Damage Report: New Study of Survivors Show the Harm of "Ex-Gay" Programs

In a recent radio interview, two "ex-gay" activists discounted the damage that “ex-gay” treatment caused.

Often, the damage done by "ex-gay" programs is not visible.

Often, the damage done by "ex-gay" programs is not visible.

Arthur Goldberg, founder of the Jewish “ex-gay” group JONAH (“Jews Offering New Alternatives to Healing”) said in an interview on Michael Brown’s radio show, “Line of Fire,” that any harm caused by reparative therapy is “greatly, greatly, greatly exaggerated.”  

To me, the fact that those involved in “ex-gay” leadership don’t (or won’t) see the harm they are doing is not only hypocrisy, it’s a paradox. They will accept self-reporting as proof of a change in sexual orientation (after all, what other proof can there be?), but when survivors talk about the harm and hurt that was inflicted on them by these treatments, it is ignored, dismissed or ridiculed.

Author’s Note: Arthur Goldberg is a convicted felon. His “ministry” got into trouble when it was disclosed they used inappropriate touching, hugging and nudity in their treatments. This again shows the bizarre nature and unproven techniques of “ex-gay” practices.

If you want to read more about the interview and these two individuals, you can go here.

Obviously, I think “ex-gay” treatment is not only damaging, it’s dangerous. And the American Psychological Association(APA) agrees, according to a study they released back in 2009. They examined 83 studies on sexual orientation dating back to 1960 and found no substantial evidence that homosexuality can be cured through therapy or any other means. The APA noted that efforts to produce change could be harmful, inducing depression and suicidal tendencies. Their report urged mental health professionals not to advise clients that they can become straight through therapy or other treatments. (Since that time, every major medical and mental health organization has come out against reparative therapy.)


And now, there’s even more evidence…from those who experienced the injury personally. This week, the results of a survey were released, and it shows, from the perspective of hundreds of “ex-gay” survivors, the damage that was done to them by these programs and treatments.

The questionnaire attracted more than 400 respondents who’d once been involved in some kind of reparative program. They answered questions about the methods used in their treatments (everything from one-on-one counseling to exorcism), the costs involved, how long they participated, whether the treatments worked and if they felt the treatments harmed them or helped them. The statistics are startling, and some of the individual comments are heart-breaking.

Among the results:

  • Most of those who enrolled in a treatment program did so for religious reasons; they were concerned that God would not love them if they were gay or that they would go to hell.
  • Of those who entered the program with a Pentecostal or Charismatic faith, less than a fourth say they maintained their faith.
  • Twenty percent of those who had a Christian faith when entering the program report they were atheist or agnostic after going through the treatments.
  • The majority—more than three-quarters of those who responded—left the program because it didn’t work. Twenty percent left because they have a nervous breakdown!
  • More than 90 percent felt they had been harmed by the treatments, and 84 percent say they are still affected by the program.

I have been working for years to expose the damage of “ex-gay” programs. In recent months, I have been actively involved with current “ex-gay” leaders, discussing the harm caused by their programs. I am thrilled to see this report. I want to extend a heartfelt thanks to my friend, Dr. Jallen Rix, Gail Dickert and the folks at Beyond Ex-Gay for all the work that went into this revealing report.

Clearly, this was not a scientific study, but it does show the devastating impact of these deceptive treatment programs, and the shaming mentality that motivates people to enroll. More research needs to be done, but the fact that we are finally hearing the stories of the survivors is important.  

You can read more about the survey here.