Pat Robertson’s Regent University: Ex-Gays Can Act The Part, But Orientation Doesn’t Change

Revelations that Marcus Bachmann’s clinics administer ex-gay therapy have thrust the “controversial” treatment into the media spotlight. There is no controversy among scientists, however, who continue to agree that the therapy is not effective and should not be recommended because it can be harmful. A new study from a surprising source confirms this reality; researchers at Pat Robertson’s Regent University found that “ex-gays” in opposite-sex marriages continued to have a same-sex orientation.

The study (PDF) looked at “mixed-orientation” marriages in which at least one member of the couple is not heterosexual. One of the items on the questionnaire asked participants to rank themselves using the Kinsey Scale (a 1–7 continuum representing identities between exclusively heterosexual and exclusively homosexual) on four criteria: sexual behavior, attractions, emotional attachment, and sexual fantasy. This chart shows how participants identified before and after marriage on behavior and on the “expanded version” (the average of all four criteria):

As would be expected, being in a heterosexual marriage led to more heterosexual behavior (3.60 declining to 2.80). But the study actually found that not only did attraction toward the opposite sex not increase, it seems to have decreased. Consider that those “expanded version” numbers are merely an average that includes the behavior score. This means that the results for attraction, emotional attachment, and sexual fantasy must have been even higher, representative of a same-sex orientation. Alas, the published study does not separate these numbers out.

Regardless, here is a study from a university run by one of the largest opponents of LGBT equality that shows that people cannot change their orientation. They can change their behavior — act the part of the heterosexual. But the numbers sure seem to indicate that they are as gay as ever. In its conclusion, the study tries to hedge this point, but concedes it simultaneously:


This is not to say that orientation cannot change (Jones & Yarhouse, 2007). Rather, the behavioral changes in a mixed orientation marriage should not be taken to signal orientation change as such. This is important to the Christian interested in applied psychology who might be more inclined to view behavioral change as signaling orientation change. These should be understood as separate considerations.

And guess who authored this study? The same Yarhouse that authored the cited 2007 pro-ex-gay study, which has been thoroughly debunked, critiqued, and discredited by the American Psychological Association. Researchers trying to prove the wherewithal of ex-gay therapy are going to have to stop doing legitimate research or they might accidentally arrive at the answer they’re trying to avoid.

(HT: Right Wing Watch.)