Article on sexuality in Uganda’s Independent

This morning, The Independent, a Ugandan daily, published an article from me on sexual orientation and the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Titled, “What makes someone gay and can people change orientation?” I wanted to provide an honest summary of the issues surrounding causation and change.

The article begins:

Defending the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, Hon. David Bahati told the BBC, “It’s [homosexuality] not an inborn orientation, it’s a behaviour learnt – and it can be unlearnt.” Is this true?

Hon. Bahati’s assertion is not consistent with current research on sexuality. While much is being learned about sexuality, the reasons why sexual attractions take the direction they do for any given person is not well known. There are many theories but no clear answers. I think this is a surprising fact for many people.

I am not going to post the rest here because I want you to go visit the Independent, rate the piece and perhaps even make a comment.

UPDATE: Oh my, I made an error in the piece which will not be corrected until the morning in Uganda. Here is a comment I just left under the article:

Thanks to Uganda Talks for posting this column. There is one correction that I need to post.

In the section describing the Exodus International study, I wrote:

Just over 20% of subjects remaining in the study reported some degree of movement from straight to gay but most did not.

However, that sentence should read instead:

Just over 20% of subjects remaining in the study reported some degree of movement from being attracted to the same sex toward developing attractions to the opposite sex, but most did not.

I am very sorry for any confusion caused by the error.

59 thoughts on “Article on sexuality in Uganda’s Independent”

  1. It’s back…. But they haven’t corrected your ‘straight to gay’ gaffe in the article. But they did in the PDF, where it reads: “Just over 20% of subjects remaining in the study reported some degree of movement from being attracted to the same sex toward developing attractions to the opposite sex, but most did not.”

  2. Warren…. did you break The Independant? Could it be Buturo saw your article as pornographic? ‘Cause I cannot now get on the site any of it (one gets an error statment saying: “Database Error: Unable to connect to the database:Could not connect to MySQL”). It could be down overnight, simply as a matter of routine. But I’ve never found that true in the past. BTW… should it ever come back, they have a handy PDF of your blog post at:

  3. Michael,

    My response was to DB (who was writing about Diamond) so when you interjected – you were off topic. I’m just saying if you want to discuss the issue of women and change or change in homosexuals, you should become familiar with more of the recent research that is out there.

  4. Howdy again, folks.

    I was just passing by …and saw the debate on men and women differences. Thought I’d share a few thoughts on that. It’s always a hot topic on this planet.

    First of all, the classical idea seems to hold true: women get to sex through some emotional connection stuff that happens first, or through fear. Men get to sex through vision. So, men who feel a lot of fear seem to be on the same wavelength with women attracted to men. But men who are attracted to men don’t get the same almost sex-indiscriminate patterns of arousal as women attracted to men… Odd, huh? Why is that, it’s unknown yet, but it may have something to do with the fact that vaginas don’t need to do anything to have sex but get aroused, so any pattern of arousal is OK to nature as long as the rule is that women are chased.

    As I said earlier, women get to sex through emotional connection or through fear. So for women sex is mediated by something emotional that makes the impression safe enough to go all the way to sex. But, on the other hand, there is no 1 single type of attractions for women, methinks. Sometimes women are attracted to men out of fear and other times because they make them feel like they felt when they were little girls around their daddy (which includes some trust, attachment and excitement). What scientists study is the first type mostly, the one that happens in a matter of seconds or even less. What they get is indiscriminate arousal, because women’s sexuality is also narcissistic and females physically empathize with bodies when they are aroused (or hurt).

    There are fewer studies on arousal generated by long-term relationship; that type of attraction to their partner is, I think, somewhat different. Women can be attracted to strangers, men, but I think they are more likely to direct their arousal to their long-term partners. Anyway, for women, attachment seems to keep women attracted to their partners even when first-sight attractions are mostly gone.

    I’ve made this long introduction to say that when all sorts of people – scientists, journalists, bloggers, or laymen – talk about orientation in sexual attractions, they do not differentiate or think it’s important that there may not be only one way to be attracted and therefore, one way to measure or attempt change. At least for women. Since every person develops using their own combination of half father/mother, half man/woman genes, goes through their own way of attaching to a parent (male/female), enters the social circle of kids (boys/girls) through their own path and grows up in so many ways of interacting with them, much the same I expect when they become adults to have a multitude of ways of feeling man or woman, attracted to women or attracted to men.

    Scientists can measure arousal induced by images and videos in a matter of seconds and conclude that change never happens. Individual people who develop relationships through which they become attached and attracted to each other may subjectively feel that as a form of change and report it as such. Who would be those getting their signals mixed up: scientists or real people in real relationships? Is any scientist interested in studying whether gay men have ever had a strong attraction to one particular woman or a great sexual experience with one woman and try to understand how come their patterns of arousal are mostly oriented towards men? Haven’t seen one. THe same question goes for lesbian women who had at least one attraction/great sexual relationship with one particular man. It’d be interesting to see how that’s technically possible, considering the gay patterns of arousal and gay patterns of brains. If there are such cases, then the people affected may understand their experiences as changes in sexuality, either spontaneous or not.

    To conclude, change may mean different things to different people because: they develop differently and have different mixtures of factors, they feel some types of attractions but not others or may meet particular people who make them feel something new, which they perceive as change. But for science there is none significant yet that is visible in physical terms.

    —Since I haven’t been around here for some time and don’t know when I come back, I wish you a happy new year this year, folks.

  5. Mary. I was not talking about her work. I have made no judgements about it. I have not read it, but I will as I am able.

    As I have said several times now, I have NO problem with the notion that women may experience more fluidity in their sexuality than men. I am not disputing that some gays and lesbians experience some changes.

    I was referring to the debate that has been going on here forever — about the meanings of those words.

    The “change” discussion gets difficult, in part, because there seems to be no general concensus (as least here) on their meaning. It’s all “debateable” — as years of wrangling over the meaning of these words has clearly shown.

  6. Well according to Diamond’s work – arousal was not the key factor. Please read Diamond’s work before making more comments about it. You obviously have not read it.

  7. Ahh, those problem words again: Attaction. Identity. Orientation. It’s the tower io Babel, I tell ya.

  8. DB,

    Sexual arousal might not be the correct word since sexual arousal can be caused by an inanimate object. Maybe sexual interest – since sexual orientation seems to be debateable.

  9. @ Warren,

    If sexual arousal is more fluid in women, then Diamond’s work indicates that change is possible…

    But not necessarily due to reparative therapy.

    I think it would be helpful to clearly articulate your view of this…as Diamond may wish to shield her data from the religious, reparative community.

    You don’t like the way Narth said it…how would you have said it?

  10. Sorry. It was not deliberate. I promise I will try to always include that disclaimer that the research does not support the claim of sexual reorientation from gay to straight for MEN.

    I am not altogether convinced that there is conclusive evidence of orientation change for women — but it does appear, at least, that female sexual orientation may be more fluid.

  11. Michael,

    With all of your running around the topic, I am at least satisfied that any reader can see through the rigamarole.

    You could have at least said that very statment in the very beginning when you decided to use a quote that is 19 years old and one in which did not define the differences between men and women.

  12. I am not “running around”. I am trying to come up with a statement that is accurate. Yes, I am speaking of MEN only. I have said repeatedly that sexuality seems to be more fluid for women.

    So after arguing this back and forth today, I will say:

    “Sexual reorientation (at least for males) from gay to straight is not suppported by strong scientific evidence, however female sexuality appears to be more fluid. The “shifting” for these women is contextual and in most, if not all, cases spontaneous — as some researchers on this subject, for example, Lisa Diamond, have pointed out.”

    Is that fair? Can you agree with that?

  13. MB – so what is it Michael? You’re heading in two directions. 1) Stating that you are only talking about men 2) What Warren thinks that Lisa’s research shows.

    You are really tiresome in your running all around and about. Please – stick the the idea.

    Change is possible for women and women are different than men. That needs to be defined in your “change is not possible” statments about ex gays – you are spekaing of men only.

  14. I promise that when I say that

    “sexual reorientation in males from gay to straight is not suppported by strong scientific evidence”

    that I will always try to include

    with the possible exception of some lesbians for whom the “shifting” is contextual and in most, if not all, cases spontaneous — as some researchers on this subject, for example, Lisa Diamond, have suggested.

    Does that seem fair?

  15. Believes.

    I thought my change was spontaneous, too, at one time. I would still call it pretty spontaneous but there has been fluctuations throughout my sexual interest history

    (Those ideas were suppossed to be unblocked)

  16. She believes the shifting is contextual and in most, if not all, cases spontaneous.


    I thought my change was spontaneous, too, at one time. I would still call it pretty spontaneous but there has been fluctuations throughout my sexual interest history.

  17. She believes the shifting is contextual and in most, if not all, cases spontaneous.

    Yes, Warren pointed this out on a thread about her work:

    A review of her most recent book, Sexual Fluidity, makes clear that some of the women retained their same-sex attraction while discovering opposite-sex attraction. Some women actively fought the change of attraction but resigned themselves to heterosexuality. Her work does not support the statement about change being associated with history or motivation. — Warren Throckmorton

  18. MB,

    I have not disagreed with you about men – you seem to not understand that when you say gay or ex gays – that means women too. Just making that point clear.

    I personally hold statments likes yours that change is not possible to relevant to my life since I used that as justification for many years to engage in homosexuality. Clarifications NEED to be made.

    And if you are the voice I listened to so many, many years ago – I am going to be a voice that others can listen to today.


  19. I also do not want to take away HOPE for any person. Why on earth would I want to do that? Let them hope. If they are unhappy being gay or if that “identity” is contrary to their personal or spiritual values, by all means they should live in accordance with those values.

    Just don’t give them (especially the men) false hope. Don’t promise, suggest or imply that people (I am speaking of SSA only men here) can or do become heterosexual through these ministries or therapies. That is simply not supported by the scientific evidence — at least not yet, and especially not for gay men.

    And you can’t change that, Mary.

  20. Just want to be clear that Lisa Diamond is upset that reparative therapists quote her work as support for thier work. And she should be the way they have used it at times.

    She believes the shifting is contextual and in most, if not all, cases spontaneous.

  21. AGAIN, Mary, ONE MORE TIME. I have NO DOUBT that some lesbians may shift towards heterosexuality — and vice versa.

    I have to say that you are the first and only one I have met that claims a complete change from SSA only to OSA only. I take that back. I met Darlene Bogle. Wait. She changed back. Oh well, I have met you.

    I am sure there may be more like you. I honestly have NO DESIRE to prove that “change is impossible”. I am a skeptic. It may BE possible. Many things are possible.

    If you meet a man like you, I would be interested in talking to him. I am not saying that such men do not exist or that it’s impossible. As I have said before, the Loch Ness monster may exist and the world may have been visited by aliens from other planets. I want EVIDENCE, not just the claims.

  22. I said I remember my feelings for women. And that the idea as to complete change will only be known at the end of my life. So far – I have what I have. And in the process of change there was back and forth movement. I did not realize that there was back and forth movement for many years and thought that my change was a once and for all thing. Over time (and a lot of time) I have shifted my attractions to men only. I dn’t fantasize about women, don’t think about them in romantic or sexual sense. But I do remember and it wasn’t all bad.

    A lot of time means over a decade of changing. Not the usual two years that is continually quoted in some religious or scientific studies. Please see Lisa Diamond’s work.

  23. And the scientific evidence for women exists that change and fluidity are occur more with women.

    Changing orientation from lesbian to heterosexual is possible and measurable.

    I am going to continue to define that hope for women and not let broad sweeping statments that you or anyone else makes be over used and cast away hope for women.

    Change is possible.

    And you can’t change that Michael.

  24. @ David: I think more people are bothered by the idea of two men having sex than two women. I think more people see male homosexuality as a threat .

    @ Mary: Didn’t you once say that you continue to have both SSA and OSA? Perhaps I have you confused with another Mary.

  25. I any event, we have had this debate on “change” for many years now. We have offered lots of opinions on whether gays can “change”,what “change” means and whether or not “change” might be easier for lesbians than for gay men.

    We could go on like this until Jesus comes again — and I doubt either side of the argument is going to switch sides. Right now, Uganda is considering, among other things, mandating unproven and potentially harmful “treatment” to make gays straight.

    I applaud Warren for writing his article for the consideration of the Ugandan people and their leaders — and for once again pointing out that the scientific evidence so far (at least for gay men) does not support such an idea — whether voluntary or mandated by law.

    In the limited space he had, I think Warren did a very good job of providing “an honest summary of the issues surrounding causation and change”.

  26. @ Michael,

    I think it reflects a stronger prejudice against male homosexuality.

    I cannot track the reasoning here…could you elaborate?

  27. Because Michael – you did not make that clear in your beginning statement. That is why we are making it clear now.

    Woman are different and when YOU make a broad statment about gays and ex gays (which includes women) then you must be clear, and you were misleading.

    The reason I go after this with such vigor is because I know there are readers to this blog that are not commentators. And some of those readers might be lesbians or those who are questioning or those who work with lesbians. And the distinction must be clear and the information that change is possible must be available.

    I have changed from gay to straight. Yes, it is possible.

  28. It is an easy repetitive error that when we talk about GLBT we imagine them as monolithic….

    They are four distinct groups who have assembles for rights related issues…

    When we say sexual orientation is set for this community, we are conflating the rigidity of gays with the fluidity of lesbians…

    This also occurs when we are discussing change in ex-gay groups…emphasis is often, if not always on, gay men and their ability to change.

    I do not understand why we focus in such a narrow way.

  29. Again Mary — pay attention — I have NO DOUBT that sexuality is more fluid for women than for men.

  30. Mary: I have no “WISH” one way or the other. If there was GOOD, SOLID, SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE of sexual reorienation from gay to straight in men, I would hire a sky-writer to publish the news. I have no desire to suppress such evidence if it is there. But it’s not there.

    For gay men, show me the evidence.

  31. In fact, Lisa Diamond does not like the fact that her research data shows fluidity to the extreme that it does. she has protested that Ex gay therapists (or whatever word you use) have used her research inappropriately. But again – just because she doesn’t want or like the data does not mean that the facts are not the facts.

  32. Besides, even though Uganda seems opposed to all forms of homosexuality, Uganda seems more focussed on the “threat” posed by homosexual men and the need to punish and cure them.I think that is why Warren wrote the ariticle — to refute the idea that gayness can be unlearned or cured — as the ex-gay conference speakers there had claimed.

  33. I agree that sexual attraction, identity, orientation (whatever words we choose to describe the experience of being “SSA”, is probably more fluid for women than for men.

  34. The Exodus study was recent, not 19 years ago — but it seems to back up what Joe Dallas said. Ex-gay (men) are not “ex-homosexual”, not straight — unless you consider anecdotal evidence.

    I know that ex-gays really WISH there was good scientific evidence of sexual reorientation from gay to straight for gay men, but it’s NOT THERE. Wishing it was does not make it so.

  35. I am not trying to shift blame. I concur that sexual attraction and identity may be more fluid for women than for men.

  36. Michael,

    This is foolishness on your part. I can no more take aim at Dallas’ quote from 19 years ago than I can at Cameron’s or Lively’s – but like you I can task those with explaining themsleves who use dated material when new information has been available for over a year and been presented on this and other blogs.

    Quit trying to shift the blame onto Exodus (again) and others. I am taking direct aim at your intended misuse of information that is available. Just like you would with Lively or Cameron.

  37. Mary, you are right. I will try to always clarify that there “may be more evidence of sexual orientation change for some lesbians”. Can you direct me to the most persuasive scientic studies on sexual orienation change for lesbians? I checked Lisa Diamond’s web-page and every article was inaccessible. Maybe Warren knows of the most reliable studies on that issue.

  38. However, we do know that once established sexual orientation seems to be quite durable. Several studies have found brain differences between homosexual and heterosexual people. Even Christian oriented programs designed to change sexual orientation have not been very successful.

    A recent study of participants in an Exodus International (the largest Christian ministry aimed toward homosexuality) found a small group of people who expressed change. Just over 20% of subjects remaining in the study reported some degree of movement from straight to gay but most did not. Even among those who said they developed heterosexual attractions, most continued to struggle with homosexual desire. — Warren Throckmorton

    Did the Exodus study or Warren’s study only look at “change of orientation” in gay men? If so, perhaps he should have clarified that there was good, solid, scientific evidence of change of orientation for lesbians — if indeed there is.

  39. In 850 words or so, I felt it difficult to get into the male-female differences in orientation, but I agree they are real and may mean more flexibility for women than for men.

  40. MB,

    Then you need to make that clear (men v women) everytime you make a broad statment. As you have read the posts on Lisa Diamond etc… (or should I drag that up with your comments)

  41. I am just quoting wehat he said. Joe Dallas was asked to explain what he meant by “ex-gay”. He said it did not mean “ex-homosexual” — and that it did not mean “a change from one end of the spectrum to the other”.

    Perhaps he should have said, “except for some ex-lesbians”.

  42. I am not a msyogynist. I agree that female sexual identity and attraction does seem to be more fluid than for males. But the claims of sexual orientation change from gay to straight for MEN is simply not supported by strong scientific evidence — as Warren points out in this article. It it was, I think he would say so.

  43. And somehow we moved from Dallas’ term ex gay to include only men? What a shift in terminology and definitions.

  44. Misogynist?

    Lesbians are gay people who do change their orientation.

    Michael, your perspective on some things seems very narrow and not representative of whole populations at all.

  45. I am not mis-representing. Joe Dallas made the first “broad” statement. Warren made the second one.

    We are going over it again, I suspect, because Uganda wants to mandate unproven “treatment” for homosexual “offenders”.

    Maybe some lesbians are more flexible, but solid, scientific evidence of change of sexual orientation is just not there — as Warren points out.

  46. It’s like Joe Dallas of Exodus said back in 1991: “I don’t think they (ex-gays) mean that they are no longer homosexual.” He said they are just “Christians with homosexual tendencies who would rather not have them”.

    Perhaps some “ex-gays” experience some degree of movement towards developing attractions — but most don’t do even that. Resisting and reframing homosexual tendencies (tempations) does not make you straight

    How many times are we going to go over this? This is for men and this is an independent journey for each person. Again, women have a greater movement away from SSA and towards heterosexuality.

    Please, please, stop misrepresenting the WHOLE group with such broad statments.

  47. It’s like Joe Dallas of Exodus said back in 1991: “I don’t think they (ex-gays) mean that they are no longer homosexual.” He said they are just “Christians with homosexual tendencies who would rather not have them”.

    Perhaps some “ex-gays” experience some degree of movement towards developing attractions — but most don’t do even that. Resisting and reframing homosexual tendencies (tempations) does not make you straight.

Comments are closed.