‘Ex-gay’ psychiatrist follows repudiation with apology
The US psychiatrist who recently repudiated a controversial and much-criticised study claiming gay people could change their sexual orientation if they were “highly motivated” enough has now also publicly apologised to the gay community and victims of reparative therapy.
Dr Robert Spitzer, the psychiatrist responsible for the study, was ironically at the forefront of moves in the early 1970s to have homosexuality removed from the list of mental disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), which eventually occurred in 1973.
In 2001 however, Spitzer (pictured) published a paper which included interviews with over 200 people who had gone through so-called ‘ex-gay’ programs.
The study did not make any claims about the success rate of ex-gay therapy but Spitzer concluded that the sessions, many with religious overtones, worked for a highly select group of motivated individuals.
Following an interview with Prospect Magazine earlier this month where Spitzer, 80, admitted he was wrong to have the study published by the Archives of Sexual Behavior, the psychiatrist decided to write a letter to the journal’s editor, Dr Ken Zucker.
In the letter, obtained by US website Truth Wins Out, Spitzer said that there was at least one “fatal flaw” in the published study.
“I believe I owe the gay community an apology for my study making unproven claims of the efficacy of reparative therapy. I also apologize to any gay person who wasted time and energy undergoing some form of reparative therapy because they believed that I had proven that reparative therapy works with some “highly motivated” individuals,” Spitzer wrote.
“I offered several (unconvincing) reasons why it was reasonable to assume that the subject’s reports of change were credible and not self-deception or outright lying. But the simple fact is that there was no way to determine if the subject’s accounts of change were valid.”
Since being published over a decade ago, Spitzer’s study has been widely quoted as evidence by many anti-gay groups as well as fundamentalist religious organisations in the US and abroad that ex-gay therapies work.