Ex-gay psychiatrist gives up claims of ‘curing’

Condensed from the Truth Wins Out blog of Wayne Besen

In a move that serves as a significant blow to “ex-gay” programs and anti-gay organizations, Dr. Robert Spitzer has repudiated his much-criticized 2001 study that claimed some “highly motivated” homosexuals could go from gay to straight.

His retraction occurred in an American Prospect magazine article that hit newsstands¬† today (April 10.) Spitzer’s rejection of his own research, which was originally published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, is a devastating blow to
“ex-gay” organizations because it decisively eliminates their most potent claim that homosexuality can be reversed through therapy and prayer.

Spitzer’s 2001 study was a surprise and created a media firestorm because he had previously led the charge in 1972-73 to remove homosexuality from the list of mental disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of the American Psychiatric Association. At the time, this was a shocking story that captured the nation’s attention. Dr. Spitzer was the last person in America one would have expected to produce a study bolstering the claims of ‘ex-gay’ activists.

According to today’s American Prospect article:

“In retrospect, I have to admit I think the critiques [of my study] are largely correct,” Dr. Spitzer told the American Prospect in an article by Gabriel Arana titled, “My So Called Ex-Gay Life.”¬† “”The findings can be considered evidence for what those who have undergone ex-gay therapy say about it, but nothing more.”

He said he spoke with the editor of the Archives of Sexual Behavior about writing a retraction, but the editor declined.

Spitzer said that he was proud of having been instrumental in removing
homosexuality from the list of mental disorders. Now 80 and retired, he was afraid that the 2001 study would tarnish his legacy and perhaps hurt others. He said that failed attempts to rid oneself of homosexual attractions “can be quite harmful.” He has, though, no doubts about the 1973 fight over the classification of homosexuality.

“Had there been no Bob Spitzer, homosexuality would still have eventually been removed from the list of psychiatric disorders,” he said. “But it wouldn’t have happened in 1973.”