First, the good news — the American Psychological Association has repudiated so-called “ex-gay” therapies that purport to change gay people into straight people.
“Contrary to claims of sexual orientation change advocates and practitioners, there is insufficient evidence to support the use of psychological interventions to change sexual orientation,” said Judith M. Glassgold, PsyD, chair of the task force.
Scientifically rigorous older studies in this area found that sexual orientation was unlikely to change due to efforts designed for this purpose. Contrary to the claims of SOCE practitioners and advocates, recent research studies do not provide evidence of sexual orientation change as the research methods are inadequate to determine the effectiveness of these interventions.
Glassgold added: “At most, certain studies suggested that some individuals learned how to ignore or not act on their homosexual attractions.”
The APA is to be applauded for this statement. They came to this conclusion after reviewing all the evidence from “ex-gay” therapies over the years and found none of the research convincing — something the LGBT community has been saying for years. Thanks for catching up, APA!
The bad news is, however, that the APA has caved a bit to the “ex-gay” proponents by providing a way for therapists to ethically lead gays and lesbians away from acting on their homosexuality if the client sees it as a conflict with their religious beliefs.
As part of its report, the task force identified that some clients seeking to change their sexual orientation may be in distress because of a conflict between their sexual orientation and religious beliefs. The task force recommended that licensed mental health care providers treating such clients help them “explore possible life paths that address the reality of their sexual orientation, reduce the stigma associated with homosexuality, respect the client’s religious beliefs, and consider possibilities for a religiously and spiritually meaningful and rewarding life.”
“In other words,” Glassgold said, “we recommend that psychologists be completely honest about the likelihood of sexual orientation change, and that they help clients explore their assumptions and goals with respect to both religion and sexuality.”
So, the APA is telling their people — be upfront that therapy won’t change your sexual orientation — but go right ahead and help your client to repress it in the name of their God.
In case it’s not clear from that last paragraph that the APA is affirming this, Glassgold clarified this new policy in the The Wall Street Journal: “We’re not trying to encourage people to become ‘ex-gay’. But we have to acknowledge that, for some people, religious identity is such an important part of their lives, it may transcend everything else.”
That’s very disappointing. Instead, the APA should educate itself on how sexuality and spirituality can be reconciled instead of one or the other being dropped or denied. This is not an “either/or” situation but can be a “both/and” situation. There are plenty of gay and lesbian people who have reconciled their sexuality and spirituality and we’re not all flaming religious liberals.
In fact, some of the leading gay Christian groups are flaming evangelicals as belied in their titles like “The Evangelical Network” and “Evangelicals Concerned Western Region.”
Here’s a note to the APA — change is possible — you can change this horrible policy by educating yourself on how to move gays and lesbians to reconcile spirituality and sexuality instead of leading them down a primrose path to repression in the name of God.
Founder of Motley Mystic and the Jubilee! Circle interfaith spiritual community In Columbia, S.C., Candace Chellew (she/her) is the author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians (Jossey-Bass, 2008). Founder and Editor Emeritus of Whosoever, she earned her masters of theological studies at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, was ordained by Gentle Spirit Christian Church in December 2003, and trained as a spiritual director through the Omega Point program of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta. She is also a musician and animal lover.