Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about the Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity (ATCSI) and Homosexuality
This section of the website is provided for readers who want a basic overview of the Alliance's views on a range of topics. Most of these issues are detailed more completely elsewhere on the website with professional citations provided.
Is homosexuality essentially genetically or biologically determined?
Can change or growth happen in a person's sexual orientation?
Does the Alliance support client rights and diversity?
What is the ethical basis for offering change options to people with unwanted homosexual attractions?
Is the Alliance a religious organization?
Does ethical, clinically licensed therapy (SAFE-T) for individuals with unwanted homosexual attractions harm people?
Is the Alliance (ATCSI) an anti-gay hate group?
What is the Alliance's stance on bullying or the persecution of sexual minorities?
Do Alliance therapists advocate the use of aversion or shock therapy?
Why is the work of the Alliance so opposed by some gay activists?
Are there increased psychological and physical health risks associated with homosexual behavior?
Does the Alliance - working through the clinical division - offer therapeutic services?
I heard that Sexual orientation change was discredited by the American Psychological Association? What about the 2009 APA task force on Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE)?
What kind of therapy does the Alliance (ATCSI) advocate?
What is homophobia? Are Alliance (ATCSI) supporters homophobic?
What does research reveal about homosexual parenting?
What would the Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity like others to know about its organization?
1. Is homosexuality essentially genetically or biologically determined?
No. Attempts to demonstrate that homosexuality is simply a matter of genes or biology have been unsuccessful. For example, among identical twins, if one twin identifies as gay, only about one in nine twin siblings will also identify as gay (Bailey, Dunne, & Martin, 2000). Although some in the media have used various studies to attempt to support a simple genetic or biological theory, the authors of these research articles have refuted these overreaching claims. Regarding homosexuality, there are simply no variables that are by themselves exclusively predictive of the development of homosexual feelings. On this point, the Alliance agrees with the American Psychological Association (2008) statement that, “…no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors” for a given person. At this point there is still a lot we don't know about human sexuality.
APA's New Pamphlet on Homosexuality De-emphasizes the Biological Argument, Supports a Client's Right to Self-Determination, Journal of Human Sexuality Vol. 3. Click Here
Neil E. Whitehead, Neither Genes nor Choice: Same-Sex Attraction Is Mostly a Unique Reaction to Environmental Factors, pp. 82-114.
Neil E. Whitehead, Sociological Studies Show Social Factors Produce Adult SSA, pp. 115-136.
2. Can change or growth occur in a person's sexual attractions or orientation?
Yes. Some individuals can and do experience some degree of modification in their sexual behavior, identity and attractions. Others do not. . Spontaneous change sometimes occurs and sexual orientation evidences some fluidity over time for some people, typically towards a heterosexual orientation. For example, exclusive opposite-sex attraction is approximately 17 times more stable than exclusive same-sex attraction for men and 30 times more stable than exclusive same-sex attraction for women (Whitehead & Whitehead, 2011). In addition, many individuals have reported therapy-assisted change in their sexuality, across a continuum of change that is not limited simply to identity labeling. Others have reported lesser success, but still experienced reduced attractions and chose to live in a heterosexual relationship or to be celibate. As is the case with all forms of psychological care, some individuals report a lack of change. While some people relapse, there are testimonies of persons who have maintained their changes for several decades. The fact that change is not always categorical and is experienced across a continuum is much the same as with any other human condition.
3. Does the Alliance respect client rights and diversity?
The Alliance respects each client's dignity, autonomy and free agency. We believe that clients have the right to claim a gay identity, or to diminish their homosexuality and to develop their heterosexual potential. The right to seek therapy to support a gay identity as well as to change one's sexual adaptation should be considered self-evident and inalienable. We call on our fellow mental-health association to stop falsely claiming to have "scientific knowledge" that settles the issue of homosexuality. Instead, our mental-health associations must leave room for diverse understandings of the family, of core human identity, and the meaning and purpose of human sexuality. "Tolerance and diversity" means nothing if it is extended to activists and not traditionalists on the homosexual issue. Tolerance must also be extended to those people who take the principled, scientifically supportable view that homosexuality works against our human nature.
4. What is the ethical basis for offering change options to people with unwanted homosexual attractions?
The Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity promotes self-determination, individual liberty, and the right to respond to one’s own moral conscience; these are the hallmarks and fundamentals of our modern democratic societies. The Alliance has advocated self-determination as a primary value in all of our policies. We are focused on the right of persons to deal with unwanted sexual behavior and attractions as well as the right of therapists to offer psychological care to those who wish to deal with these concerns by managing, diminishing or eliminating them rather than just identifying with and acting upon them. We acknowledge and respect the right of individuals to claim a gay identity. People have various personal, interpersonal, health, religious, and other reasons for wanting to pursue change in their unwanted same-sex attractions and behaviors. They have every right to have their values respected.
5. Is the Alliance a religious organization?
No. It is a scientific and professional organization that includes highly qualified academics, physicians, and fully licensed mental health professionals, as well as interested community leaders and members of the general public. Any number of organizations or individuals including those who are religious may use our knowledge base and professional training and presentations. The Alliance (ATCSI) affirms the right of religious belief and diversity for clients as well as therapists. Respect for religious diversity requires that mental health professionals give as much weight to religious belief as to sexual identity in offering ethical therapeutic services. Some critics have falsely accused Alliance therapists of simplistic attempts to promote change, such as “praying away the gay.” This reflects a lack of understanding of the therapeutic relationship as well as a lack of understanding of change. Sometimes people who lack understanding feel it is an easy matter to make changes in sexuality, when it almost always requires high motivation and effort – as with growth in many other aspects of life. However, the spiritual motivation and experiences of a given individual as well as religious organizational support can be a very important component in assisting people with their therapy.
6. Does ethical, clinically licensed SAFE - Therapy harm people?
There is no reliable scientific evidence that it does. Some persons who were unsuccessful in achieving their stated goals in therapy have indicated that it harmed them; others who underwent therapy and were unable to meet all of their therapeutic goals still felt it actually was helpful in determining what direction they would take. The term “harm” sometimes made in various accusations against therapy has generally not been well defined and sadly it has at times been politicized in the media, primarily relying on testimonials rather than legitimate evidence. We encourage therapists to follow the Alliance’s Practice Guidelines and take advantage of SAFE - Therapy training which encourage reviewing with every client an informed consent and acknowledgement form that clearly states "that the results of therapy will vary from individual to individual." This is really true for all forms of psychological care. People treated for many conditions may be unsuccessful, have relapses, require differing interventions, or decide to discontinue treatment altogether. The ethical principles of autonomy and self-determination lack meaning unless they also apply to individuals who pursue psychological care for various sexual issues or concerns. Most mental health associations affirm these values in their ethical guidelines as well. Additionally, there are many individuals who have reported that therapy has provided significant positive benefits in their lives.
Change Efforts Do Not Lead to Increased Suicide Attempts, Click Here
7. Is the Alliance (ATCSI) an anti-gay hate group?
Absolutely not. We affirm the right of individuals to claim a gay identity. Our clinical members only assist those individuals who freely and individually come to them seeking assistance because they are distressed about their sexual attractions. Some of our therapists have been homosexual themselves and many others have loved family members who are gay. While we have been a target of gay activism at times, we reject any notion that we foment hate or disparagement of gay-identified individuals. On the contrary, we respect a homosexual person’s freedom to pursue the life path they choose, whether that means embracing a gay identity or seeking to manage or decrease their homosexual attractions. Charges of “hate” appear aimed at demonizing and silencing viewpoints that deviate from those of the activists, and this has significantly hindering the advancement of science in this area.
8. What is the Alliance’s stance on bullying or the persecution of sexual minorities?
The Alliance joins with other organizations and individuals in condemning bullying for any reason in our schools and elsewhere. Bullying and hateful behavior is never acceptable. However, we also believe that students and parents should not be pressured to affirm homosexual identity during the fluid childhood and adolescent developmental periods as way of affirming an anti-bullying program. It is irresponsible to equate the adolescent experience of same-sex attractions as indelibly indicative of a gay, lesbian, or bisexual identity when adolescent sexual attractions can be so highly fluid, and most will eventually move towards heterosexuality (Savin-Williams & Ream, 2007). In addition, studies such as Remafedi, et al. (1991) suggest that it is prudent to discourage early sexual experience and self-labeling of sexual orientation.
The Alliance has repeatedly and publicly condemned individuals, organizations or governments that would condone or advocate any kind of direct or indirect coercion or violence directed toward any sexual minorities.
Bullying at School: never acceptable: http: // factsaboutyouth.com/posts/bullying-at-school-never-acceptable/
9. Do Alliance SAFE-T clinicians or counselors advocate the use of aversion or shock therapies?
No. The Alliance for Therapeutic Choice has never supported aversion therapies of any kind. ATCSI training and policies advocate the use of standard therapies. Specifically, we do not advocate the use of shock therapy, aversion therapy, holding therapies or any other intervention that has demonstrated potential for harm. Aversion and shock therapies were widely applied to diverse clinical problems (smoking, alcohol, sexuality, and even nail biting) in the 1960s and 1970s, and have not been applied to homosexuality by ethical therapists since the early 1980s. Sadly, the use of these discredited aversion techniques on gays and homosexuals did a great deal of harm and are rightly condemned by all principled and responsible people.
10. Why is the work of Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity so opposed by some gay activists?
Let's be fair. A great deal of harm has been done to our fellow gay and homosexual citizens over the years. Unfortunately there continue to be misunderstandings - for example, that homosexual attractions are a choice (they are not) - about the etiology of homosexuality and hurtful discrimination and even hatred directed toward gays. Hopefully we are continuing to move towards being more tolerant and caring society. Sadly, some radical political activists now seem to be redirecting this old polarizing "us against them" animosity toward people of faith or other individuals who may find homosexual behavior personally unacceptable or a gay identity unhelpful. In addition, the Alliance's position in debunking the "born that way and cannot change" myth - used to support therapy bans or the demonization of those who are uncomfortable with certain activist political positions - is apparently seen as a threat to their goals.
11. Are there increased psychological and physical health risks associated with homosexual behavior?
Yes. While some statements have been made claiming health equivalency between homosexual and heterosexual populations, the facts are that individuals who engage in homosexual behavior have a significantly greater risk for some physical and psychological health problems compared to heterosexually oriented individuals. For example, there is a 1.4% per-act probability of HIV transmission for anal sex and a 40.4% per-partner probability (Beyrer, et al., 2012). This is roughly 18 times greater than the estimated risk for vaginal intercourse.
Regarding elevated psychiatric risk, the stress of sexual-minority status appears to play a role, but other factors that are rarely if ever studied (e.g., perceptual and coping styles of homosexually oriented persons, and their manner of responding to loss of a romantic relationship) may also play a role in homosexuality. Support for this reasoning is found in the fact that sexual minorities in The Netherlands also show an elevated level of psychiatric problems (e.g., anxiety, depression, suicidality), despite the fact that The Netherlands is a country that prides itself on being welcoming to homosexuals and has widely expanded the scope of gay rights (de Graaf, Sandfort, & ten Have, 2006; Sandfort, et al., 2001).
12. Does the Alliance working through the clinical division offer therapeutic services?
Not directly. However, our membership includes clinicians who do offer therapeutic services in their own professional settings. The Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity's has developed practice guidelines and a clinical training program to aid in the delivery of such services. We also review and disseminate scientific information for use by therapists, researchers and policy makers. Our clinical members work in a variety of private and public clinics, hospitals, universities, and other institutions.
13. I heard that Sexual orientation change was discredited by the American Psychological Association? What about the 2009 APA task force on Sexual Orientation Change Efforts?
Sexual orientation change efforts is a term created by the task force and one that the Alliance would not use to identify the work of our therapists. That being said, the task force was formed to provide guidance to psychologists working with individuals who were experiencing conflicts with their homosexual attractions by reviewing the relevant literature. The task force “…concluded that there is little in the way of credible evidence that could clarify whether "SOCE" does or does not work in changing same-sex attractions” (APA, 2009, p. 28). While the Alliance concurs with some points made in the study, we see it as flawed from the outset. First, all of the highly qualified conservative psychologists who were nominated to serve on the task force were rejected. The director of the APA’s Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Concerns Office, Clinton Anderson, offered the following defense: “We cannot take into account what are fundamentally negative religious perceptions of homosexuality—they don’t fit into our world view” (Carey, 2007). Such comments support the contention that the APA leadership constitutes a “tribal-moral” community united by a particular set of “sacred values” that will embrace science when it supports their ideals but ignore or distort it as soon as it threatens a “sacred” (foundational) value (Tierney, 2011). In addition, the task force set unrealistically high standards for methodological purity in order to find grounds to dismiss any literature that supported "change" therapies (Jones, Rosik, Williams, & Byrd, 2010). By limiting the composition of the task force to gay therapists and their closely associated allies and refusing to consider research that contradicted the anti-change predisposition of task force members it is not surprising that the report that had little positive to say about it.
Response to the APA 2009 Task Force Report on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation, http://www.narth.com/docs/apataskforcereportbroch.pdf.
A Formal Response to the Report of the American Psychological Association Task Force, http://narth.com/2011/01/a-formal-response-to-the-report-of-the-american-psychological-association-task-force/
14. What kind of therapy does the Alliance (ATCSI) advocate?
The Alliance for Therapeutic Choice clinicians use a variety of conventional, common therapeutic modalities when working with their clients. Some of these approaches include cognitive, interpersonal, pdychodynamic, narrative, and group interventions, often in combination. As with treating other clinical issues, there are varying approaches used; some may be better suited than others. There are different paths into and different paths out of homosexuality and there is no Alliance clinical model. Alliance therapists do follow a set of ethical standards that we call SAFE-Therapy and must observe the Alliance Practice Guidelines. More information about the Practice Guidelines and SAFE-T can be found on the website.
15. What is homophobia? Are Alliance supporters homophobic?
The term "homophobia" is often used inaccurately to describe any person who objects to homosexual behavior on either moral, psychological or medical grounds. Technically, however, the terms actually denotes a person who has a phobia--or irrational fear--of homosexuality. Principled disagreement, therefore, cannot be labeled "homophobia."
The shortcomings of the terminology of homophobia have led to it being largely abandoned in academic circles, but its ongoing rhetorical and political effectiveness ensures that accusations of homophobia will continue to be a prime weapon in the cultural debates over the moral, legal, and political status of homosexual behavior. That being said, the Alliance (ATCSI) is not a homophobic organization. Those who level such charges appear interested in partisan advantage rather than serious discussions about the deeper issues of values, morality, and the limits of science.
16. What does research reveal about homosexual parenting?
While this is not a focus of our organizational mission we do believe that the significant robust research on parenting seems clear; mothers and fathers contribute in complementary ways to the health and development of children and , all factors considered, children do better in a home where there is a mother and a father in a committed long-term relationship. Although some organizations have taken strong political stands on this issue, attempting to equate same-sex parenting households with traditional families, research does not bear this out. A study by Mark Regnerus (Regnerus, 2012) suggested that children of homosexual parents may be significantly more vulnerable to a number of problems than children of opposite-sex parents. His study was attacked by gay-rights advocates, but after he was challenged by them, his university concluded that there was “no evidence of scientific misconduct.” Long term effects on children in homes of homosexual parents are largely unknown. We believe that statements equating same-sex parenting with traditional parenting are not empirically warranted (Marks, 2012) and put the cart of political activism ahead of the horse of science.
Mark Regnerus, "How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study," Social
Science Research Vol 41, Issue 4 (July 2012), pp. 752-770; online at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0049089X12000610
Walter R. Schumm, Child Outcomes Associated with Lesbian Parenting: Comments on Biblarz and Stacey’s 2010 Report, pp. 35-80.
17. What would the Alliance like others to know about its organization?
We would certainly like others to thoughtfully and respectfully consider all the questions and answers above. Additionally, the Alliance (ATCSI) believes the study and treatment of undesired same-sex attraction should be respected and allowed without disparagement, in a spirit of inclusiveness. Social scientists and clinical practitioners should not have to experience ad hominem (personal) attacks when pursuing legitimate inquiry and interventions. Respect for self-determination is a foundational value for anyone conducting research or interventions.
We acknowledge and respect self-determination in others, including those with whom we disagree, and request the same civility be extended to our organization. Any scientific discussion of sexual diversity should include those struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions, as well as those men and women who choose to identify themselves as ex-gay.
American Psychological Association (2008). Answers to your questions: For a better understanding of sexual orientation and homosexuality. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from www.apa.org/topics/sorientation.pdf.
American Psychological Association. (2009). Report of the APA Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation. Retrieved fromhttp://www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/resources/therapeuticresponse.pdf
Bailey, J. M., Dunne, M. P., & Martin, N. G. (2000). Genetic and environmental influences on sexual orientation and its correlates in an Australian twin sample. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78, 524-536.
Beyrer, C., Baral, S. D.,van Griensven,F., Goodreau, S.M., Chariyalertsak, S., Wirtz, A. L., & Brookmeyer, R. (2012). Global epidemiology of HIV infection in men who have sex with men. Lancet, 380, 367-377.
Carey, D. (2007, September 20). Group to review therapy stance. Oakland Tribune. Retrieved from http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4176/is_20070711/ai_n19358074
de Graaf, R., Sandfort, T. G. M., & ten Have, M. (2006). Suicidality and sexual orientation: Differences between men and women in a general population-based sample from the Netherlands. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 35, 253-262.
Herek, G. M. (2004). Beyond “homophobia”: Thinking about sexual prejudice and stigma in the twenty-first century. Seuxality Research & Social Policy, 1, 6-24.
Jones, S. L., Rosik, C. H., Williams, R. N., & Byrd, A. D. (2010). A scientific, conceptual, and ethical critique of the Report of the APA Task Force on Sexual Orientation. The General Psychologist, 45(2), 7-18. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/divisions/div1/news/fall2010/Fall%202010%20TGP.pdf
Marks, L. (2012). Same-sex parenting and children’s outcomes: A closer examination of the American psychological associations brief on lesbian and gay parenting. Social Science Research, 41, 735-751.
National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (2010). Practice guidelines for the treatment of unwanted same-sex attractions and behavior. Journal of Human Sexuality, 2, 5-65. Retrieved from http://narth.com/2011/12/narth-practice-guidelines
O’Donahue, W. T., & Caselles, C. E. (2005). Homophobia: Conceptual,definitional, and value issues. In Wright, R. H., & Cummings, N. A. (Eds.), Destructive trends in mental health: The well-intentioned path to harm (pp. 65-83). New York, NY: Routledge.
Regnerus, M. (2012). How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study. Social Science
Research, 41, 752-770.
Remafedi, G., Farrow, J., & Deiser, R. (1991). Risk factors for attempted suicide in gay and bisexual youth. Pediatrics, 87, 869-875.
Sandfort, T. G. M., de Graaf, R., Bijl, R. V., & Schnabel, P. (2001). Same-sex behavior and psychiatric disorders. Archives of General Psychiatry, 58, 85-91.
Savin-Williams, R. C., & Ream, G. L. (2007). Prevalence and stability of sexual orientation components during adolescence and young adulthood. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 36, 385-394.
Tierney, J. (2011, February 11). Social scientist sees bias within. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/08/science/08tier.html?_r=3
Whitehead, N., & Whitehead, B. (2011). My genes made me do it! A scientific look at sexual orientation. Retrieved from http://www.mygenes.co.nz/