Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Thomas Project: A study designed for specific results

Here is yet another analysis trashing the Exodus International/Focus on the Family financed "study" that the Christian Right is advertising as supporting their "choice" myth ( Let's be real: this is all about making money off of these "cure" programs and desperately keeping alive the choice myth for political propaganda reasons. The backers of the study care nothing about the truth. Here are some highlights:

It was called the Thomas Project. When its principal investigators — Stanton Jones of Wheaton College and Mark Yarhouse of Pat Robertson University — published Ex-Gays? A Longitudinal Study of Religiously Mediated Change in Sexual Orientation (InterVarsity Press, 2007), the Christianist Right hailed the study as “scientific proof” sexual orientation can be changed:

“While we’ve known all along that long-term change is possible for people with unwanted same-sex attractions, it’s interesting to note how high the percentage of reported change was,” said Melissa Fryrear, director of Focus on the Family’s gender issues department. [italics added]

[W]hat is surprising — even for the Dobson organization skilled in spinning things to suit their theopolitical agenda — is the irrationality of “how high the percentage of reported change was.”The Thomas Project included a pool of only 98 people, all of whom had been referred to various Exodus ministries for “treatment.” Exodus International claims to be “the largest information and referral ministry in the world addressing homosexual issues.” Exodus is not a medical or science-based organization. It’s a ministry. “Freedom is possible through Jesus Christ!” is their mantra and they, like Dobson’s Focus on the Family, are well known for exaggerations.

[A]ll participants in the Thomas Project were clients of and counseled by Exodus International.Focus on the Family’s Melissa Fryrear chirped about the “high … percentage of reported change.” But look at the numbers reported in the study:

– 33 people reported change in the desired manner (from gay at time 1 in the heterosexual direction at time 3)

– 29 reported no change

– 8 reported change in the “undesired direction”

– 3 were unsure how to describe their experience

– 25 dropped out of the study.

Add up those numbers: 33 + 29 + 8 + 3 + 25 = 98 (72 men and 26 women). A study claiming such global conclusions was based on a subject pool — selected from Exodus clients — of less than 100 people. The “high percentage” Ms. Fryrear chirped about is less than the combined percentage of those reporting “no change” and those who were “gayer” than when they entered the project.

Some participants reported that they were still homosexual, but were living a “chaste life.” As noted in “What on earth is ex-gay ‘success’?If “change” means one is constantly fighting off same-sex urges, then that sounds more like “ex-gay” means ticking time bombs (Bob Allen, Larry Craig, and the like, who truly believe they are straight but seek out sex with men) or chaste individuals suppressing their orientation than it does a true conversion. Sexual orientation is not simply about sex acts, something the ex-gay movement continually fails to acknowledge when touting “success.”

A weak methodology that included only participants likely to yield the desired results: junk science encouraging potentially harmful “therapeutic” practices. That being said, should individuals have the right to seek “ex-gay” therapy? Yes: caveat emptor. Before entering into such programs, however, those offering such “treatments” should be required — ethically and legally — to tell prospective clients the scientific, medical facts. Perhaps then those seeking change might consider legitimate psychological counseling to learn to accept themselves rather than opting for hocus-pocus religion-based “therapy” designed to teach them to reject who they are and lead fraudulent, repressed lives of denial.

1 comment:

One Half said...

Just to chime in, I belonged to a group called Evergreen (the Mormon version of Exodus) because I truly wanted to change. I read their newsletter, I went to reparative therapy, I tried to be manly. Then, the newsletter came one day. And someone had asked about the desire not going away and the official Evergreen answer was "We never said the desire would go away." That's when (slow idiot that I am) I realized it was a fraud. I went into the process with the belief and encouragement that the desires would change to desires for women.

Of course, I'm glad now that they didn't.