By A. Dean Byrd, Ph.D., MBA, MPH
Former President of the American Psychological Association Robert Perloff was the keynote speaker at the annual NARTH Conference, which was held in Washington, DC on November 12-14, 2004.
Dr. Perloff is the Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of Business Administration and of Psychology at the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business, University of Pittsburgh.
The former APA president's lecture -- entitled "Free to Choose" -- received a standing ovation from the conference participants. The gathering at the Washington's Wyndham Hotel comprised the largest attendance of any NARTH Conference.
Dr. Perloff began his lecture by emphasizing the importance of client self-determination, a cornerstone value of all of the mental health professions. He stated,
"I am here as the champion of one's right to choose ... It is my fervent belief that freedom of choice should govern one's sexual orientation ... If homosexuals choose to transform their sexuality into heterosexuality, that resolve and decision is theirs and theirs alone, and should not be tampered with by any special interest group -- including the gay community..."In support of the mission statement of NARTH, he concluded,
"The individual's right for self-determination of sexuality -- or sexual autonomy -- is, I am happy to see, inherent in NARTH's position statement: 'NARTH respects each client's dignity, autonomy, and free agency...every individual has the right to claim a gay identity, or to develop their heterosexual potential. The right to seek therapy to change one's sexual adaptation is considered self-evident and inalienable.' I subscribe fully to the aforementioned NARTH position statement."Noting that he was a Fellow of APA's Lesbian and Gay division, Dr. Perloff reiterated his support for gay and lesbian issues. However, he vigorously declared his opposition to the efforts of the gay community within APA to prevent psychotherapists from accepting clients who wished to develop their heterosexual potential. Dr. Perloff articulated the following reasons for his position:
When asked about the American Psychological Association's opinion of his presence at NARTH, Dr. Perloff indicated that he had recently received a warning phone call from a former member of APA's Board of Directors. This fellow psychologist "told me that a group of APA members were deeply concerned" that I had the "audacity and political incorrectness" to address NARTH (defined as a bunch of "bad guys").
Dr. Perloff's response to the caller was, "If APA or any of its special-interest mafias seek to bring ethics charges against me, they will face litigation the likes of which they have never encountered before."
He commended NARTH for its position, which he views as representative of the clear majority of Americans because of the popular support for traditional marriage that was expressed in the recent national elections.
Dr. Perloff encouraged NARTH to increase its membership and to continue articulating its views. He stated that freedom of choice is "a powerful and unassailable right inherent in human behavior, especially in a democratic society such as ours, where freedom of expression is guaranteed by the United States Constitution."
"NARTH," he added, "is a voice in the wilderness."