“Exotic Become Erotic” Professor Thinks He Has Scientifically Proven… Well, You Already Know
March 2nd, 2011
Which means I don’t have to tell you:
According to “Feeling the Future,” a peer-reviewed paper the APA’s Journal of Personality and Social Psychology will publish this month, (Cornell Professor Daryl) Bem has found evidence supporting the existence of precognition. The experiment I’m trying, one of nine Bem cites in his study, asks me to guess which of two curtains hides a photograph. (Some of the images are erotic, some neutral, in an attempt to see if different kinds of photos have different effects.) If mere chance governed each guess, I’d be right 50 percent of the time. Naturally, I’d guess correctly more like 100 percent of the time if you showed me where the photo was before I chose.
But what about if you showed me the photo’s location immediately after I chose? Perhaps, if I had ESP, I could peek into the future and improve my guesswork, even just a little bit. Over seven years, Bem tested more than 1,000 subjects in this very room, and he believes he’s demonstrated that some mysterious force gives humans just the slightest leg up on chance.
Between 1996 and 2000, Professor Bem published a series of papers touting his “Exotic Becomes Erotic” theory of sexual development, in which he posits that:
…biological variables, such as genes, prenatal hormones, and brain neuroanatomy, do not code for sexual orientation per se but for childhood temperaments that influence a child’s preferences for sex-typical or sex-atypical activities and peers. These preferences lead children to feel different from opposite or same-sex peers–to perceive them as dissimilar, unfamiliar, and exotic. This, in turn, produces heightened nonspecific autonomic arousal that subsequently gets eroticized to that same class of dissimilar peers: Exotic becomes erotic.
In other words, Bem’s theory holds that we become attracted to those who are different from ourselves, a theory which leaves masculine gay men’s attractions to effeminate twinks but not to women (or twinks to each other or bears to each other or jocks to each other or lipstick lesbians to each other, etc.) unexplained. Nevertheless, this developmental theory which downplays the possibility of biological forces in favor of peer relationships as a cause for homosexuality — and for which there is precious little clinical evidence for support — found favor with NARTH’s own socially-constructive viewpoints.
On January 27, Bem appeared on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report to discuss his latest paper on ESP. While amusing on cable television, his paper has generated considerable consternation among psychologists:
Responses to Bem’s paper by the scientific community have ranged from arch disdain to frothing rejection. And in a rebuttal—which, uncommonly, is being published in the same issue of JPSP as Bem’s article—another scientist suggests that not only is this study seriously flawed, but it also foregrounds a crisis in psychology itself.
…To science-writing eminence Douglas Hofstadter, the publication of work like Bem’s has the potential to unleash, and legitimize, other “crackpot ideas.” In the New York Times, the University of Oregon’s Ray Hyman used the words “an embarrassment for the entire field.” Some critics protest that the article can’t explain what mechanism might be behind precognition. (“We almost always have the phenomenon before we have the explanation,” Bem says.) Others just scoff: Why limit yourself to one kind of pseudoscience? As York University’s James Alcock points out in Skeptical Inquirer, that 53 percent might as well be proof of the power of prayer.
“It shouldn’t be difficult to do one proper experiment and not nine crappy experiments,” the University of Amsterdam’s Eric-Jan Wagenmakers tells me. He’s the co-author of the rebuttal that accompanies Bem’s article in JPSP. Wagenmakers uses Bayesian analysis—a statistical method meant to enforce the notion that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence—to argue that Bem’s results are indistinguishable from chance. In essence, he explains, 53 percent of a bunch of Cornell sophomores, in unmonitored experiments conducted by a pro-PSI professor, shouldn’t really move the needle, considering how deeply unlikely the existence of precognition actually is. The paper, says Wagenmakers, never should have made it through peer review, and the fact that it did is representative of a larger crisis in the field: The methods and statistics used in psychology, he writes, are “too weak, too malleable, and offer far too many opportunities for researchers to befuddle themselves and their peers.”
But then, you already knew that, didn’t you?
Mormon Reorientation group fraudulently misquotes Collins
February 25th, 2011
How very infuriating it must be to have anti-gay activists misquote you and claim that you agree with notions that you find abhorrent. But such has become the plight of Francis Collins, onetime director of the Human Genome Project.
In April 2007, A. Dean Byrd, a devout Mormon who was at that time the incoming president of NARTH, wrote an article titled “Homosexuality Is Not Hardwired,” Concludes Dr. Francis S. Collins, Head Of The Human Genome Project.“ It claimed:
Estimates of heritability are based upon careful analyses of studies conducted with identical twins. Such studies are important and lead to the conclusion that heredity is important in many of these traits. It is important however, to note that even in such studies with identical twins, that heritability is not to be confused as inevitability.
As Dr. Collins would agree, environment can influence gene expression, and free will determines the response to whatever predispositions might be present.
But Dr. Collins did not agree. Nor was he pleased by the political advocacy of those who misquoted a statement from an appendix to his book and wrote to Ex-Gay Watch to say so:
It troubles me greatly to learn that anything I have written would cause anguish for you or others who are seeking answers to the basis of homosexuality. The words quoted by NARTH all come from the Appendix to my book “The Language of God” (pp. 260-263), but have been juxtaposed in a way that suggests a somewhat different conclusion that I intended. I would urge anyone who is concerned about the meaning to refer back to the original text.
The evidence we have at present strongly supports the proposition that there are hereditary factors in male homosexuality — the observation that an identical twin of a male homosexual has approximately a 20% likelihood of also being gay points to this conclusion, since that is 10 times the population incidence. But the fact that the answer is not 100% also suggests that other factors besides DNA must be involved. That certainly doesn’t imply, however, that those other undefined factors are inherently alterable.
Your note indicated that your real interest is in the truth. And this is about all that we really know. No one has yet identified an actual gene that contributes to the hereditary component (the reports about a gene on the X chromosome from the 1990s have not held up), but it is likely that such genes will be found in the next few years.
You would think that having been publicly refuted would be reason enough not to continue to distort the work of others. And, indeed, for people of integrity, it would be so.
But Dean Byrd and his associates have little integrity and no interest in honest portrayals of science. So here they are back again.
In today’s Salt Lake Tribune, members of the Foundation for Attraction Research (an organization founded by Byrd), are trotting out their distortions of Collins’ work to claim that his conclusions were that “homosexuality, like other traits, emerges from some combination of nature and nurture,” and to imply that Collins endorses their reorientation theories.
But they didn’t stop at defaming the character and scholarship of Collins, they also implied that Dr. Robert Spitzer endorsed their views.
Spitzer offers the following: “Like most psychiatrists, I thought that homosexual behavior could only be resisted, and that no one could change their [sic] sexual orientation. I now believe that to be false. Some people can and do change.”
It should also be observed that the type, degree, and potential for change vary with each individual, and many debates about change could be avoided by a more nuanced discussion about it.
Setting aside for the moment the methodology and the documented fraud involved with the effort to fool Dr. Spitzer, it is telling that Byrd’s associates chose to delete what Spitzer actually had to say about the “type, degree, and potential for change.” (NY Times)
But after enduring an avalanche of criticism from peers who said he had given too much credence to the accounts of his subjects, many of whom were leaders of ex-gay ministries, Dr. Spitzer now says many advocates of sexual reorientation have misrepresented his views.
“Although I suspect change occurs, I suspect it’s very rare,” he said. “Is it 1 percent, 2 percent? I don’t think it’s 10 percent.”
But you wouldn’t know that from this Mormon opinion piece.
Because Dennis V. Dahle, John P. Livingstone and M. Gawain Wells set out not to present scientific discovery or empirical evidence of their position, but rather to deceive the public. The observations of Collins and the opinions of Spitzer – had they been portrayed honestly – would have refuted the claims of the Foundation for Attraction Research. So instead Dahle, Livingsone, and Wells followed in the footsteps of Byrd and hijacked the reputations of honorable men to attach them to their dishonorable goals.
Ironically, the premise of their opinion statement was that “true religion and true science, when they are found, are never at odds.” And what an unfair disservice they have done to fellow Mormons.
For if true religion and true science go hand in hand, then it is only a logical conclusion that the religion of con-men Dahle, Livingsone, and Wells surely must be as fraudulent as their “science”.
More amicus, more animus
September 27th, 2010
Those who oppose civil equality simply can’t restrain themselves from supporting the Proponents of Proposition 8. Although history is going to be rather unkind to them (and we will both document and remember), there is almost a sense of desperation to the compulsion to go on record as favoring inequality, supporting supremacist attitudes and expressing dismay that their views may be held up to inspection.
Today I have a whole long list of amicus briefs to add to those who previously have come down on the side of institutionalized discrimination. You can check them all out here.
Robert P. George, Sherif Girgis, and Ryan T. Anderson – You may recall that Robert George was one of the founders of the National Organization for Marriage. His argument is that the state does indeed have interest in enforcing private moral or religious beliefs. Further, “a belief that a relationship between a man and woman is inherently better than a relationship between two men or two women” and “moral disapproval of homosexuality” are both legitimate bases for legislation. And because any position has some moral values assigned, then therefor the value of heterosexual supremacy is a perfectly fine one on which to base law. Oh, and Lawrence v. Texas only applies to criminal law.
NARTH (yes, NARTH!!) – Typical NARTHian science to argue that homosexuality is not immutable and therefore gay people should not have rights. Example “the study also found that those who report themselves as homosexuals showed variety in their sexual experiences when measured on a continuum: 65 percent of homosexual men and 84 percent of homosexual women reported having had heterosexual intercourse.” Lots of discussion of studies from decades gone by in which psychotherapy resulted in “functioning as heterosexual” and a lot of misrepresentation of the work of others (Spitzer and Jones and Yarhouse, for example.)
Pacific Justice Institute – The Greeks and the Romans didn’t allow gay marriage so neither should we. They started with “the Greeks and Romans were clearly not homophobic” but just couldn’t resist the impulse to put in every example of Greek or Roman condemnation that could be found and concluded “Hence, defining marriage as a union of a man and a woman reflects not only the collected wisdom of the citizens, but of the ages as well.”
The States of Indiana, Virginia, Louisiana, Michigan, Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Idaho, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah and Wyoming. – More specifically, the attorneys general of these states. The argument: Walker exceeded his judicial authority; the Federal Courts have no jurisdiction over marriage. Loving was justified “to uphold the core guarantees of the Fourteenth Amendment” but Perry would “recast the basic parameters of marriage.” The rest was a rerun of the Proponents’ failing arguments in court.
American College of Pediatricians – Remember this totally bogus group from the lie-ridden letter crafted by NARTH but sent under their name? They are back with the predictable “Think of the Children!! Children need a mommy and a daddy. Ignore what the real professional groups say” message.
Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence (John Eastman) – Eastman was NOM’s special pick for CA Attorney General – he lost badly in the Republican primary, 16 points below Steve Cooley, who had opposed Proposition 8. Reading this political rant (it really can’t be called a legal argument), I am relieved that this guy has no chance of representing my state in court… or at least not this year. His argument: ” The Initiative Proponents have standing to defend Proposition 8, both as Agents of the State and in their own right”.
Becket Fund for Religious Liberty – Gay equality is incompatible with religious liberty. If gay people are treated as full citizens and granted equal access to civil marriage, then those religious individuals and groups that oppose civil equality and support heterosexual supremacy might be sued for discrimination. Those people who operate “job training programs, child care, gyms and day camps” would not be able to discriminate, and if they did, they might not get taxpayer dollars with which to deny gay people access. And that’s why the voters approved Proposition 8: to support “religious liberty” to discriminate against gays. (They got $500 K from the Knights of Columbus last year)
National Legal Foundation – These folk call themselves “a Christian public interest law firm” but are best known as the legal team who defended Cincinnati’s Issue 3, which would have amended the city charter to ban any city laws and policies that would prohibit discrimination against gay Cincinnati residents in employment, housing, and other areas. They disagree with Walker’s finding of fact and argue that the Ninth Circuit should revisit and reverse them. In the Cincinnati case, the Sixth Circuit reversed a number of the lower court’s findings and NLF gloatingly says that this court should do the same. They fail to mention that the US Supreme Court reversed the decision and found that Cincinnati violated the US Constitution.
Eagle Forum (Phyllis Schlafly) – The Proponents and Imperial county have standing. And if they don’t have standing, then there’s no case and the whole thing should be thrown out entirely, including Judge Walker’s ruling.
Concerned Women of America – Gays are politically powerful, have powerful allies, significant funding, and the public is growing in support. So discrimination against gay people should not be subjected to heightened scrutiny. “As of June 1, 2009, thirty-one states and the District of Columbia had state laws regarding “hate crimes” based on sexual orientation.” (I wonder what else 31 states had?)
National Organization for Marriage (NOM – Brian Brown and Maggie Gallagher) – Ah, NOM, we knew you’d participate. NOM has a number of interesting arguments. Yes, there are “children need a mommy and daddy” and “marriage is about procreation” and “you’re redefining marriage”, but they also have these fascinating (and oh-so-classy) things to share:
Men will no longer be willing to support their children: “When society simply weakens its support for the ideal that children should be cared for by both the man and the woman who made them, children end up disproportionately in the care of solo mothers. What will happen when the law and society rejects that view altogether as irrational bigotry? If the district court has its way, we will find out.”
Same-sex marriage will lead to polygamy and incest: “If, as the district court suggests, marriage were to become an essentially private, intimate, emotional relationship created by two people to enhance their own personal well-being, it is wrong, discriminatory, and counterproductive for the state to favor certain kinds of intimate relations over others. Sisters can cohabit and commit, and so can best friends in non-romantic relationships. Three people can cohabit and commit, too. Why can’t these people claim marriage as well? Once a key feature of marriage has been deconstructed, other historic features of marriage will become much harder to explain and defend, both in law and culture.”
And my very favorite: Look at Massachusetts; If you allow gay marriage then – oh noes – people will support it. “Data from Massachusetts likewise does little to alleviate concerns that same- sex marriage could lead to negative consequences. To the contrary, the data relied upon by the district court actually suggests a weakening in the marriage culture in the years immediately following the same-sex marriage ruling in Massachusetts. … In 2009, amicus curiae National Organization for Marriage commissioned a survey in Massachusetts of attitudes about marriage five years into that state’s experiment with same-sex marriage. The survey found that ―in the five years since gay marriage became a reality in Massachusetts, support for the idea that the ideal is a married mother and father dropped from 84 percent to 76 percent.”
Paul McHugh – McHugh is perhaps best known for his anti-transgender activism. But he’s joining in amicus to declare that you can’t define “homosexual” and it’s not fixed or immutable (presumably unlike race which is always and ever immediately discernible). Because while many people fit all three definitions (attractions, behavior, identity) there are exceptions. So therefore someone who is same-sex attracted, in a relationship with another person of the same sex, and who identifies as being gay should not be considered to be homosexual because, after all, there are people in the closet.
And because you can’t define “homosexual” then a woman in love with her same-sex partner ought not be able to marry her. Further, because there is no gay gene (unlike the African-American gene). It may be caused by education (I love this one): Because “It may very well be the case that on average lesbians and gay men in the United States have a higher educational level than comparable heterosexual men and women”, there therefore, “Education and socioeconomic levels have also been suggested as contributing factors to homosexuality.” Really? By whom? That has to be the worst example of correlation = causation that I’ve seen in a while.
But to understand the depth of McHugh’s basic dishonesty and lack of any sense of moral character, you have to consider ” Identical twin studies confirm that homosexual orientation is not genetically determined.”
Actually, twin studies have found that genetics contribute 35-39% for men and 18-19% for women. In other words, while it’s not fully genetically determined, McHugh is implying the opposite of what the studies have found.
Eugene Dong – No idea who this guy is but his argument is this: It’s expensive to have children so the state benefits by subsidizing and benefiting heterosexuality so as to perpetuate the human race.
American Civil Rights Union (sort of an anti-ACLU) – fundamental rights are limited to those that are deep-rooted in American history and tradition.
Catholics for the Common Good – God’s definition of marriage pre-exists any state recognition. They make the usual arguments (including quoting the Pope as an authority), but their real objection is found in their request to file the amicus: “…because the district court’s opinion enshrined a re-definition of marriage in California law that may expose this and similar organizations and persons of good will to claims of discrimination…” It’s the Maggie complaint, “If you treat gay people equally under the law, then those of us who want to treat them as inferior will be called bigots.”
And one woman, Tamara L. Cravit, wrote in to say that the Proponents do not have standing. So far she’s the only pro-plaintiff amicus brief.
Minneapolis paper profiles doctor who refuted bogus pediatrician group
May 25th, 2010
When the anti-gay activist group NARTH masqueraded as a “Psychosocial Development Committee” of a fake pediatrician organization, we exposed the charade. Truth Wins Out then got a statement from Dr. Gary Remafedi, the researcher whom the bogus group cited for much of their claims in which he refuted and debunked their anti-gay positions.
Now an article in Minneapolis’ City Pages follows up and provides more information.
Remafedi also wrote a letter to the American College of Pediatricians, asking them to stop citing his research. But the college isn’t budging. Reached at his Florida headquarters, Dr. Tom Benton, the group’s president, says he has every right to use any research he wants.
“I have the utmost respect for Dr. Remafedi,” says Benton, who is a pediatrician. “He does good work. The fact is, his research supports our conclusions, even if he doesn’t.”
Which is why, Benton says, he won’t be taking down references to Remafedi’s work or making any corrections.
That is unthinkable. To have a reputable and respected researcher explain that you are misstating his position – and doing to in a way that in directly contradictory to his intent and his findings – should be cause for immediate correction and profuse apology. To do otherwise is not only disrespectful, but may indeed be libelous.
If there ever was any question about whether perhaps the “American College of Pediatricians” was perhaps duped by NARTH and not completely complicit in their campaign of fraud, this clears up the matter completely. Dr. Tom Benton and the rest of his pretend organization are dedicated anti-gay activists first and physicians a far distant second.
Scott Lively Initiates Renewed Push to Pass Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill
May 24th, 2010
After laying low for a while amid news reports that Ugandan leaders may quietly drop the draconian Anti-Homosexuality BIll, it appears that Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively has decided become a pitchman for the bill’s passage, albeit in a slightly altered form.
Grove City College professor Warren Throckmorton discovered via an email sent to supporters that Scott Lively has decided to “get off defense and counter-attack the false witnesses with hard facts about Uganda.” Toward that aim, Lively yesterday posted a letter on his web site dated March, 2010, addressed to Edward Ssekandi, the speaker of Uganda’s Parliament. In that letter, Lively urges the prompt passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill with some minor modifications. Lively suggests that the death penalty be dropped from the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, but as Dr. Throckmorton notes, Lively’s position “sound(s) pragmatic rather than principled.” Lively writes:
First and foremost, the inclusion of capital punishment for what you have classed as “aggravated homosexuality” is, in my view, a disproportionately harsh penalty. You may not be aware that capital punishment has been banned in numerous countries, even for the most extreme cases of aggravated murder. This is held as such an important policy that these nations will often refuse to extradite criminals to their home countries (including the United States) if there is any possibility that they will be subject to capital punishment there. Advocating the “death penalty” for “mere” sexual crimes evokes such a severe negative reaction in most Western nations that all other aspects of the law, and the rationale for drafting it is ignored, and very “gay” movement we seek to oppose is strengthened by public sympathy they would not otherwise enjoy.
Conversely, if the “death penalty” provision were removed, it would take the wind out of the sails of their current campaign against the bill. With so much of the international opposition rooted in the idea that this is a “Kill the Gays” law, the removal of this provision would represent enough of a concession on your part that a great many of the people who are now siding with the homosexual movement out of sympathy would consider the matter resolved. The “gay” activists and their political allies will, of course, continue to attack the bill, but from a much weaker position.
Lively also argues that the provision requiring individuals to report gay people to police should be dropped as well. “it is too vague,” he writes, “and because it targets people who may live as homosexuals in their private lives, but who do not seek to recruit others or legitimize their lifestyle in the larger society.” He argues instead that they should enact a “provision along the lines of child abuse reporting requirements in the U.S.”, but with the cut-off age for reporting being extended to the age of twenty-five, which is well into adulthood:
I believe you could easily adapt this model to your purposes by imposing this same reporting requirement on anyone with knowledge of homosexuals who involve themselves with anyone under a certain age. If, for example, you encompassed all youths under the age of twenty-five within this shield of protection, you would stop virtually all “gay” recruitment in your country, since normal young men and women are usually firmly set in their heterosexual identity by their mid-twenties.
Lively also argues that the bill should encourage “rehabilitation,” which, given the already draconian lifetime imprisonment penalties under current Ugandan law for homosexuality, would amount to coercing LGBT people into unproven and harmful conversion therapies.
Individual leaders at Exodus International, North America’s largest ex-gay organization whose board member, Don Schmierer, spoke the March 5-7, 2010 conference in Kampala alongside Scott Lively prior to the introduction of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, have come out against forced therapy schemes, although to date we are still unable to find an official Exodus International position statement on its web site.
Officials with The National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), the so-called “secular” arm of the ex-gay movement, have also come out against coerced therapy schemes, although at this time I also cannot find a position to that effect on NARTH’s web site either. Because Lively refers to both organizations as “experts” in ex-gay matters, I believe, once again, that it is essential for Exodus and NARTH to place such statements on their web sites, since this is most certainly not the first time this issue has arisen.
Lively’s letter to Speaker Ssekandi does not appear to have reached the speaker directly, and the only reply that Lively posts on his web site comes from MP Charles Tuhaise, who received a copy of Lively’s letter via Ugandan pentecostal pastor Martin Ssempa. Tuhaise says that dropping the death penalty may be considered, but rejects Lively’s other suggestions, labelling them as part of the same failed strategy which allowed pornography to “[break] barriers in Western society and became insidious.” Tuhaise continues, “It’s like the proverbial ‘Camel and herdsman story’. Today it is a foot in the hut, tomorrow it is a leg in the hut, next day its the head in the hut; before long, the herdsman is tossed out of the hut.”
Tuhaise says, “Ultimately, I see no way out in taking a stand and paying the price,” and comments Luively for having “stood up to homosexual intimidation for so long as a lone voice.”
Exodus Co-Founder: I Regret Teaching That Gayness Is The Result Of Bad Parenting
A multi-part video interview series with Michael Bussee, co-founder of Exodus International turned critic.
May 18th, 2010
Yesterday we looked at Michael’s regret for teaching the idea that if you worked hard enough in an ex-gay program you would be changed.
Today Michael shares his other regret, teaching that bad parenting causes a person to be gay. Michael talks about the division in families that can cause and his own process of later reclaiming the belief his father was actually loving, giving, encouraging and self-sacrificial.
(transcript below the jump)
Exodus Co-Founder: When People Left Our Program They Just Disappeared
A multi-part video interview series with Michael Bussee, co-founder of Exodus International turned critic.
May 13th, 2010
As notable ex-gay survivor Peterson Toscano wrote in 2007, ex-gay programs and Exodus have absolutely no sort of after-care or follow-up when a participant leaves a program:
Never once has an ex-gay program I attended ever done any sort of follow-up. I mean I can’t buy a soy latte these days without having to fill out a survey about my coffee experience. Yet folks can spend tens of thousands of dollars on reparative therapy and nothing–no aftercare, no reflections on what worked and what didn’t work.
I’m admittedly curious about what goes through the mind of an ex-gay leader when a participant stops coming. Do they assume the person is cured? Have they gone back in the closet? Are they living the dreaded homosexual lifestyle?
It’s not an easy thing to confront as you can tell by Michael’s body language in this segment and that I had to ask the question three times before we got into the meat of the issue.
(transcript after the jump)
NARTH and Rekers part ways
May 11th, 2010
From the NARTH website:
“I am immediately resigning my membership in NARTH to allow myself the time necessary to fight the false media reports that have been made against me. With the assistance of a defamation attorney, I will fight these false reports because I have not engaged in any homosexual behavior whatsoever. I am not gay and never have been.” –George A. Rekers, Ph.D.
NARTH has accepted Dr. Rekers’ resignation and would hope that the legal process will sufficiently clarify the questions that have arisen in this unfortunate situation. We express our sincere sympathy to all individuals, regardless of their perspective, who have been injured by these events. We also wish to reiterate our traditional position that these personal controversies do not change the scientific data, nor do they detract from the important work of NARTH. NARTH continues to support scientific research, and to value client autonomy, client self-determination and client diversity.
Poor Dr. Rekers. He’s still convinced that going onto a website dedicated to connecting gay prostitutes with those wishing to procure their services, selecting a young man of 20, hiring him to give erotic massage, and then taking him on a 10 day trip in Europe during which he received daily erotic massages is somehow consistent with the claim that he has not “engaged in any homosexual behavior whatsoever.”
Delusion is a sad thing.
UPDATE: Prior to Rekers’ resignation, NARTH may have been involved with trying to control the story. (Miami New Times)
Lucien asked Rekers repeatedly if anyone else had been involved in the questionnaire. “Yeah, one of the guys who’s on the board of a professional organization with me,” Rekers said.
As Lucien kept digging for details, Rekers finally admitted that the “professional organization” was NARTH.
NARTH’s Pruden denies the claim.
Cuz, ya know, any advice given by NARTH members to Rekers wasn’t on the behalf of NARTH itself, you know.
NARTH Responds To Rekers Controversy
May 6th, 2010
The National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality just sent this statement out moments ago:
NARTH RESPONDS TO THE RECENT MEDIA COVERAGE OF DR. GEORGE REKERS
The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) is a professional scientific organization with hundreds of academic, research, and clinical members dedicated to assisting individuals dealing with unwanted homosexual attractions. While NARTH is focused on the science of homosexual attraction, personal controversies often deepen the existing cultural divide on this issue. Such is the case in the recent news stories concerning one of our members, Dr. George Rekers.
NARTH takes seriously the accusations that have been made,and we are currently attempting to understand the details behind these press reports. We are always saddened when this type of controversy impacts the lives of individuals, and we urge all parties to allow a respectful and thorough investigation to take place.
At this difficult time for the families and individuals involved, we extend our sympathies. We also wish to reiterate our traditional position that these personal controversies do not change the scientific data, nor do they detract from the important work of NARTH.
NARTH continues to support scientific research, and to value client atonomy, client self-determination and client diversity.
Translation: Pay no attention to that man hiding behind the curtain. Or the closet door, as the case may be.
Rekers’ Defense (you may want to read this somewhere that it’s OK to laugh out loud… or cry)
May 4th, 2010
Dr. George Rekers, anti-gay activist extraordinaire, has now clarified to blogger Joe.My.God exactly why it was that he was vacationing in Europe with a gay prostitute. It was evangelism.
I have spent much time as a mental health professional and as a Christian minister helping and lovingly caring for people identifying themselves as “gay.” My hero is Jesus Christ who loves even the culturally despised people, including sexual sinners and prostitutes. Like Jesus Christ, I deliberately spend time with sinners with the loving goal to try to help them. Mark 2:16-17 reads, “16When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the “sinners” and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” 17On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” In fact, in a dialogue with hypocritical religious leaders, Jesus even stated to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him. ” (Matthew 21:31).
Like John the Baptist and Jesus, I have a loving Christian ministry to homosexuals and prostitutes in which I share the Good News of Jesus Christ with them (see I Corinthians 6:8-11). Contrary to false gossip, innuendo, and slander about me, I do not in any way “hate” homosexuals, but I seek to lovingly share two types of messages to them, as I did with the young man called “Lucien” in the news story:  It is possible to cease homosexual practices to avoid the unacceptable health risks associated with that behavior, and  the most important decision one can make is to establish a relationship with God for all eternity by trusting in Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins, including homosexual sins. If you talk with my travel assistant that the story called “Lucien,” you will find I spent a great deal of time sharing scientific information on the desirability of abandoning homosexual intercourse, and I shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ with him in great detail.
You know, Rekers may not have actually had sex with the kid.
And I don’t doubt that he did bore him with endless evangelism. That’s the justification that Rekers gives himself to try and rationalize his own urges to travel for ten days in the company of a twink. It was the excuse that allowed him to dance on the edges of his own unwanted desires but yet somehow see it as noble.
But behind all of the claims of being “like Jesus” is the sad truth: George Rekers, after all this time fighting “homosexual sins”, still is compelled to the company of gay men. And, unable to recognize and accept his attractions which would allow him to construct an ethical life and flow his attractions into a healthy response, he has pushed them down and smothered them and now has no power over them.
So instead there is George Rekers cruising Rentboy, telling himself that he’s only there for the evangelism, that he’s feeling compassion not lust, that it’s ok because he won’t go that far too far not quite not yet really it’s not sin really he won’t have sex with them.
Anti-Gay/Ex-Gay Activist George Rekers Vacations With “Rentboy”
May 4th, 2010
The Miami New Times has an explosive exposé revealing that anti-gay activist George Rekers has taken several vacations with a “rentboy” whom the paper names as “Lucien.” According to the paper, Rekers was photographed on April 13, 2010 at Miami International Airport returning from an extended overseas trip with the twenty-year-old.
George Rekers has a very long history in anti-gay politics. He has worked closely with Paul Cameron and was the brainchild behind Cameron’s moribund online “Journal.” He spoke as a so-called “expert witness” in support of Florida’s adoption ban, in which he also said that he would consider banning Native Americans from adopting because research shows that they are also at much higher risk of mental illness and substance abuse. He is an officer at the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), where he also serves on their Scientific Advisory Committee and as an associate editor of NARTH’s Journal of Human Sexuality. (NARTH, you may recall, has had quite a number of controversial figures connected with that organization. More recently, another member of their Scientific Advisory Committee, Arthur Goldberg, was found to have been a convicted Wall Street swindler. Goldberg has since resigned from NARTH.)
Rekers and Goldberg are also members of the “Pediatric Psychosocial Development Committee” of the fake pediatrics group, American College of Pediatricians (not to be confused the American Academy of Pediatrics, which boasts 60,000 pediatricians as members). Rekers has worked closely with Pat Robertson’s Regent University, and is a cofounder wtih James Dobson of the Family Research Council.
Reached by New Times before a trip to Bermuda, Rekers said he learned Lucien was a prostitute only midway through their vacation. “I had surgery,” Rekers said, “and I can’t lift luggage. That’s why I hired him.” (Though medical problems didn’t stop him from pushing the tottering baggage cart through MIA.)
Uh huh. Given the thousands of dollars per day plus expenses that is typically charged by rentboys when they travel with their clients, that’s one very expensive porter.
Yet Rekers wouldn’t deny he met his slender, blond escort at Rentboy.com — which features homepage images of men in bondage and grainy videos of crotch-rubbing twinks — and Lucien confirmed it.
…In his interview with New Times, Lucien didn’t want to impugn his client, but he made it clear they met through Rentboy.com, which is the only website on which he advertises his services. Neither Google nor any other search engine picks up individual Rentboy.com profiles, any more than they pick up individual profiles on eHarmony or Match.com. You cannot just happen upon one.
“Lucien” was very protective of Rekers — as every good male escort would be — but he did say that Rekers “likes younger guys to hang out with.” New Times reports that Rekers “frequently takes in foster children and that four years ago he adopted a 16-year-old boy.” The son declined to be interviewed.
Ontario District Branch of the APA Cancels NARTH “Training”
April 13th, 2010
Last week, Timothy Kincaid reported that the Ontario District Branch of the American Psychiatric Association had scheduled a seminar to be conducted by NARTH member Joseph Berger to discuss whether gay people should be subjected to psychotherapy. That salon was also advertised as an “accredited group learning activity.” BTB has now learned that the scheduled salon has been canceled.
In an email sent to members by Executive Secretary Colleen Gambier:
Please note that due to unfortunate circumstances, Salon #14 scheduled for May 13, 2010, will not take place. We regret any inconvenience and look forward to seeing you at our next Salon on Oct 14, 2010 with Dr. Ash Bender on Workplace Trauma.
In 2006, Berger ignited controversy over suggestions that gender non-conforming children should be exposed to taunting and bullying in schools in order to “re-establish that necessary boundary” of conforming to gender roles. That post on NARTH’s blog was removed after considerable outcry, and the blog was eventually shut down.
Has the Ontario District Branch of the APA completely lost its mind?
April 6th, 2010
Psychiatrists in Canada received the following invitation:
As you may know sexuality is a ‘hot’ issue in the DSM V revision process. At one time, so was homosexuality. Do our attitudes change with science? Do come, and participate in a stimulating evening.
Topic: Should Homosexuals Be Treated with Psychotherapy?
Speaker: Dr. Joseph Berger, FRCPC, DLFAPA
Date/Time: Thursday, May 13, 2010, 7 – 9:30 p.m.
Location: TARTU College Main Floor/Masters Buffeteria
310 Bloor Street West
(1 block east of Spadina) at corner of Madison & Bloor
There is street and lot parking on Bloor St and also Spadina Rd and side streets North of Bloor; subway 1 block from venue
Learning Objectives: At the end of this session, participants will:
1. be better able to distinguish between scientific evidence and media propaganda, personal beliefs, and organization – however prestigious – position statements.
2. understand the difference between voluntarily undertaken insight-oriented psychodynamic psychotherapy and past attempts at aversion or conversion so-called ‘therapies’.
3. be able to acknowledge that homosexual people can have emotional problems and conflicts and psychosomatic symptoms as can any other human being and be similarly fully deserving of psychotherapeutic treatment.
“This event is an accredited group learning activity (Section 1) as defined by the Maintenance of Certification Program of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, approved by the Canadian Psychiatric Association.”
You mean that the Ontario Branch of the APA is hosting NARTH member Joseph Berger to discuss whether gay people should be subjected to psychotherapy? What kind of crazy is that?
Here is the letter I sent to the local head of the APA:
I am a bit perplexed at the decision of the Ontario District Branch of the APA to sponsor a presentation by Dr. Joseph Berger. And I am even more startled at the seminar’s Learning Objectives.
Perhaps you are unaware of Dr. Berger’s reputation and affiliation. Although Berger has served as ODBAPA’s president in the past, he is better known as an anti-gay activist and participant with NARTH, an organization that is hostile to the APA and it’s official positions on sexual orientation.
I am greatly concerned that Dr. Berger will be presented as an authority on distinguishing between scientific evidence and propaganda. As part of his association with NARTH, Berger has for many years been engaging in anti-gay propaganda that is in direct opposition to scientific evidence.
NARTH has repeatedly been criticized by study authors and researchers for misstating, twisting, and in some cases fraudulently claiming the opposite of their conclusions. Most of the mental heath profession recognizes NARTH to be primarily an anti-gay political advocacy organization invested heavily in propaganda.
Their latest endeavor was to send out propaganda to school principals (under the alter-ego American College of Pediatricians) in which they distort legitimate research in order to make outrageous claims about gay people (e.g. “more likely to suffer from a host of negative outcomes including psychiatric disorders, domestic violence and sexual assault, and increased risk for chronic diseases, AIDS and shortened life spans”), claim that reparative therapy is effective (“individuals with unwanted same sex attraction often can be successfully treated”), and advocate for principals to deny same-sex attracted youth from access to support systems. These are all in direct opposition to stated positions of the APA.
And Dr. Berger is still closely alligned with this organization. He sits on their Scientific Advisory Committee and as recently as November he contributed an article to their site. His premise was 1) removing homosexuality from the DSM was a political decision rather than based on science, 2) the APA is persecuting those who wish to perform ex-gay therapy, and 3) that the decision by the APA to endorse the legalization of same-sex marriage was not handled to his satisfaction.
Further, Berger is not a moderate member of the anti-gay community. His differences with the APA are not mild or limited to perspective or opinion. He advocates for treatment that is far beyond the norm and which may well be in violation of professional ethics. In 2006, Berger wrote an article on the NARTH website in which he addressed the appropriate way to treat gender non-conforming children:
I suggest, indeed, letting children who wish go to school in clothes of the opposite sex – but not counseling other children to not tease them or hurt their feelings.
On the contrary, don’t interfere, and let the other children ridicule the child who has lost that clear boundary between play-acting at home and the reality needs of the outside world.
Maybe, in this way, the child will re-establish that necessary boundary.
This was of sufficient concern to merit an article in the Los Angeles Times.
But it is not just the specific selection of Dr. Berger or his extremely unorthodox proposals. It is the very premise of the presentation, “Should Homosexuals Be Treated with Psychotherapy?”
This is extremely offensive. It is akin to pondering such things as “Should races be kept segregated?” or “Should cancer be treated with leaches?” Such questions are not only outdated, but contrary to decency and they should not be awarded credibility by professional organizations.
I look forward to hearing your response explaining your decision to lend the name of the ODBAPA to Dr. Berger’s views on curing homosexuals. I’ll be sharing them with the readership of Box Turtle Bulletin.
Should he choose to respond, I’ll be sure to let you know exactly what Sommers intended by this presentation.
NARTH: Forced Therapy Is “Unethical and Unworkable”
December 29th, 2009
Getting the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) to say specifically whether coercing people into conversion therapy is unethical or not appears to have been extraordinarily difficult, but Grove City College professor has managed to get them to do just that.
The issue has arisen again lately in Uganda, where the Parliament is currently taking up the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which would provide for the death sentence for LGBT people under certain circumstances. While the entire bill is wide-ranging and dangerous for straight people as well as gays, the death sentence has garnered particular scrutiny. Now backers of the bill say that they may drop the death penalty and add a clause to provide forced conversion therapy for those convicted. It is unknown whether the forced therapy would be as an alternative to the lifetime prison sentence, or an adjunct to it.
The idea of forced conversions appears to have come from Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively, one of three American anti-gay extremists who led a conference in Kampala last March. The other two Americans, Exodus International board member Don Schmierer and International Healing Foundation’s Caleb Lee Brundidge, were there as conversion therapy “experts,” but they remained completely silent as the idea was allowed to fester for the succeeding nine months. NARTH also remained silent, even though Scott Lively touted NARTH as the leading experts on conversion therapy during the conference.
Finally, Warren Throckmorton was able to get a statement from NARTH. The group’s past president, A. Dean Byrd, wrote this reply to Throckmorton:
Dear Dr. Throckmorton,
As you are aware, NARTH’s Governing Board has accepted the Leona Tyler Principle which states that NARTH, as a scientific organization, takes no position on any scientific issue without the requisite science or professional experience. NARTH members, as individuals, are free to speak on any issue.
NARTH values the inherent worth of all individuals and respects individual right of autonomy and self determination.
NARTH’s position on homosexuality was clearly articulated by Dr. Julie Harren Hamiliton in a recent edition of the APA Monitor: homosexuality is not invariably fixed in all people – some people can and do change. And psychological care should be available to those who seek such care.
NARTH encourages its members to abide the Code of Ethics of their respective organizations and such codes proscribe the coercive efforts. It goes without saying that NARTH would support the humane treatment of ALL individuals.
We are aware of the situation in Uganda but thank you for bringing this to our attention. I am sure that you are aware that as a scientific organization, NARTH does not take political positions; however, we are happy to provide a summary of what science can and cannot say about homosexuality for those who do.
Dr. Throckmorton, if history is a good indicator, you will likely not be happy with this response. However, I hope such responses will help you understand NARTH’s mission as a scientific organization.
With warm regards,
A. Dean Byrd, PhD, MBA, MPH
The line about NARTH not taking political positions is utterly laughable. You don’t even have to go beyond the front page on NARTH’s web site before you find links decrying the supposed “dangers” of same-sex marriage.
That aside, it was difficult to find the denunciation of forced conversion therapy. If you blinked, you might have missed it. But here it is again, with my emphasis:
NARTH encourages its members to abide the Code of Ethics of their respective organizations and such codes proscribe the coercive efforts.
After further inquiries from Throckmorton, Byrd clarified:
Research tells us that forced therapy is almost always a failure. It is unethical and unworkable.
Scott Lively specifically recommended NARTH to his Ugandan audience, saying, “After my web site, this is the one I consider the most important.” But if Ugandans go to NARTH, they will not find a single statement anywhere which provides guidance on coercive therapy. Exodus also continues to refrain from placing a statement on their web site as well, although Exodus President Alan Chambers did say in a Facebook posting, “I am NOT for forced therapy for gay and lesbian people.”
It’s good that NARTH and Exodus leadership has now come out against forced therapy. But since this is not the first time this issue has come up — and it certainly won’t be the last time either — isn’t it time these two organizations finally made these statements official and accessible? What reason could they possibly have for keeping them hard to find and off of their own web sites?
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.
Mormon Reorientation Efforts
September 2nd, 2009
On his site, conservative Christian psychology professor Dr. Warren Throckmorton has been following the debate between some same-sex attracted Mormon and some NARTH-affiliated Mormons. The discussion so far consists of
- In Quiet Desperation, a book by Ty Mansfield, a same-sex attracted but faithfully observant Mormon and Fred and Marilyn Matis, the parents of a son who committed suicide. They argue for faithful following of teaching but also for compassion and sympathy for those who are same-sex attracted and for a change in social condemnation and rejection.
- A Slippery Slope that Limits the Atonement, a review of the book by Dean Byrd, Shirley E. Cox, and Jeffrey W. Robinson. Byrd is the past president of the anti-gay therapist group, National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality. In this review, they condemn Mansfield and the Matises for conceding that some people will remain same-sex attracted and that such persons should not be subjected to social condemnation. They felt that the book’s admission of the continuing existence of same-sex attraction “inadvertently limits the power of the atonement in the lives of people who struggle with homosexual attraction” and that Mansfield had “simply conceded victory to his homosexuality.” For good measure they also throw in large doses of homophobic ranting.
- A rebuttal on Dr. Throckmorton’s site by Dr. Michael Bailey expressing that Byrd et al had taken his words out of context and given them a meaning nearly the opposite to what Bailey intended.
- A rebuttal by Ty Mansfield expressing that Byrd et al had ascribed to him motivations and beliefs that he did not hold.
- A response by four Mormon professors, William Bradshaw, Robert A. Rees, Ron Schow, Marybeth Raynes, which accuses Byrd et al of making baseless claims, misconstruing LDS theology, and ultimately of armchair analysis that was “not only inappropriate, [but] professionally irresponsible”.
Considering that every party in this discussion (except Bailey) is an observant member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and all hold to the church’s teachings about heterosexual monogamy, the entire exchange is a fascinating illustration of the extremism found in those who gravitate to NARTH. I recommend that those interested should at least follow Dr. Throckmorton’s highlights of the debate if not the extended discussion.
But I want to step away from the discussion and pull out one interesting side note. In the response by Bradshaw et al, we find the first hint of the measure of success that the Mormon Church has had in assisting same-sex attracted Mormons to become heterosexual.
First I have to bring to your attention a peculiarity about Mormon theology (As I am not an authority on LDS theology, I welcome correction): Unlike standard Christian beliefs, celibacy is not quite adequate for fully achieving the will of God. Although a Baptist, for example, might see celibacy as adhering to God’s morality code, a Mormon would believe that only through heterosexual marriage can one attain the highest levels of the Celestial Kingdom and achieve godhood. Recognizing marriage as the goal, Bradshaw makes the following observation:
Given the fact that Byrd was the lead person directing therapy for same sex attraction at Church Social Services during a period when many hundreds of Latter-day Saints were undergoing reparative or change therapy, one would think he would cite the findings of such therapy. It is in fact scandalous that such studies either were not undertaken or have been suppressed since the findings would help enlighten our present discussion of this subject. We are acquainted with one therapist at Church Social Services during Byrd’s tenure who did a large portion of this work in that he counseled with nearly a thousand homosexuals and whose experience contradicts the point of view taken in this review.2
Footnote 2 clarifies:
2. Our informant has told us that in over a 30 year career at LDS Family Services he worked with about 400 single men, 200 of whom left therapy after 1-2 sessions. Of the remaining 200, only 20 (10%) were able to marry. Furthermore, 19 of the 20 who married identified themselves as bisexual when they entered therapy. The quality of these marriages is unknown. Another Latter-day Saint therapist with whom we are familiar reports that of the hundreds of clients with sexual identity issues she has seen only those clearly identified as bisexual are given any chance of making successful marriages.
I wish to caution that this is third hand information. Yet it comes from sources that would likely find joy in announcing that reorientation efforts in the church were largely successful, if that were true.
What I find particularly troubling is that Dean Byrd would be unavoidably aware of the measure of success or failure that Church Social Services had in achieving the reorientation (or marriage) goals of his own program. If the results were as Bradshaw and company relay, then it is difficult to understand how Byrd could say that “there is much hope and substantial evidence that those who want to overcome same-sex attraction can make changes and achieve happiness and peace in their lives” and that “many men (and women) … have successfully dealt with same-sex attraction, have married, have families, are not depressed, and are living hopeful and happy lives.”
Considering the stark disparity between Byrd’s words and his results, I have to conclude that either the report is wildly incorrect, Byrd is seriously self-deluding, or that he has willingly adopted a policy of deception and fabrication in order to advance a politico-religious social agenda.
Researcher Blasts NARTH Official for “Blatant Misquotation”
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.
NARTH Responds To APA Resolution On Change Therapy
August 7th, 2009
The National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) has issued a press release in response to the American Psychological Association’s Resolution on Appropriate Affirmative Responses To Sexual Orientation Distress and Change Efforts. That APA resolution concludes that there is “no evidence” that therapy to change sexual orientation actually works, and calls on therapists to refrain from promising otherwise. NARTH didn’t like that one bit:
NARTH appreciates that the APA stressed the importance of faith and religious diversity. Unfortunately, however, the report reflects a very strong confirmation bias; that is, the task force reflected virtually no ideological diversity. No APA member who offers reorientation therapy was allowed to join the task force. In fact, one can make the case that every member of the task force can be classified as an activist. They selected and interpreted studies that fit within their innate and immutable view. For example, they omitted the Jones and Yarhouse study, the Karten study, and only gave cursory attention to the Spitzer study. Had the task force been more neutral in their approach, they could have arrived at only one conclusion: homosexuality is not invariable fixed in all people, and some people can and do change, not just in terms of behavior and identity but in core features of sexual orientation such as fantasy and attractions.
This is pretty rich. First, NARTH complains that the APA Task Force engaged in “a very strong confirmation bias” and gives a definition for conformation bias that is completely wrong. This is what confirmation bias really is:
In psychology and cognitive science, confirmation bias (or confirmatory bias) is a tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions, leading to statistical errors.
Confirmation bias is a type of cognitive bias and represents an error of inductive inference toward confirmation of the hypothesis under study.
Confirmation bias is a phenomenon wherein decision makers have been shown to actively seek out and assign more weight to evidence that confirms their hypothesis, and ignore or underweigh evidence that could disconfirm their hypothesis.
NARTH instead offered a definition for confirmation bias that has nothing to do with confirmation bias, and everything to do with launching an ad hominem attack against the APA’s Task Force members.
But the charge that the APA Task Force engaged in confirmation bias is even more laughable considering the wholesale confirmation biases evident in NARTH’s own pre-emptive report on conversion therapy. We have already provided evidence that NARTH carefully selected studies for their report based on purported successful outcomes, while omitting studies which ran counter to their pre-determined hypothesis. That, of course, is the very definition of confirmation bias. And in trying to find as much evidence to support their position as possible, they hoovered virtually every confirming “study” they could find regardless of scientific merit, including unpublished dissertations, non-peer reviewed books, (specifically, the Jones and Yarhouse book and the Karten dissertation they pointed to in their press release), pop-psychology paperbacks — you name it.
They even referenced the 1979 Masters and Johnson book Homosexuality in Perspective. This is how NARTH’s report described that book:
In Masters and Johnson’s (1979) treatment of 90 homosexuals, a 28.4 percent failure rate was reported six years after treatment. Masters and Johnson chose to report failure rather than success rates to avoid vague, inaccurate concepts of success; however, by implication, more than 70 percent of their patients achieved some degree of success toward their self-identified goal of diminishing unwanted homosexuality and developing their heterosexual potential.
Of course, the most important thing that we now know about the Masters and Johnson book is that it was faked. There were no records for any of those reported patients and their supposed success stories. Co-author Virginia Johnson was later so embarrassed by it, she referred to it as a “bad book.”
The APA Task Force, in sharp contrast to the NARTH report authors, established a very rigorous criteria to determine what studies they would review before reviewing them. That criteria was this (PDF: 1,092KB/136 pages, see page 9):
Initially, we reviewed our charge and defined necessary bodies of scientific and professional literature to review to meet that charge. In light of our charge to review the 1997 resolution, we concluded that the most important task was to review the existing scientific literature on treatment outcomes of sexual orientation change efforts.
We also concluded that a review of research before 1997 as well as since 1997 was necessary to provide a complete and thorough evaluation of the scientific literature. Thus, we conducted a review of the available empirical research on treatment efficacy and results published in English from 1960 on and also used common databases such as PsycINFO and Medline, as well as other databases such as ATLA Religion Database, LexisNexis, Social Work Abstracts, and Sociological Abstracts, to review evidence regarding harm and benefit from sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE). The literature review for other areas of the report was also drawn from these databases and included lay sources such as GoogleScholar and material found through Internet searches.
…The task force received comments from the public, professionals, and other organizations and read all comments received. We also welcomed submission of material from the interested public, mental health professionals, organizations, and scholarly communities. All nominated individuals who were not selected for the task force were invited to submit suggestions for articles and other material for the task force to review. We reviewed all material received. Finally, APA staff met with interested parties to understand their concerns.
In other words, the APA Task Force defined the criteria before hand and reviewed every study that met that criteria, studies that purported to show change in sexual orientation, and studies which showed failures to change — including many studies that NARTH pretended never existed.
Conversely, there’s no evidence that NARTH’s review was in any way systematic. Given the studies that we know NARTH omitted, we know there was nothing systematic about their approach other than to confirm their predetermined outcome. And given the fraudulent material they did include – as well as the abundance of material that never met the scientific gold standard of having been peer-reviewed — it is clear that NARTH’s report is the very definition of confirmation bias. And their press release is the very definition of irony.
2009 Anti-Heterosexism Conference Called to Counter NARTH Annual Conference
August 1st, 2009
The National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) will hold its annual conference in West Palm Beach, Florida, in November, where they will push their claim among themselves and in the media that people can and ought to “change” their sexual orientation. In pushing their message, they have already pointed to examples from the 1950s through the 1980s when gays and lesbians underwent torturous electric shock aversion therapy. Is this what NARTH would have for our future?
We believe there is a better way. That’s why we are pleased to announce:
On Friday, November 20, Beyond Ex-Gay will hold a pre-conference institute for ex-gay survivors and allies. The conference itself will begin Friday evening and continue through Sunday morning. A full day of speakers and workshops are being planned, with topics touching on:
- Understanding the Harm Caused By Heterosexism
- Best Practices for Undoing Heterosexism
- The Dangers of Reparative Therapy, Ex-Gay Ministries, and Efforts to Change Sexual Orientation
- History & Practices of Reparative Therapy and Ex-Gay Ministries
- Therapeutic Models for Helping LGBT People in Health and Mental Health Care
- The Connection Between Religion, Heterosexism, and Reparative Therapy
- Intersections Between Heterosexism, Racism, Sexism, Capitalism, etc.
- The Healthy Reconciliation of Sexuality and Spirituality
- Reflections on the Ex-Gay Experience
- Impacting the Media: Strategies for Sharing Your Story with Confidence
- Building Healthy Relationships After an Ex-Gay Experience
- Ethical Dilemmas Associated with Reparative Therapy & Ex-Gay Ministries
- Social Science Research on Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity
- LGBT Families and Parenting
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If you are interested in conducting a workshop, you can find an application with instructions at the Soulforce web site. Deadline for applications for workshops is August 29. Information on registration will be available in a couple of weeks. I hope to see you there.
NARTH Cites Aversion Therapy As Evidence That “Change Is Possible”
July 30th, 2009
The American Psychological Association will hold its annual convention in Toronto next week, where the Task Force on Appropriate Responses to Sexual Orientation is due to issue its review of the current scientific research on therapies to change sexual orientation. That report is expected to lay the groundwork for a possible update to the APA’s 1997 policy statement on therapeutic responses to homosexuality. A group of anti-gay therapists known as the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) are concerned that the Task Force isn’t sufficiently stacked with anti-gay activists, so NARTH sought to preempt the APA report by releasing a “journal” last June called the Journal of Human Sexuality.
As we said earlier, NARTH’s new journal contains just one 121-page article by James Phelan, Neal Whitehead, and Philip Sutton, titled “What Research Shows: NARTH’s Response to the APA Claims on Homosexuality.” NARTH brags that this article “examines over 100 years of professional and scientific literature as well as over 600 reports from clinicians, researchers, and former clients principally published in professional and peer-reviewed journals.” They described this effort as a new peer-reviewed study even though, as we already observed, it’s not new, not peer-reviewed, and not a study. It’s also unclear whether this “journal” is actually a journal. Instead, the article is a review of past studies, and a highly selective one at that. But even with their selective approach, they nevertheless included more than 700 source citations in their voluminous bibliography going back to the late 1800′s. That mountain of citations is intended to impress the reader with what NARTH considers to be overwhelming evidence that change in sexual orientation is not only possible, but also that it causes no harm in those who try it — a position that the APA appears unlikely to endorse entirely.
To try to make their case, Phelan, Whitehead and Sutton include just about everything but the kitchen sink regardless of its scientific merit. As expected, they dedicate several pages to the Jones and Yarhouse’s 2007 book, Ex-Gays? A Longitudinal Study of Religiously Mediated Change in Sexual Orientation, and they dedicate several more pages to Robert Spitzer’s 2003 study (Ex-Gay Watch examined that study here). But more curiously, PW&S dedicated some 14 pages to reports from various books and journals from 1882 through the 1970′s — a period when homosexuality was illegal and gays were regularly arrested and jailed, when they were prohibited from federal employment, and when they were even committed to psychiatric hospitals because the professional community regarded homosexuality as a serious mental illness. The literature from that period reflects those views, and this is the literature that NARTH believes is relevant to today’s discussion on attempts to change sexual orientation.
Phelan, Whitehead and Sutton’s historical review covers such broad therapeutic approaches as psychoanalysis, group therapy, hypnosis, sex therapies, pharmacological interventions, religiously-based methods, “spontaneous reorientation”, and cognitive and behavior therapies. That last category — behavior therapies — is especially troubling. PW&S blithely gloss over what that often entailed, but a sharp eye can spot it pretty easily. Hidden in those three pages lies western psychiatry’s darkest stain: aversion therapy.
Dr. Max’s Machine
Phelan, Whitehead and Sutton’s discussion of aversion therapy begins with this innocuous statement:
Behavioral-based therapists successfully treated not only unwanted homosexuality, but also a variety of sexual dysfunctions and paraphilias, including voyeurism, exhibitionism, and transvestic and other fetishism (Rachman, 1961). Aversion therapies aimed at changing the sexual behaviors of homosexuals were used as early as the 1930s (Max, 1935).
1935 is when it all began. Dr. Louis W. Max of New York University published a paper in the March 1935 edition of The Psychological Bulletin describing an apparatus which would become an important part of efforts to change sexual orientation throughout the 1950s and 1960s, and even through 1980s. That notorious apparatus was designed to administer a powerful electric shock to the client whenever the client was experiencing what was considered an inappropriate erotic stimulus (i.e. viewing a picture of someone of the same gender whom the subject found sexually attractive). In later experiments, that shock could be anywhere from 80 to 100 volts for a short period of time (although in some experiments it could be as long as five seconds). Max cautioned in his original paper that the jolt of electricity could be very powerful. “Where possible,” he wrote, “electrodes should be firmly fastened to the subject, especially when intense shocks are contemplated, as the subject’s ‘startle’ responses may dislodge an electrode.” Later work by others determined the optimal shape for the electrode to deliver the maximum level of shock to the patient while minimizing burns to the skin.
Later that fall, Dr. Max gave a talk at a meeting of the American Psychological Association in which he described the “cure” of a homosexual man — even though he also admitted the man was “backsliding.” The November edition of The Psychological Bulletinbriefly describes Dr. Max’s talk, which Phelan, Whitehead and Sutton cited as one of many success stories:
A homosexual neurosis in a young man was found upon analysis to be partially fetishistic, the homosexual behavior usually following upon the fetishistic stimulus. An attempt was made to disconnect the emotional aura from this stimulus by means of electric shock, applied in conjunction with the presentation of the stimulus under laboratory conditions. Low shock intensities had little effect but intensities considerably higher than those usually employed on human subjects in other studies, definitely diminished the emotional value of the stimulus for days after each experimental period. Though the subject reported some backsliding, the “desensitizing” effect over a three month period was cumulative.
Despite that mixed result, a new therapeutic approach was born. Today we are justifiably horrified to imagine the suffering that thousands of gay men and women endured to try to rid themselves of their same-sex attractions (sometimes under court order or while confined to a psychiatric hospital), Phelan, Whitehead and Sutton thinks nothing of trumpeting the “successes” of this barbaric form of therapy in staking out their position.
But PW&S do appear to understand that these reports are disturbing. Curiously absent from their article is any mention of what these forms of therapy entailed — at least not in any language that laymen are likely to understand. (And make no mistake, it’s lay persons who are the target audience for this report, not professionals.) There is one lone mention that “aversion therapies are no longer used for sexual reorientation because of ethical considerations,” but those thirteen words are obscured by the nearly 44,000 words that make up the rest of the article.
No, you have to delve deeply into the professional literature itself, directly, before you can get a sense of the horrors that these clients must have gone through — horrors that PW&S chose to ignore and few others have the resources to discover. My favorite part of a report like this is the bibliography. I guess you could say that looking up references at our local university library is something of a passtime for me. Call me a nerd if you will, but it’s a worthwhile endeavor because it reveals the vast gulf between how PW&S describe these articles and what the articles themselves reveal.
“Success” and Failure
For example, here’s how Phelan, Whitehead and Sutton describe one such report:
Mather (1966) reported that of 36 homosexuals treated with behavioral and aversion techniques, 25 were considered much improved on the Kinsey scale.
Pretty simple. A brief description and a result. Twenty-two words in one sentence is all the space that PW&S give to this study from the October 1966 edition of Medicine, Science and the Law.(Remember, homosexuality was still against the law in most states.) Already we have one problem: Dr. Northage Mather described the 25 as simply improved, not “much improved” — and there wasn’t much of a definition for what constituted improvement.
But besides that bit of obfuscation, that lone sentence hid a lot. Dr. Northage Mather’s “scientific” paper was replete with the distinctly unscientific stereotypes of the day. Mather justified his need to cure clients of their homosexuality by calling it “responsible for many antisocial acts such as larceny, blackmail, robbery with violence and murder” — hence the legal justification. Of the 36 subjects, 14 were directly or indirectly referred by a court, and six more were patients at a psychiatric hospital. Only sixteen appeared to be there of their own accord. Eight more beyond the 36 dropped out. One of the dropouts was “so frightened of the treatment that he only attended twice.” Another insisted that he receive electric shock therapy under an anesthetic, which of course would have negated the effects of the treatment.
Phelan, Whitehead and Sutton also cited several studies by the renowned team of Malcolm MacCulloch and M.P. Feldman. They were some of the pre-eminent experts in the field of aversion therapy in the 1960′s. In one citation, PW&S claimed that MacCulloch and Feldman “successfully treated 43 homosexual men.” Five paragraphs later, PW&S cited a 1971 book by Feldman and MacCulloch, Homosexual Behavior: Therapy and Assessment. This time, they wrote that the authors “worked with 36 patients,” and described it as though it were a separate study. One wonders if Phelan, Whitehead or Sutton read either work. If they had (as I did), they would have noticed right away that the two references were reporting on exactly the same study. The 1967 paper was titled “Aversion therapy in management of 43 homosexuals,” but MacColloch and Feldman explained:
Thirty-six patients had the full course of treatment, and seven failed to complete it. Six of the seven terminated treatment after one or two sessions, and one terminated it after six sessions.
That sentence is repeated virtually verbatim in Homosexual Behavior on page 31.
One can only imagine the reaction of those who terminated electric shock treatment “after one or two sessions.” MacCollough and Feldman are characteristically mum about the distress they must have endured. But we do know is that MacCullough and Feldman had some rather odd definitions for success. In the Appendix of Homosexual Behavior, they defended Series Case 2 as “improved,” even though on follow-up he was found to have a regular boyfriend and had no further desire to change. The authors chalked it up to “a weak-willed personality disorder.” It’s unclear whether Series Case 41 was ultimately classified as a success, but the authors were very optimistic about him. He was kicked out of the hospital after he was caught engaging in “some horseplay” with a female patient. They didn’t classify him as a failure and they didn’t include him among those who failed to complete the treatment, even though they immediately lost track of him following his discharge and had no idea where he was. So much for clarity and follow-up. MacCullough and Feldman were considered giants in the field, but this is what passed for science in those days, a standard which is apparently very impressive to PW&S.
MacCullough and Feldman weren’t the only ones with odd definitions of success. PW&S cited a 1969 paper by B.H. Fookes in the British Journal of Psychiatry which defined success this way:
In the homosexuals I also required the unrefuted, and where possible, supported claim to have enjoyed heterosexual coitus on more than one occasion.
I can just imagine an Exodus or NARTH-affiliated therapist demanding that kind of evidence today.
Several PW&S sources revealed the dark side the aversion therapy if you were actually able to get your hands on the material and read it. But good luck trying to discover what that dark side might be in the PW&S article alone. For example, PW&S cited a 1964 paper by Dr. J.G. Thorpe and colleagues, but didn’t give it much discussion. But the paper itself revealed that all the subjects in that study were patients at the Banstead Hospital in Sutton, U.K., and their particular form of aversion therapy involved delivering electric shock through the soles of their feet. Not all of the patients were treated for homosexuality. One, for example, was an Irish girl of 21 — In Britain in those days, it was customary to single out the Irish for special mention in cases like this — who was being treated for compulsive over-eating. Her treatment didn’t go very well:
Depression recurred following the eighth treatment session and was accompanied by violent gastric pains. She claimed she could not face any more treatment, preferring drugs. At this point her diagnosis was changed by the psychiatrist in charge from one of “recurrent depression” to one of “hysteria”. Treatment was discontinued.
Another paper by Dr. Thorpe from 1963 gave a much more vivid example of “therapeutic failure in a case of aversion therapy.” Funny how Phelan, Whitehead and Sutton chose not to mention this one, which, again, involved delivering electric shock through the soles of the subject’s feet through specially-designed shoes:
Three conditioning sessions of 15 min each were given over a period of two days, the picture being changed before each new session. For a period of about 30 min following these sessions the patient was extremely disturbed, and wept bitterly, and he doubted whether he could continue with the treatment. He presented himself for the fourth session, entered the treatment room, put on the shoes, but after a few seconds took them off, burst into tears, came out of the room, put on his own shoes (i.e. there was no generalization), and continued to weep bitterly.
That patient discontinued his therapy at that point.
It Gets Worse
As bad as electric shock aversion therapy was, it was mild when compared to another more extreme form of aversion therapy that was also being developed in the same period. This involved the use of emetics like apomorphine, powerful drugs which produces instantaneous and extreme nausea. Emetics were sometimes combined with other drugs to induce diarrhea. The subject was given the drugs and then shown pictures representing a “homosexual stimulus.” The idea behind this was that the patient would associate the “homosexual stimulus” with a gut-retching nausea.
Phelan, Whitehead and Sutton cited a 1969 study by Nathaniel McConaghyin Sydney, Australia, which employed apomorphine therapy. That brutal treatment program was compounded in a later 1972 study by McConaghy and colleagues when they combined apomorphine with electric shock. And if that wasn’t barbaric enough, they added another humiliation: their patients’ penises were connected to plethysmography devices to measure their erections to determine whether the treatment was successful or not. In another 1973 paper published in the British Journal of Psychiatry– which Phelan, Whitehead and Sutton also publicized as a success story — McConaghy summarized how this all worked:
With aversion-relief the patient read aloud a series of phrases descriptive of homosexual activity and immediately received a painful electric shock. Each patient experienced over 1,000 pairings of phrases and shocks during the course of treatment. With apomorphine therapy the patient was shown slides of males he found attractive on 28 occasions, each occasion being associated with nausea produced by apomorphine injections. With avoidance conditioning the patient was presented 420 times with similar slides of males, with the possibility of rejecting the slide and so avoiding a painful electric shock on two-thirds of the presentations; on the remaining occasions the patient could not avoid the shock.
Let’s just pause here and think about what those patients endured: more than 1,000 shocks, 28 sessions with apomorphine, and a guessing game of whether the he would be shocked 420 more times.
McConaghy’s work with aversion therapy was so notorious that his 1970 talk before the American Psychiatric Association was interrupted by outraged gay activists in what was described by Time magazine as a near-riot. Gay activists weren’t the only ones scandalized by this barbaric approach. When McConaghy’s 1972 study appeared in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, it drew a blistering response from sexologist John Money — who himself was no stranger to controversy; his theories on gender identity had very tragic results. In an accompanying article in that same issue, Money wrote:
McConaghy, Proctor, and Barr could have designed an experiment in which they took ordinary men or women and punished them every time they responded erotically to a heterosexual erotic stimulus but not to a homosexual stimulus. There is no special reason to believe that these men and women would have become homosexual. It is rather more likely that they would have become sexually inhibited, anxious, or sexually apathetic.
Money closed his argument with the observation that “[t]herapeutic zeal in the absence of effective therapeutic technique produces charlatanism.” Nearly forty years later, it’s hard to find a more appropriate description for NARTH today.
Interestingly, McConaghy finally admitted in 1977 that “[a]s a therapist who uses behaviour therapy for homosexuality, I do not believe it is possible to alter a homosexual orientation.” He nevertheless defended aversion therapy in a 1981 paper in the journal Behaviour Research and Therapy, in which he treated twenty subjects “to reduce compulsive homosexual urges.” Phelan, Whitehead and Sutton included that study in their paper as well, while omitting McConaghy’s repeated denial of the possibility of altering sexual orientation. PW&S claimed that McConaghy and colleagues did this simply “to evaluate behavior therapy for homosexuals in response to ethical objections of such treatment” — but they omitted naming McConaghy’s continued practice of aversion therapy which drew those very same ethical objections. As I said, Phelan, Whitehead and Sutton were highly selective in what they presented, and you would have to go to the original source documentation to find out what the authors really said.
Those therapies proved to have lasting negative consequences for many who endured them, although researchers and clinicians at the time were loathe to admit it. Phelan, Whitehead and Sutton at one point reassured their readers that one aversion therapy researcher reported that “no harmful effects of aversion treatments were discernible.” But if there were no harmful effects, why is aversion therapy today considered unethical? A 2004 article in the British Medical Journalprovides several answers. They interviewed 29 people who had undergone therapies to change their sexual orientation, along with two relatives of those who underwent therapy. The brother of one participant died in the hospital due to side effects of apomorphine. As for the others:
With the decriminalisation of certain homosexual acts in 1967 and more tolerant social attitudes, most participants were able to explore their sexuality and several found fulfilling, same sex relationships. However, most never spoke to their partners, friends, or families about their treatment. One man was content to remain celibate when treatment failed to change his orientation, asserting that the main enjoyment in his life had been his hobbies. Three other men also avoided sex altogether but unhappily claimed it was the result of treatment. Other participants married in the hope this would complete their cure. Some marriages lasted many years and resulted in children. All except one—which was essentially a sexless marriage—ended in divorce on the grounds of sexual incompatibility.
This BMJ article is not a survey, but a descriptive oral history. It’s hard to draw statistical conclusions about the efficacy of aversion therapy. But it’s worthy to note that all of those marriages would have been counted as successes in the articles of the day. But besides that, the harms are clear.
History is replete with examples of professionals abusing the trust of patients (and sometimes prisoners) in order to carry out appalling experiments. Aversion therapy is one such example. It’s hard to imagine anyone pointing to that sort of legacy as justification for their own misguided policy aims. But that is exactly what NARTH has done. This example is probably the worst aspect of Phelan, Whitehead and Sutton’s work, but that’s not where the problems end. We’ve only examined four pages of their 121-page work. There’s so much more to delve into. And so we will.
To be continued…