An Example of Distorted Science from the Pro-Gay Viewpoint

Jim Burroway

March 25th, 2007

Anti-gay activists aren’t the only ones doing this. Warren Throckmorton was disturbed by a “scientific” statistic presented by Dr. Alicia Salzar on the March 15th episode of the Montel Williams Show:

During the Montel Williams Show that aired called Homosexuality…Can it be cured?, Dr. Alicia Salzer said in response to Alan Chambers: “…science has shown us that 96% of people cannot change and along the way, absorb an enormous amount of self-loathing, a lot of confusion, a lot of family conflict, so I know the harm.”

I encourage you to read the rest of Dr. Throckmorton’s analysis.

The only point I would disagree on is his half-hearted defense of the 30% success rate that is often touted by ex-gay ministries. As he points out, that figure is nothing more than a guess (okay, estimate, if you want to use what we call a “five-dollar word” back where I come from) that includes therapeutic techniques that we consider unethical these days — aversion therapy to be precise. He says, “However, lack of knowledge does not mean that number is incorrect, it means we don’t know.” True, but that is also true for any number between 0 and 100%. In my opinion, the “30%” figure is hardly more defensible than Dr. Salzer’s “96%” figure.

But I’ve read the Shidlo and Schroeder report myself (Shidlo, Ariel; Schroeder, Michael. “Changing Sexual Orientation: A Consumer’s Report.” Professional Psychology: Research and Practice 33, no. 3 (June 2002): 249-259; abstract available online here.) I can vouch for Dr. Throckmorton’s assessment: this study only describes some of the benefits and harms of sexual reorientation therapies, not success or failure rates. While the authors reported that a majority of their sample reported failure in changing their sexual orientation, the authors specifically cautioned that the study should not be used to base any estimates on. It wasn’t designed to make such a measurement.

Dr. Salzer was right to describe the harms that Shidlo and Schroeder reported. She was wrong however to use their report as a basis for an estimated failure rate.

I’ve spent a lot of time and energy in exposing how legitimate scientific research has been distorted by anti-gay lobbyists. It sometimes takes hours of research to put together a single post. I’ll probably spend another three hours at the university library this morning preparing for future posts. And while I tend focus my efforts on anti-gay lobbyists who distort research, pro-gay advocates aren’t immune to that temptation either. That’s unfortunate. Maybe I need to shift my focus a little from time to time.

Because the fact is, the unvarnished scientific evidence is plenty strong enough to support our positions. We don’t need to “do unto them” what they “do unto us.” It only weakens our credibility when we do so.


March 25th, 2007

So…why, exactly do they NOT know? It seems to me that when a claim is so deeply asserted in the culture, including a slew of traveling circus shows promoting ex-gay-for-pay “therapy” and wild success rate numbers are quoted by so many of these organizations, it would seem that tracking would make some sense.

The whole thing seems like a ruse to me, rather than any serious attempt at looking at a concept. Someone invents an “issue,” and then tries to construct a way to reinforce it through “science” for decades and decades, and still we have no verifiable numbers to support any assertions.

One would think that the same therapists who claim to help gays overcome their “unwanted” attractions are also treating straights with the same affliction – except they don’t seem to believe it is possible for a straight person to feel an attraction is “unwanted.”

It’s all junk to me.

Lynn David

March 26th, 2007

It is not known what constitutes or can be defined as change in the first place, so how can you quantify what you don’t know?


April 2nd, 2007

thanks, again, for seeing things exactly my way.

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