Science has been enlisted to depathologize homosexuality in so far as it can lend credence to the assertion that homosexuality is an immutable condition. The immutability issue is as irrelevant to the moral nature of homosexual behavior as it is to alcoholic behavior. Alcoholics, by definition, are alcoholics for life. If they wish to remain sober, they may never drink again.
Are homosexuals like this, also? Will they forever suffer from (or celebrate) their inclination? There is mixed evidence regarding this. Of those wanting to change, some have been able to; some have not. However, except in the very real terms of personal hardship, it does not really matter. After all, everyone is disposed in some morally disordered way or another. The immutability of the condition or of the inclination is irrelevant to the moral character of the acts to which they are disposed.
Of course, some homosexual apologists find the genetic excuse exculpatory. Therefore, they need it for the rationalization of their behavior: if I am this way by nature, how can I help what I do? However, the alcoholic could use the same justification for his drunkenness. In neither case does the inclination neuter free will or responsibility for actions.
However, this issue is extremely important here in the US because homosexual activists wish to establish the immutability of their condition in order to constitute themselves as a “class”. Legally, a “class” can be determined only by accident of birth, by such traits as race or sex. This explains the enormous interest in establishing sexual orientation as genetic or biological. Homosexuals want to be designated a “class” so they can game the legal system for the spoils of discrimination. Therefore, this issue has huge legal and financial consequences.
We can see the burgeoning significance of this matter in Attorney General Eric Holder’s 2011 letter to Congress, explaining why the Obama administration would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as being between one man and one woman, in court. A group can be defined as a “class”, explained Mr. Holder, if individuals “exhibit obvious, immutable, or distinguishing characteristics that define them as a discrete group”. Therefore, everything hinges upon whether homosexuality is an unchangeable characteristic. Mr Holder announces that, “a growing scientific consensus accepts that sexual orientation is a characteristic that is immutable”. So great is this consensus that, according to him, claims to the contrary “we do not believe can be reconciled with more recent social scientific understandings”.
This bestows upon homosexuals the privilege of being a class, just as are blacks, Hispanics, or women. As a class, they can be discriminated against. Has there been such discrimination?
Mr Holder answers that, “there is, regrettably, a significant history of purposeful discrimination against gay and lesbian people, by governmental as well as private entities, based on prejudice and stereotypes that continue to have ramifications today”. One of those ongoing ramifications is the restriction of marriage to one man and one woman by the Defense of Marriage Act. Thus, he concludes, this law is discriminatory against homosexuals as a class and, therefore, unconstitutional and indefensible.
Judging “immutable characteristics”
But let us try to put these claims in perspective. Let us say that in cannibals, cannibalism is an immutable characteristic. They simply can’t stop eating people. Identifiable as cannibals, they could be discriminated against as a class. But this begs the question as to whether discrimination against them would be justified or not. Surely, one would think, it would be warranted because eating other people is wrong. Therefore, the discrimination against them is based not so much on cannibals as people, but on their activity of eating other people. If there were nothing wrong with eating other people, there would be no moral basis for discrimination against cannibals.
Likewise, even if homosexuality is an immutable characteristic, what distinguishes homosexuals is their sexual activity. Therefore, like cannibals, discrimination against them would be based not so much on who they are, as on what they do. The whole question, then, turns upon whether what they do is right or wrong. Mr. Holder’s letter clearly assumes that this question has been settled and, in his answer, we see the profound ramifications of the Lawrence v. Texas case and its vindication of sodomy. Using Lawrence, Mr. Holder declares, in an opprobrious tone, that, “Indeed, until very recently, states have ‘demean[ed] the existence’ of gays and lesbians ‘by making their private sexual conduct a crime’. Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558, 578 (2003)” – meaning, of course, that it was wrong to do so.
Change you can believe in
However, even if one were to grant that sodomy is a morally fine act, the contention that homosexuals are a “class” is indefensible because sexual orientation is not an immutable characteristic – even if some are unable to change it. There is simply too much clinical and other evidence that proves otherwise. A black man has never become a white man, or an Hispanic, a Chinese. A woman has never become a man, or a man, a woman – without massive surgical and hormonal intervention. However, there is ample fluidity, particularly in younger years, in sexual orientation. Straight men have become homosexuals, and homosexuals have become straight. The mutable cannot be immutable.
In 2003, Dr Jeffrey Satinover, a board-certified psychiatrist, testified before the Massachusetts Senate Judicial Committee on this subject. He said that the National Health and Social Life Survey (NHSLS) study of sexuality was completed in 1994 by a research team from the University of Chicago and funded by almost every large government agency and NGO with an interest in the AIDS epidemic.
“They studied every aspect of sexuality, but among their findings is the following, which I’m going to quote for you directly: ‘7.1 [to as much as 9.1] percent of the men [we studied, more than 1,500] had at least one same-gender partner since puberty. … [But] almost 4 percent of the men [we studied] had sex with another male before turning eighteen but not after. These men. . . constitute 42 percent of the total number of men who report ever having a same gender experience.’ Let me put this in context: Roughly ten out of every 100 men have had sex with another man at some time – the origin of the 10% gay myth. Most of these will have identified themselves as gay before turning eighteen and will have acted on it. But by age 18, a full half of them no longer identify themselves as gay and will never again have a male sexual partner. And this is not a population of people selected because they went into therapy; it’s just the general population. Furthermore, by age twenty-five, the percentage of gay identified men drops to 2.8%. This means that without any intervention whatsoever, three out of four boys who think they’re gay at age l6 aren’t by 25”.
In “Homosexuality and the Truth”, former homosexuals Sy Rogers & Alan Medinger, both involved in the Exodus Global Alliance, provide the following references for the contention that homosexuality is not immutable:
“Dr Reuben Fine, Director for the New York Centre for Psychoanalytic Training, says in his 1987 publication ‘Psychoanalytic Theory, Male and Female Homosexuality: Psychological Approaches’: ‘I have recently had occasion to review the result of psychotherapy with homosexuals, and been surprised by the findings. It is paradoxical that even though politically active homosexual groups deny the possibility of change, all studies from Schrenck-Notzing on have found positive effects, virtually regardless of the kind of treatment used…a considerable percentage of overt homosexuals became heterosexual… If the patients were motivated, whatever procedure is adopted, a large percentage will give up their homosexuality. In this connection, public information is of the greatest importance. The misinformation spread by certain circles that ‘homosexuality is untreatable by psychotherapy’ does incalculable harm to thousands of men and women.’ (pp.84-86)”
Here is what Dr Irving Bieber and his colleagues concluded:
“The therapeutic results of our study provide reason for an optimistic outlook. Many homosexuals become exclusively heterosexual in psychoanalytic treatment. Although this change may be more easily accomplished by some than others, in our judgment, a heterosexual shift is a possibility for all homosexuals who are strongly motivated to change.”
Bieber stated 17 years later: “We have followed some patients for as long as ten years who have remained exclusively heterosexual.”
Dr. Robert Kronemeyer, in his 1980 book, Overcoming Homosexuality says: “For those homosexuals who are unhappy with their life and find effective therapy, it is ‘curable’.” “The homosexual’s real enemy is… his ignorance of the possibility that he can be helped.” says Dr. Edmund Bergler, in his book, Homosexuality: Disease or Way of Life?
In his 2003 testimony to the Massachusetts Senate, Dr. Satinover said,
“A review of the research over many years demonstrates a consistent 30-52% success rate in the treatment of unwanted homosexual attraction. Masters and Johnson reported a 65% success rate after a five-year follow-up. Other professionals report success rates ranging from 30% to 70%”.
Stanton L Jones, Provost and Professor of Psychology, Wheaton College, conducted a more recent study of people seeking change in sexual orientation “through their involvement in the cluster of ministries organized under Exodus International”. The span of the study was 6 to 7 years. His reported results are as follows: “Of these 61 subjects, 53% were categorized as successful outcomes by the standards of Exodus Ministries. Specifically, 23% of the subjects reported success in the form of ‘conversion’ to heterosexual orientation and functioning, while an additional 30% reported stable behavioral chastity with substantive disidentification with homosexual orientation. On the other hand, 20% of the subjects reported giving up on the change process and fully embracing gay identity”. Dr. Jones said, “I conclude from these data and years of study that homosexual orientation is sometimes mutable”.
The futility of immutability
If it is even sometimes mutable, then it cannot be immutable. The evidence for this is often disregarded or treated with tremendous hostility by homosexual activists because it imperils their “class” designation and all the goes with it. Therefore, tremendous pressure has been exerted within and on the American Psychological Association and other professional societies to declare that such change is impossible and, in fact, undesirable. Homosexuals who have made the change are viciously attacked and attempts are being made, and have so far succeeded in places like California, to pass legislation prohibiting reparative therapy.
In 2012, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Senate Bill 1172, which “prohibit[s] a mental health provider, as defined, from engaging in sexual orientation change efforts, as defined, with a patient under 18 years of age. The bill would provide that any sexual orientation change efforts attempted on a patient under 18 years of age by a mental health provider shall be considered unprofessional conduct and shall subject the provider to discipline by the provider’s licensing entity”. Therefore, but for the stay of a court order, it would now be illegal in California for therapists to aid teenagers struggling with same-sex attractions from performing any type of reorientation therapy on lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender minors.
The Bill announces the premise upon which it is based: “An individual’s sexual orientation, whether homosexual, bisexual, or heterosexual, is not a disease, disorder, illness, deficiency, or shortcoming”. The Bill also quotes an article in the journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in 2012, which states “Indeed, there is no medically valid basis for attempting to prevent homosexuality, which is not an illness”.
While the bill speaks volubly about the dangers of conversion therapy, for which there is only anecdotal evidence, it never once mentions the far greater dangers of the homosexual life, for which there is ample scientific evidence. Perhaps the reason is that its principal sponsor was a homosexual legislator, which also helps explain why the bill does not prohibit therapists from helping straight youths to become homosexual – only the other way around. The totalitarian impulse underlying the rationalization of homosexual behavior is here revealed by the attempt to forbid those seeking help from obtaining it.
Even some pro-homosexual rights scientists are appalled by the outright denial of reality. Dr Nicholas Cummings said:
“I have been a lifelong champion of civil rights, including lesbian and gay rights. I [was] appointed as president (1979) [of] the APA’s first Task Force on Lesbian and Gay Issues, which eventually became an APA division. In that era the issue was a person’s right to choose a gay life style, whereas now an individual’s choice not to be gay is called into question because the leadership of the APA seems to have concluded that all homosexuality is hard-wired and same-sex attraction is unchangeable. My experience has demonstrated that there are as many different kinds of homosexuals as there are heterosexuals. Relegating all same sex-attraction as an unchangeable – an oppressed group akin to African-Americans and other minorities – distorts reality. And past attempts to make sexual reorientation therapy ‘unethical’ violates patient choice and makes the APA the de facto determiner of therapeutic goals… The APA has permitted political correctness to triumph over science, clinical knowledge and professional integrity. The public can no longer trust organized psychology to speak from evidence rather than from what it regards to be politically correct”.
The effect of this political correctness on those seeking help was poignantly related by former homosexual Rich Wyler. His therapist’s name was Matt.
“The first order of business on my first visit with Matt was for me to sign a release form required by the American Psychological Association. Reparative therapy was unproven, the form said; the APA’s official stance was that it didn’t believe it was possible to change sexual orientation; attempting to do so might even cause psychological harm. Yeah, right, I thought, as if the double life I was living was not causing psychological harm enough”.
In fact, the Journal of Human Sexuality (Volume 1, 2009) has reported that, “Those who have received help from reorientation therapists have collectively stood up to be counted—as once did their openly gay counterparts in the 1970s. On May 22, 1994, in Philadelphia, the American Psychiatric Association was protested against for the first time in history—not by pro-gay activists, but by a group of people reporting that they had substantially changed their sexual orientation and that change is possible for others (Davis, 1994). The same thing happened at the 2000 Psychiatric Association convention in Chicago (Gorner, 2000), and again at the 2006 APA convention in New Orleans (Foust, 2006)”.
As mentioned before, some homosexuals who wish to change their orientation have been unable to do so, but many others have. By itself this is substantial and incontrovertible evidence against the theory that homosexuality is an immutable characteristic. (If it were immutable, where has this “class” been throughout thousands of years of recorded history? As Justice Anthony Kennedy said in Lawrence v. Texas, “the concept of the homosexual as a distinct category of person did not emerge until the late 19th century”.) As such, the case for constituting homosexuals as a “class” falls apart and, with it, all the legal and financial benefits from having been discriminated against.
Nonetheless, society as a whole is now being invited, or rather coerced, into the double life of the big lie – to pretend what is, is not: and what is not, is. There is something worse than disease; there is the denial of its existence. This is all part of what Fr James Schall calls the “systematic effort not to name things what they really are so that we are never faced with what we are actually doing”. However, a double life leads to a double death. One is physical, the other spiritual. The worst thing, Socrates warned, is the lie in the soul about “what is”.
Robert R. Reilly is the author of The Closing of the Muslim Mind. He is currently completing a book on the natural law argument against homosexual marriage for Ignatius Press.