The American Psychological Association has agreed that mental-health workers should not tell patients they can change their sexual orientation. An Association task force reviewed extensive research literature on the subject and found no good evidence that “reparative therapy” — therapy to turn gays and lesbians straight — can actually work. But there is evidence that distress over sexual orientation can affect mental health in other ways.
Some highlights from the task force’s report:
- Same-sex attractions are “normal and positive variants of human sexuality”
- Gays, lesbians and bisexuals “form stable, committed relationships and families that are equivalent to heterosexual relationships and families in essential respects”
- Homosexuality and bisexuality are stigmatized, and “this stigma can have a variety of negative consequences … throughout the life span”
- Some patients nevertheless consider religious and spiritual life to be more important than sexuality. They may “choose to live their lives in accordance with personal and religious values” — for example, by remaining celibate
After the report was completed, task force chair Judith Glassgold gave a statement. She says:
Scientifically rigorous older studies in this area found that sexual orientation was unlikely to change due to efforts designed for this purpose. Contrary to the claims of [sexual orientation change] practitioners and advocates, recent research studies do not provide evidence of sexual orientation change as the research methods are inadequate to determine the effectiveness of these interventions.
If you’re curious what goes on in these gay-to-straight therapy sessions, Salon had a not-so-rosy review a few years back. You can read it here.