from Ethical Issues
But shortly before the A.P.A. meeting, the debate was abruptly cancelled because the psychiatrists scheduled to oppose the "reorientation therapy is effective and ethical" position refused to participate. The A.P.A. was unwilling to allow such a controversial debate to go forward without at least two panelists in opposition.
This year's debate would not even have addressed the much more divisive and potentially rancorous subject of whether homosexuality is a developmental disorder. That would have been a topic about which even reparative therapists disagree among themselves. The scheduled debate would simply have addressed two questions: "Is reorientation therapy ethical?" "Can it be effective?"
NARTH President Joseph Nicolosi was regretful about the cancellation. "We give Dr. Robert Spitzer tremendous credit," he said. "He worked long and hard to 'broker' this debate and to be a non-allied moderator. He walked a tightrope in trying to keep both sides engaged in this polarizing discussion--not an easy task--and he was always scrupulously fair and impartial."
"But we believe the other side backed down because they were intimidated by the evidence," Dr. Nicolosi added, "and by an increasingly vocal group of ex-gay strugglers who have become disgusted with gay activism's stranglehold on the discussion within both the psychiatric and psychological associations."
"Indeed, there will be other debates," Dr. Nicolosi said. "Fairness and respect for diversity--long the mantra of other groups whose voices have been excluded--simply demand it. Public opinion will force gay activism to give up its silencing tactics, and to open up the discussion."
The groundwork for this debate was laid during the 1998 A.P.A. annual conference. At that time, a group of ex-gays from Transformation Christian Ministries staged a demonstration calling for the right to sexual reorientation therapy. Hundreds of A.P.A. conference participants were greeted by demonstrators offering NARTH literature.
Protesters carried placards saying, "Homosexuals Can Change--We Did--Ask Us," and "Don't Affirm Me into a Lifestyle that was Killing Me Physically and Spiritually."
Other placards said, "The APA Has Betrayed America with Politically Correct Science," and "APA--How Do You Explain 20,000 Former Homosexuals?"
One of the interested onlookers at that time was Dr. Robert Spitzer. After hearing the picketers' stories and attending the press conference held the next day by Family Research Council, he became interested in studying the possibility of sexual-orientation change. Although he still believes the 1973 decision to remove homosexuality from the manual was correct, he has come to believe that sexual reorientation may be possible.
Recently Dr. Spitzer was quoted on the Laura Schlessinger radio show discussing his ongoing study of sexual reorientation. "Dr. Laura" quoted Dr. Spitzer as saying:
"I'm convinced from people I have interviewed, that for many of them, they have made substantial changes toward becoming heterosexual...I think that's news."
"I came to this study skeptical. I now claim that these changes can be sustained."
"I agree that a homosexual who is not able to be aroused heterosexually...I think, implicitly, there is something not working."
The cancelled debate was entitled, "Sexual Reorientation Therapies for Homosexuality Work, and are Ethical." Two panelists were scheduled to argue the "therapy is effective and ethical" position. One was Warren Throckmorton, Ph.D., past president of the American Counseling Association and author of the 1998 Journal of Mental Health Counseling article, "Attempts to Modify Sexual Orientation: A Review of Outcome Literature and Ethical Issues."
The second scheduled panelist from the "ethical and effective" position was Gerald E. Zuriff, Ph.D., author of "Psychology's Sexual Dis-Orientation," which was published in 1997 in The World and I.