The coronavirus has done nothing to diminish the presence of anti-LGBTQ whackjobs and their utterances.
Paul Dirks
Anti LGBTQ warrior and all-around douche bag, Rev. Paul Dirks

Canadian pastor Paul Dirks is no ordinary crackpot. No indeed. Paul Dirks, who does not seem to possess so much as an undergraduate degree, fancies himself an expert on human sexuality. A couple of years ago Dirks did some “research” titled: Gender-Inclusion Policies and Sexual Violence: A Longitudinal Analysis of Media Reports at Target Stores.

Dirks’ works were “published” to an anonymous anti-transgender site. I am certain that the peer review was impressively robust. The methodology relied on Google searches and, needless to say, Dirks does not understand what a longitudinal study is.

Undaunted, our fearless investigator tackles conversion therapy

At Witherspoon Institute’s pseudo-intellectual blog, Dirks offers: The Empirical Case against “Conversion-Therapy” Bans.

There is a grain of truth to Dirks’ subtitle:

Research over the last decade has solidified the finding that sexual minorities are far more likely to have faced adverse experiences during childhood—experiences that they ought to be able to explore in therapy.

Empirical customarily means something that is verified through observation. It then become empirical evidence which is considered to be weightier than a theory or even pure logic.

LGBTQ kids often experience adversity due to their sexuality. It might take place in school or at home. People like Mr. Dirks create that adversity due to their religious beliefs and certainties.

Dirks would have people believe that people become gay or transgender because of their adverse experiences. There is no “empirical” evidence to support that ridiculous theory.

That is because Dirks’ approach is backwards. He did not start with an hypothesis which he carefully subjected to tests.

In contrast, Mr. Dirks starts with a conclusion based upon ancient texts. He is then determined to prove that the scripture is true irrespective of the intellectual honesty (or lack thereof) involved in the effort.

Somehow, in the quest to demonstrate that conversion therapy bans are unwarranted, we get this drivel (emphasis added):

Unfortunately, in most cases there is tremendous ambiguity about which practices and services are being prohibited, which obfuscates a multitude of problems: the endangerment of previously established legal rights for individuals to choose health treatments, the removal of the professional autonomy of doctors in providing treatment according to their expertise, the question of whether “sexual orientation” includes pedophilia, and the controversy surrounding medical transition for gender identity.

I doubt that Dirks can find any case of ambiguity. For example, in the New York law banning juvenile conversion therapy (converted from all caps):

“Sexual orientation change efforts” (i) means any practice by a
mental health professional that seeks to change an individual’s sexual
orientation, including, but not limited to, efforts to change behaviors,
gender identity, or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual
or romantic attractions or feelings towards individuals of the same sex
and (ii) shall not include counseling for a person seeking to transition
from one gender to another, or psychotherapies that: (a) provide
acceptance, support and understanding of patients or the facilitation of
patients’ coping, social support and identity exploration and development, including sexual orientation-neutral interventions to prevent or
address unlawful conduct or unsafe sexual practices; and (b) do not seek
to change sexual orientation.

Ambiguous? There isn’t any room in that to ban counseling given to pedophiles. The only “controversy” surrounding gender-affirming care exists only among religious fanatics.

Yes, I know that Canadian psychologist Kenneth Zucker claims some success at gender identity conversion but he also advocates for puberty blockers and hormone replacement therapy. A recent study out of Harvard Medical School, published to JAMA Psychiatry, concludes that gender identity conversion efforts are exceptionally toxic.

Pending Canadian law doesn’t present any ambiguity either:

…conversion therapy means a practice, treatment or service designed to change a person’s sexual orientation to heterosexual or gender identity to cisgender, or to repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behaviour.
Lacking in erudition:

This last concern relates to the irony that helping children become comfortable with their natal sex would be banned in favor of experimental drug treatments and surgeries that lead to sterilization and have not been shown to alleviate psychological distress long-term. More ironic yet, and tragically so, is the fact that the studies indicate that, for the majority of children for whom their gender dysphoria remits, roughly half are same-sex-attracted. This fact leads to the stunning conclusion that a ban on conversion therapy for transgender youth assures the worst kind of conversion therapy for same-sex-attracted youth—a kind of gay eugenics. Sadly, few politicians have read the primary research, and the prevailing narrative in the mass media is that it is social “justice” to ban conversion therapy.

There are many links in the original text (above). However, there are no links to peer-reviewed research published to respected academic journals. Dirks’ favorite site for knowledge is the present outlet, Witherspoon Institute’s blog. The rest of the links are to anonymous anti-transgender blogs.

The presentation of a false choice articulates intellectual dishonesty. The suggested choice is conversion therapy or radical interventions.

That is a false narrative. Prior to entering puberty, gender incongruent children receive no drug treatments and certainly not surgery. Even then, they might receive puberty blockers which the Pediatric Endocrine Society has concluded are fully reversible.

Dirks is confusing medications with transitioning and he has no clue what he is talking about. At least two recent studies demonstrate that transgender youth who are allowed to socially transition have mental health (anxiety and depression) comparable to their cisgender peers.

Yes, gender dysphoria does go away in most children. However, persistence is directly linked to the severity of the condition and only the most acutely affected youth actually transition. Among those kids, desistance is extremely rare.

It is Dirks’ final sentence in that paragraph that is truly pathetic: “Sadly, few politicians have read the primary research…”

Rev. Dirks doesn’t seem to have read any of the peer-reviewed research regarding gender identity. His “wisdom” comes from anonymous websites with names like: Woman Means Something.

From this point forward, text is substantially edited to alleviate painful verbosity as if weight=substance:

…researchers have known for some time that gay men, in particular, are far more likely than heterosexual men to have been sexually assaulted as children or adolescents…

Research is inconclusive. There are studies that correlate childhood sexual abuse to homosexuality and other studies which conclude otherwise. However, the overwhelming majority of gay people were never abused as children. Moreover, the overwhelming majority of people who were abused as children do not become gay adults.

Even with the contention that a link exists, the prevailing majority opinion is that gay children are more vulnerable to abuse than their heterosexual peers.

But even if childhood abuse does cause people to become gay (as unlikely as that is to be so), there is no evidence that conversion therapy works. There is substantial evidence that it is harmful. Quoting (at length) from that same New York law banning juvenile conversion therapy:

The American Psychological Association convened a Task Force on
Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation. The task force
conducted a systematic review of peer-reviewed journal literature on
sexual orientation change efforts, and issued a report in 2009. The task
force concluded that sexual orientation change efforts can pose critical
health risks to lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people, including
confusion, depression, guilt, helplessness, hopelessness, shame, social
withdrawal, suicidality, substance abuse, stress, disappointment, self-
blame, decreased self-esteem and authenticity to others, increased self-
hatred, hostility and blame toward parents, feelings of anger and
betrayal, loss of friends and potential romantic partners, problems in
sexual and emotional intimacy, sexual dysfunction, high-risk sexual
behaviors, a feeling of being dehumanized and untrue to self, a loss of
faith, and a sense of having wasted time and resources.

Yet Dirks drones on:

…in one of the largest studies to date, the researchers found that a wide range of ACEs [adverse childhood experiences], from parental divorce to physical abuse, were elevated for both bisexuals and homosexuals when compared to heterosexuals.

Dirks links to 2013 research which consists of a probability sample. The conclusion reads:

Sexual minority individuals have increased exposure to multiple developmental risk factors beyond physical, sexual and emotional abuse. We recommend the use of the Adverse Childhood Experiences scale in future research examining health disparities among this minority population.

Read that again. What it says is that LGBTQ kids have greater exposure to adverse events. In no way does that mean that adverse events cause a child to be gay or gender incongruent.

Furthermore, banning conversion therapy does not ban conventional therapy to address these issues. It is not the intent of psychotherapy to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of patients.


…some of these adverse childhood experiences cannot be associated with the prevailing minority-stress theory. The minority-stress theory posits that sexual minorities face both overt victimization as well as more subtle structural stigma in society, and that these experiences are responsible for the elevated rates of mental disorder, substance abuse, and physical illness found in this population.

Minority-stress is not a theory. It is accepted as fact within the scientific community. LGBTQ people do, in point of fact, have a higher prevalence of poor mental health and a lower quality of life in general when compared to heterosexual, cisgender persons. That is attributed to minority stress.

Even if we dismiss minority stress as causative, that does not mean that some form of conversion therapy will improve the mental health or quality of life of LGBTQ individuals. The evidence is quite the contrary.

The American Psychiatric Association published a position statement
in March of 2000 in which it stated: “Psychotherapeutic modalities to
convert or ‘repair’ homosexuality are based on developmental theories
whose scientific validity is questionable.”

…the fact that many LGBT people have childhood trauma in their past argues that these experiences ought to legally be able to be explored in therapy. This is especially the case for minors, a group that are often singled out as a particular reason for banning therapy related to sexual orientation or gender identity.

Dirks is mixing up adverse events, sexual abuse and trauma all of which mean different things. Furthermore, the fact that a greater percentage of LGBTQ people have a history of adverse childhood experiences than the general population does not mean that “many LGBT people have childhood trauma in their past.” More and many are two different things.

Therapy is not banned for children. Conversion therapy is banned. The intent of professional therapy is not to change someone’s sexual orientation of gender identity. The underling question is: What is the intent of the parent? “Make him straight” is very different from “find out why he is unhappy.”

The studies show that teens and young adults are much more likely to identify as sexual minorities than the adult population. Prevalence of homosexuality is challenging to determine…

That is probably incorrect. Dirks doesn’t understand his own links. Nor does he understand the effect of time. Frankly, it is very easy to find out if your kid is gay. Ask them. If a parent is non-threatening and non-judgmental he or she will get an honest answer. It might present a real challenge for one of these Christian zealots to learn if their child is gay while thumping Leviticus.

Moreover, adolescents and young adults are much more likely than adults to experience change in their sexual identities and attractions. One large, longitudinal study found that over 80 percent of same-sex-behaved adolescents became exclusively heterosexually behaved after six years.

Nope. Uh-uh. Doesn’t say that. Not even close. The study is of pubertal onset and sexual orientation. Here’s where the six years comes into play:

Using 6-year longitudinal data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health (Add Health) and multiple measures of puberty as it occurs and of sexual orientation (romantic attraction, sexual identity), the present study attempted to replicate previous research which reported that homosexuals and heterosexuals differed in their age of pubertal onset.

If that’s not clear enough:

The only significant findings regarding homosexual males indicated that they were more likely to report having a later rather than an earlier onset of puberty, and the significant findings regarding homosexual females were contradictory—they tended to have an earlier onset of puberty.

Over eight years, between the ages of fourteen and twenty-two, it found fluidity in sexual identity to be highly prevalent. No less than 63 percent of the total participants reported at least one change in their sexual orientation over the eight years; in the “lesbian” class, the girls averaged three orientation changes.

Wrong again! According to the study (emphasis added):

Within this large sample of girls, several distinct sexuality trajectories emerged. Trajectories are relatively stable from adolescence to young adulthood.

Aside from being wrong about the study conclusions, fluidity and conversion are two entirely different things. Fluidity means that some people experience natural changes in their sexuality. That is quite distant from claiming that sexuality can be influenced by the efforts of others to do so.

I have no idea what his point is or what the following has to do with conversion therapy:

The studies … indicate that the factors leading to homelessness in sexual minority youth are exactly the same as in heterosexual youth: family conflict, desire for freedom, and difficulties with family members. Sexual minority youth simply experience these things more often. Again, family dysfunction seems to be the culprit.

He said it himself. Sexual minority youth experience more friction. I think that what he is trying to assert is that

  • because gay homeless youth come from dysfunctional families
  • it is the dysfunction which caused them to be gay in the first place 
  • which means that conversion therapy will work by resolving the dysfunction.

Except that it is the other way around. The presence of sexual minority youth exacerbates dysfunctionality. It is the parents that need psychotherapy, not the child.

Many lines of evidence lead to the conclusion that some sexual-minority adults—and particularly youth—may face confusion about their sexual identities, attractions, or behaviors on account of childhood trauma or dysfunction.

Dirks hasn’t presented any such evidence. Saying so doesn’t mean that it exists no matter how much Paul Dirks wishes it to be. I have seen no studies suggesting that LGBTQ youth are confused. In conservative Christianese any kid who is not cisgender and heterosexual is confused which is to say, in effect, that the science surrounding sexual orientation and gender identity is invalid.

“They” claim that youth are confused in order to attempt to make a case that a therapist can un-confuse the kids. It is Paul Dirks who is profoundly confused.

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By David Cary Hart

Retired CEO. Formerly a W.E. Deming-trained quality-management consultant. Now just a cranky Jewish queer. Gay cis. He/Him/His.