SoluProb™: Conversion Therapy


Presumed Problem

People are choosing to become homosexual when they should choose heterosexuality.


Religious and secular programs of Conversion Therapy (aka Reparative Therapy) aim to turn homosexuals into heterosexuals.


Homosexuality has been viewed variously in different societies and at different times in history, but it has been viewed negatively through most of American history. That negative view has been accompanied by a variety of punishments. In colonial Virginia, death was a possible punishment for being gay. Thomas Jefferson sought to replace that punishment with castration, but he was unsuccessful.


By comparison, Conversion Therapy or Reparative Therapy might seem a gentler solution: help gays switch to being straight. A variety of religioussad-gay-guys and secular programs were popular during the second half of the 20th century and into the beginning of the 21st. In some cases. individuals voluntarily sought conversion as an escape from the stigma of being gay. And in other cases the impetus came from the parents of gays.

The methods used in the attempt to change sexual orientations included “pray away the gay,” the use of prostitutes, electric shocks, hormones, and a long list of psychotherapeutic and psychoanalytic techniques. During much of this period, homosexuality was officially regarded as a mental illness by many medical and psychological associations.



Was the Problem Real?

In 2001, the U. S. Surgeon General reported that there was no evidence supporting the possibility that sexual orientation can be changed, but that conclusion was contradicted by a psychoanalytic study by Dr. Robert Spitzer. The latter study was based on interviews with some 200 participants in conversion therapy programs, and Spitzer took their comments as evidence that sexual conversion was, in fact, possible. Ten years later, however, Dr. Spitzer retracted his conclusions and apologized to any gay people who had been hurt by his earlier, widely publicized, study. He acknowledged problems in his methodology and rejected his earlier findings.

It is now almost universally agreed within the medical and psychological communities that sexual orientation is no more a matter of choice than being right-handed or left-handed.( Interestingly, some lefties recall their parents trying to force them to switch to being right-handed. And that was about as successful as converting gays to straights.)

The Human Rights Campaign has compiled a list of some of the professional associations who have denied the efficacy of conversion therapy.

  • American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry
  • American Academy of Pediatrics
  • American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
  • American College of Physicians
  • American Counseling Association
  • American Medical Association
  • American Psychiatric Association
  • American Psychoanalytic Association
  • American Psychological Association
  • American School Counselor Association
  • American School Health Association
  • National Association of Social Workers
  • Pan American Health Organization (PAHO): Regional Office of the World Health Organization
  • Just the Facts Coalition


At the same time, former leaders of conversion therapy programs have publicly renounced such attempts to get the gay out. Nine such ex-leaders prepared a formal apology to the gay community. Time Magazine described the experience of one of the former leaders.

Yvette Schneider spent a little over a decade as an active participant and a leader in the gay conversion therapy movement. In other words, she spent years working to convince men and women that they could stop being gay, lesbian, or bisexual through suppression and therapy.

But in 2010 she began to see things differently. At the time, Schneider did not share her feelings with her colleagues, but that same year, she was let go from her position as the director of the women’s ministry at Exodus International— a leading sexual orientation conversion organization that closed in 2013.

“I realized that no one was actually saying, ‘I’m straight,” she explains, referring to the post-treatment disposition of the Exodus clients she saw. “You can go through years of therapy and what are you left with—shame?”

Here’s the bottom line. If you are secular in such matters, biology makes some people heterosexual and others homosexual. If you are religious, then God made that choice. Conversion therapy is a solution without a problem.


Negative Consequences

In their letter apology, the nine former conversion therapy leaders nicely summed up the kind of damage done by this unnecessary “solution.”

Conversion therapy reinforces internalized homophobia, anxiety, guilt and depression. It leads to self-loathing and emotional and psychological harm when change doesn’t happen,” the letter reads. “We now stand united in our conviction that conversion therapy is not “therapy,” but is instead both ineffective and harmful.

Not only has conversion therapy damage those who were subjected to it, but it perpetuates the view that homosexuality is wrong, evil, sinful, and unnatural. That is the view supports actions like those of the thugs who murdered Matthew Shephard, the Orlando 49, or countless others who have been shamed, beaten, or killed for the sexual orientation they were dealt at birth.

© Earl Babbie 2016, all rights reserved  Terms of Service/Privacy


Wikipedia on Conversion Therapy

Human Rights Campaign

Time Magazine

2 thoughts on “SoluProb™: Conversion Therapy”

  1. Terrific article. I particularly appreciate the closing paragraph. It gets to the heart of the matter, the erroneous and damaging perspective that being homosexual is a problem in the first place. It seems important to keep reminding us that the discussion about whether or not homosexuality is a choice is born of the horrifically erroneous assumption that there is something bad about it. If it is a choice, it’s presumed a bad and immoral choice. If it is not a choice, it is presumed an affliction rendering a person inherently evil, an abomination. It is the presumption that homosexuality is bad that is “bad”. Any attempt to “fix” homosexuality is clearly rendering a solution where there is no problem, with enormous, often horrific costs to individuals and society. Again, a wonderfully thoughtful article in the world of creating havoc attempting to solve a problem where no problem exists.

    1. Thank you. Being left-handed isn’t as emotional as being gay, but aside from that, the parallel is striking. And being left-handed has, at times, been seen as a sign of being in league with the devil. You can imagine frantic parents trying to make their lefty children right-handed.

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