Changing Sexual Orientation Is Possible, New Research Says

By Randy Hall Staff Writer/Editor
September 17, 2007

( – The results of a three-year study challenge the
idea that homosexuals cannot change their sexual orientation and that
attempts to do so are harmful. But an opponent of “ex-gays” dismissed
the findings as the result of “a deceptive sham” perpetrated by
“right-wing therapists.”

While writing their book, “Ex-Gays? A
Longitudinal Study of Religiously Mediated Change in Sexual
Orientation,” researchers Stanton Jones of Wheaton College in Wheaton,
Ill., and Mark Yarhouse of Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va.,
chronicled the experiences of 98 people who contacted Christian
ministries in an attempt to become heterosexuals.

Dr. Stanton Jones“What
we found by following these subjects over time is that not everyone is
successful, not even a majority is successful, but a very substantial
group of people report fairly dramatic change,” Jones said while
discussing the research during the annual conference of the American
Association of Christian Counselors last Thursday in Nashville, Tenn.

percent of our sample of about 100 claimed to actually have changed
from homosexuality to heterosexuality,” said Jones. “It needs to be
said that this process is not like flipping a light switch. Life is
still complicated for these people, and some still have some residuals
of their homosexual attractions.”

“However, they report being
able to function as heterosexuals, they’re happy with their marriages,
and they feel that their lives have changed dramatically,” he said.

The study also examined the question of whether or not attempts to change were harmful to the subjects.

administered a standard psychological inventory that measures distress
to our subjects at every point along the way,” Jones said, adding that
they found that there was “essentially no change” in the participants’
emotional well-being.

Dr. Mark YarhouseBecause
both of them are from Christian colleges, Jones and Yarhouse addressed
skeptics of religious researchers who deal with matters of science.

“We are evangelical Christians committed to the truth-seeking activity of science,” they said in a joint statement.

conducting and reporting this study, we took seriously the words of one
of our heroes, C. S. Lewis, who said that science produced by Christian
persons would have to be ‘perfectly honest. Science twisted in the
interests of apologetics would be sin and folly,'” the researchers said.

Initial reaction to the research has varied dramatically along social and cultural lines.

Chambers, an ex-homosexual who serves as president of the Christian
ministry Exodus International – which was the source of many subjects
in the study – praised the survey. In a Friday news release, he praised
the work as “the first longitudinal, peer-reviewed, scientific research
of its kind on this topic to date.”

“Finally, there is now
scientific evidence to prove what we as former homosexuals have known
all along – that those who struggle with unwanted same-sex attraction
can experience freedom from it,” Chambers said. “For years, opponents
of choice have said otherwise, and this body of research is critical in
advancing the national dialogue on this issue.”

Mat Staver,
president of the Christian group Liberty Counsel, said in a news
release of his own that the study is “groundbreaking” and would have
“profound reverberations for counselors.”

“The debate about
homosexuality has too often been driven by political rather than
scientific considerations,” said Staver. “The American Psychological
Association (APA) and other, similar organizations may no longer
silence dissent.”

The APA responded to the research by pointing
to a recent statement made by the organization on its Web site:
“Efforts to repathologize homosexuality by claiming that it can be
cured are often guided not by rigorous scientific … research, but
sometimes by religious and political forces opposed to full civil
rights for gay men and lesbians.”

However, former APA
President Nicholas Cummings praised the research methods of Jones and
Yarhouse. “This study has broken new ground in its adherence to
objectivity and a scientific precision that can be replicated and
expanded, and it opens new horizons for investigation,” he said.

Wayne Besen, executive director of Truth Wins Out, which describes
itself as “a non-profit organization that counters right-wing
propaganda, exposes the ‘ex-gay’ myth and educates America about gay
life,” called the study a “deceptive sham with the goal of making it
appear as if science backs fundamentalist beliefs on homosexuality.”

comes as no shock that anti-gay ‘researchers'” would produce a study
claiming “you can pray away the gay,” Besen said. “I suppose their next
study will provide support for Pat Robertson’s theory that
homosexuality causes meteors and hurricanes.”

Besen also
criticized the size of the study sample as “unusually small” and
asserted that people “should be extremely skeptical of such a mockery
of the scientific method.”

The 414-page book “Ex-Gays? A
Longitudinal Study of Religiously Mediated Change in Sexual
Orientation” is being published by InterVarsity Press and will be
available to the public in October.

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