The Real Comparison of Harm from Smoking vs. Possible Harm of Sexual-Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE)
Banning SOCE for minors will likely expose some teens to the proven health risks of male homosexual behavior
by Thomas Coy, M.L.S.
Governor Jerry Brown recently signed into law Senate Bill 1172, which makes it illegal in California for therapists to help a child or teen struggling with same-sex attractions attempt to change his or her sexual orientation. The sponsor of the bill, CA Senator Ted Lieu, has referred to sexual orientation change efforts with children as parents “hurting their kids.” He stated the purpose of SB 1172 is to protect children from harm in the same way that the state prohibits children from smoking and drinking alcohol. Is it sexual orientation change efforts or male homosexual behavior that puts minors at arisk similar to smoking and drinking alcohol?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) male-to-male sexual contact accounted for 61 percent of the new 48,079 HIV infections reported in 2010. That amounted to 29,194 new HIV cases versus approximately 4550 HIV male cases reported from heterosexual contact. When CDC statistics on HIV diagnoses in 2010 are put into a comparison ratio using the CDC estimate of the “men who have sex with men” (MSM) population at 4 percent of the American male population (2 percent of the total population), the risk of HIV infection for MSM was approximately 150 times greater than for men who did not have sex with men. In addition, the CDC stated that the rate of primary and secondary syphilis among MSM is “more than 46 times that of other men and more than 71 times that of women.”
A search of the American Psychological Association website finds that cognitive-behavioral therapy sessions to help a person quit smoking have a success rate of 31 percent measured six months after the end of treatment. Despite the low success rate, individual smokers request psychotherapy to quit smoking because smoking tobacco is a causative factor in many types of cancer, the most common being lung cancer. According to the CDC the risk of lung cancer for men who smoke is 23 times greater than for men who do not smoke. Those who smoke are also 2 to 4 times more likely to suffer coronary heart disease and 2 to 4 times more likely to suffer a stroke.
The estimate of adult males who enter therapy with the purpose of changing their same-sex attractions and who do in fact experience this change with the help of trained therapists ranges from 25 to 35 percent. Another 30 to 35 percent benefit from reduced homosexual impulses and various levels of emotional healing (Socarides, 1995, pp. 149-50). A similar pattern of varied success has been reported with other psychotherapeutic efforts with homosexuals.
Dr. Nicholas Cummings, a former president of the American Psychological Association, stated that in his twenty years at Kaiser-Permanente Health Maintenance Organization 67 percent of the homosexuals who sought help from therapists for issues such as “the transient nature of relationships, disgust or guilt feelings about promiscuity, fear of disease, [and] a wish to have a traditional family” experienced various levels of success obtaining their goals. Similar to sexual- orientation change therapies, one third of Kaiser-Permanente’s homosexual clients did not benefit from psychotherapy. In some cases though, individuals who initiated therapy not seeking to change their sexual orientation, actually did so through the process of working though other psychological issues.
First and foremost, adolescents with unwanted same-sex attractions should have access to therapists who are trained in sexual-orientation change. Client autonomy standards and the health crisis related to male homosexual behavior demands this. Therapists trained in sexual-orientation change do not force a heterosexual identity on any individual. At the very least a teen will get an opportunity to explore “how their childhood experiences may have shaped their attractions, and to hear a perspective that they probably have not heard elsewhere” (Nicolosi (2009), pp. 287-288). In contrast, gay-affirmative therapists typically devalue the clinical science on the causation of homosexuality along with the possibility of change Drescher, 1998, pp. 81, 153-154, 170, 180).
Second, parents should have every opportunity to guide their pre-adolescent children into a healthy heterosexual identity. Advancements in the care of same-sex attracted children have put the focus of therapy on the parents of the child (Nicolosi and Nicolosi, 2002, pp. 193-194). The therapist guides the parents in efforts to help their son bond with his father and identify with his masculinity. Clinical evidence shows that homosexual prevention family therapy has the potential for success in some instances.
Unfortunately, a lack of sociopolitical diversity in the mental-health associations, academia, the media and the government has created a bias against sexual-orientation change efforts. This bias has kept advances in the understanding of and psychological care for unwanted same-sex attractions and behaviors out of the public’s awareness. It has underplayed the significant medical risks attributable to homosexual behavior, particularly among men. The statistics show that male homosexual behavior is a significantly greater health risk than smoking cigarettes. Young men ages 13 to 29 years of age are at the greatest risk, accounting for a 34 percent increase in HIV infections from 2006 to 2009.
Parents have a responsibility to care for their children and lovingly guide them away from harm whenever possible. As the present analysis underscores, politicians and regulatory boards that ban access to professional efforts to modify unwanted same-sex attractions and behaviors among minors may well be unnecessarily sentencing some of them to serious medical risks. It is tragically ironic that political efforts to prevent alleged harm to minors from sexual-orientation change efforts appear likely instead to increase their exposure to highly established harms such as HIV.
Drescher, J (1998), Psychoanalytic Therapy & The Gay Man. Hillsdale: The Analytic Press, Inc.
Nicolosi, J. J. (2009), Shame and Attachment Loss – The Practical Work of Reparative Therapy. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.
Nicolosi, J. J. & Nicolosi L. A. (2002), A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.
Socarides, C. W. (1995), Homosexuality – A Freedom Too Far. Phoenix: Adam Margrave Books.
 Reyes, Kim (August 2, 2012). “Controversy follows effort to ban gay conversion therapy.” The Orange County Register. Retrieved from http://www.ocregister.com/news/therapy-365822-parents-orientation.html on October 11, 2012.
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (last modified March 12, 2012). “HIV Surveillance – Epidemiology of HIV Infection (through 2010).” PowerPoint presentation slide 4. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/topics/surveillance/resources/slides/general/index.htm on June 7, 2012.
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (last modified March 12, 2012). “HIV Surveillance – Epidemiology of HIV Infection (through 2010).” PowerPoint presentation slides 5, and 8. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/topics/surveillance/resources/slides/general/index.htm on June 7, 2012. The CDC did not explicitly give the number of diagnosed HIV infections for male heterosexuals linked to sexual contact with women. It did give the total number of male HIV diagnoses at 37,910 and state that the percentage of HIV infection from heterosexual contact was 12 percent, which yields an approximate figure of 4,550.
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (last modified March 4, 2012). “HIV in the United States: At A Glance.” Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/resources/factsheets/us.htm on October 12, 2012.
 The approximately 150 times greater risk factor can be calculated by using the 2010 U.S. census figure of 151.8 million males and using the CDC 4% of the male population figure for MSM (6.072 million) and assuming the other 96% are heterosexual (145.728 million). In 2010 29,194 HIV cases were transmitted by males having sex with males in the MSM population of 6.072 million. In 2010 approximately 4,550 HIV cases were transmitted by heterosexual contact to the heterosexual male population of 145.728 million. So in 2010 1 in every 208 MSM became newly HIV infected through male to male sexual contact and 1 in every 32,028 male heterosexuals became newly HIV infected through heterosexual contact. If the incidence ratio of MSM sexually transmitted HIV diagnoses 1/208 is divided by the incidence ratio of male heterosexually transmitted diagnoses1/32,028, the risk of getting HIV from sexual behavior was 154 times greater for MSM than for heterosexual males in 2010. Statistics regarding injection drug users were omitted in this comparison.
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (March 10, 2010). “CDC Analysis Provides New Look at Disproportionate Impact of HIV and Syphilis Among U.S. Gay and Bisexual Men.” Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/newsroom/msmpressrelease.html on May 29, 2012.
 Borrelli, Belinda (2010). “Quitting Smoking Especially Difficult for Select Groups.” American Psychological Association. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2010/02/quitting-smoking.aspx on October 16, 2012.
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (last update January 10, 2012). “Smoking and Tobacco Use.” Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/health_effects/effects_cig_smoking/index.htm on May 23, 2012.
 Cummings, Nicholas (2005). “Former APA President Dr. Nicholas Cummings Describes his Work with SSA Clients.” National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality. Retrieved from http://narth.com/docs/cummings.html
on October 26, 2012.