I recently received a well-written comment here that empathized with my frustration in relationships and the concomitant tension caused by attraction to guys. But at first I didn't publish it, because part of it didn't ring true to me.

The part of the comment that kept playing over and over in my mind said, "And as frustrating as this experience is for me, it at least brings me peace in the certitude of the immutability of those natural sympathies toward men."

My first thought was to appeal to the teachings of the prophets, and I immediately thought of Elder Oaks speaking about the possibility of change for some people. Or the talks that strongly instill the doctrine that homosexuality is not a part of eternal identity - it did not exist in the Premortal world, and like other physical conditions, will not exist for the righteous after death. But while the teachings of the prophets are enough for me, society functions on a completely different level. Yes, anyone who listens, ponders, and prays for guidance can know the truth of principles of the gospel for themselves, but if change is really possible - something that a true belief in the Atonement has to allow, as it is by definition "infinite and eternal" - then there should be more than just teachings of the prophets available as well. 

The prompting came to me that I needed to actually do some research on the scientific evidence supporting or refuting the possibility of real, meaningful change... and read the studies documenting change efforts, written by gay activists, university researchers, and everyone else, regardless of their innate bias. 

I already knew that homosexuality had been removed from the manual of psychiatry in 1973, with the exception of "unwanted homosexuality" - which could still be diagnosed and treated. Unwanted homosexuality was deleted 15 years later, in 1987. Whether the choices made by the American Psychiatric Association were due to gay activism or actual scientific studies, from my perspective, shouldn't be as relevant as the findings of current research.

The only problem is that, shortly after the time that homosexuality was deleted from the APA manual, research sort of dried up, especially compared to the visibility of homosexuality in the population at large. Again, whether that was caused by a lack of meaningful reasons to do the studies or a lack of funding tied to political motivations doesn't really reflect on the issue. But there have been studies - dozens of them - that have been done. And the results, today as I read them, have again shocked me.

Each study qualified "recovery" differently, from complete cessation of homosexual attraction and development of heterosexual attraction, to the simple cessation of homosexual attractions or the development of stronger heterosexual ones. But in each of the modern, unbiased, peer-reviewed and published studies of this "reorientation therapy," they detailed success. Real, meaningful change. But there are miracles... and maybe the studies were actually biased in some way. How could I really tell? And then I found the jackpot.

Robert Spitzer, in 1973, was the most influential psychiatrist to spearhead the exclusion of homosexuality from the APA and the deletion of moral exceptions in 1987. In 2000, the APA was set to take the next step - to declare reorientation therapy as dangerous, harmful, and illegal under the guidelines of the APA. In the social moray that ensued, he met hundreds of people who protested the resolution. They claimed, sincerely, that reorientation therapy had helped them make significant changes. A scientist to the core, Spitzer realized that this data went directly against his hypothesis... which also meant that this was his opportunity to have solid proof if he could show that there had been no meaningful change in homosexual attraction.

His study changed his mind, and preserved reorientation therapy as an option for men and women. In a NARTH press release (May 9, 2001) he explained the results of his study thus: "Like most psychiatrists, I thought that homosexual behavior could be resisted, but sexual orientation could not be changed. I now believe that's untrue--some people can and do change." NARTH is definitely a biased source of information. But using an exact quote is pretty safe. And that he was willing to release his findings to NARTH, or at least let them quote him, is indicative that their context was fitting with his own feelings.

He even found that 67% of the males studied who had, before, had no heterosexual attraction, now had good heterosexual functioning.

The caveat of the study was the timeframe necessary to achieve any meaningful change. Unlike a diet, or interventions for many social maladies, sexual reorientation therapy seemed to be completely ineffective for at least two years after beginning in earnest. To me, that's a long time to follow a dedicated, rigorous, outside-influenced schedule without seeing any results. And it could also explain why some people believe it doesn't work or is impossible. He also noted that complete change - as in total cessation of homosexual attractions and perfect functioning of heterosexuality - was somewhat uncommon, as was common in psychiatric interventions. But even in the cases where actual homosexual attractions did swap with heterosexual ones, the therapy gave clients a significantly greater quality of life - a direct affront to the APA's assertion that reorientation therapy is harmful.

His study was met with a firestorm in the media and his personal life. He released the data for meta-analysis and other scientists clamored for the opportunity to find flaws in the research. But each of them also changed their minds as they published articles showing that Spitzer - who really was a good researcher - had done it right. And the data was real. Eventually, his study was peer-reviewed and substantiated enough that it was published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior in October 2003 - psychiatry's leading journal in sexual functioning. And it stands there today.

More studies have cropped up since Spitzer's politically incorrect foray into sexual science, each showing the real possibility of meaningful change, but usually with the caveat that change takes time, huge amounts of effort, a multi-faceted approach, and happens on a scale instead of a yes or no.

So why have I not known about this? I mean, the social media is usually biased, but this much? Even among the community of Mormons who live with this, there is the permeating feeling that change is impossible, even though real clinical research shows definite evidence to the contrary.

I found a quote that made me realize that there are probably some real political reasons that society is inundated with sexual determinism. It was attributed to a member of the APA and published by the Harvard University Press "...it may be that for now, the safest way to advocate for lesbian/gay/bisexual rights is to keep propagating a deterministic model: sexual minorities are born that way and can never be otherwise. If this is an easier route to acceptance (which may in fact be the case), is it really so bad that it is inaccurate?"

So what does that mean for me? Honestly, it gives me an outlet for hope - some type of actual scientific basis to my beliefs that living the gospel, following the Spirit, and choosing the right will ultimately lead to the miracle of falling in love with a woman and raising a happy, eternal family. Will it happen for everyone who tries? Maybe not. Will it be perfect? Probably not. But some people can change... and I think it's worth the effort to see if I can, too.
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