Blog Theme: Sexual Identity Therapy – Interview with Mark Yarhouse

I released the advocacy film “I Do Exist” in July 2004. It was supposed to be a documentary style account of five former gays who had become straight through religious means. I showed the film at a conference of change therapists in November of that same year to great fanfare. It was shown all over the world, but ultimately it was not an accurate portrayal of reality for at least 4 of the participants. Gradually over the next couple of years, I became aware of that and stopped selling the video in early 2007.

My experience with “I Do Exist” drove me back to the research on change and sexual orientation. After realizing that I had been moving in the wrong direction with my earlier claims, I  became a critic of reparative therapy. I chronicled that change on this blog from the beginning in July 2005. All of the posts on reparative therapy and sexual orientation change efforts in general would take hours to review. That story is summarized in this Yahoo News account by Jon Ward.

However, I did not simply criticize change therapy, I wanted to find an alternative for people who struggled morally with their sexual orientation. In 2005, I began a process of developing a framework to help guide therapists who worked with religious clients conflicted by their sexual orientation. Right away, I asked Mark Yarhouse to collaborate. By 2006, we came out with the sexual identity therapy framework. Mark and I discuss that story in this interview.

Of the two of us, Mark has been the prolific writer and researcher. His book Sexual Identity and Faith contains applications of the SIT framework and I recommend it for that purpose. I have multiple posts about the framework on the blog and those can be found here.

In addition to talking over our work together, Mark describes his more recent work with Revoice and gender identity. Thanks to Mark for taking time to reminisce.

Dr. Mark Yarhouse is a clinical psychologist who specializes in conflicts tied to religious identity and sexual and gender identity. He assists people who are navigating the complex relationship between their sexual or gender identity and Christian faith. He is the Dr. Arthur P. and Mrs. Jean May Rech Professor of Psychology at Wheaton College, where he runs the Sexual and Gender Identity (SGI) Institute. He is an award-winning teacher and researcher. He was a past participant with the Ethics and Public Policy Center think tank in Washington, DC, and he was named Senior Fellow with the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities to conduct a study of students navigating sexual identity concerns at Christian colleges and universities. He has been a consultant to the National Institute of Corrections to address issues facing sexual minorities in corrections, and he was part of a consensus panel from the American Psychological Association on sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts that convened to provide input to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in Washington, DC.  He is currently the Chair of the task force on LGBT issues for Division 36 (Psychology of Religion and Spirituality) of the American Psychological Association. He was also invited to write the featured white paper on sexual identity for the Christ on Campus Initiative edited by Don Carson for The Gospel Coalition.

He has published over 80 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters and is author or co-author of several books, including Understanding Sexual Identity: A Resource for Youth Ministers and Understanding Gender Dysphoria: Navigating Transgender Issues in a Changing Culture. His most recent books are Sexual Identity & Faith and Costly Obedience: Listening to and Learning from Celibate Gay Christians. (this is the book where the celibacy research is reported)

Coming Soon: Interview with Mark Yarhouse

On Tuesday July 21, I will publish an interview with Mark Yarhouse, professor at Wheaton College. Mark and I are authors of the sexual identity therapy framework which became an alternative for religious gay clients.

Mark and I will discuss the history of our work together going back to our opposition to a ban on reorientation therapy to our focus on sexual identity therapy. We also talk about Mark’s more recent work in gender identity.

I asked Mark about a relatively new group on the scene helping people navigate sexual identity concerns – Revoice. In that context, he described research into the effects of celibacy. Here is an excerpt of that conversation.

I hope you will revisit the blog on Tuesday to catch the full interview with Mark.

You can see all posts about these interviews by clicking this link.

Also subscribe to my Psychvideos Youtube channel where I am posting them.

Calling All Former Participants in Studies of Sexual Orientation Change Efforts

Writing on Tuesday about Joseph Nicolosi’s new reparative therapy study got me thinking about the other studies of sexual orientation change efforts which have come and gone. I know a few participants in the Spitzer, Shidlo and Schroeder, Jones and Yarhouse studies who once told researchers they had changed orientation but now identify as gay. I suspect some have stayed about the same as they were when they participated in the research. It would be interesting to find out if there are any patterns in experience since those studies were published.
With that in mind, I am calling for subjects in any of the studies designed to assess sexual reorientation to contact me. If you participated in the Spitzer, Shidlo and Schroeder, Jones and Yarhouse, or any study which asked if you had changed orientation (including my 2005 study), please contact me at this email (SOCEFollowup@gmail.com). Those interested don’t have to reveal their identities at first and feel free to write with any questions about this effort.
It seems pretty clear to me that some erosion in the percentage of people claiming change has occurred since Exodus International shut down. Several former leaders in Exodus have recently come out as gay and there may be others who participated in studies from that era who have gone in a different direction. While this isn’t exact science, it may help to shed some light on the long term experience of those who once claimed to have changed orientation.
 

Interview with Mark Yarhouse on SAMHSA Report Calling for an End to Sexual Orientation Change Efforts for Minors

On October 15, I linked to a report published by SAMHSA which called for an end to sexual orientation change efforts for LGBT minors. At the time, I wrote:

Ending Conversion Therapy: Supporting and Affirming LGBTQ Youth was released today by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The report recommends the end of change therapies for minors via professional advocacy and legal strategies.

Mark Yarhouse, co-author with me of the Sexual Identity Therapy framework and professor at Regent University, was an evangelical presence on the panel of experts who produced the consensus statements.

I also said I hoped to have commentary from Mark. Today, I have an interview with him on his committee experience and his views of the consensus. Mark is professor of psychology at Regent University and Director of the Institute for the Study of Sexual Identity. He is co-author with me of the Sexual Identity Therapy Framework, which is a model for ethically and effectively helping clients with distress surrounding their sexual orientation and religious beliefs. For more on SITF, see the website which supports the framework. This will be cross–posted there.
This interview comes amid a bit of a controversy involving Mark and a speaking engagement in Canada. I hope those who assume they know Mark’s views will also read this and the SITF.

Warren Throckmorton: In general, what was your experience like being on the consensus committee? Did you feel the rest of the committee members took religious concerns seriously?
Mark Yarhouse: Overall, it was a good experience. I am always grateful for the opportunity to engage with others around complex issues, to learn from other experts, and to share from my own lines of research. We reviewed existing research and past policy statements, as well as shared from our professional experience working with children, adolescents, and families. In answer to your question about religious concerns, I think committee members wanted to take religious concerns seriously, although the primary focus was the well-being of minors who are navigating sexual identity and gender identity. As you know all too well, the beliefs and values of religious families are important considerations when working with families whose teen may be navigating gender identity or sexual identity concerns. In any case, my experience was that other committee members were interested in the experiences I’ve had – and others had – working with conventionally religious families.
WT: Even though the sexual identity therapy framework (SITF) wasn’t mentioned or cited, do you feel the report is supportive of the approach we take in the framework?
MY: Yes, I think so. We had the opportunity to review many documents, including the SITF and the 2009 APA task force report on appropriate therapeutic responses to sexual orientation, which, as you know, cited the SITF favorably. The kind of practice we saw as helpful would emphasize identity exploration without an a priori fixed outcome. I think the framework does that in the area of sexual identity. However, the framework does not address in much detail working with minors, and that may be something we consider if we offer a revision in the future.
WT: Do you have any comments, reservations about the consensus reported in the paper?
MY: As the SAMHSA report notes, we decided at the outset that we would define consensus as a reasonably high percentage of agreement rather than unanimous consensus. We all agreed to that, but that meant that what counted as consensus in at least a few occasions was not reflecting unanimity. We worked hard for unanimity in all cases, but that did not always happen. I at times found myself in disagreement with some of the wording, for example, but the threshold for consensus was met in those instances, and I understood and respected that process.
WT:It seems to me that the consensus surrounding sexual orientation is more settled than gender identity. How do you see that?
MY: There are fewer professional debates about sexual orientation, which likely reflects the consensus you are referring to. There seem to be more professional discussions about a range of clinical options with gender dysphoria. However, I was impressed by how little research is published on minors – particularly efforts to achieve congruence between gender identity and biological sex.  I was under the impression that more studies of higher quality had been published in some areas, and as the committee looked at them together, we found them lacking. Also, while research was one consideration, we drew on other sources, too, such as committee members’ professional experience and prior reports. In any case, I would have preferred to frame and word various aspects of the consensus report differently, but again that in some cases goes back to what counted as consensus. Without going into too much detail, you could imagine someone favoring the language of  ‘insufficient evidence’ in discussions of effectiveness and harm, to reflect how little published research is available in a given area of inquiry. Other topics, such as how to conceptualize sexual and gender identities and expressions in a diverse and pluralistic culture raise important philosophical and theological questions that were beyond the scope of the discussion.
WT: In general, do you support the recommendations of the paper (or asked another way). Is there anything in the recommendations you have concerns about?
MY: It is important to distinguish the consensus statement from the SAMHSA report. I did provide feedback on portions of the SAMHSA report, especially around family, community, and religious considerations, but it was written by designated persons from that agency. I think it reflects a little more regard for conventionally religious persons and families and provides for more resources than otherwise may have been available. But many committee members provided input and suggestions, and I imagine the author of the report had to balance various considerations in putting together the final document.
As far as concerns, I indicated at the outset that I did not think the government should be involved in legislating around the complexities of clinical practice in these two areas. I prefer to see government support the regulatory bodies that provide oversight to mental health professions in a given jurisdiction. I shared more of my thoughts on that in an interview with First Things. My opinion has not changed on that matter.

The Jones and Yarhouse study: What does it mean?

Let me begin by saying that I endorsed the book, Ex-Gays, A Longitudinal Study of Religiously Mediated Change in Sexual Orientation, by Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse which contained the first report of their longitudinal study. Since the publication of the book, Jones and Yarhouse have released results of their final follow up, first in 2009 at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association, and then most recently in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy. With the follow up, I believe the study remains an important investigation into the interplay of religion, sexual orientation and personal identity. I give them credit for the perseverance required to explore a topic which is highly controversial and to report their findings in detail.

Since the release of the peer-reviewed article, socially conservative groups have described the study as proof that gays can change orientation. For instance, the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer, one of the worst offenders, claims that the study proves gays can change and that they weren’t born gay. Also, Citizenlink, an affiliate of Focus on the Family reported:

Of the 98 subjects, more than half were reported as successful; 23 percent reported a complete change in orientation after six years. Also, 20 percent reported giving up the struggle to change.

This claim is misleading. Jones and Yarhouse did not report “complete change in orientation.” Instead they cautioned against misinterpreting their findings by saying

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.

Regarding the changes reported by their participants, the authors offer two related explanations. One is that some of the participants changed sexual orientation to some degree and the other is that the participants changed their sexual identity. Sexual identity involves placing more emphasis on behavioral conformity to prohibitions on homosexual behavior as a means of self definition. For the Exodus participants, less temptation to engage in homosexual behavior might be taken as a signal that orientation has changed, thus allowing a different attribution about their sexuality than once believed. The authors raise these two possibilities in the abstract for the most recent paper:

The authors conducted a quasi-experimental longitudinal study spanning 6–7 years examining attempted religiously mediated sexual orientation change from homosexual orientation to heterosexual orientation. An initial sample was formed of 72 men and 26 women who were involved in a variety of Christian ministries, with measures of sexual attraction, infatuation and fantasy, and composite measures of sexual orientation and psychological distress, administered longitudinally. Evidence from the study suggested that change of homosexual orientation appears possible for some and that psychological distress did not increase on average as a result of the involvement in the change process. The authors explore methodological limitations circumscribing generalizability of the findings and alternative explanations of the findings, such as sexual identity change or adjustment.

As I read all of the literature, including my own work, I first want to disagree with the way that Citizenlink characterized the results as “complete change.” That is not at all what Jones and Yarhouse reported. Considering the dichotomy proposed by Jones and Yarhouse — change in orientation or identity – I lean toward their alternative explanation – “sexual identity change or adjustment.”  However, I believe the discussion of what their results mean needs to be broadened beyond those two possibilities. In addition to considering orientation and identity as important constructs, I believe there are other ways to account for the changes Jones and Yarhouse report which are not sufficiently addressed in their published accounts.  First, I want to make some observations about the study which influence my opinions about what the results mean.

First, and most basically, the Jones and Yarhouse study did not examine in any systematic way the efficacy of reparative therapy or any other kind of psychological therapy as a means of altering sexual orientation. The participants in the study were involved in religiously based support groups which primarily had as a goal to reinforce a traditional moral view of sexuality. Clearly, the participants hoped they would change and engaged in various religious interventions to assist that end. However, the study did not assess the role of professional therapy and cannot legitimately be used to say such therapies work.

Second, there were quite a few dropouts six to seven years into the study. While true of all longitudinal studies, the final percentages being reported should also take into account the distinct possibility that many if not most of the drop outs were not successful in their efforts to change. The study began with 98 participants and ended up with 65 who were followed up for six to seven years. Some reported that they were healed of homosexuality and just didn’t want to participate, while others said they were gay and stopped trying to change. I don’t know for sure what the dropouts mean but the fact that so many failed to complete the study needs to be a part of any discussion.

Third, ratings from men and women were combined. Given the low number of people involved I understand why this was done but the practice may inflate the assessments of change for the group. It has become well accepted that the sexuality of women is more fluid than for men. A few women experiencing large shifts could influence the group averages. Continue reading “The Jones and Yarhouse study: What does it mean?”

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.

New study: Sexual behavior changes but not sexual orientation

Media have been all over the Bachmann clinic story this week with lots of related discussion about how much, if at all, sexual orientation changes. As a part of this discussion, I noted that a study I am writing up found that over all married gay people assess themselves as growing more same-sex attracted over time.

Along the way, colleague Mark Yarhouse wrote to remind me that he found something similar in a study recently reported in the new issue of the Christian journal Edification (check out the entire journal for background on the whole arena of evangelicals in the study of sexual identity).

The study Mark referred to was authored by his team at Regent University and titled, “Characteristics of Mixed Orientation Couples: An Empirical Study” (start reading at page 41). The sexual minority participants had been married an average of just over 16 years and the average age was 45. While it was not a study of efforts to change, one could reasonably assume that if a group had participants who had shifted orientation very much, then this would be the group. However, that is not what they found, at least not at the level of attraction. See Table 5 below:

You will have to click the table to see it more clearly, but the table  demonstrates that the Kinsey scores shift more toward the heterosexual side when the participants were asked about their sexual behavior but when asked about their attractions, fantasies, and emotional attachments, there was no change. The Kinsey Expanded scale included an average of participant Kinsey assessment of behavior, attractions, fantasies and emotional attachments.

The authors summarized the results:

The mean score of the Kinsey behavior scale before marriage was 3.60, which falls in between the Largely heterosexual, but more than incidental homosexual and Equal amounts of heterosexual and homosexual categories. The mean score of the Kinsey behavior scale currently was 2.80, which falls in between the Largely heterosexual, but incidental homosexual and Largely heterosexual, but more than incidental homosexual categories.

On the Kinsey Expanded version, the mean score for both before marriage and the current assessment were 4.33 and 4.57 respectively. Both of these scores fall in between the
Equal amounts of heterosexual and homosexual and Largely homosexual, but more than incidental heterosexual categories.

I need to ask Mark, and perhaps he can comment, what the Expanded Kinsey result would look like if the behavioral Kinsey score was removed from the average of all Kinsey scores. Perhaps, the attraction, fantasy, etc., scores would rise moderately.

At any rate, the results are consistent with what I am finding as well. People adapt their behavior to their beliefs and commitments but their orientation does not shift, on average.

In all of the bluster about change therapies and clinics, I think evangelicals need to face what evangelical academics are finding in research. Also, a word to the media, both Christian and mainstream, quoting advocacy groups will get you two sides for dramatic tension, but if you want to know how research informs the questions you are asking, please consult those who, despite their religious loyalties, will report accurately.

New York Times on therapy for sexual identity concerns

The New York Times Magazine will have a lengthy print article on sexual identity concerns, especially among evangelical gays this sunday. The well-written article by Mimi Swartz is now up online at this link.
I have been away for several days and won’t be able to comment much under Sunday or Monday, but I think she did a nice job of bringing together several lines of thinking which led to the sexual identity management/therapy approach to handling sexual identity concerns.  Her descriptions of the sexual identity therapy framework start about here and are woven throughout the later part of the article.
The one aspect of the piece I don’t like is the title – Living the Good Lie. We do not encourage this and in fact advocate for acceptance, even if that acceptance is not with approval. More on that when I can reflect a bit more…

Sexual Identity Therapy Framework resources

Peter LaBarbera today reprints Laurie Higgins critique of an article by Mark Yarhouse regarding the application of our sexual identity therapy framework (SITF). I am aware he does not mean to promote the framework but his articles have increased my emails about the framework and requests for referrals to therapists who practice in that manner. I refer them to the registry of practitioners who claim to use the SITF at the Institute for the Study of Sexual Identity. However, a quick look will confirm that many areas of the country are unrepresented there. This area clearly needs to be developed.

Those affiliated with ISSI include people working in several graduate programs in counseling and we aware of other programs who inform students about the SITF. By far, the largest organization that offers information regarding the SITF is the American Association of Christian Counselors. Mark and I presented a preconference workshop at the 2007 AACC conference titled, Introduction and Clinical Application of the Sexual Identity Therapy Guidelines.”  A 3 CD set of that workshop is available on the AACC website. In 2008, Mark presented the SITF at the AACC West Region conference. A audio of that workshop is also available on the AACC website.

The website supporting the SITF is www.sitframework.com. There we have posted articles consistent with the SITF and a list of presentations regarding it. On YouTube, there is a two part demonstration of how I worked with BBC reporter David Akinsanya in 2005. Akinsanya had just left Love in Action early because he felt it did not fit him and his values. This interview was conducted in 2005 as the SITF was being developed. 

Wall Street Journal reporter has followed the development of the SITF with a 2007 article in the LA Times and then a 2009 piece in the Wall Street Journal. Wikipedia has an entry on the SITF. The APA’s 2009 sexual orientation task force cited the SITF favorably as a means for clients to therapeutically explore their options.

Much needs to be done to develop the model and describe how existing models are applied with it. Between us, Mark and I have trained several hundred mental health and ministry professionals in the model and look forward to providing more opportunities for supervision and training.

Lifesitenews article: An exercise in confirmation bias

Yesterday, Lifesitenews published an article complaining about me. Many of the complains are recycled from Peter LaBarbera’s website and a OneNewsNow article. I addressed those criticisms here and here. Mark Yarhouse also did so on the SIT Framework website. Beyond rehashing LaBarbera’s issues, I think the article reflects poorly on Lifesitenews. Let’s start with their characterization of how my peers have been reacting to my work. Reporter Matthew Hoffman wrote:

Throckmorton’s defection from the ex-gay movement has been met with condemnation by Evangelicals. “Though he works for an evangelical institution, Pennsylvania-based Grove City College, which advertises itself on faith-based websites as ‘authentically Christian,’ Warren promotes a new, morally neutral paradigm on homosexuality that affirms people’s ‘Sexual Identity’ according to their feelings (and comfort level with same),” laments Peter LaBarbera of Americans For Truth About Homosexuality (AFTAH).

Evangelicals? Let’s count how many condemning evangelicals are quoted by LSN. If you count Michael Glatze, two people are quoted as complaining about my views, the other one being Peter LaBarbera. My reason for hedging on Glatze is that he began his ex-gay journey as a member of the LDS church and is listed as an “Executive Assistant” at the Buddhist inspired Shambhala Mountain Center in Colorado, which, according to an article written by Glatze in 2009, is a welcoming place for gays and lesbians.

Rather than reporting some broad evangelical condemnation of my work, the article repeats the criticisms of Peter LaBarbera. I noted to Mr. Hoffman when I declined his interview (more about that shortly), that I am on the National Advisory Board for the American Association of Christian Counselors (as is Mark Yarhouse) and that they paid Mark and me to present a half-day workshop at the 2007 conference on how to apply the sexual identity therapy framework. By any definition, the AACC would be considered an evangelical organization. Mr. Hoffman says that I am under fire from evangelicals and yet only quotes one, maybe two. At the same time, he ignored evidence that my views are promoted within a much larger, more mainstream evangelical organization (not to mention several others he could have consulted).

As an aside, it is curious that Mr. LaBarbera has not included the AACC in his crusade. The AACC still promotes the SITF via the tapes they sell of the pre-conference workshop. The SITF was featured in the AACC magazine in 2007 via an invited article by Mark Yarhouse. Perhaps, the AACC will be next.

When I declined the interview, I pointed out to Mr. Hoffman that the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) also claims to value client self-determination. I sent Mr. Hoffman a link to my recent post, “Is NARTH the next target?” which notes that Joseph Nicolosi says, on the NARTH website, that he provides gay affirmative therapy to some of his clients. NARTH is mentioned favorably at least 46 times on Peter LaBarbera’s website. I also sent a link to a YouTube video where Dr. Nicolosi says this about his practice:

The therapeutic approach is always positive. In fact, to be honest with you we never tell our clients not to have homosexual activity. If they want to do it, let them do it. It’s up to them. Our job is to help them understand what they learned from it. When a client comes in to me and says, ‘I had gay sex last night.’ My only question to him is, ‘What was going on with you just before you decided to act out? What was your psychological state of mind that made you want…?’ That’s where the lesson is. So we don’t tell clients not to act out. They can act out, but every time they do act out, it’s an opportunity to learn something about themselves.

Given that Mr. Hoffman mentions my movement away from NARTH’s emphasis on reorientation, it would have reasonable and responsible for him to mention that NARTH holds to a view of client self-determination that is arguably more permissive than my own. For instance, in the SITF, if a client seeks celibacy or monogamy, we advocate working with clients to avoid contexts which could elicit undesired behavior.

Mr. Hoffman is correct that I changed my mind about an interview with him, but failed to completely describe the circumstances, saying

After agreeing to an email interview with LifeSiteNews, Dr. Throckmorton refused to answer the questions submitted, claiming they were “slanted.” The questions sent to Dr. Throckmorton, are available at this link.

In fact, I declined his original request. After thinking it over, I asked to see the questions he wanted to ask. I did not agree to an interview although he may have thought that I did since I asked to see the questions. Once I read the questions, which he posted, I decided there was little chance for a fair representation of my views. For instance, I asked Mr. Hoffman how he formed this question (#3 in his list):

3. In a recent article you defended the thesis that sexual orientation is biologically determined in the womb, by hormonal deficiencies. Do you now believe that homosexual orientation is immutable?

I wrote to ask where I “defended the thesis that sexual orientation is biologically determined in the womb, by hormonal deficiencies.” He then wrote back citing this article in Uganda’s The Independent and quoted this section:

However, we do not know this to be the case. Most researchers around the world agree that there is no consensus about the causes of any given person’s sexual orientation. While it seems unlikely that there is one biological or genetic cause for all homosexuals, there are data which suggest that genetic and hormonal factors during pre-natal development have some impact on our desires, in different ways for different people.

In the email, Mr. Hoffman explained:

Perhaps I overstated your position slightly. You are suggesting

apparently that hormonal and genetic factors in the womb contribute to the phenomenon. Please consider my question amended to that effect.

I believe he did more than slightly overstate my position. His original question slanted my plainly stated views. That was enough for me to stick with my decision not to do an interview.

Currently, LSN is lamenting exclusion from a mainstream Catholic news source, Zenit. I know nothing of the specific issues but it relates to criticisms of LSN’s reporting. I can say after this experience, that I will not accept what I read there at face value. Perhaps in the zeal to promote a certain point of view, LSN’s reporting is skewed in a manner which concerns more mainstream outlets. Here are some tips. If you are going to advance a thesis, call it an op-ed, don’t present it as news. If you make a generalization about a trend or a group, interview more than one person from the group you are characterizing. If you want to have sources trust you, then do not slant or misrepresent their views. Follow up on aspects of a story that may lead you away from your preconceived ideas – avoid confirmation bias.