Marketing the Bieber Study: Cornelia Wilbur's Other Scandal

Monday, I wrote about a new book by Debbie Nathan which examines the famous multiple personality case of Sybil, a young woman who claimed 16 personalities. For her book Nathan reviewed the notes of Flora Rheta Schreiber, the journalist who collaborated with Sybil’s psychiatrist Cornelia Wilbur in order to turn the case of Shirley Ardell Mason (Sybil’s real name) into a media sensation. Nathan’s findings debunk the claims of Wilbur and expose the distortions and fabrications which led to the famous case. In looking into Sybil’s history, Nathan also takes a long look at psychoanalyst Wilbur. It turns out that multiple personality was not the only controversial diagnosis Wilbur treated.
While Wilbur was discovering Sybil’s personalities, she also collaborated with Irving Bieber on his study of male homosexuality. Wilbur was one of nine co-authors of Homosexuality: A Psychoanalytic Study, published in 1962. Wilbur also had the distinction of being involved as co-author of the other study of homosexuality conducted by the Society of Medical Psychoanalysts published in the 1960s. Wilbur worked with psychoanalyst Harvey Kaye on a team to research female homosexuality, co-authoring a report in 1967.
With the publication of Sybil by author Flora Schreiber, Wilbur became famous. However, the book about Wilbur’s patient Shirley Mason was not the first collaboration between Wilbur and Schreiber. According to Sybil Exposed, Wilbur and Schreiber met when Wilbur was pitching the findings of the 1962 Bieber study. According to Nathan, Wilbur claimed that the Bieber study reported the causes of male homosexuality and boasted of the 27% cure rate as the result of work with analysts like Wilbur.
Schreiber, a free lance writer, was interested in the research and pitched the idea of a story on the subject to several magazines. Cosmopolitan accepted the pitch and assigned her to write a story about a mother with a gay son “eager to help him go straight.” Schreiber then asked Wilbur for a case which could be turned into an article.
According to Nathan, Wilbur turned over information about Case 129 from the Bieber study. You can read about this case on pages 54-58 of Bieber’s 1962 book (click the links to read it – A, B, C). The case is important for two reasons. One, Schreiber did not like it because the main character was an adult and she was assigned to write about a mother and teen son. Two, according Nathan’s research, the case may have been a thinly veiled reference to Wilbur’s work with actor Roddy McDowall.
After summarizing Case 129 from Bieber’s book, Nathan connects the dots,

The public knew that Roddy McDowall’s father had worked on ships. They know his mother had pushed him into voice lessons and Hollywood, and that he’d later moved to New York and found success in show business. What McDowall never talked about openly was that he was gay and that after arriving in New York he’d begun an affair with the charismatic, bisexual actor Montgomery Clift, who was eight years his senior and a raging alcoholic. When Clift called off the affair, McDowall tried to kill himself. These facts did not become widely known until after McDowall died in 1998.

Indeed, McDowall’s homosexuality was considered an open secret and one Clift biographer, Patricia Boswell, said that McDowall was suicidal after a breakup with Clift.
However, since Schreiber needed a teen-aged homosexual, the case, no matter how interesting, had to be altered. So, according to her own notes, Schreiber changed the subject of case 129 into an adolescent, Don, who tearfully confessed his homosexuality to his mother, Eve, in a fit of desperation. In the first draft of the article, according to Nathan, Schreiber used many of the details from Wilbur’s case 129 except for the age of the young man.  The adolescent boy attended psychoanalysis with Wilbur, who explained the causes of homosexuality right from the Bieber study. Unfortunately for Schreiber, this clinical tale did not suit the Cosmo editor who insisted on changes just before going to press. Nathan writes:

One afternoon just before press time, Flora was summoned to Cosmopolitan’s offices on Fifty-seventh Street. When she got there she was informed that her piece was not acceptable. Eve, the homosexual boy’s mother, was overly intelligent, and her son, Don, seemed too sophisticated. The editors and printers ordered Flora to do an immediate rewrite. She sat down and worked as fast as she could.

The result was an article which was published in January, 1963 under the title, “I Was Raising a Homosexual Child” (click the link to read it on Google books). In this fabrication, Don’s homosexuality was revealed to his parents by means of a phone call from police. Don had been arrested for cuddling with another man in Central Park. However, Schreiber maintained the same causal narrative about smother-mothers and distant fathers advanced by the Bieber book. In the story, the fictional Don saw Dr. Wilbur for psychoanalysis and eventually decided that he didn’t really like guys after all. The Cosmo piece reads like a promotional piece for Bieber and Wilbur’s book, which is apparently what Wilbur hoped for. According to a letter from Wilbur, referred to by Nathan, Wilbur said Schreiber “had gotten things right” in the Cosmo article. Wilbur then thought of Schreiber when it came time to pitch the book about her multiple personality patient, Shirley.

(Note that the article says the names have been changed, implying that the case was real.)
There are many other shocking details about Wilbur’s work with Sybil detailed in the book. For instance, Wilbur supplied Shirley/Sybil with money and hired her for a variety of projects. One of the projects was typing up the manuscript for Bieber’s book on the study of male homosexuality. Although not mentioned in her book, Nathan told me in an interview that Shirley/Sybil was hired to type the book manuscript and even submitted an idea for the cover art.
So before Wilbur pitched the case of Sybil to Flora Schreiber, there was the pitch to Schreiber about the Bieber study. As it turns out, Sybil was a fictional tale only loosely tied to Shirley Mason. However, Don, the allegedly “cured” homosexual, was a complete fabrication.
The Bieber study is at the heart of the reparative narrative about the cause of homosexuality. Many articles on The National Association for the Research and Treatment of Homosexuality website refer to Bieber’s findings as authoritative. Most observers outside of NARTH dismiss the study as hopelessly subjective and flawed. However, for those inclined to give it weight, the study rises and falls on the credibility of the reports from the psychoanalysts who contributed cases since the patients were never surveyed. With the publication of Sybil Exposed, it is now reasonable to call into question the credibility of those reports.
“Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case,” by Debbie Nathan, is published by the Free Press and went on sale this week.
Additional note: After Wilbur died, Richard Kluft edited a book on multiple personality disorder and included a tribute to Cornelia Wilbur. Wilbur’s work with Sybil and other patients changed the way dissociative states were treated. An interview with Wilbur is included in the opening pages of the book. Here she notes the connection of the Cosmo article on Don, the fictional cured homosexual, and her decision to use Schreiber to write Sybil. Note Wilbur says that Schreiber got everything right.

Christians behaving badly

LivePrayer’s Bill Keller really did not need to comment on a tragedy he knows nothing about, but he did.
In a press release out today, Keller used the suicide of 15 year old Jamie Hubley to go on a rant about gays.
Keller blames the victim, Anderson Cooper, Rachel Maddow and Ellen DeGeneres for the suicide, assuming that the boy was in distress because he had come out as gay.

Last Friday, a 15-year-old Ottawa boy Jamie Hubley, committed suicide after documenting his hardships of being “gay.” Liveprayer’s Bill Keller said that while the media wants to demonize anyone who dares call this CHOICE of sexual activity what God calls it in the Bible, a sin, it is those in the media who glamorize and promote this choice as normal and acceptable, along with gutless pastors too afraid to speak out against this sin, along with faux churches that glorify this deviant, unnatural, and unhealthy choice of sexual activity, who are most responsible for Hubley’s death.

Rants by fundamentalists about homosexuality are not really news, but this one is so noxious that it illustrates the growing gulf in the church between those who know something about homosexuality and those who don’t. The scholars, ministers and lay people who are making an attempt to understand the subject are moving in one direction and what is left are those who ignore abundant evidence to the contrary of their beliefs.
Recently, I was talking with a 20-something minister who told me that he had become disillusioned with the culture war machine, most clearly over homosexuality. He told me of his struggle to relate to a gay friend, because the friend was more devout in his Christianity than many of his straight Christian friends. His friend was nothing like the right wing stereotypes about “the gay lifestyle.” He also said he worked with some gay men and lesbians at a job where they talked freely about their lives. This young man told me about how common their descriptions were and how normal their families sounded.
He struggled because what he read and heard from evangelical leaders did not square with his own experience. He felt internal pressure to conform his attitudes to the conventional wisdom he was hearing and to disregard his direct experience. He also told me that he didn’t care what anyone said, he didn’t believe his friends could change their orientation, “any more than I can change mine,” he said.
I fear that the rants and rhetoric from those who seem threatened by social change will become more strident. Like a huge self-fulfilling prophecy, they will behave badly toward gays and others who disagree with them, and then they will use the natural reaction of those attacked as a proof of their righteous stance.
I just wish suicides by 15 year old kids could be left out of it.

Bieber Study Co-Author, Cornelia Wilbur, Accused of Fabricating Case of Sybil

Sunday, Salon briefly reviewed a book by Debbie Nathan which claims to debunk the case of Sybil. Sybil, actually a young Minnesota girl named Shirley Mason, was one of the first cases of multiple personality disorder to catch the public attention. The book about the case sold 6 million copies and inspired a movie starring Sally Field.
The Salon article by Laura Miller gives enough detail to hook my inner skeptic. According to Nathan, most of the details reported in the book were fabricated, based on grueling sessions where Shirley/Sybil was under the influence of Sodium Pentothal, administered by her psychoanalyst, Cornelia Wilbur. At one point, Shirley Mason wrote Wilbur confessing that the information about lost time, and other personalities was made up to keep her therapist’s attention. Miller writes:

Nevertheless, Mason did at one point attempt to jump off Wilbur’s train, writing her doctor a long letter confessing that all the multiple-personality stuff — the lost time, the named “alters” and the grotesque tortures supposedly inflicted on Mason as a child by her supposedly psychotic mother — had all been made up. Wilbur briskly dismissed this as a “major defensive maneuver” designed to derail the “hard work” of therapy lying ahead. The pitiably vulnerable Mason soon caved.

The Salon article and the book it features would be interesting enough for a post. However, it gets more interesting. While she was involved in the invention of multiple personalities, Cornelia Wilbur was a member of the Society of Medical Psychoanalysts, along with Irving Bieber. In fact, she was a co-author of the famous “Bieber study” from which current reparative therapists derive much of their claims about the causes of male homosexuality. The Bieber authors surveyed psychoanalysts about their patients (presumably Wilbur was one of the participants as well) and reported their results in the 1962 book Homosexuality: A Psychoanalytic Study.
The Bieber study has been widely criticized, and for good reason.  First, the homosexual participants were psychoanalytic patients in analysis with doctors who already believed that homosexuality was a pathological condition. Also, the patients themselves were never interviewed. Rather, the authors surveyed the analysts to assess the histories and attitudes of their patients. The analysts had already formed the opinion that homosexuality was shaped in childhood and that is exactly what they reported as results.
So it is intriguing to read about Cornelia Wilbur’s conduct in relationship to her most celebrated case. Is it possible that her biases about homosexuality operated first in the Bieber study? While one cannot say based on the case of Sybil, I think is natural to question her part in the Bieber study as a result. This seems especially true given how open the Bieber methodology was to confirmation bias.
The Bieber study is central to reparative therapy. Whenever I have asked reparative therapists for the three best studies which they believe support reparative therapy, they always mention Bieber.
A number of studies mentioned over the years as supports for sexual reorientation change efforts have later come into disrepute. Rekers work with Kyle Murphy, and the Masters and Johnson studies are just two other prominent investigations which later have been questioned.
Additional information: The New York Time Magazine has a lengthy piece on Wilbur and the Sybil case here. This article makes it clear that the sessions with Mason took place while Wilbur was involved with the Bieber study.

Anti-gay bill author assumes leadership of Uganda's ruling party caucus

David Bahati, Deputy Chair will assume the leadership position of the ruling NRM while the current chair steps down awaiting a court ruling on charges of corruption. Here’s the story from the Daily Monitor by way of AllAfrica:

Two days after stepping aside from the Cabinet until the anti-corruption court rules on his alleged involvement in causing government a Shs14b financial loss during Chogm, Government Chief Whip John Nasasira has handed over office to his deputy David Bahati (Ndorwa East).
“I have also stepped aside as chairman of the caucus, and David [Bahati] will chair the caucus until court clears me,” Mr Nasasira said on Friday.
Mr Nasasira, together with his two senior colleagues Sam Kutesa (Foreign Affairs Minister) and Mr Mwesigwa Rukutana (Labour Minister) stepped aside from their Cabinet positions, saying it was a prudent thing to do as he awaits court ruling.
The Inspectorate Chief Prosecution, led by Mr Sydney Asubo, alleges that on December 17, 2005, the three ministers while performing their duties did in abuse of authority of their offices and causing a financial loss.

I have not followed this closely so I have no guess about how long Bahati is likely to stay in this position.

Things get ugly in Illinois

According to a World Net Daily report, a couple of bricks were thrown through the window of the Christian Liberty Academy which hosted the Americans for Truth About Homosexuality banquet earlier this evening. The vandalism was conducted in the early morning hours today with an email sent to a Chicago area news source.
No organization has taken responsibility for the incident which may mean that the attack was conducted by someone acting independently.
The email focused on Scott Lively, who was the recipient of an award at the AFTAH banquet.
This is an ugly episode and I hope those responsible for the vandalism are caught and prosecuted.
Reaction from WND readers to the attack reveals ugliness of another kind. One reader John Acord said gays should be confined to mental institutions (see comment below):

And then there is this comment from John Mccord:

Actually, Scott Lively and Mr. Acord are more on the same wavelength since Lively says he advised the Ugandan government to set up national gay rehab programs. He told WND this as well:

My advice to the MPs regarding the law they were contemplating but had not yet drafted was to focus on rehabilitation and not punishment. I urged them to become the first government in the world to develop a state-sponsored recovery system for homosexuality on the model we have in the United States for alcoholism.

I wonder why that suggestion would upset gays?
In any case, there is plenty of ugly to go around.
UPDATE: The comments I posted above have been removed from the thread at WND. However, if you look down the list, you can find more like them.
Chicago Tribune has a blurb out this morning in their “Breaking News” section. Since the story had already been reported several places, I assume they have a section for news about broken things.

Is it the end of the ex-gay movement as we know it?

Michelle Goldberg has a piece online at the Daily Beast which asks the question: End of the Ex-gay Movement?
In the piece she features John Smid’s recent column where he asserted:

I also want to reiterate here that the transformation for the vast majority of homosexuals will not include a change of sexual orientation. Actually I’ve never met a man who experienced a change from homosexual to heterosexual.

A 21 year veteran of Exodus International, with 11 years on the board of directors, Smid has credibility to make that statement seem shocking. 
Smid’s turnaround was triggered by an event that gave the program notoriety – the protests surrounding teenager Zach Stark’s placement in LIA’s youth program. Morgan Fox and others organized protests around LIA, but there was more. Eventually Fox made a documentary about the ordeal and Smid agreed to be interviewed for it. Smid told Goldberg:

“When Morgan and I met for the very first time right after the protest, what I saw in Morgan was a man of such character,” Smid told me. “I saw someone who was humble, who was open to being honest, someone that I really felt drawn to. It just opened me up to realize I had not been willing to admit that there were gay people like Morgan.”

The rest of the article interviews people who knew Smid while he was Director of Love in Action. Peterson Toscano went through the program calling it a “very destructive process.” For his part, Smid regrets the program saying,

Smid regrets the way Love In Action hammered away at “demonic homosexuality,” he says. “I think that was really, for kids that are 15, 16, 17 years old, oh my goodness. With all the things they’re already struggling with, I can’t imagine what that might have been like for them.”

Brandon Tidwell, another LIA participant is cautious about Smid’s disclosures, believing that Smid has not yet addressed the specifics of the LIA program.
Andrew Marin’s I’m Sorry campaign is also mentioned. Smid is going to attend the Memphis Pride parade and join that effort.
I was also interviewed for the piece and describe the congruence paradigm near the beginning:

Evangelicals used to insist that “change is possible,” says Warren Throckmorton, a Grove City College psychology professor once associated with the ex-gay movement. “The new paradigm, I believe, is no, it doesn’t look like that works, and so you go with it, you accept it, and you try to make the best life you can in congruence with the rest of your beliefs,” he says.

What I mean there is that the effort to seek categorical change does not seem to work and so evangelicals are seeking to make it all work without losing their religion.
Smid’s disclosures may not bring the end of the ex-gay movement, but it is one of many indicators of decline. Unquestionably one of the biggest hits was the revelation that former NARTH board member George Rekers had taken a European vacation with a young “rent boy” hired from a gay escort service. Then the case of Kyle Murphy revealed that Rekers scientific work on preventing homosexuality was built on significantly distorted research. More recently, Edification, a Christian journal affiliated with the American Association of Christian Counselors published research from Mark Yarhouse’s lab showing that gay and bisexual people in mixed orientation marriages change behavior but not orientation, despite being heterosexually married.
Even the study touted as hopeful by change paradigm proponents — the Jones and Yarhouse longitudical study — found a small percentage of people who claimed change. When inspected closer, the change reported could also be considered shifts within an essentially bisexual orientation since most of the participants still report same-sex attraction.
Recently, Exodus has moved away from the language of orientation change and even removed reparative therapy books authored by Joseph Nicolosi from their online bookstore.
The groups most associated with the change paradigm are those which are also heavily involved in political activities opposing gay rights (e.g, NARTH, PFOX, FRC, AFA, AFTAH). Probably, the congruence perspective doesn’t help them as much, if at all.
As one who was once associated with the ex-gay movement, I look at the trends and wonder if we are nearing the end of the ex-gay movement as we know (knew) it. If it is, I feel fine.

What is violence? Scott Lively and the Uganda anti-gay bill

This weekend Moody Church pastor Erwin Lutzer is slated to speak at a banquet hosted by the American for Truth About Homosexuality (AFTAH). Also on the agenda is the presentation of AFTAH’s “Truth Teller” Award to Scott Lively. You can read more about Mr. Lively here. I have written much about him, his book The Pink Swastika, and his work in Uganda.
Because of the presence of Lively, a Chicago area gay activist group, the Gay Liberation Network, wrote Rev. Lutzer to inform him of Lively’s views and background in Uganda. One of the accusations from the GLN is that Lively supports violence against gays in Uganda. Lively and LaBarbera say it is not true. Which is it?
To address this, the definition of violence is relevant. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines violence as an “exertion of physical force so as to injure or abuse” or “injury by or as if by distortion, infringement, or profanation.” Another definition is given describing intense force or turbulence, such as a violent storm. As it relates to interpersonal violence, the violent action may involve physical injury or “profanation” which can include verbal debasement (The Pink Swastika qualifies) or contemptuous treatment.
When it comes to the situation in Uganda, Scott Lively has rejected the death penalty associated with the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. He favors a situation where those convicted of homosexual behavior would have an option for treatment. In other words, face a penalty of some kind or “choose” to go into a government sanctioned process to change sexual orientation. Here is what he wrote about the matter in an essay:

Let me be absolutely clear. I do not support the proposed anti-homosexuality law as written. It does not emphasize rehabilitation over punishment and the punishment that it calls for is unacceptably harsh. However, if the offending sections were sufficiently modified, the proposed law would represent an encouraging step in the right direction. As one of the first laws of this century to recognize that the destructiveness of the “gay” agenda warrants opposition by government, it would deserve support from Christian believers and other advocates of marriage-based culture around the world. 

Note that Lively advises support for the bill if the death penalty was “modified.” As a reminder, the bill without the death penalty would still provide life in jail for someone who “touches another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality.”
Is advocating life in jail for disapproved private conduct violence toward those who engage in that conduct?
Scott Lively was interviewed by Marissa Van Zeller of Vanguard Television and asked his view of the bill without the death penalty. In that interview, he supported a bill without the death penalty as “the lesser of two evils.”
Watch:
Lively said:

Like I said, I would not have written the bill this way. But what it comes down to is a question of lesser of two evils, you know like many of the political choices that we have. What is the lesser of two evils here? To allow the American and European gay activists to continue to do to that country what they’ve done here? Or to have a law that may be overly harsh in some regards for people who are indulging in voluntary sexual conduct? I think the lesser of two evils is for the bill to go through.

Scott Lively says he does not favor violence toward gay people, but he does say that the Ugandans are to be commended and that the bill, sans the death penalty, would be acceptable. If the bill was passed and enforced in Uganda, GLBT people would be subject to arrest for physical actions that someone in authority thought was sexual in nature. They could lose everything they have and spend their remaining days in a Ugandan prison. Others could be arrested simply for advocating on behalf of GLBT people. Is this violence?
What if Scott Lively had his way and GLBT people in Uganda (or here, since he likes the idea so much) were forced into some kind of “treatment.” Even NARTH who is hosting an advocate of criminalization at their upcoming conference, has said forced treatment doesn’t work. Exodus clearly denounced it. If NARTH and Exodus say treatment applied under durress is ineffective, then what model are you recommending Mr. Lively?
I surely don’t want the government to take my freedom, access to my family and possessions because because of a moral disagreement. If I was the recipient of such treatment, it would seem like violence to me.
 

NARTH Touts Jones and Yarhouse Study

I was wondering when NARTH would weigh in on the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy publication of the Jones and Yarhouse study. Dated October, 2011, the title of the post — Change in Sexual Orientation is Possible — immediately spins the study. Here is what the press release about the Jones and Yarhouse study says:

WHEATON, Ill., Sept. 27, 2011 /Standard Newswire/ — Many professional voices proclaim that it is impossible to change homosexual orientation, and that the attempt to change is commonly and inherently harmful. Psychologists Stanton L. Jones (Wheaton College, IL) and Mark A. Yarhouse (Regent University) have just published in the respected, peer-reviewed Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy the final results of their longitudinal study of individuals seeking sexual orientation change through involvement in a variety of Christian ministries affiliated with Exodus International. The results show change to be possible for some, and the attempt not harmful on average. These results stand in tension with the supposed professional consensus; more information is available at www.exgaystudy.org.
In prior studies, in the words of the American Psychological Association, “treatment outcome is not followed and reported over time as would be the standard to test the validity of any mental health intervention.” This study assessed evolving sexual attractions and psychological distress levels of 98 individuals seeking sexual orientation change beginning early in the change process, and then followed them with five additional assessments over a total span of 6 to 7 years. The researchers used standardized, respected measures of sexual orientation and of emotional distress to test the study’s hypotheses.
Of the original 98 subjects, 61 were successfully categorized for general outcome at the last assessment. 53% were categorized as successful outcomes; specifically, 23% reported success in the form of successful “conversion” to heterosexual orientation and functioning, while an additional 30% reported stable behavioral chastity with substantive dis-identification with homosexual orientation. At the 6 year mark, 20% reported fully embracing gay identity. Modest but statistically significant changes were reported on average for decreases in homosexual orientation. The measure of psychological distress did not, on average, reflect increases in psychological distress associated with the attempt to change.
These results do not prove that categorical change in sexual orientation is possible for everyone or anyone, but rather that meaningful shifts along a continuum that constitute real changes appear possible for some. The results do not prove that no one is harmed by the attempt to change, but rather that the attempt does not appear to be harmful on average or inherently harmful. The authors urge caution in projecting success rates from these findings, as they are likely overly optimistic estimates of anticipated success. Further, it was clear that “conversion” to heterosexual adaptation was a complex phenomenon.
Jones and Yarhouse argue that implications of their findings include respect for the integrity and autonomy of persons seeking to change unwanted sexual attractions for moral, religious, or other reasons, just as we respect those who for similar reasons desire to affirm and embrace their sexual orientation. Full information should be offered to consumers about the options and their potential risks. The results also suggest that it would be premature for professional mental health organizations to invalidate efforts to change sexual orientation and unwanted same-sex erotic attractions.

Some might argue that the press release is not appropriately clear because it speaks of change of orientation in the same release as it says this:

These results do not prove that categorical change in sexual orientation is possible for everyone or anyone, but rather that meaningful shifts along a continuum that constitute real changes appear possible for some.

Most of the reviews of this study have missed this statement. Categorical change — moving from a homosexual orientation to a heterosexual one — is not what has been reported by the Jones and Yarhouse. Clearly some people reported changes which allowed them to make an attribution change to themselves – they feel more straight and so they identify with the label. However, the absolute shifts on average were modest, leading to the assessment from Jones and Yarhouse that “meaningful shifts along a continuum that constitute real changes appear possible for some.”
The NARTH article does not link to the press release and does not mention the assessment that the study does not prove categorical change to be possible for anyone. The review is not as skewed as some I have seen, but it does shade the picture.
I have a more focused post about the study planned, but for now, let me add that the concept of bisexuality is not satisfactorily addressed by the study or by reviewers. Bisexuals I have spoken to describe their lives as a series of shifts. For whatever reason, the direction of their attractions shifts with time and/or with relationships. From their point of view, they are not changing orientation when they fall in love with an opposite sex person after a period of same-sex relationships. Instead, they are flexing along a continuum, all of which is understood to be within their essential orientation.
The other group of people which I worked with are the mixed orientation couples. Some of them believe they have become straight because they have fallen in love with an opposite sex spouse. However, these folks do not plan this, nor does it appear to be subject to manipulation or ministry.
Another issue not addressed well by the study or the reviewers is the difference between men and women. Women are probably more likely to report big changes than men. However, Jones and Yarhouse have mixed groups. Separating men and women in the analyses would clarify the possibility that women change more than men.
In all, I am disappointed that the study has re-ignited the “change is possible” political machine. There is fluidity for some people in their sexual attractions, however this says very little about the experience of people who don’t experience that fluidity. Change of orientation for a small group of people is one hypothesis. However, there are other explanations. I think explanations incorporating the reality of bisexuality, cross orientation relationships, and male-female differences are also plausible. In fact, I think they are more plausible.
As an aside, the NARTH review ends with the obligatory slap at the APAs:

Unfortunately, however, the major mental-health associations appear to be moving further away from a purely scientific approach and toward one apparently directed by activists, whereby the purpose of their science does not seem to be understanding those who report change, but rather debunking, dismissing, and ignoring them.

All I can say is: takes one to know one.
NARTH does the same thing they accuse “major mental-health associations” of doing, just on the other side of the ideological perspective. The purpose of NARTH’s “science” seems to be to debunk, dismiss and ignore those who report no change. Regarding activism, NARTH is featuring anti-gay activist Michael Brown in a plenary session at this year’s conference. Brown has no scientific credentials but will be there as an activist, decrying the “homosexual agenda.”
Even more ominous is the presence of Sharon Slater at this year’s conference. Slater runs Family Watch International, a group who lobbies foreign governments at the UN and internationally to maintain laws criminalizing homosexuality. Slater uses NARTH materials in her work. Slater has no scientific credentials, she is there as an activist. I have asked NARTH but gotten no answer as to what scientific benefit Brown and Slater bring to the NARTH audience.
NARTH’s approach may not be “directed by activists.” Perhaps, it is more of a partnership.

A Peter Waldron Sighting in Iowa: Spreading the Gospel of Michele Bachmann

Peter Waldron, the man who helped Michele Bachmann take the Iowa caucus vote in August, is back in Iowa organizing pastors. According to the New York Times yesterday, Waldron was deploying his faith based strategies:

One Bachmann aide, Peter Waldron, gathered 16 evangelical pastors in Des Moines last week to discuss strategy. “These are our caucus-builders,” Mr. Waldron said. “We have a very deliberate plan. It’s been thought-out, prayed over.”

The plan probably looks something like the one he implemented for Gary Bauer in 2000, and described here. Waldron might be informing pastors in Iowa that Bachmann is like King David and Rick Perry like King Saul as he said in August, just after the straw poll victory. Churches are prime source of campaign energy in the plan, turning them into political organizing stations, where they spread the gospel of their favorite candidate.

Former Love in Action Director: I’ve never met a man who experienced a change from homosexual to heterosexual

John Smid was once the director of Love in Action a longtime Exodus International affiliate based in Memphis, TN. I have always found John’s candor refreshing. My first contact with John was at an Exodus meeting where he questioned the slogan, “change is possible.”
In addition to support groups, LIA also had a live-in program known for rigid behavioral rules as a means of reducing same-sex attraction. That program is now closed and John is no longer with LIA.
In recent months, John has developed a ministry called Grace Rivers and has taken a different course in discussing homosexuality. A blog post last week is one that is quite relevant to the claims about change of orientation, recently ignited by the release of a paper in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy containing the final data from Jones and Yarhouse’s study of Exodus participants.
Perhaps the best way to summarize it is to quote significant parts and comment as I go. I recommend reading the entire piece. In response to a reader who asked:

John,
I have been reading your posts since the beginning. Every week I have more questions. I’m sorry, I don’t understand where repentance fits into all of this. I don’t mean to be harsh….I just honestly don’t understand.
Are you saying homosexuality isn’t wrong or are you saying it is wrong, but we have to be patient while God’s goodness brings the homosexual to repentance? I see that you are saying homosexuals can be Christians, but can they remain that way…never expecting a change?

Smid replies:

Repentance from something means it has to be something you can control, like actions. So often people will say someone needs to “repent” from homosexuality. It is something that actually cannot be repented of! People are, or they are not, homosexual. It is an intrinsic part of their being or personally, my being. One cannot repent of something that is unchangeable. I have gone through a tremendous amount of grief over the many years that I spoke of change, repentance, reorientation and such, when, barring some kind of miracle, none of this can occur with homosexuality. The article today is a great example of how we as Christians pervert the gospel as it relates to homosexuality as though homosexuals aren’t welcome in the kingdom unless they repent (which many interpret to change). But since homosexuality is not “repentable” then we put homosexuals into an impossible bind.

About change, Smid writes:

Surely, indiscriminate sexual behavior, stealing, gossip, and other “behaviors” are things that need to be considered when we speak of walking in the kingdom of God. God desires to transform us into His image more and more each day. But in the larger story of the gospel, biblical repentance means to turn our lives to God’s kingdom and away from the kingdom of the world. To change our allegiance from the god of this age, to the Lord of Lords! In this repentance, it allows God to be in the forefront of our lives and we decide to allow His kingdom to reign in us. Therefore we enter into a road of change, transformation. The issue then is what will that change look like for each of us. Yes, there are homosexuals that make dramatic changes in their lives as they walk through the transformation process with Jesus. I have heard story after story of changes that have occurred as men and women find the grace of God in their lives as homosexual people. But, I’m sorry, this transformation process may not meet the expectations of many Christians. I also want to reiterate here that the transformation for the vast majority of homosexuals will not include a change of sexual orientation. Actually I’ve never met a man who experienced a change from homosexual to heterosexual. I have met some women who claim that is the case but then again, male sexuality and female sexuality are vastly biologically different so this would not be a fair comparison.

Change is a change of mind, a change of behavior and intention but according to Smid, it is not a change of attraction. John notes that some women can make a better case for categorical change, but men and women are different.
John then describes his situation as being a “homosexual and yet in a marriage with a woman.” Mixed orientation marriage is a phrase that makes sense to John as he is deeply in love with his wife but is clear that they are not of the same sexuality.
John Smid has been in the thick of the ex-gay ministry world since at least the mid-1990s, serving on the Exodus board and as the director of one of the most visible ministries in the nation. He has known and knows many more people who have tried to change than I have known. I think his experience is incredibly relevant for the church still struggling with how to address GLBT issues.
Are there any ears to hear?