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Posts for September, 2009

Researcher Blasts NARTH Official for “Blatant Misquotation”

Jim Burroway

September 2nd, 2009

A researcher has blasted a prominent NARTH official for misrepresenting his work, calling it a “blatant misquotation.” That denunciation has led one conservative Christian psychologist and supporter of Sexual Identity Therapy to call for an apology and retraction by the NARTH official.

Grove City College professor Warren Throckmorton discovered a lengthy undated book review by NARTH Past President A. Dean Byrd, Brigham Young University Social Work professor, Shirley Cox, and private practitioner, Jeff Robinson for a Mormon apologetics web site. In the book review Byrd and company blasted the book’s authors for offering a realistic portrayal of the unlikelihood of changing one’s sexual orientation. Never mind that the 2004 book was not in any way gay-affirming — the book was published by LDS publisher Deseret Books and the authors come down squarely on LGBT people conforming to Mormon teachings which condemn same-sex relationships — Byrd was upset that the books authors chose not to distort science in the process similar to what Byrd and his co-authors used in their book review.

The book review itself is a classic anti-gay polemic which not only provides an untenable view of the certainty of “change,” but also goes through great lengths to try to demonstrate that homosexuality is a mental illness — a core NARTH position that is in direct odds with professional psychiatry, psychology and psychotherapy. In the book review, Byrd and his co-authors assert that gays and lesbians have a much higher incidence of mental illness, and that this incidence is not explainable by stigma:

Activist researcher J. Michael Bailey offered other hypotheses: “homosexuality represents a deviation from normal development and is associated with other such deviations that may lead to mental illness,” or “the consequences of lifestyle differences associated with sexual orientation” leads to mental illness or “behavioral risk factors associated with male homosexuality such as receptive anal sex and promiscuity” leads to mental illness.

In Byrd’s highly selective quotes, the reader would be led to believe that these “other hypothesis” better explain the incidence of mental distress in LGBT people than stigma. It’s normal for researchers to examine all hypotheses and evaluate their relative viabilities. It doesn’t mean the researcher endorses them, believes they have merit, or that they outweight the primary hypothesis. And that’s the case here. Warren Throckmorton contacted Dr. Bailey and received this reaction:

I was dismayed to read Byrd, Cox and Robinson\’s summary of my views. In the context of a debate about the reasons for higher rates of mental illness among homosexual individuals, Byrd et al cites me as “offering” several hypotheses other than the increased stigmatization of homosexual people. It is unfortunate and misleading that they did not indicate that I discussed some versions of the hypotheses they mention alongside the stigma hypothesis. I was noncommittal about the merits of the hypotheses, because the required scientific research had not been conducted (and still hasn\’t for the most part). I concluded: “it would be a shame—most of all for gay men and lesbians whose mental health is at stake—if sociopolitical concerns prevented researchers from conscientious consideration of any reasonable hypothesis.” But I also wrote: “It would indeed be surprising if antihomosexual attitudes were not part of the explanation of increased suicidality among homosexual people, but this remains to be demonstrated.”

One of Byrd et al\’s out-of-context quotations is so egregiously wrong that it amounts to a blatant misquotation. They suggest that I believe that “behavioral risk factors associated with male homosexuality such as receptive anal sex and promiscuity leads to mental illness.” I do not. I brought up receptive anal sex and (relative) promiscuity as factors that help explain increased rates of HIV infection among gay men. I said explicitly that it was unclear how these could help explain the increased rates of suicidality and depression among homosexual people. I favor open debate on controversial issues, including those related to sexual orientation. But constructive debate depends on responsible, accurate reporting of facts (and facts include what other people actually said and meant). In these remarks Dean Byrd, Shirley Cox and Jeff Robinson fail to live up to these requirements. For those interested in what I really said, please see the actual article that Byrd et al mischaracterize.

Dr. Throckmorton, who supports Sexual Identity Therapy (which may or may not include goals for changing sexual orientation identity and/or behavior) calls for an apology and a retraction:

In my opinion, Byrd, Cox and Robinson owe Bailey an apology and a retraction. Here I have only dealt with the misrepresentation of Bailey\’s views. According to this rebuttal by Ty Mansfield, the entire review is a lengthy misrepresentation of his book. And I am not the only one who believes Byrd et al have done an injustice to this book and to the science of sexual orientation.