Category archives: Human Sexuality

A Common-Sense Strategy in the Battle Against Pornography

by Daniel Hart

November 19, 2015

NOTE: Those who are grappling with a serious pornography addiction will most likely need help beyond the advice given here. Being part of a support group, having accountability partners and cultivating a robust prayer life anchored in God’s Word are all crucial to overcoming an addiction to pornography. Click here for more resources on combatting addiction.

National White Ribbon Against Pornography (WRAP) Week has come and gone, but the battle for hearts and minds must continue. Important, common-sense strategies in the fight against pornography consumption often seem overlooked in regard to addressing the porn epidemic in our society. Therefore, this post will focus on the simple reality that natural sexual desires and energy can be redirected, and that this is something that is healthy and necessary for human beings to flourish. If more people applied this practice in their daily lives, it would stem the demand for porn that is fueling its production and dissemination.

First, it’s important to remember that even in today’s hyper-sexualized culture, most people still think that watching porn is morally wrong. And yet, studies show that two-thirds of men and over one-third of women in the United States use porn on a monthly basis, and half of all Internet traffic is related to sex. Clearly, there is a disconnect between what people know in their hearts to be true, and what they actually do despite what their conscience tells them.

How does this happen? Justifying immoral behavior to oneself is easy, especially when our culture literally encourages it. In a society where contraception, premarital sex, and one-click-away Internet porn are the norm, satisfying sexual urges is seen as akin to eating or sleeping, as if it must be done in order to function normally. Implicit in this assumption is the belief that we are merely animals who must masturbate or copulate on impulse like baboons. The problem with this view is that it does not reflect the actual experience of those who attempt to placate these urges through porn consumption and masturbation—instead of feeling satisfied, the overwhelming feeling is one of guilt, disgust, and shame (even cursory searches of online discussion forums about pornography reveal this).

At the heart of this problem is the reality of sexual desire, which is something intrinsically good in nature, but is also uniquely powerful and instinctual, which means it is highly susceptible to being warped and abused. Here at FRC, we strongly believe in the inherent goodness of sex as expressed in the marital bonds of one man and one woman. Having said that, any honest discussion of sexual desire cannot stop there for the simple reason that every one of us, whether young or old, single or married, must deal with our natural desires and urges on a daily basis. Certain demographics, particularly teenagers (and men in general) experience keener surges in sexual energy. In a world of instant gratification where one can carry around the entire Internet in one’s pocket, is it any wonder why the web is saturated with pornography? Technology has put society in an unprecedented position: Even the slightest sexual urge can be indulged instantly, with one or two typed words and a couple of clicks in Google—without the trouble of having any real human interaction.

This is why it is so critical to deal with this problem at its root: What is one to do with the energy that is felt in a sexual urge or desire? As touched upon earlier, it must be made clear that there is a crucial difference between perceived sexual “needs” and the need for food or sleep. One can’t redirect their hunger or tiredness toward something else—these needs will only become worse until they are satisfied. This is simply not the case with a sexual urge. With effort, one’s sexual thoughts can be redirected toward something else, and the urge will often simply pass. The key to succeeding in this is through forming the habit of not extending a sexual thought into a prolonged fantasy, which a well-formed conscience will react to with shame. Once one recognizes the nature of the temptation at its onset, it can more easily be purified.

This is easier said than done, of course. When a stronger sexual energy does come, as it inevitably will from time to time, experience tells us that it can be redirected toward a creative activity such as playing music or dancing, or it could simply be a physical activity like going for a run, playing sports, building a bookshelf, working in your garden, landscaping, cleaning, etc. These activities combine our physical and creative capacities and provide a therapeutic outlet for our energy, whether it be sexual or otherwise.

The law of supply and demand makes it clear that as long as pornography is in demand, there will always be a supply. Through self-discipline and redirecting our sexual energy, the temptation to consume pornography can be avoided, and thus the possibility of an addiction can be stopped before it starts. This will in turn decrease the demand for porn, and eventually lead to a decrease in its production and dissemination. Some may say that this is an idealistic pipe dream, but if more people in the majority of those who believe that pornography is wrong stopped using it, the tide could begin to turn.

This mission can only be fulfilled if we not only commit to undertaking it ourselves, but also commit to instilling it in our children. Make no mistake, this is an extremely difficult battle to fight, because it must be fought not only with the prevailing culture, but also with ourselves. Nevertheless, it is a noble battle for the human heart, and therefore worth fighting for with all our might.


by Mandi Ancalle

November 5, 2015

Remember Rachel Dolezal? She is the Caucasian from Montana who, identifying as a black woman, was a leader in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and a professor of Africana Studies at Eastern Washington University before her parents revealed her true identity and she lost both positions.

You might also be familiar with Jewel Shuping. She is a North Carolinian woman who identified as a blind woman and thus, convinced a psychologist to sprinkle drops of drain cleaner into Shuping’s eyes so she would go blind. When interviewed after going blind, Shuping said she believes she “should have been blind from birth.” The world of psychology calls this body integrity identity disorder.

Most folks look at Rachel Dolezal and Jewel Shupping and are, understandably, deeply troubled by their decisions. In fact, many believe it is wrong for a person to portray himself as someone or something he is not, and it is wrong for a person to harm himself. Most folks would recommend psychological counseling for Dolezal and Shupping, in hopes that they cope with issues pushing them to refuse to accept their biological make-up.

Why, then, does the world applaud Bruce Jenner for identifying as a woman?

Bruce Jenner is just as confused as Rachel Dolezal, the color of one’s skin and the sex of an individual both being immutable characteristics. However, Dolezal and Jenner have been treated differently. While the world has rejected Dolezal and her claims, it has embraced Bruce Jenner. And, though Shupping’s identity disorder is different from that of Jenner, both are mutilating and manipulating their bodies in pursuit of how they identify and view themselves; but, this self-view is obviously not objective.

That said, skin color and sex are objectively determinable attributes, even before birth.

Walter Heyer is a spokesperson regarding transgender regret. He is a male who transitioned to a female and then stopped hormone treatments attempting to revert to his original gender. He now chronicles his story and the stories of those like him who have undergone surgeries and other medical interventions for gender identity dysphoria, only to realize that the reasons they struggle with their gender are not superficial—they are not healed by dealing only with the body. People with gender identity dysphoria need counseling, not surgical mutilation.

Mr. Heyer has also chronicled some of the things he learned along his journey, including the lack of ability to completely physiologically change a person’s sex and the increased risk of suicide in those who attempt gender change. Thus, it is important for parents, schools, and government leaders to endeavor to help individuals work through the reasons for their gender identity dysphoria, and to move toward acceptance of their God-given, natural sex.

Last week, one government leader, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), spoke out about her acceptance of her daughter, who is attempting to become a male. While Ros-Lehtinen is certainly correct in that it is “a tragedy that a great proportion of young people who pass through this transition are rejected by their families,” there should be a distinction made between acceptance and affirmation. Families must learn to accept the individual struggling with his or her identity, without affirming his or her decision to base their identity on subjective views of self, for example, by identifying as a different race, blinding themselves in pursuit of a disability, or undergoing gender transition efforts.

People, especially young people, need support from those who are willing to speak truth into their lives, which includes truth about their natural, biological identities.

Elections Offer Chance to Restore the Rule of Sanity in Fairfax Schools

by Peter Sprigg

October 27, 2015

A decade or two ago, the homosexual movement began its long march through the public schools of the United States. Now, the transgender movement has begun to follow the same path. The issue exploded like a bombshell last May in the Fairfax County (Virginia) Public Schools, the nation’s tenth largest school district. That was when parents and taxpayers first learned of plans to add “gender identity” to the school system’s “non-discrimination” policy — meaning that “transgender” students of any age would be able to choose whether to use the boys’ or girls’ restrooms and locker rooms and which sex’s sports teams to play on.

Hundreds of angry citizens turned out at a School Board meeting to protest, but their complaints fell mostly on deaf ears, as the Board voted 10-1 with one abstention to approve the radical new policy. Then, within days, they also adopted a new curriculum to teach about transgender issues in the classroom (the timing was a coincidence, the Board claimed).

The Board passed the buck for the unpopular policies to the Department of Education, which has threatened school districts with a loss of federal funds ($42 million annually to the Fairfax Schools) unless they treat the statutory prohibition on sex discrimination to include “gender identity.” Soon, however, Board members will answer to a higher authority — the voters. A number of candidates opposed to the new transgender policies are challenging incumbents in the Fairfax County School Board elections next week. It’s crucial for pro-family voters to turn out and send a message that they do not want to be governed by sexual radicals and federal bureaucrats.

Last night, FRC Senior Vice-President Rob Schwarzwalder joined FCPS Board Member Elizabeth Schultz at a forum discussing the biblical view of parents and education (Schwarzwalder) and the stakes involved in the upcoming election (Schultz).  Watch their presentations here.

Porn, Infidelity, Divorce, and the Depravity of Man

by Mandi Ancalle

October 27, 2015

It’s White Ribbon Against Pornography (WRAP) Week! The purpose of WRAP Week, which is October 25th thru November 1st, is to inform the public about the harms of pornography, and to advocate for decency. After all, George Washington said, “Religion and morality are the essential pillars of civil society.”

But, we live in a broken world.

According to CovenantEyes, the pornography industry generates $13 billion each year in the U.S., and internet porn alone is a $3 billion a year business. Even 64% of Christian men and 15% of Christian women say they watch porn at least once a month. While the problem with pornography may begin with the objectification of individuals made in the image of God, it does not end there. Studies show individuals who are unfaithful to their spouses are more than three times (that’s 300 %!) as likely to have looked at pornography.

Pornography is like a “gateway drug” to sexual anarchy.

Unfortunately, pornography’s effects are far-reaching. Not only is the individual’s brain affected by viewing pornography, but their relationships are subsequently affected as well. In fact, CitizenLink reports that 56% of divorce cases involved “one party having an obsessive interest in pornographic websites,” and “68% involved one party meeting a new love interest over the Internet.”

CovenantEyes also reports the average age of a male’s first exposure to pornography is twelve, and nine out of ten boys are exposed to pornography before they turn eighteen. This places a significant burden on parents to be aware of their children’s use of technology, especially considering one in five mobile searches are for pornography.

A biblical sexual ethic is not achieved through passivity; it must be fiercely pursued.

This pursuit begins in the private use of phones, tablets, and computers, and extends to interpersonal relationships. Based on statistics, the more rampant the use of pornography, the greater a person’s tendency toward infidelity, and the more likely a couple is to divorce, breaking families apart. After all, actions have consequences, and those consequences involve deep wounds for the families and communities that surround the unfaithful.

The family is the cornerstone of society. As families crumble because of unfaithfulness, society suffers the consequences of children raised with trust issues, in homes without mothers or fathers. Every child deserves to be raised in an intact, biological family unit. Not only does the child benefit, but the entire family benefits economically, socially, and otherwise.

So, when temptation raises its pornographic and unfaithful head, remember that God provides a way out of tempting situations (I Cor. 10:13); and, it is the duty of believers to run in search of that way out, rather than sitting passively as temptation knocks at the door. In today’s culture, fidelity is not an easy path, but with God all things are possible.

It’s “National White Ribbon Against Pornography Week” (October 25-31)

by Rob Schwarzwalder

October 26, 2015

FRC is glad to join with our friends at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) in reminding everyone that this is National White Ribbon Against Pornography (WRAP) Week.

As NCOSE notes, WRAP week “brings together hundreds of national, state and local groups, along with driven concerned citizens in a massive effort to educate the public on the harms from pornography and the many resources available to aid those affected.”

As FRC has argued in the past, “Pornography has spread like a plague in our nation. It has moved from the margins of our culture to the mainstream, attacking marriages, families, and communities. Worst of all, it has stolen a time of innocence from our children.”

Throughout the week, NCOSE is streaming a number of events on such topics “Teaching Kids Digital Literacy: Tips for addressing pornography & other online dangers” and “Hate + Sex + Technology + Apathy: A Discussion about Pornography, History, Culture and the End of Love.”  You can watch them, at no charge, by going to

FRC also offers some great resources on how to fight pornography, including the following:

The Effects of Pornography on Individuals, Marriage, Family and Community (publication from FRC’s Marriage and Religion Research Institute)

The Link Between Pornography, Sex Trafficking, and Abortion (video of a presentation by the Director of FRC’s Center for Human Dignity, Arina Grossu)

Pornography and the Brain: Public Health Considerations (video of a presentation by neurologist Dr. Donald Hilton)

And go to “Pink Elephant Resources,” which provides resources to those wrestling with pornography addiction and mentorship guidance for those wanting to help pornography addicts.

The battle against pornography can be won, in both individual lives and in our culture.  For those not engaged in the fight, WRAP Week is a good time to start.

Third Annual Ex-Gay Awareness Month to be Marked by “Safe Exit Summit”

by Peter Sprigg

September 28, 2015

Defenders of the truth that change is possible for those with same-sex attractions will mark the Third Annual Ex-Gay Awareness Month by gathering in the Washington, DC area for a “Safe Exit Summit” on Friday and Saturday, October 2 and 3.

Dr. Michael L. Brown, host of The Line of Fire radio program and author of the books A Queer Thing Happened to America, Can You Be Gay and Christian? and the just-released Outlasting the Gay Revolution, will be the keynote speaker. Attorney Charles Limandri of the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund, who defended a Jewish ex-gay ministry in a New Jersey lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, is scheduled to receive an award.

The Summit will also feature testimonies by individuals who have left homosexuality and entertainment by ex-gay Christian songwriter and singer Dennis Jernigan.

The principal organizers of the Safe Exit Summit are Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX); Voice of the Voiceless; and Equality and Justice for All. Family Research Council is a supporting sponsor of the event.

The “Safe Exit” term is drawn from a new program by PFOX to help churches to provide a safe space for those struggling with same-sex attractions, while also providing an exit for those who wish to escape the homosexual lifestyle.

For more information and registration, visit the Summit website.

Framing Christian Thinking About Human Sexuality: Three Theological Considerations

by Rob Schwarzwalder

August 17, 2015

What follows are three points regarding historic Christian teaching about human sexuality. This list is neither comprehensive nor thorough, but instead addresses three of the most commonly-raised issues relating to the Bible and sexual matters.


  1.  Of the three components of the Mosaic law, the ceremonial and sacrificial element was symbolic of both the need for holiness and the need of a mediator between God and man, and the civil element applied only to Israel in a specific historic context (although the principles are relevant - e.g., the prohibition against allowing children to play on rooftops so they won’t fall off was animated by trans-cultural need to protect children). The moral element of the Mosaic law articulated in Exodus through Deuteronomy is composed of commandments that are found from Genesis through Revelation. The moral law is applicable to all people at all times.
  2. Using careful exegesis and sound hermeneutical principles, faithful believers can come to different conclusions about eschatological, ecclesiastical, and other non-essential theological matters. But no honest evaluation of Scripture can lead to any conclusion other than that sexual intimacy is reserved for one man and one woman in the covenant of marriage. This teaching is not ambiguous; it is clear.
  3. If the Bible is God’s written Word, its teaching is not malleable and the truths it teaches cannot be tailored to any culture’s preferences. If all Scripture is God-breathed, its authority is final.  Thus, faithful Christians are not to employ fanciful exegetical gymnastic exercises to obtain the result they wish but are called by God to submit to His propositional, clear, and authoritative Word.

To learn more on this topic watch FRC’s lecture featuring Robert Gagnon, as well as our articles ‘Leviticus, Jesus, and Homosexuality’ and ‘The Bible’s Teaching on Marriage and Family.’

Is Homosexuality “Immutable?” Justice Kennedy’s Shaky Bridge to Redefining Marriage

by Peter Sprigg

August 5, 2015

Many conservative commentators have dissected Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion in the U.S. Supreme Court case of Obergefell v. Hodges. In that case, a slim 5-4 majority declared that the 14th Amendment of the Constitution requires every state to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples. One wonders what the authors of that 150 year-old amendment would have thought of this notion.

Few, however, have noted two passing comments that actually describe the key factual assumption on which the entire decision rests. Justice Kennedy declared—twice—that a homosexual orientation is “immutable.”

On p. 4 of the opinion, Kennedy writes,

 … [I]t is the enduring importance of marriage that underlies the petitioners’ contentions… . And their immutable nature dictates that same-sex marriage is their only real path to this profound commitment.

Then on p. 8, he says,

Only in more recent years have psychiatrists and others recognized that sexual orientation is both a normal expression of human sexuality and immutable.

Why does this matter?

The “Right to Marry”

First, the core of Justice Kennedy’s argument is that homosexuals have been denied the “fundamental right to marry,” which the Court has described as a “liberty” interest protected by the due process clause of the 14th Amendment in earlier cases. The amendment says a state may not “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law”).

However, another key precedent concerning the analysis of “fundamental rights” under this clause, a 1997 case involving assisted suicide called Washington v. Glucksberg, has said that before a new “fundamental right” can simply be declared by the Court, there must be a “careful description” of the asserted right, and it must be shown that the “right” so described is “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition.”

This “Glucksberg test” was a serious problem for those claiming a “fundamental right” to same-sex “marriage.” It is obvious that a “careful description” of the right being asserted in the Obergefell case was “the right to marry a person of the same sex.” It is even more obvious that “the right to marry a person of the same sex” is not “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition.”

Justice Kennedy got around this seemingly insurmountable obstacle in two ways. First, he simply denied that the binding precedent of the Glucksberg test was actually a binding precedent. Justice Kennedy declared (wrongly), “History and tradition guide and discipline this inquiry but do not set its outer boundaries.” It is notable that in the portion in which Kennedy made this statement, he cites a case from 1961 (Poe v. Ullman), rather than the later precedent of Glucksberg. Chief Justice Roberts pointed this out in his dissent, saying that “the majority’s position requires it to effectively overrule Glucksberg.”

Second, Justice Kennedy argues that the issue is not whether there is a “right to same-sex marriage,” but rather whether gays and lesbians, as persons, may exercise the “fundamental right to marry” which belongs to everyone.

The answer on the face of it is that, even when marriage is defined as the union of one man and one woman, people who identify as gays and lesbians are entirely free to marry. Marriage licenses have never inquired as to the sexual orientation of the spouses. A self-identified gay man may marry—as long as he marries a woman. A self-identified lesbian may marry—as long as she marries a man.

Sexual Attraction as the Basis for Marriage

This sounds absurd to many people—why would you marry someone to whom you are not sexually attracted?

To treat sexual attraction as the fundamental basis for the definition of civil marriage is to assume that the reason marriage is treated as public institution is to promote relationships that bring sexual pleasure to the spouses.

While this may be an important personal interest for the majority of people who marry, it is hard to argue that there is a public interest merely in promoting sexual gratification.

The federal government should not be deciding if people can marry based on their sexual interests.  After all, don’t we want to keep the government out of our bedrooms?

It is particularly odd that the Court would (implicitly) say that sexual attraction is foundational to the definition of marriage, but the potential for procreation (in which there is a significant public interest) is not. The public purpose of marriage historically has been grounded not in the encouragement or affirmation of sexual relationships, but in the need to stabilize them because of the recognition that wanton sexual expression leads to social decay: massive out-of-wedlock births and parentless children, children growingup reckless and uneducated, etc.  Seeking to avoid these and other problems, marriage for millennia has been a public institution, one animated by its implications for society as a whole.

Yet while same-sex marriage claims to imitate natural marriage in stabilizing relationships, the public purpose of such stabilization – prevention of unrestricted, chaotic, and socially disruptive procreation – becomes irrelevant given the inability of same-sex partners mutually to create children. 

I have written about the public purposes of marriage in relation to sex and procreation elsewhere.

In any case, the first premise Justice Kennedy requires in order to claim that self-identified gays and lesbians have been denied the “fundamental right to marry” is the premise that marriage is about sexual attraction.

Is Homosexuality Immutable?

A second premise is also necessary, however. To conclude that a one-man, one-woman marriage definition denies to self-identified gays and lesbians the “fundamental right to marry,” one must not only assume that sexual attraction is foundational to marriage, but must also assume that such attractions can never change—that they are “immutable.”

Justice Kennedy included the “immutability” claim because it is necessary to give his “fundamental rights” argument any coherence at all. Only if (a) sexual attraction is fundamental to marriage and (b) sexual orientation is “immutable” can it be argued that a law defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman is the same as a law saying that there is an entire class of persons (self-identified gays and lesbians) who are denied the fundamental right to marry because it is impossible for them ever to marry.

In support of this claim (that a homosexual orientation is “immutable”), Justice Kennedy cites an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief filed in the case by the American Psychological Association (APA—not to be confused with the other APA, the American Psychiatric Association).

This brief can be found online on the Supreme Court’s website here.  Yet surprisingly, a word search shows that the word “immutable” appears nowhere in the brief.

The closest to which it comes is a statement, in a topic heading, that sexual orientation “Is Highly Resistant to Change.” This is not the same as “immutable.” The word “immutable” suggests an absolute, 100 percent, without-exception type of statement. Race is an immutable characteristic (and the mockery of Rachel Dolezal, a white woman who claims to be black, simply demonstrates the widespread understanding of that fact). One’s biological sex is “immutable” (the “gender transition” of transgendered Americans notwithstanding). “Highly resistant to change” is a strong statement, but in an entirely different category from truly immutable characteristics such as race and sex. It is definitely not an absolute one.

However, when one reads the entire text of the section of the APA brief that Kennedy cited, the actual evidence offered hardly even supports the “highly resistant to change” characterization. For example, the section begins this way:

Sexual orientation refers to an enduring disposition to experience sexual, affectional, or romantic attractions to men, women, or both. It also encompasses an individual’s sense of personal and social identity based on those attractions, behaviors expressing them, and membership in a community of others who share them. Although sexual orientation ranges along a continuum from exclusively heterosexual to exclusively homosexual, it is usually discussed in terms of three categories: heterosexual (having sexual and romantic attraction primarily or exclusively to members of the other sex), homosexual (having sexual and romantic attraction primarily or exclusively to members of one’s own sex), and bisexual (having a significant degree of sexual and romantic attraction to both sexes).

This description bears a striking resemblance to the key point I made in my 2011 pamphlet, Debating Homosexuality—namely that “sexual orientation” is not one thing, but is an umbrella term for several different things. They include a person’s sexual attractions, sexual behavior, and sexual self-identification. The APA cites all three of these (“attractions,” “behaviors,” and “identity”), while even adding a fourth category (“membership in a community”).

This brings me to a “gotcha” question often asked by people in the media: “Do you think people are born gay, or do they choose to be gay?” The best answer is, “Neither,” because the question presents a false dichotomy.

No one knowledgeable about “sexual orientation” issues would claim that most people with same-sex sexual attractions “choose” to experience those attractions. However, the meaning of “sexual orientation” is not limited to sexual attractions, as even the APA acknowledges. It also “encompasses” behaviors, identity, and “membership in a community”—all of which are primarily a matter of personal choice, and therefore by definition not “immutable.”

In addition to defining “sexual orientation” in terms of multiple factors, all but one of which involve significant freedom of choice, the APA brief uses other language one usually would not expect in a description of an “immutable” characteristic. It says that sexual orientation “ranges along a continuum from exclusively heterosexual to exclusively homosexual,” and that each of the two major poles of sexual orientation, heterosexual and homosexual, can be defined in terms of “attraction primarily or exclusively” (emphasis added) to either opposite or the same sex. The use of the word “primarily,” and not just “exclusively,” is a concession that some people may identify as “homosexual” even though they have some opposite-sex attractions. Again, this is hardly as absolute as the word “immutable” would suggest.

Although I would never argue that sexual attractions are primarily “chosen,” the APA actually concedes that at least some homosexuals acknowledge that “choice” played a role in their sexual orientation. Here is what the APA wrote about that topic in the amicus brief cited by Justice Kennedy:

Most gay men and lesbians do not experience their sexual orientation as a voluntary choice. In a [national survey], only 5% of gay men and 16% of lesbians reported feeling they had “a fair amount” or “a great deal” of choice about their sexual orientation. Fully 88% of gay men and 68% of lesbians reported that they had “no choice at all.”

But if sexual orientation is inborn and “immutable,” as Justice Kennedy asserts, wouldn’t you expect 100% to say that they had “no choice at all?” The fact that, among self-identified lesbians, nearly one in three said they had at least some choice, and nearly one in six said they had “a fair amount” or “a great deal” of choice, would seem to seriously undermine the notion that homosexuals are always “born gay and can’t change.”

The APA’s brief also cites another publication the APA issued in 2009 which addressed the issue of “sexual orientation change efforts.” Here is how the brief characterizes the conclusions of the 2009 publication:

Although some groups and individuals have offered clinical interventions that purport to change sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual— sometimes called “conversion” therapies—these interventions have not been shown to be effective or safe. A review of the scientific literature by an APA task force concluded that sexual orientation change efforts are unlikely to succeed and can be harmful.

One thing to know about the 2009 publication is that—like the 2015 amicus brief—nowhere in either texts is the word “immutable” used to describe sexual orientation. Note also the less than absolute language of the conclusion—saying that such efforts “are unlikely to succeed” is not at all the same as saying they “cannot” succeed; whereas, saying they “can be harmful” is not at all the same as saying they are always harmful. Here is a key quote from the 2009 Task Force Report:

Although the recent studies do not provide valid causal evidence of the efficacy of SOCE or of its harm, some recent studies document that there are people who perceive that they have been harmed through SOCE. [emphasis added]

Even the APA is conceding here that claims of “harm” from SOCE are supported by no more “valid causal evidence” than claims of its efficacy. The statement that some people “perceive” they have been harmed really amounts to a back-handed concession that the evidence of “harm” is primarily anecdotal, not scientific.

More and better research is clearly needed. However, there is actually an abundance of evidence, both scientific and anecdotal, that sexual orientation can be changed; the addition of the words “valid causal” represent an effort to discount that fact by raising the bar as to what is accepted as evidence.

In fact, Nicholas A. Cummings, a former president of the American Psychological Association, wrote in USA Today in 2013, “Of the patients I oversaw who sought to change their orientation, hundreds were successful,” adding, “…contending that all same-sex attraction is immutable is a distortion of reality.”

Ironically, when the Supreme Court handed down its ruling on June 26th, I was at the national conference of the Restored Hope Network—a network of Christian ministries that help individuals to overcome unwanted same-sex attractions—along with dozens of ex-gays whose existence Justice Kennedy seemed to deny. Many people who once had a homosexual sexual orientation—as measured by attractions, behaviors, and identity—have experienced transformation and are already legally married to someone of the opposite sex. Some of these, like Garry and Melissa Ingraham, are now active in helping others change. Others, like former lesbian Chirlane McCray (who is now married to Bill de Blasio, mayor of New York City), simply moved beyond “the assumptions I had about the form and package my love would come in.”

Change of sexual orientation can happen in either direction. The Family Research Council’s own amicus brief to the Supreme Court was unique in pointing out the “remarkable (but heretofore unnoticed) fact that dozens of the plaintiffs in the same-sex marriage cases that have been brought over the last twenty-four years previously had been married to a person of the opposite sex.” This is proof on its face that either: a) people with a homosexual orientation are capable of marriage to the opposite sex (if we assume that these plaintiffs were homosexual all along); or b) people’s sexual orientation can change during the life course; or both. However, if either assumption (whether a or b) is true, it demolishes the premise of Justice Kennedy’s opinion.

None of this is to suggest that changing one’s sexual orientation is easy. Most people will never try, and of those who do try, some will fail. But some also succeed.  This, and the fact that some people move from homosexual relationships to heterosexual ones—or vice versa—serve as proof that sexual orientation is not “immutable.”

Justice Kennedy’s claim that a homosexual orientation is “immutable” was his bridge from identifying the desire of some people to marry someone of the same sex to identifying a “fundamental right” to do so. The claim, however, is unsubstantiated—making the bridge a shaky one indeed.

Conservatives Are Clear on Gender Confusion

by Peter Sprigg

July 31, 2015

Jennifer Gruenke, a professor of biology at Union University (a Christian college in Tennessee), has written a piece in The Public Discourse challenging the “conservative approach to transgenderism,” declaring that “there are good scientific reasons for supposing that subjective experience of gender is legitimate, even when it contradicts apparent biological sex.”

One example of the “conservative approach” that Dr. Gruenke questions would be found in the Family Research Council’s recent Issue Analysis, “Understanding and Responding to the Transgender Movement,” which Dale O’Leary and I co-authored.

Only a day after Gruenke’s piece appeared, The Public Discourse published a thoughtful and thorough response by Gregory Brown. I commend it (and the FRC paper mentioned above) to your attention, and will limit my comments here to only a few.

First, Dr. Gruenke is a biologist. Therefore, perhaps not surprisingly, her article has a strong bias toward seeking biological (rather than psychological) explanations for transgenderism — the phenomenon of people experiencing an inner mental conviction that they are or should be of the gender opposite to their biological sex.

Because of this bias on the part of Dr. Gruenke, I am inclined to give more credence to the expertise of Dr. Paul McHugh, who as a psychiatrist can be expected to have insight into both the biological and psychological aspects of the issue. Dr. McHugh, former chief of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University and Hospital, is perhaps the leading expert spokesman for the “conservative approach” that Gruenke questions. McHugh has declared bluntly, “It is a disorder of the mind. Not a disorder of the body.” He has also lamented about his profession, saying, “We have wasted scientific and technical resources and damaged our professional credibility by collaborating with madness rather than trying to study, cure, and ultimately prevent it.”  McHugh has written about this issue in The American Scholar, First Things, The Wall Street Journal, and The Public Discourse itself.

Most of Gruenke’s article deals with so-called “intersex” conditions (now also known as “disorders of sexual development,” or DSDs). These are conditions in which some of the biological indicators of sex (such as internal sex organs, external genitalia, and chromosomal make-up) are inconsistent with each other or with what is typical of the individual’s (apparent) sex.

Yet people on all sides of the transgender debate agree that true biological intersex conditions (which are rare) are not the same as the transgender phenomenon. In fact, until 2013, people with a DSD were explicitly excluded from a diagnosis of “gender identity disorder” according to the American Psychiatric Association. With the publication that year of the 5th edition of the APA’s “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual” (DSM-5), people with DSDs were included under those with (the newly re-named) “gender dysphoria,” but only in a separate sub-category. The World Professional Association for Transgender Health — the leading pro-transgender professional organization — agrees, saying, “In people with a DSD, gender dysphoria differs [from in most transgender people] in its phenomenological presentation, epidemiology, life trajectories, and etiology.”

Gruenke’s description of several such conditions, therefore, is interesting but ultimately irrelevant. The vast majority of people with “gender dysphoria” have no anatomical or chromosomal irregularity or inconsistency at all. In discussing such cases, all Gruenke is left with is pure speculation about some hypothetical “mutation” that might affect brain development but has no impact on either the sex chromosomes or any aspect of sexual anatomy, and is “only discernible through introspection.” Such speculation is a rather weak read on which to lean.

Gruenke also notes an analogy that some critics of the transgender movement have made. They have argued that a man who perceives himself as a woman has a distorted self-concept of his body comparable to that of an anorexic — a person who is underweight yet perceives herself as overweight. McHugh, for example, has said gender dysphoria “belongs in the family of similarly disordered assumptions about the body, such as anorexia nervosa and body dysmorphic disorder. Its treatment should not be directed at the body as with surgery and hormones any more than one treats obesity-fearing anorexic patients with liposuction.”

Gruenke seeks to rebut this argument by pointing out that anorexia can actually be fatal. However, this rebuttal is ultimately not convincing. It is true that the body’s nutritional system is necessary to maintain life. While one can survive without reproducing, full sex reassignment surgery essentially destroys the reproductive system (and makes even sexual intercourse extremely difficult, unlike more modest forms of sterilization). It is hard to see how it could be considered consistent with the ethical principle of “do no harm.”

There should be no objection to biologists continuing research to try to determine if there are genetic or biological disorders of sexual development (DSD) that have not been discovered or explained yet. However, the evidence seems clear that most people who identify as transgender have co-morbid psychological disorders which provide a better explanation for their “confusion” (and yes, even “delusion”) than anything biological. And it is also clear that most people who counsel and do surgery for gender transition have an ideological bias which leads them to ignore these issues and simply support whatever solution (transition, hormones, and/or surgery) that the person requests.

Human Rights Campaign Doubles Down on Alternative Views

by Travis Weber

July 28, 2015

On Monday, the Boys Scouts of America voted to allow gay adults to lead troops and work in the organization, while still letting church-chartered troops make their own decisions on this issue. While this is disappointing considering the BSA had already won a long legal battle culminating in a Supreme Court win against those who wanted to disrupt the group’s First Amendment freedom of association and force it to admit those living lives inconsistent with its values, it was not unexpected considering the BSA’s other recent actions. Despite clearly having constitutional protection, the group gave it up anyway in order to be accepted and make the cultural tension go away. This latest decision is Exhibit A for the claim that law follows culture.

But perhaps even more troubling than giving up hard-won constitutional protections was the response of those who benefit from this change. Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin wasn’t totally satisfied with the change, but added: “Including an exemption for troops sponsored by religious organizations undermines and diminishes the historic nature of today’s decision. Discrimination should have no place in the Boy Scouts, period.”

Everyone should take note of such statements, as further claims by the HRC and their allies of wanting to protect religious liberty simply can’t be trusted. Maybe the HRC never cared about religious liberty in any form, but now just thinks it can get away with making such statements and doesn’t have to hide its disregard for the concept anymore. Who knows.

Regardless, as David French points out at National Review, the fact that the new BSA policy didn’t impose on religious liberty enough “displeased the lords of political correctness” like HRC, who “would rather destroy scouting than see it maintain its culturally and religiously conservative heritage.”

Roughly 70 percent of Boy Scout troops are chartered to religious institutions, most of them Catholic, Evangelical Protestant, and Mormon. If they are forced to choose between the moral teachings of their faiths and allegiance to a BSA that mandates acceptance of gay Scout leaders, they will opt for the latter. This will lead to the collapse of the Boy Scouts of America as a viable organization. However, this evidently is inconsequential to Chad Griffin and his allies in the LGBT movement.

The Mormon church has already expressed concern about this new policy. And many churches behind troops would rather just give up their troops than compromise their beliefs. According to another report on this decision, the “BSA has vowed to provide legal support to any church-backed chartered organizations that are challenged in court over the continued ban.” Far from being heartwarming, however, this statements seems to be a tacit acknowledgement that such suits will be forthcoming. Intolerance always takes its toll on democracy.

Contrast Griffin’s position with that of Michael Harrison, a businessman who led Boy Scouts in Orange County, California, who (though still supporting the resolution) said:

There are differences of opinion, and we need to be respectful of them … . It doesn’t mean the Mormons have to pick a gay scoutmaster, but please don’t tell the Unitarians they can’t.”

While still troublesome in light of the fact that the BSA didn’t need to voluntarily give up its protections, at least such a statement shows some respect for democratic pluralism, unlike Chad Griffin’s.

If the HRC and others are going to take the official position of not tolerating private free association in a democratic society, then we must start describing these groups as they have described themselves by their own free adoption of such a position: authoritarian, conformist, and Orwellian.