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Homo- and Hetero-statistical
Can homosexuals become "ex-gay"? Some people think so. The leading conversion group, Exodus International, refuses to publish any verifiable statistics on success rates. Another program, Living Waters, claims a 90% conversion rate without any evidence. Two independent researchers found that only 15% of people who entered the Exodus program were converted to heterosexuality after three years. An additional 23% are now assexual. Hooray! That's a win?

My problem with "ex-gay" success rates is that all the participants of Exodus International actively searched out the program and entered it with a strong desire to change. It's a self-selecting sample, creating a huge bias. I'd like to test that theory, with your help.

So, my question is: how many of you out there have ever tried to change your sexual orientation? Of course, this is also a self-selecting sample, only recording my gay, lesbian, and transgender friends who read my LiveJournal, and who felt like responding. The best idea would be randomized sample of all people, gay or straight... but doing that large of a survey would be impossible (finding subjects, people refusing to answer, lying, defining homosexuality, etc.) However, I want to see how many LJers have tried to become straight and failed.

Have you ever tried to change your sexual orientation? And how?

Entered a dedicated long-term "ex-gay" conversion program
Attended one or a few short-term sessions, each lasting a weekend or month or so
Went to a few "ex-gay" meetings or lectures, but never seriously joined any program
Tried to "pray the gay away" with a church group or counselor
Studied on your own, reading "ex-gay" books or websites
Used pure force of will to banish gay thoughts, or stopped masturbating
Never ever tried to change your sexual orientation
I am "ex-gay"

Without prejudicing the results by sharing my hypothesis, I'm guessing that 99% of my gay friends have tried not to be homosexual at some point in their lives. Either during adolescence and puberty, or perhaps at a catastrophic low point in our lives. I'd bet that almost all gay men in the US have tried to become straight, even if only for a week or two (or a day) and failed. That's over 12 million failures.

Exodus International only has 120 local ministries in the US. Even if one hundred men are enrolled at each ministry (a huge overestimate) and if it is indeed true 90% of them are cured each year, that's only 10,000 successful "ex-gays". That's not even 0.001% of the total estimated US gay population! Is Exodus International proud of the fact that only one *thousandth* of a percent of gay men in the US are converting sucessfully to become "ex-gay"? Are they saying that their cult is the only one that works?

Note: results and comments are not anonymous

I think it may have crossed my mind once or twice, but I never activly tried. But I am way too fucking stubborn to try and change myself to suit others. I just got beeat up a lot and it made me even more determined.

If you lived on a desert island without any human contact for your entire life, would you still be gay?

I feared that my parents would try to make me go to ex-gay "therapy". My dad was a christian counselor when I was growing up...

The concept of "ex gay" doesn't admit of the concept of bisexuality. Someone might be, say, 75% gay - so there's some attraction to women they can express. My personal feeling is that these programs just force people into expressing whatever attraction for the opposite sex that they already have while suppressing expression of their attraction for the same sex.

That's on top of the fact that, as you say, they're self-selected to want to do this.

I answered "never ever" - because I haven't. I don't consider some angst over the issue while coming to grips with it to really count. Once I realized that, yes, I'm gay - over and done with.

(cough) My dirty little LJ secret is that I'm actually bisexual but I don't say it out loud. I think women are hot, particularly kinky ones who have fetishes and are into no-strings-attached sex. So yeah... I'm attracted to women (and transpeople in both directions) who act like gay men!

I was wondering about angst. So, internal turmoil really doesn't count? My theory is that some attempt to be straight had to be made by taking a notable action: dating only girls for an extended period of time, or throwing away a collection of gay pornography. Did the angst last longer than a week?

Edited at 2009-03-16 10:27 pm (UTC)

Well I tried both Exodus and Living Waters. Actually, I could mark all but the last 2 in your poll. Hell I even got married to please my Mom. Hows that for a mama's boy? I was out at 17, back in the closet at 22. Then at 42 I burned the closet, divorced, and I have never been more happy with myself in my life. No more lies.

Thank you for your story. YOu know more about this topic that the rest of us! I tried to arrange the choice top down from most exposure to "ex-gay" conversion therapies to least impact. Did you vote? I would have hoped to see at least one person choose the top-most option.

Thanks, and I'm glad you're gay. I welcome you like a brother! As for those closeted self-hating gay men who claim they are straight... well, maybe it's best to "thin the herd". There are some people we don't want in our club!

I don't know about the late bloomers like me who took a while to realize, without drama, that they were actually gay all along but once I came to that conclusion that I, ciddyguy, is actually another 'mo in this town, and once that was done, I never looked back, skipped the Bi part for it never occured to me that the V thing in women was attractive and realized that much I think back in HS.

So I put down never tried to change my sexuality, just acknowledged I was and let it go from there.

I've considered joining an ex gay group because I bet all that guilt makes for really hot sex. Would that be wrong??

It's probably a really good place to meet men.

I have never thought there was anything wrong with being gay.

And, from the moment I realized that I was gay, I have never wanted, or attempted, to be straight. I do occasionally engage in the pursuit of wondering what I would be like if I were straight, but not because I want to.

I'm definitely in the wouldn't change to straight if I could category. (I mean, if it was necessary for the survival of humanity for me to get a woman pregnant and help here raise the children, I could, but that is far from being the case.)

It is often said that gays are threatened by bisexuals. Particularly, but not exclusively in the case of bisexual males, there is a presumption that bisexuals are not willing to give up the acceptance of heterosexuality. I personally have had several bisexuals confide to me that they are more comfortable in same-gender relationships, but want to be viewed as "normal."

Is your presumption that all gays would change if they could, juxtaposed with your outing yourself as bisexual, trying to tell us something?

>Is your presumption that all gays would change
>if they could, juxtaposed with your outing yourself
>as bisexual, trying to tell us something?

Wow! You always play hardball, Sir. My conclusion was exactly the opposite... most gays stay gay because they couldn't change even if they wanted to. Which they don't. Only a very small minority can become asexual, and fewer than that can truly "change" = those that were probably bisexual in the first place. I didn't mean to imply that all gays wanted to do be straight. I enjoy too many things about gay culture (bikers! getting dirty! being piggy! rough sex! blue collar guys! wrestling! ah... there are too many things to cite) to wish to solely live in a straight world (titty bars! forced monogamy! swingers! accidental pregnancy! objectifying women! hugh hefner!). My outing was incidental to the post, not related.

I was really off by my 99% prediction. Fewer of my friends have tried to change than I expected. Perhaps coming out as gay is nice because you can stay in the closet until you are ready... by the time you make your mind up, you've made your mind up and there is no reason to second guess yourself. I was waaaay wrong about that. Maybe because I'm bisexual I could have an easier time of having sex solely with women if I had to. So, to me it might have been a conscious choice: I could stay straight and live a loveless but easier life in the straight world, or I could admit I liked guys and go for the glory of hot sex, intense connections, and bears. (bears!)

For the record, I'm just theoretically bisexual... the opportunity for meeting women hasn't arisen often since I live and play in the gay ghetto of the bay area. I just like kinky people: men, women, FtM, MtF, unlabeled. I just find it easier to meet men that are into what I'm into.

Edited at 2009-03-17 12:26 am (UTC)

FYI, the results are NOT anonymous (yet). Click the Poll link then "View Poll Results" then "View answers" - voila'.

Shoot... I think it's too late for that now, so I can't fix it. I added a disclaimer at the end instead. Thanks for the catch.

I've never considered orientation as a choice, always felt that I was intended to be exactly what/who I am. That's not to say that I came out right away .. didn't do that officially till I was 36. My reluctance was simply because I felt it was no one's business, but my own.

As far as I'm concerned, there is no church or religion that's an expert on anything of relevance to me. I felt angst over acceptance by family and friends, but never thought that the Bible was the final "word" on anything. It is a work of fiction, not fact. Nor, does it contain any truth about sexuality, straight, Gay or anywhere on the continuum.

But if you didn't call yourself gay before age 36... wheren't you straight by default? Could I call you a gay man fighting against self-acceptance by kicking the can down the road to think about it later?

Were there times I wished I weren't gay in my teens? Sure.

Did I do anything on your list to change that fact, or do anything beyond wishing? Nope....

I've always enjoyed being gay. If there was any way I could be even gayer, I'd do it.

I did have some guilt at one time about being kinky. Until I actually got kinky with someone else.

Now I save all the guilt for the Hostess snack cake I'm about to eat! Oy!

& what's that mock religious website -- Betty Bowers? I wish someone would put together an "ex-straight ministry" website. It'd be a lot of fun to set up the reorientation program.

"I did have some guilt at one time about being kinky. Until I actually got kinky with someone else."

I am going through this right now, coming out as a fetishist is much harder for me than coming out as a gay man. and man do I feel that guilt, and some shame from time to time.

I can feel the closet door beginning to swing open, but as of it, it still is holding me in a bit.

I haven't even figured out my sexual orientation - some kind of gray asexual, maybe. I can't stand touching people, and sometimes I wonder if it's because of some sort of guilt or what, but my years in occupational therapy didn't make a difference.

But I am transgender (in the sense of not identifying as what my parents announced me to be when I was a baby), and I did grow up in a right wing religious community, and I was out from a very young age (preschool), and I did try to suppress it, and I did get "help" from rabbis and a therapist. It didn't work. The best I could do was hide any gender expression; the gender expression they wanted from me hurt horribly and I never got anywhere with it.

Going on hormones strongly affected my sexuality, although not enough to direct it at people in any useful way.

Unlike your other commenters (by the way) I don't see anything wrong with trying to change your sexual orientation. I think more people are bisexual than want to admit it.

Wow! Thanks for sharing. No... I think the idea that sexual orientation or gender can be changed willingly is terrifying to a lot of gay men, myself included. I enjoy wearing Carhartts so much that it scares me to think I'd be a different person next year who loved wearing makeup and dresses - it would be a like a different Patrick - a pod person stolen away by aliens and replaced with the exact opposite.

So, gay guys stay gay. I don't even have an interest in exploring other gender roles. To me, if I tried to be a "sissy maid", it would be so ridiculous that it's kind of offensive to the law of nature. So, while you've thought about gender a *lot*, I'm sure... a lot of gay guys are clueless. I'd love to hear more about your journey and "stuff".

Try to change?


I hate thinking back on that period of time of 'questioning', though. Today, I'd judge that _all_ the internal resistance was related to isolation, perceived or real, not trying to wish away the gay. Hell, it was 'the gay' that made me feel ALIVE.

Meanwhile, a propos of nothing (translate-don't read into this, it's just associations), I'll share my favor lines from the movie "Three to Tango", in which Oscar's friend, Peter, covers for Oscar, who is pretending to be gay, at a formal affair in front of the guy from who they are trying to get awarded an achitectural contract:


[boss's wife?]
I'd like to introduce you
to Oscar Novak and Peter Steinberg.

Congratulations. Your design is superb.
We were just discussing it.

I'm sorry. This is...
...my girlfriend, Amy.

And, Amy, this is...
...my boss, Charles.

I'm sorry.
Aren't you gay?

Excuse me?
Didn't I read that you were gay?

Well, yes, I am. [long awkward pause]

[Oscar's friend, Peter, jumping in to save the day]
Oscar's omnisexual.
He swings...
...every which way.

Of course, there's the other shoe:

Most gays don't want me, or care that I exist. Most gays perceive me as straight because of my appearance.

I'm left with an ever-shrinking 1% of the gay community.

Too bad I ain't more mainstream.

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