In the past, researchers attempted to change sexual orientation
through psychotherapy, aversion therapy, nausea producing drugs, castration,
electric shock, brain surgery, breast amputations, etc. All failed. These methods were largely abandoned by
the mid-1970's. Reparative therapy and transformational ministries emerged in the early
The source of modern-day secular reparative therapy can be traced
back many decades to the research of Irving Bieber, Lawrence Hatterer and
Sigmond Freud. Their conclusions about homosexuality had long been abandoned by
almost all mental health professionals. However, Elizabeth Moberly 1 studied those works
and developed a new theory of the cause of homosexuality. She believes
that it is solely caused by environmental factors -- mainly incompetence on the part of
the parent of the same gender. She also developed a technique in the early 1980's which attempts to change
the sexual orientation of homosexual adults. She has done no clinical work to support the
validity of her theory or the effectiveness of her therapeutic technique. She is
a theologian, not a trained mental health professional. Her book "Homosexuality: A new Christian ethic"
is still in print and is widely circulated among conservative Christians. 2
"Freud's emphasis on the domineering mother and
focused on the effect of the 'passive' or 'distant' father. Moberly
determined...that the homosexual men in the studies were suffering
from what she termed 'defensive detachment' and 'same sex ambivalence.'
The theory presumes that the young boy, for any of a variety of reasons, did
not bond with his father in a meaningful way." 3
Lacking a positive
relationship with his father, the boy "defensively detaches"
from any potential friendships with other boys his own age. After puberty,
his longing for a close relationship with his father and other males into
a search for love. He sexualizes the longing, feels attraction to other
men, and becomes an active homosexual. (We have used a male example here
because almost all reparative therapy is done on men).
During therapy, the gay client is encouraged to enter into an
emotionally close, non-sexual, non-erotic relationship with another male adult. Once
he achieves this, heterosexual feelings are expected to emerge over time
and homosexual feelings are expected to fade.
As mentioned above, no peer-reviewed study has been published on
reparative therapy. No longitudinal study has ever been conducted into its
long-term effectiveness and hazards. However, many of the larger conservative Christian
organizations, like Coral Ridge Ministries, Exodus International, Family Research Council, and Focus on the
Family claim that this and other therapies have a high cure rate.
Meanwhile many psychiatrists who do not support this therapy report
anecdotal evidence of gays and lesbians who have become seriously
depressed after the inevitable failure of their therapy; some have
Since both APAs (American Psychological Association and American
Psychiatric Association) have denounced RT as a useless and potentially
dangerous treatment, one might wonder how therapists can file a claim with
insurance companies for the therapy that they provide. According to
ExGayWatch.com they often use # 302.9 "Sexual Disorder not otherwise
specified" -- a diagnosis from DSM IV, the Diagnostic and Statistical
Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition One of the conditions
listed under this diagnosis is "Persistent and marked distress about
sexual orientation." Other therapists simply assign a generic diagnosis
covering depression or anxiety. 4
These conversion therapies are based on the
belief that the "cause(s)" of homosexuality are found in the environment
-- specifically the
young boy not forming an emotional bond with his father, or the young girl not bonding with her mother. We have found six types of studies into the nature of homosexuality that appear to indicate that this is
first type appears to show that inadequate or non-existent fathering is
not a factor in sexual orientation:
Society itself is an excellent testing laboratory for many social
theories. There is a near consensus among mental health and human sexuality
professionals that the incidence of homosexual orientation is fairly constant
across societies and eras. However, if Ms. Moberly's theory on
incompetent fathering is correct, then one would expect to observe at least three
increase in homosexual orientation among children born shortly before World War
II. British, Canadian and other forces were engaged in combat from 1939 to 1945;
Americans were involved from 1941 to 1945. Many boys were deprived of
their fathers during their formative years. The ultimate "distant"
father is one who is fighting a war on another continent. We have been unable to find evidence of
any such massive surge in the incidence of homosexual orientation among men
born in the mid 1930's.
A much larger percentage of African-American children than white
children are brought up in a single-parent family in which a
resident father is absent. If Moberly's theory were correct, then
one would expect a much higher incidence of homosexuality among
African-American adult males than among the general population.
There appears to be no evidence that this is true.
Finally, if Moberly's theory were correct, then
one would expect a much higher incidence of homosexuality among
males raised in single-parent families who are most often parented by single, separated, or divorced women than among the general population.
Again, there appears to be no evidence that this is true.
Many studies appear to indicate that sexual orientation
(at least for males) is largely genetically determined.
Some of these are:
Pedigree studies of the sexual orientation of the ancestors of gay males
indicates that homosexual orientation is largely genetically determined and
is passed by the mother via one or more genes on a specific chromosome.
Studies of identical twins who were separated at birth and raised in
isolation from each other also show that homosexual orientation is primarily
Studies of twins who are born into and raised in the same family
support the data from the previous study.
Studies of fingertip ridges shows a difference between homosexual
and heterosexual males. (Fingerprints are fully formed by the 17th
week of pregnancy).
Studies of index and ring fingers show that homosexuals and
heterosexuals generally differ in the ratio of the length of their fingers. The
relative size of a person's fingers is also determined before birth.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
We have never been able to track down Elizabeth R. Moberly's academic
qualifications. Some refer to her as a "therapist" or "theologian," or "psychologist"
or "self-proclaimed psychologist." Some say that she has no mental
health qualifications at all. On the back cover of her main book "Homosexuality:
A new Christian ethic" where one would expect to see her academic
she is merely described as "the originator of gender-affirmative therapy for
homosexuals." They refer to her having traveled extensively giving
seminars and appearing on television programs. See:
For information on her book, see:
Amazon.com online book store