By Clinton Chisholm, Guest Columnist
The ostensibly progressive and rights-protecting California law banning all reparative ('conversion') therapy for minors is very puzzling and raises some very awkward questions.
What is it about homosexual orientation or behaviour (if unwanted) that makes it so uniquely resistant to psychotherapeutic behaviour-modification interventions? I say uniquely resistant because such clinical interventions are utilised for a whole range of unwanted behaviours, including alcoholism, sexual/gender identity issues, anxiety disorders (phobias), unlawful sexual urges, etc.
What then is the real motivator behind the rights veneer of the California law?
We should also factor in religious interventions. Bottom line: Is there any unwanted behaviour for which clinical behaviour-modification or spiritual intervention is ruled out, a priori, and why?
What then should one make of the implications of two articles in the American Journal of Psychiatry, namely, 'The Masters and Johnson Treatment Program for Dissatisfied Homosexual Men', American Journal of Psychiatry, 141 (1984), 173-81 and E. Mansell Pattison and Myrna Loy Pattison, 'Ex-Gays: Religiously Mediated Change in Homosexuals', American Journal of Psychiatry, 137 (1980), 12?
The Masters & Johnson treatment programme reports conversion success rate at 65 per cent after a five-year follow-up.
In the cutting-edge book Ex-Gays? A Longitudinal Study of Religiously Mediated Change in Sexual Orientation by Stanton L. Jones & Mark A. Yarhouse, Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2007, the authors found, contrary to the belief of certain clinicians, that change is possible.
Though operating with an upfront Christian commitment, Jones and Yarhouse conceded that they did not find that change is possible for everyone. They write: "The fact that some human beings can break the four-minute-mile barrier establishes that running a four-minute mile is not impossible, but that same fact does not establish that anyone (every human being) can break the four-minute-mile barrier."
So, then, are the California legislators unaware of the pro-change pieces of literature mentioned above and published in their own country? Behold, I show you a mystery, or perhaps mischief!
The Rev Dr Clinton Chisholm is a lecturer at the Jamaica Theological Seminary and host of Love FM's 'The Morning Watch'. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.