Of ex-gays and conversion therapy

News flash! Yesterday the California State Senate approved a bill with the purpose of limiting the usage of conversion therapy (also known as reparative therapy or ex-gay therapy).  If it gets signed in by the governor, California will become the first state to ban mental health professionals from using therapies with the aim of changing the sexual orientation of minors.

This news story quickly follows another major event regarding conversion therapy. Prominent psychiatrist Robert Spitzer is well known for his role in removing homosexuality from the American Psychological Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Despite this, for almost the past ten years advocates of conversion therapy have been using one of his studies  to support their idea that sexual orientation can be changed.  However, this is no longer true.  In an unusual move for a scientist, Spitzer has published an apology for his study and its misuse by others.  The realization of the harm conversion therapy has caused individuals prompted him to describe the study as “…the only regret I have; the only professional one” in a recent New York Times article.

Both Spitzer’s controversial article (“Can Some Gay Men and Lesbians Change Their Sexual Orientation? 200 Participants Reporting a Change from Homosexual to Heterosexual Orientation”) and his apology (“Spitzer Reassesses His 2003 Study of Reparative Therapy of Homosexuality“) are available for current IU, Bloomington students through SpringerLink (login is required for access).

It is also interesting to note that while some people identify as ex-gays, there are also others who identify as ex-ex-gays.  Some also refer to themselves as dos equis (two X’s in Spanish).

Below is a listing of some relevant materials in the library’s collection.

Fish Can’t Fly—a DVD documentary following the personal stories of participants in the ex-gay movement

[DOC FISH 2005]


But I’m a Cheerleader —an over-the-top comedy on DVD that satirizes conversion therapy

[BUTI 2000]


Anything but straight: unmasking the scandals and lies  —an activist’s critical examination of the topic

[6.150 BESan 2003]


Ex-gay no way: survival and recovery from religious abuse  —an insider provides the story of his journey from ex-gay to sexologist

[6.514 RIXex 2010]


Pro-conversion therapy viewpoints can be found in these books available at Wells Library.

Shame and attachment loss : the practical work of reparative therapy

[RC558.3 .N533 2009  Wells Library]


Ex-gays? : a longitudinal study of religiously mediated change in sexual orientation
Jones, Stanton L.

[BR115.H6 J655 2007   Wells Library]


This blog has been brought to you by Mo, a summer office volunteer and School of Library Science student.

3 thoughts on “Of ex-gays and conversion therapy”

  1. I think this is a worrisome precedent. I acknowledge that there is no legitimate medical reason, to my knowledge, to attempt to “fix” homosexuality, and I have no problem with the direct outcome of this law per se. But I don’t think the general public and politicians should be determining how medical professionals do their job; the reason we have professions, which originally were defined by being self-regulated, is that there are areas where the opinions of highly trained individuals should hold more weight than a majority opinion.

    While on this issue it may be that public opinion is on the ethically AND scientifically “right” side of the argument, it won’t always be the case. For just one example, if the anti-vaccine crowd ever takes over majority opinion in a state, I would rather not see laws passed outlawing vaccination. I think we need to let professions regulate themselves.

    (on further thought, I suppose to the degree that this law affects uncertified practitioners, eg therapists, it’s not such a bad thing.)

  2. I feel a bit silly writing here, since I can hear my words echoing through this empty chamber…

    but having thought about this issue a bit more, it turns out I don’t even agree that this law is ethically or morally correct. While I don’t assert that the specific treatments in that study by Spitzer are effective, or that there are indeed any effective therapies for “homosexual conversion,” I don’t understand how it is societies place to say that no one can make a personal decision with their therapist to try it. I understand that some people might argue that it’s better to learn to accept who you are than try to change, but would those people be comfortable telling someone with a gender identity disorder that they cannot get a sex change? I’m willing to bet that there are some homosexually-oriented individuals who wish they were attracted to members of the opposite sex. If there does become some therapy that can accomplish that, why is it our place to deprive them of that treatment?

    I wanted to write more, but I have to run. I hope that someone out there reads this and has a thought or two to share. 🙂

    1. Thanks for the comments, Drew. You certainly bring up some interesting points to think about. The focus of the bill is on the treatment of minors, so it also seems to bring up the issue of whether parents or the government should have more control of people who cannot yet give legal consent for themselves. An article giving more info on this bill is available at LGBTQNation.

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