Dr. Warren Throckmorton loves himself some reparative therapy. The Grove City College psychology professor, who didn’t soil himself over the APA declaring sexuality is not changeable, does not conduct this sexual identity reassignment service himself, but he’s fond of those who do. Except this man is an academic, a PhD, and he won’t just let these folks go around professing that reparative therapy is the only way to change your sexual orientation. After all, what about spontaneous changes?
The common wisdom among the “you can change” set is that therapy works extremely well for one-third of patients, sort of well for another third, and not at all for the last third. “However,” inserts Throckmorton, “whatever numbers one likes, one cannot put it in context without a control or comparison situation. Another term for this in this context is spontaneous remission. Don’t some people change in various ways for reasons unrelated to therapy?”
Like, divine intervention! Or something close to spontaneous combustion. Call it spontaneous reorientation.
There are a couple of studies which have looked at spontaneous change, although none would be directly comparable to any current studies of sexual reorientation. Diamond found spontaneous change in her study of 100 women. In 2005, Kinnish, Strassburg and Turner reported varying levels of sexual orientation flexibility in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. Their report found that 19% of men and 17% of women in their sample moved in a heterosexual direction (from gay to bisexual, or bisexual to straight — none went from exclusively gay to exclusively straight). In 2003, Dickson, Paul and Herbison reported spontaneous change in a cohort. The chart of movement can be viewed here. Note that 5 of 15 went from some same-sex attraction to only heterosexual attraction and none from “major attraction to the same sex” to straight.
While these studies are suggestive, they cannot be directly compared to existing studies of sexual reorientation. However, the fact that some men with some same-sex attraction and many women might shift spontaneously should be taken into account when thinking about the role of therapy in mediating sexual orientation change.
They should also be taken into account when considering other the direction spontaneous reorientation can also take: When straights suddenly transform into gays. Hi Dad!