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APA: Therapy Won't Change Being Gay

The nation's leading psychologists' professional organization has issued a new statement advising mental health professionals against leading patients to believe that therapy may somehow reverse their sexual orientation.

On August 4 the American Psychological Association adopted a resolution that says there's no scientific evidence therapy can make gay people straight. In a review of 83 English-language, peer-reviewed studies from 1960 to 2007, an APA task force found nothing to suggest that therapy could steer a member of a sexual minority (a term that encompasses all varieties and degrees of same-sex attraction) toward heterosexuality. Moreover, the task force found insufficient evidence to illuminate whether such therapy might in fact do harm.

The APA statement counters the notion that "sexual orientation change effort" or "reparative therapy," approaches embraced by a small but dogged group of therapists, can make gays and lesbians straight.

The APA has been chipping away at this issue for years; in the mid-1970s the organization helped establish that homosexuality and its variants are normal expressions of human sexuality and should not be considered pathologies in need of treatment. The new statement reaffirms that stance.

The new statement also takes care to address the concerns of those whose sexual identities are at odds with their religious beliefs. Such people should be counseled about accepting their sexuality in light of their religion.

Similarly, gay youths and adults seeking therapy should be offered guidance in coming to terms with their sexual identity and in dealing with societal reactions to that identity, the paper says.

Does this news surprise you? Or do you find it more surprising that we're still having this discussion?

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  August 12, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Psychology  
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This must come as a crushing blow to Bishop Harry Jackson of the Hope Christian Church. He falsely preaches that homosexuality is a lifestyle choice and that the gay sexual orientation can be changed (cured). This is the cornerstone of why he believes gays do not deserve equal rights and his fight against marriage equality.

Along with this current APA statement, the APA and all the other major health organizations agree, homosexuality is not a choice.

It is my hope that Jackson and others like him will step into the light, use the knowledge that is available and embrace and equitable future for all people.

Posted by: Dale8 | August 12, 2009 8:22 AM | Report abuse

Your summary is not quite complete. The APA distinguished between sexual orientation and sexual orientation identity. Orientation relates to biological responsiveness and relates to attraction and desire. Sexual orientation identity relates to behavioral preferences, and self-labeling. People do indeed change the latter and the APA acknowledged that various types of interventions may help people develop identities which fit their religious beliefs and worldview, even if that means not affirming homosexual behavior. These are crucial nuances which your report glosses over.

Posted by: ewthrockmorton | August 12, 2009 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Look very carefully at what ewthrockmorton writes relative to the ability of homosexuals to change their "sexual orientation identity". He writes there are "various types of interventions which may help people develop identities which fit their religious beliefs and worldview, even if that means not affirming homosexual behavior". In more clear terms, "lying about one's true self". Note that he indicates the difference between sexual orientation and sexual orientation IDENTITY, which is the manifestation of one's true self and feelings through "behaviors and self-labeling". In other words, "be gay, but we'll show you ways to lie about it and deny it". Not exactly a recipe for good mental health and a truly fulfilling, wholesome self-image.

Posted by: patriotleft | August 12, 2009 11:04 AM | Report abuse

It doesn't surprise me that the APA would finally issue such a statement.

Pedophilia and necrophilia also represent "minority sexual orientations." Does the APA have position statements on those?

[Sure, those are a little off-topic, but the APA must draw the line somewhere.]

Posted by: SteveParkerMD | August 12, 2009 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Surprised - no. Disappointed - of course. Homosexuality is a facet of behavior found throughout much of the animal kingdom, including humans. It has been this way forever and will undoubtedly continue forever. Neither the animal kingdom nor human civilization have crashed cataclysmically as a result. Whether you're for or against, whether you believe it is ingrained orientation or voluntarily chosen preferneces, it really does not matter because homosexual preferences and behaviors will continue as they always have as a component of human nature. You want to talk about it just to voice your opinion? Have at it. Think you're going to change or expunge it? Yes? Then let me ask you this, how long can you hold your breath? Why not devote all of this time and energy to solving real world problems instead of your own silly personal hang-ups.

Posted by: dcemeyer | August 12, 2009 12:10 PM | Report abuse

What surprises (and dismays) me:
That so many Americans will still have faith in the pronouncements of their religious "leaders" rather than accept the evidence provided by so many controlled, peer-reviewed studies.
And that SteveParkerMD clearly shows here that he willfully doesn't understand.

Posted by: CellBioProf | August 12, 2009 12:12 PM | Report abuse

SteveParkerMD is not a doctor. He just plays one on the internet.

If he really was a physician, he'd be busy ordering unneeded procedures to pay for his new yacht.

Posted by: Garak | August 12, 2009 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Have you ever thought that most of the Gay people would want no other life in which they have now, Being Gay and Pround!!!

Posted by: onesugar1 | August 12, 2009 12:45 PM | Report abuse

One more nail in the coffin of religious "teachings". And again, proof that religion does more harm than good. Think of how many people in the LGBT community have taken their own lives because of this? A simple and harmless biological coincidence. Ask yourselves: yes or no, is the religious community complicit in these tragedies? Is an apology in order?

Posted by: tomstaph | August 12, 2009 1:35 PM | Report abuse

I don't think lack of clarity from the APA is the issue. I think it's the allowance that anyone that calls themself a preacher or reverend has the right to council. I think they can certainly speak to their parishioners about the soul but I think they should be required to also mention counseling outside the church as a way to approach difficult issues.

Posted by: ryanatl | August 12, 2009 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Of course, God is the only One who can save people from hell. Homosexuality is a choice we make and it is a wrong one!

Posted by: Inteligent | August 12, 2009 1:38 PM | Report abuse

In response to the question "Or do you find it more surprising that we're still having this discussion?" The answer most certainly is no. After all, there are still folks out there who think that President Obama wasn't born in the U.S.

Posted by: seaduck2001 | August 12, 2009 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Re: SteveParkerMD.

Pedophilia has evolved into a legal matter to protect children. At one time in this country and currently in many places around the world, children younger than 18 were/are seen as legal for marriage. In the US during the nineteen fifties, my own mother-in-law legally married at 16 to a man that was 21. American society has evolved to restrict this practice just as American society has largely dropped miscegenation and homosexuality as crimes. Pedophilia, necrophilia and bestiality are straw man arguments that do not bring anything to the debate.

As a biochemist with a strong background in many fields of medicine, I am convinced that homosexuality is a complex issue with a variety of causative factors including a genetic factor. I am also convinced that cognitive therapy has limits. Medicine must adapt to new information just as society and religion should adapt to our growing understanding of the natural world. If religion didn't adapt, then why are we not a polygamous society? Why can't we marry a 13 year old? Why wouldn't we totally eradicate a culture when we win a war? Why isn't rape legal? The answer is: religion coevolves with society and these things have become socially repugnant - abominations. Religion needs to accept that society has accepted homosexuality and that it is no longer the abomination that a primitive people once thought.

Posted by: mraymond10 | August 12, 2009 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Of course, God is the only One who can save people from hell. Homosexuality is a choice we make and it is a wrong one!

Posted by: Inteligent | August 12, 2009 1:38 PM

Dude, you can't even spell Intelligent, you obviously have no idea of what's right and wrong.

Posted by: zn123 | August 12, 2009 2:51 PM | Report abuse

From a Christian perspective, being attracted to the same sex isn't a sin; it's a temptation. However, engaging in sexual activity with someone of the same sex is a sin. Further, any fornication, straight or gay, is a sin.

For Christians who are trying to reconcile their sexual feelings with their desire to honor God, it's important to understand that homosexual acts are no bigger or smaller of a sin than lying, idol worship, or coveting, etc.

In that sense, a Christian who struggles with same-sex-attraction should accept that their sexual feelings are like a thorn in the flesh, which Paul mentions in 2 Corinthians.

I'm a Christian who happens to struggle with lying. I struggle with fabricating stuff in conversations out of selfishness. My struggle is the same as someone who has same-sex-attraction. The temptation to sin is always there, but I know that I am breaking one of God's commandments in gratifying my flesh.

At the end of the day, a gay Christian who has committed sexual sin should repent and then receive God's amazing Grace. That's what I do when I lie.

Posted by: Tinkeric | August 12, 2009 3:00 PM | Report abuse

the SteveParkerMD writes:
"It doesn't surprise me that the APA would finally issue such a statement.

Pedophilia and necrophilia also represent "minority sexual orientations." Does the APA have position statements on those?

[Sure, those are a little off-topic, but APA must draw the line somewhere.]"

The APA is neither condoning nor condemning orientations - merely saying that they are convinced that they cannot be changed.

Posted by: iamweaver | August 12, 2009 3:03 PM | Report abuse

I am a retired reproductive physiology research scientist/professor.
I can tell you one thing for sure. If the normal burst of testosterone that occurs about the time of birth in males doesn't take place and thus there is no binding of the hormone to the hypothalamus, that individual's brain is not "masculinized" and his sexual orientation will not be masculine.
Too bad that religious ignoramouses are so ignorant about biology.
Yes, I am straight and happily married. That doesn't make me any better morally than gay people!

Posted by: lufrank1 | August 12, 2009 3:08 PM | Report abuse

Tinkeric writes:
"At the end of the day, a gay Christian who has committed sexual sin should repent and then receive God's amazing Grace."

The sin of lying demonstrably goes against the golden rule. Casual sex, straight or gay, can also cause a host of issues (though fortunately, many less than in the 1st-century). But I challenge you to show how a long-term, loving single-sex relationship goes clearly against the golden rule.

Yes, Paul stood forcibly against homosexual relations - but the only one he could imagine was either between an adult and a child, or a casual liaison.

Posted by: iamweaver | August 12, 2009 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Using religion to understand science is what has led to a lack of understanding of science. Science stands alone and requires no religion to be complete or underrstood. However, religion must stand independant of science as science is real and proven theroems, and not postulations of faith.

Anyone that expects sexual orientation to have some religious conotation, does not understand human nature and human behaviors.

A small group demands behavior based on their religious beliefs. Human nature is not controlled by religion, it is a natural function of life itself and not a religious understanding or response.

Anyone that fails to separate religion and science is doomed to a lack of understanding of both.


Posted by: patmatthews | August 12, 2009 3:39 PM | Report abuse

I was lost at the "therapy cannot cure homosexuality" statement.

I have only, ever, met three kinds of homosexuals:

1. In complete denial

2. Wishing they were straight.

3. The ones who gave up fighting it, and have found some degree of happiness.

In short, nobody I know wants to be gay. Really. They may have convinced themselves otherwise as a coping mechanism, but all fought this tooth and nail until they could no longer. If there were a cure, they'd take it.

Posted by: jwalter6 | August 12, 2009 3:46 PM | Report abuse


Hogwash, you must not know very many people, and you certainly don't speak for me.

Posted by: Dale8 | August 12, 2009 5:28 PM | Report abuse

All the energy to discredit “reparative” therapy is a red herring. Everyone has a sexual orientation that is individual to themselves. Labeling obscures the individual; it perverts intimacy; it makes a person a thing. A person is not their sexual orientation.
People came out of the closet and fought for a basic right to be identified as a person; and to be treated as a person and to be related to as a person. They fought hard and paid dearly for that basic right; never again were they to be treated as a leper and set adrift or cast aside as so much garbage.
This celebration is a bit premature. Not all reparative therapy looks to fix anyone, or cure anyone of being “gay.” Sexual orientation cannot be repaired and no one is claiming that, except perhaps the extreme religious fundamentalists. But, they probably have problems with a box of 64 crayons. …way too many.
Reparative therapy can’t fix labels. They’re not in the public relations business or into propaganda to change the minds of the masses. The APA hasn’t been chipping away at issues. Others have been chipping away at the APA for a long time in a propaganda campaign to cloud the issue. And if this isn’t violence against the individual, I don’t know what is.

Posted by: PaulLeddy | August 12, 2009 6:17 PM | Report abuse

Religious superstition and myths are such a sad thing, the way they are currently used by society to harm good people.

I think religiosity must have a biological basis as well... that is not be just be a choice. It reminds me of sickle cell disease. If you have one gene your are protected from malaria, but if you have the two you have the sickle cell disease. So the illness continues in society.

Religiousity must have served a similar purpose during the evolution of our species. I think unfortunately there is a lot more of the "disease" state...too much genetic loading...than the "non-disease trait" state.

It is just amazing the control and power myths can hold on entire populations.

Posted by: gregtexas | August 12, 2009 7:04 PM | Report abuse

@jwalter6: You know some gay people. You just don't know you know some gay people. If you are that dismissive of gays, of course the only ones that will want to associate with you are the ones who are unhappy in general. The well-adjusted ones aren't going to bother with your sorry ass. (BTW, if, as you say, they would be straight if they could, doesn't that amount to you admitting it's not a choice?)

@SteveParkerMD: I'm assuming the MD stands for Maryland, 'cause there's no way you're a medical doctor.

@patmatthews: You go, boy!

I am convinced that people who say homosexuality (or bisexuality) is a choice are basing their opinion only on the external behavior they see. If they knew what LGBT people really FELT inside their hearts, and from what age they felt it, they would know it's not a choice.

(PS: All you deniers out there, you do know that if it weren't for the efforts of a gay man, there would be no computer today on which you could discuss this topic? Right?)

Posted by: bucinka8 | August 12, 2009 7:06 PM | Report abuse

Clearly religious superstition is the problem here... Not people with same-sex sexual orientation.

Posted by: gregtexas | August 12, 2009 7:10 PM | Report abuse

This report does not surprise me and I am not surprised that we are still having this discussion. However I do think that in next few years this discussion will become moot. More and more of us are accepting our natural tendencies with respect to sexuality. I knew I was gay at the age of 10. I tried to "change" during adolescence. I accepted the fact I was gay while attending college. It just annoys me how those who are not gay or bisexual can say it is a choice. Are they choosing to be heterosexual?

Posted by: doughnut1 | August 12, 2009 7:40 PM | Report abuse

Of course. I find it very surprising we are still having this discussion. I would be less surprised if we were still debating whether the earth is flat.

Posted by: loveconquersfear | August 12, 2009 7:40 PM | Report abuse

doughnut1 writes:
"It just annoys me how those who are not gay or bisexual can say it is a choice. Are they choosing to be heterosexual?"

Of course we did! Don't you remember that multiple choice test we all took in the 7th grade that asked us to choose our sexual preferences? Too many of my friends decided to "play a joke", and clicked homosexual. The jokes' on them now!

Posted by: iamweaver | August 12, 2009 7:51 PM | Report abuse

Even Jesus knew this. Read Matthew Ch. 19, and don't let ancient word definitions confuse you. Sheesh. I've always been gay and always been happy with it since I've always known that I was created this way. Live in the light. God is love. Shake it!

Posted by: mradams | August 12, 2009 8:30 PM | Report abuse

I think it's about time that people take a long look.

A little off topic, but for some reason gay marriage is illegal, but divorce and cheating is... I mean, why aren't there lobbyists to make divorce and cheating on one's spouse illegal? Those are sins too...

I hear that gay marriage is going to destroy society, ruin (different-sex) marriages, and corrupt children. However, doesn't divorce and cheating do that?? Again, I ask, where are the lobbyist's when you need them?

In this era, we should be way past the whole "change gays" mentality, and start looking at what matters. They are two people, who love each other - doesn't the world need a little more of that, and a little less divorce and adultery??

Posted by: crosstheithet | August 13, 2009 4:54 AM | Report abuse

Another headline for your column of Aug 12 (“APA: Therapy Won’t Change Being Gay”) could have read, “APA: Therapy Must Respect Religious Values.” Point is, your column woefully underreports the real “new news” that comes with the latest APA resolution.

Rather than sharing the significantly innovative steps taken by the APA, you opt to headline the story with the tired old “anti-change” message, which is actually still as legitimately debatable today (per the research record) as it was before the recent APA resolution. The new development is that the APA now recognizes religious diversity on par with "sexual diversity." And, if personal values lead one to respond to same-sex attractions without embracing a gay identity, this must be regarded and aided by the profession as a whole.

Further, sexual orientation change efforts, in general, are not barred by the resolution as your framing of the story would lead readers to believe. Professional regard for client and therapist religious values that do not affirm a gay identity is an important clarification coming from the resolution. No one would find it “surprising” that we are still having this discussion if you would shed light on the new parts of the conversation.

Posted by: jstephensdiego | August 13, 2009 5:53 PM | Report abuse

I was sexually attracted to men for years. I did not choose to have same-sex attractions, but I also did not want them. What I did want was to live by my Christian faith, which told me that God intended that sexual expression be between a man and a woman in a marriage relationship.

It was more important to me to live according to my religious convictions than to embrace a gay identity. I also wanted a wife and children, and I did not want to expose myself to the significant emotional and physical health risks that I saw in those who engage in sexual activity outside of marriage.

So I chose to pursue change in my sexual attractions – through counseling, support groups, practicing spiritual disciplines, developing a deeper relationship with God, learning about the roots of my same-sex desires and building healthy relationships with men and women. Over time I began to change – in many different ways – including my behavior, my identity and my attractions.

This was not an easy journey, nor was it without failure and setbacks. But I’ve been happily married for over 16 years now. Some will intolerantly dismiss or mock my story and say that I’m in denial, that I never had same-sex attractions or that I haven’t changed. But the reality is that I’m very different than I was when I began this journey out of homosexuality.

While I’m glad that the APA acknowledges the importance of religious values, I think the organization is wrong to discount stories like mine that demonstrate real change.

Jeff Johnston
Research Analyst
Focus on the Family

Posted by: jeffjohnston | August 13, 2009 7:39 PM | Report abuse

Dear Mr. Johnston,

It's really sad that you could not accept the way God made you. But instead you let societal pressures and narrow religious views make you feel you are not worthy of being yourself.

We've had enough of the distractions and distortions, I and millions of others are going to follow the more credible findings of the APA as well as all the other leading world health organizations. Being gay is not a choice, what you have done clearly is. Yes, I too think you are in denial. This is me being totally honest, an honestly I feel you lack.

Furthermore, the LGBT community is a recognized minority in this country and is destine to receive full protection like all other minorities. After reading the views of Focus on the Family on homosexuality I really wonder how you differ from other hate groups.

Posted by: Dale8 | August 14, 2009 7:48 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Johnston,

I, for one, believe you. Thanks for sharing your story here. I'm sure that fighting against your impulses must have been quite a struggle early on.

I have great respect and admiration for Dr. James Dobson and Focus on the Family.

Posted by: SteveParkerMD | August 16, 2009 12:49 PM | Report abuse

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