NARTH Counselor Admits Failure in Changing Sexual Orientation, Blames Patient, Sues California for the Right to Try Again
January 25th, 2013
The American Medical Association’s publication American Medical News has a very good article about efforts in California and New Jersey to regulate Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE). The article opens with a vignette about a patient who has undergone SOCE, failed to change his sexual orientation (predictably), and now has to come to terms with that failure:
After attending a religious-based therapy six times a week and experiencing no change in his sexuality, the patient was left feeling ashamed, depressed and suicidal, Dr. Drescher said.
“I felt sad[ness] and also anger, because sometimes a therapist would say things that were very hurtful to the patient,” said Dr. Drescher, an author and medical expert on gay conversion therapy. He also is president of the Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry, a think tank that analyzes issues in the field of psychiatry. “It’s distressing when you see professionals, regardless if they are well-meaning or otherwise, deliver intentional or inadvertent harm to a patient.”
For an example of just what kind of harmful statements, the article points to Psychiatrist Anthony Duk, who is a plaintiff in one of the lawsuits challenging California’s ban on SOCE for minors:
“With this bill, what’s really at stake is the definition of masculinity as well as the entire basis of civilization,” he said. “When men don’t act like men, you have a breakdown of traditional family roles and weakening of the entire human race.”
Dr. Duk said he sees about three patients a year who he said need help fighting same-sex attractions. His treatment of such patients has not resulted in the desired outcomes, he said.
“I was not successful with the ones I had because they did not stay long enough,” he said. “The major factor is whether the patient really wants to heal. The ones who want to get better, those are the ones” able to change.
What you will notice is 1) Duk has been unsuccessful in trying to change the sexual orientation of his patients 2) he blames them for their failures, and 3) he wants the State of California to allow him to continue to inflict this same harm onto others — I guess in the vain hope that some day he might get it right?
CNN Revisits “Sissy Boy Syndrome”
May 12th, 2012
The proposed California Bill to place restrictions on Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) by licensed therapists provided the hook last night for CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 to revisit last summer’s series “The Sissy Boy Experiments”:
You can read our original investigation on Kirk Murphy’s story here. Following this segment, Anderson Cooper interviewed Ryan Kendall and Dr. Jack Drescher about SOCE and the proposal in California. Unfortunately, CNN has not posted video of that interview.
Gay Orthodox Jews Living With the Contradictions
February 15th, 2011
Dr. Jack Drescher, former editor of the Journal of Gay and Lesbian Mental Health, grew up an observant Jew in a kosher household. He’s not observant now, but he recently had the opportunity to attend a retreat for LGBT Orthodox Jews:
This group’s love of Jewish ritual both puzzles and intrigues me. When I have gone to religious events in recent years, I always feel like a gay outsider. Here, amidst all this religious celebration, I realize I am not a gay outsider as most of the celebrants are LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender). I’m an outsider here because I’m not frum (observant of Jewish orthodox rituals).
…I was invited to speak about “sexual conversion therapies” at a Shabbaton, a weekend retreat from Friday through Sunday, organized by a group called Eshel. The group’s mission is to provide “a place of SHELTER for Orthodox, frum, and other traditional gay and lesbian Jews seeking to maintain their Jewish observance and find meaningful religious community. We also welcome all those who are formerly Orthodox, ‘Orthodox-curious,’ or otherwise interested in maintaining a connection to traditional Judaism as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender Jews.” Ortho-curious? Who knew?
Time’s Running Out For Early Registration for 2009 Anti-Heterosexism Conference
October 2nd, 2009
Time is running out to save on early registration for the 2009 Anti-Heterosexism conference scheduled for Nov 20-22 in West Palm Beach, Florida. You can save $50 by registering by Monday, October 5th. On October 6th, conference fees go up from $145 to $195. This conference is sponsored by Soulforce, Beyond Ex-Gay, Truth Wins Out, Equality Florida, the National Black Justice Coalition, and Box Turtle Bulletin.
So what is this “heterosexism” we’ll be talking about? Jeff Lutes, Executive Director for Soulforce, describes the conference this way:
First off, it’s important to be clear that the title of the conference is the Anti-Heterosexism Conference, not anti-heterosexual. Heterosexism is the widespread assumption that heterosexual relationships are somehow superior to same-sex relationships, which leads to all kinds of abuse and discrimination against LGBT people. We want to highlight where heterosexism seeps into the social, cultural, religious and political fabric of society, and how we can begin to unravel its damaging consequences.
One way we see heterosexism come into play is in the attitudes which lead LGBT people to try to change their sexual orientation.These efforts are nearly always futile. The American Psychological Association recently issued a rigorous review of 83 studies on efforts to change sexual orientation conducted between 1960 and 2007, and they now advise psychologists to avoid telling their clients that therapy or other treatments can change them from gay to straight. With great effort, they may be able to modify their behavior, and they can always change their identity (“I’m not ‘gay’ anymore, even though I still like guys.”) But practitioners who offer ironclad promises to change sexual attractions are not only hiding the truth, but they are violating APA recommendations as well.
“For me, in my own practice, I would not focus on change of orientation,” said Yarhouse, a psychologist and counselor who teaches at Regent, an evangelical Christian school.
…Yarhouse’sstudy focused on those who said their same-sex attractions collided with their religious beliefs. He said his research found that there was “modest” movement away from homosexuality among some Exodus participants, but categorical conversions to heterosexuality were rare.
Yarhouse recommended that counselors avoid uniformly steering struggling gays toward heterosexuality and focus instead on the best outcome for the individual.
That could include celibacy or exploring different faith groups with various attitudes toward gays and lesbians, he said.
NARTH completely rejects that finding, and are instead holding a conference in West Palm Beach to push their unscientific worldview. They are very skilled at getting media attention and putting on a professional face. And you can bet that they won’t exercise the kind of candor exhibited by Mark Yarhouse.
That’s why it’s extremely important for us to be there to present the facts behind efforts to change sexual orientation. Many of those in attendance will include those who tried to change but failed, including some who were former patients of NARTH co-founder, Joseph Nicolosi.
I hope you will join me and BTB contributors Gabriel Arana and Daniel Gonzales for three days of inspiring and informative workshops on the issues surrounding attempts to change sexual orientation and the heterosexist attitudes which underlie many of those attempts. Featured speakers are Dr. Sylvia Rhue, interim Executive Director of the National Black Justice Coalition, Dr. Jack Drescher, Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, and Rev. Deborah L. Johnson of Inner Light Ministries. Through the weekend, the conference will equip attendees from all across the country on ways in which they can challenge heterosexist attitudes and practices, understand the harms of conversion therapy efforts and the unscientific principles which propel them, and become strong advocates for LGBT equality.
Let’s All Be “Anti” So No One Else Ever Has To Be “Ex”
August 20th, 2009
Note from Jim Burroway: I am very excited to be a co-sponsor of an exciting conference scheduled for November 20-22, 2009 in West Palm Beach, Florida. I will be there, as will BTB contributors Daniel Gonzales and Gabriel Arana. I hope you will too. Here’s Soulforce Executive Director Jeff Lutes to tell you all about it.
Two weeks ago a task force from the American Psychological Association released a ground breaking report after a two year analysis of the research on sexual orientation change efforts. Based on a rigorous review of 83 studies conducted between 1960 and 2007, the APA advised psychologists to avoid telling their clients that therapy or other treatments can change them from gay to straight.
Not surprisingly, NARTH (National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality), Exodus International, and a slew of other religious groups immediately denounced the APA report. They claimed, as they so often do, that any research affirming the goodness and wholeness of queer people is bogus and only their twisted belief that we are sick, sinful, and second-class (and therefore in need of “change”) has any credibility.
In my view, the conversation about whether gays can change is a distraction from the much more important question; which is “Why do those in power encourage change in the first place?” The answer, of course, is the rampant heterosexism that infuses nearly every aspect of our culture.
Heterosexism is a system of attitudes, behaviors, and practices that subordinate queer people on the basis of their sexual orientation. In the same way that racism keeps whites in power over people of color and sexism keeps women subordinate to men, heterosexism keeps those who are straight dominant over those who are not. Heterosexism is the prejudice that only heterosexuality is normative, combined with the power to enforce that privilege across every spectrum of society. Heterosexism is advanced by nearly every tune on the radio, sitcom and commercial on television, print ad in the newspaper, film at the box office, and institutional policy within our government and work place. In innumerable ways each day, our society idealizes straightness and ignores or devalues the existence of any person or family who identifies otherwise.
When was the last time you heard a debate about whether therapy and prayer can change a straight person to gay?
I believe “change”, “repair”, and “conversion” are indeed possible. Millions of people have changed their minds and now believe that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender citizens deserve full equality under the law. A growing number of churches have repaired their previously broken theology and now welcome and affirm everyone in their congregations. Slowly, the religious denominations that create and enforce church doctrine are undergoing a conversion in their understanding of LGBTQ people (let’s hope the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America undergoes such a conversion this week).
But the only way things change is if you and I are willing to be “anti” so that no one ever again has to be “ex.” Focusing on the work of anti-heterosexism (undoing the notion that straightness is superior and preferable) undermines the toxic belief system that encourages so many to waste thousands of dollars and precious years trying to become “ex-gay” in therapies and programs that end up doing more harm than good.
So, I’m proud of Soulforce, Beyond Ex-Gay, Box Turtle Bulletin, Truth Wins Out, Equality Florida, and the National Black Justice Coalition for coming together to sponsor the 2009 Anti-Heterosexism Conference in West Palm Beach, Florida (November 20-22, 2009) during the same weekend and in the same city where NARTH will hold its annual conference. Early registration begins today at www.anti-heterosexismconference.org and the conference features powerful keynotes by Dr. Sylvia Rhue, Dr. Jack Drescher, and Rev. Deborah Johnson, plus an exciting line-up of concurrent workshops that will be announced in September.
It’s our moral obligation to be “anti” and resist, oppose, and prevent the systems of power that oppress and discriminate. Join us this November in West Palm Beach as together we learn effective tools for undoing heterosexism in communities across the globe.
Warning: At this conference, you will most likely change . . . into your bathing suit!
Hope to see you there.
Lying About The Hate Crime Bill, #1: “The Thirty Sexual Orientations”
May 11th, 2009
You can always tell when our opponents are really scared. Their lies become more ridiculous. Such is the case with the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 (also known as the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act). The proposed legislation expands the already existing federal hate crime law to include violent crimes based on the victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, and/or disability. The current law already covers actual or perceived race, ethnicity, color and religion.
One of the most egregious lies is this one, as told by the American Family Association:
The Hate Crime law, S.909 (and HR1913), will make 30 sexual orientations federally-protected. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has published 30 such sexual orientations that, because of Congress’s refusal to define “sexual orientation,” will be protected under this legislation.
Focus On the Family’s James Dobson also jumped on the bandwagon as well:
As I’m recording this video greeting, there’s a so-called hate crimes bill that’s working its way through the congress that contains no adequate safeguards to protect the preaching of God’s word. Because the liberals in Congress would not define sexual orientation, we have to assume that protection under the law will be extended to the 30 sexual disorders identified as such by the American Psychiatric Association. Let me read just a few of them: bisexuality, exhibitionism, fetishism, incest, necrophilia, pedophilia, prostitution, sexual masochism, urophilia, voyeurism, and bestiality. Those are just a few. And I have to ask, have we gone completely mad?
“Congress would not define sexual orientation”
This line was brought up when the Hate Crimes Act was working its way though the House Judiciary Committee. During the hearing, Congressman Steve King (R-Iowa) sought to add an amendment to the bill indicating that the term sexual orientation does not include pedophilia.
This attempted amendment was, of course, a deliberate attempt to play on the slander that homosexuality is equivalent to child molestation — a slander that has no basis in the professional literature. But Rep. King pressed on in his attempt to write that slander into U.S. law, claiming that the law doesn’t define sexual orientation.
The problem, of course, is that the federal law which directs the FBI to collect hate crime statistics already includes a very specific definition of sexual orientation. The law’s definition goes like this:
As used in this section, the term “sexual orientation” means consensual homosexuality or heterosexuality.
It couldn’t be much clearer than that. Sexual orientation is exactly what everyone knows it to be: an orientation based on one’s own gender and the gender to which that individual is sexually attracted.
“The APA Defines Thirty Sexual Orientations”
But what if Federal law hadn’t already defined sexual orientation and we had to fall back on the American Psychiatric Association’s definition? Well, it turns out that the APA’s official definition is not much different from the federal government’s. The APA’s official handbook, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV-TR, 2000) offers a very precise definition of how clinicians should describe a client’s sexual orientation:
For sexually mature individuals, the following specifiers may be noted based on the individual’s sexual orientation: Sexually Attracted to Males, Sexually Attracted to Females, Sexually Attracted to Both, and Sexually Attracted to Neither. [Emphasis in the original]
In other words, the APA defines only four sexual orientations. And they do so in order to provide a consistent description of an individual’s sexual orientation. It is not a diagnosis itself, since homosexuality is not listed as a mental disorder. And just so everyone’s clear on exactly what the APA means by their very short description of sexual orientation, they provided an expanded discussion on their web site:
Sexual orientation is an enduring emotional, romantic, sexual, or affectional attraction toward others. It is easily distinguished from other components of sexuality including biological sex, gender identity (the psychological sense of being male or female), and the social gender role (adherence to cultural norms for feminine and masculine behavior).
Sexual orientation exists along a continuum that ranges from exclusive heterosexuality to exclusive homosexuality and includes various forms of bisexuality. Bisexual persons can experience sexual, emotional, and affectional attraction to both their own sex and the opposite sex. Persons with a homosexual orientation are sometimes referred to as gay (both men and women) or as lesbian (women only).
So where did the list of thirty “sexual orientations” come from? Let’s turn again to the APA’s DSM-IV-TR under the heading of “Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders,” namely the APA’s examples of sexual paraphilias:
The Paraphilias are characterized by recurrent, intense sexual urges, fantasies, or behaviors that involve unusual objects, activities, or situations and cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. The Paraphilias include Exhibitionism, Fetishism, Frotteurism, Pedophilia, Sexual Masochism, Sexual Sadism, Transvestic Fetishism, Voyeurism, and Paraphilia Not Otherwise Specified.
The DSM goes further, identifying specific criteria for diagnosing these various paraphilias, something that the DSM does not do for sexual orientation. And the reason is simple: sexual paraphilias are mental disorders according to the DSM, while homosexuality is not. Which is why the DSM devotes several pages to sexual paraphilias — and describes them as an impairment to normal functioning — but just a few words to consensual adult homosexuality, heterosexuality or bisexuality, which the APA reminds us “is not an illness, a mental disorder, or an emotional problem.”
So just to be clear:
- Sexual orientation is strictly limited to the realms of homosexuality, heterosexuality, bisexuality and asexuality.
- All the other stuff — pedophilia, exhibitionism, masochism, and the other twenty-seven paraphilias are not sexual orientations. Homosexuality, heterosexuality, bisexuality and asexuality are not paraphilias.
- The proposed hate crime laws covers only sexual orientation, and not paraphilias.
In other words, you can still punch a pedophile and not risk running afoul of the proposed hate crime law. I wouldn’t recommend it — you’d still be liable for assault charges, but there would be no federal hate crime enhancements involved.
If you won’t believe me, then how about Dr. Jack Drescher? He’s a member of the APA’s DSM-V Workgroup on Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders, one of the groups working on the next revision of the APA’s manual. He confirmed everything I said, and went further:
Pedophilia is not a sexual orientation, nor would pedophiles be covered by a law protecting people for their sexual orientation. Religious social conservatives who oppose gay rights are using terms that sound like science, as opposed to actual science, to make unwarranted and malicious comparisons between homosexuality and pedophilia. Not only is this scare tactic untruthful, it reveals how little respect some religious conservative leaders have for the intelligence of the people they are trying to persuade.
It is indeed a scare tactic, and anti-gay activists know full well that it is a blatant distortion of the APA’s position on sexual orientation and paraphilias. Remember, Dobson holds a Ph.D. in psychology. He clearly knows that he’s lying, and he has chosen to do so as a deliberate tactic. There’s simply no other plausable explanation. And as the bill comes closer to passing and being signed into law, their rhetoric is likely to get worse, not better. Stay tuned.
– Lying About The Hate Crime Bill, #2: “A Danger To Religious Freedom”
– Lying About The Hate Crime Bill, #1: “The Thirty Sexual Orientations”
No Sex Please, We’re Gay
Jack Drescher, MD
January 23rd, 2009
Jack Drescher, MD, is a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst in private practice in New York City. Dr. Drescher is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, and presently serves as a Consultant to APA’s Committee on Public Affairs. He is past Chair of APA’s Committee on GLB Issues. Dr. Drescher is Author of Psychoanalytic Therapy and the Gay Man (The Analytic Press) and is Emeritus Editor of the Journal of Gay and Lesbian Mental Health.
The city of Portland, Oregon is being rocked by a political sex scandal. This one has many of the familiar ingredients of the genre: a sexual relationship between a politician and an intern, a newspaper ferreting out the story, a lying elected official and an ineffective cover up an affair, calls to come clean, a belated admission of culpability, and a sense that the public trust has once again been betrayed.
In this case, the sex involves Portland’s newly elected Mayor Sam Adams and an eighteen-year-old male intern. And the scandal is stirring debate in Portland’s LGBT community, pitting those who believe the Mayor should be forgiven his transgressions and those clamoring for his resignation.
Gay people calling for a gay politician’s head for having sex? This seems a far cry from the attitudes that prevailed within the fledgling gay liberation movement that emerged after the 1969 Stonewall riots. In the 1970s, gay liberation was seen as a metaphor for other forms of liberation: third world countries were to be liberated from colonial oppression; African-Americans and other people of color were to be liberated from white oppression; women were to be liberated from male domination; gays and lesbians were to be freed from heterosexual oppression.
At the time, freedom from heterosexual oppression was also taken to mean opposing conventional, heterosexual beliefs about what constituted acceptable forms of sexuality. Gay writers like John Rechy idealized and glamorized the sexual outlaws who sexually engaged with anonymous and multiple partners. It was a time when calling someone “promiscuous” could reasonably be interpreted as envy of that person’s sexual prowess.
This early movement called for decriminalizing all consensual sexual activities between adults. Some would even argue for legalizing sexual activities between adults and minors. Sexual liberation meant there could be no bad sex as long as the sex was voluntary.
How times have changed. Today, the LGBT civil rights movement has shifted its focus from a radical sexual liberation to more conservative issues, like the right to marry, the right to raise children, the right to serve in the military, and access to health care. The Stonewall’s bottle-throwing drag queens could never have imagined that the movement they fired up would one day bring us Log Cabin Republicans or openly gay evangelical Christians.
How did this happen? Among other reasons, the sexual outlaws of the 1970s did not envision the devastation of the AIDS epidemic that emerged in the 1980s. And although the gay liberation movement did not bring about a radical rethinking of acceptable forms of open sexual expression among the heterosexual majority, it did create what might be called a gay consciousness in the general culture. The generations who came after the sexual liberationists would shape their gay and lesbian identities to suit their own needs.
Thus it appears that while those early sexual transgressors may have paved the way for Mayor Adams to win his election as an openly gay man, the cost of mainstream acceptance has required giving up the more outre elements of sexual liberation. He should not be surprised if the LGBT community does not support him. Today, there are millions of kids being raised by gay and lesbian parents. And just like straight parents, they don’t want politicians coming on to their kids.
Controversial Ex-Gay Symposium Cancelled
May 2nd, 2008
Gay City News confirmed from Dr. Jack Drescher that the controversial symposium, “Homosexuality and Therapy: The Religious Dimension,” planned for May 5 has been canceled. That confirmation follows earlier reports that one of the panelists, Bishop Gene Robinson, had pulled out of the event.
The symposium was organized by Dr. David Scasta, former president of the Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists, and was planned to coincide with next week’s American Psychiatric Association conference in Washington, D.C. Controversy over the panel centered around the participation of Dr. Warren Throckmorton, who has been an active proponent of sexual reorientation therapies.
Also scheduled to be part of the panel was Dr. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He has previously supported the use of a prenatal test to undo an embryo’s homosexual orientation.
Drescher Article on Reparative Therapy
August 16th, 2007
Often opinion pieces written about reparative therapy either sing its praises or decry its evil. Usually this is done in absolutist terms.
Jack Drescher wrote an op ed for the Tennessean that manages to state his objections to reparative therapy without employing absolutes or taking an all or nothing stance. For example:
Does it work? The little scientific study done is not encouraging. Most who try do not change — and no long-term studies show that those claiming change remain heterosexual.
Drescher has his bias and his opinion is not hidden. But he also stays within the bounds of truthfulness and does not employ tricks of semantics to suggest things that are not grounded in observable facts. All in all, a good article.
American Psychological Association Announced Committee To Review Position On Ex-Gay Therapy
May 22nd, 2007
Given how Focus on the Family bungled initially “reporting” on the APA’s announcement of the nomination process I can’t wait to see “coverage” of how committee members were finally selected. Here’s how committee members were actually selected:
Task Force members were selected after an open nominations process. All nominations were reviewed by the APA Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns (CLGBTC) which forwarded the complete list of nominations and a suggested slate of nominees to the APA Board for the Advancement of Psychology in the Public Interest (BAPPI) for review. The CLGBTC and BAPPI recommendations as well as the full list of nominations were then sent to the APA President who made the final appointments to the task force in consultation with the APA Board of Directors.
Here’s the list of committee members, all of whom appear to be gay-affirming:
Judith M. Glassgold, PsyD – Dr. Glassgold is a clinician, researcher and visiting faculty at the Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology, Rutgers University. She sits on the editorial boards of Pragmatic Case Studies in Psychotherapy, Journal of Gay and Lesbian Psychotherapy and PsycCritiques. Much of her work focuses on ethical issues in psychotherapy including the interplay of psychology and religion. Dr. Glassgold will serve as the Task Force Chairperson.
Lee Beckstead, PhD – Dr. Beckstead is a counseling psychologist who has focused his research and clinical work on helping gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people with strong religious affiliations. He works full-time in private practice and is a staff associate in the University of Utah’s Counseling Center.
Jack Drescher, MD – Dr. Drescher is a psychiatrist in clinical practice. His academic appointments include that of Adjunct Clinical Assistant Professor in the New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis and Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at New York Medical College. He also serves as the editor of the Journal of Gay and Lesbian Psychotherapy.
Beverly Greene, PhD – Dr. Greene is a Professor of Psychology at St. John’s University and a practicing clinical psychologist. She has published extensively in the psychological literature on multi-minority identities and the interplay between multiple identity status, coping with social marginalization and psychotherapy. She was a founding co-editor of the APA Division 44 series Psychological Perspectives on Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Issues.
Robin Lin Miller, PhD – Dr. Miller is a community psychologist and an associate professor at Michigan State University. She is currently the editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Evaluation. She was appointed to the Task Force to provide specific expertise in research and evaluation methods.
Roger L. Worthington, PhD – Dr. Worthington is the interim Chief Diversity Officer at the University of Missouri-Columbia and an Associate Professor in the university’s Department of Educational, School and Counseling Psychology. Dr. Worthington is on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education and on the editorial board of the Journal of Diversity in Higher Education. His research interests include multicultural counseling, heterosexual identity, sexual prejudice, and lesbian, gay and bisexual issues.
I can’t wait to see Focus get it’s panties in a bind over this.