The New York Times’ Benedict Carey reports:
The simple fact was that he had done something wrong, and at the end of a long and revolutionary career it didn’t matter how often he’d been right, how powerful he once was, or what it would mean for his legacy…Now here he was at his computer, ready to recant a study he had done himself, a poorly conceived 2003 investigation that supported the use of so-called reparative therapy to “cure” homosexuality for people strongly motivated to change…Dr. Spitzer’s fingers jerked over the keys, unreliably, as if choking on the words. And then it was done: a short letter to be published this month, in the same journal where the original study appeared. “I believe,” it concludes, “I owe the gay community an apology.”
…The study — presented at a psychiatry meeting in 2001, before publication — immediately created a sensation, and ex-gay groups seized on it as solid evidence for their case. This was Dr. Spitzer, after all, the man who single-handedly removed homosexuality from the manual of mental disorders. No one could accuse him of bias…But gay leaders accused him of betrayal, and they had their reasons. The study had serious problems. It was based on what people remembered feeling years before — an often fuzzy record. It included some ex-gay advocates, who were politically active. And it didn’t test any particular therapy; only half of the participants engaged with a therapist at all, while the others worked with pastoral counselors, or in independent Bible study.
…Dr. Spitzer in no way implied in the study that being gay was a choice, or that it was possible for anyone who wanted to change to do so in therapy. But that didn’t stop socially conservative groups from citing the paper in support of just those points, according to Wayne Besen, executive director of Truth Wins Out, a nonprofit that fights antigay bias.
On one occasion, a politician in Finland held up the study in Parliament to argue against civil unions, according to Dr. Drescher.
“It needs to be said that when this study was misused for political purposes to say that gays should be cured — as it was, many times — Bob responded immediately, to correct misperceptions,” said Dr. Drescher, who is gay.
This was a very intelligent article that puts the entire Spitzer study into its proper perspective. It is a telling and compelling narrative that places a definitive period at the end of a long, and often troubling, run-on sentence. For his part, Dr. Spitzer should be applauded for doing the right thing. It is never easy, particularly for successful people who are leaders in their field, to apologize or acknowledge wrongdoing. But, this is exactly what Dr. Spitzer did and we at Truth Wins Out are grateful that he is a man of integrity and conscience.
Unfortunately, there are still slippery organizations, like Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX), who refuse to take Dr. Spitzer’s repudiated study off of their website. The good news is that by leaving it up they further erode their already tattered credibility and reputation by showing how blatantly dishonest they truly are.
Truth Wins Out will be filming Dr. Spitzer next week in Princeton, NJ. We look forward to sharing the video with our readers and members. We are hiring a professional film crew to ensure that we have broadcast quality video that can be used by networks. Obviously, this will cost a bit of money — and we can use your help because this expense is out of budget.
Please consider a tax-deductible contribution today to help us pay for the camera crew and travel to Princeton.