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Anti-gay groups are crowing over a “new” study that proves so-called ex-gay conversion therapy really works. There are only four problems with this ex-gay study: (1) It’s based on old data from 2011, (2) its flawed methodology proves nothing, (3) its two main authors are a non-certified psychologist and a “semi-retired earth scientist” and (4) it was published in a journal with the goal of upholding the Catholic faith. Nice try, fellas.
The ex-gay study, called the “Effects of Therapy on Religious Men Who Have Unwanted Same-Sex Attraction,” was published in the July edition of The Linacre Quarterly, and anti-gay groups like The Liberty Counsel and the Family Research Council say this ex-gay study proves conversion therapy can be “beneficial and effective” for changing one’s sexual orientation.
The ex-gay study surveyed 125 men who’d gone through “sexual orientation change efforts” (SOCE, also known as conversion therapy), asking them whether they thought it helped make them less gay. But the men went through different forms of SOCE, and by the end of only 28 of them felt “mostly” or “exclusively” heterosexual. Put another way, 76% of the men still felt predominantly attracted to men.
The survey also revealed the weird ex-gay methods these men were subjected to, including not masturbating, doing “neutral exercise” (that is, putting their sexual energy into something “neutral” like running rather than something “feminine” like jazzercise), using “covert aversion” (a fancy name for “imagining getting AIDS”), spiritual strengthening (bible study) and basically “reframing desire” onto “heterosexual surrogates” (directing same-sexual desire onto women).
And because each man had been subjected to different types of treatment in different programs, the study doesn’t conclusively prove that SOCEs work. It just shows that men who go through SOCEs still largely feel attracted to men, hardly proof of ex-gay conversion therapy’s effectiveness.
Zack Ford, a writer for the progressive political site Think Progress, closely examined this ex-gay study and pointed out that its lead authors Paul Santero and Dolores Ballesteros have psychology doctorates from a Catholic seminary not certified by the accredited American Psychological Association (one among numerous professional psychologist groups that call ex-gay therapy a form of psychological torture). A third author of the study, Neil Whitehead, is a self-proclaimed earth scientist with no psychology degree. All three have longstanding careers profiting off ex-gay therapy.
The study was published in The Linacre Quarterly, a publication owned by the Catholic Medical Association, the stated mission of which is to “uphold the principles of the Catholic faith in the science and practice of medicine” and which considers homosexuality as having “personally disintegrative effects.”
Perhaps most telling, nearly 90% of the men surveyed in this ex-gay study identified as actively practicing Christians, a clue into why they were in ex-gay therapy to begin with. When your religion tells you you’re a sinful, Satanic, child-molesting abomination, you might want to change rather than burn in hell.
But don’t let this ex-gay study fool you. 14 American states have banned conversion therapy as harmful, and anti-gay groups are now calling such bans “Must Stay Gay” bills. They’re propping up this new ex-gay study as proof you can change.
Perhaps they should look at a 2013 survey in which 84% of ex-gay survivors said it left them with lasting shame and emotional harm.