Forty-five peer-reviewed studies published over the last 30 years addressed the question of whether conversion therapy (CT) can alter sexual orientation without causing harm. Thirteen of those studies included primary research. Of those, 12 concluded that CT is ineffective and/or harmful, finding links to depression, suicidality, anxiety, social isolation and decreased capacity for intimacy. Thirty-two studies do not make an empirical determination about whether CT can alter sexual orientation but may offer useful observations to help guide practitioners who treat LGB patients. Only one study concluded that sexual orientation change efforts could succeed—although only in a minority of its participants, and the study has several limitations: its entire sample self-identified as religious and it is based on self-reports, which can be biased and unreliable. The complete collection of these studies can be found here
The impact of faith/sexuality conflict
Whilst there has been a great deal of research on LGBTI people themselves the impact of a religious belief system has not been as extensive. This has changed of recent times with growing evidence of that the impact of faith/religious conflict can be severely harmful and that LGBT people from religious backgrounds are the second highest of risk in several key areas. Below are just two of these studies.
Sex and the Sinner: Comparing Religious and Nonreligious Same-Sex Attracted Adults on Internalized Homonegativity and Distress 2014
Babucarr J. Sowe, Jac Brown, and Alan J. Taylor Macquarie University
The experience of prejudice can be psychologically damaging for LGB (Lesbian, Gay & Bisexual) persons, contributing to high rates of suicide, substance abuse, and mental health problems in LGB populations (Meyer, 2003). Religion has been connected with prejudice for a long time (Allport & Ross, 1967), with homonegative prejudice apparent in much of mainstream Christianity. Accordingly, LGB Christians may come to view their religion and sexuality as mutually incompatible, experiencing a fragmenting inner-conflict that demands the rejection of their sexuality, or else risk rejection from ‘God’, Church, and family (Heermann, Wiggins, & Rutter, 2007). This study explores whether LGB Christians were more psychologically distressed over their sexuality than non-religious LGB persons in general, and what particular religious and personal factors were implicated in whether an LGB Christian experienced a religion-sexuality conflict or not. View or download here.
Writing Themselves In 3 (WTi3)
Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University 2010. Lynne Hillier. Tiffany Jones, Marisa Monagle, Naomi Overton, Luke Gahan, Jennifer Blackman, Anne Mitchell
The third national study on the sexual health and wellbeing of same sex attracted and gender questioning young people. Previous WTi studies mentioned the impact of religion on LGBT youth but WTi3 made a distinction between faith and non-faith LGBT youth.
The key findings of those who mentioned religion were:
- More likely to feel bad about their same sex attraction.
- More likely to have experienced social exclusion or had to tolerate homophobic language from
- More likely to report homophobic abuse in the home.
- More likely to report feeling unsafe at home.
- More likely to not be supported by their mother, father, brother, teacher or student welfare
- coordinator/counsellor, when disclosing their SSA.
- More likely to report thoughts of self harm and suicide or to carry out self harm.
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