A critique of the Journey Into Manhood claims of change.
Recently, People Can Change issued a press release (PDF) suggesting 79% of respondents reported (PDF) a decrease in frequency or intensity of homosexual feelings as a result of participating in a Journey Into Manhood weekend retreat. Furthermore, in supporting documents, they indicate 13% of the respondents now consider themselves to be straight, all thanks to a two-day retreat. However, as with so many other claims of change, they are without any substance.
People Can Change queried 500 men who had participated in the retreats ranging from 6 months to 5.5 years prior to the study. They suggest 45% of the 500 men queried responded to the survey and that the results of the survey are consistent with other studies demonstrating homosexuals can change: specifically, a 1997 study from NARTH, Robert Spitzer’s controversial 2003 peer-reviewed article, and the recent Jones and Yarhouse book Ex-gays?
By referencing the other studies, People Can Change hopes to give their survey an aura of scientific credibility. However, neither the NARTH study nor Jones and Yarhouse’s book is peer-reviewed by qualified scientists and both are riddled with methodological problems (see my exchange with Stanton Jones on Ex-gay Watch for more information on the Jones and Yarhouse study). Although Spitzer’s study is peer-reviewed and published in a respected journal, it also has serious methodological problems that render the conclusions suspect.
The People Can Change survey is entirely unreliable from a scholarly perspective. The survey is retrospective, relying on participants to reflect on their original condition prior to the retreat. It is well established that retrospective data are not reliable. The respondents’ sexual orientation is based entirely on self-report: neither the Kinsey scale nor any other scientifically recognized measure is used. Furthermore, People Can Change does not provide definitions for any of the terms and categories they use. These problems alone render the study completely unreliable. Add to it additional methodological problems and one is left with a survey more appropriate for the rubbish bin than a serious discussion.
Patrick M. Chapman has a PhD in biological anthropology and is author of “Thou Shalt Not Love”: What Evangelicals Really Say to Gays (Haiduk Press: in press).