’Ex-Gay’ Leader Retracts Controversial Study

by Jason St. Amand

National News Editor

Friday April 13, 2012

A psychiatrist who published a controversial study in 2001 that claimed gays had the ability to change their sexual orientation through psychotherapy is now retracting his findings.

Robert Spitzer, who was part of the "ex-gay" movement that claims being gay is a mental illness, told the American Prospect about his new feelings towards his study.

"In retrospect, I have to admit I think the critiques are largely correct," Spitzer said. "The findings can be considered evidence for what those who have undergone ex-gay therapy say about it, but nothing more."

He also said that homosexuals who undergo therapy in order to turn straight "can be quite harmful." He then asked that writer Gabriel Arana publish a retraction of his controversial study, "so I don't have to worry about it anymore."

Spitzer's 2001 study "treated" 200 gay men and woman and claimed that 78 percent of males and 95 percent of females reported that changed from being homosexual to heterosexual, the U.K. newspaper the Daily Mail notes.

Arana said he underwent "ex-gay" therapy (also known as conversion therapy) for more than three years with Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, co-founder and former president of the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) -- an organization that offers "ex-gay" therapy that was founded in 1992.

Wayne Besen, executive director of Truth Wins Out, one of several watchdog groups monitoring the conversion therapy industry, slammed Spitzer's study in his book "Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth." After the 80-year-old psychiatrist retracted his findings, Bense told the Huffington Post he applauds Spitzer's decision.

"Dr. Spitzer's repudiation of his 2001 study is an earthquake that severely undermines the validity of 'ex-gay' programs," Besen said in an email statement. "Spitzer just kicked out the final leg from the stool on which the proponents of 'ex-gay' therapy based their already shaky claims of success."

Last month the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a civil rights group based in Montgomery, Ala., reported that NARTH is the preeminent source of what many regard as 'junk science' for the religious right."

SPLC pointed out that "every major American medical authority has concluded that there is no scientific support for NARTH's view" and many say that "ex-gay" treatments can cause gays harm.

"There is simply no sufficiently scientifically sound evidence that sexual orientation can be changed," the American Psychological Association (APA) said in 2006. "Our further concern is that the positions espoused by NARTH and Focus on the Family create an environment in which prejudice and discrimination can flourish."