Wednesday August 4, 2010

Opinion: The APA’s Biased Paper on Same-Sex Attraction and Therapy

Dale O’Leary

August 3, 2010 ( – The debate over therapy for same-sex attraction (SSA) and gender identity disorder (GID) has been going on for years. Recently, the APA put out a paper designed to resolve the issue. However, the introduction of the APA’s Task Force Report on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation defines the parameters for the discussion in such a way that the defenders of therapy for SSA and GID are positioned in the worst possible light. The issue is essentially decided in favor of gay-affirming therapy before the evidence is heard.

According to the introduction of the paper: “We see this multiculturally competent and affirmative approach as grounded in an acceptance of the following scientific facts.”

This is followed by five supposedly scientific facts that are presented for acceptance as the foundation for discussion. However, the five points are not universally accepted facts based on uncontroverted scientific evidence, but biased statements that obscure the facts. Here are the five so-called facts and the concerns they raise.

1) Same-sex sexual attractions, behavior, and orientations per se are normal and positive variants of human sexuality—in other words, they do not indicate either mental or developmental disorders.

The use the term “per se” confuses the issue. It is true that same-sex sexual attractions, behavior, and orientations are not in and of themselves (per se) indicative of anything. Given the variety of human behavior and attractions in different cultures, throughout history, and among the variety of mankind, nothing can be said about all persons with same-sex attraction, everyone who engages in same-sex behavior, or claims a particular sexual orientation. However, there is substantial evidence that same-sex attraction is a sequel of disturbed early childhood, in particular a failure to achieve a secure attachment to the mother1 and a failure to identify with the same sex parent and peers2. There is also evidence that persons with SSA are more likely to have been victims of childhood abuse,3 including sexual abuse,4 or other exposure to age inappropriate experiences. A number of well designed large sample studies have found that persons with SSA are more likely to suffer from psychological disorders, substance abuse problems,5 and suicidal ideation.6 Men who have sex with men are at high risk for contracting an STD, including HIV.7 While not every persons with SSA falls into these categories, a significant percentage do. There is on the other hand no replicated evidence that SSA is genetically or congenitally predetermined and therefore a natural and unchangeable variant.8 Therefore, it can be argued that there is evidence that SSA in some cases (or some might argue in most cases) is associated with a psychological or developmental disorder.

2) Homosexuality and bisexuality are stigmatized, and this stigma can have a variety of negative consequences (e.g., minority stress) throughout the life span.

Sexual acts between two persons of the same sex, along with adultery, fornication, and sexual paraphilias, are condemned by a number of religions as always contrary to God’s law. Since these religions are based on unchangeable revelation, these doctrines cannot be altered. Therefore, engaging in same-sex relations will always be considered by some as unacceptable. Love and compassion for those who struggle with temptation does not require acceptance of these behaviors. Freedom of religion protects the right of persons, who believe that homosexual acts are always wrong, to state their belief publicly and teach this conviction to their children without fear of discrimination. Such convictions are not bigoted, discriminatory, homophobic, or hate speech.

It is true that the realization that a significant portion of the community believes that a person’s behavior is not acceptable may make that person feel bad. Persons engaging in homosexual behavior may wish to silence those who disapprove. They may wish to have their behavior universally accepted; but so long as people have freedom of religion this situation will not change.

3) Same-sex sexual attractions and behavior occur in the context of a variety of sexual orientations and sexual orientation identities, and for some, sexual orientation identity (i.e., individual or group membership and affiliation, self-labeling) is fluid or has an indefinite outcome.

Gay activists would have us believe that SSA is a normal, and unchangeable variant, but numerous studies have found that SSA is fluid.9 If as the evidence shows it is possible for SSA and behavior to change spontaneously, then why can’t a person seek psychological therapy or spiritual counseling to affect a change in SSA or behavior?10

4) Gay men, lesbians, and bisexual individuals form stable, committed relationships and families that are equivalent to heterosexual relationships and families in essential respects.

Same sex relationships differ in many essential aspects from a marriage between a man and a woman. Two persons of the same sex cannot consummate a marriage – the one and only act that joins a man and a woman as one flesh. They cannot conceive a child that is the fruit of their union and their joint biological offspring. Every child acquired by a same-sex couple has been separated from one or both biological parents. Such a separation is perceived by the child as a loss. Every child raised by a same-sex couple lacks a parent of one or the other sex. Two persons of the same sex lack the psychological and emotional complementarity that is part of a husband and wife union. Finally, it is interesting to note that exclusivity is not considered essential for male couples.11

5) Some individuals choose to live their lives in accordance with personal or religious values (e.g., telic congruence).

Some individuals not only choose to live their lives according to God’s revealed law, but also believe that since truths of revelation and the truths discovered by science come from the same source, when both are properly understood they will agree. The term “values” degrades this belief into mere personal opinion; one person “values” one thing, another “values” something else. Those who believe in the congruence of revelation and science, reject this kind of relativism. They hold that it is possible through revelation and science to approach truth and that certain opinions are simply wrong. However, they respect the right of those who oppose them to be wrong and to defend their beliefs. While gay activists demand universal acceptance and affirmation for themselves, they use every method within their grasp to silence and marginalize those who disagree with them.

Those who defend therapy for adults with unwanted SSA and children with GID must make it clear that they do not accept the pseudo scientific facts proposed by the Task Force.

For references click here.