The real meaning of "ex-gay"

“Reparative therapy” is based on an understanding of homosexuality that has been rejected by all the major health and mental health professions

BY Advocate.com Editors

August 14 2005 11:00 PM ET

The following statement from the APA was provided to The Advocate in response to a request related to the story “Brainwashed No More” in the August 30, 2005, issue:

The term “reparative therapy” refers to psychotherapy aimed at eliminating homosexual desires and is used by people who do not think homosexuality is one variation within human sexual orientation, but rather still believe homosexuality is a mental disorder.

The most important fact about “reparative therapy,” also sometimes known as “conversion” therapy, is that it is based on an understanding of homosexuality that has been rejected by all the major health and mental health professions.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Association of Social Workers, together representing more than 477,000 health and mental health professionals, have all taken the position that homosexuality is not a mental disorder, and thus there is no need for a “cure.”

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association and defining the standard of the field, does not include homosexuality as a mental disorder. All other major health professional organizations have supported the American Psychiatric Association in its declassification of homosexuality in 1973 as a mental disorder. Thus, the idea that homosexuality is a mental disorder, or that the emergence of same-gender sexual desires among some adolescents is in any way abnormal or mentally unhealthy, has no support among health and mental health professional organizations.

Despite the unanimity of the health and mental health professions on the normality of homosexuality, the idea of “reparative therapy” has recently been adopted by conservative organizations and aggressively promoted in the media. Because of this aggressive promotion of “reparative therapy,” a number of the health and mental health professional organizations have recently issued public statements about “reparative therapy” as well.

The American Psychological Association, in its Resolution on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation, which is also endorsed by the National Association of School Psychologists, states: “The American Psychological Association opposes portrayals of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth and adults as mentally ill due to their sexual orientation and supports the dissemination of accurate information about sexual orientation, and mental health, and appropriate interventions in order to counteract bias that is based in ignorance or unfounded beliefs about sexual orientation.”

As these statements make clear, health and mental health professional organizations do not support efforts to change young people’s sexual orientation through “reparative therapy” and have raised serious concerns about its potential to do harm. Many professional associations are able to provide helpful information and local contacts to assist school administrators, health and mental health professionals, educators, teachers, and parents in dealing with school controversies in their communities.

“Transformational ministry” is a term used to describe the use of religion to eliminate homosexual desires. While “reparative therapy” relies on secular approaches, “transformational ministry” takes the approach that “freedom from homosexuality is possible through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.” While there is some diversity within the movement, most “transformational ministries” adhere to a belief that “upholds heterosexuality as God’s creative intent for humanity, and subsequently views homosexual expression as outside God’s will.”

The “transformational ministry” movement, which began in the early 1970s, has gained more visibility in the media recently through the efforts of Christian publishers and conservative political organizations.

The most important fact about “transformational ministry” is that its view of homosexuality is not representative of the views of all people of faith. Many deeply religious people, and a number of religious congregations and denominations, are supportive and accepting of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people and their right to be protected from the discriminatory acts of others. For example, the following [religious] organizations have endorsed passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation:

  • American Ethical Union
  • American Friends Service Committee
  • American Jewish Committee
  • American Jewish Congress
  • Church of the Brethren,
  • Church Women United
  • Dignity/USA
  • Episcopal Church
  • Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
  • Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist
    Organization of America
  • The Interfaith Alliance
  • Jewish Women International
  • National Council of the Churches of Christ USA
  • National Council of Jewish Women
  • North Georgia United Methodist Conference
  • Presbyterian Church (USA)
  • Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
  • Unitarian Universalist Association
  • United Church of Christ
  • United Methodist Church
  • Women of Reform Judaism
  • Young Women’s Christian Association

Although “transformational ministry” promotes the message that religious faith and acceptance of gay, lesbian, and bisexual sexuality are incompatible, that message is countered by the large number of outspoken clergy and people of faith who promote love and acceptance.

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