Gay, Straight, or Questioning? Sexuality and Political Science

Charles Anthony Smitha1

a1 University of California–Irvine

In August of 2009, the American Psychological Association adopted the report of its Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation and urged mental health professionals to avoid telling their patients that sexual orientation can be changed (APA 2009a). The report examined the efficacy of “conversion therapies”—also called “reparative therapies”—wherein the patient and therapist attempt to change the sexual orientation of the patient from gay or lesbian to heterosexual. The report is over 160 pages and examines over 80 peer-reviewed, published studies spanning five decades of research. Despite the heft of the report, the findings are briefly and well summarized by the chair of the task force, Judith M. Glassgold, Psy.D.: “Contrary to the claims of sexual orientation change advocates and practitioners, there is insufficient evidence to support the use of psychological interventions to change sexual orientation” (APA 2009b). Of course, this conclusion is a given among all but minor fringe elements in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) community or among this community's friends and affiliates. While sexuality collectively seems to present itself along a scale, it seems for individuals to become fixed at some point along that scale. The APA report provides a useful framework for considering the role of sexuality in political science and raises several important questions for political science as both an endeavor and a discipline.

(Online publication January 14 2011)

Charles Anthony Smith received his Ph.D. from the University of California–San Diego (2004) and his JD from the University of Florida (1987). He is an assistant professor of political science at the University of California–Irvine. His research is grounded in the American judiciary but encompasses work in both comparative and international frameworks using a variety of methodologies. He can be reached at