“Ex-gay” Spitzer study discredited by author because of political pressure or flaws?

Earlier this year, psychiatrist Robert Spitzer made headlines after he retracted his controversial 2001 study  proclaiming that “highly motivated” gay and lesbian people could change their sexual orientation.

See here:

However, some anti-gay activists have stated that this was due to political pressure. Was it?


Political motivation 

About two thirds of the study’s sample was taken from anti-gay politically motivated groups such as Exodus international, The National Association for Research and Therapy of homosexuality (NARTH) and 78% of the sample spoke publicly in favour of sexual orientation efforts. Can we be completely reliant on this subjective method? There are instruments that can be  used to measure sexual arousal but none of these studies that claim that sexual orientation can be changed through therapy have used those methods . Is testimony factual?

Successes or “Successes”?

Contrary to what politically active anti-gay activists might think bisexual people exist. Only 40% of Dr. Spitzer’s sample was exclusively homosexual before going through the “therapy”. That means many (60%) of the participants were bisexual and this was not accounted for anywhere in the results. Bisexual people are attracted to the same sex and opposite sex as we all know. Could many of these “successes” be bisexuals who were attracted the the opposite sex all along and chose to suppress their attractions to the same-sex?

His methodology

Dr. Spitzer never met any of the participants face to face. He conducted the study using a 45 minute telephone interview. Anyone could be talking on the telephone with him and pretending to be someone that they are not.  A 45 minute interview without a follow up interview is not good as many of the people who reported that they were now heterosexual might realise later that they are not when attraction start coming up back again. Is this not a major flaw in his study? 

What Spitzer really said long before he retracted the study

Indeed, he was quoted in the New York Times as saying that, despite the findings from his study, the number of homosexuals who could successfully become heterosexual was likely to be “pretty low.” He also conceded that participants in his study were “unusually religious” and were not necessarily representative of most gay men and lesbians in the United States. He took 2 whole years to find the 200 participants who claimed they experienced some change. If this was a common phenomenon why is it that it took 2 whole years to find his sample and the overwhelming majority of them were recommended by politically active anti-gay groups?
Can subjective measurements be used on people who are strongly motivated by not only one but two things? Religion and politics?

Further criticisms of the study


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