Thursday, August 6, 2009

Gay-To-Straight: Christian Programs Don't Work

At last, an honest and objective scientific report by the American Psychology Association has demonstrated what common sense and experience already knew: The Christian "Gay to Straight" programs simply don't work, and in fact are counterproductive. Instead of turning gay men and women into heterosexuals, they almost always fail, leaving the victims of this nonscientific hocus-pocus worse off than before they started.

Faith should never tread in science's domain, and this is a perfect illustration why. It is legitimate for Christains to ask, "Can homosexuality be cured?" (although even the word "cured" biases the investigation from the outset). But it is completely wrong, both scientifically and morally, for Christians to say "Yes" without one shred of objective scientific evidence, and further, to develop therapies, and claim those therapies work, with no science to validate their claims.

Good psychology can help people immensely, and bad psychology can damage people. Apparently that's what happened here: Gay-to-Straight programs actually do harm. They take men and women who are already having enormous psychological stress (caused, ironically, by the very Christians who claim to have the cure), and put them through a stressful program that almost always fails, leaving the victim still gay and feeling even more shamed than before. The Christians who run these programs assert with great confidence that people can change if they want to. When the program doesn't work, that puts an enormous load of guilt on the gay victims.

The good news is that the American Psychology Association's leadership endorsed this report overwhelmingly, by a vote of 125-to-4 in favor.

Christians should stick to matters of faith, and leave psychology in the hands of those who actually know the difference between a fact and an opinion.


  1. Christian programs do work when they stick to the faith. They don't work when they try to depend on psychology.

  2. Anon - You can believe what you want in matters of faith, but in matters of verifiable facts, don't fool yourself. The evidence is in, and you're simply wrong. There's not much else to say about it.

  3. This sort of psychic injury is a sad testament to community peer pressures. Conform or be crushed under our wheels. Many of the people involved in these religious groups want to be accepted, to stop being ostracized from their family and loved ones because of their sexuality (which has been deemed inappropriate by the community.)

    They enter into these programs with the expectation that by embedding themselves deeper into the tradition and distant past would "cure" them of something that's not even a disease. Rigorous pretense has never been a functioning method for behavior modification.

    Certainly, it might teach them to pretend better--but I doubt it would do much for feelings of self improvement and instead instills an urgent sense of self hate.

  4. The APA report is a step in the right direction. Attitudes are changing for the better but, as we know, such improvements are gradual. The APA may be criticized for not going far enough, but it has acknowledged the futility and absurdity of "reparative" efforts and for that we can be thankful. The mindset that suggests aversion/conversion “treatments” are effective or even morally acceptable is on the way out, yet we cannot avoid the fact that a large segment of society still regards gay men and women as second-class citizens - or worse. This is the salient point of my recently released biographical novel, Broken Saint. It is based on my forty-year friendship with a gay man, and chronicles his internal and external struggles as he battles for acceptance (of himself and by others, including fellow Mormons). There is a portion of the story that deals specifically with the Church’s effort to change the sexual orientation of the main character - and of course it failed miserably. More information on the book is available at

    Mark Zamen, author


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