The Jones and Yarhouse study: What does it mean?

Let me begin by saying that I endorsed the book, Ex-Gays, A Longitudinal Study of Religiously Mediated Change in Sexual Orientation, by Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse which contained the first report of their longitudinal study. Since the publication of the book, Jones and Yarhouse have released results of their final follow up, first in 2009 at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association, and then most recently in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy. With the follow up, I believe the study remains an important investigation into the interplay of religion, sexual orientation and personal identity. I give them credit for the perseverance required to explore a topic which is highly controversial and to report their findings in detail.

Since the release of the peer-reviewed article, socially conservative groups have described the study as proof that gays can change orientation. For instance, the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer, one of the worst offenders, claims that the study proves gays can change and that they weren’t born gay. Also, Citizenlink, an affiliate of Focus on the Family reported:

Of the 98 subjects, more than half were reported as successful; 23 percent reported a complete change in orientation after six years. Also, 20 percent reported giving up the struggle to change.

This claim is misleading. Jones and Yarhouse did not report “complete change in orientation.” Instead they cautioned against misinterpreting their findings by saying

These results do not prove that categorical change in sexual orientation is possible for everyone or anyone, but rather that meaningful shifts along a continuum that constitute real changes appear possible for some. The results do not prove that no one is harmed by the attempt to change, but rather that the attempt does not appear to be harmful on average or inherently harmful. The authors urge caution in projecting success rates from these findings, as they are likely overly optimistic estimates of anticipated success. Further, it was clear that “conversion” to heterosexual adaptation was a complex phenomenon.

Regarding the changes reported by their participants, the authors offer two related explanations. One is that some of the participants changed sexual orientation to some degree and the other is that the participants changed their sexual identity. Sexual identity involves placing more emphasis on behavioral conformity to prohibitions on homosexual behavior as a means of self definition. For the Exodus participants, less temptation to engage in homosexual behavior might be taken as a signal that orientation has changed, thus allowing a different attribution about their sexuality than once believed. The authors raise these two possibilities in the abstract for the most recent paper:

The authors conducted a quasi-experimental longitudinal study spanning 6–7 years examining attempted religiously mediated sexual orientation change from homosexual orientation to heterosexual orientation. An initial sample was formed of 72 men and 26 women who were involved in a variety of Christian ministries, with measures of sexual attraction, infatuation and fantasy, and composite measures of sexual orientation and psychological distress, administered longitudinally. Evidence from the study suggested that change of homosexual orientation appears possible for some and that psychological distress did not increase on average as a result of the involvement in the change process. The authors explore methodological limitations circumscribing generalizability of the findings and alternative explanations of the findings, such as sexual identity change or adjustment.

As I read all of the literature, including my own work, I first want to disagree with the way that Citizenlink characterized the results as “complete change.” That is not at all what Jones and Yarhouse reported. Considering the dichotomy proposed by Jones and Yarhouse — change in orientation or identity – I lean toward their alternative explanation – “sexual identity change or adjustment.”  However, I believe the discussion of what their results mean needs to be broadened beyond those two possibilities. In addition to considering orientation and identity as important constructs, I believe there are other ways to account for the changes Jones and Yarhouse report which are not sufficiently addressed in their published accounts.  First, I want to make some observations about the study which influence my opinions about what the results mean.

First, and most basically, the Jones and Yarhouse study did not examine in any systematic way the efficacy of reparative therapy or any other kind of psychological therapy as a means of altering sexual orientation. The participants in the study were involved in religiously based support groups which primarily had as a goal to reinforce a traditional moral view of sexuality. Clearly, the participants hoped they would change and engaged in various religious interventions to assist that end. However, the study did not assess the role of professional therapy and cannot legitimately be used to say such therapies work.

Second, there were quite a few dropouts six to seven years into the study. While true of all longitudinal studies, the final percentages being reported should also take into account the distinct possibility that many if not most of the drop outs were not successful in their efforts to change. The study began with 98 participants and ended up with 65 who were followed up for six to seven years. Some reported that they were healed of homosexuality and just didn’t want to participate, while others said they were gay and stopped trying to change. I don’t know for sure what the dropouts mean but the fact that so many failed to complete the study needs to be a part of any discussion.

Third, ratings from men and women were combined. Given the low number of people involved I understand why this was done but the practice may inflate the assessments of change for the group. It has become well accepted that the sexuality of women is more fluid than for men. A few women experiencing large shifts could influence the group averages.

Fourth, the nature of the change reported requires examination. Jones and Yarhouse reported that 23% of the participants remaining in the study labeled their experience as “conversion” from a homosexual orientation to a heterosexual one. However, let’s look at how the authors described the starting point for this group of changers on average. On a seven point scale with seven being completely homosexuality, the group averaged a 5.09 rating which Jones and Yarhouse described in their book as “’largely homosexual, but more than incidental heterosexual’ attraction.” At the third assessment of sexual attraction, the authors reported that the rating had dropped to 1.55. This group rated themselves as having moved toward the heterosexual side of the continuum. On the Kinsey scale used to assess the attractions, the average score fell between the “exclusively heterosexual” and “largely heterosexual, but incidental homosexual” ratings. An alternative way of describing the outcome is that the participants went from one end of the bisexual spectrum to the other. On average, the group rating indicated both heterosexual and homosexual attractions at the beginning, middle and end of the study.

Jones and Yarhouse helpfully supplied descriptions of the change provided by the participants in their book which was completed after about three years into the study. To me, these descriptions describe changes in sexual identity more than categorical changes in sexual orientation. There were five examples given of people in the change group. Two men said they were still attracted to the same sex, one man and one woman described themselves as heterosexual without elaboration and one of the examples in the change category recanted his reports of change and said he was gay.

As noted two participants said they were changed but continued with same-sex attractions. There self-descriptions provide insight into what they mean by change.  One participant said: “I am a heterosexual, yet I continue to suffer from some degree of sexual brokenness an unwanted sexual attraction to men.” Another said, “I would define myself to be primarily heterosexual by definition of who I have sexual activity with, with latent, sporadic homosexual lust. I don’t desire sexual contact as much as I did last year; I think that a vibrant sexual relationship with my wife has contributed to that.”

Whatever else is true, it is hard for me to see these situations as categorical (gay to straight) changes. The changes were certainly perceived to be beneficial but if words have any meaning, these descriptions cannot be considered as a “complete change in orientation.” The participants views of themselves and their behavior have changed but they continue to disclose attraction to the same sex in the way that a bisexual person might do.

These observations lead me to consider other explanations for the study results. For instance, I think bisexuality is a significant and generally overlooked conceptual issue for ex-gay studies. People who are attracted to both sexes may shift in their self-attributions based on current relationship, and personal beliefs about how they ought to regard themselves. These people may seem to shift within a basically bisexual orientation.

I also think that some men and women (more so women in my view), can develop attractions for specific opposite sex attachments without altering their essential orientation. Some people in mixed orientation marriages report that they remain generally attracted to the same sex but have fallen in love with a person of the opposite sex. The sexual relationship is legitimate and intense but the attraction to the opposite sex partner does not generalize to other members of the opposite sex.

Women seem to have less aversion to cross orientation relationships and behavior. One study of twins found that two-thirds of women would be open to lesbian relationships if the relationship could remain secret versus one-third of men who were not completely averse to potential same sex behavior. Lisa Diamond’s work on sexual fluidity in women raises the possibility that for some fluidity is a dimension of their particular sexual orientation. In other words, some people might be more naturally flexible in their attractions without any interventions. I know people like that. It is possible that some of the changes reported by Exodus participants would have taken place without any intervention. Some studies have reported spontaneous changes in attraction without intervention. Without a baseline rate of flexibility (control group), one cannot know what the changes reported by Jones and Yarhouse mean. Looking at the few studies which have examined lifespan shifts, I am skeptical that the 23% change rate reported by Jones and Yarhouse indicates religious interventions had much to do with change in attractions. I think those interventions probably had a lot to do with behavioral alignment with beliefs in chastity and fidelity.

I see nothing in the Jones and Yarhouse study that is inconsistent with seeing the participants as shifting within a bisexual continuum, developing cross orientation relationships and/or demonstrating naturalistic changes. In fact, I think the study supports these explanations more solidly than viewing the changes as categorical shifts in sexual orientation. Furthermore, without a baseline of naturalistic change and the separation of results by sex, I am not clear what to make of the reported rate of change. Actually, I don’t think anyone should use it in any normative manner.

To me, the study is valuable because it provides a look into the experience of people trying to make sense out of their lives and how they can live with what seems like a contradiction. Some find certain cognitive changes lead to less pressure to engage in behavior they believe to be wrong. Others don’t experience a reduction in such pressure but decide to refrain from acting on those desires. To me, the more interesting aspect of the study is the different ways people engage in self-attribution in response to the givens of their lives.

 

Additional point: Mark Yarhouse is co-author with me of the Sexual Identity Therapy Framework. I believe it is important to note that change of orientation is not an objective we promote as an aspect of the framework. Popular but accurate accounts of the application of the SIT Framework can be found in a 2009 Wall Street Journal article by Stephanie Simon and an article by Mimi Swartz in the New York Times Magazine (June 16, 2011, see especially page 5 to the end).

  • David Blakeslee

    This is super-important:

    First, and most basically, the Jones and Yarhouse study did not examine in any systematic way the efficacy of reparative therapy or any other kind of psychological therapy as a means of altering sexual orientation.

    it cannot be used to say these therapies work…or don’t work.

  • http://exgaywatch.com David Roberts

    it cannot be used to say these therapies work…or don’t work.

    If there were any credible evidence that reparative therapy worked, certain groups wouldn’t be grasping at the straws in the J&Y study to prove change is possible.

  • Teresa

    Warren, if I understand correctly, this Study involved homosexuals that held a very traditional view on sexuality; and, could be classifed as ‘persons with unwanted same-sex attraction’ seeking help through their personal religion, in some fashion or another. Is this correct?

    Another question: how reliable is personal response to these types of questions? More particularly, and I’m speaking from personal experience, I would have responded at one point in my life to this type of question notably different today’s response. I am not insinuating lying on anyone’s part … I’m simply asking is this type of Study the only way to conduct research on sexual orientation?

  • http://nojam75.blogspot.com Norm

    …Evidence from the study suggested that change of homosexual orientation appears possible for some and that psychological distress did not increase on average as a result of the involvement in the change process…

    I would be interested in learning how “psychological distress” is defined and measured. It seems surprising that there was no increase. From my own experience, most participants are compelled to enter ex-gay therapy out of personal crisis. While is seems plausible that some participants could report less psychological distress, it may be relative to the extreme traumatic circumstances they entered the ex-gay program.

    It seems reasonable to assume that those who experienced higher psychological distress would drop-out and therefore would be excluded from the psychological distress average. Of course, it can’t be assume that all drop-outs had higher psychological distress — but it seems unlikely participants would willingly leave a program that was alleviating their distress.

    I would also be interested in hearing how the researchers differentiated between psychological distress that resulted from the change process versus distress that resulted outside of the change process. Again, from my experience, ex-gay therapy is nearly life-encompassing including spirituality, sexuality, lifestyle, etc. In-depth interviews would be required to determine whether distress is from the change process or not.

  • StraightGrandmother

    Warren, since you have co-authored books with Yarhouse why don’t you simply ask him for the raw data?

  • Teresa

    Evidence from the study suggested that change of homosexual orientation appears possible for some

    Warren, not to get too picky on this Study, which as you say, took a lot of courage to step out into the deep end of the pool … but, words such as:

    ‘suggested’

    ‘appears possible’

    don’t sound very scientific to me. Anything can be suggested; anything is possible. I clearly understand this whole sexual orientation business is murky, at the best of times. So, maybe, this is the most we can hope for right now. But, being of a scientific bent, I’m not quite sure what this has brought to the whole ‘change’ issue. Clearly, as in the case of Lisa Diamond, et. al., those so inclined, will trumpet this as the latest Holy Grail for ‘change’.

    The ‘change’ advocates will be confirmed in their theories. The rest of us will be saying what?

  • StraightGrandmother

    I see nothing in the Jones and Yarhouse study that is inconsistent with seeing the participants as shifting within a bisexual continuum, developing cross orientation relationships and/or demonstrating naturalistic changes.

    Pls tell me what the term naturalistic means. thx

  • StraightGrandmother

    Thank you Norm for you observation, it is a good one, and sharing your personal experience. I am really interested in what you wrote.

  • Mary

    Norm,

    I too am interested in psychological distress and how it is defined. What a patient feels and what a therapist interprets can be widely defined. I think any therapy having to do with sexual issues are going to be magnificently stressful.

  • StraightGrandmother

    I do try and stay on topic, let’ see if maybe I can twist this into being on topic… This study gives ammunition to groups who claim that sexual minorities need no civil protections as they can simply change to heterosexual. Viola! Individuals are then given cover to discriminate against sexual minorities and taken to the extreme actually assault them as this video in an Ohio classroom demonstrates.

    http://www.towleroad.com/2011/10/ohiobully.html

  • Michael Bussee

    The participants in the study were involved in religiously based support groups which primarily had as a goal to reinforce a traditional moral view of sexuality. Clearly, the participants hoped they would change and engaged in various religious interventions to assist that end.

    Hoping that they would “change” does not mean they did “change”. Ask John Smid. Ask other leaders of “ex-gay” programs who thought they had “changed”. Ask hundreds of people who “hoped” — and were told there was something wrong with them and their faith when they didn’t “change”.

    They may have changed behavior, lifestyle and “identity”, but their orientation did not change from gay to straight. (Except perhaps for some bisexuals who alreay had both attractions and were able to resists their gay feelings.) Many claimed “change” because that’s what they were taught to do: “Name it and claim it”. As though saying they had “changed” would magically make it so.

  • Michael Bussee

    One defensible way of describing the outcome is that the participants went from one end of bisexual spectrum to another.

    I see nothing in the Jones and Yarhouse study that is inconsistent with seeing the participants as shifting within a bisexual continuum, developing cross orientation relationships…

    The participants views of themselves and their behavior have changed but they continue to disclose attraction to the same sex in the way that a bisexual person might do.

    These observations lead me to consider other explanations for the study results. For instance, I think bisexuality is a significant conceptual issue for ex-gay studies.

    I think so too. This is basically what Joe Dallas of Exodus said during a debate with me on the Joan Rivers Show some years ago. He told her audience “the change that we are talking about is not a change from one end of the spectrum to the other…we are all both.” Joe’s personal testimony includes a history of bisexual attraction and behavior — feelings which he (wrongly) assumes are true for everyone.

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  • http://exgaywatch.com David Roberts

    I think it’s important also to remember that the data for this study came from annual 45 minute phone sessions with the participants. In addition, at least one participant with whom I’ve spoken at length indicated that they strongly inferred from the researchers that the results of this study would help “struggling Christians” and therefore a positive outcome would be preferred. If others got the same feeling, even if it was not stated by J&Y, it seems likely this too could have skewed the results.

    These subjects were, after all, Christians who felt strongly about the “wrongness” of homosexuality, were participating long-term in ex-gay ministries and would naturally have felt a sense of what this study might mean to their “cause.” And frankly, I think any of us who call ourselves Christian — especially those of us who have Charismatic backgrounds — can understand the intensity and certainty of believing in one’s “healing.” This could easily cause a subject to enthusiastically report change that has not in fact occurred.

    Yet even with all this to potentially skew the results, the degree of “change” is dismal. I think the only sure and honest way to gauge any true change would be through physiological tests of arousal, perhaps brain scans that can determine irrefutably if one is sexually attracted to stimuli. J&Y address this but claim Exodus’ participants reject such tests.

  • Michael Bussee

    “In addition, at least one participant with whom I’ve spoken at length indicated that they strongly inferred from the researchers that the results of this study would help “struggling Christians” and therefore a positive outcome would be preferred.”

    Spot on. And that was true when E. Mansell Pattison did “research” on the same subject back in the day. He interviewed 33 pre-selected Exodus subjects who sincerely felt it was their Christian duty to “convey the hope of change”. By “proclaiming” it, they were helping to make it happen. “As a man speaks, so is he” was the basic idea. Except that when it came to sexual reorientation, we were dead wrong.

    Gary and I were two of the eleven described by Pattiston as having made “significant change” in our orientation. He concluded this because we were both heterosexually married — and because we minimized just how strong the “same sex attractions” still were. I know for a fact that the remaining nine subject with “siginificant change” were also giving overly positive reports.

  • Teresa

    To me, the study is valuable because it provides a look into the experience of people trying to make sense out of their lives and how they can live with what seems like a contradiction. Some find certain cognitive changes lead to less pressure to engage in behavior they believe to be wrong. Others don’t experience a reduction in such pressure but decide to refrain from acting on those desires. To me, the more interesting aspect of the study is the different ways people engage in self-attribution in response to the givens of their lives.

    Warren, will others given to see not at all what you’ve just described; but, rather that 2 out of the 5 examples given now said they were str8 … extrapolate that to the whole world of homosexuals … now have ‘proof’ that what they’ve been saying all along is true … because we now have a longitudinal study that says so?

    How likely is it that NARTH, et. al., would see anything but this? How likely if I sat down and read this complete study would I come to a decision unlike what NARTH finds? Bypassing the cautionary words of “suggested” and “appears possible” doesn’t this Study report a ‘change’ from gay to str8 of 40%?

    40% reporting they’re now heterosexual … without explanation. Nothing about a “not uncomplicated heterosexuality” from what you’ve written. I guess I’d be with NARTH, et. al., on this one. They have every right to use this Study, as proof that complete sexual orientation ‘change’ happens … and, happens a lot. Don’t they?

  • http://wthrockmorton.com Warren

    Teresa – I am not following your thinking on this. Even NARTH would not pick 5 non-random illustrations from a group of people who were supposed to all be straight and say that 40% of all gays can change.

    Remember those 5 were from a group that was supposed to be straight. So I guess the best you can say is that 40% of the straight group reported being straight. At that point, words lose all meaning.

  • Teresa

    My mistake, Warren. Poor reading on my part. Sorry about that.

  • MgS

    Warren,

    If one views sexual orientation (but one axis of sexuality overall) as occurring on a spectrum between heterosexual and homosexual (recognizing that there may well be multiple axis at play in each individual), would it not make more sense to interpret the results of Jones / Yarhouse’s work as reflecting that there is a degree of bisexuality in the population than has been acknowledged previously?

    Consider that most people can shift within their sexual orientation to some degree or another, but tend to remain overall “in a zone”, whether that is primarily heterosexual or homosexual is moot. (I think of this as a “anchor with an elastic tether” kind of model)

    In other words, chances are that most of those who described change in their sexual orientation/behaviour patterns are in fact to varying degrees bisexual, even if they had not acknowledged it. Let’s face it our society has very strong social proscriptions against male bisexuality, and I believe this has artificially polarized the male world into a hetero/homo sexual dichotomy.

    It strikes me as a much simpler way of understanding their results.

    • http://wthrockmorton.com Warren

      MgS – I agree which I why I wrote about bisexuality in the post. Ex-gay studies in general have not taken this into account in a way that reflects the experience of the people involved, imo.

  • StraightGrandmother

    Warren =

    I agree which I why I wrote about bisexuality in the post. Ex-gay studies in general have not taken this into account in a way that reflects the experience of the people involved, imo.

    StraightGrandmother= Well if you had the raw data you would be able to see for yourself, wouldn’t you?

  • David Blakeslee

    These subjects were, after all, Christians who felt strongly about the “wrongness” of homosexuality, were participating long-term in ex-gay ministries and would naturally have felt a sense of what this study might mean to their “cause.” And frankly, I think any of us who call ourselves Christian — especially those of us who have Charismatic backgrounds — can understand the intensity and certainty of believing in one’s “healing.” This could easily cause a subject to enthusiastically report change that has not in fact occurred.

    This is my anecdotal experience from a Charismatic setting as well. I have not found this “healing” pressure in non-fundamentalist settings among Catholics, Lutherans, Presbyterians and Latter-Day Saints.

  • ElijahF

    Respectably Prof Warren, having a interest in history and psychology I became aware that sexual orientation is a result of modern stigmatization by one group (various religious groups particularly) consequently creating another which otherwise would not of existed (gays, lesbians, and bisexuals). In our earlier history we had homosexuality, and bisexuality, but it was neither identified nor demonized, or stigmatized, and often endorsed by many heterosexuals for more sexual needs when women were not available. These homosexuals and bisexuals lived just as everyone else did they simply had differing appetites so to say. Would it not therefore follow that treatment is unnecessary of the symptom, but the cause? I would argue that many homosexual and bisexual persons would be in better standing to receive therapy for dealing with the issues of stigmatization, rather then attempted conversion, and further that treatment would need to be at the religious and conservative political level to stop the stigmatization of homosexuals. If we removed the cause this stigmatization would that not eliminate the symptom of a group that otherwise would not of been? Being a homosexual myself I am very aware of the fanaticism that lays in both sides of our aisle. Something I would consider mostly irrelevant, and to be between me, and my beloved is often something which is needlessly brought up by others in politics, and pulpits, personal morals, and civil rights. This is my rationality for disagreeing with ex-gay studies. I believe we are indeed a symptom, and treating the symptom is no cure. It is a temporary band-aid to solve the problem the stigmatization, and demonization the cause is what must be studied and treated.

  • StraightGrandmother

    I would not be at all surprised if this research didn’t end up in one of the Marriage Equality, or DOMA trials. I wonder if Jones & Yarhouse would ever be called to the stand to testify on their research? If they do, their research will be picked apart item by item. And during discovery the raw data will have to be provided.

  • http://aebrain.blogspot.com Zoe Brain

    Pardon me if I ignore the political ramifications for a bit. Facts are. Interpretations of them may differ if course, but this is a useful study as it gives us more data.

    Tentatively, I have a conjecture, that just as there’s confusion between gendered behaviour and sexed behaviour, we may be being led astray by gender orientation and sexual orientation. I really think I should explain my terms here.

    WHO Definition:

    “Sex” refers to the biological and physiological characteristics that define men and women.

    “Gender” refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women.

    APA definition:

    The term “gender” refers to culture and should be used when referring to men and women as social groups.

    The term “sex” refers to biology and should be used when biological distinctions are emphasized, for example, “sex differences in hormone production.”

    Some – possibly 20% if we’re to try to assign a number to it – of what is commonly referred to as “gendered behaviour” has a biological basis. Most doesn’t, it’s truly a social construct, but some does. So while it’s a reasonable approximation to say that all differences are social constructs, that approximation fails pretty quickly when you start looking at things closely, just as the approximation “all humans are right handed” also fails.

    A “gendered behaviour” with a biological basis is more properly referred to as a “sexed behaviour”.

    As regards sexual orientation, there’s biological factors, such as hard-wired response to pheremones and hormones. Once the parts of the brain regarding sexual orientation are activated at puberty, there are involuntary responses to the appropriate triggering stimuli. I suspect that such things are not changeable, barring lesions or other gross brain insults.

    I think though that much of what we find “sexually attractive” may be a conditioned response, and possibly changeable. It is “gender orientation” rather than something hard-wired, though quite possibly very resistant to change as there’s circuitry that involves “conditioned reflexes”.

    What evidence do I have for this? Look at the many things that have been found to be sexually attractive over the ages, and in different societies. Lilly Feet. HIgh Heels. Corsets. Bustles. Rubenesque bodies, and thin ones. Beards. The Clean-shaven look. Body hair. Lack of body hair. “Giraffe necks”.

  • Teresa

    As regards sexual orientation, there’s biological factors, such as hard-wired response to pheremones and hormones. Once the parts of the brain regarding sexual orientation are activated at puberty, there are involuntary responses to the appropriate triggering stimuli. I suspect that such things are not changeable, barring lesions or other gross brain insults.

    I’m really wondering, Zoe, about the hard-wiring piece of this. I absolutely believe that the intrauterine environment has much to do with sexual response to stimuli. Please be patient with me, Zoe, as I lay out another piece that I think plays into all this … this will sound much like NARTH in a way; but, so be it.

    I have a suspicion that severe psychological trauma concomitant with intelligence and temperament … the latter two, genetic … does some hard-wiring of its own, when this occurs early, significantly early, in infant/toddler development. I think the hormones released by the trauma … the perception of that trauma, really … lays down circuitry, hard-wiring of its own: much like, anecdotal evidence of some infant/toddler vaccines and autism … much like the failure to thrive for infants due to lack of touch.

    I, also, contend that, if there’s any truth to this, at all … that experience acts much like intrauterine development … it’s more than likely, irreversible. Do we know when our little brains become less affected by externals, i.e., postnatal?

    Wild speculation, on my part, absolutely, for all this. Actually, just my personal experience, really.

  • http://aebrain.blogspot.com Zoe Brain

    @Teresa – your conjecture may be accurate. The thing is, how do we test it? We can’t do such experiments on humans, it would be unethical. What we can do is look at people who have experienced such trauma, and see if there’s a significant correlation between that and sexual orientation.

    I don’t see any. Children get abused, but it appears that that has no effect on the proportion who are straight or gay. Perhaps better data would show some correlation I”m not aware of. It’s also an area I haven’t studied extensively, so there may be studies I’m not aware of. Also, such trauma as you describe may not constitute easily determinable “abuse”, so may be too subtle an effect to measure.

    And no, you sound nothing like NARTH. You’re searching for truth. They already know the TRUTH, and pick (or more often manufacture) evidence to support those beliefs, and suppress evidence that contradicts them.

  • Michael Bussee

    This study (and the earlier Pattison study) seem to share this one flaw in common: deeply religious subjects with “likely overly optimistic projections of anticipated success”.

    In many evangelical/charismatic circles, “claiming” own’s healing (by faith) is a very strong motivator. “Ex-gay” has always been more a statement of hope than of fact.

  • http://www.comingout4christians.net Dave

    Question for Dr. Throckmorton … I get the impression from reading Dr. Yarhouse’s book : Homosexuality and the Christian and particularly from listening to the pre-conference session that you and Dr. Yarhouse did on SITF several years ago (for the AACC I believe) that Dr. Yarhouse defines change a little differently than you do … ..that he looks at any change as significant whereas you are typically talking more about an actual orientation change when you use the word “change”. I realize that neither of you promise oreintation change through SITF but it seems to me that you nuance it a bit differently. I also note that you take the time to emphasize the finer points of this study that Jones and Yarhouse did .. steering it away from orientation change and considering other possibilities for what it indicates .. whereas a simple read of the study might lead someone to believe that orientation change is possible. Would this be correct or did I misinterpret what I heard (and read)?

    Dave

  • Michael Bussee

    Can bisexuals decide to act only on their straight feelings? Can gays live celibate lives? Can sexually addicted gay men overcome self-destructive patterns?

    Can some bisexual or homosexual men manage to make mixed orientation marriages work? Can gays change their lifestyles, behavior, “identity”?

    The answer to all of those questions is “yes”. Why on Earth would we suppose that they cannot? Gays are just as capable of those kinds of “changes” as straight people.

    But can gay men change their sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual? There doesn’t seem to be any solid scientific evidence that they can.

  • StraightGrandmother

    Research into Gay 2 Str8 has real word implications or maybe I should say applications, in our body politic. This article shows how Marriage Equality was lost in Maryland by just a few legislator votes, and why.

    A gay marriage bill cleared the Senate this year but was withdrawn from the House of Delegates when it became clear that supporters were a few votes shy. In particular, proponents had trouble convincing some Democrats from Prince George’s County and Baltimore City who were under pressure from African-American church leaders who oppose gay marriage on religious grounds.

    The last-minute defection of black lawmakers was unfortunate in that it revealed a persistent if seldom-discussed lack of common cause between the African-American and gay communities. Although both groups historically have been victims of bigotry and discrimination, many blacks resent comparisons between the civil rights movement and efforts to achieve equality for gays and lesbians. In fact, a recent poll by Annapolis-based Gonzales Research and Marketing Strategies found the state as a whole evenly divided on the question of gay marriage but black voters strongly against it, 59 percent to 41 percent.

    Part of their discomfort appears to stem from a feeling that being gay is a “choice” that individuals make, rather than a condition over which one has no control, such as the color of one’s skin. Yet a growing body of evidence suggests that sexual orientation is no more a matter of individual choice than race; people are born hard-wired with a propensity to be heterosexual or homosexual, and there is nothing they can do to change it.

    A similar argument suggests that even if homosexuality is inherent, individuals can still escape the consequences of bigotry and discrimination by concealing that part of themselves while conforming to heterosexual norms. That was the idea behind the “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule that allowed gays and lesbians to serve in the U.S. military as long as they kept quiet about their sexual orientation.

    There is a tremendous importance of Sexual Orientation Change Efforts research and the responsibility of researchers to produce research that is scientifically sound, let the chips fall where they may. It is very frustrating because the only “side” that has the people who have the data on people who say they have changed from Gay 2 Str8 are NARTH (who I discredit) and the religious groups who have a vested interest in the outcome. I am really hoping Warren is going to provide that true scientifically sound research.

    I know about the 2001 Spitzer study but what it did not do was show the thousands and thousands of people who tried and did not change their sexual orientation. Here is a good critique on that point of view I think. http://www.ralliance.org/spitzerstudy.html

    I sure would LOVE to see another researcher talk with those same 200 people that Spitzer interviewed and see what they are doing 10 years later. I also think that people who make their living providing SOCE should not be included as a subject in any research.

  • StraightGrandmother

    Warren, at the anti gay ***HATE GROUPS*** Southern Poverty Law Center Protest yesterday was Matt Barber from Liberty Council. I was reading this article on the Liberty Council website

    …snip

    Tuesday, December 27, 2011

    Penguins ‘pray away the gay’: Liberals admit that changing orientation is possible

    By: Matt Barber

    Many men and women with unwanted same-sex attractions have exercised sexual self-determination and have chosen to leave the homosexual lifestyle. As we make continuing advances in the science of human sexuality, it has become clear that “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” are largely fluid, subjectively determined classifications. As to what may drive a person’s “sexual orientation” and/or sexual appetites, the highly liberal American Psychological Association (APA) has concluded: “Many [scientists] think that nature and nurture both play complex roles.”

    “Recently, the most comprehensive study ever done on the ex-gay phenomenon was released in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy. In the study, researchers concluded that, for many who desire to leave the homosexual lifestyle, “change does indeed occur, although not for everyone.”

    Some of the study’s conclusions:

    • Success: Conversion: 23 percent of the sample reported substantial reductions in homosexual attraction and subsequent conversion to heterosexual attractions and functioning.

    • Success: Chastity: 30 percent reported that homosexual attraction was still present, but only incidentally or in a way that did not seem to bring distress, allowing them to live contentedly without overt sexual activity.

    • Continuing: 16 percent reported modest decreases in homosexual attraction, but were not satisfied with their degree of change and remained committed to the change process.

    • Non-response: 7 percent reported no significant sexual orientation change; they had not given up on the change process, but some were confused or conflicted about which direction to turn next.

    • Failure: Confused: 5 percent reported no significant sexual orientation change, and had given up on the change process, but without yet embracing a gay identity.

    • Failure: Gay identity: 20 percent had given up on the change process and embraced a gay identity.

    Most importantly, the study determined that, for those who struggle with same-sex attraction and wish to change, “some people can indeed move from homosexuality to heterosexuality, and that harm is unlikely to result from such efforts.”

    http://libertyblogs.blogspot.com/2011/12/penguins-pray-away-gay-liberals-admit.html

    Warren I would sincerely request that you clear up these ambiguities. The report does not show separate results for men and women. Is the movement really from bi-sexuals to mainly heterosexual? Or is it completely homosexual moving to bi-sexuality? You raised valid questions in this article written October 27, 2011. This research is being widely disseminated for political purposes. If not you Warren, who else can get the researches to answer some questions about it? I think you are the only person who has a chance, absent a subpena of the research by Court Order as part of Discovery.

    This research is not going away, and it shouldn’t, but in the interest of science shouldn’t our questions be answered? I think you are the only person who can ask the researchers the questions and get the answers. I still have questions about this research, I wish so much you would get answers for them even though I understand you probably don’t want to have that dialog.

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