The detailed results of the first 18 months of an ongoing study on so-called 'ex-gay reparative therapy' released this week illustrate the dangerous and often abusive attempts made by anti-gay counselors to "cure" non-heterosexual attraction. The study is being conducted by the online community Beyond Ex-Gay. Most of the results of the study consist of testimonials documenting individuals' experiences with so-called reparative therapy. Study participants say their experiences with reparative therapy range from brief try-out periods to serious and misguided attempts spanning 50 years, and costing tens of thousands of dollars.
Respondents' experiences with 'reparative therapy' were overwhelmingly negative and enduring: of a total 417 participants, 386 said they had been harmed by their 'ex-gay' experience, and 353 said their experience still affects them today. The harm participants experienced ranged from emotional scarring to sexual abuse.
The motivation for pursuing 'ex-gay' therapy was in most cases undoubtedly religious. Most respondents were conservative Christians at the time of their 'ex-gay' experience, and only 4 self-identified as having been atheists and 5 as agnostic. The top three motivations for beginning 'ex-gay therapy' were all religious: respondents listed "To be a better Christian," "I thought it was what God wanted me to do," and "I feared I would be condemned by God" as reasons for their choice to undergo treatment. When asked about their current religious affiliation, 46 identified as agnostic and 36 as atheists.
The survey's conclusion notes that the reparative therapist community often attempts to present reparative therapy as a way to "cure" a psychological dysfunction, citing outdated psychological theories and presenting discredited research such as the "absent father" trope as fact. In contrast, almost none of the former patients surveyed mentioned anything related to these theories. Rather, they were concerned about the religious consequences of their actions, thoughts, and feelings.
On a positive note, 85 respondents listed "found an accepting community/church" as a factor which helped them to recover from the harm done to them by 'reparative therapy.' It is for this reason that GLAAD urges the religious community to accept and nurture its LGBT members as it does everyone else, and to help LGBT people develop positively through faith.