I feel I must respectfully take issue with Dianne White Crawford’s review of “Boy Erased” in the Nov. 18 Sunday Signal. My issue is not with the review of the film, nor the film’s content. I have not seen it, nor read the memoirs it is based on. My issue is with the review’s editorial comments that characterize all conversion therapy as insidious, wicked, and a myth, while calling its practitioners “profane charlatans selling the myth of conversion therapy.”
The myth is that sexual attraction is fixed and immutable. Dr. Andre Van Mol (board-certified family physician and co-chair of the Committee on Adolescent Sexuality at American College of Pediatricians) said earlier this year: “There is no evidence of harm from sexual orientation change therapy provided by licensed professionals. Decades of supportive studies exist. Change therapy is talk therapy led by licensed therapists working with willing and motivated clients. Even the Southern Poverty Law Center noted in their May 2016 report that change therapists do not use electrical shocks or other aversion therapy. The ‘torture’ stories have not involved trained therapists and generally are unsubstantiated.”
He also documented that the American Psychological Association’s “Handbook on Sexuality and Psychology” says that sexual orientation may change over a person’s lifetime, especially during adolescence, and that the UK’s Royal College of Psychiatrists said: “Sexual orientation is determined by a combination of biological and postnatal environmental factors” . . . “[it] is not the case that sexual orientation is immutable or might not vary to some extent in a person’s life. . .”
My last reference is to a study done at Cornell University that examined more than 12,000 young people from ages 16 to 22, interviewing them three times over six years.
At age 16, about 1.5 percent of the males reported only having romantic attraction to other males. At age 22, 70 percent of those reported a 180-degree flip, having only romantic feelings for women. Among females, about 40 percent switched from exclusive same-sex attraction to exclusive opposite-sex attraction while another 45 percent reported feelings for both men and women. Only 1 percent of women who had reported exclusive same-sex attraction at the beginning of the study reported the same experience five years later.
While the movie and memoirs may be accurate in documenting one person’s experience, they do not justify the generalizations that sexual orientation is immutable, that all conversion therapy is wicked or insidious, nor that all its practitioners are charlatans.