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Psychiatrist behind controversial ‘ex-gay’ study retracts original claims

Wednesday, April 11, 2012
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In a move that serves as a significant blow to “ex-gay” programs and anti-gay organizations, Dr. Robert Spitzer has repudiated his much-criticized 2001 study that claimed some “highly motivated” homosexuals could go from gay to straight.

Spitzer’s retraction occurred in an American Prospect magazine article that hit newsstands on Wednesday.

Robert Spitzer

Spitzer’s rejection of his own research, which was originally published in the prestigious Archives of Sexual Behavior, is a devastating blow to “ex-gay” organizations because it decisively eliminates their most potent claim that homosexuality can be reversed through therapy and prayer, according to Truth Wins Out, a non-profit organization that fights anti-LGBT extremism and the “ex-gay” myth.

“Dr. Spitzer’s repudiation of his 2001 study is an earthquake that severely undermines the validity of ‘ex-gay’ programs,” said Truth Wins Out’s Executive Director Wayne Besen, who criticized the study in his 2003 book, Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth.

“Spitzer just kicked out the final leg from the stool on which the proponents of ‘ex-gay’ therapy based their already shaky claims of success.”

Spitzer’s 2001 study was a surprise and created a media firestorm because he had previously led the charge in 1972-73 to remove homosexuality from the list of mental disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of the American Psychiatric Association.

According to today’s American Prospect article:

“In retrospect, I have to admit I think the critiques [of my study] are largely correct,” Dr. Spitzer told the American Prospect in an article by Gabriel Arana titled, My So Called Ex-Gay Life. “The findings can be considered evidence for what those who have undergone ex-gay therapy say about it, but nothing more.”

Spitzer asked for a retraction of his 2001 study, “So I don’t have to worry about it anymore?”

Dr. Spitzer’s research was particularly harmful because he was the only non-socially conservative scientist to produce a study claiming some people could “pray away the gay.”

“Virtually every anti-gay organization in the country quotes Dr. Spitzer’s work,” said Besen. “It will be an integrity test to see which groups remove citations of his work in the coming week.”

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