Things are only impossible until they’re not


For years, I have heard people tell me that I was fighting a losing battle.  I was told that I was gay, and that there was nothing I could do but accept that fact.  I was told that homosexuality was an immutable characteristic, and that to even attempt to change my sexuality would do nothing but cause psychological harm.  I never believed any of it.

The American Psychological Association tells us that “The reality is that homosexuality is not an illness. It does not require treatment and is not changeable.”  While I agree with them that homosexuality is not an illness, the statement that it does not require treatment and is not changeable do cause me to quarrel with them.

To state unequivocally that something does not require treatment is to state without any uncertainty that the status quo must be accepted.  To say that my bare windows do not need treatment is to assume that we are in agreement that a lack of window treatment is valued by all.  Perhaps I would prefer to have a nice valence, or perhaps venetian blinds.  Such a statement is a value judgment, and is not something that anyone should decide for someone else.  What is good for the goose is not always good for the artichoke.

The other statement, which is even more absolutist concerns me even further.  To claim that something is impossible is about as extreme as one can get.  While I understand the psychological comfort in abdicating any responsibility for a situation, to do so in spite of evidence to the contrary is not healthy.

I have had a number of heated debates with gay men who believe in the immutability of sexual preference.  One of them even went to amazing lengths to twist logic through the use of statistical analysis to try to convince me that a single case of actuality is insufficient to disprove impossibility.  His mental contortions became so tiresome that I decided to sever all contact with him.  (He was not a close friend, just someone I met online and chatted with a couple of times.)

The thing is, there is more than one case of someone changing from gay to straight.  I am not the first to attempt this, and I imagine I will not be the last.  Regardless of what the APA has to say on the subject, regardless of their cynicism regarding the changes that real people have achieved in their lives, there are people who have changed, which proves that it is a possibility.

Some may ask me for proof of the assertion I just made.  Usually, I would have to point to one or two people I have found online who have made the transition and are willing to put their stories on public display.  Today, I found something that while no less personal, is much less anecdotal.

A study was performed over a period of 7 years to determine the efficacy of faith-based programs aimed at changing sexual orientation.  The study did not find that everyone could change, but it also did not find that change was impossible for anyone.  The study looked at two premises of the APA.  The first was that sexual preference was immutable, and the second was that any attempt to change said preference was inherently harmful.  No evidence was found to support either hypothesis, and both were accordingly rejected.  (Link to the study provided below)

After reading through the 11 page study report, I decided to contact the authors.  I was only able to contact one of them, as I could not find contact info for the other.  This is what I wrote to him:

Dr. Yarhouse,

I would like to thank you and your colleague Dr. Jones of Wheaton College for the work you did culminating in the paper you published back in 2009 entitled “Ex Gays? An Extended Longitudinal Study of Attempted Religiously Mediated Change in Sexual Orientation

As one who is currently attempting to make such a change, I find it immensely comforting to hear that not everyone in the psychiatric community believes my efforts to be futile.  (I found it interesting that psychologists would rather be “ethical” by refusing to help me with an issue that was psychologically distressing than to intervene on my behalf.)

I was not able to find contact information for Dr. Jones.  If you are still in contact with him, I would appreciate your passing along my gratitude to him as well.

Kind Regards,

Legien

Everyday science finds out how to do things that were impossible the day before.  Traveling faster than 50 mph and living to tell the tale was impossible at one point.  Perhaps we could abstain from absolutist comments that serve only to discourage.  Perhaps we could allow truth to be our guide, rather than allowing our perspectives to demand that truth bend to our own view of it.

For those of you who read my blog who are dealing with unwanted homosexual feeling, know there is hope.  Change is possible.  It sucks, but it’s possible.

For those of you who read because you know someone who is in the category I just mentioned, the same hope exists for those whom you know and love.

For those who embrace homosexuality as part of who you are, please allow us our hope.  We do not demand that you change, only that you afford us the choice to try without being ridiculed for the attempt.

To all of you, thank you for reading.

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5 thoughts on “Things are only impossible until they’re not

  1. Sexual attraction falls along a spectrum from exclusively heterosexual to exclusively homosexual in orientation. People in the middle of that spectrum are often somewhat adaptable in channelling these attractions; people at the ends of the spectrum are less adaptable. Where you are on the homo-hetero continuum when you start therapy is a better predictor of success than the level of effort you expend trying to change. I think a lot of change therapists neglect this vital point– if you haven’t already had any significant sexual desire for the opposite sex it’s not likely that you will develop it now. On the other hand, if you’ve already had a significant amount of opposite-sex attraction in addition to your same-sex attraction, you may be able to channel your sexual attraction in the direction you choose.

    In a lot of ways, the change-is-possible vs it’s-immutable sides are arguing past each other by skipping over the most important point about where the person falls on the homo-hetero scale. A 4 (moderately homosexual) on the HH scale might become a 3 (bisexual), but a 6 (exclusively homosexual) won’t. Both sides are right– change is possible (for the HH 4 guy) *and* orientation immutable (for the HH 6 guy).

    I’ve read some of your back blog entries and understand where you are coming from. You are like so many sincere young LDS men trying to find your way and to do the best you can. Change therapy is known to be risky in terms of depression and suicide. Please, please, please be careful. Your life and your well-being are precious.

    1. Thank you for reading. Unfortunately, you seem to have not taken the time to read the article about which this post was written, as it refutes every point you made. Those who experienced the largest changes in their sexuality were the group termed by the authors as “True Gay” Those that were in the middle of the scale were the least likely to experience a statistically significant average change in their sexuality. While I appreciate your comments, everything you’ve said is directly refuted in the article.
      This is especially true of your warning that change therapy is “known to be risky in terms of depression and suicide.” Again, please read the eleven page article. It clearly indicates that over a seven year period, no evidence of negative psychological effects were found.
      I thank you for reading, and I thank you profusely for your concern and that you hold my well being and life as precious, as I do yours. Please keep reading, and keep questioning the assumptions upon which your conclusions are based. You may one day find that you need to assume different things.

      Regards,

      Legien

  2. 27 And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.

    28 Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee.

    29 And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s,

    30 But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.

  3. I have read much of your story and just wanted to say that i admire your honesty and I feel bad for your struggle you are dealing with, it must be hard. I pray for your success in your desires.

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