Shuck and Jive

Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Ex-Gay Alchemy

I see the LayMAN trying to "dispel the myths about Onebyone, Exodus International."

That's a turn of phrase, isn't it? The LayMAN dispelling myths. They aren't using the word myth in the Zeus and Hera sense or the talking snake in the garden sense. Myth here means falsehood. The claim that the article makes is that falsehoods have been made about these so-called ministries.

Let them ramble about the specifics. The whole concept of their ministry is a sham and a falsehood.

If you aren't in the loop, these organizations (like the alchemists of old who tried to turn lead into gold), try to turn gays into straight people (as if straight people were so golden in the first place).

They think that with a few grams of psuedo-psychology, a half liter of superstition, and a Bunsen burner of homophobic hysteria they will hetero-ize the homos for Jesus.

These people are liars, frauds, and maniacs. They ruin peoples' lives.

The most they can do is shame people into repressing their natural sexual desires. They succeed in making people feel worse about themselves.

The entire existence of these organizations begs the question, "Why?" If it isn't broke, don't fix it.

These organizations exist for political purposes. The "ex-gay" will appear for instance at Presbyterian General Assemblies and say,
"I used to be gay. Thanks to Jesus and OnebyOne I'm straight and so happy. If Jesus can heal me, Jesus can heal all gays (lesbians too!) So there is no need to allow gays to marry or to allow unhealed gays to be ministers. You can just put their leaden asses on the Bunsen burner and become golden like me! Thank you!"
The sad thing is that people hear this from their pulpits. They put their gay, lesbian, or bi children through hell so they won't shame the family or whatever else.

Parents, you should love your children more than your preacher. You should love your children more than your church. You should love your children more than your status.

There is nothing wrong with your child. There is plenty wrong with your church if it teaches the lies of OnebyOne, Exodus International, or any of those other misguided groups.

Don't believe me? How about:
And more.

And don't go blaming the Bible, God, or Jesus for
your prejudice. There are plenty of people in the church from theologians, to Bible scholars, to ministers to regular people whose faith leads them to condemn prejudice and affirm sexual and gender minorities.

Here is an interesting
story of a man who covertly participated in a Love Won Out Conference (yes another one) and reports what goes on there.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

He writes:
The so-called “ex-gay” movement is often seen as a fringe, extreme punchline by the gay community. Unfortunately, the out & proud gays are not their target demographic. Like it or not, the fact is that ex-gay ministries are a force to be reckoned with. They are masters in the arts of persuasion and brainwashing. They are smart, politically savvy, and they have a stranglehold on the evangelical voting bloc. I came to these realizations after infiltrating the definitive ex-gay conference: "Love Won Out."
Did I mention this is political?

I have posted this before and it has been around the net, but posting it again may prevent one parent from sending a child off to ex-gay school:


  1. IF there were authentic scientific evidence (by which I mean peer-reviewed, double-blind studies published in authentic professional journals) that these "ministries" actually worked and

    IF there were authentic scientific evidence showing that these "ministries" didn't cause more harm than good and

    IF there were authentic scientific evidence that these ministries weren't simply shoved on people who have other problems and

    IF they didn't lie about their results

    then I honestly wouldn't care whether or not someone availed themselves of these "ministries" as long as they were actually doing so by choice and not through coercion.

    But no such evidence exists. Not any.

    Unfortunately if these groups didn't appeal to religion as the basis for their methods they'd be thrown in jail for malpractice or, at the very least, chased down by the Better Business Bureau.

  2. In part 3 of the series I linked the author writes about hearing an ex-gay testimony and says:

    I don’t know if he is still attracted to men or if he is genuinely attracted to his wife. It honestly doesn’t matter to me –- what matters is that he now dedicates his life to telling people that the way they live is wrong and the way that he lives is right. I am not OK with that.

  3. There was a study in the past couple years by the guy who first pushed for homosexuality to be removed from the list of illnesses by the APA. His results said that a small group (I remember the figure as being less than 10%) was able to change their orientation. These people were highly motivated for change and deeply religious. As far as I know there have been no followup studies so I still take the results with a wait and see attitude.

    It was published in an authentic professional journal. I don't think the study was double blind. He just talked with people who claimed they had changed.

  4. Bob,

    Actually I don't believe the author, Robert Spitzer, never actually suggests that people can "change" their sexual orientation. He talks instead about "heterosexual functioning". In fact, I think he's careful never to make that claim. In fact, even Exodus doesn't make that claim any more.

    His study was conducted by 45 minute phone interviews with people referred to him by NARTH, Exodus, etc.

    He himself has said in interviews that his study is not generalizable to the larger populations and that based on his results, he believes the chances for someone to change their sexual orientation are, in his words, "pretty low."

    In other words, if I were to publish a paper in which I interview people who wear magnets on their ears to control arthritis, and I only interview people who have been referred to me by a company that makes those gadgets, just how reliable do you think the results are going to be? Particularly if I never bother to actually look at them to see if they're still arthritic?

    BTW, yet another error, Spitzer's work was not published in a journal. It was a talk delivered at a conference. Such talks are not peer-reviewed before-hand and anyone can get up and say basically anything they want.

    But it sounds like you're buying the OneByOne party line, hook line and sinker, Bob.

  5. ...I still take the results with a wait and see attitude.

    Jeebus, Bob.

    You've been blogging with Alan for months now, maybe years. He's gay. He has a husband. I met the husband. The two of them have a life together. WTF? What is there to wait and see?

    Are you seriously waiting and seeing regarding ex-gay chicanery?

    Do you ever get your head out of your interpretation of the Bible long enough to see people?

  6. Perhaps Bob's still taking a wait and see attitude on exorcism for the treatment epilepsy and leprosy?

    And that whole germ theory of disease thing that scientists have been talking about for decades... That can't be right either, after all, even they admit it's just a "theory." ;)

  7. Ex-gay ministries and creationism. I'll be waiting and seeing on those two developments...

  8. Sigh. I was merely pointing to Dr. Spitzer. And since I didn't look it up but depended on my memory (spotty at best) I got it wrong. Sorry about that.

  9. In general, Bob, I find a good rule of thumb is that if some supposedly scientific "finding" sounds like total crap, it probably is. Occam's Razor cuts pseudoscience like "reparative therapy" to shreds every time.

    Here's a question to ask your OneByOne friends, Bob, that will completely discount everything they say: "I'm straight and I want to become gay. Can I use your techniques to change my sexual orientation so that I can be gay?"

    Occam's Razor says "Of course!" right?

    Anyway, it isn't necessarily your spotty memory, but perhaps it was the snake-oil sold by OneByOners and other groups that you bought. They use confusion about such results to scam people all the time.

    Notice their own language about Spitzer's study found here:

    They imply throughout this article that the problem with news stories about Spitzer's study was that the news stories make unsubstantiated claims. The implication is that the study itself, however, was just fine. They never critique the study itself, nor note that they're also making unsubstantiated claims based on the study. In fact, they even support Spitzer's silly methods of recruiting subjects when they write, "Note that she does not say what exactly is wrong with the survey technique, which is very commonly practiced and accepted in psychiatric studies. It's an emotional response--not based on facts!"

    Bull. Crap.

    Unfortunately I'm not surprised that you bought the snake-oil, too. It is a simple truth about such charlatans that they wouldn't be selling it if people didn't buy it.

  10. Thanks for that link, Alan.

    So Bob,...sigh.

    What do you think of this wisdom from Bob Davies?

    Is Bob Davies right or wrong about ex-gay ministries, or are you still waiting and seeing?

  11. My personal opinion, not based on scientific study but on personal relationships is that a very limited number of people can change their desires and in either direction. These people were sexually abused and either believe they are gay (or not) because they had sexual feelings during the abuse or reacted against the abuse by turning to feelings either for the same sex or the opposite sex.

    Again I think this is a very small number and that for them their feelings are not an actual orientation. I think they can change their feelings through counseling but think that such counseling is always difficult whether one seeks to change the direction or their sexual feelings or not. Any counseling for someone with sexual abuse is terribly traumatic. I think the counseling for these persons should focus primarily on the abuse and change in sexual feelings should be secondary. However if the individual wants to work on their feelings I think the counselor should do so, if trained, but that work on the trauma has to come first.

    Outside of this group I think counseling can bring a change in behavior and maybe thoughts but not in orientation.

  12. I've never seen any credible data that people can change their orientation, Bob, a belief you seem to hold in spite of the lack of any credible scientific study to back it up. In fact, you even admit you don't have data to back it up, but your personal experience with a few people convinces you anyway.

    Here's a little tidbit I've picked up over the years as a scientist: The plural of "anecdote" is not "data".

    The *data* -- at most -- shows that some tiny fraction of particularly motivated religious people may be able to change their behavior for some unspecified short period of time.

    Behavior is not the same as orientation. But for you, Bob, and people with your beliefs, it's all about what people do with their genitals. (Hence the absurd distinctions in our polity between "practicing" homosexuals and celibate ones.)

    When you make conclusions based, not on evidence, but based on your personal opinion, it does not speak very highly for your objectivity in these matters. Perhaps that is why you so readily buy the OneByOne snake-oil? (This is also why I don't buy your statements that you'd change your mind about ordination if only you would see persuasive argument for it. I suspect that, by definition, any argument making such a case is going to be automatically unpersuasive based not on the data but based on your personal opinion.)

    Denial ain't just a river in Egypt.

    As I've said many times (most recently on your blog, Bob) most people simply do not make data-driven decisions on such matters. This is yet another example that I'm right.

  13. Alan

    Did you note that I said the overwhelming majority are NOT able to change their orientation? What I did suggest is that some act in particular ways because of traumatic life experience. Do you know of any studies that have dealt with sexual abuse and change in sexual feelings from heterosexual to homosexual or vice versa? I don't.

    I have seen some that deal with sexual abuse and sexual behavior among heterosexuals, specifically that some move toward more reckless behavior (in some cases prostitution) because of abuse and others move toward a rejection of or disincentive to participate in sexual activity and still others in whom there is no effect at all (including PTSD). I have not seen any studies that can predict how one will react to sexual abuse.

    In any case I didn't say that some could change their orientation. I said I thought that some could change their thoughts, feelings and behavior if they had been abused. And please note that I suggested some might change their thoughts, feelings and behavior in either direction. Basically I suggested that sexual abuse throws another issue into the mix that is not related to orientation.

  14. I'm not sure what your point is. Since the majority of people on the planet, straight or gay, are not abused, I'm not sure why we would form a hypothesis about causes of sexual orientation based on outliers.

    As far as I have seen, "hypotheses" such as yours regarding a causal link between abuse and sexual orientation are generally used to promote the notion that many/all LGBT people were abused at some point, which is why they're LGBorT.

    All, many, some. In any event, it's all the same hypothesis based on no evidence.

    But let's say there are some people who are gay because they were abused. Do you really think putting such fragile people in the hands of folks like OneByOne or Exodus is a good idea?! Because folks like OneByOne or Exodus certainly think it's a good idea.

  15. When people who were abused in any way show up in my office I send them to people who have training and experience in doing counseling with those who have experienced abuse. I would do the same with anyone who experienced abuse. And frankly, because I refer so early, it is unlikely that people will talk with me about sexual experience or behavior at that stage. Most people who walk into my office and talk about abuse are there because for some reason they trust me to be the first person they tell about their abuse. I consider such trust an honor but believe beyond hearing their stories I simply am not equipped to help them. I may see them more than once simply because they may take a refusal to see them again as rejection because of their abuse but every time I see them I will tell them that they need to see someone with more training.

    No, none of the people who came to see me talked about confusion about their sexual orientation. Mostly they talked about what happened to them. And most of their stories would make your hair stand on end. It sure did that to me.

  16. Bob,

    Would you ever refer anyone to OnebyOne?

  17. Bob -

    If a straight female teenager came to you and said she had been sexually abused, would you recommend different treatment for her than you would a gay male teenager?

    According to the APA website, 16% of males are believed to have been sexually abused at some point in their childhood, and 27% of women have. If this is the case, then why isn't the overall population of GLBT significantly higher? Even assuming that gays are ONLY gay because of sexual abuse, the proportion of the population that is gay does not come close to those statistics.

    Also, when I searched on "sexual abuse causes homosexuality", the top sites that come up are such lovelies as "Heterosexuals Organized for a Moral Environment", "Blow the Trumpet; Moral Depravity Directory" and "Narth: National Association of Research and Therapy of Homosexuality", which claims to "uphold the rights of individuals with unwanted homosexual attraction to receive therapy and the right of professionals to provide care". There were no credible sites in the first two pages. My sense of outrage would not allow me to look further.

    So, by suggesting that "ex-Gay therapies" be a possible treatment just in case sexual abuse plays a role in homosexuality (which the APA does not support) only serves to give credibility to a treatment that does no good and much harm. It is an extremely irresponsible action, from my point of view.

  18. John, I thank you for this blog. I particularly like the paragraph "Parents love your children more than your preachers..." I do. And this love for both my children, one gay and one straight, has also formed my theology. God loves us more individually than God loves our collective rule making, ticket taking, who is 'in', who is 'out' mentality. Many young people who discover their sexual orientation is not "mainstream" try to take their own lives before even giving their parents a chance. This is especially true for those who have grown up going to church. This is why we need preachers like you who will affirm all of God's children from the pulpit, blog, or where ever you are allowed to speak. Again, thank you for your witness.

  19. Snad, it depends, but not on the issue of orientation. I would probably be more likely to refer a woman to a woman (assuming, as is most probably the case if the abuse was sexual that the abuser was a man). I might well refer a man to a woman as well as it is more likely that a male child will be sexually abused by a man than a woman. (I do know that women are abused by women and men by women but sexual abuse by women, at least among those who report sexual abuse, is less likely. Physical or emotional abuse or neglect is another question). In any case I would give the individual, male or female a choice. And I keep a list of therapists I know have training in abuse counseling.

    My personal experience has been much more with adults male and female reporting than teens. That doesn't mean that teens don't report just that many more adults spoke to me than teens.

    And before anyone asks my preference when it comes to Christian or non Christian is that I prefer competence. If a person specifically requests a Christian I will refer to a Christian but depending on who is currently on my list I might suggest that they see a non Christian who is more competent. (BTW these days I get recommendations on counselors to refer to from my daughter who is a therapist. I wouldn't refer someone to Lizz as that would not be ethical.)

  20. I don't think you got my question, Bob. I was hoping to determine if you would look at the fact that a person has been sexually abused or that a gay many might be gay because he was sexually abused. See the difference?

    Bottom line is: ex-gay ministries are not worth the hell they create. There is no valid reason to put someone through it. Period.

  21. Snad

    I didn't miss your point. My point was that there are orders in which things should be done. If someone has been sexually abused, then you deal with that first. Then, when the person feels that they have made sufficient progress and wants to deal with the question of whether they are gay or not, then a counselor could deal with that.

    Part of my point was that I am not competent to do counseling with someone who has been abused, sexual or otherwise. Neither am I competent to know if a person is able to change their sexual feelings. If the person asks for it and has been abused I would send them to work on the abuse first. Then if they ask the counselor to help change their sexual feelings then the counselor can help, if qualified to do so.

    See my point? I was answering your question. I wouldn't even ask the question about sexual orientation or feelings because the help dealing with the abuse comes first. And if someone came to me and asked for help with their sexual feelings or orientation that they believe are caused by abuse I would refer them to deal with the abuse first. If pushed I would out and out say that if they hadn't had help dealing with the abuse they needed to deal with that first.

    So if you are asking me if I would treat someone who was gay and has been sexually abused different from they way treat someone who is heterosexual and has been sexually abused my answer is no.

  22. Then under no circumstances should you give credence to any "ex-Gay therapies".

  23. @localmd Thank you! That is exactly what I am trying to do! : )

  24. BTW, I'd just point out this little nugget from a letter to the LayMAN:

    "I would like to encourage everyone who reads The Layman to consider financially supporting OneByOne. There is no other voice in our denomination that addresses the homosexual issue and “speaks the truth in love” so powerfully and humbly. The ministry needs additional funding so it can keep Kristin full-time."

    Yup. It's all about the money. And lest anyone not believe that, the paragraph was written by a former OneByOne board member.