NARTH Advisory Committee Member Advocates “Ridicule”

Jim Burroway

August 31st, 2006

From Ex-Gay Watch and Pink News comes this startling report:

A coalition of organisations monitoring groups claiming to convert gay people back to heterosexuality, have criticised the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuals (NARTH) after a member advocated teasing transgender children to “re-establish that necessary boundary.”

NARTH Scientific Advisory Committee member Joseph Berger said on a blog in reaction to a San Francisco Chronicle article on gender identity issues, “I suggest, indeed, letting children who wish go to school in clothes of the opposite sex – but not counselling 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.

You can find Dr. Berger’s original blog comment here. (Update: The blog post has been removed. You can read about it here.)

As one who has experienced this sort of peer “therapy” myself while growing up (and I can’t think of any gay or lesbian friends who haven’t), I find it utterly outrageous that this advice should come from someone who purports to be a mental health professional. I can say from personal experience that the efficacy of this “therapy” was poor, but the harm great. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Independent research backs that up:

  • “Being bullied at school and childhood family discord predicted a variety of adulthood disorders in both sexes.” (Pirkola, S, et al., “Childhood adversities as risk factors for adult mental disorders” Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology (2005) Abstract)
  • Based on a National Probability sampled survey, youths reporting same-sex or both-sex attraction are more likely to experience extreme forms of violence.(Russel, S.T., et al., “Same-sex romantic attraction and experiences of violence in adolescence” American Journal of Public Health (2001) Abstract)
  • Youths who had experienced more victimization and who had lost friends due to their sexual orientation reported more mental health symptoms. (D’Augelli, A.R., “Mental Health Problems among Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Youths Ages 14 to 21” Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry (2002) Abstract. Full Text (PDF: 24 pages/107 KB))
  • Gay and bisexual male teens reported strong negative attitudes from parents and friends toward their sexualities. Discrimination, verbal abuse from peers, and physical assaults were frequently cited problems. (Remafedi, G., “Male homosexuality: The adolescent’s perspective” (1987) Abstract, Full Text (PDF: 7 pages/590 KB))
  • Socially isolated children are at significant risk of poor adult health compared with nonisolated children. (Caspi, A., et al., “Socially Isolated Children 20 Years Later: Risk of Cardiovascular Disease” Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine (2006) Abstract)

Given what we know about the effects of the sort of peer-pressure that Dr. Berger advocates against LGBT children, it is important to hold him and NARTH accountable for this dangerously irresponsible advice.

Update: Wayne Besen, at Truth Wins Out has issued a press release about Dr. Berger’s comments. Wayne contacted the Ontario APA and the Canadian Human Rights Commission to inquire about filing a complaint.

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