The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

Psychiatrist Repudiates Infamous ‘Ex-Gay’ Study

By Evelyn Schlatter on April 11, 2012 - 2:32 pm, Posted in Anti-LGBT

Retired psychiatrist and Columbia University professor Robert Spitzer has repudiated his own much-criticized 2001 study that has been used for years by anti-gay activists to buttress their claims that gay men and lesbians can be “cured” of their homosexuality through therapy.

In the controversial study, Spitzer claimed that some “highly motivated” LGBT people could become straight. His repudiation came in an article about the fringe “ex-gay” movement in the American Prospect. In an interview, Spitzer asked the author, Gabriel Arana, to print a retraction of the 2001 study so that he “wouldn’t have to worry about it anymore.”

Since its publication, the study has been one of the major weapons wielded by anti-gay groups, which frequently cite it as “proof” that LGBT people choose to be gay and can thus change their sexual orientation. At the heart of this argument is the belief that homosexuality is an unnatural deviation from normal sexual development, a form of mental disorder.

The ex-gay movement, according to Arana, “has relied on the Spitzer study as the single piece of objective evidence that therapy can work.”

Ironically, Spitzer, who is now 80, was one of the psychiatrists who pushed the American Psychiatric Association to stop classifying homosexuality as a mental disorder, a step the organization took in 1973. His 2001 study came as a shock and disappointment to many, and it received a storm of criticism over its suspect methodology and design.

Participants had been referred to Spitzer by ex-gay therapy practitioner groups like the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) and Exodus International. Their claims were self-reported, and Spitzer did not compare participants to a control group. Yesterday, Spitzer told Warren Throckmorton, a psychology professor at Grove City College, that he “has regret for what he now considers to be errant interpretations” of study participants’ reports. He also said that he had “second thoughts” about the study and now believes that “his conclusions don’t hold water.”

“I actually had great difficulty finding participants,” Spitzer told Arana in the American Prospect. “In all the years of doing ex-gay therapy, you’d think [Joseph] Nicolosi would have been able to provide more success stories. He only sent me nine patients.” (Nicolosi is a clinical psychologist who practiced ex-gay therapy and helped found NARTH.)

Ex-gay therapy, also known as “reparative” or “conversion” therapy, has been widely discredited by the scientific community. Most strikingly, in 2006, the American Psychological Association (APA) stated: “There is simply no sufficiently scientifically sound evidence that sexual orientation can be changed.” The APA added, “Our further concern is that the positions espoused by NARTH and Focus on the Family create an environment in which prejudice and discrimination can flourish.”

Since his study’s publication, Spitzer has tried to make it clear that he didn’t want it used to justify discrimination against the LGBT community, and he emphasized that he did not think that most LGBT people could become heterosexual. Nevertheless, the study became a major part of the anti-gay movement’s arsenal, with claims that here, at last, was “proof” that “all” gay people could become straight through prayer or therapy. Spitzer attempted to point out over the years that such change was either highly unlikely or that anti-gay organizations had misused his research.

It’s not the first time anti-gay groups have used suspect studies or misused legitimate ones to further anti-LGBT sentiment.

In January, Seton Hall professor Theodora Sirota issued a statement taking NARTH’s Rick Fitzgibbons to task for using one of her studies to oppose adoption by same-sex couples. Sirota said that no conclusions about LGBT parents or the “fitness” of LGBT parents can be drawn from her findings. Fitzgibbons has yet to correct his own article or remove the Sirota citation from it

Several other legitimate researchers have publicly asked anti-gay organizations stop distorting their research. Now, with Spitzer’s on-the-record retraction, it remains to be seen whether they will stop using his 2001 study to justify their claims.

Don’t hold your breath.

  • Gregory

    I’m sure that Funi has met many homosexuals in the course of his life. He may not acknowledge that because those men and women do not conform to his notions of what gay people are like.

  • Aron


    (I can’t believe I’m doing this) but in YellowSnow’s defense, he did state that he is of Sub-Continental lineage some months ago. This isn’t a new development.

    But a Mohandas K Gandhi, he ain’t.

  • Reynardine

    Aw, gee, Aron, now the little fellow’s a Hindu whose family came from India. I wonder how he explains certain Hindu dieties who were hermaphroditic.

  • Aron


    I wasn’t complaining that you DIDN’T LIST ME. I was complaining that you DIDN’T LIST ME FIRST. Afterall, I’m usually the first one you bring up as a ‘defender of The Evil Gays.’

    And I second Supersonic’s comment. Have you ever, ONCE met a homosexual at any point in your life? Because your opinions are so ridiculous as to suggest you haven’t.

    And since you seem to enjoy StormFronter company so much, why don’t you head back and STAY THERE.

    Better yet, stay here. You provide some much needed comic relief on the site. Keep up that brilliant rhetoric!

  • Supersonic250

    Oh, my GOD, shut UP already, Funinsnow. You’re ignorant, moronic, and you have no argument. I REALLY doubt you’ve ever even MET a gay man, to have formed such hateful and STUPID opinions. I hope that from this day forward, every single gay person in your city decides to show up at your door day in and day out to hit on you. It’d be fitting punishment for someone so BIGOTED.

  • funinsnow

    Richard Lavigueur & I discussed before here on SPLC the ideology of ‘gay bashings’ where RLavigueur discussed my scenario of a man who bashes or kills a gay after the gay grabbed the man’s butt or groin against will. To repeat, the gay committed a crime assault&battery if his intent was not sexual to something more serious such as sex abuse if intent was-which it usu. is. Richard Lavigueur said that it was excessive force to kill the gay in that situation but what he wrote may not be that easy.

    1st those situations are unpredictable. If the gay is committing a crime such as harassing a man in the bathroom or assault&battery, the gay may have other violent intent such as commit a more violent act if he does not get his way or even homosexual rape. What if the gay is high on drugs when he does what is described? What if the gay has a past history of committing violence in bathrooms or committing violence on others? I’ve heard people say that if a gay proposes to a man in the bathroom, that the man should just say ‘no thanks’ but as the gay is committing a crime indecency by proposing in a restroom, there’s no need for the man to say no, just as there’s no need for a shopkeeper to put up a sign which says don’t steal-no need to say no to a crime.

    Bashing or killing a gay who is harassing a man in the public restroom or killing a gay after he has grabbed a man’s butt or groin against will is a jury topic. Yes, the more violent the reaction, the harder it is to justify, but it’s possible to say that a man who kills a gay after the gay has been harassing him in the bathroom self-defended if he can prove the gay had a more violent intent such as homosexual rape, esp. if the gay was high or has a history of committing violence in bathrooms. These cases are not so easy.

  • Reynardine

    Funnyshow, we can’t insult you. We can only describe you.

  • funinsnow

    Something to add re. gay bashings, incl. the MW Shepard case. Unsure if I can name the journalist but will hint. From Dec. 2011 to Feb. 2012, I wrote on the blog of a former Wyoming reporter who covered the 1999 murder trial. This reporter now lives in Hawaii (never been there) & has her own blog called Big Island Chronicle, where among the topics she has was her 1999 coverage as journalist just out of college.

    Anyhow (perhaps some of you have read it under this same ID), I commented on this reporter’s blog mentioning what MW Shepard did 2 months before his death where a drunk MW Shepard 1st proposed to a bartender in Cody for a walk around lake where the bartender told him no. But rather than end it, MW Shepard continued proposing, grabbed the bartender’s arm & jacket (misdemeanor assault&battery) & made the statement of ‘you’re afraid of what I can do to you’ after which the bartender decked MW Shepard temporaily KO him. MW Shepard was then taken back to hotel where he was staying with his family. The next day MW Shepard went to Cody cops & made up a story of being homosexually gang raped by 3. The medical tests only found a fat lip & disproved the rape story as no sex happened. Cops interviewed bartender, a waitress who saw what happened & concluded the bartender self-defended.

    As I wrote on her blog, MW Shepard should’ve been arrested for assault&battery + falsely reporting crime. When I 1st wrote about this on the reporter’s blog, she became hostile & called me disgusting, not because I said anything she disputed, but rather she got mad that I raised thes facts. She later toned down. The fact is that the journalist who had her own bias in favor of homsexuality allowed my comments about MW Shepard such as what he did to the Cody bartender, MW Shepard’s drunkardism & Ecstasy use, because it was factual.

    With gay bashings, it’s hard to get neutral media coverage, because if a reporter were to bring up alleged criminal act the gay did before the man reacted by bashing or killing the gay, gay/lesbian groups can complain to a newspaper or TV stations advertisers & that can be bad business. Case would be the media coverage in Manhattan Beach Calif. where 18 homosexuals were arrested for indeceny in beach bathrooms-gay/lesbian groups complained after the media gave out the names & photos of the 18 arrested. The bathroom is the place to use the toilet & wash up. Those 18 committed a crime, yet the gay/lesbian groups complained after the media announces this.

    In 2007, TV host Tucker Carlson talked of how during the 1980s as a teenager, he had beaten up a homosexual who was harassing him in a mall restroom & then he & his friend tied up the gay for the cops to arrest. Gay groups protested him-they saw nothing wrong with the homosexual harassing Tucker Carlson in the bathroom. The gay committed a crime & he got bashed by Tucker Carlson.

    Gay groups call it ‘gay panic’ but I call it reacting to gay abuse. Harassing some1 by repeatedly proposing after no has been said is harassment. Unless you’re self-defending, grabbing some1’s butt or groin against will is assault&battery if the intent is not sexual to something more serious such as sex abuse or even attempted homosexual rape if intent is. If a homosexual grab’s a man’s butt or groin against will after which the man reacts by bashing or even killing the gay, then the man reacted to a crime the gay did. Whether the man reacted justly or excessively is a jury topic & if it’s excessive, jury decides what degree it is such as Manslaughter rather than 2d Degree.

    I know what I’m writing here is mostly repeat but I support the right of defense lawyers in gay bashing cases to bring up crime such as harassment, indecency or assault&battery the gay did before the man reacted by bashing or killing him. If a gay is going to expose himself, then it’s a crime. Anyhow, I don’t trust media accounts when it comes to covering gay bashings because the topic is ideological that it’s hard to know the reporter’s bias. With the Internet, if a gay bashing case is not honestly discussed in the press (which it often isn’t), then we’ll use the Internet to bring out facts that the media gave little coverage or distorted & then we’ll make our own conclusions as to what we believe the right verdict is whether it’s acquittal or conviction even if the media & gay groups dislike it.

  • funinsnow

    Reynardine, either you have a poor memory or you’re not honest when you wrote ‘lying for Jebus’ because assuming you forgot, in past posts I’ve written the fact that my parents came from mostly Hindu India & I’m a non-JudeoChristian who is against gay/lesbian activities. There are non-religious people like me who are against gay/lesbian activities & who oppose sex changes, so don’t assume it’s just Christians. Also Aron, I did name you in the post. Ad hominems that you, Reynardine, etc. make against me are expected when you don’t have serious rebuttal. Keep insulting me.

  • Reynardine

    Oh, Hell, Aron, most of us are “usual suspects”. Don’t tax his simple little memory with long lists.

  • Aron


    I’m so insulted you didn’t list me first among your list of ‘usual suspects.’ And congratulations on your being approved by Paul Cameron. I’m sure your imaginary friends are SO proud of you!

  • Supersonic250

    ……………………………………………………..Funinsnow. You fail. Stop trying. You get nothing. You lose. GOOD DAY SIR.

  • Reynardine

    Looks like we’re getting the usual funnySnowjob. Lying for jeebus again. Coal in his stocking…

  • funinsnow

    1 thing to add surrounding Matthew Wayne Shepard. Any1 who sees nothing wrong with MW Shepard’s reckless conduct in the last year of his life has something wrong with them. THis will be repeat but why MW Shepard was killed, only he & his killers know. If it had been a straight man with a history of harassing women who got killed in the same way MW Shepard was in an unrelated crime, my guess would be many of those who mourned MW Shepard would say what a pig the straight man was & why they can’t mourn him.

    If that is your belief, then don’t complain about me not mourning Matthew Shepard. I see something wrong with what MW Shepard did to the Cody bartender 2 months before his death. I also see something wrong with MW Shepard continuing to be promiscuous even after he feared he had AIDS-incidentally there are even gays who have said that MW Shepard was a despicable person for doing this so it’s not just homophobes like me (I’m glad I’m a homophobe) who say this about MW Shepard. I also see something wrong with MW Shepard taking Ecstasy & alcohol which worsened his PTSD & depression-he also took depression Meds. His killing in Oct. 1998 is a minor topic & no he should not have been killed, but his killing in Oct. 1998 does not change the fact that MW Shepard was a reckless person who worsened his PTSD & depression in the ways written.