Monday, August 1, 2011

The Lie That Is Reparative Therapy

Reparative Therapy or Sexual Orientation Conversion Therapy is making the rounds in the news again. This time it's receiving attention because it has become known that Marcus Bachmann, husband of Republican presidential candidate, Michele Bachmann, is said to offer treatment intended to change sexual orientation in a clinic he runs.

New publicity for the so called therapy does nothing to change the fact that the American Psychological Association, The American Psychiatric Association, The American Academy of Pediatrics, and the National Association of Social Workers along with many other similar organizations have long since gone on record as opposing reparative therapy or any attempt to change one's pattern of sexual attraction under whatever name it might be called.

The facts are that the only people that continue to use reparative therapy are quacks who make a great deal of easy money off it and evangelical Christians who continue misguidedly, if not down right conspiratorially, to scream to anyone who might still be listening that homosexuality is a threat to society and to the institution of marriage itself.

There is no doubt that the institution of marriage as we have come to know it is in trouble, big trouble. My wife is a practicing psychotherapist whose practice centers around counseling those who find themselves in troubled marriages.

In the United States, more than half of all marriages now end in divorce. Even among those marriages that do not end in divorce, there are often deep and troubling long term problems. Many of these problems are mishandled by Christian Pastors, "acting as counselors," who have a bias that tells them God wants every marriage to remain unbroken no matter the emotional, physical or spiritual cost.

However, in spite of what the evangelical Christians would have us believe, same sex marriage has nothing whatsoever to do with undermining these traditional marriages. While homosexuality does affect the well being of a number of marriages, the number is is statistically miniscule. And not a single heterosexual marriage has been damaged by the marriage of two same sex partners in any of the states where it has become legal in spite of what the evangelicals would have us believe.

The fact is, many activists believe that society's increasingly open acceptance of homosexuality, same sex marriage, or same sex partnerships recognized by law will actually strengthen all marriages in the years to come as fewer and fewer young men feel compelled to stay in the closet and marry a woman to hopefully become a straight male.

With homosexual men now allowed to be married in 6 States, even men from other states are flocking to those states to take advantage of the new opportunity afforded them even though in most cases their out of state marriage will not be legally recognized in their home state.

But the point is, GLBT activists are more honest than the self-righteous evangelical Christians, because they see the benefit to society in allowing same sex marriages or partnerships. For each same sex couple married today, there is potentially one less straight wife who will come to find out the hard way that reparative therapy or sexual orientation conversion therapy does not work and she is married to a homosexual male who cannot change his sexuality and can no longer function within the boundaries of a heterosexual marriage.

Some really big names in the evangelical Christian movement including nationally known pastors have also found out the hard way that the promise of reparative therapy is a lie. All one has to do is look at the headlines to see these Christian men who have staked their lives, their families and their careers on the falsehood that is reparative therapy and lost.

And their loss sheds light on the bigger lie that evangelical Christians insist on clinging to - that homosexuality is a choice. Would any of these nationally known pastors, some of them pulling down big incomes and basking in the rewards that respect in the evangelical movement can bring, risk it all on a mere choice? I think not. Again, all one has to do is Google these men to see the carnage, the loss, the hopelessness and the pain they have endured because of their sexuality to begin to realize that no man would willingly make such a choice. Some of these pastors have blogs in which their pain and loss are well chronicled and shared with anyone who cares to read their story.

The simple fact is that homosexuality is not a choice at all. If it were, there would be many more men out there opting in on their ability to choose and choosing to be heterosexual and thus avoid all the hurt and pain and loss that, even in this increasingly enlightened era, continues to befall those who live openly as homosexuals.

Reparative therapy is, more often than not, organized and administered by men whose only credential is that of evangelical pastor. The pastor leader is often assisted by a number of men with no formal training in psychotherapy or counseling. Often these assistants are so-called "ex-homosexual men" themselves who are doing their best to do "God's work" in the misguided hope that it will help to turn their own lives around. It doesn't in the long run.

There is no long term study anywhere, except a few questionable ones done by the evangelicals themselves, that suggest there is any long term chance whatsoever that anyone's life will be changed. The cycle is well documented: repression of sexual identity induced by the terror of the reparative therapy sessions, finally backsliding into "sin" (that is giving in to the urges one has always had for same sex activity), even greater shame and guilt because one has not only failed himself, but "according to the evangelicals" he has been brainwashed to believe he has failed God, and then repentance and beginning the cycle all over again. With the repetition of each cycle the shame, guilt and despair are increased and "ex-gay" watchdog groups have documented stories of men who finally solve their problem once and for all by suicide.

It is not unusual for a weekend therapy session to cost around $1,000. Men are often told they may have to repeat the session two or even three times at additional cost. With a typical session "ministering" to as many as 50 men, the income adds up fast.

The sessions borrow heavily from ideas first put forward by Sigmund Freud, that homosexuality is the product of a young boy's exposure to an abusive, unloving or absent father. Men are encouraged to confront their fathers by proxy sometimes in very violent ways. Perhaps it is because of this violence that many conversion or reparative therapy groups go out of their way to keep their techniques secret. Participants are often required to sign non-disclosure agreements to protect the secrets of those providing the therapy.

I have personally spoken with a few men who have attended these conversion therapy sessions. I have never spoken to one who felt it was ultimately effective. The last man I personally know of who attended was a prominent professional man in both his community and his evangelical church. His wife discovered his other life and demanded he take part in the reparative therapy as a condition of avoiding divorce.

Not wanting to loose everything he had spent years in building, he reluctantly agreed to take part in the exercise. He found he couldn't complete the course and walked out half way through it. He returned home and started divorce proceedings himself rather than put his faith in a lie that he knew he couldn't live up to.

The most common benefit I've heard from guys who attend these sessions is that it gives one first hand information on 30 - 50 new guys who one knows are eventually going to be looking for a like minded man again.

The lie concerning reparative therapy is not the only lie put forth by evangelical right wing Christians. They would have the world believe that their view of human sexuality, God and redemption is the only view Christians can have. Nothing could be further from the truth.  There are an increasing number of Christians and Christian denominations who see themselves as Christians of grace. They respond to the gospel of Christ with gratitude and a genuine desire to share the joy they have found in knowing they are children of an unmerited grace bestowed on them by God Himself. This sense of grace causes them to see themselves as, in spite of everything, a people loved by God. These Christians are all too aware of their own sins and are thus not quick at all to attack other people for sins they might have committed. Instead, they go about spreading the news of God's grace rather than spreading hate as so many right wing evangelical Christians do.

Evangelical Christians are not so loving and not nearly as giving as are Christians who focus on the grace of God. They see the world, not in terms of grace, though this is the whole message of the New Testament; but rather in terms of God's law. They seem to decide among themselves which laws are paramount. Seems like it always turns out to be the laws against homosexuality and abortion which Christ never got around to addressing directly.

The evangelicals would have us believe the normalization of homosexuality simply cannot be accepted by anyone committed to biblical Christianity, yet the ever increasing stridency that characterizes both their rhetoric and their actions is an indication that they themselves realize that the radical theology they cling to is no longer accepted by the population as a whole; and indeed, even some evangelicals are deserting the radical right wing of Christianity.

Their claim that the normalization of homosexuality simply cannot be accepted by Christians is given lie to by the increasing number of churches that welcome homosexuals into their fellowships every Sunday morning and by those Christians who in the privacy of the voting booth make decisions that support and affirm all people.

Evangelicals would have us believe that the Bible is clear and consistent in its setting homosexuality aside as an especially significant sin in the eyes of God. It isn't. The Bible is clear and consistent in stating that all of us are sinners saved by grace including the self righteous evangelicals among us who think they have learned to abstain from sinning.

Reparative therapy and those people without any formal education or scientific training behind them who continue to look to it as a "cure" for homosexuality shed light on the fact that evangelicals leaders as a group are much less likely to be formally educated in theology and the Bible than are their more liberal brothers outside the Christian right wing. Those that do have formal educations, often received that education from questionable religious based colleges that not only twist and mangle the social sciences, but also abuse the natural sciences as well, insisting in the face of irrefutable evidence to the contrary that the earth is only 6,000 years old and was created in 6 days.

Any guy who finds he is having problems adjusting to his homosexuality, would be wise to find a "real" therapist to help him out. A "real" therapist will be quick to tell him there is no way to change his sexuality. There are actually certified Christian counselors who understand that sexuality cannot be changed and who would never dream of suggesting reparative therapy to a client. A guy struggling with his sexuality, will serve himself well to find such a counselor and leave reparative therapy to the Christian quacks who are more interested in protecting their brand of Christianity than they are interested in showing genuine love, support and guidance to people they consider to be different from themselves.


  1. This gave me a funny thought: By the same logic reparative therapy uses, would it be possible to turn someone who is hetero into someone who is gay? Doubtful, but it sounds like a good movie scenario.

    The real frightening part of this pseudo-science is that it has any credence at all considering the volumes of research to suggest otherwise. I will point out, though, that these are the same groups of people who deny global warming, and don't believe in evolution, the basis for all biological studies. Facts are meaningless to those who have a cause.

  2. As a survivor of such therapy, I wholeheartedly agree with what you have said in this post!


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Anyone can comment on what I write in this blog. Regretfully, the recent amount of spam in my email account as required that I reinstate the word verification process for comments which I personally hate.

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