By Josh Fischman
(Adapted from the Chronicle of Higher Education on May 18, 2012): Robert L. Spitzer retired years ago but his influence has not. That’s why his recantation last month of his own paper, research purporting to show that therapy could turn some homosexuals into heterosexuals, has such extraordinary resonance. The work of Dr. Spitzer, a psychiatrist and Columbia University emeritus professor–who actually got homosexuality removed from the medical list of mental disorders in 1973–rippled across society.
Robert Spitzer has recanted his paper claiming homosexuality can be changed.
This is not the usual apology for a scientific error.
I believe I owe the gay community an apology for my study making unproven claims of the efficacy of reparative therapy,
Dr. Spitzer has written in a letter to the editor of the Archives of Sexual Behavior, which published his paper in 2003 and may publish his retraction. He first expressed his regret last month to writer Gabriel Arana, who interviewed him in The American Prospect about problems with the study.
Dr. Spitzer has a keen awareness of the larger effects of his work. His study was taken up by anti-homosexual activists and therapists who said they could “cure” patients of their sexual orientation. (Mr. Arana, the American Prospect journalist and a gay man, spent years in such therapy.) Dr. Spitzer also apologized to those patients. He said he did not start the study to show that homosexuality could be done away with. He did it, rather, to debunk the claim that “reparative therapy” was completely ineffective in changing sexual orientation.
But he did so with bad science. He interviewed 200 people who said they used to be gay, and asked them if therapy helped them make the switch.
There was, he now says, no way to determine if they were telling the truth, and no comparison group of people who didn’t undergo therapy. And there was no replication of the study. It didn’t validate anti-gay therapy for most scientists, but it did give ammunition to anti-gay groups. So he asked Mr. Arana to print his retraction. Dr. Spitzer wants not only to set the research record straight, but correct a mistaken cultural idea.
Comment from iNKBLOT‘s Dr. Shannon Farris:
I believe it is fair to say that Dr. Spitzer isn’t the cause of anti-gay group behavior. However, I do believe he is genuinely regretful how anti-gay groups have used his research as “ammunition” for personal and religious causes. While I was reviewing this article for the blog, a recent anti-gay video was sent to me. The video’s message gave me pause and I wondered if this is the type of “ammunition” Dr. Spitzer is apologizing for. Dr. Shannon Farris
On May 13, 2012, Providence Road Baptist Church in Maiden, NC posted a video of their Pastor Charles L. Worley’s church service ”calling for the concentration and ultimate death of “queers and homosexuals.”
Viewer be warned: The following video is verbally graphic and may not be suitable for all audiences.
- Will the Family Research Council Acknowledge Error of Using Recanted Study? (pamshouseblend.firedoglake.com)
- Dr. Robert Spitzer recants study on ‘curing’ gays (sfgate.com)
- ‘Gay Cure’ Psychiatrist: I Owe The Gay Community An Apology (inquisitr.com)
- Psychiatrist who found ‘gay cure’ admits he was wrong (guardian.co.uk)
- How One Flawed Study Spawned a Decade of Lies (forbes.com)
- We can’t ‘cure’ homosexuality; can we forgive the scientist who said we could? (feministphilosophers.wordpress.com)
- “Ex-Gay” Reparative Therapy Thoroughly Debunked (dgsmith.org)
- Shutting the Door on “Reparative Therapy” (centerforhealthmediapolicy.com)
- How Robert Spitzer’s Apology Can Impact The Proposition 8 Case (thinkprogress.org)
- Spitzer Recants; Cameron Comes Out (andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com)
- Rachel Maddow on Dr. Robert Spitzer’s Retraction and Apology for His Damaging ‘Ex-Gay’ Study: VIDEO (towleroad.com)
- David Pakman Has One-On-One With Anti-Gay Activist Paul Cameron: VIDEO (towleroad.com)
- Standing ovation greets Pastor Charles Worley, who made anti-gay statements (usnews.msnbc.msn.com)
- Thousands Protest Pastor Who Made Anti-Gay Slurs (theroot.com)
- Baptist leader critiques anti-gay comments – Articles (wilmingtonfavs.com)
- Thousands Protest NC Pastor Charles Worley, Who Said Gays Should Be Fenced in and Killed: VIDEO (towleroad.com)
- North Carolina Anti-Gay Pastor In 1978: 40 Years Ago Gays Would Have ‘Hung, Bless God, From A White Oak Tree’ (thinkprogress.org)
- Audio of 1978 anti-gay sermon found after pastor goes viral (wave3.com)
- Members stand behind pastor’s anti-gay sermon (wcnc.com)
- Video: Spitzer Discusses Repudiated “Ex-Gay” Study, Rebukes Anti-Gay Religious Right (bilerico.com)
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