My previous article explored how God does not appear to “heal” homosexuals into heterosexuals and examined the possible reasons as to why people are gay. As an extension to the topic, I would like to briefly demystify the cases which have portrayed the illusion that sexual orientation change is possible. Many ex-gay groups and reparative therapy clinics have claimed that “thousands have left homosexuality.” This allegation has destroyed many lives, physically and emotionally. It has given unwarranted ammunition to individuals who use it to condemn gay people. It has also misled many gay people with unwanted same-sex attraction to believe that they can become straight. I will now highlight several problems that keep this gross misconception in circulation.
Definition of “gay”
The first problem with those who claim to be “ex-gay” is the definition of “gay” itself. To the majority of English-speaking society, it is known that gay (or homosexual) means “someone who has romantic attraction towards the same gender.” As noted in Justin Lee’s new book Torn, the ex-gay movement has played a sneaky trick with the definition of gay without admitting that they redefined it. Leaders of the ex-gay movement have redefined “gay” and “homosexual” as meaning “someone who has sex with the same gender.” They don’t believe in orientation and only define it as a sexual behavior. Therefore, saying someone is “ex-gay” just means someone who isn’t participating in same-gender sex. As I’ve previously noted in another article, this would be like saying that a celibate heterosexual is an “ex-straight.” Given the common definition of “straight” as someone with romantic attraction towards the opposite gender,” one would then assume that an “ex-straight” was in fact gay, just as it would seem an “ex-gay” is now straight. Neither are true. But with this redefinition of gay, a celibate homosexual can claim “freedom from homosexuality” because they are abstaining from gay sex while still continuing to have attractions to the same gender.
The mirage of success rates
Like the re-definition of “gay,” ex-gay groups and reparative therapists have also redefined “success.” If you heard that someone had been “successfully delivered from homosexuality,” you would most likely assume that they no longer experienced same-sex attractions. There is a major dilemma with this statement that goes beyond the previous re-definition of “gay” as “having gay sex.” In my recent search for the truth, I have had several conversations with a very famous reparative therapist. After probing for answers, it came to light that he admits that “success is in the eye of the beholder.” For some, “success” is defined as “having a minimal (very small) reduction in same-sex attractions.” On a personal note, I believe that anyone can have a small reduction in their attractions (gay or straight) if they simply refocus their attention on something else besides the people around them. For me, this would not make the person any less gay or straight. If the goal of reparative therapy is to rid oneself of their homosexuality, than having a minimal reduction in their same-sex attraction is not true success. Despite this, a client who experiences a small reduction in their attraction is considered a success! Furthermore, if one looks deeply at the studies, the “success” of gay-to-straight change is even more deceptive. I recently read one study that considered sexual orientation change a success if the person was able to have heterosexual sex without thinking of the same-gender for more than 20 seconds at a time… So if they thought of the same gender every 21 seconds while having opposite gender sex, they were included in the gay-to-straight statistics as being a success! Of course we see rare cases that make it appear on the surface as if some have in fact transformed from gay to straight, but I will get into that a bit later…
Praise for the unseen
One of the main advocates of Homosexuals Anonymous has promoted a religious tactic to keep themselves from feeling gay, yet it is very deceptive to the ones around them that don’t understand their intention. It is taught that rather than praying for themselves not to be gay, they should instead claim that they are heterosexual because “God has already conquered the sin of homosexuality.” This is the same concept as a sick person with cancer claiming that they are already healed, as they believe in faith that this will be the outcome. They thank and praise God for healing them and claim it to be true because they believe it will be true in the future. I don’t personally see anything wrong with believing in faith that God will do a good work and thanking Him in advance (as long as it is in His Will), but to claim heterosexuality in hopes that God will change them to become heterosexual in the future is nearly the same as me claiming to be a multi-billionaire in hopes that God will provide me with mass amounts of money. (Note that I do not have this wish nor do I claim it.) This idea is more like the “law of attraction” which attempts to manifest a desired outcome by gratitude and visualization. When we see a homosexual claiming heterosexuality out of belief it will be true in the future, this does not mean they have changed from gay to straight.
Rejection of the LGBT label
Also confusing to the outsider is the rejection of calling oneself “gay.” Some people just want to rid themselves of being labeled with a certain group and that’s fine. But when a person claims that they “no longer identify as gay,” this does not mean that they no longer are attracted to the same gender. But when one hears this statement, it most certainly could be confused as someone who is no longer gay. Furthermore, it seems that ex-gay groups see “the gay lifestyle” as one of promiscuous anonymous sex. Although this may be true for some, we really can’t chalk up the entire “lifestyle” as having a bunch of anonymous gay sex. Calling it a lifestyle to begin with gives it a deceptive image that we are all the same. No one says someone is living in the “straight lifestyle” because everyone knows that heterosexuals all have many different ways to living; some married, some single, some promiscuous, some celibate, etc. It is the same for the homosexual.
Is “change” possible?
Thus far, we have explored the very surface of this issue. Going deeper now I will explore those who truly appear to have changed their sexuality in some way. Let me first distinguish something so there is no confusion. There are many gays and lesbians who decide to live in a heterosexual marriage because they believe that it is God’s only design for partnership. Many times these are called “Mixed-Orientation Marriages,” or “MOM.” These people are living very conflicted lives, as they do not have attraction to their spouse and still have same-gender attraction, but choose not to act upon it. This encompasses the majority of heterosexual-looking marriages between a gay and heterosexual spouse. With these, no change in orientation is present.
The most rare category we see is the person who has outwardly identified as gay and then marries an opposite-sex spouse and claims that they are truly attracted to them and sometimes other opposite-sex people. These are the rare instances that make it appear that change is possible and are different from the mixed-orientation marriages. So is “change” possible? Re-define the word “change,” and yes. If change means going towards something that already existed previously, then yes. If change means going from an innate exclusive homosexual orientation to an exclusive heterosexual orientation, than no. Let me explain…
I have been doing a lot of studying into these types of relationships and really trying to see what they are all about. There are similarities between these people that explain how they didn’t truly “change,” but rather went towards something that existed previously. In all the cases I have studied, there are at least one of two things present in their life stories:
For most, they admit to already having opposite-sex attractions from an early age, but had stronger same-sex attractions. To anyone this would be obvious that they are bisexual, but preferred the same-sex. When entering reparative therapy, they try to increase their “heterosexual potential.” This is just choosing to be with an opposite-sex partner rather than a same-sex partner. So as you can see, there is no change, but a shifting towards exclusive heterosexual behavior (not attraction.)
The second thing we nearly always see in these life stories is someone who was massively sexually abused as a child. Many try to blame all homosexual orientation on being molested, but as I’ve stated before, I have never been molested and neither have most of the gays and lesbians that I know. However, it seems that in these rare cases, sometimes heterosexuals are molested and it might influence them to sexualize the same-gender. After working through their sexual abuse, they might have a reemergence of their innate heterosexual feelings. This is not to say that all gays that were molested are actually heterosexual. It just depends on what existed first. Sometimes homosexuals are molested and remain homosexual. What is not known is if some who appear heterosexual are actually homosexual but were molested which swayed them to have opposite-gender attractions.
In both of these two instances, the potential for heterosexual attraction previously existed, therefore this only gives an illusion of actual change. But if someone never had heterosexual potential to begin with, one can not increase something that was never there in the first place. Furthermore, in ALL of these cases, not one claimed to have zero same-sex attractions even after marrying and being attracted to their opposite-sex spouse. In every case, their same-sex attractions remained at some level, therefore no one has changed from exclusively homosexual to exclusively heterosexual.
So overall, most of it comes down to semantics. If we secretly re-define “gay,” “change” and “success,” we can see that gays can successfully change (when gay=gay sex, success=small reduction in attraction and change=increasing innate heterosexual/bisexual orientation.) But if we take on their intended and widespread definitions, than gays do not successfully change. When we pull back the curtain, we can see that the only thing behind it is word-tricks and things that already existed.