The Afterlife of Gabriel Arana's Ex-Gay Life

Like thousands of you, I was absolutely gobsmacked by my editor Gabriel Arana's piece, "My So-Called Ex-Gay Life." If it hadn't run into here first, I would have linked to it. Of course, there was the heartbreaking and finally uplifting personal story that took us through the social history of antigay "therapy." But what astonished me was the courage he had to actually report out the story, calling and talking to the key players who made "reparative therapy" intellectually respectable enough that caring parents like the Arana's would search it out and sign up their son, truly believing that they were doing the right thing. 

I know you've read it, so I won't belabor all that here. What I will post: Dr. Robert Spitzer's full-on public renunciation of his 2001 study. As you've read already, Gabriel Arana's reportorial call triggered Spitzer's decision to openly repudiate that work. He's now written an apology, which he's sent to the editor of Archives of Sexual Behavior that has been obtained by Truth Wins Out's Wayne Besen (emphasis added):

Several months ago I told you that because of my revised view of my 2001 study of reparative therapy changing sexual orientation, I was considering writing something that would acknowledge that I now judged the major critiques of the study as largely correct. After discussing my revised view of the study with Gabriel Arana, a reporter for American Prospect, and with Malcolm Ritter, an Associated Press science writer, I decided that I had to make public my current thinking about the study. Here it is.

Basic Research Question. From the beginning it was: “can some version of reparative therapy enable individuals to change their sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual?” Realizing that the study design made it impossible to answer this question, I suggested that the study could be viewed as answering the question, “how do individuals undergoing reparative therapy describe changes in sexual orientation?” – a not very interesting question.

The Fatal Flaw in the Study – There was no way to judge the credibility of subject reports of change in sexual orientation. I offered several (unconvincing) reasons why it was reasonable to assume that the subject’s reports of change were credible and not self-deception or outright lying. But the simple fact is that there was no way to determine if the subject’s accounts of change were valid.

I believe I owe the gay community an apology for my study making unproven claims of the efficacy of reparative therapy. I also apologize to any gay person who wasted time and energy undergoing some form of reparative therapy because they believed that I had proven that reparative therapy works with some “highly motivated” individuals.

Robert Spitzer. M.D.
Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry,
Columbia University


The only thing that works with regard to any sin is repentance. The first step in repentance is confessing the sin. The second is forsaking it. People who never admit they are committing sin, never forsake it.

YOU, then, need to confess to spreading bullsh** ... and then stop spreading it.

Re: Views of Sexual Orientation as Sin.

By now even fiercely antigay outfits (like, say, the current Vatican?) no long claim that being LGBT is a sin, in and of itself; but the sin is now allegedly redefined, thus limited to overt sex acts with another person which are defined as 'innately disordered' because sperms cannot meet eggs.

If I read Mr. As brave and honest report correctly, during the time he was in reparative therapy with the infamous Dr. Nicolosi, he was not sexually active with any other guy. Was he in sin, even if he wasn't sexual active with another guy? (Go ahead, block his entry into the kingdom, while you lollygag behind yourself in the entrance by refusing to go in by letting God be the judge, instead of you being judge, jury, and hangman?

If certain antigay believers are now returning to the prior definition that being LGBT is sin, it continues to be confusing and still unhelpful.

The unhelpful part is the glaring homework yet to be done by conservative believers who still assert that orientation, genital acts, or both are sin.

It is clear that no ancient near eastern language involved in scripture's origins had any simple, equivalent word for our current empirically based notion of sexual orientation or sexual orientation variance. Current scholars of ancient holy tests now entertain the ancient tropes rooted in the notion of being a eunuch as our most reasonable, honest way forward in discernment and understanding of LGBT people among us.

Six or seven scripture passages do clearly (by context) condemn: (A) same sex rape, manily male on male, (B) ritual temple prostitution, (C) ordinary ancient near eastern sex work in which boys (and also, girls) might have survived by selling themselves to adult men of various ages, and last but not least, (D) omnisexual libertines customarily understood to be straight, getting into same sex activities in their search for cheap thrills. The nearest we reasonably get to an encounter with a gay couple in the modern sense may perhaps be the Roman Centurion who asks Jesus to heal his servant (pais, or boy, as in body servant, as in lover). Jesus condemns neither the Centurion nor the servant, but ends up praising the Centurion's faith. These studies are not a matter of jumping on any ideological band wagon, but an occasion of having to prayerfully do a believer's homework nowadays.

Let me say a big, loud thanks to Dr. Spitzer for his integrity, as it is not easy at the end of a distinguished teaching/research career to publicly admit that one of your studies is flawed. Don't expect the repudiation to make much difference to the ex-gay or reparative therapy practitioners, though; as it still seems they are ideologically committed to offering a potentially damaging treatment for a disorder that does not exist, empirically, to LGB folks who are not mentally ill.

RE: Sin and Discernment

Oops, another consideration perhaps ... is ...

if we say the being LGB is a sin, or that being intimately involved is a sin ... then we have to square with the scriptural guidelines for discernment, chief among which are Jesus saying ... judge a tree by the fruit it bears ... a good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit ...

this brings up smack dab up against the obvious ethical and daily life goods (including effective parenting) which are not prevented from issuing forth from the committed individuals and couples who are claimed to be such bad trees ...

more homework, I guess ....
Our most reasonable evaluation to date is that sexual orientation variance has no causal relationship with bad, okay, good, or excellent living per se ... as people anywhere along the Kinsey Scale continuums can have any sort of life and ethics, from one extreme to the other ...

The Religious Right, through Exodus International and PFOX (Parents and Friends of Ex-homosexuals), support their views using a pseudo-journal, The Journal of Human Sexuality, consisting of an anti-homosexual diatribe using argumentum ad hominem, half-truths, deceptions, and articles from questionable sources, use flawed research of found in some mainstream vetted research, selectively quote from legitimate sources. Among many professional bodies, the American Psychiatric and Psychological Associations have condemned Exodus International and similar organizations for giving false hope to ego-dystonic homosexuals desiring to become heterosexual. While stating many living the "homosexual lifestyle" have become heterosexual through "reparative" or "Christian conversion" therapy, Exodus International and others offer no reliable or valid scientific evidence of these metamorphoses and refuse long-term follow-up studies. A study which does not distinguish between male pseudohomosexuals and natural homosexuals indicated that 11 men changed sexual orientation as a result of "folk therapy" as part of a pentecostal experience. Many chapters of Exodus International have fallen by the way. "Two of Exodus International's founders, Michael Bussee and Gary Cooper, fell in love and left the organization in 1979."
The Religious Right, exemplified by the Family Research Institute and Family Research Council, have a narrow self-righteous view of sexuality and use flagrant deceit and exceptionally questionable research methods (e.g., inadequate and biased subject selection, sampling methods, peer reviewed publishing, and data sources--followed by unsupported conclusions, conjecture, and speculation). Some defend their views by misrepresenting and dismissing a massive body of professional literature and scientific research. A look at their internet sources illustrates their facile use of illegitimate and legitimate research to create a hostile view of homosexuals. Other religions with ultra-right elements also show similar bias against homosexuals. Other Cultures and Traditions.
In many American Indian tribes, before the coming of Christian missionaries, cross-gendered individuals found wide acceptance (e.g., Kutenai, Crow, Mohave, Pawnee, Piegan, Omaha, Arapaho, Cheyenne, Cree, Sauateaux, Ute, Flathead, Maidu, Teton-Dakota, Cocopay, Kamia, Klamath, Navaho, Mohawk, Zuni, Chumash, Colorado, Yaavapai, Mono, Sioux, Pima, Ojibwa, Chippewa, Potawatomi, Shoshoni, Winnebago, Quinalt, Apache, Mandan, Blackfeet, Oglala, etc.). In early childhood, when cross-gendered interests and play were apparent, a feminized male child was reared among the tribal women and a masculinized female child among tribal men. Often, as an adult, "she" married a male tribal member and "he" became a chief or married a female tribal member. Among these tribes, the inward spirit, not outward anatomy, was the key to gender behavior and sexual expression. That Christ does not mention homosexual behavior in the Book of Mormon is most unusual as his visits among indigenous American peoples is the focus of Mormon scriptures. In differing cultures and geographic regions, among a few primitive tribes, homosexual activity is still part of ritual passage through puberty. In today's society, homosexual, bisexual, and sexual uncertainty appear to be higher among American-Indian adolescents than comparable Caucasians
Before Western influence in the orient, China and Japan accepted homosexuals and the cross-gendered. In the silk growing regions of China, lesbian liaisons were encouraged. During the Cultural Revolution, although homosexual behavior was not subject to legal condemnation, there were accounts of persecution of lesbian and male homosexual couples. Buddhists, Taoists, Shintoists, etc., not coming from the middle eastern patriarchal tradition, have always had little or nothing to say about sexual orientation. In Hindu law, while adult females can be severely punished for seducing a young female, nothing is said about punishment of male homosexuals.

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