“Gay cure” study retracted.

“He struggled against an upsurging hilarity — that any reputable medical man should have lent himself to such an amateurish experiment! “— Señor, I must tell you that in these cases we can promise nothing.”

– F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender is the Night

When a study is retracted, it usually gets a fraction of the attention it received when published. (just ask the parents who refuse to believe there is no connection between autism and vaccination.) This deserves to be bigger news than it has been:

In 2001 U.S psychiatrist Robert Spitzer conducted a study that claimed gay men and women could be turned straight through psychotherapy.

He has now retracted the highly controversial view.

Spitzer’s 2001 study earned extra attention because he led the charge to have homosexuality removed from the DSM in 1973 .  Back then, the reasoning was simple: homosexuality couldn’t be a disturbance in one’s psychological well-being.  Homosexuals and heterosexuals both scored in the normal range on tests of psychological well-being. When Spitzer suggested that orientation might be changeable, pseudo-scientific organizations such as NARTH seized on it as evidence that homosexuality was curable.

Conversion therapy” goes back to Freud’s time, but it was largely abandoned when the DSM dropped same-sex attraction as a mental health issue.  Conversion therapists’ success stories include gay people who stay celibate, and bisexual people who limit themselves to opposite-sex relationships.  None established a consistent track record of helping those exclusively attracted to the same sex become exclusively attracted to  the opposite sex – that is, “converting” them. The American Psychiatric Association condemned conversion therapy in 1998 and again in 2000; they found the anecdotal evidence of success was outweighed by considerable anecdotal evidence of emotional harm.

“Homosexuality is assuredly no advantage, but it is nothing to be ashamed of, no vice, no degradation; it cannot be classified as an illness,” – Sigmund Freud, 1935

When one former conversion-therapy advocate estimates the failure rate at 99.9% and another states, “Actually I’ve never met a man who experienced a change from homosexual to heterosexual,” it’s safe to say conversion therapy is a sham. Spitzer’s retraction removes one of the last shadows of doubt from the question.

Shout this one from the rooftops: you can’t cure what isn’t a disease. Sexual orientation is fundamental.

 

@ 2012 Jonathan Miller All Rights Reserved

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