Thursday, November 1, 2012

Ex-gays protest view that therapy doesn't work

NY Times   Mr. Smith is one of thousands of men across the country, often known as “ex-gay,” who believe they have changed their most basic sexual desires through some combination of therapy and prayer — something most scientists say has never been proved possible and is likely an illusion. 

 Ex-gay men are often closeted, fearing ridicule from gay advocates who accuse them of self-deception and, at the same time, fearing rejection by their church communities as tainted oddities. Here in California, their sense of siege grew more intense in September when Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law banning use of widely discredited sexual “conversion therapies” for minors — an assault on their own validity, some ex-gay men feel.

Signing the measure, Governor Brown repeated the view of the psychiatric establishment and medical groups, saying, “This bill bans nonscientific ‘therapies’ that have driven young people to depression and suicide,” adding that the practices “will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery.” 

 But many ex-gays have continued to seek help from such therapists and men’s retreats, saying their own experience is proof enough that the treatment can work. 


  1. you might want to watch this video to see the problem of "straightening out gays for religious reasons" from a different perspetive: the perspective of the wife.

    this is a mormon woman (mormons are very anti-gay) who married a gay (mormon) man (without knowing he was gay) who later cheated on her with men and eventually died of AIDS.

    she wrote a book about her experience and is a very vocal advocate against pressuring gays into heterosexual marriages for religious reasons.

    there are several more interviews with the same person, which appear next to this one.

  2. I expect this post to become a frenetic discussion and debate on the subject. There is an organization that operates within the frum community that purports to successfully accomplish the "conversion" with therapy. There are signatures from many rabbonim on a document that essentially urges anyone who is frum and gay to undergo this treatment, and includes statements about the effectiveness of this intervention. The statement bears signatures of many renowned rabbonim, roshei yeshivos, and several mental health professionals. Yet, many others have refused to lend their signatures or support. Why? Because the research to indicate success in this venture does not support the position. In fact, research just shows that conversion therapies do not work. According to the data cited by the California governor, it seems that there is actually evidence to the contrary, that it promotes depression and even suicide.

    One would expect that a professional that engages in this controversial approach would be a strong salesman for it, and has whamdoozled many into signing the "document". Such behavior is not professional at all, and should be condemned. Likewise, there have been serious allegations that this organization has employed "therapy" techniques that are seriously unethical, and that those who allow this should be stopped by their respective professional organizations and by the states in which they practice.

    Let it be noted that this organization advertises (quoting support from rabbonim and professionals) on various frum websites, and thus claims legitimacy. Truth is that science does not support efficacy, and there are indications to the contrary.

    1. Allegations of abuse or ineffectiveness may be true, but the scientific evidence is suspect, and we need to be careful about concluding that all such therapies do more harm than good, based on the data currently available. Academics are so overwhelmingly liberal that if they had data showing it was effective, they wouldn't publish it. We need independent studies done by objective scientists who have no stake in the issue. And of course we need transparency and reliable information so that therapists aren't abusing people.

    2. The organization you are referring to is called The Torah Declaration The only charedi rabbi that I found arguing with them is Rabbi Ahron Feldman shlita on this page which is a good resource page for this entire discussion.

    3. That was a beautiful, inspiring letter for any Jew, of any sexual orientation. I appreciate you providing the link.

  3. The homosexual lobby is pressuring medical organizations to claim this treatment is ineffective.

  4. Could anyone tell me if there is a Sefer Hilchot Halloween, especially Minhag Amerikaim, where this festival originates.
    I understand that the Ashkenazim do not eat pumpkins or kitniot, and that Chassidim do not daven on the nittel, but instead wear 3 sets of tefillin in the morning.
    Sephardim are allowed rice, but not brown rice.
    Also, I heard that the Gay Orthodox congregation of san fransisco say Hallel without a bracha.


    You might want to publish this article too, as a separate post, for good measure...

  6. There are indeed persons who change sexual orientation during their lifetime. But I think it is dangerous to conclude from this fact that "any homosexual can be converted to heterosexuality if he puts in enough effort". This is a completely different statement.

    So even if there are cases where "conversion therapy" works, there are also cases where conversion therapy and similar approaches does a lot of harm, from unhappy marriages to suicide.

    The first objective of medicine or therapy is to prevent harm.

    I don't think that religion is sufficient reason to inflict harm and risk suicides. The religious communities should understand this as a basic principle and open up to the misery caused by denial of homosexuality and stop forcing heterosexual marriages on homosexuals. It is not only bad for the gay person, but also for the spouse...

  7. Well the Ramban holds that homosexualism develops from overindulgence in sex. Putting that aside I would say that psychology should be kept as close to the scientific method as possible - anecdotal evidence out the window and conclusions based on statistics based research. Otherwise you can claim anything. The truth may be that the efficacy of therapy depends on why someone is homosexual. If genetics based therapy may be less effective. If environment based (e.g. Greece where it had tremendous vogue) therapy might help a guy get back to where he started.

  8. "Well the Ramban holds that homosexualism develops from overindulgence in sex."

    You mean in heterosexual sex? I suppose it has been shown for a long time that this is not true, as a general rule - might happen in isolated cases, but I don't think this is how it works in most cases.

  9. The best way to cure it is not to worry about it. Just get married to a person of the opposite sex, don't cheat on her/him, and live your life.

  10. The problem is that it became political issue not a therapeutic one. Most people are not 100% heterosexual or 100% homosexual, most people are between and their sexual orientation can fluctuate thru the years. This is why there are so many people who identify themselves as bisexual.

    It exists even in the frum community, you can ask any beis yaakov girl about the phenomenon of "meshicha" between two girls.

    Some choshuv rabbis like the Haredi rav Leib Tropper actually encourage their spouses and their students to get involved in lesbian sex.

    In any case, if homosexuality can be cured, why no pedophilia

  11. Kayden asked, "In any case, if homosexuality can be cured, why no pedophilia?"

    There are two features to pedophilia. One is challenging, but often improves with treatment and considerable effort. That feature is the addiction to sexual acting out. It yields to intervention much as other addictions do. It is often difficult, but possible. There are sometimes relapses, sometimes a switch in the addictive behavior, but good treatment and a major dose of effort and commitment bring about much improvement.

    The second feature is common to many criminals - the tendency to victimize others for one's own immediate gratification. For all the years that prisons have existed, there was complete failure to find the "rehabilitative" benefits of incarceration. Perhaps a few have been scared straight, but on the whole, the best reasons for imprisoning a criminal is to protect the public. The point is that the pedophile has no hesitation to make another person suffer. This has no cure. Even if the sexual addiction were to improve, the tendency to victimize would remain, and nothing the public needs will have been accomplished. The sexual predator should be treated, but let's not play all our cards in believing that he will become safe to the public.

  12. Both pedophilia and homosexuality are both correctable degenerative conditions.

    1. Who claims success at correcting pedophilia? References please.

  13. A Torah View On Homosexuality by Rav Aharon Feldman – Just published Fall 2012!

  14. I'm a therapist who works with people around the world who are suffering with homosexual attractions, and for about 10 years now I've been running a group in Jerusalem for men who are struggling with this issue.
    There's a lot to say on the matter -- it's really a complex issue. The recently published article cited above by Rav Aharon Feldman is a good place to start. I will add two things that relate to the discussion here. First, therapy is frequently effective in reducing the intensity and frequency of homosexual attractions, and often results in increased attraction to the opposite gender. Second, counseling by a competent, experienced therapist is rarely harmful. On the contrary, we usually see a reduction in depression and self-destructive tendencies, which is not surprising when someone finally gets to talk openly with another human being who respects their values and doesn't try to convince them that they will only find fulfillment through a gay lifestyle.
    Both these ideas are backed up by research, but keep in mind that this field is fraught with political and social biases that influence what gets published and how results are presented.
    Again, this is not the forum for it, but if someone wants to write to me I can email some research articles and share some of my experiences. I don't know if contact information is allowed here, but if you search around the web you'll probably find me. You can also look at some of the articles at .

    I'm impressed by the tone of the discussion so far. On many online forums people people don't really hear each other. Here there is a healthy dialogue.

    Kol tov,

    Shlomo Zalman (Adam) Jessel
    Matityahu, Israel


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