Unwanted Same Sex Attraction: Letter to Church of England Newspaper

Jan 10, 2019 by

As your editorial of 4th January says, the church’s theological judgements need to be based in Scripture. They need to research wider than the current preferred narrative of LGBT pressure groups.

The debate regarding the proposed ban on therapy for unwanted same sex attractions, is couched in terms that do not reflect the findings of population studies regarding sexuality.

The Office for National Statistics says that in 2016, of the LGB population, 12.6% were  in opposite-sex marriages.  A quarter of bisexuals were married, almost exclusively to the opposite sex. Are we to deny them support for their heterosexual relationships?

There are several detailed, large scale population studies on sexuality.  An outstanding review of these is  ‘Scrutinizing Immutability: Research on Sexual Orientation and U.S. Legal Advocacy for Sexual Minorities’, a 2016 paper by Drs Lisa Diamond and Clifford Rosky. Lisa Diamond is the co-editor-in-chief of the American Psychological Association (APA) Handbook of Sexuality and Psychology.  See also a 2011 paper by Dr Joseph Hayes et al ‘Prevalence of Same-Sex Behavior and Orientation in England: Results from a National Survey’.

 A rough summary of these papers might be:

  • People’s sexual attraction, behaviour/sexual partnering, and identity do not always coincide.
  • Most people who feel same sex attraction have also experienced opposite sex attraction. Those with exclusive same sex attraction are in the minority.
  • Some people experience a range of sexual attractions and move within that, usually towards heterosexuality.
  • People are not born gay.
  • Sexuality is not ‘Immutable’ and gay rights don’t need ‘immutable’ as a basis.

If these studies are ignored, perhaps it is because they show that sexuality can be mixed and fluid. This undermines the ‘born-gay’ mantra that change is harm.  The studies’ authors saw the changes and variety they found as natural. This undermines their inevitable disavowal of therapy. Since change can happen naturally, then therapy can assist nature.

My view is that allowing therapy for unwanted same sex attractions is not going to infringe anyone’s liberty to be gay. But criminalising such therapy pathologizes a person whose sexual attractions vary. Most commonly affected by a ban would be those who are not entirely heterosexual (ie ‘Mostly straight’) and bisexual people. Withholding support for the heterosexual attractions and relationships of anyone on the grounds they have also felt homosexual attraction, infringes civil liberties.

The Church must stick to the Bible teaching on sexuality. But to understand sexuality in the world, it should study evidence in these population studies and ensure viewpoint diversity.

Steph James.

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