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There's FREEDOM! Real, lasting FREEDOM from the agonizing, self-destructive, self-defeating life that comes with transsexualism. Charlene LeachFlight toward Woman p3
To consider whether gender transition is an acceptable, Christian course of action, we are required to consider the alternative to transitioning. If we only consider transitioning, we are only considering one side of the issue. The controversy should not be "transitioning versus not transitioning," it must be "transitioning versus the alternative." The alternative is to change one's gender identity to conform to their assigned gender at birth.
As always, looking at intersex issues gives us a hint. Even after body modification, many intersex people are not completely one sex: their body is too short or tall, too hairy or too hairless, not menstruating or not fertile. Some intersex people can have the appearance of being typically sexed (non-intersex), but their genetics remain constant. E.g., some people with klinefelter's may look entirely male and even father children, but they still have the female XX chromosomes. Thus intersexuality suggests that a shallow conformity is possible but changing the underlying root is not.
In this chapter, I break down and also use homosexuality to give us further hints. Like being intersex, being lesbian or gay is not identical to being trans. However, like being intersex, it overlaps and has both cultural and biological commonalities that can help.
Even if I can become cisgender, this does not mean I should become cisgender. The possibility of change is merely a testament that an alternative to transitioning exists, not whether it is a healthy alternative. If the alternative exists, then we move on to weighing which option is better.
The converse, however, is true. if I cannot become cisgender, I should not become cisgender. If the only possibility is transitioning, then what was thought of as a choice is not a choice at all.
Predating change gender identity, psychotherapists and individuals were trying to change sexual orientation. Because of this history, changing gender identity has inherited the peculiar vocabulary which. At first the language appears straightforward: Homosexuals become heterosexual and transgender people become cisgender; their orientation and/or gender identity is changed and healed (the words being synonymous) into what God intends for the genders. That's how I understood it. A few months before coming out, I attended the Love Won Out Exodus conference in 2006 as my first encounter with the ex-gay movement. I had every reason to think they were promising a heterosexual orientation and, had they mentioned it, cisgender feelings about my body and gender. But after years of reading between the lines, I found that this reparative therapy actually promises something quite different.
The first step in the confusing jargon is claiming that "homosexual" and "gay are not synonyms. Says ex-transgender person Sy Rogers and Exodus leader, "A homosexual is a person who has ONGOING erotic and romantic desire for, and sexual involvement with the same sex. To be 'gay' is more of a social (and political) statement, in which a homosexual person embraces a lifestyle and identity that is supportive of homosexuality. There are many people who do have homosexual feelings, but would not describe themselves as `gay'." http://www.exodusglobalalliance.org/commonquestionsabouthomosexualityp39.php Thus "'The opposite of homosexuality is not heterosexuality,' says [Exodus president] Chambers, sagely. 'It's holiness.'"http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article4893735.ece Exodus calls these people ex-gay. Put another way, there is the Church and the World. Because a Christian cannot be gay.http://http://exodus.to/index2.php?option=com_content&do_pdf=1&id=139 Can Christians be Gay? and yet many Christians are attracted to the same sex, the two must be separable
Thus is the impenetrable logic of Exodus. When dealing with specialized terminology, it is fine to create your own definitions just so long as the definitions are consistent. So when Exodus' glossary's entry on "gay" is the single word definition, "homosexual," they are not consistent.http://exodus.to/content/view/45/87/ Thus following their terminology becomes simply impossible. What any of their vocabulary means will depend on the person speaking.
Another confusing term is "change" which is a buzzword in ex-trans and ex-gay literature. Advertisements and slogans proclaim, "Change Is Possible." Said John Paulk, "Can homosexuals change? WE DID!"Besen p31 http://books.google.com/books?id=ponUsrkFfEMC&pg=PP1&dq=besen+anything+but+straight&ei=hlEsSqSiIJqwMqW43ZoH#PPA34,M1 Jerry promises "total change."Leach. Introduction Does "change" refer to orientation, feelings, identity, behavior, or everything?
Another buzzword is "healing" as Charlene emphasizes in the beginning quote. Unlike some other jargon, no one ever seeks to define "healing," implying there is no special meaning. The common meaing is "to make sound or whole."Merriam-Webester. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/heal&book=Dictionary If I heal from the flu, you understand that the flu virus was destroyed. If my friendship heals, it means our discord is over. If a I need monthly vaccination shots or a mediator to maintain our friendship, I would be neither sound nor whole. I would not have healed.
Advocates of change and healing avoid the word "repression." Yet "repression" is a useful word here. For starters, it is common ground. Everyone agrees gender identity can be repressed to a degree. A female who says, "I am a woman" and act like women but deep down feel like a man is repressing her feelings, not changing or healing them. In strong repression, conscious feelings may even change (or appear to change) while the original feelings are pushed down to a subconscious level where the client convinces themself they don't exist.
Critics of trying to change gender identity and orientation believe the change occurring is repression, not healing. Social identity, behavior, even some surface feelings have changed, but gender identity, which dwells the deepest most part of our being, is static. I don't want to demonize repression. As Christians, we should repress all desire to sin. B we should never lie. We should never call repression healing. Paul was content with the theology that the thorn in his side would never heal. But I do want to be honest and articulate about it.
When a transgender person decides whether or not to transition, they need facts. Does the alternative of "change" exist? Is change healing or repression? Is it something I, personally, can achieve? Do the benefits outweigh the costs?
While they may retain feelings and inclinations, their habits and inability to resist is eliminated. The distinctions and semantics are subtle enough to confuse anyone who does not spend much time with the movement. Even Exodus gets confused, sometimes advertising, "a blueprint for complete healing from homosexuality."http://www.exgaywatch.com/wp/2005/10/exgay-offers-co/
I do occasionally contend with old thoughts and emotions from within, but have found that I do not have to let them rule my choices and behaviors. Jerry Leach. Ongoing Correspondence. http://transchristians.org/people/jerry-leach/archives/leach-ongoing-correspondence
It's not so much a matter that I am confronted with old transsexual sensual desires from time to time; but rather a matter of how it is that I choose to deal with the first thoughts that emerge. That's the real question. Jerry Leach. Ongoing Correspondence. http://transchristians.org/people/jerry-leach/archives/leach-ongoing-correspondence
In a letter, he continues to identify himself those he counsels as "we transsexuals."Jerry Leach. Can Therapy Cure GID? www.transchristians.org/people/jerry-leach/debate-part-2 On the other hands, he also contradicts himself. When asked, "Do you mean you are gender conflicted, but just don't act upon it?" Jerry responds
I do not identify myself as a transsexual...but as a man who once believed that the thoughts, feelings, and actions of the gender confused marked him forever as a man caught in a trap from which he could not extricate himself. I have learned however, that transsexual thoughts and feelings are just that: thoughts and feelings which, if left unchecked, become full-blown actions. . . my battle with gender confusion is ongoing, for it is among one of the most resilient and resistant deviations to remedy; due chiefly to the early onset of the psychological disruption in the formation of a person’s core-gender-identity; which is understood to be fixed by the age of 7 to 8 years.Ongoing Correspondence
Besides shirking the transexual label, his core gender identity cannot change because, as he says, it was fixed during his childhood. Using ex-gay terminology, Jerry has changed and is "ex-trans" and is repressing his feelings. But his feelings are not so deeply repressed that he is unaware of them. What about healing? He promises it for others.
We can assist you in finding and destroying the faulty foundations of self understandings...and heal the deep inward emotional wounds.Ongoing Correspondence
proven method employed to bring healing to the emotionally wounded transsexual.
David - Would you consider yourself healed today? And what does being healed from transvestism and transsexualism look like?
Jerry - The connotation of the word "healed" is that you no longer have any issues, you know? You no longer have any thoughts or feelings - essentially that's what I interpret that word to mean. I can't really attest to a complete healing in that sense. . . . So to say that I'm healed, one would say that if you have any more thoughts about that then you can't claim to be healed or delivered from that lifestyle - that if anything you're just suppressing it. No, I don't buy into that at all. To say that I'm healed? I don't know how you'd say that, because I still have thoughts and temptations from time to time, but I've learned how to, in a very concrete way, deal with them.
He then describes how he prays when feeling tempted. If a doctor told you of a "proven method" for healing blindness and would even give a "free 15 minute consultation"Personal email. but was blind himself, would you hire him? This is semantics; Jerry has obviously thought a lot about what "healing" means. He believes healing meaning to "no longer have any thoughts of feelings." To press the point, he elsewhere says in an introduction,
The ultimate goal is not abstinence and maintenance, but total freedom from the agitating passions of the flesh. Someone once said, "Living in the Truth sets you entirely free!" . . . You can find and maintain abstinence/freedom from Gender Disorders.http://transchristians/people/jerry-leach/archives/leach-introduct
I have caught Jerry in his lies multiple times before, but this is the saddest instance. Even sadder, is that after 60 years of repressing his feelings, he still holds out naive hope.
Will I ever stop wanting to cross dress? I think so. It will always be attractive to me, my knee jerk reaction to stress or loneliness, but as I begin to listen to what Christ says about me and really believe it, the need for acting out (dressing up) will fade. http://web.archive.org/web/20061021225857/www.realityresources.com/fighterqa.htm
The worst case scenario is that Jerry is lying about something else, namely whether he has successfully repressed his feelings. Could it be Jerry still slips on Charlene's clothes from time to time? Recovering alcoholics are fond of saying exactly how long they've been sober. If he has never done any transgender behavior since, it is odd he doesn't boast of it as Saint Paul encourages. Hypothetically, what if Jerry did relapse? I would expect to find things exactly as they are, neither confirming nor denying that he relapsed. When ex-gay leaders relapse and are caught, they are exiled from the ex-gay movement. To save his dignity and his source of income, Jerry would not confess to failure. Also, consider that with Jerry's loss of testicles comes loss of sex drive and he says his feelings were drive by his sex drive. Child molestors and some rapists are given the same treatment to lower their sexual motivation; since it works for them, it could work for Jerry.Several trans folk in his hometown have spotted him in local LGBT hangouts. Jerry says he doesn't even walk through women's clothing sections in stores because they're too tempting; how much more tempting would it be to mingle with out-and-proud trans folk?
One story was of Josef Kirchner, born male, lived as a woman for 20 years, and then re-transitioned back to living as a man. Jerry Leach and others embraced Josef, making him living evidence that change is possible. Initially, Josef embraced the role but as he transitioned back into manhood, he found he didn't square with the pro-binary ideas after all. For one, he was still attracted to men. He also decided he was glad he had surgery endowing him with a vagina. Years later, he still lives as a man but doesn't regret his time as a woman. While he refrains from the transgender label, he told me a statement that is classically genderqueer, "I have always felt myself to be both male and female in one body." After years with Jerry, Josef realized his therapy was a sham, telling him, "you're not even healed yourself!" Josef asked Jerry to stop using his name but he has not. If you order Jerry's introductory booklet, you'll find Josef's name and only the pro-binary side of Josef's story.
Marissa Dainton is also held up by various groups as a transwoman who, with God's help, transitioned back into her assigned gender of birth. When she became a Christian, she revealed her transgender status to her pastor. She would later say she felt "brainwashed by the church I was then a part of into believing that I could not be truly acceptable to God unless I 'became the man I was created to be.'" Wanting to please God, she went through the grueling emotion process to live as a man again. "Of course I was deluding myself - I never had any real conviction of having been 'healed'. . . . I was only going through the motions - my gender feelings never changed. I acted out of total hypocrisy much of the time." As she more knowledgeable of Christ and admitted her transgender feelings were not changing, she resolved to transition again into womanhood. That meant being "shunned by my former 'friends' in that church who regard me as a traitor in open rebellion against the Holy Spirit. I am still (miraculously) a Christian - which I guess is testament to the power of the Holy Spirit." Parakaleo is well aware of Marissa's state but still distributes the first half of her story as proof of healing.
The most common supposed-regret is Renee Richards, a well-known tennis player in the 1970s. Jerry calls deceptively her a former "political advocate of SRS"Flight p112 as if to show even the strongest supporters of transgenderism don't really believe in it. Jerry quotes Richards from an interview and advertises her on his website and book. She writes in her autobiography about this very same interview.
I saw newspaper headlines saying, RENÉE RICHARDS REGRETS SEX CHANGE. The stories asserted that I had made this admission in an interview with Cindy Schmerler for Tennis magazine. Outraged, I called the magazine and was talk that the content of the interview had been made available for publicity purposes. Somebody along the line concluded that I was remorseful about my sex change. In fact, I had said nothing of the kind . . . In short, I have some regrets about my career path, but apparently the words "transsexual" and "regret" cannot appear in the same article without somebody shouting, "I knew it!"No Way Renee: The Second Half of My Notorious p278-279 Life.phttp://books.google.com/books?id=L81AoWNKDXEC&pg=PA278&lpg=PA278&dq=renee+richards+tennis+magazine&source=bl&ots=sdbRox9ExV&sig=qg1S5nVJIwQfbwOImWDLHyrkx_I&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=2&ct=result#PPA279,M1
If that's not clear enough, asked point blank whether she regrets SRS, she responds, "The answer is no."http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/01/garden/01renee.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1 After reading her book, it's clear Richards is a complex person who thinks for herself and she doesn't tow the transgender party line. Leach takes those complexities out of context to make it seem she fits his ideology.
Other than Jerry, none of the so-called healed people have commented on whether their transgender feelings still exist, whether they are tempted, and whether they ever lapse into acting on those feelings. Only through personal correspondence with a former colleague of Keith Tiller, I learned he still struggles with wanting to wear women's clothes. If you were going to write an inspiring testimony of healing and you did not have these feelings or relapses, wouldn't you include them as further demonstration of God's work? Because none of them do (and not just some but none) and because the feelings exist in every known person, I believe the silent testimonies are no exception. Thus, I don't believe anyone was "healed" or "changed." They are merely repressing their feelings.
It's impossible to examine the rest of the claims of change. Their anonymity prevents knowing anything but the testimony of healing they chose to reveal. Even if they have later decided to accept their transgender identity, gender defenders would still act is if they were healed.
80% is a huge percentage. When we examine change in sexual orientation,
we'll see the even promoters don't claim this much success. In a
private email, Jerry wrote something even more amazing.
We have noted that 90% of those who have
met with him for at least a two year period remain fully integrated and
emotionally intact in their birth-gender roles. Those who have worked
with him for over 4 years ascribe to a 100% success rate; "success"
being understood as the elimination of former desires to dress like or
emulate the false feminine identity.
By that "success," even Jerry isn't successful and he has worked
for 20 years! There's more. Jerry can never decide how long therapy
requires. He himself went from scheduling surgery to counseling others
in less than a year. Other times, like above, he says 2-4 years. Other
times, he says as long as "5-8 years."IN theory Jerry
claims to have worked with "thousands" of transgender people. Estimate
the bare minimum of 100 people per year, with each person finishing
after one year, at a cheap $85/hour, and Jerry would have made over
$440,000 per year or $8.8 million dollars over twenty years. That's not
counting the cisgender people he counsels. Either Jerry is capitalizing
off our misfortunes or he's exaggerating, yet again. Jerry maintains
that transgenderism is a spiritual problem requiring a spiritual
In a recent personal interview with Dr.
Joseph Nicolosi, I asked him, “What is the success rate you have had
with Reparative Therapy for the transsexual?” His answer? None!
Nicolosi is a secular, ex-gay psychologist who also researches transgenderism. Jerry promises miraculous results but if others try the same method, they fail! An interesting article on sham therapies found these common traits:
Jerry doesn't offer training to anyone which fits him nicely into every characteristic. Jerry Leach, the only person to offer healing therapy for transgender adults, is a snake oil salesman, not a spokesperson for God or fulfillment of a promise God never made. His deceptions and lack of any results are a warning for any adult seeking to change their gender identity.
Some children can do this while no adults can because their identity is in a state of flux. All children take the input of others in creating their identity, be that cultural, religious, moral, or gender. If parents force their children to participate in Mexican culture, they'll almost certainly grow up with a love of Mexican culture, be they biologically Mexican or Gringo. Likewise, the counseling practice of gender non-conforming children (if the parents do take a "change" approach) is to flood the children with messages to embrace their assigned gender and layer moral and religious pressure on top, there's a high likelihood they will obey. Like everything other type of environment, some children will not conform. In this case, about 20%.
Besides the failure rate, there are several more reasons for gender defenders not to get too excited.
The only successes gender defenders can point to support the idea that adult gender identity can change is anecdotal. One problem with anecdotal evidence is that it is easily exaggerated, such as Jerry Leach, or faked altogether, like Renee Richards. Anecdotal evidence also potentially highlights supposed exceptions to the rule while ignoring the rule itself. Remember we are exploring the possibility of changing gender identity, or at least successfully repressing transgender behavior, as a valid alternative to transitioning. But change or repression are only valid alternatives for all Christians if, among other criteria, they are possible for all Christians. If repression is only possible for a select number of Christians, then the rest cannot be judged to be sinning by turning down that alternative. We already know that repression was not possible for everyone; anecdotal evidence is good for that. A gender defender would say, "Just because a handful of people failed does not mean the entire system is a failure." That is true. Perhaps all the failures, from Jerry to Marissa, are the exception and the rule is that most people change and live quietly avoiding drawing attention to themselves. This is unlikely. Surely we would expect just one success to come public and say they no longer have transgender feelings. Nevertheless, it is possible.
Unfortunately, no one has studied reparative therapy of gender identity of adults. We can consider research performed on reparative therapy of sexual orientation.
Adding T to LGB is no mere politic. The confusion of trans people as gay and vice versa is no random mixup. Gender identity and sexual orientation are different. There is no doubt about that. But they are related. Gender bending is prominent in LGB culture, from drag queens with their satire on what it means to be a woman to lesbians who wear tuxes. In heteronormality, being feminine means to be attractive to (heterosexual) males. My (cisgender, heterosexual) sister remarked that when she doesn't shave her legs, she feels like a man. Ironically, leg hair is part of being a mature female. "I'll make you a man" has strong, heterosexual overtones. The connections are biological, too. One theorized cause of both sexual orientation and gender identity is pre-natal hormones. Finger length and handedness also have high correlations in the LGBT community. Demographically, trans folk are more likely to be bisexual than cisgender folk. In the asexual community, there is a much higher rate of transgenderism. The exact connection between gender and orienation is unclear (and beyond our scope) but there is some connection.http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=homosexuality-cure-masters-johnson
Where we lack knowledge about changing gender identity, substituting changing sexual orientation is a reasonable estimate. This is especially true for reparative therapy. Elizabeth Moberly, the seminal author and inventor of reparative therapy, wrote "There is little to distinguish homosexuality from transsexualism."Moberly E, R. (1983) Psychogenesis The Early Development of Gender Identity: Routledge & Kegan Paul Reparative uses the same principles on both: reparing the childhood trauma, especially that caused by parents and sexual abuse. One might argue that reparative therapy views homosexuality itself as a gender identity more than a sexual orientation.
I am not taking a stand on the ethics of Christianity and homosexuality. A trans person has only two options: transitioning or reparative therapy. But a lesbian or gay person has three options: same-sex relationships, reparative therapy, or chaste celibacy. Many choose the last option and I fully support that choice.
"It is unclear how many gays and lesbians in the general population would want to change their sexual orientation or how representative the study sample is of those who would be interested in therapy with that goal. Obviously, this study cannot address the question of how often sexual reorientation therapy actually results in the substantial changes reported."Ibid p54
Psychologists, pro-gay and anti-gay alike, agree sexual orientation exists on a spectrum. Gender identity does as well. On one end of the spectrum are people who are exclusively heterosexual; even in their wildest dreams or curiosity they have never had a romantic or sexual interest in the same gender. Spitzer's scale ranks these people at 0. On the other end are people who are equal and opposite, having no heterosexual interest. These are at 100. At the center, at 50, are bisexuals, attracted to both genders equally.
Spitzer looks for participants who met two criteria: 1. Prior to therapy, they scored themself at 60 or higher. That is, people who are bisexual but slightly more homosexual than heterosexual. 2. After therapy, they scored at least 10 points toward the heterosexual end for at least five years. Clients who experienced little or no change were ignored. Thus, by definition, every participant claimed a change in sexual orientation. 200 clients filled out a telephone survey. Again, Spitzer:
There is no doubt about what the participants in the study reported. The key question is judging the credibility of their self-reports. One possibility is that some of the participants actually changed their predominantly homosexual orientation to a predominantly heterosexuality orientation. Another possibility is that all of the individuals constructed elaborate self-deceptive narratives (or even lied) when they claimed to have changed. Ibid p55
Spitzer inferred genuine change due to the modesty of some results, in comparison with the miracle cures hallmarking sham therapies. Namely, reports of change came an average of 1.9 years after beginning therapy, not immediately, and only 72% reported being at the most heterosexual range (0-20 on the scale) instead of 100% if they were lying.
There is much potential for self-deception and lying in the results.
The study relied exclusively on self-report . . . The study would have greatly benefitted by also using objective measures of sexual orientation, such as penile or vaginal photoplethysmography. . . . Given the fallibility of memory for past results, it is impossible to be sure how accurate individuals were in answering questions about how they felt during the year before starting the therapy, which on average was about 12 years before the interview.Jon Bancroft. Archives of Sexual Behavior. Vol 32 No 5 October 2003 pp419-468 Copyright 2003
A former co-worker of mine had a wacky adventure involving digging up a huge sum of money buried in her basement. The first time she told it, the sum was $10,000. A few days later she recounted it to someone else and I listened as the buried treasure jumped to $12,000. Within a month, I heard the story a third time from her, this time claiming $15,000. Perhaps it has jumped to $30,000 by now. I don't think she was lying. Since the original event, she's forgotten the exact sum and every time she tries to remember, she remembers a different number. Unlike concrete dollars and cents, abstract scale from 0-100 is easy to forget; that's an understatement as they are trying to remember feelings and then correlate the abstract scale.
Let's look at it another way. The vast majority of reparative therapy clients join groups to augment their therapy made up of others with an unwanted orientation. Exodus alone claims to have helped tens of thousands of people with their orientation. The 200 of Spitzer's study are la creme a la creme, the elite success stories. For every Spitzer participant there are a hundred other clients with less success with whom the Spitzer participants are familiar. Exodus encourages group therapy and accountability; they are not ignorant of the plight of others. Every client creates a narrative of their experience. (Just as every Christian creates a narrative of their relationship with God we call our "testimony.") Part of the creation process of human narratives involves integrating the narratives of others.
A classical psychological experiment shows the power of "priming." A randomized trial asks participants to evaluate something. Say, how many beans are in a jar. In Set 1, participants average, say, 500 beans. In Set 2, participants are primed with false information, say that previous participants estimated an average of 5,000 beans. Set 2 participants have two sources of input for their decision: the jar of beans and the previous estimates. The brain combines the inputs of 500 and 5,000 and will invariably compromise between the two, say at 3,000 beans. This contradiction causes cognitive dissonance.
Self-deception frequently occurs in situations of conflict. . . . Social cognition research similarly has demonstrated multifarious routes to self-deception as a means of adapting to current needs and pressures. Patients in Spitzer's study fit classically into the cognitive dissonance dilemma.Rind, Bruce.Sexual Orientation Change and Informed Consent in Reparative Therapy. Archives of Sexual Behavior 32(5):447-449. Copyright 2003 Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers. http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=PkMBxnEQ1IMC&oi=fnd&pg=PA159&dq=spitzer+ex-gay&ots=9CM9ZnFGGP&sig=U9mFbgsnNcE7JViOpEZJLZJiujM#PPA165,M1
Imagine the subconscious of a hypothetical participant who is asked by Spitzer, "How long before you perceived a change in your orientation?" They think back 12 long years. They also remember the information fed by others, the majority of peers who were less successful. We know from the next study that many clients engage in reparative therapy for years without change. Our hypothetical participant has to integrate their own narrative with the narrative of others. He will not be like William Johnson who claimed change happened within two weeks; that's too far off the narratives of peers - 4,500 beans off. Instead, he will compromise. 1.9 years is reasonable. I doubt anyone consciously lied, but a lie would follow a similar process. A participant wanting to pad the results also will think, "I could say a single month, but Spitzer will compare my answer to others who aren't lying" (say, 2.8 years) "so I'll say 1 year. That's reasonable." Average the answers and we get Spitzer's 1.9 years. As they say, "The best lie is 90% truth." Dr. John Bancroft summed it up saying Spitzer "is partially right, but he cannot justifiably conclude that because distortion was not maximum, distortion did not occur."Ibid p69
This is speculative, of course. It is impossible to know how accurate the participants were. My point is that the participants could be mistaken. It is not only entirely possible, it is entirely likely!
I think they so badly wanted to change their orientation and the Church and therapists were giving them a narrative that change is possible, that they blindly chose 5,000 beans regardless of what their own eyes and libido were telling them. To abandon the euphemism, they were brainwashed. We known conclusively that such intense motivation existed. 20% were married when they began therapy; to not change would cost them their families. 96% of participants were Christian, 3% were Jewish, and 93% thought religion was "very" or "extremely" important. 79% said religion was a motivation to change. The biggest likelihood of all? 19% of participants, 38 people, worked for Exodus and other ex-gay programs.Besides faith and family, they would also lose their income and reputation! And 78% publicly promoted reparative therapy. The circumstantial evidence is remarkable!
Spitzer's results are likely a combination of genuine change and self-deception. I have no qualms with that. Most researchers and LGBT people believe sexuality (and gender identity) have a degree of fluidity. Spitzer only required a 10 point change or 10%. I suspect most people will experience such a tiny change over some period in their life. I probably have or will myself but it's so subtle I likely won't notice. But researchers and the LGBT community do not think fluidity involves changing from one extreme of the spectrum to the other.
Remember that Spitzer accepted participants who were as much as 40% heterosexual already. If they simply repressed their other 60% even in half, they would turn out predominantly heterosexual. It takes no creativity or insight to realize sexuality can be repressed and a bisexual person can have a healthy, heterosexual relationship. Indeed, most bisexuals have heterosexual relationships without therapy simply out of cultural and legal pressure. As an experienced researcher, I trust Spitzer realizes this. But the clients of reparative therapy are not and I do not trust them to be so insightful.
No one can honestly use the study to prove "Change is possible" or "Change is not possible." There is too much space for self-deception.
It took us about two years and . . . Since it was so hard to get those 200, and we were not flooded with hundreds of people [it is] a relatively rare experience that people change as much as these people did.Spitzer and Throckmorton interview. 2004. http://www.drthrockmorton.com/interviewdrspitzer.pdf
A strength of the Spitzer study was peer review: "[H]is offer to share all his data, including audio recordings, with the research community was very much in the scientific spirit."Rind, Bruce.Sexual Orientation Change and Informed Consent in Reparative Therapy. Archives of Sexual Behavior 32(5):447-449. Copyright 2003 Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers. http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=PkMBxnEQ1IMC&oi=fnd&pg=PA159&dq=spitzer+ex-gay&ots=9CM9ZnFGGP&sig=U9mFbgsnNcE7JViOpEZJLZJiujM#PPA165,M1 He listened to critics for constructive criticism before publishing. This humility and self-correction separates the serious science from the junk science that is the Jones and Yarhouse study.
J&Y kept their data secret until selling a book in 2007. Making a profit is another hallmark of junk science. While the Spitzer study is and full of complex statistics and psychiatric terminology, J&Y wrote a pop-psychology book at a high school reading level. Pop-science is a good way to translate science for the masses, but it is not a good way to create science. If that weren't enough, the study was funded by Exodus! It's painfully obvious J&Y were not advancing science but Exodus' membership. Other than harsh criticism soon after publication, the scientific community has ignored the study just as the study ignored the scientific community.
The study began with 57 clients new to Exodus J&Y called Phase 1. Wanting a larger sample, they expanded to 42 Exodus clients with 1-3 years experience they called Phase 2. From that total of 98, 25 dropped out over two years leaving 73. The dropouts refused follow-up interviews and so were not included in the data results. Already we have a huge problem. Research dropouts are typical, but not of this magnitude. It takes no imagination to realize that the dropouts were unhappy with the therapy, so unhappy they refused to even talk about it. Already 25% likely failed but J&Y calculate as if they didn't exist.
Data was collected in face-to-face interviews, several times per client over the course of 4 years. Here are their results.
Notice how much lower the success is when acknowledging the dropouts, 28% instead of 38%. It is downright misleading. Also misleading is dropouts whose existence is never mentioned. Phase 2 clients had stayed with Exodus 1-3 years; undoubtedly some clients dropped out before this point. These dropouts are also likely failures and are ignored, further padding results. Further! Participants were not new to attempting change, only new to Exodus.
54 clients previously took "concrete steps" to change and 56 used professional therapy. 15 individuals had spent 13 years or more in this process. This is yet another filter of dropouts.Ex-gays? p150
Consider how J&Y define success. They define chastity as, "homosexual attraction to be present only incidentally or in a way that does not seem to bring about distress, allowing them to live happily without overt sexual activity."Ex-Gays? A Longitudinal Study of Religiously Mediated Change in Sexual Orientation Paper for the American Association of Christian Counselors, Nashville, Tennessee; 9/07
Stanton L. Jones and Mark A. Yarhouse So their orientation did not change but they are considered successful. This is exactly what reparative therapy critics had claimed for decades - reparative therapy represses sexuality without changing it. The Continuing group was similar. " These persons may have experienced modest decreases in homosexual attraction, but were not satisfied with their degree of change and remained committed to the change process." Note the weasel word, "may." Alternatively, they may have no decrease. J&Y were wise enough to measure homosexual and heterosexual orientations separately; scoring high on both indicates bisexuality and low on both indicates asexuality. Thus they noted that homosexuality would decrease even as heterosexuality did not increase.Ex-gays? p263 The Chastity and Continuing groups had either no change or change toward asexuality without a change toward heterosexuality. These are groups Spitzer rejected as success. "[M]embers could become successful ex-gay Christians in the sense that they were committed to the struggle to change their sexual desires."Wolkomir, Michelle. Be not Deceived. p148 http://books.google.com/books?id=Ds3chr1Y7n4C&printsec=toc&dq=spitzer+ex-gay&lr=&source=gbs_summary_s&cad=0# Failure, likewise, was not determined by change in orientation either but their disillusionment with Exodus. The rate of change toward heterosexuality is, at most, 11% and failure is at least 89%.
I say "at most" because the sample is non-representative. J&Y claim their sample is representative, but never explain why they think so. It would be easy to simply ask Exodus their demographics such as age, gender, and ratio of homosexual versus bisexuals. They failed to do that - or perhaps did, but hid the results.
More importantly, there was no randomness in selecting participants. Exodus breaks down into local membership organizations, ranging from professional therapists to church parishes. Some members gave J&Y all their clients, some gave none, and some hand picked clients. The hand picking is disturbing. Neither the members nor clients tell J&Y why they were hand chosen. Imagine I was a youth pastor at an Exodus parish counseling two gay people, one who had changed a lot and the other had not changed at all. Exodus tells me they are studying ex-gay therapy and want volunteers. As an honest person wanting to help gays, what do I do? My failing client won't help. Instead, I'll give them my successful client. I'm not deceiving them as they didn't require who I refer; I'm trying to help. Boom! The results are shifted towards success.
Like Spitzer, J&Y run into the bisexuality problem.
[C]ritics often respond that anyone who really has changed must not have really been gay to start with, but rather to have been bisexual. . . . To examine this claim, we developed a set of empirical markers to define a “Truly Gay” subpopulation. . . . [T]o be classed as truly gay, subjects must have reported above average homosexual attraction and reported homosexual behavior and reported past embraced of a gay identity."paper p7
J&Y must think their readers are idiots. Spitzer, with the rest of the world, defines a non-bisexual gay person as someone at the end of the orientation spectrum (100 in Spitzer's study). J&Y also used the spectrum but, without explanation, discard it as a measurement of bisexuality. Imagine a 16 year old male; his feelings are exclusively homosexual; he believes being gay is wrong so he refrains from any sexual behavior and refers to himself as having strong same-sex attractions and no heterosexual attraction. J&Y will not classify him as Truly Gay! Imagine, Lauren, a bisexual female, a 60 on Spitzer's scale; she has dated both females and males and identifies as "gay," "straight," and "bi." Everyone knows she is bisexual, not Truly Gay, but J&R still mark her as such. It is entirely possible that all 11 Conversion clients are like Lauren. She has repressed one side of her orientation, making her other side appear stronger by comparison. Estimates put bisexuality as high as common as exclusive homosexuality and as low as 20%, more than enough to meet the 11% Conversions.Like Spitzer, we run into the self-deception and lying problem. Fortunately, J&Y had Phase 1 clients report immediately, instead of 12 years ago, and Phase 2 clients an average of 2 years. Still, the main concern is self-deception of their current status. In the short span between the final interview and publishing the book, one of the 11 Conversion clients confessed he had deceived himself and his orientation had never actually changed. J&Y respond to the person as "smokers who had quit return to smoking."Book p286 This is no comparison; this client never quit at all; he mis-reported the change. J&Y deny this reflects their accuracy.
The remaining 10 Conversion clients also admit continuing homosexual feelings. Says one man, "I am a heterosexual, yet I continue to suffer from some degree of sexual brokenness and unwanted sexual attraction to men." Says another, "I would define myself to be primarily heterosexual by definition of who I have sexual activity with, with latent, sporadic homosexual lust." Notice how the second person defines orientation using behavior instead of feelings. After several years, they still do not understand that orientation is who you are not what you do. Unfortunately, both Exodus and J&Y encourage this semantic juggling that substitutes change in behavior for change in feeling. By the second person's response, his orientation certainly sounds homosexual. The Conversion clients claimed only an average 3.5 points on the 7 point Kinsey scale toward heterosexuality.
Remember how most experts accept that sexual orientation has minor fluidity that just comes with being human? We expect some people shift naturally, even without therapy. J&Y accidently supported this! They found that 8% shifted toward homosexuality an average of 2 points on the Kinsey scale. Another 12% shifted toward homosexuality half a point. If this is accurate, reparative therapy does the exact opposite of its goals for 20% of clients!
The Jones & Yarhouse study is not worthless. It demonstrates that even with multiple loopholes for reparative therapy promoters to exploit, they found a 89% (or 92%) failure rate. If Exodus had in fact merely stacked the deck with success cases, the failure rate could be 99%. Or, if all 11 clients had lied in addition to the 1 confession, the failure rate would be 100%. Or, if the clients were self-deceived, it would be 100%. Or, if the 10 were bisexual, it would be 100%. Or any mild combination. In fact, the failure would push over (120%?) as some bisexuals become more homosexual.www.boxturtlebulletin.com and www.exgaywatch.com both have excellent and more thorough analysis of the Jones & Yarhouse study, including responses by Jones himself.
Michael Bussee founded Exodus in 1976 which evolved from his personal journey resisting his orientation. He said this.
Some had a positive, life-changing experience. . . .There were some real “changes”—but not one of the hundreds of people we counseled became straight. Instead, many of our clients began to fall apart – sinking deeper into patterns of guilt, anxiety and self-loathing. Why weren’t they “changing”? The answers from church leaders made the pain even worse: “You might not be a real Christian.” “You don’t have enough faith.” . . . No one was really becoming “ex-gay.” Who were we fooling? As one current EXODUS leader admitted, we were just “Christians with homosexual tendencies who would rather not have those tendencies.” By calling ourselves “ex-gay” we were lying to ourselves and to others. We were hurting people.http://www.beyondexgay.com/article/busseeapology
"My orientation never really changed. The feelings just took back seat for a while."http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQn8Pmilob4 Gary Cooper was also with Exodus from the beginning. He and Bussee left Exodus and married and managed to keep their Evangelical faith. While at Exodus, they participated in a qualitative analysis study of change/repression.Pattison & Pattison, American Journal of Psychiatry, 1980.
[We] carefully handpicked and coached the research subjects. We (Gary and I) were two of the eleven who had “changed” since we were both married with kids. We told the research subjects how important it was to EXODUS’s ministry and future that the subjects give the most positive response possible. We weren’t lying — at least we didn’t think we were. We believed it. . .. “Name it and claim it”. By faith, you speak it into reality. Believe that it is yours and God will give it to you. Sadly, we were deluding ourselves and misleading others. http://www.exgaywatch.com/wp/2007/11/a-critique-of-jones-and-yarhouses-ex-gays-part-2/
John Paulk was Chairman of the Board of Exodus in North America, manager of Focus on the Family's homosexuality department, and featured on the cover of Time when Exodus found its spotlight. Although ex-gay, he was discovered flirting in an LGBT bar and, after lying, he confessed and ended his ex-gay career. What he believes his current orientation to be, he keeps private.
As Exodus was beginning in the late 1970s, ex-gay Colin Cook founded Homosexuals Anonymous, another ex-gay network which likely would have eclipsed Exodus. Though not publicly known, Cook had committed statutory rape. Cook founded and managed one of HA's live-in programs called Quest. Qualitative research by a Christian into Quest found none of the clients experienced change in orientation. Moreover, Cook was giving nude massaging, leading mutual masturbation, and dry-hump "hugging" clients. Quest's sponsor quietly shut it down. Multiple clients of Cook filed lawsuits but, ignored by Quest's sponsor, could not afford the court fees. Meanwhile, Homosexuals Anonymous has shrank drastically and continues under the care of a convicted child molester. Cook went into ex-gay therapy and said he came out healed. Cook founded another organization, FaithQuest, in 1993 where he counseled more clients, including refferrals from Focus on the Family. In 1995 he was shut down again when tapes revealed Cook sexually advancing on clients yet again. "Think of Jesus being in the room giving you his love as he gives you an erection . . . [a]nd say, 'Jesus, I would like to suck a penis right now.'"Besen, Wayne. Anything but Straight. http://books.google.com/books?id=ponUsrkFfEMC&pg=PP1&dq=besen+anything+but+straight&ei=hlEsSqSiIJqwMqW43ZoH#PPA97,M1
John Evans founded Love in Action, the very first ex-gay organization. His ex-gay best friend committed suicide because he could not change. Evans now works with ex-gay survivors. Michael Johnston founded Kerrusso Ministries for ex-gays and later Americans for Truth. Bloggers discovered that all mentions of him were purged from ex-gay organizations, the common practice when they want to silently distance themselves from an ally who's become toxic. When Exodus discovered he had gay relationships while counseling others, he left his ministry.http://www.sovo.com/2003/8-1/news/breaking/exgay.cfm?page=2 Jeremy Marks, an ex-gay, founded Courage UK. "None of the people who had been through our live-in program had experienced any change whatsoever to their sexuality."http://www.beyondexgay.com/article/jeremyapology Reflecting on their failure, Marks and all of Courage turned around and now affirm homosexuality. Günter Baum, another ex-gay, founded a ex-gay group in Germany. He also admitted he hadn't changed and later founded a gay-affirming organization. Darlene Bogle founded Paraklete, an Exodus member. She later left, admitting her change was merely repression having fallen in love with another ex-lesbian in Paraklete.
These giant failures, along with thousands of lower profile failures, have created a counter movement, calling themselves ex-ex-gays or ex-gay survivors - Christians who tried to change or even claimed to change and could not. Many feel emotionally scarred by the pressure created in God's name. Some want to pretend their ordeal never happened. Others have written books and websites to expose the false hope for change that Exodus makes money on. They have even begun their own conference to heal their painful, ex-gay experience.
Exodus' second in change is vice president Randy Thomas. You already expect his outcome. He would have qualified for the Spitzer study, saying in 2007, "I was 100% gay and homosexuality oriented and now I am 100% not gay." But for Exodus, being entirely not gay doesn't make you entirely heterosexual. "I am not above temptation and occasionally struggling. The difference today is tremendous in that those temptations do not determine who I am or how I behave."http://www.churchsolutionsmag.com/articles/exodus-international-outreach-ministry.html Behavior, not feelings, are the ultimate measure of change.One of Spitzer's people who claimed he changed his orientation is Alan Chambers, president of Exodus and currently their biggest spokesperson. He often gives the testimony of how he "changed" and always includes how he is now married with two kids. You'd be forgiven for inferring his wife and kids are evidence of his change; he never mentions his children are adopted. And he never mentions how he didn't have sex on his wedding night - or the next night - or the next - for 9 months. "It had nothing to do with attraction ... it had everything to do with, I'm not sure how this all works."http://www.articlearchives.com/society-social/sex-gender-issues-gays-lesbians/967184-1.html Sure. His wedding was 8 years after starting reparative therapy. 27 years after, he said this:
And so every single morning — this is a
ritual for me — I wake up and I say, “Dear Lord, I can’t make it today
without You. I choose to deny what comes naturally to me.” . . . Expect
a life of denial.http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/2007/08/02/603
Even after showing the inability for even the goliaths of gender defenders and the ex-gay movement to heal, some people will still hold out for "change." The argument I most hear is, "Just because some people failed, doesn't mean everyone is destined to fail." Technically, that's true. In practice, that's false. This chapter was purposefully practical, not theoretical, because behavioral psychology cannot prove anything theoretically - science does not yet possess enough understanding of the brain to make predictions based on theory. For example, Exodus has a theory that a lesbian or gay orientation is caused, in part, by childhood sexual abuse. Dr. Nicolosi claims every one of his clients was sexual abused. Spitzer examined this theory by asking his participants about sexual abuse; he found abuse was no higher among lesbians, gays, and bisexuals among than heterosexuals.Spitzer Throckmorton interview In theory, people can possibly change orientation. In practice, this only rarely or never happens.
The goliaths of change have invested the majority of their time, their income, and their very identity in changing their gender identity and/or sexual orientation. If anyone could succeed, they could have. Because they could not, what hope do others have?
Ex-gay groups will argue that these defections and scandals simply mean that these men have "fallen off the wagon" like alcoholics reverting back to drinking. But let's face it, these men built the wagon, and they say it has always been a faulty model that never worked. If the men who invented these programs now denounce them or show they have failed to heal through them, how are they going to work for those who blindly follow in their footsteps?
The golden standard of measuring the causation of human behavior is the double-blind randomized control trial. These trials eliminate the possibility of the placebo effect - change caused by self-belief rather than the actual merit of reparative therapy. If you are not familiar with the utter power of the placebo effect, I encouarge everyone to read up on its power.
A randomized trial requires a control group who uses a method proven to be ineffective. Like sugar pills, aversion therapy, conformity to gender stereotypes, and beating an effigy one's parent.See the many controversies of Richard Cohen. Martin Seligman published a 50% success rate using aversion therapy, later disproven. Exodus has used mild aversion therapy along with teaching women how to apply makeup and men how to properly cross their legs. Exodus publically denounced these methods, while not forbidding them. In a randomized trial, some ex-gay clients would receive reparative therapy and others receive other therapies, all other things kept equal. If the reparative therapy group has better outcomes than the rest, we would have proof that reparative therapy works. If they are equal or the rejected therapies are higher as in Seligman's case, we would know reparative therapy is only a placebo. Exodus has not expressed a desire to do this.Exodus has taken advantage of the faulty studies especially since they lack their own scientists. They continue to reference the fraudulent claims of Masters and Johnson. "The five-year follow-up revealed no more than a 30-45 percent total failure rate, much lower than even Masters and Johnson had expected."http://exodus.to/content/view/157/56/ They quote Spitzer's study out of context saying, "Seventy-eight percent reported a change in orientation."http://www.exodus.to/content/view/453/37/ Of course, 100% actually reported a change, by definition, but claiming 100% would sound suspicious and cause cognitive dissonance. The Jones and Yarhouse study is sold by Exodus, summarizing the results as one third changing orientation and one third changing behavior. Exodus has not responded to critiques on J&Y.
The sham that is reparative therapy is not my original research. All the major health organizations have come out against it. The American Psychological Association wrote an entire position statement.
There is sparse scientific data about selection criteria, risks versus benefits of the treatment, and long-term outcomes of "reparative" therapies. The literature consists of anecdotal reports of individuals who have claimed to change, people who claim that attempts to change were harmful to them, and others who claimed to have changed and then later recanted those claims.http://www.psych.org/Departments/EDU/Library/APAOfficialDocumentsandRelated/PositionStatements/200001.aspx
the Russian man punched the homosexual. [The audience starts to shout and applaud.] No, no, no, don’t… The man was very drunk… the homosexual was very drunk. He was very drunk and he fell down and he hit his head and he died. [Some in the audience start to applaud and laugh] Equivalent statements have been published by the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychoanalytic Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association, American Counseling Association, and many more. No major health organization supports reparative therapy.
This chapter only scratches the surface of the reparative therapy controversy. I have not even touched on Exodus affiliates Richard Cohen who has clients beat effiages of their parents, Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively, Exodus-reject author Paul Cameron, Exodus Board member Don Schmeierer who advocates imprisoning gays for life, and anti-gay Watchmen on the Walls who advocates murdering gays.The Russian man punched the homosexual. [The audience starts to shout and applaud.] . . . and he fell down and he hit his head and he died. [Some in the audience start to applaud and laugh]. More on this therapy can be found through the above organizations. See also the Recommended Reading at the end of this book.
A transgender person has three choices:
I do not dismiss repression as an alternative. If a trans person decides repression is better than transitioning, so be it. Honesty and realism is key. We all need to know the healing promised by Jerry Leach is a false advertisement. A transgender person may act cisgender on the outside, but they will always remain transgender on the inside. Says Jerry,
I’ve lost many more skirmishes than I care to talk about. . . . I've also become increasingly aware of its fierce tenacity to unexpectedly resurface and overwhelm you if you aren’t always vigilant. . . . I may well have occasional transsexual desires looming within my heart for the rest of my life.http://transchristians.org/people/jerry-leach/archives/leach-ongoing-correspondence
The Church needs to know this too. It is easy for the church to demand "change" therapy when they think the person will become cisgender. That demand requires more care and empathy knowing the truth. In truth, repression is a never-ending struggle of pain and temptation. These are the stakes. Let us take them honestly and humbly.
There are some people for whom repression is simply not an alternative. At best, repression is emotional suicide; at worst, repression leads to literal suicide. Christians who decide between transition and suicide is a familiar circumstance. Familiar enough that the EV Alliance made a single exception to their never-transition rule.P81 The Alliance calls transitioning the "lesser of two evils."
Scripture promises us, "God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." (1 Corinthians 10:13, KJV) Likewise, "[Jerry and Charlene] impart solid Biblical teaching based on the truth that there is no human condition outside the redemptive circle of God's love and transformation."Flight toward Woman, first page
If transgenderism, even though it looks like sin at first glance, that God does not strengthen us to resist, then it must not be temptation at all.