLT people tend to report higher rates of sexual abuse, but for some anyway, that abuse happens after they have already identified as gay, or after they realized that they had SSA. So if it is true that the rates of child/young adult sexual abuse are higher in the Lesbian and Gay community, the next question I would ask would be, which came first.
And none I’m sure that sexual abuse can and probably does mess with a person’s sexual identity.
I have seen no solid poof that sexual abuse is higher in those with SSA – In fact, I think Warren has countered that misconception several times here.
While sexual abuse does not have a one to one ration for predicting SSA it is higher in those with SSA.
You are right. Sexual abuse is far more a part of this than some on this site are willing to accept. It does not mean it always leads to SSA, but it does lead to much confusion for those who experience it. This is an issue that is only now being recognized as a serious problem in our society. So what if the psychology organizations have been slow to admit it. It is still a big problem for many men, whether they are gay or not. You are right there are men who begin to see themselves quite differently once they begin to deal with what had happened to them as young people. It is so sad that there are still those who would deny this to be a part of sexual identity development simply to forward there own agenda.
In “How Sexual Identity Therapy Begins” — available in your sidebar to the right of your home page, the man you’re doing therapy with mentions he was sexually abused. At least in this snippet, you emphasize other things.
It seems to me, that his sexual abuse history is pretty central, only because it is for most men who experienced sexual abuse.
It doesn’t directly address the issue here to wonder about how many straight people were sexually abused.
Get to the abused population — and see the overwhelming number of, especially men, who struggle for years with questioning their sexual identity.
Again, it’s such a big issue, that it’s nearly taken for granted that a male who was sexually abused will have some level of questioning his sexual identity.
And again, I don’t really care about the Exodus, etc…. studies, they’re really addressing a different population.
I’ve been involved with 3 groups over the course of nearly 4 years, and estimate having seen approximately 400 men come through the groups — most have issues surrounding their sexual identity.
Including men who have led a gay lifestyle for years, begin addressing their sexual abuse histories, and end up questioning if they’re really gay. Some decide they’re not gay, yet are in long-term relationships with men, and so end up working out a mixed orientation relationship with their male partners — the mirror image of the reverse that has recently received media attention.
The sexual abuse of boys hasn’t really been taken seriously broadly speaking — as witnessed by the series of females who have had their wrist slapped for having sex with underaged boys — and the effect on sexual development certainly hasn’t.
Again, I think it’s important to go to the studies done with men who were sexually abused. There, the prediction that there will be sexual identity issues seems VERY high.
Yes, perhaps “only” in behavior — but again, most have sexual identity issues, as one would if one were seeking out women, yet obsessed over gay sex.
I’m not sure if most people looking at homosexuality are attempting to make a distinction between orientation, confusion, etc…. Seems to me that it’s all pretty mixed up.
A guy might id as gay because sexually he’s gay — even if he has daydreams that counter his masturbatory fantasies. Etc….
And it doesn’t seem to me that people are taking very seriously things like this, in part, because most people have a confusing definition of “orientation” to begin with — usually one that attempts a pretty mechanistic account — and yet never quite abandons a developmental one.
At any rate, you say the effect of abuse is low — I’d say it’s very high. The groups I’m involved with, the men who do NOT experience identity issues is in a small minority.
I bothered to raise a question I think is legitimate. I concede I have a bias, but so do you. Know anybody who doesn’t? I am not doing studies or writing therapy frameworks, however.
Janelle Hallman reports in her book, “The Heart of Female Same-Sex Attraction,” this: “Several studies have shown that the prevalence rates of CSA (childhood sexual abuse) are higher among lesbian populations (30-56%) when compared with women in the general population (15-32%). Lechner, Krieger, Vogel, Garcia-Shelton, Leichter and Steibel (1993), and Wise, Zierler, Krieger and Harlow (2001) discovered that women with CSA are more likely to have adult homosexual experiences than women without CSA.” (p. 83)
Does this count, Warren? These are real people with real studies (not with Exodus) who found a real correlation. That’s what you said you wanted.
Hallman also says, “Many of my clients have openly admitted to knowing they prefer women to men because they have had their fill of ‘male slobbering sexuality'” (p. 84). She said this in the context of these women having been exposed to overtly sexual situations in the home (from brothers or fathers) growing up. She prefaced that statement with: “Perhaps because of their deep sensitivity and insecure gender identity, even a single violation often clenched their self hatred as a girl and secured their conviction that all boys (and men) are ‘pigs’.”
Thank you, Janelle.
Here is the link.
What is interesting is how social expectations are not static over time.
Watch Janelle Hallman’s recent lecture on the Narth site. While she concedes that sexual abuse does not cause SSA she does have some interesting experiences in counseling women.
Since your mind is made up, why did you bother?
Your confirmation bias is intact, I will not be able to offer you anything.
I agree with Warren here that the sampling is flawed, but I’m curious to know about studies done on the number of straight people who have suffered abuse in THEIR childhood.
Warren, I understand representative samples in polling. I still believe you too easily dismiss the significance of Anne’s survey or poll. The “clinical” sample only suggests these are gays seeking help, not that they are in a population that one would expect to have had vastly different experiences in life. They are seeking help. They are likely Christians. That’s the difference. So what? They, too, may have voted of a mind in an election, but the NASCAR folks you cite had to grow up the same as folks across the spectrum. Your point means nothing. It’s another red herring. Why should Anne’s sample be any less or any more likely to have experienced sexual abuse? What makes them atypical in that regard?
You and I both know that “basic research” still leads to differing scientific opinions about that research. There’s not an area being studied in which colleagues don’t have strong disagreements over interpreting the data. Genuflect to science and data gathering, if you must, but realize the limitations.
Is there no one who can tell me why Anne Paulk’s findings (I have not seriously looked for others, but I will) are not to be taken as significant, and not just for Exodus? It’s a given that, if you took your polling sample in an urban ghetto, you’d see a higher percentage of certain problems. “Representative” samplings are merely an attempt to level the field. Sexual abuse is what levels the field in this case. I could take my sample in a church, a school or a corporation, pretty much anywhere, and I should expect to see similar numbers of childhood sexual abuse victims. Your representative sample study does exactly what — measures happy gays against unhappy gays? To what merit? We are looking for a correlation between sexual abuse and SSA. Whether or not folks are seeking help has no value here.
Since I work in ministry for SSA people, the Paulk survey will be the one that counts for me. I also know from just applying common sense and seeing how it impacted my own life that childhood sexual abuse (most of it is perpetrated by men) is likely to cause a female to mistrust men or reject her own femininity. If I am weak (i.e., femininity equals weakness), I am vulnerable, many reason. I also know the correlation is high among the SSA women in my recovery group.
I did not say her survey was meaningless. I said the sample was skewed toward Exodus participants. In research terms this is a clinical sample since they are seeking help. Sampling means everything in research. Her study is a convenience sample of Exodus participants and can be considered that it could generalize to Exodus participants in general, but not all gays. Representative sampling is how pollsters can predict election results with so few people. If you only sampled folks at a NASCAR race, and tried to predict the election, it would not have turned out well.
See this tutorial on sampling: http://www.socialresearchmethods.net/tutorial/Mugo/tutorial.htm
So it has value to Exodus trying to figure out what types of competencies counselors and support leaders need but it has only suggestive value as a study of causal factors for SSA people in general.
This is not controversial stuff here. This is basic research 101.
Lynn David, look at the comment at Apr 4, 2009 at 5:10 pm above, the link is there to the study you are referring to.
Warren, you are still saying Anne Paulk’s survey (I have read her book twice) is meaningless, but only because her respondents may have been Exodus referrals. What disqualifies their responses? How does the fact that they may have been mostly Christians skew the probability that they were sexually abused as children? Are you saying sexual abuse happens more frequently in the Christian population? (They were not altar boys, remember. They were girls.) I need to know what it is about that demographic that makes Paulk’s survey (how else is such a study done?) less valid than any other. And I don’t need to see the other study to raise that question.
Uh…. well, I’m going to be vague here. But I remember that a recent study that Warren blogged on stated that homosexuality in women had no relationship with being abused. There was a minor – or as Warren put it – a moderate association of abuse with male homosexuals, but it far from being a predictor of homosexuality.
There was a person on here recently who also was associated with abused persons – mostly (or all?) men – and gave us a website which helped such persons. That website said that men who were abused were not more prone to be homosexual than the rest of the population.
But I cannot now provide you with those references so take them as you will.
I agree that sexual abuse is not a predictor – but nonetheless it is higher in women with SSA and so it must have some meaningful contribution.
Read Ann Paulk’s book. She found most of her participants from contacting Exodus related ministries. Prospective studies such as the one at the link I gave you find a modest association but primarily for behavior (Katie, if you are reading, I am guessing you would agree with that). The more representative the sample is of gays as a group, the less sexual abuse figures in the picture. I am not saying it is unimportant in individual cases, just that it has not been the predictor variable many think it is. I gave you a link to a study, please look at it, I believe I address the sampling as does the abstract. Laumann’s study is also representative and appears to have very little experimenter bias.
More broadly, your arguments seem to be to question mine arguments, not to produce any studies yourself. If you have studies that you think proves your contentions then offer them. Otherwise, you are simply saying you think something is the case and that is your reason.
It could be that those with sexual abuse in their past and a stronger faith system ( or something of the like) is connected with SSA. It may be that sexual abuse with just one other item is connected to the SSA. I think for women SSA and sexual abuse occur in higher rates together than women w/o SSA and sexual abuse.
Warren, why do you suppose the sexual abuse victims with SSA all flock to Exodus, then? Whatever could the reason be? I am not buying it. Why can’t we say the samples in the study you cite come from HRC? Now you sound like Wayne Besen, for Pete’s sake. You don’t really know where they come from, do you? What is the sample you cite “representative” of? How was it gathered? Are you saying there is no confirmation bias in that study or survey but there is in anything that passes through Exodus? Please explain.
Debbie – I will give this reference for now as I am short on time: https://www.wthrockmorton.com/2009/01/20/sexual-abuse-and-sexual-orientation-a-prospective-study/
The different results comes from sampling differences. Paulk’s survey was done with Exodus participants, a skewed sample. Probably many people who come to Exodus have similar backgrounds but this is not representative of SSA people as a group. The more representative the sampling and the better research designs the weaker the relationship.
How many are “many” (as in many with SSA who were not abused)? It seems to me there are more who were. Can we trust the research? Who did it? Why do so many surveys (Anne Paulk’s, for instance) show a high percentage of childhood sexual abuse in those with SSA, especially women? Please cite some studies that contradict this. Is there not a significant correlation?
We are willing to make huge cultural concessions for a tiny minority of people (homosexuals make up a scant 2-4 percent of the population, (according to Laumann, whom you have cited a number of times previously), yet we discount the much higher percentage of SSA people who have been sexually abused? Why?
We also are discounting the research that shows the high correlation between depression and female bisexuality/homosexuality. You have written about this yourself, Warren, referring to depression as the “new STD” among promiscuous teen girls. Are we ignorant of the degree of bisexual experimentation that goes on among teen girls?
The APA claims homosexuals are no more likely to suffer from mental disorders than heterosexuals. That, too, is baloney. The APA long ago sold out to liberal, pro-gay ideology. They also said pedophilia was not harmful to children. What a crock!
Katie – In which article did I gloss over it?
My position is that for individuals there are many factors and experiences that can play a shaping role. However, when one looks at the research on abuse and sexual orientation, one finds a modest relationship. Thus, for the people who have been abused, I suspect it does make a difference, but there are many SSA people who were not abused and many abused people who are not SSA, so it cannot be considered a necessary condition.
It seems to me there’s ample evidence that sexual abuse is heavily implicated in sexual/gender development.
I really respect your position, I really do.
But I also noticed in the little exchange with a man you were working with — available on your side bar thing on this site — that when the man mentioned he was sexually abused, it was starkly glossed over.
Being involved in with groups of men who were sexually abused, I know one of their big complaints is that they are having a very difficult time finding therapists to take seriously the extent to which they themselves feel that their sexual abuse as impacted their sexual development.
I would really like to see some thoughtful investigation into the studies that certainly seem to show a high correlation between sexual abuse and later difficulties with establishing a sexual identity.
I read it. It’s good that the recommendation for referral is made where a therapist’s own worldview would be inconsistent with a client’s desire, i.e., a Christian therapist being asked to be gay-affirming or a gay-affirming therapist being asked to help a Christian change his orientation/identity from SSA to something approaching heterosexuality. Presumably — though you haven’t said — you would refer a patient desiring to be gay-affirmed elsewhere.
There’s not much to argue with in the world of therapy. My main objection is with the over-reliance on therapeutic approaches and the lumping, as the guidelines say, of ministry approaches in with them when there is a world of difference.
My own past psychiatrist respected my Christian worldview, but he did not know how to help me with SSA. He helped me greatly with depression. But he made a bad referral to a gay-affirming therapist. He did recognize that the spiritual sphere needed to be added to the bio-psycho-social approach to therapy.
It is interesting to see Laumann referred to in the framework so often, especially in the context of being an essentialist, given his infamous declaration that homosexuality was self-limiting in many cases.
But you can narrowly address those factors in individuals that present with them, no? Like the little boy who knew he could help one starfish by throwing it back in the ocean. Why it is imperative that we find a broad therapeutic application (i.e., save all the starfish on the beach) for those with unwanted SSAs? There is no such thing.
How are we going to prevent those environmental factors from occurring when we are not God? We are pretty much limited to responding to them after the fact. It really doesn’t matter what we are responding to — genetic, environmental factors — does it? It’s the impact on people’s lives we are concerned about.
You never really answer my questions, Warren. You just go down another rabbit trail.
I will be happy to read the framework for SIT. I doubt it will change my impressions based on your comments about it.
I agree – as a Christian I find that sad
I agree – as a Christian I find that sad!
Understood…Fred Phelps is a walking “straw man”…my understanding is no one attends his church and yet he has become the “face” of the Christian view of homosexuality…somehow.
Perhaps, you should read the framework before you comment on it anymore. If you have read it, then proper argumentation would be to refer to the aspect of it directly that you object to without ad hominems.
As to the developmental factors, there are of course individual factors that impact sexual development. The best twin studies we have indicate that 60+% of the explanation for sexual orientation relates to individual events in the life of one twin (post and pre-natal), and not shared experiences they both share with 30ish % relating to genetics. The best way I can think of to describe it succinctly is to say that different factors operate differently for different people. So, the factors you mention occur in straight and gay people, but they do not occur more often in one group versus another group with a frequency that would allow anyone to say we can broadly address that environmental factor and prevent homosexuality. Also, some of these factors should be prevented if possible (family relationship issues, abuse, bullying, etc.) for other very good reasons that have nothing to do with sexual orientation.
So to answer one aspect that isn’t as clear in the framework (because it is a framework), is that we take individual situations in keeping with the research on the subject. If someone struggles with trauma, we certainly help them resolve it. However, we do not promise that their SSA will go away if only they resolve their trauma or become more secure in their masculinity/femininity or whatever they report. There may be a change in sexuality or there may not be; we do not know enough to know what the outcomes will be. If their sexuality modifies in some way, and that is a valued outcome, then so much the better for that person. However, we know with certainty that a person who seeks change can go through all kinds of therapy, support groups and discipleship and still be attracted to the same sex. Promising change of desire, implicitly or explicitly, goes beyond what we know to be true and sets a person up for intense feelings of failure and dispair. People should always be free and supported to alter their actions in line with their faith but complete and permanent inner-world change of desire appears to be elusive for the vast majority of people (although women may report various shifts throughout the lifespan).
Warren, I am not quite clear on what you are saying here. By “development,”do you mean earlier-in-life intervention? Do you mean etiology, examined later in life? I am presuming the latter.
If you would not know what to do, then how do you approach help for someone seeking sexual identity therapy who is Christian and believes same-sex attraction is inconsistent with his faith? What if reliable environmental factors come up during therapy? And what if this person actually progresses toward another identity? Would that be a demonstrable difference? Are you saying this never happens in your experience?
I wonder if your version of sexual identity therapy isn’t somewhat like the blind leading the blind. Or the reluctant to see leading the blind.
Your documentary, “I Do Exist,” was meant to identify the elephant in the living room, was it not? I had environmental factors in my own SSA etiology (sexual abuse, absentee father, emotionally distant mother, pro-gay cultural influences in college). I am vastly different today, in part, because someone did know what to do. Looks like the elephant is hiding again.
I still maintain old-fashioned discipleship (which is what a “former” can offer a struggler) is the most efficacious way to help. Exodus knows this. It seems therapy has a long way to go because therapists are too squeamish about “unintended consequences.” FEAR: false evidence appearing real. One of Satan’s favorite tools.
I never said Allen was exactly like Fred Phelps – only that he and his organization, like the other who must not be named, and their record have gone a long way towards furthering the cause of gay people. Exodus’s role in the Uganda situation is unconscionable!
@ Lynn David,
Thanks for your response. As I have a been trying to work through all the information, misinformation these past three years it has been helpful for me to ask questions, however poorly worded.
“Any degree to which homosexuality manifests in a male could possibly be 100% associated with gene expression or 100% associated with a viral attack in the brain or even 100% due to one’s pscycho-social development – or more likely a mixture of the three (or others).”
My question was an attempt to grant, due to some clear facts, that some disproportionate part of SSA is due to either genetic or non-parental influence. Most moral systems, whether Buddhist or Jones Temple imply that man has a moral obligation to deal responsibly with natural impulses. Most moral systems approve more of some natural impulses than others, but nearly all require some curbing, modifying or outright repression of a variety natural impulses.
I think we all agree that the word “ease” and the phrase “modifying ones gender orientation” do not belong in the same sentence. It is difficult, unlikely and vulnerable to creating more harm.
“How shall we then live?” is not about making homosexuals act feel attracted to the opposite sex, it is about coming to terms with our limitations and strengths and aligning ourselves behaviorally with our values…changing attractions is not necessary.
As St. Paul says, grace is more than sufficient for all of our sin. Should we then continue in sin that grace may abound? NO WAY! (Actually he uses stronger language than this.)
I’m a sinner; I was born that way. But thanks be to God, in Christ we are enabled to overcome the power of sin, because He has conquered it. Yes, the choice is ours; And God says, “I have shown you good and evil, life and death.Therefore choose life!”
Our task is to find and neutralize the factors that lead to homosexual conduct. I suspect these are no more inborn than is any other sin. So why waste time seeking a biological factor, when enviormental factors are so abundant?
DAVE G – I am reluctant to intervene much in development, either biologically or otherwise with any hopes of altering sexuality. There may be unintended consequences. Primarily, I would not know what to do. You say environmental factors are abundant but research into the topic does not agree. I know you and many social conservatives want there to be big differences based on environmental factors, but you cannot demonstrate any.
My view is that God gives us choice. I’m not so sure about the consequences theology since forgiveness and grace are always there. In addition, I have no doubt that I do not understand it all about God and I’m betting I will miss some things before my passing on this earth. JUst my two cents on the theology you presented.
“The origin” is our fallen nature, one way or another. What else do we need to know and why? We selfishly and sinfully want our right to ourselves. God says no. He gives us consequences. Points us to redemption (through the law written on our hearts) and let us choose. End of story. In this life.
Ok… how’s this. Being able to be modified does not necessarily speak to an origin. Therefore, the percentages you quoted are not complementary, if your guesstimates had any meaning in the first place.
Any degree to which homosexuality manifests in a male could possibly be 100% associated with gene expression or 100% associated with a viral attack in the brain or even 100% due to one’s pscycho-social development – or more likely a mixture of the three (or others). However, the ease of modifying a person’s gender orientation might be associated with degree to which that gene expression was operative or the degree to which a viral attack occurred within the brain or even the degree to which imprinting occurred through environmental causes. Thus modifiability would have no complementary relationship to any origin or origins.
Christ was confrontational, yet he had great compassion toward social outcasts of all types, whether or not they were sinners. Those who cannot muster such compassion — the kind that reaches across the social spectrum — should be more concerned about the Day of Reckoning than either the man-created Day of Silence or Day of Truth.
I’ve been trying to get up to speed on the whole sarcastic and cynical response that seems to pass for thoughtful discussion and analysis at times…I just feel mean when I try it, so I will pass.
Regarding being social outcasts and the implications of silent suffering during persecution (as Christ did)…that seems a convenient wish by those who disagree with Alan.
Prior to Christ’s crucifixion (an appropriate discussion given the time of year) he was assertive and confrontational…many times: to the masses, to the Pharisees, to the merchants and to his own disciples.
Christ’s example is multifaceted.
Alan is no Fred Phelps…an hateful and disgusting comparison.
Why if Christ is supposed to be the be-all/end-all in your life would Alan Chambers even worry about being a social outcast as a Christian? Why would you play at being a victim if Jesus is supposed to be so great in your life? Was it just to get in a plug for the supposed “Day of Truth?”
Alan has just written another commentary for Charisma magazine in which he speaks of ex-gays as social outcasts. I see by some of the comments here he is justified in making such a statement. Try identifying yourself as ex-gay at Ex-Gay Watch and see what happens. Tolerance does not apply to liberal gays. Alan didn’t remain silent about the Uganda situation. He was silent for a while. Check your facts. His comments were reported right here in this blog.
Alan Chambers – the same man who remains silent in the face of Ugandan gay peoples’ suffering – what a terrible role model – in so many ways. I think he, and his organization, like Fred Phelps and his, have probably done more to further the cause of gay people than most other Evangelicals.
And isn’t it a privilege to know we have the ability to separate this very important question from any other set of circumstance or feeling?
Gee…. if you do not understand perhaps you should go back to school.
I hope you’re just waxing poetic, because that would be the lousiest piece of science I’ve ever read.
I am interested in solid data about children through adolescence who identify as homosexual, and without the environmental factors that would lead them to seek for love and acceptance from an older person beyond the family.
The only thing I’ve found are testimonies of gays who look back on their lives and give normal awareness of self-identity and attraction to others a sexual interpretation influenced by their current homosexual feelings. These testimonies have gotten into the literature as valid developmental experiences rather than reflected interpretations.
Dave G – I know the neural-imprinting-encouraged-behavior thesis is your view of homosexual behavior — and it may be accurate in some cases. However, it is not true in many others. I was a for a long time a child through college age specialist and most of the SSA kids I worked with did not have that pattern. They had something different going on since at least puberty and some before. Some of the college kids I worked with never knew a gay person until college, never saw one on TV because they were home schooled and sheltered.
Like many areas of human behavior, the blind men and the elephant story serves as a great metaphor. An elephant has a long slender tail but an elephant isn’t a long slender animal.
Why must we be tied to the “sexual orientation” paradigm? Try the truism “You don’t have to gay to love one another. –In fact, you don’t have to be gay at all; no one does! Sodomy has been around for centuries, but the “sexual orientation” concept is relatively recent, rationalizing the fact that wrong sexual behavior comes as naturally as any “sinful” behavior, especially if it’s promoted and/or encouraged, and associated with our natural desire to love and be loved. Psychologically this association is imprinted in the mind with tenacious neural paths that are after-the-fact called “sexual orientation” because they don’t easily disappear.
So as long as our culture clings to the “sexual orientation” concept as a particular human trait for certain individuals, it’s less obvious how to prevent the spread of this ideology.
Confronts the question, “how shall we then live?”
If it is 50% genetic (in utero)
if it is 10% environment,
if it is 40% modifiable?
Alan Chambers seems to be speaking from the heart when he talks about his personal life. But otherwise, there is a political/publicist side from which he speaks as Exodus president which fails to hit that same mark of veracity.
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