Neil McConaghy was a famous sexologist from Australia. His book Sexual Behaviour, Problems, and Management is considered a minor classic in the field. I read the book shortly after it came out and then reread it many times afterwards.
One chapter deals with homosexuality.
Over the years, McConaghy had many people, male and female, approach him wishing to change their orientation. For the males, he tried every technique known to man, going far beyond the “pray away the gay” nonsense used by Christian therapists such as the NARTH people. He used the most modern and up to date behavior therapy techniques, including aversion, electric shocks, etc. He also measured his subjects with a penisthograph, which measures arousal in the male.
Subjects ranged in age from 15 on up into adulthood. They also ranged widely on the Kinsey Scale. McConaghy had his own numerical scale which went something like this:
100-0 completely heterosexual*
90-10 mostly straight with minor gay attraction
80-20 strongly straight but with some lesser gay attraction
70-30 bisexual, more straight then gay attraction to a significant degree, but considerable gay attraction.
60-40 very bisexual, but stronger straight attraction than gay attraction.
50-50 fully bisexual. Maximal attraction to both males and females.
40-60 very bisexual, but greater homosexual attraction than heterosexual attraction.
30-70 bisexual, stronger gay attraction than straight attraction, but strong straight attraction.
20-80 mostly gay but with some lesser straight attraction
10-90 mostly gay but some minor straight attraction
0-100 completely homosexual**
Note: All scores from 50-100 = maximal attraction. All scores from 0-40 indicate less than maximal attraction to one degree or another.
*in practice, 100-0’s tend to score “maximal heterosexual attraction, minimal homosexual attraction” in the lab. This implies that even pure heterosexuals may have a tiny bit of homosexual attraction that is trivial and unimportant.
**on the same basis, 0-100’s tend to score “maximal homosexual attraction, minimal heterosexual attraction” in the lab. This implies that even fully gay men have a tiny bit of heterosexual attraction that is trivial and insignificant.
McConaghy found that 35% of all males had some non-trivial degree of homosexual attraction. Most of these males were 90-10’s. I believe that the percentage of males from 50-50 to 80-20 may be around 13-17%, but I’m not sure, and I don’t have the book with me. It’s clear that more or less pure gay men are about 4% of the population.
McConaghy found that over decades of work with many men, not only was he not able to change one single gay male to straight, but he was also not able to change their numbers on the scale above. Wherever they were on the scale above, they were 100% fixed, and even after extensive cutting edge work, they could not be moved.
He also had a number of males who were in the 90-10 and 80-20 range who were bothered by these minor gay feelings and wished to get rid of them. He was not able to remove these minor gay feelings.
Now, to be fair, McConaghy did not have any males who were straight and wished to turn gay, nor did he have any mostly gay men trying to get rid of their small straight attraction.
But if it works one way, it must work another. If you can’t turn straight, you can’t turn gay either. Homosexual attraction cannot be some weird infection that can only be increased and never decreased, and heterosexual attraction cannot be some strange weak force that can only be decreased by never increased. That would make no sense.
In a journal called Archives of Sexual Behavior, I did see one case report prior to 1987 called “Ego-Dystonic Heterosexuality.” This was making fun of the “ego-dystonic homosexuality” diagnosis in earlier versions of the psychiatrists’ DSM.
It presented a case report of a male college student aged 20. At this young age, a mere boy yet, he had already had quite enough of females and their nonsense, a stage most of us males only reach much later in life. Let’s say he was a quick study. The man was completely heterosexual and had a strong attraction to females. He didn’t have a partner, but he masturbated regularly to thoughts of hot chicks.
He wanted nothing at all to do with women, and he very much wanted to be gay. He spent most of his time in the company of gay men at the college, and they accepted him well. I do not believe he was engaging in any gay sex with them. He was trying very hard to develop gay attractions and lose his attractions to women whom he hated, but this was not successful.
He sought therapy, miserable at being a straight man and wanting badly to become a gay man. I don’t remember the outcome of the therapy.
This single case implies what we ought to know, that you if you can’t turn gay men straight, you can’t turn straight men gay either. Gay feelings in the male probably cannot be increased, and straight feelings probably cannot be decreased.
Reports indicate that in cases of situational homosexuality in prisons, on ships, in the military and whatnot, when the situation is over, that is, when the man is out of prison or the military, he reverts completely to his previous straight behavior and abandons whatever gay behavior he had in prison or wherever.
McConaghy also worked with females who wanted to change from straight to gay. He found that using the same techniques that had failed for men, he was able to change lesbians to straight if they were strongly motivated to change. He concluded that sexual orientation in the female was quite changeable and could move around to various different places in life.
McConaghy’s youngest male patient was age 15, so I concluded based on his work that male sexual orientation was fixed by age 15 at the latest.
Whether or it is fixed earlier or if so, when, is not known, and it runs into serious problems of showing pornography to minors while hooking them up to penisthographs to test the question. It might be hard to get permission to do such a study, and one might even be breaking the law if they did so.
McConaghy concluded that sexual orientation in the male was biologically derived and lacked a psychological etiology. I believe he thought it was fixed at birth. I am not sure that is true, and there may well be psychological factors that go into male sexual orientation before it gets fixed at age 15 at the latest.
The take-home point is that sexual orientation in the male simply cannot be changed past a certain date. In females, it apparently can be changed, if they wish to change that is. That doesn’t necessarily mean that lesbians are choosing to be gay, but some of them (political lesbians) definitely are.
Perhaps many lesbians simply “get wired up that way” somehow, are happy with their orientation, and do not wish to change. But the notion lesbians are “born that way” certainly must be rejected.
And without better data, the notion that gay men are “born that way” also must be rejected as unproven so far -possibly true, possibly false. At any rate, by adolescence, gay men certainly cannot be changed, must be accepted by any moral society and are surely not choosing to be gay as a lifestyle choice. It also seems that all reparative therapy for gay males age 15+ will result in utter and total failure.