By Wayne Besen
One of the most successful techniques used by the right wing is creating shadow organizations designed to ape mainstream institutions in an effort to undermine them. By deceptively using scientific names and manipulating research, much of the public can’t tell the difference between the reputable groups and the reputed ones.
One such mock organization is the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH). It was co-founded in 1992 by Drs. Charles Socarides and Joseph Nicolosi as a fundamentalist foil to the American Psychiatric Association, which had taken homosexuality off the list of mental disorders in 1973. The group lobbies to re-label homosexuality a mental illness and promotes the myth that gay people can become heterosexual through therapy.
Although NARTH works mightily to present a veneer of respectability, its rhetoric always has a way of showing its true colors. In 1998, the now-deceased Socarides (whose own son, Richard, is gay and the former gay liaison to President Bill Clinton) told The Washington Post that homosexuality is “a purple menace that is threatening the proper design of gender distinctions in society.” This churlish rhetoric belied the scholarly facade the group tried to impart.
That same year, while millions of people mourned the gruesome murder of Matthew Shepard, Nicolosi crassly complained about people protesting NARTH’s annual meeting by sneering, “A kid gets killed in Wyoming, and we can’t even have a scientific meeting.”
The theories promoted by NARTH are as bizarre as its insensitive rhetoric. Dr. Nicolosi has said factors in the causation of homosexuality include “fear of tall bridges” a “phobia of the phone” and once claimed that gay men are more likely to be “pee shy.” He has encouraged his clients to become more masculine by drinking Gatorade and calling friends “dude.” The good doctor also applauded a patient in one of his books as making progress toward heterosexuality after he didn’t give a man his phone number at a bathhouse after they already had sex. Even more ludicrous is Nicolosi’s notion that, “non-homosexual men who experience defeat and failure may also experience homosexual fantasies or dreams.”
With such quack-like ideas, it is not surprising that Nicolosi does not keep track of his failure rate. When asked by a Newsweek reporter why he kept no statistics, he blithely claimed, “I don’t have time.” More troubling is that Nicolosi does have the time to analyze children as young as three, telling the Advocate magazine that, “It’s my job to increase the possibility of a heterosexual future for these effeminate boys.”
Holding such peculiar opinions, NARTH quickly attracted fringe psychologists. For example, a prominent member of the organization is Dr. Jeffrey Satinover who once reported that “Prozac” may be a cure for homosexuality. Another major NARTH contributor is Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively, co-author of The Pink Swastika, a book that partially blamed gay people for the Holocaust. “The Pink Swastika will show that there was far more brutality, torture, and murder committed against innocent people by Nazi deviants and homosexuals than there ever was against homosexuals,” wrote co-author Kevin E. Abrams in the preface describing the book.
Unfortunately, the sickening and revolting work propagated by NARTH now has a large audience thanks to Focus on the Family. The behemoth right wing organization, with an annual budget of more than $137 million, now features Nicolosi as a keynote speaker in its ex-gay road show Love Won Out.
However, the sun may finally be setting on NARTH thanks to recent articles written on its website. In one polemic, Canadian doctor Joseph Berger, who serves on NARTH’s “Scientific Advisory Board” said that gender variant children should be sent to school in opposite-sex clothing so they can be “ridiculed” into conforming. Truth Wins Out, my organization, filed a grievance with The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario and they will examine the complaint on November 1.
A second article, written by “Scientific Advisory Board” member Dr. Gerald Schoenewolf, justified slavery and said that African-Americans taken away in chains on slave ships “were in many ways better off than they had been in Africa.”
The National Black Justice Coalition quickly called on NARTH to apologize and The Southern Poverty Law Center also turned up the heat by writing an illuminating article on the brouhaha. As a result, some prominent members and supporters are defecting. Dr. Warren Throckmorton canceled his appearance at NARTH’s annual conference in November and former committee member David Blakeslee resigned.
Amazingly, NARTH has failed to apologize and Berger and Schoenewolf remain on the Board. Meanwhile, Nicolosi refuses to comment and continues to cower in his bunker, which may be a wise strategy considering what usually happens when he opens his mouth. But as the controversy metastasizes, the group that tried to ape the APA increasingly looks as ridiculous as a circus monkey.