Exodus ejects NARTH’s reparative therapy books from their bookstore

A breakup between NARTH and Exodus International has been years in the making. But before I get to it, I think it’s interesting how it’s coming up at the same time that actress Cynthia Nixon is being lambasted by gay rights activists for saying she’s gay by “choice” (and rejecting a bisexual label):

I understand that for many people it’s not, but for me it’s a choice, and you don’t get to define my gayness for me. A certain section of our community is very concerned that it not be seen as a choice, because if it’s a choice, then we could opt out. I say it doesn’t matter if we flew here or we swam here, it matters that we are here and we are one group and let us stop trying to make a litmus test for who is considered gay and who is not.


I think that a politics of choice is stronger than a politics of “essentialism” or “biologism,” no matter how you spin it. More and more Americans agree with Nixon: whether particular gay people are “innately” gay or if it’s a consequence of “choices” and “culture,” gay rights are still important to fight for. When people see gay couples, they don’t think, “Hmm…I wonder if they were both born gay, or if one or both of them took the queer route by choice.” It’s more like, “They exist.”

Even for those who would say they are born gay, a politics of choice would be helpful in the current climate. The fact is, even conservative evangelicals who gay rights activists say Nixon is inadvertently empowering have come to reject the notion that sexual orientation can be changed through choice-making. What the far-right has been saying for almost two decades now is that even if one argues homosexuality is innate, the “behavior” is still a choice: the choice to be intimate with another person. Thus, a politics of choice (Nixon-style) that respects gay people’s choices to be with those of the same-gender would be wise.

Apparently one of NARTH’s leaders has said that Exodus has been clueless in how to “deal with the actual root causes of homosexuality and what leads to authentic change” for the last “20 years.” NARTH has released a statement qualifying what what they mean by “change”:

NARTH believes that much of the expressed pessimism regarding sexual orientation change is a consequence of individuals intentionally or inadvertently adopting a categorical conceptualization of change. When change is viewed in absolute terms, then any future experience of same-sex attraction (or any other challenge), however fleeting or diminished, is considered a refutation of change. Such assertions likely reflect an underlying categorical view of change, probably grounded in an essentialist view of homosexual sexual orientation that assumes same-sex attractions are the natural and immutable essence of a person. What needs to be remembered is that the de-legitimizing of change solely on the basis of a categorical view of change is virtually unparalleled for any challenge in the psychiatric literature.

Okay… but this statement does not address Exodus’s concern with NARTH whatsoever. Here’s why Exodus’s leader Alan Chambers decided to remove the reparative therapy books:

The reason I removed RT books from Exodus Books is because I dont agree with using this research as a means to say that this is how homosexuality always develops, this is the primary means in which to deal with it and this is the outcome you can expect. Too, Exodus, as a whole, is not a scientific or psychological organizationwe are a discipleship ministry and that is where I think our strength is and energy should be focused.

The way I read Chamber’s statement is the following:

F*** off, NARTH. We’re the ones who are gay. Let us deal with our own lives. We don’t need to be straight. All that needs to change is homosexual behavior (…and the occasional obsessive thought pattern). Leave our gayness alone.

It’s a step in the right direction, and this has been in the works for I’d say…at least since the year 2000. Many Exodus members have developed enough self-knowledge that they can now read NARTH’s literature and recognize it as crap.

I’m sure psychological therapy (as opposed to NARTH’s focus on psychiatric therapy) will still find its way into Exodus, because Americans love their therapy. For example, evangelical therapists like Warren Throckmorten have developed Sexual Identity Therapy, in which causal factors for homosexuality are deemed less important than the client’s choices and values framework. The American Psychological Association a few years back determined that Sexual Identity Therapy is perhaps good for those having trouble resolving their sexuality and religious beliefs. I too think this therapy can be useful, so long as the therapist has no manipulative goal to ensure the client never chooses to be intimate with the same-sex.

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3 Responses

  1. Hellmut says:

    Is there a link to the APA determination, please? The devil is in the details. So I don’t want to be imprecise.

  2. Alan says:

    Yes, here. (I also added it to the post.)

  3. chanson says:

    Box Turtle Bulletin has some really interesting and informative coverage of the story, explaining the particular point of disagreement between Exodus and NARTH:

    Reparative Therapy, strictly speaking depends on one single theory of male homosexuality, and it is quite rigid on that point. This is why we here at BTB do not use the phrase reparative therapy as a generic term for sexual orientation change therapies. We use the term only when we are talking about this particular form of therapy intended to address the theorized reparative drive.

    Exodus was always more ministry than psychology, and it appears that Chambers is moving to sharpen the organizations focus toward the former and away from the latter. But those moves may signal a growing split between Exodus and NARTH (which bills itself as a scientific organization), both in approach and tone.

    And apparently NARTH strikes back

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