The leader of Exodus International has acknowledged what gay men and women have been saying for years: it is extremely rare for someone to actually change sexual orientation. How rare? Exodus’s President, Alan Chambers (via equalitymatters.org):
The majority of people that I have met, and I would say the majority meaning 99.9 percent of them, have not experienced a change in their orientation or have gotten to a place where they could say that they could never be tempted or are not tempted in some way or experience some level of same-sex attraction. I think that there is a gender issue there. There are some women who have challenged me and said, “Well that – my orientation or my attractions have changed completely.” Those have been few and far between. The vast majority of people that I know do still experience some level of same-sex attraction.
Consider that Exodus works with very highly motivated individuals – mostly people who imagine they will experience eternal damnation if they aren’t successful. Even with that sort of “encouragement,” these folks are as gay as they ever were.
What Exodus does sometimes change, at least temporarily, is how that sexuality is expressed. A man may have as much attraction to other men as ever, but with sufficient motivation – there’s that damnation thing again, plus family pressure and society’s privileging of heterosexuality – some men can act heterosexual. Sometimes these men get married, much to their later regret and the regret of their wives. And sometimes men stay single and try to avoid sexual thoughts about men. How well does that work? Let’s do an experiment. Right now, try not to think of an elephant.
This is not a formula for a happy, fulfilling life. This is a prescription for loneliness, self-loathing and isolation.
I’ve written elsewhere about understanding sexual orientation. A better course of action for conflicted individuals is working through these conflicts to explore what is most true for themselves and what sort of choices lead to a life that is satisfying, loving and connected with others.