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Author of Leading Ex-Gay Study Admits Findings Were Flawed

Author of Leading Ex-Gay Study Admits Findings Were Flawed


In a devastating blow to the ex-gay industry, the author of the only known study offering evidence it is possible to change sexual orientation has retracted his findings.

Reports Gabriel Arana in his article “My So-Called Ex-Gay Life” for The American Prospect (emphasis mine):

This spring, I visited Spitzer at his home in Princeton. He ambled toward the door in a walker. Frail but sharp-witted, Spitzer suffers from Parkinson’s disease. “It’s a bummer,” he said.


Spitzer was drawn to the topic of ex-gay therapy because it was controversial–”I was always attracted to controversy”–but was troubled by how the study was received. He did not want to suggest that gay people should pursue ex-gay therapy. His goal was to determine whether the counterfactual–the claim that no one had ever changed his or her sexual orientation through therapy–was true.

I asked about the criticisms leveled at him. “In retrospect, I have to admit I think the critiques are largely correct,” he said. “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. (Repeated attempts to contact the journal went unanswered.)

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.”
Spitzer was growing tired and asked how many more questions I had. Nothing, I responded, unless you have something to add.

He did. Would I print a retraction of his 2001 study, “so I don’t have to worry about it anymore”?

Dr. Robert Spitzer, who was also instrumental in removing homosexuality from the list of mental disoreders, became a god-send to the ex-gay movement when he released the results of his 200-participant study in the well respected Archives of Sexual Behavior in 2001 that claimed to demonstrate that sexual orientation change was possible.

Even though Spitzer’s findings were criticized for the study’s lack of rigour (namely that it relied on what participants said about their results and did not track whether their reported change lasted for an extended period), this single study has hung around in the gay rights versus “change is possible” debate like the proverbial albatross. However, with the publication of Gabriel Arana’s investigation into the ex-gay phenomenon, based on his own past experiences, and an interview with Spitzer in which Spitzer formally asks to retract the study’s findings, that mooring must surely now crumble.

I urge readers who have the time to click over to read Arana’s full expose wherein he details his time undergoing “ex-gay therapy” at the hands of the prominent Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, a clinical psychologist in California who was then president of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), the country’s largest organization for practitioners of ex-gay therapy, and the media’s complicity in publicizing the ex-gay lie without properly assessing the reliability of the results they were reporting on.  Read the full article here.


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Image used under the stock.xchng user license with thanks to on_my_book1.

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6:45AM PDT on Apr 17, 2012

Well at least he found someone that was willing to help him write his retraction, but there are people, that will say it is probably just dementia speaking, and that his study is still valid.
Someone needs to get a "big grant from the government", to "prove", that you can turn a person gay.
What a waste of time and money, just because of people's intolerance, to others that are different to themselves. What are these people so afraid of?

7:28AM PDT on Apr 16, 2012

Retrospect really is 20/20. Unlike this scientist, the anti gay crowd will cling to his (by his own admission, flawed) study and claim it is sound science. Too often, people will abuse Science for their own nefarious means.That's what happens when you mix emotion, or sometimes emotional blackmail, with Science. It's a mockery.

5:16PM PDT on Apr 13, 2012

Ashley, Jesus never said a word about homosexuality. People like you are liars by saying sexual orientation can be changed. You also lied by saying I called Jesus a liar. You represent everything that is wrong with conservative Christians: ignorance and outright dishonesty.

2:02AM PDT on Apr 13, 2012

As I live in Canada, I find the reference to this Dr. Nicolosi interesting. When my loopy sister discovered her eldest son was gay, she sent him (or tried to - he never went, as it turned out) to a psychiatrist who claimed he could 'cure' homosexuality. This claim eventually got him struck off the Register, but clearly no such discipline re this issue is on the books in the U.S. I see no First Amendment issue in this. Homosexuality is not regarded as an illness by the profession, so for a practitioner to treat it as if it were, clearly transgresses - there is no difference between what Nicolosi gets up to and a physician who tells patients who have protuding ears that they have an illness in need of a cure.

4:01PM PDT on Apr 12, 2012

Spitzer is a good man. He realized after the fact that he was taking people at their word that they had been "cured." Further evidence has shown that the self-reporting is flawed. People don't want to admit they haven't been "cured" of homosexuality when their churches, their families, gay bashers and others punish them for being what they can't help being. If everybody treated gay people the same as any other people, no one would try to cure gayness or feel the need to lie about being cured.

2:29PM PDT on Apr 12, 2012

When will the "Gay curers" get the message?

2:23PM PDT on Apr 12, 2012

I am who I am and you are who you are, no better and no worse. I believe that it is our differences that make this world a better place to live. I believe that MY rights end where YOURS begins and I respect that. I can’t see where a Gay marriage harms my marriage to a man and I believe that everyone should have the same protection under the law.

This man owned up to his mistakes and I am glad. I hope that it will help some let go of their myths but I won’t hold my breath.

2:08PM PDT on Apr 12, 2012

I'm impressed. Few loons and mostly sensible comments.

12:29PM PDT on Apr 12, 2012

Hatred is hatred, intolerance is intolerance. It is never a good. To say that somebody has no right to be who they are, that consenting adults cannot love whom they please, is nothing more than an attack based on intolerance. It's not good for your souls, folks, because it's not right. Bigotry is not divine, and never was.

12:06PM PDT on Apr 12, 2012

So in other words. Spitzer's study has little to nothing to offer. Isn't it something that Lady Gaga may have sung the ultimate truth::I was born this way".

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