InterVarsity Press Announces Release of Exodus Ex-Gay Study

Jim Burroway

September 9th, 2007

InterVarsity Press issued this press release, announcing the Sept 13 release of a study by Stanton L. Jones (Wheaton College) and Mark A. Yarhouse (Regent University). Titled “Ex-Gays? A Longitudinal Study of Religiously Mediated Change in Sexual Orientation, the study is intended to address two questions: can people change, and is trying to change harmful?

When Robert Spitzer’s ex-gay study, “Can some gay men and lesbians change their sexual orientation?” appeared in the October 2003 issue of the Archives of Sexual Behavior, the journal took the highly unusual step of publishing twenty-six peer review commentaries, both critical and laudatory. Among the commentaries was Mark Yarhouse’s “How Spitzer’s study gives a voice to the disenfranchised within a minority group.” He notes a few of the limitations of Spitzer’s study and muses on what a better constructed study might look like:

There is a need for studies with improved methodology. This would include a prospective longitudinal design in which participants provide information on sexual behavior, attractions, fantasy, and so on, prior to or in the early stages of therapy, and then tracked over tie, so that something as potentially unreliable as memory recall would not play so prominent a role in studies that touch on such a controversial topic.

I would also suggest another set of data: follow-up on those who drop out of ex-gay ministries, and their post-therapeutic experiences and perspectives. Yarhouse wrote another paper titled, “An Inclusive Response to LGB and Conservative Religious Persons: The Case of Same-Sex Attraction and Behavior”, which appeared in the June 2002 issue of Professional Psychology: Research and Practice. In that paper, he recognized the existence of “ex-ex-gays”:

A similar tension exists when we consider “ex-ex-gays.” They are individuals who once lived an LGB lifestyle, later attempted to change their behavior or attractions, and still later returned to living an LGB lifestyle. From a conservative religious perspective, ex-ex-gays may be the result of poor therapeutic technique, insufficient client commitment or motivation, moral or spiritual failure, or failure of ministries to offer realistic expectations of change. This last consideration is particularly important. It might be that conservative religious persons hold out expectations for change that are too high (i.e., that a person would be free from every vestige of same-sex desire and would be happy and fulfilled in marriage). From this perspective, ex-ex-gays are discouraged, sometimes angry, about their experiences within religion-based ministries.

Yarhouse continues:

Gay-affirmative theorists tend to see ex-ex-gays as casualties of professional interventions and religious ministries (Haldeman, 1994). Gay-affirmative theorists propose that ex-ex-gays are the result of the predictable failure of sexual reorientation therapy and religion-based ministries to accomplish what they purport to accomplish. According to Haldeman, some question whether these proponents of reorientation and reparative therapies are not disturbed themselves, preying on vulnerable persons who are hoping against hope to experience change.

Again, is there merit to both accounts? Is it possible that some people are misled about what reorientation and reparative therapy can offer? It is possible that some people do hold expectations for change that are too high. Whether the individual is freely seeking changes for personally felt reasons or is being taken to a program for change by a third party is also a factor in relation to this topic. All of this depends on several factors, including what sexual orientation is, whether it is immutable, and what evidence exists for the effectiveness of reorientation and reparative therapies.

Having talked to a number of ex-ex-gays myself, I think this discussion of their perspectives are highly over-simplistic. While some may have held a number of unrealistic expectations — expectations that are often promoted by ex-gay ministries themselves — most whom I talked to had more realistic expectations. They just found the prospect of living with those expectations unrealistic.

When discussing possible harms of attempting to change, it will be essential for this study to also follow the experiences of those who drop out of ex-gay ministries, and to talk to ex-gay survivors directly.

Jones and Yarhouse have collaborated before. They wrote “The Use, Misuse and Abuse of Science in the Ecclesiastical Homosexuality Debates,” which appeared in the 2000 anthology Homosexuality, Science, and the “Plain Sense” of Scripture” (edited by David L Balch and published by Eerdmans). This article, which largely limits its focus on the “misuse and abuse” by the gay-affirming side rather than the anti-gay side, clearly shows their biases in discussing whether homosexuality is a pathology and in dealing with the possible biological and environmental causes of homosexuality. I’ll have more on this later.

This latest study will be released during a press conference at the American Association of Christian Counselors World Conference on September 13 in Nashville, Tennessee. And what a coincidence. Exodus will be holding their regional conference in Nashville that same weekend. Gee, what are the odds?

Ben in Oakland

September 10th, 2007

It amazes me about fundamentalists. Scientists know nothing when it comes to the age of our world and the history of life on it. But they can absolutely be counted on as knowledgeable if they share a political agenda.

I’m more interested in the rock of Ages than the age of rocks.

Timothy Kincaid

September 10th, 2007

When I do see the report, the first thing I will determine is whether the methodology for determining results was by means of self-reporting. While this method may be quite effective in some studies (e.g. “did the product burst into flames when you plugged it in”), if there is anything we learned in the last year, it’s that when it comes to sexuality, self-reporting is highly suspect.

If we are to believe self-reporting, Ted Haggard is 100% heterosexual and will be ministering to ex-cons in a Phoenix half-way house. If we are to believe self-reporting, Larry Craig is not gay and did not do anything inappropriate in the Minneapolis bathroom. If we are to believe self-reporting, Bob Allen was only in the park bathroom because he was afraid of thunderstorms and black people.


September 12th, 2007

Why is there so much controversy about whether or not people can change from homo to hetero? Isn’t the real issue the consequences, not the causes? If the consequences are harmful, then that’s the only issue, isn’t it?

Emily K

September 13th, 2007

There is controversy because:

1. There is an extreme deficiency in documentation of change from gay to straight, yet anti-gay folks stubbornly refuse to concede to this fact.

2. The word “Change” remains undefined by the “science” of fundamentalist Christians who promote it. This control must first be established in order for any study to go further.

3. If gays CAN “change” to straight (whatever THAT means) – then right-wing conservatives will use that “fact” to justify denying homosexuals rights. (After all, if they can “change,” why give them rights for “choosing” to be gay?)

However, I submit that even if some gays have changed (and I mean, find women sexually attractive and have enjoyable sex lives with them) reparative therapy will still not be the answer for most gays. It is extremely expensive and can take years and years. In addition, those gays who are NOT fundamentalist Christians (most I know aren’t) or aren’t Christian at all will have a hard time finding a program for them. There are much fewer “secular” therapists out there than Christian ones.

ben foster alpha dog

October 30th, 2007

ben foster alpha dog…

Thanks for the nice read, keep up the interesting posts…..

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