Tuesday, Family Research Council, an anti-gay hate group, advises that Peter Sprigg has testified before the Massachusetts legislature as that body considers banning sexual orientation change efforts on minors. Before getting into Sprigg’s testimony, what does he bring to the table? Sprigg is a Baptist minister and an employee of a hate group. What possible weight could be given to his testimony on a medical and social science matter? Where is the requisite erudition?
According to Sprigg:
Advocates of legislation like this make two central claims—that
sexual orientation change efforts (or SOCE) are ineffective, and that
they are harmful. What is the scientific evidence for these claims?
There is none—particularly with respect to minors, the population
addressed by this bill. Although the American Psychological Association
discourages such therapy, even their widely-quoted 2009 task force
report came up empty in its search for an empirical foundation—beyond
mere anecdotal evidence—for these two key arguments against it.
That’s not exactly what the APA investigation concluded. Practitioners of sexual orientation change efforts have failed to study outcomes with any degree of scientific rigor. I have often speculated that they don’t engage in rigorous study because they don’t want an investigation to reveal the inevitable — results that they do not like.
The limited number of rigorous early studies and
complete lack of rigorous recent prospective research on
SOCE limits claims for the efficacy and safety of SOCE.
Within the early group of studies, there are a small
number of rigorous studies of SOCE, and those focus on
the use of aversive treatments. These studies show that
enduring change to an individual’s sexual orientation is
uncommon and that a very small minority of people in
these studies showed any credible evidence of reduced
same-sex sexual attraction,
though some show lessened
to all sexual stimuli.
Compelling evidence of
decreased same-sex sexual
behavior and increased
attraction to and engagement in sexual behavior with
the other sex was rare. Few studies provided strong
evidence that any changes produced in laboratory
conditions translated to daily life. We found that
nonaversive and recent approaches to SOCE have not
been rigorously evaluated. Given the limited amount
of methodologically sound research, we cannot draw a
conclusion regarding whether recent forms of SOCE are
or are not effective.
And the harms?
We found that there was some evidence to indicate
that individuals experienced harm from SOCE. Early
studies do document iatrogenic effects of aversive
forms of SOCE. High dropout rates characterize early
aversive treatment studies and may be an indicator
that research participants experience these treatments
It is up to folks like Sprigg, if they want to claim expertise, to prove that the methodology is safe and effective. Instead they seek to possibly damage more children who are coerced into ineffective and toxic “therapies” in order for life to conform to the Bible. Well, modern life does not comport with Bronze Age writings of questionable provenance written by people who had little understanding of the world around them.