Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

Gender Identity Issues in Pastoral Reparative Therapy in the Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk (Ngk), South Africa

Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

Gender Identity Issues in Pastoral Reparative Therapy in the Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk (Ngk), South Africa

Article excerpt


According to van Zyl, Nel, Govender (2017) reparative or sexual reorientation is a highly controversial and according to most mental health authorities, an unethical practice which can potentially be harmful to participants. Although South Africa's Constitution defends the rights of members of the Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, Transsexual and Intersex (LGBTI) community and prohibits discrimination against anyone regardless of their sexual orientation, homophobic sentiment still features strongly in various strata of South African society. Due to South Africa's oppressive background, vestiges of anti-Gay attitudes still form part of various white and black cultures and subcultures. In some circles, particularly religious ones, homosexuality is considered a sin expressed in various degrees of condemnation. It is also mainly in these circles where sexual reorientation therapy is offered with the promise of possible change in sexual orientation.

Societal values, especially those instilled by conservative religious denominations, are key factors associated with the formation of attitudes and stereotypes about specific groups. While it might be assumed that religious communities would be more tolerant and accepting of persons with a different sexual orientation than the excepted norm, research has shown otherwise (Cloete, Rispel, Metcalf & Reddy, 2010). In a recent news report, the general moderator of the NGK, Prof Nelus Niemand stated that Gay ministers should not be forced to remain celibate and that lesbian, Gay, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) orientations be normalised within the church (Mailovich, 2015). On October 9th 2015, the Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk's (NGK) General Synod affirmed their position on human dignity and equality, regardless of sexual orientation. It stated that both hetero - and homosexual persons who live in a relationship of personal faith and obedience should be allowed to be a part of the church faith community. Furthermore, it was stated that the Church should acknowledge civil unions between members of the same sex and authorised ministers to bless these unions if they were willing to do so. It also approved of legitimation and ordaining of all persons, homosexual individuals included (Oosthuizen, 2015). This decision was appealed by several congregations and Church leaders within weeks, which necessitated the NGK to reconsider its decision, which could see the matter postponed for several years (ibid, 2015). One of the congregations opposing the decision to allow Gay marriage and the ordaining of Gay ministers in the Church is Moreletapark Congregation. On the same day as the NGK's resolution, the following statement appeared on the Congregation's website as their official position on homosexuality, namely that the "practice of homosexuality is against the will and plan of God, just like all other sins which Scripture talks about" (Moreletapark, 2015, p. 3). Studies by Backstead (2012) and Drescher (2015) reported that after receiving reparative therapy about 35% of the participants showed significant reductions in the frequency of their homosexual thought and fantasies. The participants also reported also reported improvements in their psychological, interpersonal and spiritual well- being. Thus, this study seeks to offer insight into a deeper understanding of Gay males lived experience as they attempted to reorient their sexual identity during Christian re-orientation therapy.

Purpose of the study

The study explores Gay males lived experiences as they attempted to reorient their sexual identity during reparative sexual orientation therapy.


Characteristics of subjects

The study made use of non-probability sampling. The approach followed was snowball sampling by making use of an informant (Simon & Mosavel, 2010). The informant was known to the researcher and had undergone Christian sexual reorientation therapy. This individual referred the researcher to other Gay males who were undergoing Christian reparative therapy in the NGK. …

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