Fluid Sexual Orientation

Philip Cole makes some fantastic points on this comment on the previous post.

Good to see you both recognising the reality that sexual orientation is fluid. This is unfortunately something that many gay activists have great difficulty in accepting, and spend lots of energy and newsprint railing against. And they do this for very good reasons, because recognition of this reality leads to a number of fairly obvious conclusions:

  1. If sexual orientation is fluid then it is clearly not an identity and hence the oft-repeated equivalence to gender and race does not hold.
  2. If sexual orientation is fluid then it is clearly changeable. While we have made tremendous progress in many parts of the world in promoting the liberty of people to form consensual, adult same-sex relationships, we now need to promote the liberty of people (mostly Christians) who experience same-sex attraction (SSA) to choose to change their orientation, with the best available therapy and spiritual support and without harassment by gay activists telling them they are ‘sell-outs’.
  3. If sexual orientation is fluid then, at the minimum, a significant component of orientation is behavioural. And orthodox Christians believe that God tells us through scripture that homosexual beaviour is wrong. As Christians we accept that God tells us how to behave on many other areas of our lives. Why should God telling us that homosexual behaviour is wrong be remotely contentious?

So Jackie Clune’s testimony drives a coach and horses through the argument that gay is an identity. And, since this is a large part of the revisionist argument that ‘committed, loving and faithful’ (CLF) gay relationships should be celebrated by the church, then that argument also falls way. So why is ‘the gay issue’ (TGI) such a big deal in the church?

Hmmmm…. Discuss!

25 Comments on “Fluid Sexual Orientation

  1. Sexuality may well be fluid, but the conclusions are not "fairly obvious" at all.

    For a start, when we talk about race and racism, we're usually talking about a) skin colour, b) ethnic heritage and/or c) culture. Choice and human freedom is clearly a large element of culture. As for skin colour, that can change naturally, or be changed artificially. Your place of birth and your genetic heritage can't be changed, of course, but you can deny your culture, your place of birth, your family and your heritage. You can more or less erase your racial identity if you so choose.

    That sexuality can change does not mean sexuality can be MADE to change. This is a crucial distinction, isn't it?

    • I think the point Philip is making is that if some people experience orientation change, it cannot be argued that sexual orientation is necessarily a given. And the point about racial identity is that it is something that is clear in your DNA. For example, I could never again speak German, wear lederhosen or refer to Austria, but one look at my DNA proves that I have Austrian heritage.

      You're absolutely right that just because sexual orientation *can* change doesn't mean it can always be *made* to change. But that doesn't deflect from any of Philip's three points. His second bullet point doesn't suggest that sexual orientation should always be changed, but rather that it is grossly incorrect to assume that it cannot and will not change.

  2. There are several things wrong with this.

    (1) “Sexual orientation is fluid.” No. This is one of those loose statements, which probably most of us are guilty of making from time to time, in which “all” is implied but only “some” is true. SOME people’s sexual orientation is fluid, and this is more common in women; it is by no means unknown in men, but it’s pretty rare. MOST people’s sexual orientation, once established, be it heterosexual, homosexual or bi-sexual, stays constant.

    (2) “If sexual orientation is fluid then it is clearly changeable.” In those people whose sexual orientation IS fluid, then clearly it may and sometimes does change. But that doesn’t mean that WE can change it. The evidence that such a change can actually be engineered is poor.

    (3) “we now need to promote the liberty of people (mostly Christians) who experience same-sex attraction (SSA) to choose to change their orientation…” People are already perfectly free to attempt to change their sexual orientation if they so desire; if anyone knows of any country in the world where legislation stands in their way, then I should be interested to know about it. I would also promote their right to know that their chances of achieving this are, at best, minuscule. They should also be apprised that a “strong motivation” will not increase their chances of success any more than a “strong motivation” will increase their chances of winning the lottery. Furthermore, they should be warned that they may subsequently come to regret wasting precious years of their lives in pursuit of an ignis fatuus.

    (4) “without harassment by gay activists telling them they are ‘sell-outs’.” Certainly no-one should ever be harassed in this matter, but I would certainly advise anyone considering any kind of “therapy” of this kind not to bother. Indeed, I have recently done so, just as some years ago I didn’t hesitate to advise a friend who had received a letter from a clairvoyant offering (for a fee, of course) to help him to win the lottery to keep his money in his pocket.

    (5) “If sexual orientation is fluid then, at the minimum, a significant component of orientation is behavioural.” A palpable non sequitur. Even if the conclusion were true – and I don’t believe that it is – it doesn’t follow from the premiss.

    The most generous assessment of attempts to change people’s orientation is that made some years ago by Timothy F. Murphy in the “Gay and Lesbian Review”: “One thing is certain for all ventures in sexual reorientation therapy: it has failed vastly more times than it has ever succeeded, and future research is unlikely to change that fact.”

    • The danger surely is that people think entering marriage may alter their orientation. i can think of a few people i have known who have done this and within a couple of years the marriages had broken up causing deep pain and guilt. I have also known a couple of gay men who have married albeit quite late in life women who have accepted them as they are and accepted a purely brother/sister relationship..and it has worked ( but is it actually christian marriage). i also know of a gay priest who married a lesbian on the same non sexual basis…but again is it marriage as the church would understand it?

      • Perry,

        I agree with you entirely about the danger of getting married to try and *fix* your sexuality. I would strongly counsel against it.

        The lack of a sex life in a marriage interests me (not personally you understand). I'm curious at to what constitutes the creation and maintenance of a "one flesh" relationship. In this regard, I think the opening three parts of Rowan Williams' "The Body's Grace" are quite useful.

      • Not all gay-straight marriages are non-sexual, I guess the majority aren't, unless they are undertaken in later life on the basis of companionship – and older heterosexual couples can opt for this type of union as well. Mixed orientation marriages are likely to become celibate more quickly than hetero partnerships, but sometimes a gay person can form a strong sexual bond with a straight person -( I don't know whether this then means that that "gay" person is actually bisexual?)It is far from unheard of for a "lesbian" to fall in love with a man and find that sex works on that basis. Also, what about political lesbians, who do choose a same sex partner on the basis of ideology, not orientation?

        But, from what I have heard, it doesn't work the other way. Men tend to base their choice of sexual partner more on sexual preference, rather than a range of factors. (Please correct me, if anyone feels that is wrong!)

        Are women more innately "bisexual", or less hung up on the gender of a partner?

    • Good points – let me answer them step by step.

      1) I would like to reword Philip's first bullet to read the following – If sexual orientation is fluid in some then it clearly cannot be assumed to be a fixed identity and hence the oft-repeated equivalence to gender and race does not hold. I like that, and I think the point needs to be grappled with. No one can change their chromosomes or DNA simply by will and design, but clearly most of us accept that some people do change their sexual orientation. If that is so then it cannot be treated the same way as race, sex etc which are evidentially immutable aspects of one's personhood. Sexual orientation is demonstrably mutable in some people and that opens the posibility that it is mutable in many people. Certainly, to claim that it is immutable in all people (like say sex or race) is a fallacy.

      2) I think here you make a stronger point. I would still want to argue though that those who claim that their sexual orientation simply cannot change are the ones who are making claims that are not supported by the empirical evidence (as much as those who argue that everyone can see orientation change are also refusing to recognise the reality of the evidence).

      3) I think Philip is addressing more the social environment which a priori assumes immutable sexuality and then casts derision on those who suggest otherwise. If you're fair though William, you should recognise that in many places the idea that orientation can change is treated as "homophobic".

      4) I personally urge caution when approaching therapy on this issue. My biggest bugbear is those who assume a single developmental model and try to apply that to all who see them.

      5) In which case, perhaps you could explain what is happening when some people genuinely experience orientation change. Is their DNA changing? What is going on?

      • Peter

        Thanks for developing what I was trying to say and I agree with your suggested rephrasings. Yes, in point 2 I was trying to address the poisonous environment that seems to have developed around sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) where they are demonstrated against and routinely abused by many gay activists.

        I agree with you that therapy should be approached with caution. The best SOCE ministries seem to have have matured greatly in recent years and operate good coses of practice, including fully informed consent, full information on the counselling approach and spiritual worldview adopted, and warnings that SOC is not guaranteed.


        I really think that you are minimising the evidence for sexual orientation change (SOC). The Spitzer and Jones and Yarhouse papers are well known and there are increasing numbers of papers that demonstrate the reality of successful SOC. The evidence frankly is growing all the time.

        I take your point that sexual orientation change does not necessarily mean behavioural change. But, as Peter says, if there is increasing evidence that sexual orientation does change for many people, what exactly is going on?

        In my comment I was trying to get to the 'beyond gay' debate which seems to be one of the purposes of Peter's site and which is much more interesting to me. The nature/nurture debate is old and tired and has degenerated into polemics between gay activist and conservative Christian groups.

        Frankly, IMHO the more well-thought out contributions accept that sexuality is fluid and move on to the much more interesting debate about identity.

        The orthodox Christian position is that our identity is found in Christ before anything else. Finding that identity in Him surely means submitting and subordinating all other 'identities' to His Lordship and to who He tells us we are. And, for the orthodox Christian, He tells us tht gay is not an identity and that we can overcome all things, including same-sex-attraction (SSA) through Him. And, as he is a loving God, and is also by definition both omnipotent and supernatural, we should not be in the least surprised at the many and growing testimonies of successful SOC. This is what lead to my closing point wondering 'why is ‘the gay issue’ (TGI) such a big deal in the church'?

        The contrast in the secular 'beyond gay' position is revealing. I'm quoting from the Campaign to End Homophobia at http://www.endhomophobia.org. The slogan of the campaign is 'Beyond Gay or Straight: Increasing our Choices About Sexual Identity'. In terms of the ideology of secular 'beyond gay' activists, sexual identity is very definately fluid. It is primarily seen as self defined and as a fruit of personal autonomy and freedom. Here are some nice excerpts. …

        'If our society celebrated sexuality in all its variations, we could imagine children and adults expressing their sexuality in many ways, and we could imagine that these feelings, thoughts, and behaviors might change over a lifetime. Actually, young children do explore their sexuality with some degree of freedom'.

        A Vision: Celebrating Our Sexualities

        'We look forward to a society in which we celebrate the presence of many sexual identities. Especially from people who consider themselves progressive, we ask for an affirmation of the various ways that people choose to identify themselves as sexual beings, regardless of political or social necessity. We want to celebrate sexuality in the face of oppression, instead of reacting to oppression by limiting our options'.

        Do you hear, as I do, an echo of the recent statements of Gene Robinson here? And that really is the point – the choice is between the orthodox Christian view of sexuality and its God ordained place, or the view from secular gay activists. I'm afraid that theological liberals will simply find themselves told to either get with the progressive programme or be pushed to one side. Once orthodoxy becomes optional it is not long before it becomes irrelevant.

        • Philip, the Spitzer and the Jones and Yarhouse papers are, as you say, well known. Both have been subjected to much criticism, but let us set aside all criticism and take them at their face value.

          Neither supports the idea that a change in sexual orientation is a probable occurrence.

          Spitzer said, “If some people can change – and I think they can – it’s a pretty rare phenomenon.” He now says that he thinks that some of the subjects were probably deceiving themselves and him.

          Jones and Yarhouse tried to get 300 possible cases but had to settle in the end for only 98. Since quite a few then dropped out the number was finally reduced to 72. Of those remaining 72, only 11 reported “satisfactory, if not uncomplicated, heterosexual adjustment.” One of those 11 later wrote to them to admit that he had lied. He wanted to believe that his orientation had changed and so he claimed that it had, but he finally had to admit that it was self-deception. 10 out of 72 = 14% (rounded up to a whole number).

          I haven’t the slightest interest in changing my sexual orientation, but in the highly unlikely event that I started to desire such a change, being an extremist by nature, I’d want the real thing. If I were offered a 14% chance of “satisfactory, if not uncomplicated, heterosexual adjustment”, I’d say, “Forget it, mate.”

          • William

            Where did you get your Jones and Yarhouse figures? Although some of them are similar to the ones that I have the percentage of 'success' that I have is very different! My copy of Jones and Yarhouse is the T6 (results 6 years after the tracking of respondents) version of the study 'Ex-Gays? An Extended Longitudinal Study of Attempted Religiously

            Mediated Change in Sexual Orientation' presented to an APA Convention in 2009. I got it from Dr Warren Throckmorton's website at http://wthrockmorton.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/….

            Quoting from the study, it finds that after 6 years, 14 out of 61 (23%) of respondants reported success in orientation change with a further 18 out of 61 (30%) of repondants reporting success through chastity. The study concludes that 'the findings of this study would appear to contradict the commonly expressed view of the mental health establishment that sexual orientation is not changeable and that the attempt to change is highly likely to produce harm for those who make such an attempt'.

            I realise that the Spitzer study was abused by the media at the time and 'spun' by them to say all manner of things that it did not say. Essentially, the study was abou the same subject that we are discussing – can sexual orientation change – and he found significant orientation change in his group of 200 'ex-gay' people. There's a good interview of him by Dr Warren Throckmorton at http://www.drthrockmorton.com/interviewdrspitzer….

            I think any ethical person working in the SOCE field would agree that SOC is difficut and is not guaranteed. But it is certainly possible, and as good ethical SOCE ministries refine and develop their approaches, there is increasing evidence that, at least for some people, SOC works.

            • Philip, I have to concede that arithmetic of any kind is a very weak point with me, and statistical analysis even more so: I am dependent on others’ superior grasp of these matters. Specifically I have relied on Michael R. Airhart’s analysis of Jones and Yarhouse’s data:
              If Mr Airhart’s analysis is defective, perhaps you can explain why in a jargon-free way that a mathematically-challenged person like me can understand.

              But even I can see that your figure of 23% is still very definitely a minority, and that it’s a minority of Jones and Yarhouse’s pre-selected sample, NOT of the gay population or of a random sample thereof. “Satisfactory, if not uncomplicated, heterosexual adjustment” is a description that they themselves used in their “Paper for the American Association of Christian Counselors, Nashville, Tennessee; 9/07”

              Even if one regards “success through chastity” as success in any desirable sense – and I don’t – it is NOT a change in orientation and cannot therefore legitimately counted as part of the evidence for such change.

              Spitzer emphasised that his study was not undertaken in order to find out how often attempts to change sexual orientation were successful, but simply to find out whether they EVER were. He therefore started, not with 200 people who had ATTEMPTED to change, but with 200 who claimed that they HAD changed and whose claims to have changed were worth considering (I think that I’m correct in saying that he had already weeded out something like 74 whose “change” meant simply that they had decided to stop calling themselves gay or had decided to stop having sex) and concluded that a significant proportion – not all 200 – had indeed experienced a change in orientation. (As I’ve already noted, he now believes it probable that some of them were deceiving themselves and him.) But he also rightly concluded that, since it had taken him so long to find even 200 possibles in a country the size of America, and with the full co-operation of ex-gay ministries and of reparative therapists, change of sexual orientation must be a very rare phenomenon.

              Despite my abnormal lack of expertise in all matters mathematical, I’m going to do something foolhardy. I’m going to tabulate it as follows (I HAVE used a calculator!):

              Population of the USA over 18 = 210,000,000

              Lowest Credible Estimate of Gay Population (1%) = 2,100,000

              Percentage claiming to have changed from gay to straight

              (discovered by Spitzer after nearly 2 years of searching) = 0.009 %

              Percentage of actual change (as verified by Spitzer) = 0.006 %

              Pretty dismal, don’t you think?

              • William

                Thanks for the link to your source for a review of he Jones and Yarhouse work. While I found Michael Airhart's review rather polemical, full of references to 'evangelicals' as though that proved guilt by association, it did provide me with a link to the Jones and Yarhouuse paper presented to last August's APA Sexual Orientation and Faith Tradition Symposium. I didn't previously have a copy of this, so thanks! Its well worth a read at http://www.ivpress.com/media/pdfs/ex-gay-apa.pdf

                From a read of this paper I think I've discovered why we have different figures from Jones and Yarhouse (J&Y). Remember that the study is a time-tracking of respondents who have gone through Exodus International ministries. J&Y originally published in 2007 for outcomes after 3 years (T3) and then published in 2009 for outcomes after 6 years (T6). Michael Airhart reports 11 (then reduced to 10 by personal corresondance) out of 72 'success' cases (conversion to substantial heterosexual orientation) giving your 14% figure. This was the original T3 figure reported in 2007. By 2009 the T6 figure had risen to 14 success cses out of 61 (my 23%). Mystery solved!

                It does however beg the question as to why Michael Airhart, reviewing the J&Y work in late 2009, would have quoted lower T3 figures when T6 figures were already available, and he posted a link (albeit indirectly) to the updated J&Y work from his own site. I think that calls for a double smiley :-) :-)

                Still, 14% or 23%, nevermind! There is something in the J&Y APA study for both of us!

                Bearing in mind that it was a presentation to the APA, J&Y kicked off by reminding that august body that its dogmatic assertion had been 'for many years the Public Affairs website of the American Psychological Association stated: “Can therapy change sexual orientation? No. . . . [H]omosexuality is not an illness. It does not require treatment and is not changeable'.

                It then repeated its T6 paper findings coming to a broadly 25% success rate for Exodus ministries. 'Our first hypothesis was that sexual orientation is not changeable. If we take change to mean a reduction in homosexual attraction and an increase in heterosexual attraction, we found considerable evidence that change of sexual orientation occurred for some individuals through involvement in the religiously-mediated change methods of Exodus Ministries (23% by self-categorization). Those who report a successful heterosexual adjustment regard themselves as having changed their sexual orientation'.

                As you stated though, William, they also qualified their findings as follows. 'In addition to clarifying what we found, it is equally important to clarify what we did not find. First, we did not find that everyone can change. Saying that change is not impossible in general is not the same thing as saying that everyone can change, that anyone can change, or that change is possible for any given individual. Second, while we found that part of our research population experienced success to the degree that it might be called (as we have here) “conversion,” our evidence does not indicate that these changes are categorical, resulting in uncomplicated, dichotomous and unequivocal reversal of sexual orientation from utterly homosexual to utterly heterosexual. Most of the individuals who reported that they were heterosexual at T6 did not report themselves to be without experience of homosexual arousal, and they did not report their heterosexual orientation to be unequivocal and uncomplicated'.

                So might we agree that there are studies that support the conclusion that sexual orientation can change and is changeable, but that it is also complex and that orientation is not changeable for all?

                Let me turn to your statistics in a follow on post, as this is already very long!

                • William

                  I not your qualification that you are not a statistician, so I promise to be gentle! I am also not a statistician, but as a development economist I've had a fairly significant training in statistics (courses at undergrad and postgrad level).

                  Your calculation, on the face of it, shows as you put it a 'pretty dismal' prospect of orientation change. But you are assuming perfect transmission of information by Spitzer and complete response by all ex-gay respondents in the USA. These are two very flawed assumptions:

                  1. You're assuming that even in 2 years of work Spitzer would have got his call for respondents out to the entire gay population of the USA and that this information would have been perfectly absorbed and understood by all potential respondents.

                  2. You're also assuming that all potential ex-gay respondents would have decided to be part of the 200 rather than, say put the kettle on and have a cup of tea (or possibly a strong absinthe, given that they're all self-deluded :-))

                  Let me show you how I could make a strong case the other way from your own figures:

                  1. 2.1 million gays in the USofA (that sounds like the cue for a song?)

                  2. 115 Exodus local ministries in USA and Canada (lets be generous) in 2005 from http://www.rca.org/Page.aspx?pid=3088
                  3. Lets assume that they can each minister to 30 people a year on average, given that the counselling and ministry process is intensive.

                  4. That makes 115×30=3,450 estimated maximum annual throughput of Exodus 'leaving homosexuality behind' ministries.

                  5. Lets assume that Spitzer managed to get perfect information on his requirements across to perhaps 5% of the gay and ex-gay community nationally (a pretty good rate for voluntary response to a media call for survey respondents). That gives 105,000 potential respondents.

                  6. Let's assume that potential ex-gay respondents responded at the same rate as the proportion of Exodus throughput in the potential respondents (3,450/105,000) = 3.3%

                  7. So we might expect 3.3% of the 3,450 annual throughput to come forward = 114 respondents. In fact we got 200

                  This is all of course desparately flawed in numerous places, but not alot worse than some of the more polemical analysis that I've seen from self-identified activists!

                  Lies, damn lies and statistics! They're a bummer aren't they?!

                  • “This is all of course desparately [sic] flawed in numerous places”

                    Perhaps, but any comment from someone like me would be equally flawed. Any mathematician could tie me in knots in no time. It’s always been like that – perhaps something to do with the way my brain is wired.

                    But even I can see this. Alan Chambers, no less, has claimed to be one of “tens of thousands whom [sic] have successfully changed their sexual orientation”. (Opening Testimony of Exodus President Alan Chambers, U.C. Berkeley Debate on Same-Sex Marriage, April 17, 2004.)

                    (The claim used to be “hundreds of thousands”, but presumably even Chambers realised that that was too much for all but the most abnormally credulous to swallow.)

                    Would one expect Spitzer to have located tens of thousands? Of course not. He wouldn’t have had time; still less would he have had time to interview them. But his discovery of just 94 males and 25 females who had achieved “good heterosexual functioning” – found through ex-gay ministries and reparative therapists, be it noted; he didn’t just wander round America on the off chance of bumping into them – looks fairly derisory. Perhaps these small numbers wouldn’t look so poor if they referred to something that people have been attempting for only a few years, but they relate to something that has been going on for decades. They certainly justify his conclusion that a change of sexual orientation is “a pretty rare phenomenon”. And this is, I would reiterate, prescinding from all criticisms of his methodology.

                    • William

                      I guess we're going to have to agree to disagree on what the evidence says! Let me try one last argument, this time not from statistics.

                      I can't find a comment that I made on this site sometime last year. I tried to summarise what Peter and ethical SOCE ministries were saying about sexual orientation change (SOC) in a number of points. What struck me most powerfully was that it wasn't, at its root about SOC, it was about Christ. Let's have another go:

                      1. It's not about the goal of SOC – It's about being in Christ: All of us, self-identified gay or straight, are broken by sin in our lives, both inherited by original sin and committed by us or to us. SOC is not the objective – finding our identity in Christ is the objective. And as we find our identity in Him, He heals our broken lives – from all types of sin(Colossians 1:13-14).

                      2. It's not about me and where I'm at – It's all about Jesus: In a western culture that is increasingly self-absorbed and focused on our own needs, it's easy to focus on our own struggles and forget the big picture. Christ has come to set us free! (same reference). And we've got the huge spiritual resources of the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit to help us (John 14:25-26)

                      3. It's not about where I'm at – It's about where I'm moving to: No doubt we all get frustrated at our continual struggles with sin and our failure to overcome it. And when we do fall, the world is only too ready to tell us that we're going to keep on failing. But that's not Jesus' way, he only wants us to confess our sin, repent, and let Him pick us up and start over again. We are saved the moment we turn to him and give him our lives – we are sanctified (changed) as we allow him to work in us and change us over time.

                      Peter, please interject if you feel this is not a correct summary.

                      So what has all this got to do with SOC. Everything and nothing! Nothing because, if these three points are correct, they are about how we turn to Christ and his all sufficient grace and strength in the face of all besetting sin. And everything because it puts Christ first, way above our healing from SSA, or any expectation beyond Him being our all sufficient, loving Lord.

                      This is what struck such a chord for me in both my own testimony of healing from SSA and in Peter's testiony on this site.

                      But it all comes back to Jesus. And realising that He is all-sufficient, omnipotent, omniscient, our healer, our provider.

                      But the problem, I think, with much European & North American (E&NA) Christianity is that we don't really believe that God is all powerful, all-wise and all-loving. We secretly think that he's in a little box marked 'church', and that everything else outside goes on under the influence of the otehr forces we see operating all around us every day. You know: power, money, sex – all the big stuff.

                      To use Jim Packer's phrase from his wonderful book 'Knowing God': 'For more than three centuries the naturalistic leaven in the Renaissance outlook has been working like a cancer in Western thought'.

                      So in most of E&NA, very few Christians in the church, let alone non-Christians get even presented with the full depth and beauty of the wonderful characteristics of God, and his desire to free us from all sin.

                      And, despite the much higher stated proportion of Christian belief in the USA, this is also the reality in much of American Christianity, where much evangelicalism is cultural and deeply compromised by materialism and the structural sin of imperialism.

                      All thi is a long way of stating my belief and experience that most E&NA Christianity preaches a small God, who is not in control of His world, who does not heal and who does not intervene supernaturally. In this context, it is not surprising that so many people fail to overcome sin, including homosexuality.

                      I have lived in southern Africa since 1988 and it is only since this time and in this place that I have come to know God as supernatural, all-loving, and all-powerful. It was here that I was finally healed of my SSA. It was here that I saw a man with a withered leg healed and able to stand up. It was here that I saw a women being delivered from demonic possession and thrown backwards thorugh 6 rows of chairs.

                      And, in the end, losing my SSA was easy. Well, yes, I'd been through lots of counselling and prayer, I'd read alot and prayed alot, so there was alot of good stuff already there inside me. But it wasn't DONE TO ME! It was all about Jesus and knowing how great He is. And the SSA just drifted away, like mist in the morning sun.

                      Does that make sense?

      • Thank you for those comments, Peter. Here are my reflections after reading them.

        (1) To begin with, I am not all happy with the use that is being made of this word “identity”. I notice that at the end of his post Philip Cole returns to it again with the statement, “So Jackie Clune’s testimony drives a coach and horses through the argument that gay is an identity. And, since this is a large part of the revisionist argument…”

        Now, I can’t claim to remember every argument on the matter that I have ever heard or read, but this use of the word is certainly not typical of pro-gay arguments. It is, on the contrary, part of the jargon used by the ex-gay brigade. They speak of those who “assume” or “adopt” a “gay identity”. There are, of course, obsessive people of all orientations, but most of us (gay, straight or bi-sexual) don’t claim that our sexual orientation is an identity. The most that we can reasonably claim is that it is a PART of our identity. I agree that sexual orientation isn’t exactly comparable to gender or race, but it does have this in common with those traits: it ISN’T an “identity” that one “assumes” or “adopts”. If it is a perfectly legitimate PART of one’s identity, as I believe that it is, then the possibility that it may change in some instances is neither here nor there, and no actual instance of change drives a coach and horses through anything of any importance.

        You say that “Sexual orientation is demonstrably mutable in some people and that opens the possibility that it is mutable in many people.” Yes, it does, but that possibility is a theoretical one, and it is one which the empirical evidence does not confirm.

        (2) “I would still want to argue though that those who claim that their sexual orientation simply cannot change are the ones who are making claims that are not supported by the empirical evidence.” Fair enough. How often we have heard people say, “If you’d told me ten/twenty/thirty etc. years ago that one day I’d be … I’d have said to you ….” But the fact remains that most people’s sexual orientation simply doesn’t change, whether they want it to or not. Were it otherwise, cases of change wouldn’t make stories in popular newspapers and magazines.

        (3) I’m sure that there are people who would regard the mere idea that orientation can change as “homophobic”, but I think that what most would object to is not the idea itself, but attempts to bully people into desiring such change by making them uncomfortable with their orientation. Since many, like myself, don’t believe that a change in orientation can actually be engineered, they regard trying to pressurize people, however subtly, into wanting, or into believing that they need, something that they are unlikely ever to get as doubly immoral.

        (4) I don’t believe that there is any “therapy” that will change someone’s orientation, nor do I see any need for one. Either it will change or it won’t. In all but a small number of cases it won’t.

        (5) “In which case, perhaps you could explain what is happening when some people genuinely experience orientation change.” No, I can’t. We still don’t know precisely what it is that causes people to have one orientation rather than another. We can all have opinions, but that’s all that they are. I’m inclined to believe that sexual orientation is in some way biologically determined, but that’s only my belief; it has no scientific value. Cases of change don’t make that belief untenable; as I’ve said before, I see no a priori reason why a fluid sexual orientation couldn’t be just as biologically caused as a fixed one. But, as the New York psychiatrist Dr Jack Drescher said, “Anyone who says that they KNOW is lying to you.”

  3. I find myself asking James Alison's question: "Yes, but is it true?"

    Personally I'm convinced that there is a degree of fluidity in most people's sexual orientation, but that's a long way from saying that people have total fluidity. To say people can move a few points to the left or to the right along the continuum of sexual preferences is a long way from saying that someone right over there can move to right over there.

    In short, this just seems to be a slightly dressed-up version of the old "it's just a sinful lifestyle choice" argument.

  4. "committed, loving and faithful (CLF) gay relationships" are the bigger fiction. Gay Christians are no more likely to be monogamous than gay atheists.

    • And yet some people manage it. I don't think there are any good reliable figures on relationship stability in the LGBT population compared to the rest. Would be interesting though to see them, as it would give an answer to the question.

    • really. Arguing from anectodal experience might be a dead end, but most professed Christians I know who have extramarital sex are hetero (yes, I know there's far more straight than gay people, but I don't think the evidence suggests that gay christians are, as percentage, having far more extramarital sex than the straight kind). And is there any reason why atheists wouldn't be monogomous? I don't know anyone who had sex with other partners whilst in a nominally monogomous relationship who didn't end up regretting end, 'everything goes' f-buddy type relationships are surely far more the exception than the norm.

      If you listen to the testimony of self-described ex/post-gay people then you should also , in the interests of fairness, listen to people who don't fit into that paradigm, and doing so indicates that there are far more self-confessed 'born gay' or ex-ex-gays than actual ex-gays.

  5. Philip, you say that you were “healed” of your SSA* – that it “just drifted away, like mist in the morning sun.”

    Well, I’m in no position to controvert that statement, nor would I wish to. If your sexual orientation has genuinely changed and you’re happy with that, then everyone should be happy for you. That doesn’t mean, however, that it’s right to encourage other people to hope or expect that their orientation will change, however much they might like it to. (Most of us, of course, are comfortable with our natural sexuality and have no wish to change it). The evidence indicates that it’s not at all likely.

    *Re SSA or “Same Sex Attraction”. This is simply a definition of homosexuality, and a completely accurate and handy one, as far as it goes. I see no merit in substituting the definition of the term for the term itself other than that it means fewer syllables to utter. It is right that the use of language should change from time to time in order more accurately to describe reality, but I get the impression that much of the ex-gay jargon is an attempt to use language in order either to change or to mask reality – a futile enterprise.

    As to the rest of what you have written, I don’t feel able to comment on it, nor do I feel that I should try to do so, since I am concerned at present with objective evidence and the conclusions to which it does or does not point, not with matters of belief.

    • William

      Just a couple of points, as I think we're now winding up on this thread. It is, I note, just you and me now :-)

      Like Peter, I personally prefer the term 'post-gay' rather than 'ex-gay' because it seems to describe me more accuately. I gave my testimony on this site at some point last year (it's difficult to find it now and link to it) and I identified my teenage and early adult SO as 'mildly bisexual'. Apart from my first sexual experience, all has been with girlfriends. I did however go through periods of greater or lesser SSA.

      The point that I was trying to make in my last comment was that the breakthrough in my own struggles with SSA was not fundamentally about SSA itself, but about belief about who I was in Christ. Gay, bisexual, whatever, simply didn't describe my identity in Him.

      I note that you majored on my phrase: 'And the SSA just drifted away, like mist in the morning sun'. Perhaps that was a bit too 'purple prose' as I don't want to minimise the process that I went through in ending my SSA. Over a period of about 5 years, from 1988-93, my process included ministry, counselling, prayer, study, deliverance and spiritual healing. At times this process was intense. But my SSA 'drifted away' primarily because my beliefs changed. I came to know and see a great, omnipotent, all-loving Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And, in the end, it was He that wrought the change.

      I recognise that you are 'concerned at present with objective evidence and the conclusions to which it does or does not point'. But as I said, we've clearly both go to the point where 'we’re going to have to agree to disagree on what the evidence says!'.

      In my last comment I was trying to make the point that you seem to disagree with: belief matters and it's vital! How we see ourselves – our self-identity, gay or straight or whatever is where we start from. And how we see God – whether He is all-powerful, all-loving, omnipotent and so on – is even more important. After all, if He wants to heal our brokenness, sexual or otherwise, then it is but a small matter for Him to do so.

      And in my last comment I was sharing my experience that my knowledge of a 'big God' came when I was in Africa, a continent where most countries are in full-scale revival, like much of the two-thirds world. And it was easier to meet and grow to know that 'big God' than in a Europe and North America (E&NA) that has very largely become spiritually dry and which sees a 'small God', if they bother to think about Him at all.

      Perhaps my experience is part of a wider international trend? Just a thought, take it, use it, leave it, feel free ….

      • Well, Philip, I think that we can certainly agree that we have talked ourselves, or rather written ourselves, to a standstill on the matter of what conclusions can legitimately be drawn from the objective evidence.

        On matters of belief, there is really no room for discussion, on this point at any rate, since we start from different and irreconcilable premisses. I believe that it is quite wrong to tell people who are same sex attracted (to use your own preferred terminology) that their SSA is a disorder or a form of brokenness in any sense – psychological, moral or spiritual – and that it needs “fixing”, even if it may in a few cases change of its own accord, and I believe that it is iniquitous to try to prevent or dissuade SSA people from forming sexual relationships in accordance with their orientation.

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