Archives of Sexual Behavior pp962-aseb-471449 September 4, 2003 20:52 Style ﬁle version July 26, 1999
Archives of Sexual Behavior, Vol. 32, No. 5, October 2003, pp. 403–417 (
Can Some Gay Men and Lesbians Change Their Sexual
Orientation? 200 Participants Reporting a Change
from Homosexual to Heterosexual Orientation
Robert L. Spitzer, M.D.
Position statements of the major mental health organizations in the United States state that there
is no scientiﬁc evidence that a homosexual sexual orientation can be changed by psychotherapy,
often referred to as “reparative therapy.” This study tested the hypothesis that some individuals
whose sexual orientation is predominantly homosexual can, with some form of reparative therapy,
become predominantly heterosexual. The participants were 200 self-selected individuals (143 males,
57 females) who reported at least some minimal change from homosexual to heterosexual orientation
that lasted at least 5 years. They were interviewed by telephone, using a structured interview that
assessed same sex attraction, fantasy, yearning, and overt homosexual behavior. On all measures, the
year prior to the therapy was compared to the year before the interview. The majority of participants
gave reports of change from a predominantly or exclusively homosexual orientation before therapy to
a predominantly or exclusively heterosexual orientation in the past year. Reports of complete change
were uncommon. Female participants reported signiﬁcantly more change than did male participants.
Either some gay men and lesbians, following reparative therapy, actually change their predominantly
homosexual orientation to a predominantly heterosexual orientation or some gay men and women
construct elaborate self-deceptive narratives (or even lie) in which they claim to have changed their
sexual orientation, or both. For many reasons, it is concluded that the participants’ self-reports were,
by-and-large, credible and that few elaborated self-deceptive narratives or lied. Thus, there is evidence
that change in sexual orientation following some form of reparative therapy does occur in some gay
men and lesbians.
KEY WORDS: homosexuality; sexual orientation; conversion therapy; sexual reorientation; reparative therapy.
In recent years, there has been a marked change about
both the desirability and feasibility of attempts to alter a
homosexual sexual orientation. In the past, such change
was generally considered both desirable and possible
A preliminary report of the results of this study was presented at the
annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association, May 9, 2001,
in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Biometrics Research Department, NewYork State Psychiatric Institute,
New York, New York.
Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University, New York, New York.
To whom correspondence should be addressed at Biometrics Research
Department, New York State Psychiatric Institute, Unit 60, 1051 River-
side Drive, New York, New York 10032; e-mail: email@example.com.
(Bieber et al., 1962; Hatterer, 1970; Socarides, 1978). An
increasing number of clinicians believe that such
change rarely, if ever, occurs and that psychotherapy with
this goal often is harmful by increasing self-loathing, low-
ered self-esteem, hopelessness, and depression (Ameri-
can Psychiatric Association, 2000; Friedman & Downey,
2002; Haldeman, 2001). Several authors have argued that
clinicians who attempt to help their clients change their
homosexual orientation are violating professional ethi-
cal codes by providing a “treatment” that is ineffective,
often harmful, and reinforces in their clients the false
belief that homosexuality is a disorder and needs treat-
ment(Drescher, 2001;Forstein,2001; Isay, 1996;Murphy,
1992; Shidlo & Schroeder, 2002).
At the present time, only a verysmall number of men-
tal health professionals (primarily psychologists, social
2003 Plenum Publishing Corporation