Taking Sexuality in for Repairs, Part 3
Gabriel Arana had been referred by his psychotherapist, Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, to a study being conducted with individuals who had successfully completed reparative therapy for homosexuality. Dr. Nicolosi was the co-founder and president of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), the study was being conducted by Robert Spitzer, MD, and Gabriel Arana was no “success” at reparative therapy. In fact, Arana decided to tell the story directly to Spitzer himself, and there began the deconstruction of “Can Some Gay Men and Lesbians Change Their Sexual Orientation?” the bedrock of reparative therapies for nearly a decade. And after nearly a decade of ignoring the traditional research bodies unified stance that reparative therapies without further determining a risk-to-benefit ratio is unethical, what have the practitioners produced by way of research on their own? That would be nothing. Not only did Robert Spitzer, MD, tell Gabriel Arana that he had major misgivings regarding the study for years, but asked his assistance in retracting the study. And so reported the NY Times, and so explained Spitzer himself.
Even the most cursory scan of the internet to sites that follow such matters would immediately end any thought that this “retraction” might have settled issues and, some would say, predictably created newer, better issues – “Truth Wins Out,” notwithstanding. I must admit total ambivalence at the juxtaposition of the “fifty-five seconds” of Spitzer residing on the websites of the “Christian Right,” and what strikes me as the half-hearted “retraction” of a tired, elderly man in poor health. I hear Spitzer’s comment in the video interview of Warren Throckmorton as to the voracity of his study subjects, “When I listened to them, I kind of had the clinical feeling these people were telling the truth,” and I feel nothing of the sort in Spitzer’s “retraction.” Is it possible that Arana’s story was especially compelling, or especially unique that Spitzer would be moved to unburden himself with a man he just met? An eighty year-old who endured the criticism of his closest colleagues is suddenly moved to “preserve his legacy” with a complete stranger? Heaven knows I presume to offer no explanation as to Spitzer’s motivation – and hopefully he has found his peace – but if anyone would claim this as “victory,” in my estimation it would be extraordinarily hollow.
The fact remains that Focus on the Family, NARTH, the American College of Pediatrics, and those groups affiliated and similar to them are unaffected, and in fact uninterested in whether Robert Spitzer, MD, distinguished Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University, is raw, cooked, black, white, living, dead, real, or imagined, BUT, he once authored a study that serves their purpose. As of this writing, a “reaction” entitled Spitzer’s “Retraction”: What Does It Really Mean?, posted by Christopher H. Rosik, Ph.D., is the frontpage of the NARTH site. Of interest here is his conclusion:
In fact, what Spitzer was “calling for all along” was fundamental to research involving human subjects: assurance that it was safe:
Am I naïve to imagine that by adopting this call for rigorous research that Dr. Rosik would advocate and support the suspension of reparative/SOCE therapies and all training (and sales of materials instructive in the practice of these therapies) until a benefit-to-harm ratio has been clearly established? Or might that prove to be a financial disaster for which they have no interest. Disingenuousness, apparently, knows no bounds.
In that Arana chose to go the low road in “exposing” the hypocrisies of the “agents of the Right,” and Rosik felt compelled to dog Spitzer (as in tagged him as Argos, “Parkinson’s disease and is in the twilight of his life), it leads me to suspect that the ethical “high road” of actual patient care – that genuinely seems, to this day, to have motivated Robert Spitzer, if only to discover that the number for change is not zero, should they so wish it – will come from somewhere totally unexpected, and hopefully from a considerably more satisfying source.
- Spitzer, RL. Can some gay men and lesbians change their sexual orientation? 200 participants reporting a change from homosexual to heterosexual orientation. Archives of Sexual Behavior, Vol. 32, No. 5, October 2003, p. 415. ↩