Can sexual orientation change? This is the question Jones and Yarhouse ask in chp 7 of Ex-Gays?. The consensus of the American Psychological Association (APA) is that orientation cannot change. So, J-Y are testing that claim.
Remember the issue here: Can it be demonstrated that those who seek to change their orientation can achieve success in their endeavor? Jones (left) and Yarhouse (right) think success can be achieved and measured empirically.
Issues immediately arise: What is change? How much change does there have to be to consider one’s orientation to have changed?
And here’s a frequent explanation: if the person claims to have a sexual orientation change, then that person never was “truly gay/lesbian.” Here is a quotation: “Why did the person fail to change? Because he was truly gay. Why did the person succeed in changing? Because he was not truly gay. How do you know that the person who changed was not truly gay? Because a truly gay person cannot change” (232). Just in case it doesn’t occur to you, this is the classic statement by Calvinists on whether or not a person can “lose” his/her salvation. If the person no longer has faith, that person never was a genuine Christian etc.. Both of these are classic examples of a conclusion shaping all explanations. J-Y want to break through the explanatory barrier.
So, J-Y carefully analyzed their pool to find those who are truly gay according to standardized measurements. Essentially, a truly gay person reports “high levels of homosexual attraction/fantasy and eclusive or highly disproportionate levels of homosexual behavior and strong self-identification as gay or lesbian” (234).
They provide dense and complete tables of data; more than 35 pages of data and discussion. Their conclusion:
“On average, this population has experienced significant change away from homosexual orientation and toward heterosexual orientation. Empirically, it is a medium to large shift from orientation and a small change toward heterosexual orientation. The most significant conclusion is that the Truly Gay subpopulation of this study is the one most likely to exhibit significant change.
Chp 8 is more quantitative with these basic results and this chp includes stories and statements by individuals who can be grouped in the following:
Success of change: Conversion to heterosexuality (15%)
Success of change: Chastity (23%)
Failure to change: confused (4%)
Failure to change: remain gay identity (8%)
They believe these results are typical for a measurable study of change in psychology. For instance, depression numbers in comparable categories: 33% substantial success or remission, 14% improvement, and 53% non-improvement.
Their conclusion is that fundamental change can be achieved. In their view, 38% of those they studied report fundamental change.
Our final post will be on whether or not therapy to change one’s sexual orientation and behavior is harmful to the person.