I was never more depressed or suicidal than when I tried to change my sexuality in therapy at the hands of a Christian therapist. I spent many nights lying awake calling out to God to change me. Not because I felt there was something wrong with me but because I was told there was by my church. [tweetable]I was willing to do anything to be welcomed back into my religious community and it almost cost me my life.[/tweetable]
Reparative therapy has been thoroughly debunked by every reputable academic and scientific organization. Dr. Robert Spitzer, whose 2001 study asserted sexuality can be changed, has renounced his work and has apologized to the LGBT community for making “unproven claims of the efficacy of reparative therapy.” Even former ex-gay kingpin, Exodus International, closed its doors admitting the harm they had caused.
I’ve recently posted an interview with yet another former symbol of the ex-gay movement refuting the harmful practice. Despite the ample evidence that this practice is unhealthy, some Christians still promote it.
Indeed, the American Psychological Association says the “results of scientifically valid research indicate that it is unlikely that individuals will be able to reduce same-sex attractions or increase other-sex sexual attractions through SOCE [sexual orientation change efforts]." Nine former leaders of the ex-gay movement penned an open letter showing their deep remorse for their part in this pseudo-science practice, “We know first-hand the terrible emotional and spiritual damage it can cause, especially for LGBT youth. We once believed that there was something morally wrong and psychologically 'broken' about being LGBT….Looking back, we were just believing (and sometimes teaching) what we had been taught—that our identity needed mending. We grew up being told that being LGBT was disordered, sick, mentally ill, sinful, and displeasing to God.”
The majority of mainstream Christianity has, at least officially, shifted their stances from “sexual orientation is a sin” to “the act of same-sex sex is a sin.” Not all Churches though have taken that step. But even for the churches who have officially made that shift, there isn’t a consensus on this with Christians.
Take for example the Ethics & Religious Liberties Commission national conference on homosexuality. While Russell Moore denounced the practice, Alliance Defending Freedom, an organization that works to criminalize homosexuality, promoted the therapy at the same conference. During Notre Dame’s Gay In Christ conference, all the speakers were under the consensus that reparative therapy is harmful – even the individuals in mixed orientation marriages spoke out against it. Yet there were still audience members who clearly didn’t agree and asked questions that promoted the practice. My own denomination, The Seventh-day Adventist Church, doesn't officially promote it but continues to promote individuals who do. It's a dissonance and yet Christians are remaining relatively silent.
Christians have held onto a few studies (that have been denounced by reputable scientific organizations) to prove that reparative therapy "works." We’ve used a handful of individuals who have claimed orientation change and ignored the overwhelming amount of stories that show it is not possible. Despite the theological debate happening in Christians surrounding same-sex sex, every Christian should be against reparative therapy.
Yet, the main people who still promote reparative therapy are Christians whose theological paradigm continues to see homosexuality as unnatural. Truly, if we’re being honest, it’s rooted in homophobia. The problem is Christians are using their theological interpretations to force "scientific" practices that cause lasting damaging effects.
Reparative therapy should be seen as an act of violence against the LGBT community. Research shows that reparative therapy leads to higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide. This "therapy" drives people to end their lives, and Christians are the sole group encouraging its practice. That is why more states are making the practice illegal, for the safety of LGBT people, especially LGBT youth who are at the highest risks and are at the age in which many Christian parents try to change their child’s sexuality.
It is past time Christians came to terms with the fact that sexuality does not change for 99.9% of individuals. Sexuality is something that remains constant and to change it goes against nature. We cannot ignore the overwhelming stories and evidence that show this practice is incredibly harmful. [tweetable]Reparative therapy goes against basic Christian tenets of love and caring for our neighbors.[/tweetable] It is sinful for Christians to continue to perpetuate such practices when we know its harm. To promote it despite the harmful consequences? Well, if that's not an "agenda", I don't know what is.