Jones and Yarhouse Study Results: 38% “Success”

 The “big news:” 

Exodus can describe 38 percent of its programs’ participants as successes, changing to either a “meaningful but complicated” heterosexuality (15 percent) or a stable chastity (23 percent).

Two articles from Christianity Today:

The Best Research Yet

An Older, Wiser Ex-Gay Movement

( Yikes!  I’m becoming one of those “link-y” people. )

Yes, criticism and concerns will follow.  But not right now.  All I will say now is that “meaningful but complicated heterosexuality” made me laugh out loud.  🙂


22 Responses to Jones and Yarhouse Study Results: 38% “Success”

  1. Pomo says:

    Thanks for these! You’re the first i’ve seen mention them so i sent them out to the troops 🙂 I’m interested to hear how this all plays out and how both sides use it for their advantage. I’ve always believed “change” is possible, just not for very many people. And this latest data seems to show that. But 38% isnt a very high percentage.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I don’t find “meaningful but complicated” funny at all. Just ask the woman who is going in for her HIV test after her husband has been hooking up in anonymous encounters how amusing this all is.

  3. NNR says:

    Now come on. Is there a reason this study isn’t published in the peer-reviewed literature? Good journals love controversy – it’s great publicity for them. If someone submits a paper that knocks out a sacred cow in a scientifically valid way, they’d scramble to publish it. It’s very disappointing that no one seems to be willing to perform high quality studies on this subject. We deserve much better quality answers than this.

    I look forward to your critique.

  4. Karen K says:

    I think this study is good in that it is opening up the eyes of the Christian community that having a homosexual orientation is not something one can just pray away and everything is all better. I think this study might actually help Christians be more empathetic.

    I think Alan’s comments to the media in recent months and at Exodus were stated with this study in mind. The study clearly shows that a good percentage don’t experience change and that needs to be addressed more openly.

    I was actually surprised at the low success rate. I knew that it would likely be less than 50%, but its lower than I thought it would be. The success rate in change is not actually 38%. It is 15%. The 38% number includes the 23% who are successful in the sense that they are maintaining stable celibacy. The study seems reliable simply because it does show how few are finding change. If they had tainted data, I think the numbers would be more inflated.

    I hope this study opens up more dialogue in the evangelical community about the issue of singleness and celibacy. Catholics are better at talking about that, but not most Protestants. How do we better minister to the other 85%? I hope that question is seriously addressed by more Christians and Exodus ministries.

    I also hope more studies are done that can replicate the findings. It is an interesting question for the psychological community. The majority of people did not experience change, but that does not negate that 15% did. I think this is where self-determination comes into play. A person should have the right to go to therapy to try to change if they want to, or to address coping with single celibacy, etc. The APA is wrong to limit therapists work with clients in this area. That is definitely paternalistic.

  5. Ben in Oakland says:

    I have not read the study, and probably won’t. Christian polemics thinly veneered as science have little attraction for me. But i have read a number of articles about it, and they seem to agree in these particulars. 15% experience change, but it is meanful but complicated. This implies that they have been able to change behaviour, but not orientation. They believe they have changed, but admit that it isn’t quite so simple. 23% are celibate–no change in orientation, just behaviour. And the rest– well, they didn’t change. And a whole bunch of people left the study. And it relies on self-reportage, not rigorous testing. Self reportage by people who are highly motivated to report change and appear to have changed, and who are highly motivated to “fudge” (giggle) their results? Shades of Ted Haggard.

    I say that what the study has proved beyond a doubt is not that change is or isn’t possible, but that belief in Jeebus and giving money to ex-gay ministries has no effect on sexual orientation. it just keeps feeding the people who make money off of promoting hatred and fear of gay people.

    Alan “Ex”ambers is at least somewhat honest, though disingenuous. but as Mark Twain observed: “Tell me where a man gets his corn=pone, and i’ll tell you what his ‘pinions are.”

  6. Karen K says:

    The fact that the 15% experienced a complicated heterosexuality doesn’t mean they didn’t experience any change. They did. It bothers me that while the ex-gay community is willing to concede that many gays don’t change, that the gay community can’t even tolerate allowing for a 15% who have changed. I thought the Mother Jones article link was a good attempt from a non-religious source to acknowledge some fluidity in sexuality. When folks are so dogmatic they cannot even allow for a measly 15% change it really makes me think there is a political motive behind that. Actually, I think Spitzer’s study found more like 30% had experienced change. Didn’t it? Fifteen percent still seems too low. I would have thought it around 30%.

    It seems any study should follow folks for 10 years to really gain accuracy. There are many people between years 1-5 that think they have changed and they haven’t. And, there are many who don’t experience change in the early years, but do after 7-10 years. I didn’t feel any sexual attraction to a guy until after about 12 years.

    On this particular issue– it seems that to get solid data, its good to track people over a longer period as a lot can happen with a person beyond the first 5 years (in either direction).

  7. Karen Booth says:

    Yarhouse and Jones ARE continuing to track people – into/over another two years at least. They are working on collating the findings for an additional publication.

    On average, folk involved in the study showed the most marked change in the first year, then a leveling off, then a slight decrease. It will be intesting to see what happens in years four and five. In my own life in dealing with various transformational attempts, it’s also been like that. Big push at first, followed by lack of motivation and then a bit of “backsliding.” Breakthrough often comes later.

    One of the other more intersting – to me – findings in the study was that those they subcategorized as “truly gay” – 5 or 6 on the Kinsey scale, sexually active, and self-identified as gay – reported the most change. Most of the gay-affirming arguments are that its only folk who really started out as bisexual (around a 3 on the Kinsey scale) that can change. The study would appear to contradict that argument.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Karen (B),

    That was not their definition of “Truly Gay”.

    They deemed a person Truly Gay if they “scored above the scale midpoint for measures of homosexual attraction, and for homosexual behavior in the past, and for having previously embraced full homosexual or gay identity.”

    That category also, therefore, includes anyone K3+ (that is, very much bisexual), as well as K5 (incidentally heterosexual). How much lumping all those very different people into one — frankly erroneous — category influenced the reported results… we will need to await until people have had a chance to examine the fine-print in the book.

    And I’m not sure it’s either polite or helpful to pejoratively label people as “backsliders” simply because they have — as you no doubt otherwise hope — honestly reported what their feelings are. For all anyone knows, these people may well have been making even greater efforts after the first year.

    It may be tempting to simply blame the person for their “non-performance”, but there is another perfectly reasonable explanation: it didn’t actually work in any sustainable way.

    (Hi and cheers DM! hope all’s well with you and yours)

  9. Karen Booth says:

    If you’ll read my post, Anonymous, you’ll see that I was referring to myself as “backsliding” not anyone else. The term wasn’t meant pejoratively, though perhaps I could have used a better choice of terms – “one step forward and two steps back,” for example.

    And I’m certainly not blaming anyone for “non-performance.” That’s your interpretation, not mine. I actually believe it has very little to do with “performance” and everything to do with submission to God’s transforming grace.

    I don’t have the Jones/Yarhouse graphs in front of me, so if I’m mistaken on this I’ll repost later after I find them. From my recollection of the presentation, within the “truly gay” sub-group, those that had the higher Kinsey ratings showed the most overall change or movement on the scale. (And on several other measurable scales as well.) I didn’t state that as clearly as I could have in the post above.

  10. grantdale says:

    Karen (B) — that Anon was us. We did put our name in, but it must have vanished during the preview and typo correction. Didn’t even notice but apologies for leaving you up in the air like that, we’re not in the habit of posting anonymously.

    Alas, though, I did read your post and I’m really not up for this type of “Words games with Karen”. Again.

    You said “In my own life… it’s also been like that.”

    Note the “also”. You weren’t just talking about yourself with those words, but commenting about other people.

    Big push at first … lack of motivation … “backsliding.”

    Not the sort of thing you’d want your boss to say in the annual review, is it?

    The wording you use is pejorative, whether intended or not. You pointed the finger at their (assumed) lack of motivation, and that’s a gross assumption you’re in no position to make. We understand you think you also suffer this “fault” from time to time, but none of it needs any interpretation to read as it does. The simplest test is to ask if you would you use those exact words to their face?

    (Apparently not).

    I’m not sure what “submission” implies either. Sounds awfully like just another excuse to blame someone for lack of performance. If only they had submitted more? Prayed more? Became a more sincere Christian? Spoke in more tongues? Volunteered for flower arranging duty?

    I realise TC does not work directly with exgays, and that you are very keen to promote a certain viewpoint; but we are asking that you be a little more reflective and subsequently a little more gentle when pressuring them into the desired outcomes. People who already feel less than adequate tend to quickly pick up on that type of language, whether it’s intended to shame them or not.

    (and yes, your “K5 and K6” paragraph does make more sense now. You meant to be referring only to a subset of the Truly Gay(c) rather than all of them? Still leaves open the pointed question about why Jones and Yarhouse decided to lump bisexuals into such a category — but that’s their, not your, problem to explain away!)

    This time properly: Hi and cheers DM! hope all’s well with you and yours

  11. Karen Booth says:

    If you’re not up to what you call “word games” with me, grantdale, then there’s a simple solution. Don’t respond. If I’d known that you were “anonymous,” I wouldn’t have, since you seem to delight in trying to bait me whatever blog we happen to interact on.

    For other posters, I would like to further clarify what I’m thinking about the submission comment I left. Based on several dozen email and phone exchanges I’ve had with men (only) who self-identify as ex-ex-gay, I’ve observed the following fairly consistent pattern. They give me a laundry list of things they did – similar to grantdale’s list above, but not nearly as flippant. And they indicate that they expected God to honor that laundry list by taking away their same-sex desires. Pastorally that’s called “bargaining” or even “magical thinking.” And it’s based on a “works righteousness” understanding of Christianity.

    The point of spiritual disciplines is not to get God to do something particular for you. It’s to put yourself in a relational place where you are more apt to encounter and experience God’s transforming grace. Then, it’s purely God’s call as to what shape that grace (and outcome) will take. Practically, that’s what submission looks like. And I have never heard a single ex-ex-gay describe their experience in that way.

    That’s one of my possible problems with the Yarhouse/Jones study. Until I get and read the book, I don’t know (and maybe won’t even after reading) if participants took the more bargaining approach or the submission approach or a combination of the two. Again anecdotally, the folk I know who have experienced the most change have attributed that to submission.

  12. […] Disputed Mutability and Pam at Pandagon both blogged about this one; a study of participants in ex-gay programs reports 38% “success” in their efforts at change. Exodus can describe 38 percent of its programs’ participants as successes, changing to either a “meaningful but complicated” heterosexuality (15 percent) or a stable chastity (23 percent). […]

  13. grantdale says:

    Karen, it’s not baiting — it’s called challenging. Don’t say silly things if you find criticism hard to take, and don’t pretend we’ve ever “interacted”.

    We know you don’t like being challenged, having set yourself up as an utterly unqualified homosexuality expert, but we’re not on Earth to please you. Perhaps the real problem is that your ambitions do not match with our assessment of your ability. And we told you. Tough, and, well, whatever.

    Look, you were wrong here. That is why we commented. You used pejorative language, and displayed that very typical and unsubtle way that you set about on people. Passive-bullying, I think that’s how we’d creatively phrase it.

    (It’s not a terrible thing to simply say “I was wrong, didn’t mean that, sorry”. I was raised thinking that sort of personal honesty was a Christian virtue. Shows how much I must be out of touch.)

    You know Karen, we really have taken our time to read DM’s (good) writing from when she first started. Quietly. Without much other than a rare question from time to time. DM, as I think we’ve told her before, reminds us very much of one of our dearest and longest friends. (Yeah DM, scary — two of you on Earth!)

    DM’s never bothered us, nor should she. Why would she? She thinks she’s just blathering on about herself, but she does in fact offer us something we think is valuable to observe.

    You, on the other hand…

    We really do object to an always-heterosexual woman who has taken on a mission to screw down on people and shame them into trying to change their sexuality (a labour in vain, for good reason). Someone who’ll spout any unprovoked silliness at her first opportunity, and then do a Clinton “depends on what is is” to crab step herself away from accountability.

    You don’t know any ex-ex-gays Karen, except in passing. You couldn’t possibly talk the way you do if you did, and you wouldn’t keep using shame to try coerce people into conformity. You’re a social warrior, not a minister. And you really are full of yourself.

    At this point, I think the two/three of us have spoiled DM’s nice blog more than sufficiently.

    Until next time, and please say a warm hello to Warren from us.

    ps: our condolences on the Thomas Project. Apparently “people don’t change, they just accessorise”. Except for a few weirdos like DM 🙂

  14. Karen Booth says:

    Thanks for the response, grantdale. You more than prove my point.

  15. mary says:

    The study was to show two things 1) that change does occur and 2) that trying to change is not harmful.

    However change might be defined – it does occur. And for most it looks different from one person to the next. Also, this study was ONLY two years. Follow up studies on those who have attempted suicide have been conducted over 30 years to see if the therapuetic treatment was working. (Let’s keep that in mind when dealing with such life issues) This study did show two things that those in the gay community say is impossible.

  16. Kurmudge says:

    It seems to me that there are large numbers of humans who deal with strong, perhaps overwhelming base complusions that are, for one reason or another, problematic. Yet sexuality is put into a special category all its own as the only one where it is, as an undebatable proposition, unethical, immoral, and hopelessly provincial to consider even voluntary therapy to address.

    My university does myriad research and treatment on bulimia, sex addiction, you name it. In dealing with such issues, virtually everything is reasonable to consider provided that the patient knowingly consents. For example, in bulimia, it appears that the gag reflex required for food regurgitation can be throttled back by certain types of vagus nerve stimulation, both electrical and chemical. If I dealt with satyriasis, constantly behaving improperly toward every female I encountered in my quest to gain sexual satisfaction, virtually any therapy to which I cnsented would be acceptable.

    But if someone suggests that a potential definition of “success” might be, for an evangelical Christian dealing with unwanted (for theological reasons) but compulsive SSA, learning to be happy and fulfilled in a celibate life, the world goes crazy.

    Why is this that much different from an alcoholic successfully abstaining from drinking?

  17. ck says:

    Doesn’t “meaningful but complicated -sexuality” just about cover both hetero- and homo- (not forgetting bi- and trans-)?

    Although yes, before people pounce, I know it was intended as a way of differentiating between those AlwaysStraights(TM) who have never questioned their attraction. But really, who among us doesn’t have some kind of variation, interesting stories, and components that are in some way “out of the norm”?

    I suppose I am really most concerned about 1) taking studies and using them to demonstrate what someone should do. I’ve heard that there’s some kind of fallacy with ought and is… ; and similarly, 2) groups purportedly focusing on discipleship tossing their hats into the political ring.

    Studies like this one–which I’ve not read, just looked at the reviews of–are useful in mapping the cartography of human sexuality, if you will. But beyond that, I’m not sure that we are really entitled to just help ourselves to policy and ethical maxims. Especially because we are dealing with a slice of a slice of “highly motivated” individuals. We should be sure our culture has room for these persons, as much as the next individual or group, but not at the expense of others.

  18. mary says:

    Well said CK.

  19. Whoa, okay, lots of comments to reply to:

    Pomo:Yeah, I’m also interested in how this all plays out. I am hopeful it could work out for the good, at least in some circles.

    Anonymous: (regular Anonymous, not grantdale) I see infidelity as an issue separate from “meaningful but complicated heterosexuality,” so I disagree. Although I think the label is a little silly for something that looks more to me like bisexuality, I don’t think in itself it would hurt marriages or relationships, as long as the couple is able to talk frankly about the “complicated” part.

    Karen K: You raise a lot of interesting issues, both here and in your blog post. I’m actually working on a “real” post about J+Y, so I’ll respond to more of your thoughts there because it fits better. Also, I’ve got another post bouncing around my head about applying “rights” rhetoric to the pursuit of change / therapy. I’m not sure how I feel about it.

    Karen Booth:

    I haven’t really gotten to look at the detailed results yet, so I can’t comment there.

    While I am in full agreement with you about the importance (to the Christian life in general) of submission to the will of God and a right understanding of God’s grace, I’m honestly doubtful that there is a simple explanation for who “succeeds” and who doesn’t….

    …and I’ve got a bit more to say about this, but unfortunately I have to run. Sorry to stop in the middle, but hopefully I’ll get a chance to finish up with this and other replies tomorrow.

    p.s. Hi Grantdale and thanks for your kind words! We’re doing all right here–hope all is well with you guys too!

  20. jennypo says:

    Just stumbled across your blog and I wanted to say thanks so much for sharing your experience. The absence of hatred and bitterness in your writing is refreshing and a needed addition to this debate.

  21. Kurmudge says:

    Really slow “juggernaut”….

  22. Nitch says:

    It seems like everything post-puberty has been meaningful but complicated. I suppose the eunuch option would make things a little simpler.

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