Part 8, SPLC against JONAH: the scientific facts (1)

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In Partslecturehall 8, 9 and 10 of our series on the trial of the Southern Poverty Law Center against the non-profit organization JONAH, we publish a review by Laura Haynes,PhD, California Licensed psychotherapist, of all scientific facts that prove how sexual feelings and gender dysphoria can change, and that more often than not, sexual fluidity is the norm, not the exception. At the end is a comprehensive overview of the scientific references.

“Sexual orientation and gender dysphoria are not resistant to change; in fact, they ordinarily change”.

The American Psychological Association officially recognizes sexual fluidity or change. There is abundant, excellent research—including twin, cohort, and nationally representative samples, including two longitudinal studies of four waves each, including tens of thousands of subjects—that shows that sexual orientation ordinarily shifts.

This research has now established that sexual orientation—including attraction, behavior, and identity self-label—all three—is fluid for both adolescents and adults and for both genders, and exceptions for LGBQ individuals are a minority  (per research reviews by Diamond 2013 and by Whitehead & Whitehead 2013, Ch. 12).

In addition, the American Psychiatric Association officially recognizes that gender identity ordinarily fluctuates in minors (DSM-5, p. 456). (One may note the stark contrast between these findings and the potential for one’s race to be fluid or fluctuate during adolescence or adulthood.)

The APA Handbook on Sexuality and Psychology (APA Handbook) confirms that sexual orientation changes. It states

“research on sexual minorities has long documented that many recall having undergone notable shifts in their patterns of sexual attractions, behaviors, or identities over time” (p. 636). “

Hence, we can no longer conclude that men’s sexuality would be rigid and categorical, whereas only women’s sexuality would be variable and fluid” (p. 645).

It has been known since the first representative sample study on sex in America in 1994 (Laumann et al) that non-heterosexuality is fluid.

lecture-room2Sexual fluidity has not been a secret. That study was widely acclaimed as a landmark study and is cited with high regard by researchers to this day. Yet activist organizations like the SPLC have perpetuated the myth that sexual attraction is immutable. It has been a key part of their playbook. Now that fluidity of sexuality is, nevertheless, becoming better publicized, the SPLC continues to promote that message, only deceptively through the mouths of others whom it quotes.

Dr. Lisa Diamond, who is Professor of Psychology and Gender Studies at the University of Utah, co-editor-in-chief of the APA Handbook of Sexuality and Psychology (Tolman & Diamond, 2014, published by the American Psychological Association), and a self-avowed lesbian who cannot be dismissed as biased toward change therapy, reviewed fluidity research in a lecture to an LGBT audience at Cornell University (available on you-tube 2013). Diamond said near the end,

“I feel as a community, the queers have to stop saying, ‘Please help us. We’re born this way, and we can’t change’ as an argument for legal standing. I don’t think we need that argument, and that argument is going to bite us in the ass, because now we know that there’s enough data out there, that the other side is aware of as much as we are aware of it.” In other words, Dr. Diamond says, “Stop saying ‘born that way and can’t change’ for political purposes, because the other side knows it’s not true as much as we do.”

One non-representative study of non-heterosexual adults found, unsurprisingly, that the majority reported they had experienced sexual attraction fluidity, some of them more than once. What was interesting was that the minority who had not experienced sexual attraction fluidity themselves more often believed sexual orientation is not changeable for all non-heterosexuals (Katz-Wise and Hyde 2014) contrary to what was actually the case in their sample and in broader research (Diamond 2013). Many of the testimonies spot-lighted in the SPLC report were by individuals who, like individuals in this study, said they had not experienced sexual attraction change and believed no one else experienced it either.

In the case of Alan Chambers, the former president of Exodus International, his view also was contrary to actual research specific to his group. There is a prospective longitudinal study on religiously mediated sexual orientation change efforts that was conducted with individuals who were participating in some programs of member organizations of Exodus. It has been published in a book and a peer reviewed journal (Jones & Yarhouse 2007, Jones & Yarhouse 2011).

It showed that some diminished their same-sex attractions, some also developed heterosexual attractions, and some did not change. Out of all the subjects in the sample, there was one who reported change and later said he did not change. When Chambers took a position generalizing from his own experience about the supposed experience of all other members, he was wrong. Members of the organization correctly disagreed with Chambers, left him, and formed their own new organizations, effectively closing him down within a year of his taking his erroneous stand.

According to the APA Handbook of Sexuality and Psychology, the majority of individuals who experience same-sex attraction (SSA) also already experience opposite-sex attraction (OSA) (Diamond 2013, 2014). This is one of the phenomena for which we have the most data (Diamond 2013). The APA Handbook also reports that more recent studies with better sampling methods show sexual attraction varies for men as well as women over time, so that

“we can no longer conclude that men’s sexuality is rigid and categorical, whereas women’s sexuality is variable and fluid” (Diamond 2014).

The APA Handbook reviewed early non-representative longitudinal studies showing 20 percent of subjects changed sexual attraction, fantasy, and behavior in 18 months and two-thirds experienced change in sexual attraction in 5 years (Diamond, 2014, p. 637). Changes were one or more points on the Kinsey scale. The Kinsey scale can be used to rate sexual attraction, behavior, or other factors from 0 (zero) representing exclusively opposite sex to 6 representing exclusive same sex. A change of one or more Kinsey points can enable some individuals to enjoy a heterosexual relationship and not act on same-sex attractions, thereby changing their life according to their wishes.

The Kinsey Sexual Orientation Scale

Change can be significant and meaningful for some individuals without being change to exclusively opposite sex attraction. In fact, a change of one or more Kinsey points that enables some individuals to enjoy one, but not all, members of the opposite sex is sufficient for some individuals to become able to live the life they desire. For those individuals who are already mostly opposite-sex attracted, a change of one or more Kinsey points does equate to a Kinsey score of 0, or a change to exclusive opposite-sex attraction, complete change.

Further, most same-sex attracted individuals are Kinsey 1’s. They are mostly opposite sex-attracted (OSA). These mostly OSA individuals are greater in number than all other individuals who experience other degrees of SSA combined (Diamond 2013). The APA Handbook says,

“Yet, according to the existing data available from representative studies, heterosexually identified individuals with periodic same-sex attractions and fantasies are more numerous than lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals,” and regarding them, “it is critically important for clinicians…to allow individuals to determine for themselves the role of same-sex sexuality in their lives and identity” (Kleinplatz & Diamond, 2014, p. 257).

In Diamond’s lecture at Cornell, she reported that the majority of mostly OSA individuals undergo a complete transformation toward exclusive OSA (Diamond 2013). Therapy that is open to change is more congruent with the sexual orientation of most same-sex attracted individuals than is gay-affirmative therapy, so it should be successful for some, and how dangerous can it be? Some want to protect their heterosexual relationship and their family by diminishing same-sex attraction that may lead to occasional same-sex behavior.  Should they be able to get that help? Yes, they should.

Gay researcher, Savin-Williams, and his colleagues published findings from research that followed adolescent sexual attraction over time. They found that a full 98% of 16 and 17 year old adolescents move from exclusive same-sex attraction (SSA) and both sex attraction towards exclusive opposite-sex attraction (OSA) in one year. 75% of those with exclusive SSA change to exclusive OSA. Change toward exclusive OSA occurred over 25 times more often than change in the reverse direction. A similar shift occurs between ages 17 and 22. Therapy that is open to change is far more congruent with adolescent sexual attraction development than is gay-affirmative therapy. So it should be successful for some, and we ask yet againg how dangerous can it be? (Savin-Williams & Ream, 2007; Savin-Williams, Joyner, and Rieger, 2012; see analysis of these studies in Whitehead & Whitehead 2013, Ch.12, pp. 231-235).

The SPLC report did not focus on TGNC individuals, some of whom desire therapy that is open to change. According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), as many as 70 to 98% of gender dysphoric boys and as many as 50 to 88% of gender dysphoric girls eventually accept their chromosomal sex (calculated from DSM-5, p. 455). Therapy that is open to change is more congruent with gender dysphoria development of minors than transgender affirmative therapy, so it should be successful for some, and again once more, how dangerous can it be?”

Laura Haynes, PhD

(to be continued)





American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association, pp. 451-459. See especially pp. 455-456.

American Psychological Association Task Force. (2009). Report of the Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

American Psychological Association (2011). Definition of Terms: Sex, Gender, Gender Identity, Sexual Orientation. In The Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Clients, adapted by the APA Council of Representatives, February 18-20, 2011.

Cameron, P. and Cameron, K. (2012). Re-examining Evelyn Hooker: Setting the record straight with comments on Schumm’s (2012) reanalysis. Marriage and Family Review, 48: 491-523.

Cummings, N. (2011a) When did sexual reorientation therapy begin to change in the APA? Interview. Convention, National Association of Research and Therapy for Homosexuality (NARTH), Phoenix, AZ. (Dr. Cummings criticizes the APA for ultra liberal bias leading to significant loss of membership.) See 0:44 min. through 1:44 min.; 6:44 min through 11:44 min.
Cummings, N. (2011b; published March13, 2013). NARTH Convention Dr. Cummings. Convention, National Association of Research and Therapy for Homosexuality (NARTH), Phoenix, AZ. See 29:20 min to 33:10 min. Cummings also submitted an affidavit in the case.

Diamond, L. (Published Dec. 6, 2013). Lisa Diamond on sexual fluidity of men and women, Cornell University. From Diamond, L. (Oct. 17, 2013). Just how different are female and male sexual orientation? Human Development Outreach and Extension Program. Dr. Diamond is professor of psychology and gender studies at the University of Utah and the co-editor-in-chief of the APA Handbook on Sexuality and Psychology (published by the American Psychological Association).

Diamond, L. (2014) Chapter 20: Gender and same-sex sexuality. In Tolman, D., & Diamond, L. (2014) APA Handbook of Sexuality and Psychology, Volume 1. Person Based Approaches. Washington D.C.: American Psychological Association. Vol. 1, pp. 629-652.

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Jones, S. L., & Yarhouse, M. A. (2007). Ex-gays? A longitudinal study of religiously mediated change in sexual orientation. Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Jones, S. L. & Yarhouse, M.A. (2011). A Longitudinal Study of Attempted Mediated Sexual Orientation Change. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 37:5, 404-427.

Katz-Wise & Hyde (2014). Sexual fluidity and related attitudes and beliefs among adults with a same- gender orientation. Archives of Sexual Behavior. DOI 10.1007/s10508-014-0420-1.

Kleinplatz, P. & Diamond, L. (2014) Chapter 9: Sexual diversity. In Tolman, D., & Diamond, L. (2014) APA Handbook of Sexuality and Psychology, Volume 1. Person Based Approaches. Washington D.C.: American Psychological Association. Vol. 1, pp. 245-267.

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