EDGE Boston Examines Reparative Therapy
July 25th, 2007
EDGE Boston has published David Foucher’s third part of his four part series on the ex-gay movement. I’m very impressed with this series — he really did his homework. In this especially well-written installment, Foucher examines the pseudo-Freudian theories underlying the ex-gay movement in general and reparative therapy in particular — theories which Robert-Jay Green of the Rockway Institute points out aren’t very well proven. Although Warren Throckmorton doesn’t agree with Dr. Green that these theories have been “disproven” (in Dr. Green’s words), he does broadly agree that these theories aren’t compelling in the way the ex-gay movement uses them:
“When I read the research, what appears to me to be the best rendering of it is that different factors operate differently for different people,” he explains. “In an environment like that, when you don’t know the answer to what causes sexual orientation, it’s really not proper in my opinion to inform clients of anything different than that. The reparative therapists inform clients that their attractions are due to childhood dynamics. The gay-affirming therapists may go the other way and say that sexual orientation is an intrinsic aspect of who you are, it’s because of your genetics or it’s prenatal, and that it would be harmful to try to alter it in some way. I don’t think the research would allow either dogmatic conclusion.”
Fourcher also uncovers what ends up being the very essence of what it means to be ex-gay: the naming and labeling of homosexuality. Jack Drescher is quoted this way:
“You can switch identities, they’re not fixed. But sexual orientation is not as flexible as identities. A person can come out, say they’re gay, change their mind, say they’re not gay, change their mind again, say they’re gay again. It has nothing to do with their perceptual feelings – because people who call themselves gay don’t have all the same sexual feelings, and people who call themselves ex-gay don’t have all the same sexual feelings either. These are just labels.”
But towards the end of the article, where Fourcher discusses the APA’s task force to examine conversion therapies, he gets this whopper from NARTH president Joseph Nicolosi:
“We do not want to diminish the rights or civil liberties of gays or lesbians — they have a right to pursue their lives, their happiness, their dreams; those rights should not be limited in any way,” (Nicolosi) counters. “But for those who are unhappy for any reason, for those who want a conventional sexuality, a conventional marriage, we want to help them achieve that.”
That stated position may not be completely supportable; as of this writing the top article on NARTH’s homepage is titled, “Marriage as Culture: The Case Against ‘Same-Sex Marriage'” – a clear indication that NARTH is embroiled, at least philosophically, in more politically-charged issues surrounding gay and lesbian rights.
“People such as Joseph Nicolosi might today claim that they do not take a pathologizing perspective on homosexuality,” (Clinton W. Anderson, Director of the APA’s Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Concerns Office) agrees. “But if you look at the history of their careers and what they have advocated, that’s just not a credible position. They do seem to bring a prejudiced attitude towards homosexuality to the table.”
This is turning out to be one of the best articles I’ve seen on conversion therapies in a long time.