American Prospect web editor Gabriel Arana underwent nearly a college education’s worth (four years) of ex-gay therapy, as he writes in a story called “My So-Called Ex-Gay Life.”
So when Arana interviewed 79-year-old Robert Spitzer, a man esteemed in psychological-academic circles who gave some mainstream acceptance to the idea that ex-gay therapy could work with a 2001 study, he asked a lot of questions. It turns out Spitzer wants to retract that study, which is widely cited by all the major ex-gay organizations as the primary piece of objective evidence that ex-gay therapy works.
The funny thing about Spitzer is that he led the charge to declassify homosexuality as a psychological disorder back in 1973. This guy should be a legend hailed by the gay movement, not one abused by terrible ex-gay therapists like Marcus Bachmann.
Arana tells Queerty that Spitzer is “old as hell, and everyone was afraid he was going to die before he took [the study] back.” So, please, mark Spitzer’s words here, and take his retraction seriously as part of his legacy—he’ll be celebrating his 80st birthday next month.
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 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”?
Of course, Arana agreed to do so. The full article is very much worth reading. Check it out online or pick up a copy of the American Prospect when you can.