A fifteen-year-old New Jersey boy, identified in court records as “John Doe,” has struggled with unwanted same-sex attraction since he was ten. Two years ago, at his urging, his family took him to see a therapist in New York who specialized in what court documents refer to as “Sexual Orientation Change Efforts.”
According to John Doe, the therapy has helped him. In his words, “every day would get a little better.”
We know this because his family is challenging a New Jersey law that, like a similar law in California, “ban[s] licensed counselors from engaging in talk therapies that reduce the level of same-sex attractions in minors for whom such reduction is a personal goal.”
As we’ve previously pointed out here on BreakPoint, not only is so-called “reparative therapy” controversial, its efficacy remains unproven. While there are people who have successively made the transition from same-sex relationships to heterosexual ones, there are many who, despite their best intentions, have not. For them, the call to chastity is a call to celibacy and singleness.
But none of this remotely justifies the approach that New Jersey and California have taken. Christians are often accused of allowing their beliefs and ideology to run roughshod over science. Well, pot meet kettle.
To understand why, it helps to examine the unproven assumptions that form the “justification” for the California and New Jersey laws. The first is that sexual orientation is always fixed and immutable in the way that race and ethnicity are. Which is why Gov. Christie, when he signed the Garden State bill, said that people are “born gay.”
According to this view, the distress felt by teens like “John Doe” is the result of what’s been called “internalized homophobia.” The supposed “cure” for their distress is to accept who they are.
Viewed this way, “talk therapies that reduce the level of same-sex attraction in minors,” even when the minors desire such therapy or reduction, does more harm than good.
But the problem is that the essential assumption, the immutability of same-sex attraction in teens, is simply untrue.
As Robert Carle pointed out recently at Public Discourse, since 1994, the University of North Carolina has conducted a National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Last year’s survey found that the “vast majority of sixteen-year-olds who reported only same-sex sexual attractions reported only opposite-sex sexual attractions one year later.”
In other words, many kids who said they were gay at age sixteen said they were straight a year later. Similar results have been reported around the world.
So, it’s complicated. Whatever else these results may mean, they demonstrate that the idea of same-sex attraction as innate and immutable is an article of faith, not science. It’s what certain activists need to be true in all circumstances if their arguments are to prevail at a political level.
None of this is to deny that there are people with permanent same-sex attractions who realize this at a young age. And of course, no Christian should do anything that would encourage self-loathing among these kids. Quite the contrary.
But ideology disguised as public health is not the answer. The answer is to allow kids and responsible therapists to explore the issues without interference from what social critic Camille Paglia, herself a lesbian, dubs “storm troopers... who have the absolutism of all fanatics.”
That’s the only way that things will get better for the John Does of the world.
BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.
Eric Metaxas is a co-host of BreakPoint Radio and a best-selling author whose biographies, children's books, and popular apologetics have been translated into more than a dozen languages.
Publication date: November 27, 2013