Once Upon a Gay….


By Jayson Littman

Many people are surprised when I tell them I voluntarily entered reparative therapy at the age of 21 without pressure from family or religious leaders. I usually respond by telling them that during that time in my life it wasn’t an option between coming out and conversion therapy. It was a choice between conversion therapy and not wanting to live anymore.

After completing Yeshiva high school and attending three years of black hat Yeshiva in Israel and Brooklyn, I returned to my parents home knowing I had feelings for other men. So I did what any other religious Jewish guy in his early twenties might do-–I called the local matchmaker to let her know I was ready to get married. After a year of interviews with unknowing girls in their late teens in hotel lounges around Manhattan, I realized that I needed to work on ridding my attraction toward other men.

I sought the counsel of rabbis in Israel and Brooklyn. The first rabbi I spoke to at the age of 18 told me it was just a phase and during a call back at the age of 20, insisted I speak to other rabbis. An orthodox rabbi in Queens informed me all I needed was a sexual outlet for my feelings, that as soon as I found the right woman to marry, I would be cured. Still not convinced, I spoke to another rabbi in Brooklyn. After some deep thought he said, “everyone has skeletons in their closets, not just you.” He recommended I not disclose anything to the girls I was dating as it was forbidden to speak loshon hora about myself. I tried telling him that it wasn’t actual skeletons that were in my closet, but it was indeed me that was in the closet. I decided to visit with one more rabbi in Staten Island. After an hour of examining all possible solutions of what one might do, and what other rabbis might suggest, he flatly answered, “I don’t know.” “Well rabbi,” I said with my eyes lit up as if I finally had the answer I had been looking for, “that’s the best answer any rabbi has ever given me.”

So without an answer to my problem that I thought needed to be solved, with no satisfactory sage advice from the rabbis of New York City, I turned to the modern day vice of answers to halachic issues rabbis wouldn’t dare touch—Google.

Amongst the sea of Christian ex-gay ministries found on the Internet, there was one Jewish organization that helps men deal with their unwanted same sex attractions—JONAH or Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality. JONAH was conveniently located across the river from me in Jersey City, NJ. When I spoke to its director I was immediately sold, he assured me I would be able to live the normal and happy life that I so truly wanted. Our conversation in 2001 was followed by a five year cocktail of weekend retreats, intensive therapy, bibliotherapy, journaling and creating non-sexual friendships with other strugglers and ever-straights (or men who are forever-straight).

JONAH was a new player in the world of ex-gay ministries and not yet large enough to create their own weekend retreats, so we hopped on the bandwagon of Christian retreats available, with only a slight dose of Jesus. I’ll never forget while on a Journey into Manhood retreat (great title for an off-Broadway musical) I had one roommate who was a Southern Baptist priest who had been forced out of the church due to his cheating on Jesus with another man. He insistently told me in his southern drawl, “You know Jayson, even if you do fully heal from homosexuality, you’ll never fully be healed until you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior!”

My faith and God meant more to me than my sexual orientation, so being in a community of men who felt the same way was a liberating experience. It was exhilarating to leave the life of being the only obviously religious person struggling with homosexuality, to knowing that others felt similar shame, guilt and fear as me. I feel, in a twisted way as if my experiences with JONAH were my own coming out, even though I was only beginning a process of repressing my feelings.

Over the course of five years I began to shed my gay identity, truly believing it was just a politically created idea invented by gay activists to promote their abominable lifestyle. “Gay lifestyle?!” is how one ex-gay leader started his speech at a Love, Sex, & Intimacy retreat in the Washington, DC area. It was a seminar to help heal homosexuals, “more like deathstyle!” I worked through therapy to gain confidence, shed body image issues and tried to correct the classic triadic family dynamic: enmeshed mother, distant father, and a confused overly-sensitive son. It was that that resulted in my homosexual condition, or so I believed at the time. During therapy I learned how to love myself, love my parents, and feel emotions again.

I became close to other men around my age who were on the same journey. We would often sit around and talk. I called the stage we were in “no-man’s land”—there was an obvious literal meaning to that as we weren’t sexually active with men or each other, to the dismay of most who think that’s what happens at these retreats. And we weren’t attracted to women, so we mainly hung out with each other and talked. We decided we didn’t appreciate the term ex-gay. How can we be ex-gay if we were never gay to begin with? We spent hours one afternoon debating what to call our in-between status. We broke down ex-homo to ex-mo and because we said it so many times fast, we realized it sounded like Eskimo. We then further segregated ourselves to Jewskimos, Chriskimos. We never met any Muskimos (Muslim Eskimos) during our journey.

I learned a lot from my Jewish and Christian brothers on my journey. I realized that many Christians who were attempting to change had an end-goal of celibacy, while the Jews wanted to get married and have children. The obvious difference had everything to do with religious dictates. Celibacy was highly regarded and practiced in the Christian culture, while Jews focused on biblical procreation, also pleasing our families. Therapy never centered on increasing our opposite sex attractions, which made sense—the founders and practitioners of conversion therapy were Christians, so even a Christian who reached celibacy in his therapy was considered successful. This was not the case for the Jews.

Another difference between Christians and Jews were our relationships with God. My Christian brothers idealized the concept of surrendering their feelings to Jesus, while Jews have always instilled the concept of struggling with God and free choice. Christians were motivated to change because if they were gay, they weren’t Christian. Jews were motivated to change because if they were gay, their mothers wouldn’t get grandchildren.

After five years of conversion therapy, completing all the tasks required to transition to heterosexuality, including, but not limited to setting up profiles on Jewish dating sites and doing my fair share of pick-ups in the lobbies of Upper West Side buildings, I still simply felt, well, gay. I stopped dating women altogether, and usually responded to set-ups with “Oh, I already know her.”

The confidence I gained in conversion therapy actually allowed me to proudly come out as a gay man. The leaders of JONAH were quick to state I wasn’t willing to do “the hard work necessary to completely change” or that I wouldn’t shed the “politically induced gay identity.” Many of my friends in the Eskimo world deemed me a dos equis—a term I helped create for ex-ex-gays.

In hindsight I realize I was attracted to the ex-gay movement because I was accepted for being a religious Jew attracted to other men—a feeling I never felt those few times I dabbled in the gay scene prior to entering reparative therapy. The ex-gay movement is a community of religious men who are affirmed by their religious orientation, and find support from others in their continuance of being men of faith.

The acceptance of homosexuality in the Orthodox world has come quite a long way over the last ten years, or religious girls have become insistent upon their rabbis to stop encouraging gay men to marry women. Advances are being made. It isn’t rare for me to receive a Friday night Shabbos dinner invite where my sole purpose is to hone my gaydar to determine the orientation of the hostess’s boyfriend. Most Jewish guys tend to throw off my gaydar, as for years I played the “Is he gay, straight, or just Jewish?” game in my own head. Of course, when the topic of gay Jews comes up, I always have to play the game of gay Jewish geography, followed by a setup with another gay Jewish guy. My response is usually, “Oh, I already know him.” You see, we really are not that different after all.

Jayson Littman is the founder of He’bro. He’bro produces and promotes events for secular and cultural gay Jews in New York City. For more information, please go to www.myhebro.com or contact Jayson at [email protected].

What do you think?

About The Author

Jayson Littman

Jayson Littman is the founder of He’bro. He’bro produces and promotes events for secular and cultural gay Jews in New York City. For more information, please go to www.myhebro.com or contact Jayson at Jayson @ myhebro [dot] com. Follow him @jaysonlittman

40 Responses

  1. Harold Blandsworth

    The ending absolutely sucks. It makes no sense, is sudden, doesn’t ring true emotionally, seems illogical. Editors? Had your coffee?

  2. Josh

    +1 to Harold’s comments. It’s illogical, badly written, no emotion and hard to get through. What was the point of this again?

  3. Puck

    See, in Australia we don’t faff around with therapy.
    My brother just beat me up until I said I was a homo, therapy done, issue resolved :P
    I didn’t think the article was that bad, if people are relating their personal experiences I’m not sure they really need to maintain the dictates of poetics.
    Surely the real unanswered question is: How hot *is* Jayson?

  4. Tsivia

    Thanks for posting this, Jayson. While the Orthodox world has taken some teeny-tiny steps in the right direction, they need to keep hearing stories such as yours. It’s amazing to me how often rabbis and others within the Orthodox world speak about this issue objectively, dehumanizing the experience, no matter the exceptional efforts made by the person seeking counsel sitting directly before them (to be true to both a Torah lifestyle and their own identity). I’m waiting for the day when the official response is, “I don’t know.” as the one rabbi in LI said to you. At least then it would acknowledge the extraordinary efforts made to find a life within the paradox. This piece is commendable and I thank you for your candidness–as there would be many who would scoff at your efforts. Yasher Koach.

  5. Lisa

    When I looked up my thought which led me here I put in the search box, Do christians or non-christians make the best friends. I don’t practice christianity anymore, but was still curious to see what opinion I could find on the internet.

  6. Journeyer


    Thanks for sharing your own perspective about your journey through JONAH and everything you’ve been through. You did it in a way that did not necessarily delegitimize the many paths people do take with what you have been through. For an example, I myself basically have been following the same exact path you have through JONAH (with some tweaks here and there). Went to the weekend retreats, found helpful therapists. And for me it has led to a healthy and enjoyable reduction in my same-sex attractions and recently I fell in love with a woman, got married, and we are now expecting a child in December. So obviously, while the path and things we did are similar, the outcome has been totally different. But I don’t think everyone is meant to react the same way anyways. And that is my point. I think (or hope) you feel the same way too.

    One quick difference I will point out though is that so much of my therapy and many of the weekend retreats I have been on with the aid of JONAH did indeed focus on increasing opposite sex attraction. That ended up being a huge focus in fact after I also reached your so called “no-mans land” at one point in my journey. Either way, if you are happy living your life now, I guess it does not matter for you anyways.

    All the best, and I hope people can take from this a decent display of respectful subjective to the individual story telling about these things, instead of some of the more vicious hateful displays against JONAH we see quite often these days.

  7. ghj

    Halacha does not, and cannot change. On the other hand, compassion is a halachic requirement.

    From my gay friends, I see that not everyone is on the same place sexually. Some people cannot change. Some people are bisexual, which makes things easier in the orthodox world.

    G-d gives people great challenges, that are sometimes impossible to deal with. I have to believe that, if people try to observe halacha, and sometimes fall, G-d will treat them with the compassion with which we are obliged to treat each other.

  8. Bernard Mendelbaum
    Bernard Mendelbaum

    “Halacha does not, and cannot change.”

    Halacha changes constantly. That’s a very weak answer.

  9. Puck

    @ journeyer
    So, if sexuality is a choice (a logical assumption from the premise you base your argument on)…does that mean you could be converted back? Or that heterosexuals could be converted to homosexuality? Have you heard of brainwashing? Cults often convince people of things that are contrary to reason.
    As JONAH is happy to paint homosexuals as diseased or sick…I find it remarkable they’d be concerned about ‘hateful’ displays…hate is JONAH’s stock in trade after all. You get what you give these days, it seems. JONAH is no more worthy of respect than the dog shit I might step on in the park…indeed if dog shit stepped in JONAH…dog shit would curse and look around frantically for something to wipe it off.
    I’m as confident as I can be that G-d would look poorly on closet cases fibbing their way through a marriage ceremony personally…they may fool their parents, they wont fool G-d.

  10. Journeyer


    Where did I say sexuality is a choice? Having homosexual feelings is definitely not a choice, but therapy enabled me to choose not to be homosexual. Can heterosexuals do the same the other way around? Maybe, I am not really sure. The therapy I partook in definitely would not help them with that though. All I know is that sexuality is very complex, fluid, and not always in our control, but people are capable of having attaining control over it if they choose to do so.

    What makes you so threatened by my change? How do you know how I feel about myself, in my marriage, and towards my wife? Do you know me? Do you know my story? Do you know what I did to achieve my change? The assumptions you are making are very false and extremely disrespectful.

    If JONAH really was so big on painting homosexuals as sick and diseased then I would have never respected Jayson as I did for writing this article. I respect every individual path with this. I am not sure how I could have made that more clearer in my first post. I think the only person here painting anyone sick or diseased is you towards those who found success with JONAH and therapy.

    Finally, you telling me that G-d must be looking poorly on me is no different than the Southern Baptist roommate Jayson described as having on one of the weekends he attended who told him the only way to have a good life is by accepting Jesus Christ into his life. You are just as fanatical as the rest of them who can only see life as one way for everyone – follow a different path, and you must be a brainwashed idiotic fool!

    Good luck with that mentality, I am sure it will get you far.

  11. Brad

    Im all for your desire to change – but when you use words like “choose not to be homosexual” – that is what is “threatening” to us – because you make it seem like a “choice” to be homosexual. We obviously know in the orthodox community that homosexuality still remains taboo and once its deemed a choice – thats were non-acceptance takes place. I dont know how you “changed” or to what level you have – but Im sure you still have homosexual attractions – even while married to a woman with baby on the way. Its words like “choose” and “change” that are put out there when its more like probably something ull be dealing with the rest of your life. Once an option of ‘change’ and ‘choice’ is put on the table – the acceptance of the once ‘choosing to change’ will most likely be accepted in the ortho cmmty and that will be the response given to every ortho individual dealing with this problem. and that is a problem.

  12. Journeyer


    I’m sorry but you are interpreting my terminology incorrectly. The reason why I use the words “choose” and “choice” is because initially, it felt like I did not have a choice but to be gay. When it came to sexual orientation, initially there was no freedom. And that means there is no choice about this. I will never say that people choose to be feel homosexual feelings.

    What therapy did was it helped me find a way to not feel that way any more. By choosing to apply myself in the therapy, it opened a door to heterosexuality for me that is very real and healthy. I strongly believe a lot of people could go through the same therapy and not ultimately want/choose to be heterosexual and nothing will change. And that is ok too. Not everyone needs to change, and some people are content with living homosexually, and that is a choice they also make. Basically, though, once I did choose to go to therapy, and committed myseld to that choice, the change occurred. Same-sex attractions diminished to a point where they don’t control my sexuality, opposite sex attractions drastically rose, and I am more comfortable than ever living heterosexually.

  13. Puck

    “I will never say that people choose to be feel homosexual feelings.”
    “some people are content with living homosexually, and that is a choice they also make”
    I feel like I don’t even need to be here, you’re doing such a good job of destroying your credibility that you really don’t need my help. Though research has suggested that brainwashing of any sort reduces the overall cognitive ability of the victim so that’s probably not your fault.
    My comments may indeed be disrespectful, but I see little here worthy of respect so…that’s not a problem for me.
    I’d say the same thing to any ‘converted’ married man trolling the beat…you can see them parked there, SUV’s…baby seat in the back…then back home to the wife and kiddies and the respectable lifestyle.
    It’s interesting you heard me say G-d would look down on YOU when what I said was “G-d would look poorly on closet cases fibbing their way through a marriage ceremony personally”.

  14. Isaac Namdar

    Unfortunately this kind of behavior is not unique to Jayson and his background. I come from a Sephardic community, one in which there has never been an openly gay or lesbian person. Many others in my community have also been advised by our rabbi to seek reparative therapy. When these people replied that this is not an option, the young people were told by the rabbi to abandon their families and community and move far away.

    My own situation is even more unique. I, in fact, had gradually distanced myself so that I can live an open and honest life with my partner. We recently got married, and the ceremony was attended by supportive close family and friends. However, when a member of the community discovered our wedding photos online and forwarded them to the rest of the congregation, a huge uproar ensued. Many compared my marriage to bestiality, while others saw in me a Rosa Parks that could bring much needed change to an insular community.

    Altogether, I was able to use the experience to stimulate conversation about a topic that one would never talk about in my community. Much of that discussion was captured in an online anonymous discussion board, and can still be reached on the same website. I have also written about my experiences in a book, and am hoping to use it to educate others in religious communities about tolerance to their LGBT members.

  15. Jeff

    “Our conversation in 2001 was followed by a five year cocktail of weekend retreats, intensive therapy, bibliotherapy, journaling and creating non-sexual friendships with other strugglers and ever-straights”

    Amazing that you could come out of that to arrive at where you are now. Congratulations.

  16. carlos rodriguez

    Odd that the icon provide is not He’bro but rather Jonah.

    It makes me wonder about this question the point of this essay?

    Self-hate, internalized homophobia, gross generalizations – where’s the wisdom?

  17. Bernard Mendelbaum
    Bernard Mendelbaum

    The bulk of the story wasn’t about He’bro. It was about his experience in so-called reparative therapy. So if you would have read the story, you would find it less odd.

  18. Journeyer


    I am assuming you are gay, so FYI: every second that you choose now not to pursue reparative therapy and choose not to try changing is a CHOICE that you are constantly making. That is what I was saying in that second line that you quoted me. Had you learned how to have better reading comprehension, you would have understood that. But oh right, I am the one destroying my credibility here.

    And it is pretty self-evident in your posts that you are assuming that I fit into the category of men who lie about their change, marry a wife and then go and cheat on them. Don’t deny it, my comments against the way you judge me and others are pretty spot on. You are as extreme as those you hate – if I don’t fit into YOUR way of thinking and don’t live in this world the way that YOU do, I am obviously crazy. Learn to be a bit open minded already and stop crying when people do things differently than you.

  19. DavidJBirnbaum

    The outcomes for reparative therapy parallel those for drug/alcohol abuse and other compulsive behaviors: roughly 1/3 drop out, 1/3 gain some insight but only partially change their behavior, and 1/3 experience complete change.

    Jayson, it looks like you got some benefit and insight from the therapy. Thanks for not dumping on Jonah and others who sincerely tried to help you – an immature response that is all too common.

  20. Bernard Mendelbaum
    Bernard Mendelbaum

    @JOURNEYER Do you generally go on websites and speculate about other readers’ sexual preferences or do you just do that when someone doesn’t see things like you do?

  21. Journeyer


    If you read Puck’s post, particularly this line, it is pretty clear he is gay:
    “I’d say the same thing to any ‘converted’ married man trolling the beat…you can see them parked there, SUV’s…baby seat in the back…then back home to the wife and kiddies and the respectable lifestyle.”

    But no, why the heck would I think someone is gay just because they disagree with me? And also, who cares anyways whether they are gay or not? How many times do I have to say here that I respect all paths when it comes to this, gay, straight, gay to straight, visa versa, whatever.

  22. Scott

    Jayson, I’m so proud of you for telling your story. I know it will help a lot of people.

    The details of my coming out experience are different than yours, but I can identify with the feelings you articulated. I’m so glad you grew into the out, proud, friendly, pro-Israel, funny, kind man I know you as. I’m honored to be your friend.

    Great revelation in your penultimate paragraph where you realized your attraction to the conversation therapy was the acceptance you felt for your humanity – as a religious, gay man. Great insight! I wasn’t expecting it, but it makes perfect sense.

    Again – great job, my friend.

  23. Jeff

    “and 1/3 experience complete change”

    I don’t think the figure is that high – and I have serious doubt as to how strong their same-sex attraction is to begin with. I think sexual orientation is a spectrum, and I suspect those who experience “success” in “changing” their orientation aren’t that far to one side.

    But then, I don’t have a 3,000 year-old book dictating my opinions.

  24. Ben David

    “I don’t think the (1/3 change) figure is that high”

    Probably because you are invested in doubting reparative therapy – or convinced to doubt it by the media. So when you write:

    “But then, I don’t have a 3,000 year-old book dictating my opinions.”

    … that doesn’t mean your opinions are not biased. And the statistics I quoted were not received by prophecy, they are based on data… but it’s typical for pro-gay debaters to redirect the discussion towards personal attack or general religion-bashing or other distractions… instead of addressing the facts.

  25. Jeff

    “but it’s typical for pro-gay debaters to redirect the discussion towards personal attack or general religion-bashing or other distractions… instead of addressing the facts”

    I was actually referring to the organization itself, not to you – but it’s typical of God-botherers to complain about ad hominem because they know they have no firm ground upon which to stand.

    I’m sure the “data” is from an unbiased source.

  26. Puck

    Here’s a tip, my children:
    If you need to spend hours online trying to convince people you’re straight…no really…100%…lovin’ the minge…gimme some of that pussy etc…well, you’re probably a raving closeted homosexual.
    As Margaret Thatcher almost once said “If you need to tell people you’re heterosexual, you probably aren’t”.
    Making up statistics to support your argument never plays well btw…we all know 1/3 of statistics are made up ;)

  27. Journeyer


    So according to your logic I guess all the people that spend their time online bashing reparative therapy really feel it works? You make no sense. People have the right to share their experiences. It amazes me what close-minded bigots like you will do to dismiss others who don’t think and live to how you see fit.

    And you really know the 1/3 statistic is made up eh? Have science to prove it? Or is that your close mindedness speaking again? Cause I have a number of scientific peer reviewed research articles that I could show you that document reparative therapy working around that percentage and higher. I’d consider posting links to them if you actually showed a shred of open mindedness about this topic.

  28. Eli K-W

    Just to actually come to Journeyer’s defense, despite my being an out, proud, observant, gay man –
    If he wants to live the way he is living, let him do so. I do personally know at least one person who was gay, and is now married to a woman and has children, and his thrilled. Why is it ok to identify as Bisexual or Pansexual (even though perhaps that bisexual guy is really only 20% attracted to women, and the Pansexual person doesn’t really know what that means) but it is suddenly out of bounds for someone who has slept with men, to marry a woman?

    In the name of open mindedness, people are being surprisingly close-minded.

    I will add, of course, that the damage done by groups like Jonah is immense. Not only psychologically scarring many individuals, but, in advocating that being gay is indeed a choice, they lure families into thinking their son/brother can change. This has caused much anguish and false hopes, and many a suicide – four of them recently documented here in Israel.

    However, if a man chooses to live with a woman instead of with a man, that shouldn’t be beyond your comprehension, even if it looks like that man is a spokesperson for Jonah. We *all* have sexual impulses that we control and ignore – that is what monogamy is supposed to be about, whether you are straight, gay, or like most people, somewhere in between.

  29. AkivaM

    Hi Journeyer

    Well just from the start I am an openly gay former-religious guy. I have been through the reparative therapy process in Israel through a JONAH subsidiary. While I definitely understand where you are coming from and respect your journey I also condemn in the highest form the methods and therapy that JONAH use. It has been proved conclusively time and time again by the APA and a host of other psychological bodies that reparative therapy is harmful and can do great mental damage to a patient. It’s like a new experimental drug that cures a small percentage of cancer patients and then kills the rest. Would any drug authority on earth license that drug?

    I have personally been through the process myself and I need to go through therapy just to get all the nonsense they put in my head to rest. There was so much personal crap that developed because of what I learned there.

    One of the main things that they would do at my group is describe how impossible it is for 2 men to have a loving caring relationship and how being gay = being promiscuous and how it’s a destructive way of life. If the ex-gay movement wants to claim that they are being persecuted by the gays let them stop preaching lies about gay people and maybe they will receive the same treatment back. If they are honest and say we acknowledge that being gay is a very decent acceptable way of life but we are here to try and help you become straight if you want it then I would have no problems with them. My big issue comes when they start spouting all the lies about gay people that I mentioned above.
    I am happy for you that you have found a way of life that you are happy with and that you are able to keep to the straight and narrow with your wife. I just hope you don’t end up being one of the many cases one hears about that have hanky panky with men on the side and eventually get caught to the utter destruction of them and their entire family.

  30. Puck

    Careful, she’s getting antsy XD
    And yes, brainwashing is effective…why anyone would use that to support an argument, however, is beyond me. You are no different to any resident of Jonestown or Waco…well, you’re still alive obviously…but otherwise no different.
    The fact that you’re spending so much time trying to convince anonymous overseas bloggers you’re straight…well, that speaks for itself, no?
    Methinks the ladyboy doth protest too much.
    Just remember to play safe at the beats, your wife deserves that much at least.

  31. Jeff

    Bottom line: These reparative therapy schemes are (nearly) all based, supposedly, upon a “Biblical” world view. If the Bible is God’s unadulterated word, and if he unequivocally condemns homosexuality – shouldn’t these methods work all the time?

    “1/3 experience complete change”? Please.

  32. Puck

    Why doesn’t my avatar have a photo?
    If anyone should be sharing their extraordinarily glacial beauty with the world it’s me!
    *seethes with discontent*
    Oh and I’d also point out I am not ‘open minded’ and have never claimed to be ‘open minded’.
    I’m an educated adult, I do not choose to open my mind to fallacies or ignorance or to that which I already know to be false, to do so would only lessen me and bore all of you.

  33. drdanfee

    RE: Thirds Rule of Outcomes. I suspect the real origins of the 1/3 rule of thumb is the majority consensus of published empirical outcome studies in psychotherapy, generally, across a somewhat bewildering variety of therapeutic strategies, styles, models, and applied focuses. That consensus really was: one third get some to great change, one third seem to get no change that is perceived by the consumer or participant as significant, and one third seem to actually get worse.

    RE: Experimental treatments. In this context, then, the mention of protocols regarding highly touted experimental treatments might be even more relevant. Several aspects of the experimental treatment guidelines/norms are more or less regularly ignored, sidelined, or dressed up in religious language disguise … none of which can be ethically good, let alone good per common sense. Informed consent procedures ask us to fully inform people ahead of time, about the possible desirable and/or undesirable effects of the treatment. I have yet to hear documented evidence, available for peer-reviewed public verification, that any of the self-regarding ex-gay services bothers to inform applicants ahead of time that two thirds of them will either get nowhere, or even end up significantly worse off than the life struggle going on when they consider enrolling in such services.

    RE: Next step studies and investigations. Just in terms of simple research/treatment studies, if any treatment reliably had an improvement rate of about one third, the therapists and researchers would vigorously and actively move on, to investigate what factors precisely, did or did not enable positive changes for the better in the outcomes of the people getting those experimental treatments. Again, I have yet to see any real energy anywhere in any of the ex-gay services which acknowledges the experimental status of the service in the first place, let alone uses every available empirical-clinical best practice and research tool to try to get deeper down into what is going on with the one third of potential happy outcomes.

    RE: Three forms of correctable research fault. The data so far published is at least some kind of start, yet this early research is really shaky owing to three key types of design/hypothesis testing faults. A first fault is that many studies (and this also may include self-reports of various journalistic form?) simply have no real design controls for the two egregious sources of testing error, called respectively, subject bias and experimenter bias. This part a and part b combo of frequent bias in hypothesis testing is so powerful, for example, that NO study of a new experimental drug will prove as conclusive as the familiar double-blind study design, wherein neither the patients nor the health providers know whether the patient is getting Experiment Drug X, or an inert alternative. Given how much emotionally and humanly burdened law, public policy, family life, and other significant domains of modern living already are in connection with LGBT issues, the failure to use designs which control for subject plus experimenter bias is glaring.

    Fault 2 in many studies involves definitions and measures. It is safe to claim that, if the starting data is not clear, tested, and solid per some relevant operations to measure where subjects are, at the start of a treatment test, then the result or outcome data cannot be any better, and often ends up in even worse shape. As a computer science classmate of mine was always nagging me as a student in psychology: Garbage in (data/definitions/operations at study start) equals garbage out (data etc. at study end). Put in lay terms, we could just say that no successful study or set of studies bothers to really determine, define, or weigh/measure exactly where people are on the Kinsey Scale Adjusted for Sexual Orientation ( or any similar more reliable, indicatory measure?), and so we can never be sure that any study so far published involved participants who started out with equivalent ‘homosexualities.’

    If this is a failure or lack in studies, imagine how much fuzzier and more ill defined things get when we are reading journalistic self-reports.

    Two men, let’s say, stand together on a podium at a conference. One man vigorously says that he was very gay and now is totally straight, married, parenting his own biological children with his wife, and above all, tremendously happy to be genuinely live in love. The next man vigorously says that he, too, was very gay, participated in one of the many accepted exgay services, only to find that no matter what he did according to the views or model allegedly being applied to leverage sexual orientation change, after weeks, months, years … and remember, lots of money spent to pay for change …. nothing had much in fact, changed in a heterosexual direction.

    We usually get all caught up in the contrast, not to say, contradictions that sound pertinent to hearing such different outcomes. Before we go there in high dudgeon, however, it might shed more empirical light if we start off acknowledging that we simply do not know from the available information whether either man was ‘very gay’ and what precisely that self-description meant or involved at treatment/service start.

    In both of these fault areas, the discussion often falls back on a sort of argument or emotionally loaded puzzling over the apparent sincerity of our two men.

    Yet, again, we can easily see with cooler heads that sincerity and personal passion … for one man involving his new-found heterosexual status/capacity and for the other man involving his new-found sense of time/money wasted, along with other widely mentioned types of ex-gay service/treatment damage … low or no self-esteem, incredible depression at having failed so dramatically in full view of God, self, family, others ..

    … that sincerity is simply no equivalent to controlling for subject/experimenter bias and/or adopting carefully tested equivalent definitions/measures right at the start of collecting data, before treatment or services goes forward.

    RE: What we call, Abandonment. Another deep fault is simply what we would term, Abandonment, were this ex-gay service any other type of experimental treatment in nearly any other modern health or healing context.

    When was the last time that a prominent doctor or psychologist stood proudly at the conference podium, and got away by glossing over the data which seemed to show that his treatment obtained about a consistent sixty-six percent failure rate? Then, imagine talking with this lead investigator further, only to hear that he simply drops anybody who ends up in this two thirds outcome sector, self-righteously on the street, end of treatment story?

    Our lively ethical and best practice in such instances would surely involve several matters.

    One might be, continuing empathic support (possibly heightened in light of the treatment failure that is simply NOT the consumer’s responsibility, provided that treatment procedures/guidelines were accurately followed?).

    Another might be, a range of appropriate alternate referrals to at least supportive and/or competing care/treatment services, including – gasp – follow ups and possibly replacement financial support, to help ensure that failed treatment people go somewhere else that we are pretty sure is healthy, caring, and life positive.

    What we would question would be such Abandonment, explained by our imaginary lead researcher, in which we are loudly told that suddenly this is not an empirical endeavor at all, but a mystical-faith-religious matter (which, as divine revelation definitively stands apart from and above, any otherwise pertinent empirical, ethical, human considerations?). On top of that bait and switch preaching, we further get a palpable sense communicated in between the lines, hinting to us that something was probably wrong … and the bigger the treatment failure, the worse the wrongness we suspect? … wrong with the patient, consumer, participant in the first place.

    There is a whole lot to examine in this whole business … I mention the word business, advisedly. We generate little data, let alone lasting good, by overlooking such glaring areas of fault, very poor empirical-clinical practices, and other considerations which would immediately apply if ex-gay services were any other type of promising, appealing wellness fostering endeavor.


  34. Puck

    Let’s be clear.
    The only failure here is of those individuals who lack the courage to live the life that was assigned to them.
    It would no doubt be easier for some not to be Jewish, but I would not encourage them to renounce their religion (or worse, practice in secret whilst condemning it publicly).
    JONAH is no different to any other hate group and should be treatede accordingly.
    Being brainwashed by a hate group is not a win for anything or anyone other than ignorance.
    I have spoken.

  35. LGBT Religion News Updates for September 28, 2011 » Global Activist Network

    […] Jayson Littman writes about his experience with JONAH, the Orthodox Jewish so-called “ex-gay” program, and credits it with giving him the strength to come out as a gay Jew. Affirmation, the Mormon LGBT organization, gathers at a historic Mormon temple. The priest who ran anti-gay advertisements in the El Paso Times has been transferred to a new parish. The Diocese of El Paso cited excessive political check-in. Meanwhile, a more pro-gay Catholic parish strike out on their own as independent Catholics. Lastly, Candy Olson, a self-identifying Christian and fiscal conservative, marked the anniversary of end of Florida’s ban on adoptions by gay people, by reflecting  on her own family and her relationship with the her child's father who now lives openly as a gay man. […]


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