Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Beware of (Fraudulent) Ex-Gay Study to Be Released

Two different posts on Ex-Gay Watch and also a post on Truth Wins Out have focused attention of the possible efforts by Exodus International to release the results of an alleged study that will bolster Exodus's unsubstantiated "cure" claims. Odds are that this study will be non-scientific and largely stacked as have several previous studies (using that term very loosely) that purport to support the claim that gays can change their sexual orientation. Here are some highlights from the Ex-Gay Watch posts:

POST ONE: Exodus president Alan Chambers and vice president Randy Thomas have been making casual claims concerning the success rates of “change” and perhaps even vague references to an ongoing study. These have led to an increasingly common, though entirely unsubstantiated figure of 30% “real change in orientation.” A statement on the Exodus International website goes even further: On the statistical side, careful reviews of research studies on sexual orientation change suggest that real change is indeed possible. Studies suggesting change rates in the range of 30-50% are not unusual, although “success rates” vary considerably and the measurement of change is problematic. A link follows to further studies but we could find none there. We have discouraged the use of these figures in posts to avoid the “Paul Cameron Effect” whereby junk science becomes the de facto standard after repetitive use without attribution to any authoritative sources. So far, Exodus has done little to qualify the term “change” in this setting, much less substantiate any figures. That may change soon. (http://www.exgaywatch.com/wp/2007/08/results-of-secret-exodus-study-soon-to-be-released/)
POST TWO: More information has come to light concerning the study we reported on here. An anonymous source said they have contact with someone participating in the study, called the Thomas Project, out of Wheaton College, and the study consists of questions asked once a year by phone. This participant also noted that the questions were oversimplified, requiring basic responses where they felt detailed explanations were needed. We have good reason to trust this contact, though we will respect their request for anonymity.

There are unconfirmed reports that the study has a sample of as few as 100 to 150 participants. While we don’t know what work was done during selection or preparation, we now know that the data was collected via annual phone calls. A picture is forming of some weak methodology, but presumably more accurate assessments can be made if and/or when others in the scientific community are allowed to review the method of selection of study subjects, the content and method of questions, and the presence or lack of nonverbal measurements and control data.

We suspect Exodus’ Regional Freedom Conference (September 13-15) will be the most likely setting for the formal announcement of the results of the Thomas Project. We also suspect the results will claim rates of over 30% experiencing “change”, but this can’t be verified at this time. If so, it seems interesting that Exodus president Alan Chambers knew this before the study was barely a year out: By Chambers’ estimate, only 30 percent of those who seek to switch orientations succeed. Fifty percent abandon the program. The other 20 percent, he says, go back and forth. “I would say it’s like [Alcoholics Anonymous],” Chambers says. “It’s in the 30-percent range [that] find a great degree of healing and move into heterosexuality, single or married.” (http://www.exgaywatch.com/wp/2007/08/update-more-on-ex-gay-study-the-thomas-project/)
Having reviewed much of the legitimate research on this topic, no legitimate studies have supported the "Cure" claims. Even the Spitzer study which is consistently misquoted by ex-gay advocates (and which was based on a study group containing a significant percentage of "ex-gay for pay" individuals) found at best a tiny success rate, if any. I find it especially interesting that now that Democratic Presidential candidates have appeared on a "debate" on gay issues, Exodus - which is closely tied to known anti-gay Christianist groups - is talking about releasing this study just in time for the 2008 election cycle. I am sure that Exodus - and its masters - are relying on a lazy and uninformed media to run with sound bites from this bogus study to help fuel anti-gay measures at the ballot box next year.
If my suspicions are correct, it will be one more examples of the self-proclaimed "Christians" using deliberate lies and untruths to push their Christianist agenda.

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