The ex-gay advocacy group People Can Change issued a press release Feb. 7 that distorted the organization’s own survey of a controversial men’s retreat and greatly exaggerated success rates of ex-gay programming by omitting failures from the data.
The press release promotes a retreat, Journey Into Manhood, whose methods and underlying philosophy — according to a prominent pro-exgay pundit — originated from a pro-gay men’s retreat. People Can Change charges $650 per person to attend a Journey Into Manhood weekend.
PCC claimed that:
- “four out of five men who participated in a personal-growth weekend called Journey Into Manhood reported a decrease in unwanted homosexual attractions when surveyed between six months and six years later.”
- “More than half reported an increase in heterosexual attractions since they participated in the weekend program”
- “73 percent reported a decrease in homosexual behaviors.”
- “93 percent reported that Journey Into Manhood had a positive impact on their efforts to diminish same-sex attractions”
But an examination of the actual survey uncovers deception by PCC. Of Journey Into Manhood’s 615 participants, only 224 responded to the survey, leaving most of the program’s likely failures — 63.6 percent of participants — on the sidelines.
PCC’s press release claimed that its success rates consisted of “men who participated in a personal-growth weekend” when in fact the claimed successes were a subset of a minority of men who were satisfied with the program and remained in contact.
Beyond the misleading factoids of its press release, PCC broke with accepted methods of polling and statistical analysis in its survey:
- The survey itself relied upon participant self-selection that was biased in favor of persons satisfied with a program. People who feel harmed by their ex-gay experience are less likely to cooperate with surveys conducted by ex-gay activists.
- The survey failed to measure participants’ mixed sexual attractions prior to the program.
- The survey relied upon vague subjective statements of success rather than objective measurements of change. Claims of “more” or “less” attraction or behavior were not objectively confirmed or scrutinized through clinical measurements. This oversight counted persons who are in denial about their attractions as if they were “successes.” Furthermore, survey participants’ specific rates of sexual activity were not calculated either before or after the program.
The exclusion of potentially dissatisfied subjects from the survey results prompted critic Jeremy Hooper to note: “To me this would be like taking a poll on how many people are afraid of answering polls, and then using the data you’re able to collect to say ‘Majority of population not afraid of taking polls.’”
Seeing a political opportunity to exploit exaggerated ex-gay claims, religious-right media services such as Christian News Wire eagerly parroted PCC’s deception.
People Can Change promotes the tired “reparative therapy” myth — discredited by the professional therapeutic community — that male homosexuality results from bad fathers, a “smothering mother,” sexual abuse, and inadequate identification with rigid masculine gender roles. PCC’s solution: Sever ties with well-adjusted gay men, adopt stereotypically masculine hobbies, pursue years of costly therapy and time-consuming introspection, surrender to ex-gay ideology, and trust in the myth that celibacy effects identity change.
Hat tip: Good As You