Gay “cure” and ex-gay


Text last updated 29 January 2017
Links last updated 16 November 2017


An Ex-Gay Movement Poster | 14109

What this is about

There are people, usually from extremist and fundamental religious groups, who beleive that gay people can be cured, and set about trying to ‘cure’ gays, with dreadful consequences.

“Ex-gays” believe that through prayer and/or medical or other “reparative” therapy, the alteration of a person’s sexual orientation is possible. This position is rejected by all US leading mental health professional groups, including the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association, although there are a number of mental health professionals who disagree. Even the psychiatrist who first claimed that it was possible to change your sexuality, Dr Robert Spritzer, in 2012 withdrew his claims and agreed with his critics that he had been mistaken.

In the UK such therapies are unethical and are now banned by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. On 28 February 2014 the UK’s psychiatric bodies issued a joint statement which said that practitioners who offered “cures” and “treatments” for homosexuality were harming their patients.

On 19 May 2012 The New York Times published a major interview with Dr Robert L. Spitzer, who has now unreservedly apologised to the gay community for the damage he has done.

“Dr. Spitzer could not control how his study was interpreted by everyone, and he could not erase the biggest scientific flaw of them all, roundly attacked in many of the commentaries: Simply asking people whether they have changed is no evidence at all of real change. People lie, to themselves and others. They continually change their stories, to suit their needs and moods. By almost any measure, in short, the study failed the test of scientific rigor that Dr. Spitzer himself was so instrumental in enforcing for so many years. “As I read these commentaries, I knew this was a problem, a big problem, and one I couldn’t answer,” Dr. Spitzer said. “How do you know someone has really changed?””

So there is no truth whatever in the claims of the ex-gay movement.

Many people who go through the conversion process end up not as functioning heterosexuals but as homosexuals pushed into mental breakdowns and/or other mental health problems.

The Ex-Gay Movement

This is a number of organisations which have become established in America, and are also establishing in Europe and the UK, claiming that they can cure people of their same-sex sexuality and turn them straight. Groups often are linked to evangelical Christian groups and some psychoanalysts who offer their services to turn gays into straights are often linked with evangelism.

There is nothing new about attempts to reorient people’s sexuality and there have been many attempts to do so ranging from medical experimentation and operations performed under the Nazis to drug, electric shock and other treatments.

Organisations which claim to have been successful in converting people from gay to straight often define success as the supression of a homoerotic response or the mere display of same-sex behaviour. A person who has achieved that has fallen far short of adopting opposite-sex sexuality and behaviour. But nobody, not even the best doctor in the world, has the right to deprive a person of their natural capacity for sexual response to other persons.

Closer examination of their claims and data reveals more inconsistencies. It is possible, for instance, that many of the men they claim to have cured were not gay but bisexual men and all they have done is suppress part of their sexual response.

Also, how can they prove their therapy worked? The person may have just changed their mind about who they are and the therapy may have had no part to play in that.

One of the main American ex-gay movements was shown to be a fraud when its principal spokesman was photographed in a gay bar displaying what was clearly the very same-sex behaviour he was supposed to have been cured of.


An exorcism of a gay man in Russia. Gays without Borders. Source unknown | 14110

What are the motives behind these ex-gay organisations?

Some of them are clearly connected with particular religious organisations or churches. The Catholic faith currently tells gay and lesbian Catholics they can be lesbian and gay but must not have sex. They are behind organisations which campaign to persuade gays and lesbians to adopt that life style. Anglicans, too, are in turmoil over Christ¹s teaching on homosexuality. For every quotation in the Bible which appears to cite same-sex love as a sin, there is another which states the very opposite, such as a famous saying of Christ in Mark. It is possible, of course, that people who have formed a particular interpretation of their faith, have done so selectively, selecting points of view which agree with views they have already formed; in other words their own prejudices have informed and shaped their judgement and interpretation. They may be right, or they may be wrong. Other organisations may be funded by right-wing parties, ministries and organisations, who have a particular policy to promote, or are funded by right-wing or specific religious and industrial/economic interests.

A disturbing development in 2012 is that ex-gay organisations, having been roundly discredited in some western countries, are moving their operations to other countries where gay organisations are less well able to defend themselves; and some of them are funding movements in other countries either to outlaw homosexuality or to make it a capital offence.

What is the truth about changing your sexuality?

Well, of course you always have the right to change your mind about anything and that includes your sexuality. But the majority of us find that our attraction to people of either the same or the opposite sex is something we are given from birth and cannot change. What is clear is that nobody else can change your sexuality for you.

The American Psychiatric Association published extensive research in 2001. Dr Ariel Schidlo and Dr Michael Schroeder examined 200 persons who had been through ex-gay treatments. 178 of them, or 88%, reported that the treatment had completely failed and there had been no change. Of the remainder, only 6 – that’s 3% – had experienced a change or a shift in their attraction. More disturbingly Dr Schidlo and Dr Schroeder reported that the majority of the persons were harmed by the attempt to change their sexuality.

In March 2009, Michael King of University College London revealed research published by Gay NZ that found “There is very little evidence to show that attempting to treat a person’s homosexual feelings is effective and in fact it can actually be harmful”. One in six psychotherapists have admitted they have tried to help ‘cure’ clients of their homosexual desires. All failed. 1,400 therapists were asked if they would now try to change a patient’s sexual orientation if asked to do so. 56, or 4%, said they would.

Is a sexuality change therapy ethical?


The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy has written to its near-30,000 members to inform them of the new guidelines. It is unethical for them to attempt to “convert” gay people to being heterosexual. The BACP “opposes any psychological treatment such as ‘reparative’ or ‘conversion’ therapy which is based upon the assumption that homosexuality is a mental disorder, or based on the premise that the client/patient should change his/her sexuality”. It recognises World Health Organisation policy that says such therapies can cause severe harm to an individual’s mental and physical health.

“BACP believes that socially inclusive, non-judgmental attitudes to people who identify across the diverse range of human sexualities will have positive consequences for those individuals, as well as for the wider society in which they live. There is no scientific, rational or ethical reason to treat people who identify within a range of human sexualities any differently from those who identify solely as heterosexual.”

Dr Gerald Davison, former president of the Association for the Advancement of Behaviour Therapy in 1991 argued that change-of-orientation programs are ethically improper and that their availability only confirms the existence of prejudice in society and the medical profession. His view was adopted.

So we get to the key facts about ex-gay therapies

– These are programs devised by people and organisations who are prejudiced against us and who want to bend us to their will so we can be reprogrammed to obey their organisations and churches.

– By agreeing to undergo such therapies we deny ourselves our basic human right to be ourselves, we devalue ourselves, and we harm ourselves.

– They are unethical, they damage you, they can not cure you, and in the UK, they are not approved. There is currently a Bill going through the UK Parliament – The Counsellors and Psychotherapists Bill 2013-14 – which will make them illegal.

The damage they do

The American Psychiatric Association concluded that: ”There is no published scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of reparative therapy as a treatment to change one’s sexual orientation results have not been conclusive, nor have they been replicated there is no evidence that any treatment can change a homosexual person’s deep seated sexual feelings for others of the same sex clinical experience suggests that any person who seeks conversion therapy may be doing so because of social bias that has resulted in internalised homophobia, and that gay men and lesbians who have accepted their sexual orientation positively are better adjusted than those who have not done so.”

In more detail, the harm done consists of:

– depression

– anxiety and self-destructive behaviour

– being told lies about gay people, for instance that they are always lonely and unhappy and never achieve acceptance, success or personal satisfaction

– self harm or suicide.

So gay men and lesbians are being bullied by Ex-Gay organisations into undergoing a pointless therapy which does not work but instead harms them. When they accept such treatments they are doing it for the benefit of the ex-gay organisation, not themselves.

What should we do?

If a psychiatrist or doctor has a patient who is a gay man or lesbian who has absorbed society’s lies and prejudice, and wants to change his or her sexuality, what is the correct thing to do? They should help their patient overcome those prejudices and accept themselves so they can live a normal, happy life with a partner of their own choosing.

The obvious tasks for us as gay men and lesbians who want to help others and fight prejudice are therefore to:

– counter the propaganda of these organisations with the facts

– celebrate our successes and promote role models from our community to show that we are just as likely to succeed and be happy in life as everyone else is

– support people who have been bullied into having these treatments and help them recover from them

– campaign to have these treatments legally banned.


There is an Ex-Ex-Gay Movement called Beyond Ex-Gays for people who have been through the Ex-Gay ordeal and returned to being gay.

The evidence

British Medical Journal: Treatments of homosexuality in Britain since the 1950s—an oral history: the experience of patients reviews actual case histories and explains what happened to the patients and what impact the treatments on their sexuality had. (Basically they didn’t work.)

Home Pages

Beyond Ex Gay


British Medical Journal, 19 Feb 2004: Treatments of homosexuality in Britain since the 1950s—an oral history: the experience of patients
Gay NZ, 39 March 2009: 1 in 6 psychiatrists tried to ‘turn gays straight’
UC Davis, 18 May 2012: Attempts To Change Sexual Orientation
Guardian, 1 Oct 2012: ‘Conversion therapy’ for gay patients unethical, says professional body
Huffington Post. 4 Nov 2012: Robert Spitzer, Psychiatrist Behind Controversial ‘Ex-Gay’ Study, Retracts Original Claims
Independent, 28 Feb 2014: Britain’s top psychiatrists unite to condemn ‘gay cure’ therapies as abusive and scientifically unsound
Newsweek, 5/1/14: Ex-Ex-Gay Pride
The Age, 17 January 2016:Calls to investigate ex gay movement in Australia
Mic, June 27, 2015: I Infiltrated an ‘Ex-Gay’ Group in New York City — And This Is What It Did to Me
BBC, 16 November 2017: China ‘gay conversion’: Accounts of shocks and pills



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