The National Organization “for” Marriage is trumpeting a new survey about changing your sexual orientation, based on “religiously-mediated” involvement in Christian conversion ministries:
Many professional voices proclaim that it is impossible to change homosexual orientation, and that the attempt to change is commonly and inherently harmful…
The results show change to be possible for some, and the attempt not harmful on average.
I don’t have access to the full survey, but the researchers have summarized the results. Here’s how it turned out after 6 to 7 years of tracking participants:
|98||The number of subjects when the study began: 72 men and 26 women.|
|37||The number of subjects who dropped out of the study and did not report their results. I don’t think we can count any of them as an ex-gay “win.”|
|12||The number who stopped trying to change, and embraced their gay identity.|
|18||The number who were reportedly chaste, “with substantive dis-identification with homosexual orientation.”
In other words, they’ve managed to stop having sex, and don’t think about getting same-sex down-and-dirty as much as they used to.
This isn’t a change in orientation, any more than a straight person is no longer straight because they’ve used prayer to become celibate and partially push some of their sexual feelings underground.
|17||The number who apparently stayed with the study, but whose outcomes are not described in the summary. Presumably, they’re not clear ex-gay “wins” either.|
|14||The number who reported “successful ‘conversion’ to heterosexual orientation and functioning.”|
That’s a meager 14% success rate.
Or is it? Let’s learn more about those 14 people.
First, it’s probably not 14. The study cautions us that the 14 conversions and 18 celibates represent “likely overly optimistic projections of anticipated success.”
In other words — less than 14 actual conversions.
But wait. Check out what “conversion” means:
Most of the individuals who reported that they were heterosexual at Time 3 did not report themselves to be without experience of homosexual arousal, and did not report heterosexual orientation to be unequivocal and uncomplicated.
You know what they call straight people who experience homosexual arousal, and whose orientation is at most equivocal? Bisexual. Most of the 14 heterosexual “conversions” seem to be bisexuals.
This leaves us with at most — at most — 6 individuals who went from gay to straight (as of now, at least; who knows where they’ll be in another 7 years).
And the authors aren’t willing to go even that far. Their single-sentence summary:
In short, the 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.
Wow. Out of 98 highly-motivated subjects, the authors found that a small, unspecified number can use prayer and counseling to shut down their sexual feelings or become a bit more bi. And possibly none who turned straight.
Frankly, I’m surprised they couldn’t find more. The authors claim their results:
…challenge the commonly expressed views of the mental health establishment that change of sexual orientation is impossible or very uncommon…
Actually, it looks more like the results confirm those views. If the antigay camp sees this as vindication and victory, they must be even more desperate than I thought.
ADDENDUM: When more than a third of the test subjects decide they want nothing more to do with the project and refuse to give any information about their emotional well-being, you probably shouldn’t be so confident that the therapy is “not harmful on average.”