Study: Some Can Change Sexual Orientation
Special Report - August 18, 2009
New results from an ongoing national study of same-sex attracted men and women seeking sexual orientation change through religious ministries shows that change is possible for some individuals and not likely to cause harm. The findings, which were released August 9 at a symposium at the American Psychological Association’s (APA) annual convention, is an update to a longitudinal study of men and women seeking help through religiously mediated ministries affiliated with Exodus International over a seven-year study period. Conducted by Drs. Mark A. Yarhouse and Stanton Jones, original findings from the study were published in the 2007 book, Ex-Gays: A Longitudinal Study of Religiously Mediated Change in Sexual Orientation. The latest study provides updated information on 61 individuals who were involved in the study between six and seven years. The authors of the study emphasize that their study is “not a study of professional psychotherapy,” but only focused on religious approaches to sexual orientation change.
The latest study released on August 9 “found considerable evidence that change of sexual orientation occurred for some individuals through involvement in the religiously-mediated change methods of Exodus Ministries...” The researchers defined sexual orientation change (or conversion) as “a reduction in homosexual attraction and an increase in heterosexual attraction.” In addition, the study notes that among “conventionally religious persons,” success may be defined as a “reduction in homosexual attraction and behavioral chastity.”
Specifically, the study found that by year six or seven, 23 percent of the individuals achieved sexual orientation change “conversion,” and 30 percent achieved behavioral chastity (or celibacy). Sixteen percent of the subjects “had experienced modest decreases in homosexual attraction, but were not satisfied with their degree of change,” and were “committed” to continuing the change process. Seven percent of the subjects were listed as non-responsive, defined by the authors as those “who had experienced no significant sexual orientation change, but had not given up on the change process,” and 25 percent were classified as “failures,” which included individuals who had either embraced a homosexual identity (20 percent) or had given up on the change process but not yet identified as homosexual (5 percent). The authors concede the possibility that their data “reflects both persons who experienced a more powerful change in orientation as well as persons who experienced a change in sexual identity.” They note that the change process is “complex and multifaceted.”
The study also refutes claims by some that attempting to change one’s sexual orientation is harmful. The study found “no evidence that the attempt to change sexual orientation was harmful on average for these individuals.” The authors note that “the persons in our study who have continued with the pursuit of ‘reorientation’ unstintingly over the extended time frame of this study, six to seven years or more, showed modest gains in the diminishing of psychological distress.”
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