Dr. Robert Spitzer
A leading American psychiatrist, whose work is often used to justify attempts to “cure” homosexuality, has retracted his study, admitting that it is flawed.
Dr. Robert Spitzer’s much-criticised 2001 study claimed that some “highly motivated” homosexuals could “convert” from gay to straight.
The controversial study was published in the prestigious Archives of Sexual Behavior journal despite the American Psychological Association distancing itself from the work.
The research was quickly taken up by religious “ex-gay” groups to back their use of therapy or prayer to “cure” homosexuality.
Ironically, Spitzer, who has been called one of the most influential psychiatrists of the 20th century, played a key role in removing homosexuality from the official list of mental disorders in the U.S. in the 1970s.
Now, at the age of 80, he has rejected his own research in a new interview with The American Prospect.
“In retrospect, I have to admit I think the critiques [of my study] are largely correct,” Dr. Spitzer told Gabriel Arana in an article 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.”
He told Arana that he spoke with the editor of the Archives of Sexual Behavior about writing and publishing a retraction, but that the editor declined.
“Dr. Spitzer’s repudiation of his 2001 study is an earthquake that severely undermines the validity of ‘ex-gay’ programs,” said Wayne Besen, Executive Director of Truth Wins Out, an organisation that fights anti-LGBT extremism.
Besen previously criticised Spitzer’s 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,” Besen added.
“Virtually every anti-gay organisation in the country quotes Dr. Spitzer’s work. It will be an integrity test to see which groups remove citations of his work in the coming week. Those who continue to use his study to back their agenda are deliberately misleading people and we intend to hold them accountable.”
This is not the first major “ex-gay” study to be debunked. For decades, anti-gay organisations pointed to Homosexuality in Perspective, a 1979 book written by Dr. William H. Masters and Virginia E. Johnson, that claimed to cure gayness.
In his 2009 book, Masters of Sex, author Thomas Maier discovered, however, that the results of Masters & Johnson’s study were entirely fabricated.
Virginia Johnson acknowledged that the results were fake and said that she had actually argued in 1978 that the book should never have seen the light of day.