As Carolyn and I connect with many LGBTQ+ families and close friends, we are often asked about SOCE. Yes, we have connected with a few folks who claim “success” when they experienced SOCE and we’ve also connected with other folks who failed their SOCE experience.
So what is “SOCE”? We’ve done some research from several angles and will share what appears to be well-based information and recommendations.
SOCE is the acronym for “Sexual Orientation Change Efforts” basically focused on changing the sexual orientation of LGBTQ+ people. They may include behavioral techniques, cognitive behavior techniques, psychoanalytic techniques, medical approaches, and religious or spiritual approaches.
Those desires to change people have been around for many years. Over 140 years ago, a German psychiatrist published his findings and opinions regarding sexual pathology. He became a proponent of the sickness model of homosexuality; if you were gay you were ill!
Dashing forward to the mid-1980s, we see many Christian faiths continued that model of illness with people experiencing different sexualities and sexual emotions. Within our own Seventh-day Adventist faith, a particular program was created and financially sponsored by our General Conference. It conducted several sessions but experienced major difficulties with the leadership, poor results, and it quietly disappeared. It was unsuccessful.
Today, our LGBTQ+ families encounter a variety of opinions, facts, emotions, and honest information regarding their own family member and the appropriate path or paths to take. Yes, we have met sincere folks who claim success and strongly advocate all LGBTQ+ people need to attend and change. As we’ve explored and considered their opinions, we believe they probably were successful in their own lives. As we’ve learned, our sexuality and sexual desires flow from our own brains and it’s normal to have variations in many emotional and physical areas.
Yes, you may feel very comfortable with the belief that God made you—every cell in your body—but none of us are identical; every one of us has varied emotions and attractions. So we also experience different strengths in our emotions, attractions, and reactions. Carolyn and I can and will react differently to the same situation because our brains are different, so we behave differently, too.
For our families struggling with these types of recommendations, our major reference document from Wikipedia states:
“There is a large body of research evidence that indicates being gay, lesbian, or bisexual is compatible with normal mental health and social adjustment. Because of this, the major medical health professional organizations do not encourage individuals to try to change their sexual orientation.
“For those reasons, no major mental health professional organization has sanctioned efforts to
change sexual orientation and virtually all of them have adopted policy statements cautioning the profession and the public about treatments that purport to change sexual orientation.”
The major opposition to the above statements and recommendations comes from faith-based organizations. They are allowed their own opinions and beliefs; but for your own personal feelings, it’s OK to question the medical and psychological bases for any conversion therapy program. As mentioned above, the supporting folks you may know or speak with probably altered their visual behaviors and desires because their sexual behaviors and orientations are in the gray area of variation, probably not a stronger variation your family member is experiencing.
It’s fine to have some good in-depth discussions with your family member. Search out their actual feelings, how long have they felt them, how long have they struggled with themselves before sharing it with you and your family. Those loving exploring discussions can help everyone understand and support the actual feelings and desires of your loved one.
The paper we briefly mentioned above contains 213 professional references. It is an in-depth professional updated summary regarding this complex, emotional subject. Scientifically, it summarizes worldwide findings and activities.
Emotionally and locally, for our Kinship families we support their statement that no evidence exists verifying effective conversion therapy.
If your family member does not desire to try it we urge you to accept their decision and lovingly support their life: walk beside them, accept them, believe in them—they are your family—and Jesus spoke many times about God’s desire for us to love our families, our neighbors, and even our enemies!