[Not authored by, but posted by Victor J. Adamson for your information]

Report received from American Association of Christian Counselors
Wednesday, 13 June 2001

CNN announced it with a flourish in early May, both on television and their web site, “An explosive new study says some gay people can turn straight if they really want to.” (CNN.com/health,2001)

Psychiatrist Robert Spitzer of Columbia University had completed a study of 200 ‘ex-gays’ (143 males, 57females, average age: 43) to determine whether and how some people can change their sexual orientation. Conducting phone interviews running about 45 minutes with each participant, the study asked 60 questions about sexual behavior, feelings, history, change attempts, relapse and success, and other related topics. He announced his findings at a New Orleans meeting of the American Psychiatric Association which, through an official spokesperson, made it clear that selecting a presentation does not mean official endorsement of its findings.

Spitzer, who does not offer or practice reparative (same-sex change) therapy and began the study as a skeptic, indicated that 66 percent of the men and 44 percent of the women had genuinely changed, arriving at “good heterosexual functioning.” This was defined as “being in a sustained, loving heterosexual relationship” for the past year, deriving emotional satisfaction from it, having satisfying heterosexual relations at least once monthly without (or rarely) thinking about homosexual fantasies while having heterosexual sex. Furthermore, fully 89 percent of the men and 95 percent of the women were not bothered, or bothered only slightly, by unwanted homosexual feelings.

Participants came to the study on referral from a variety of “ex-gay ministries” (43 percent), the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH—23 percent) and the rest by publicly advertising the study.

Nearly everyone interviewed said they had relied on a variety of methods for changing their sexual orientation. Half said working with a mental health professional was most helpful, about a third had used a support group for significant help, and reading books, mentoring by former gays, and other resources were less commonly cited.

Spitzer concluded that the research “shows some people can change from gay to straight, and we ought to acknowledge that.”

Gay rights activists and organizations went ballistic. David Elliot, of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force was incensed, “The sample is terrible, totally tainted, totally unrepresentative of the gay and lesbian community” (CNN.com, 2001, p.2). But Mr. Elliot, isn’t that the point? By definition, an ex-gay is someone who no longer is—and presumably, no longer wants to be—representative of the gay and lesbian community. What other legitimate sample can there be?

Another critic, psychologist Doug Haldeman of the University of Washington, is convinced that no credible evidence exists that sexual orientation can be changed. He was, of course, dismissive of this evidence that clearly challenged his none-too-subtle biases. He implied that any basis for change due to relations with “religious conservatives” was inherently bad or corrupting to the issue, asserted that the religious connection “unusually skewed” the data, as well as did the treatment by therapists “with a strong anti-gay bias.”

Again, these assertions beg the question by failing to differentiate or respect some obvious differences between committed gays and determined ex-gays. If you refuse to acknowledge or study those who claim to have changed—if you will only include the dedicated ‘representatives of the gay and lesbian community’—of course you will never find any evidence of change. No one from that community wants or believes or accepts that change is possible—it is too threatening to the fallacy of gay immutability, too challenging to the science-less ideology of gay rights. And Dr. Haldeman’s anti-religious bias speaks for itself.

The virulence of this attack from the gay community was all the more poignant because this study was led by Dr. Robert Spitzer. He just happens to be the key psychiatrist responsible for the removal of homosexuality from the list of psychiatric disorders nearly thirty years ago. (In 1973 the American Psychiatric Association, led by Robert Spitzer, scrubbed homosexuality from its official ‘bible’ of psychiatric disorders—the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders—the DSM system.) We assume he didn’t have an axe to grind then, and we assume he doesn’t now. He seems to be a courageous scientist willing to go where the science takes him—even into the face of the white-hot political correctness of gay rights. We applaud his courage, and hope he’s able to dodge the bullets.



NEW ORLEANS—A study released on May 18 showing that some gays and lesbians can experience a significant shift in sexual orientation made media headlines across the nation. Dr. Robert L. Spitzer, Chief of Biometrics Research and Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University in New York City, announced the results of his research in a presentation at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association.

“Contrary to conventional wisdom, some highly motivated individuals, using a variety of change efforts, can make asubstantial change in multiple indicators of sexual orientation,” Spitzer said.

Dr. Spitzer, a leading figure in the 1973 APA decision that removed homosexuality from the official diagnostic manual of mental disorders, said that he began the study as a skeptic. “Like most psychiatrists, I thought that homosexual behavior could only be resisted, and that no one could really change their sexual orientation. I now believe that to be false.”

The Spitzer study was reported in USA Today, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and was released to hundreds of local newspapers by the Associated Press.

Spitzer’s study was “based on 45-minute telephone interviews with 143 men and 57 women who had sought help to change their sexual orientation,” The New York Times reported. “[Spitzer] and his colleagues found that 66 percent of the men and 44 percent of the women had achieved ‘good heterosexual functioning’.”

The Washginton Times gave more details of the study’s results: “Before changing, 20 percent were married. Afterward, 76 percent of the men and 47 percent of the women had tied the knot. The typical respondent started trying to change at the age of 30 but did not feel any different sexually for at least two years. 78 percent reported a change in orientation after five years.

“Due to a combination of therapy and prayer, 17 percent of the men and 55 percent of the women reported they had no homosexual attractions whatsoever. 29 percent of the men and 63 percent of the women reported ‘minimal’ same-sex attractions,” The Times said.

Wayne Besen, Human Rights Campaign’s Associate Director of Communications, claimed that lack of acceptance and fear of rejection may have played a key role in the subjects’ decision to enter into conversion therapy. However, the subjects themselves gave different reasons for seeking change, including the feeling that homosexuality was “not emotionally satisfying” (81 percent), conflict with religious beliefs (79 percent), and the desire to get married or stay married (67 percent of the men, 35 percent of the women).

ABC News confronted Spitzer with the claim by some gays that “change therapy” causes damage, depression and even suicide among clients who are not successful in finding change. “There’s no doubt that many homosexuals have been unsuccessful and, attempting to change, become depressed and their life becomes worse,” Dr. Spitzer responded. “I’m not disputing that. What I am disputing is that is invariably the outcome.”

Spitzer told ABC News that some of his subjects had been despondent and even suicidal for the opposite reason: they had been told by many mental health professionals that there was no hope for them, they had to just learn to live with their homosexual feelings.”

“The assumption that people can’t change is a political conclusion rather than a scientific conclusion,” said Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, director of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) and an Exodus member. “It points to the influential gay lobbyists within the profession, of which there are many.”