Advocates Person of the Year is now in Heterosexual Relationship


Kerry Pacer - Advocate CoverIn 2005, The Advocate, a national homosexual magazine, named 17 year-old Kerry Pacer their “Person of the Year” after she successfully took her fight to a U.S. District court to permit the formation of a gay-straight alliance club at her Georgia high school. She claimed it was needed to teach tolerance of lesbians, gays and transgender kids because she had been bullied after having “come out” when she was 12.

Fast-forward four years, and we now learn that Ms. Pacer is living happily with…. her boyfriend and their baby daughter. This real life story doesn’t help the genetic argument for homosexuality. The champion of homosexual tolerance in Georgia high schools, self-declared lesbian and The Advocate’s youngest “Person of the Year” is straight. See the full story here.

Now, some of the rest of the story is a bit of a polemic against the “born gay” nonsense and that polemic unfortunately wants to suggest that homosexuality is purely environmental. Both of these positions are contrary to the best research evidence.

But the story does highlight the simple fact that sexuality is a lot more flexible than we think, especially female sexuality. Even before people set out to change their sexuality, there is a natural transition for some through different sexual identities. As I’ve documented here (and this is just a small selection of the better papers) there is clear evidence that many people who think they are one thing find that only a few years later they are the other. And interestingly, this happens with a much higher likelihood from gay to straight then the other way round, suggesting that heterosexuality is the centre around which other sexual identities vary.

And all this in the week that the ACC banned Sexual Orientation Change Efforts. If we know from countless pieces of research that sexual identity is fluid even when change is not sought, why do we have a problem with the idea of some people wanting to give that change a little nudge?

62 Comments on “Advocates Person of the Year is now in Heterosexual Relationship

  1. “And all this in the week that the ACC banned Sexual Orientation Change Efforts. If we know from countless pieces of research that sexual identity is fluid even when change is not sought, why do we have a problem with the idea of some people wanting to give that change a little nudge?”

    The problem isn’t with the people who want to change, but with the ethics and effectiveness of using psychotherapy to that end.

    • Can the ethics be separated from the effectiveness?

      As for the effectiveness, we only have one longitudinal study of SOCE (Jones and Yarhouse) and that suggests a success rate similar to Alcoholics Anonymous.

      • “Can the ethics be separated from the effectiveness?”

        It could certainly be argued that it’s unethical to attempt to change something that isn’t, in itself, a disorder. Since no method to alter sexual orientation has been clinically established, this is, admittedly, by the by.

        • It could certainly be argued that it’s unethical to attempt to change something that isn’t, in itself, a disorder.
          Still with that chestnut? Cosmetic surgery can be invasive and still uses clinically established methods to alter features that are not necessarily a disorder.

          The sexual characteristics that are incongrous with a person’s gender identity don’t in themselves constitute a disorder, The disorder is the dysphoria, not the genitalia, Yet gender reassignment surgery readily tampers with those characteristics in furtherance of attaining the patient’s perception of gender identity congruence.

          Sexual reconstruction may be clinically established, but is hardly a convincing alteration of the sex organs to parody those the opposite sex. All that appears to matter is that the patient desperately wants it (and sometimes at the tax-payers’ expense)

          Not unlike those seeking reparative therapy.

          • Much cosmetic surgery does raise ethical concerns.

            Sex reassignment surgery is doing the best we can.

            Even if shifting sexual orientation via talk-therapy was defensible in theory, it’s unethical in practice without a clinically proven method.

            • While cosmetic surgery raises ethical concerns, that has not proved enough to legitimise the outright ban on any procedures that don’t treat a clinically recognised disorder. Yet, that is exactly what is mooted for reparative therapy.

              People can opt for surgery to alter or remove specific functioning physical characteristics that show no evidence of disorder. Of course, the question of which types of surgery should be publicly funded is a related, but different issue.

              As you’re probably aware, there are very few psychological interventions that are validated by research evidence drawn from randomly-assigned treatments and, for example, corroboration by independent researchers. So, to use the phrase ‘clinically proven’ without differentiating the level of evidence used judging the efficacy of any therapy is misleading.

              In order to ban a therapy, the onus is to provide evidence that it is either harmful, or misrepresented by its practitioners as more effective than it really is.

              Anyway, I’m off to my homeopath for another perfectly legal ultra-dilution.

              • If you believe that the evidential base of psychology is too low across the board, it makes no sense to advocate efforts to shift sexual orientation, a type of therapy for which no evidence has been offered. (If that’s what you’re doing.)

  2. If sexual orientation is flexible in some women, and in a few men, that does not demonstrate that it is flexible for everyone. Everyday experience plainly indicates the opposite.

    While change of sexual orientation occasionally occurs spontaneously, the evidence does not favour the notion that it can be deliberately brought about by trying to give that change “a little nudge”. On the contrary, it suggests that attempts of that kind are, at best, a sheer waste of time.

    • Why do you accept the evidence it changes for some spontaneously, but you don’t accept the similar evidence that some people can change it intentionally? One suspects you pick and choose which research you accept.

      • Because in general people whose homosexual orientation has changed spontaneously to a heterosexual one just get on with living their lives, like normal heterosexual people. I find that far more convincing than the accounts so frequently given of people who have supposedly changed through “therapy” or “ex-gay ministry”, which suggest that, whatever their present “lifestyle”, they are still driving through a never-ending homosexual minefield.

        In your Online Directory for Sexual Orientation Change Research, you list just two studies of “Intentional Change”. The conclusion of the Spitzer study has now been repudiated by its author, and even before that repudiation, he had concluded that intentional change was rare. Others have pointed out reasons, which I have previously quoted, why the Jones & Yarhouse study lacks credibility. It should be noted that, although it was a study of participants in Exodus-affiliated ministries and Exodus was a primary funding source for the project, Exodus has folded up following the admission of its own president that change of sexual orientation is vanishingly rare (rate estimated at around 0.1%), and the admission of the former director of Exodus’s largest and oldest-established affiliated ministry that in all his nearly 22 years as director (11 of them also as a board member of Exodus) he never knew a single man whose sexual orientation changed from homosexual to heterosexual.

        • The conclusion of the Spitzer study has now been repudiated by its author

          This is incorrect. What Spitzer repudiated (correctly) was the way some conservatives used his study to argue he had demonstrated people could change. What Spitzer still agrees is that his study shows that some people believed they had changed, but does not actually prove they did in exactly the same way that Shidlo and Schroeder shows that some people believed they were harmed but without any proof that they were harmed.

          Exodus has folded up following the admission of its own president that change of sexual orientation is vanishingly rare (rate estimated at around 0.1%)

          Let’s put this in context. Alan Chambers was (a) commenting on the idea that people move from 100% homosexual to 100% heterosexual and (b) could not provide any research to support his notion of 0.1%. Why is this anecdote (“0.1%”) acceptable for you but the 200 anecdotes in Spitzer’s study not? I suggest bias is the answer to that question.

          • Whether you like it or not, Spitzer did retract his original conclusion, which was:

            “This study provides evidence that some gay men and lesbians are able to also change the core features of sexual orientation.”

            Soon after the publication of his study, Spitzer found it necessary, in response to the use (or misuse) that was being made of it, to emphasize that it did not show that all homosexual people could change their orientation or that they would be better off if they did, and he also pointed out that the length of time that it had taken him to discover these apparently successful cases indicated that change of this kind was rare.

            In his retractation he wrote:

            “I believe I owe the gay community an apology for my study making unproven claims of the efficacy of reparative therapy.”

            Obviously, he didn’t claim that the possibility of deliberately engineered sexual orientation change had been disproved. No-one with any sense makes claims like that. He was saying that he no longer regarded his original conclusion as justified by the evidence.

            I don’t for one moment think that Alan Chambers meant his “0.1%” as a precise scientific statistic, or that he intended it to be understood in that way. It was merely his way of saying that change of orientation is an extremely rare phenomenon. If he meant only that change from 100% homosexual to 100% heterosexual was extremely rare, I don’t think that he would have taken the decision to close down Exodus International and apologized for all the harm that Exodus had done over the years by its misleading claims.

            I plead guilty to your charge of bias. When we speak of proof in everyday life, we usually mean strong, convincing evidence, ABSOLUTE proof of anything being seldom possible outside the realm of pure logic. I have a general tendency to disbelieve things until they are, at least in that loose sense, proved rather than to believe things until they are disproved. For example, more and better evidence is needed to make me believe that statues of our Lady start weeping or bleeding or that Hindu animal statues start drinking milk than to make me believe that they do not.

              • I can see that many of the objections to the methodology of the Spitzer study will apply also to the Shidlo and Schroeder study. I would observe, however, that I see reasons for regarding the claims made in the former with greater scepticism than those made in the latter.

                When it comes to the truthfulness of participants in studies of this kind, I assume that ordinary, plain, malicious lying is seldom a major factor (but I am open to correction), although I have read that crank contacts can sometimes be a problem. Untruthful answers are, I think, more likely to be the result of self-deception. People who have been taught that their homosexuality is a form of “sexual brokenness” (or similar nonsense) and who have taken this pernicious and spiritually intimidating message to heart will have a very strong motive indeed for self-deception. People who have told themselves a story that they need to believe (as I remember someone saying about Tony Blair and the invasion of Iraq) will find it difficult, no matter how good their intentions, to tell others what they cannot acknowledge to themselves. (Recall that one of the “successful” cases in the Jones & Yarhouse study admitted that he had told J & Y what he judged that they wanted to hear and what he was desperate to believe himself. We have no means of knowing how many others did the same.) I don’t think that those in the Shidlo and Schroeder study who claimed to have been harmed would have had the same incentive for self-deception.

          • “What Spitzer repudiated (correctly) was the way some conservatives used his study”

            No, what Spitzer repudiated was his own reliance on self-reporting of change and his own ability to determine that the participants where not giving “self-deceptive narratives.”

            Now, the main take away from Spitzer’s study (which people on both sides of the debate ignored) was that more research was needed into the outcomtes of SOCE therapy. However, that didn’t happen. There was only research project that attempted to study it (the Jones&Yarhouse paper). The dearth of research into this area is quite telling.

            • On that basis we would have to throw out Shidlo and Schroeder.

              And yes, the dearth of actual research is staggering. If people were *really* interested in acting on the APA’s recommendations they would setup the necessary longitudinal studies.

              • Why do you keep trying to insist on throwing out the Shidlo and Schroeder paper? I’m assuming you mean “Changing sexual orientation: A consumers’ report.” I know of nothing that would indicate the paper was flawed to warrant it being “thrown out”

              • Two major problems with conducting research into orientation change:-

                1) No known (or even potential) method to shift sexual orientation: what would you research?

                2) Most clinicians believe it’s unethical to try and shift someone’s sexual orientation

  3. Without entering into the debate about whether people can completely change their sexual orientation — it seems shocking that politicians are trying to prevent such attempts — it’s clear that some people are bisexual, in that they can be attracted to people of either sex. It makes sense if such people, especially if religiously inclined, do try and move towards a heterosexual relationship.

    • No attempt is being made to stop anyone from moving towards any relationship that they choose, as long as it’s legal. The idea is to stop a minority of people from using their status as accredited counsellors, psychotherapists etc. to offer a useless “therapy” for a non-illness. Even if the legislation now being proposed passes – which I think is in fact unlikely, and in any case I think that decisions of this kind are probably better left to professional bodies – fringe practitioners will remain free to offer it, just as they are free to offer angel therapy, reincarnation therapy, crystal healing, short-wave therapy etc., and adults will remain free to go in for these things at their own discretion.

    • One wonders, if such therapies are banned, whether it will become illegal for people to spontaneously change from gay to straight. If people can change without help, how illogical then to try to ban a little help along the way.

      • If such therapies are banned – and it seems unlikely at the moment that this will actually come to pass – that will no more make it illegal to change from gay to straight than banning fraudulent investment schemes makes it illegal to get rich.

      • Should therapists be allowed to offer a little help along the way if people who identify as “straight” want to become someone who identifies as “gay”?

        • I think that the answer to that question must be yes, strictly provided that the people who want the “help” are adults, but that, as with the converse, such pseudo-therapy should be available only from fringe practitioners whom the adults consult freely and at their own discretion, not from accredited healthcare providers.

          Requests of this kind made to genuine therapists must be rare, but I have read of two cases, and there are doubtless others. In both the request was refused, being regarded as a superficial symptom of a deeper issue in need of resolution.

        • Hey, go for it. See if CBT or some other talking therapy helps. What will probably happen is that the therapy will move towards exploring *why* the person is dissatisfied with their heterosexuality and exploring that instead (and if there are any obvious roots to the client’s heterosexual desires).

  4. ” why do we have a problem with the idea of some people wanting to give that change a little nudge?’

    Because what the ACC banned was not “a little nudge” it was an intense psychotherapy based on knowingly false models of sexual orientation, no reputable studies of its efficacy, and potentially very damaging outcomes for patients who try it.

    • I’m intrigued by this “knowingly false” idea. That people might hold mistaken views I can accept. That they are somehow actively putting forward things they know not to be true? Hardly…

      There is one reputable study of the general efficacy of SOCE and that is Jones and Yarhouse. Of course, one of the problems with J&Y is that we don’t know what kind of SOCE each participant engaged in.

      “Potentially damaging outcomes” – well everything is “potentially damaging”. CBT is potentially damaging. Question is whether it *is* damaging.

      • “That they are somehow actively putting forward things they know not to be true?”

        Reparative therapy (capital ‘R’) refers to a specific type of treatment based on the old model of a “weak/absent” father (and that homosexuality is a “disorder”). This model is known to be not correct, because there are many gay men who do not have this “broken” relationships with their fathers and many straight men who do. Now as to a specific therapist, he/she may not believe the model is incorrect, but that would mean that the therapist doesn’t have a basic understanding of orientation. Either because this person has deluded him/herself or deliberately avoided staying current with the research. In either case, these people shouldn’t be treating patients.

        You know of therapist’s who use CBT as part of their therapy? Further, there are people who have been damaged by SOCE therapy. So the therapy IS damaging to some people, but not all. There is no test to determine who may or may not be damaged by this therapy, thus it is “potentially damaging.”

        • First, you are narrowing RT to a particular psychological model. Many RTists (not that I’m supporting them) would explore a number of different developmental models with clients and when one was found by a client to speak into his/her life would continue to explore that.

          For the record, I know of no research that actually explores the Father / child relationship on a quantitative level, so like so many other development theories it remains just that – a theory.

          As for CBT causing harm, this is an interesting read. You might also want to compare this paper to Shidlo and Schroeder – S&S suffers from a self-selecting sample basis (as opposed to the randomised samples referred to in the CBT paper) and S&S has no standardised measure of harm (as opposed to the CBT paper highlighting the use of PACE).

          Let’s be serious about this – if you want to reject “Reparative Therapy” on the basis of S&S (though you yourself demonstrate that it is often hard to define what RT actually is) then you definitely want to stop therapists practising CBT. The reality if course is that all therapies tend to produce people who say they have been harmed by it – the question is whether it is actual harm (PACE is good here) and whether the level of “harm” is more than is normally expected from talk therapies.

          • Is this the CBT paper you’re referring to?

            If so, it refers specifically to using CBT to treat Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. At most, there’s a case for increased caution in applying CBT to one type of disorder.

            As sexual orientation isn’t a disorder, and no method of “reparative therapy” is known, anecdotal reports of harm are more than sufficient for a clinician to steer clear.

            There’s a disconnect between your evidence-based approach to orientation-change, and your evidence-free reason for seeking that change: “because the Bible says so” is, by its nature, a command that’s immune from evidence.

            • The issue I was addressing was whether other therapeutic models caused harm. The key about the study I linked to is that it had proper quantitative data. The Jones and Yarhouse study has quantitative data. Almost every paper I cover in detail has proper quantitative data and therefore can be used to infer population level recommendations.

              As opposed to Shidlo and Schroeder (and Spitzer for that matter) which are convenience samples. But you want to make policy on the basis of a convenience sample? Come on…

              • No ethical researcher is going to set up a randomized experiment where there’s no disorder and no method to test, coupled with substantial anecdotal reports of harm. You might as well ask for a randomized trial to test the ability of psychotherapy to alter handedness.

                Policy is made on the fact that sexual orientation isn’t a disorder. This “problem” is wholly artificial, conjured into being by a theological construct that we are free to reject this very instant. Unlike being gay, subscribing to biblical inerrancy is a choice. Reports of harm just underline the wisdom of a decision that stands on its own merits.

                • So no-one ever researchs cosmetic enhancement and it’s effect? No disorder (just someone wanting a bigger boob / smaller nose), just an artificial problem. If only people could accept they are big nosed everything would be OK right?

                  • Difference is, whatever you think of its ethics, cosmetic surgery has methods that work, at least physically.

                    This is a theological issue that’s gotten dragged into psychology. It would be a lot more helpful to have a theological discussion about the root cause of biblical authority.

              • “The Jones and Yarhouse study has quantitative data.”

                That isn’t necessarily true. Jones and Yarhouse did not specify how their subjects were selected. Other than that they came from the Exodus ministry. The paper describes it as a “quasi-experimental” study. Further, they didn’t study patients in psychiatric therapy, but rather a religious program. Thus attempting to make population wide assumptions based on the Jones and Yarhouse study would be improper.

                • So we throw out Jones and Yarhouse and we throw out any other study which doesn’t have a randomised sample. Now what evidence are you providing that SOCE do or don’t work OR that they cause harm?

                  • Again, I said nothing about “throwing out”. I simply pointed out that it is unclear how the subjects were selected and that it isn’t appropriate to attempt to generalize it to a wider population.

      • I read it. Don’t know why you wanted me to though, I’m already familiar with most of the research they referenced.

        • So you will know, then, that the RCPsych has distorted the findings of the research in order to influence efforts to ban SOCE.

          • No, I don’t know that and I would be suspicious of any such interpretations. I do know NARTH has a history of distorting research into sexual orientation to support their own views and many (often religious) organizations repeat those distortions.

            • You should be aware that both UKCP and RCPsych have refused to document clearly the evidence upon which they base their statements on SOCE (as Dermot O’Callaghan has clearly documented here).

              If you have an issue with what NARTH has said, the correct place to take that up is with them. I am also on record of correcting Conservatives when they misuse research (as Jill can happily confirm).

              • I looked at your “Beyond Critique” (also indirectly reference by jillfromharrow). Again, not impressed. I’m not going to go through a point-by-point refutation that would take to long and isn’t worth my time. However, here is just one of many problems I have with it. It cites Frisch (2006) as evidence of environmental factors that cause homosexuality. Except the Frisch paper didn’t address causation. The Frisch paper addressed how childhood parental influences effect whether someone will or will not marry (opposite or same sex). Too use that as “evidence” that environmental factors determine someone’s orientation is a distortion of the research.

                Now, admittedly, I’m not all that familiar with the UKCP or the RCP, but I am very familiar with the American Psychological Association (APA), and it looks like the RCP’s stance is quite similar to the APAs and the APA DOES document quite well.

            • Ken, if you read the research AND the link I posted, you can see for yourself that RCPsych have cited the studies in their evidence but tweaked them to support their viewpoint, rather than the other way around. They have been found out.

              The labour MP who is introducing the Bill to ban ‘conversion’ therapy now knows this, and has been asked to challenge the college to produce evidence of ‘harm’ which of course they cannot, because there is none, apart from very old studies using methods which were used at that time for all kinds of therapies and are no longer used.

              If he is a man of integrity he will do this before the Bill goes ahead.

              • Jill, even if no other harm is ever done – which I beg leave to doubt – the years, and even in some cases decades, robbed out of people’s lives in pursuit of the “ex-gay” wild-goose chase are no light matter and constitute more than sufficient condemnation.

                • Except that many of the participants interviewed by Shidlo and Schroeder reported that it had been useful.

                  Would you take the same approach to those who spend 15 years in school and then end up with a menial job? Were their best years robbed in a wild-goose chase because they didn’t get what they wanted (a nice cushy well paid job)? Surely they could just have spent a decade playing and then gone to work in a factory?

                  • Well, Peter, you certainly chose the wrong person to try that analogy on with. If, as a result of having had a good education, some people get better jobs, then that is perfectly good and fine and right, but speaking as a former teacher, I have NEVER regarded getting a better job as the sole purpose of education. I shall always be grateful for the education that I have received myself; I cannot enumerate offhand the many ways in which it has enriched my life; but if its only purpose had been to get me a better job, then possibly as much as 90% of it would have been a sheer waste of time, and yes, those who have spent 15 years in school and ended up in menial jobs would indeed have had the best years of their lives robbed off them.

                    That some or even many of the participants in the Shidlo and Schroeder study reported that it was of some use to them I find quite credible, but I suspect that any real benefits that they received could have been provided directly without any need for them to be a spin-off from a program which doesn’t “do what it says on the tin” (if you’ll excuse that irritating fashionable cliché).

                    A more appropriate analogy might be with the Bates System (“better sight without glasses”), in which people are encouraged to perform various eye exercises (I think they prefer to call them “visual drills”) which, if persevered with for an hour or so each day, will eventually, over time, deliver 30/30 vision to people with short-sightedness, long-sightedness, astigmatism etc. It has even been claimed by some that it will cure serious eye diseases such as cataract and glaucoma. Except that it does none of these things, as scientific enquiry has demonstrated. But even here, it can’t be said that no-one ever derives any benefit. One woman, for example, related that one of the drills, called the elephant swing, had visibly reduced her waist-line and was gradually getting rid of her double chin.

  5. Ah well Ken, if you don’t want a conversation with someone to get to the bottom of an issue, please don’t complain when people accuse you of dodging a debate.

    And no, I don’t want to hear any more implicit or explicit judgements on Dermot’s character. You don’t know him and I will take a very dim view of it.

    • If he wants to post here in response to my comments, I’ll reply. However, that link has no attributions as to who made the slide show and no contact information. I’m not hunting him down to tell him everything I find wrong with that slide show.

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