Myth No. 3: Efforts to change someone’s sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual are harmful and unethical.
Fact: There is no scientific evidence that change efforts create greater harm than the homosexual lifestyle itself. The real ethical violation is when clients are denied the opportunity to set their own goals for therapy.
Homosexual activists regularly present anecdotal evidence of the harms suffered by clients of reorientation therapists—even while simultaneously denying the validity of anecdotal evidence in support of the benefits and effectiveness of such change therapies. Opponents of change therapies have largely succeeded in codifying their views in policy statements of the American Psychological Association, which has expressed concern about “the ethics, efficacy, benefits, and potential for harm of therapies that seek to reduce or eliminate same-gender sexual orientation.”
However, the best scientific studies analyzing the outcome of such change therapies simply do not validate the claims of substantial harm. In one survey of over 800 clients of change therapies, participants were given a list of seventy potential negative consequences of therapy. Only 7.1% said they were worse in as many as three of the seventy categories. The authors of the most methodologically rigorous study ever conducted on persons seeking to change from a homosexual orientation looked for evidence of harm using standardized measures of “psychological distress,” “spiritual well-being,” and “faith maturity.” They concluded:
“We found no empirical evidence in this study to support the claim that the attempt to change sexual orientation is harmful.” Even Robert Spitzer, a pro-“gay” psychiatrist who found that change therapies can be effective, also declared, “For the participants in our study, there was no evidence of harm.”
In fact, even some who have failed in efforts to change their sexual orientation have nevertheless experienced benefits in other areas of their lives as a result of their participation in reorientation therapy. Spitzer also acknowledged this point, declaring:
Even participants who only made a limited change nevertheless regarded the therapy as extremely beneficial. Participants reported benefit from nonsexual changes, such as decreased depression, a greater sense of masculinity in males, and femininity in females, and developing intimate nonsexual relations with members of the same sex.
It is important to note that responsible reorientation therapists, such as those affiliated with the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), offer their services only to those who experience unwanted same-sex attractions and desire to change. No one supports forcing any adult into reorientation therapy against his or her will—and such coercion would be ineffective, since a client’s motivation to change is crucial to the success of therapy. It is actually the opponents of reparative therapy who are violating a long-standing ethical principle in the field of psychology—namely, the autonomy of the client to determine his or her own goals for therapy. Even the American Psychological Association, which is highly critical of reorientation therapy, has been forced to affirm, “Mental health professional organizations call on their members to respect a person’s (client’s) right to self-determination . . . .”
Of course, any form of counseling or psychological therapy—like any surgery or pharmaceutical drug—may have unintended negative side effects for some clients or patients. The question is not whether some harm is possible. The real question is whether the potential benefits outweigh the potential for harm. Given the potential benefit of mitigating the significant harms associated with the homosexual lifestyle itself (see Myths 5 and 6), it seems clear that therapy to overcome a homosexual orientation easily meets that standard.
Myth No. 4: Ten percent of the population is gay.
Fact: Less than three percent of American adults identify themselves as homosexual or bisexual.
The myth that ten percent of the population is homosexual arose from the work of the notorious early sex researcher Alfred Kinsey. His surveys of the sexual behaviors of Americans in the 1940’s have been thoroughly discredited, because he “failed to meet even the most elementary requirements for drawing a truly representative sample of the population at large.” And Kinsey did not claim that ten percent of the population was exclusively homosexual throughout their lifetimes—even among Kinsey’s subjects, only four percent met that standard. Instead, he claimed that “10 percent of the males are more or less exclusively homosexual for at least three years . . .” Indeed, the famous “Kinsey Scale” classified sexual orientation on a continuum (from zero, for exclusively heterosexual, to six, for exclusively homosexual), based on the assumption that few people are exclusively homosexual or exclusively heterosexual.
More modern survey data has modified even that claim. In fact, an overwhelming majority of the population are exclusively heterosexual. However, of the small number of people who have ever experienced homosexuality on any of the three measures of sexual orientation (attractions, behavior, and self-identification), the number who have been exclusively homosexual on all three measures throughout their lives is vanishingly small—only 0.6% of men and 0.2% of women. Even if we go by the measure of self-identification alone, the percentage of the population who identify as homosexual or bisexual is quite small. Convincing evidence of these has come from an unlikely source—a consortium of 31 of the leading homosexual rights groups in America. In a friend-of-the-court brief they filed in the Supreme Court’s Lawrence v. Texas sodomy case in 2003, they admitted the following:
The most widely accepted study of sexual practices in the United States is the National Health and Social Life Survey (NHSLS). The NHSLS found that 2.8% of the male, and 1.4% of the female, population identify themselves as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. See Laumann et al., The Social Organization of Sex: Sexual Practices in the United States (1994). So it’s fair to say that the “ten percent” myth has been discredited even by pro-homosexual groups themselves—yet a recent35 Google search for the words “ten percent gay” still turned up 2,970,000 hits.
(Source: Family Research Council)