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social sciences

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Reparative Therapy  
page: 1  2  

Moreover, the claims of cure tend to focus on abstinence rather than a change in the object of desire, a position consistent with reparative therapy's tendency to see homosexuality not as an orientation but as a "preference" and a behavior. Thus, if a person refrains from sexual activity and becomes functionally asexual, reparative-therapy proponents claim a "cure."

Interestingly, only one of the ex-gay leaders has claimed a complete change of sexual orientation. Alan Medinger (of "Regeneration" ministry, Baltimore) claimed in the 1980s to have lost all homosexual desire after a cathartic night of prayer. Yet even he admitted that he was bisexually oriented before this "conversion," and can only demonstrate to have denied fully the homosexual side of his bisexuality.

Sponsor Message.

Honest analysts admit that abstinence of sexual activity cannot be judged as reorientation from homosexuality to heterosexuality. "Change" thus devolves into semantics; one can only change one's behavior, not one's orientation.

For a few people, reparative therapy may provide some initial relief from intense, internalized . Ex-gay Christian ministries are often the first group to tell a depressed homosexual that her or his "sin" will not necessarily condemn her or him to hell, a welcome respite from the more overt vilification still prevalent in conservative religious circles.

The more secular practitioners of reparative therapy often deny homophobia and even claim to support basic civil rights for homosexuals and to oppose stigmatization of homosexuals, so their clients often experience an acceptance that they find difficult to give themselves.

(It is important to note, however, that nearly all the position statements adopted by NARTH are in opposition to glbtq rights, supporting instead the rights of anti-gay groups. Its guise of political neutrality with regard to homosexual civil rights simply masks an anti-gay political agenda.)

Ultimately, however, reparative therapy does not work. Most clients fail to "convert" even to an emotionally healthy state of abstinence (much less to heterosexuality). They commonly are left more disillusioned and isolated than when they started. Frequently, they "come out" of the closet with a lasting animus toward religion.

Reparative therapy may be judged as a well-meaning but misguided and potentially destructive attempt to resolve the tension between homosexual orientation and conservative social and religious views. It has been embraced by such enemies of the glbtq rights movement as Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Lou Sheldon, and others who would "reclaim" America by "rolling back" the so-called gay rights agenda.

In 1998, the board of trustees of the American Psychiatric Association unanimously voted that reparative therapy is dangerously misguided, observing that "the potential risks of 'reparative therapy' are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior, since the therapist's alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient."

Randolph Baxter

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Bieber, Irving. Homosexuality: A Psychoanalytic Study of Male Homosexuals. New York: Vintage, 1962.

Drescher, Jack. Psychoanalytic Therapy and the Gay Man. New York: Analytic Press, 1998.

Duberman, Martin. Left Out: The Politics of Exclusion: Essays 1964-2002. Cambridge, Mass.: South End Press, 2002.

Evangelicals Concerned With Reconciliation.


Ford, Jeffry G. "What Is Reparative Therapy."

"Introduction to Reparative and Similar Therapies."

Love in Action.

Moberly, Elizabeth R. Psychogenesis: The Early Development of Gender Identity. Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1983.

National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality.

Nicolosi, Joseph. Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality: A New Clinical Approach. Northvale, N. J.: Aronson, 1991.

Socarides, Charles. The Overt Homosexual. New York: Grune & Stratton, 1968.


    Citation Information
    Author: Baxter, Randolph  
    Entry Title: Reparative Therapy  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2004  
    Date Last Updated January 6, 2006  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc.  


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