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Rebuttal to the article: “Homosexual Reparative Therapy Revisited”


In the Jamaica Gleaner today, Rev. Clinton Chisholm decided to speak again about the reparative therapy ban in California for minors and the Masters and Johnson book, Homosexuality in Perspective so we once again have offered to do a rebuttal.  It can be found here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121122/cleisure/cleisure3.html.

1)

My article ‘That puzzling California law’ appeared in The Gleaner on October 9. That very morning, very early, I received an email from one Matthew Thomas pointing me to an article in Scientific American which raised serious questions about the articles I had used (from theAmerican Journal of Psychiatry) as support for the reality of successful reparative therapy.

I learned from that article that Virginia Johnson of the sex research husband-and-wife team of Masters & Johnson publicly challenged the findings of their own Masters & Johnson Treatment programme for dissatisfied homosexual men. (See ‘The Masters & Johnson Treatment Program for Dissatisfied Homosexual Men’, American Journal of Psychiatry).

Ms Johnson, according to the 2009 Scientific American piece by Thomas Maier, made damning allegations about the results of the 10-year study (five-year follow-up) conducted by her divorced late husband.

Virginia Johnson and other team members, Maier informs, said they suspected fabrication based on William Masters’ refusal to share research information. Johnson and others who worked with Masters during the ’70s allegedly said they did not participate (hands on) with the actual subjects, methods, and outcomes.

inconclusive data

As clinical psychologist Dr Neal Walker of Maryland says, “Collaborating on initial research methodologies [and] findings is always helpful (best approach). .. The claim (decades later) [by staffers] that they suspected the methods were ‘not scientific’ is … troubling.” But as Dr Walker urges, “Masters, himself, stood by his findings; went to his grave insisting on the high value of his research findings.”

If we assume the accuracy of the Scientific American article by Maier and the things attributed to Ms Johnson and former staffers at the Masters & Johnson clinic, we now need to ponder what conclusion to arrive at in light of the very belatedly revealed suspicion by Virginia Johnson and her former colleagues that Dr Masters’ methods and findings on reparative therapy were ‘not scientific’.

Hiding research results from your wife and co-author of your study, fellow researchers and staff who work at the clinic puts Master’s claims of doing a study on 67 homosexual men for 10 whole years in serious doubt. What was he hiding and haven’t any of these so called “success” cases come forward to challenge the idea that the study was fabricated? Dr. Neal Walker’s assumption that because Master’s went to his grave sticking to his word about these “success” cases it means that there is some sort of evidence wasn’t fabricated is what is actually troubling. It means that anyone can write up a study or book with some made up results without providing evidence of those results. There has to be something unethical and unscientific in that.

2)

Does the suspicion amount to a clinical refutation of the reparative therapy done by Dr Masters, or does it only raise questions about the therapy?

As Dr Walker continues, “Maier’s book (on Masters and Johnson) has received much media attention … but the charge of fabrication against Dr Masters is open for debate. Dr Masters did not recant at all. … He died [in 2001] holding firmly to his position that ‘conversion therapy’ has value (some hope) for some homosexuals who desire such treatment.”

A related issue that deserves some reflection is the argument advanced by some that sexual orientation is immutable and a right that should be legally protected. The clinical basis for this view is dubious at best and the legal basis is extremely tenuous.

The suspicion only raises questions about the therapy? There have been many people clinically refuting the study ever since it came out. Since Rev. Chisholm decided to use quotes from arbitrary people commenting on the study then I will do so too as the book is very difficult to find as it is  relatively old. Let us pretend that the study was not fabricated and that the results were indeed true. Is the methodology sound enough to prove that sexual orientation is indeed changeable?

David G. Myers and Letha Dawson Scanzoni wrote an article in 2005 commenting on the study. They had this to say about the findings:

Masters and Johnson had worked with clients and their opposite-sex partners who reported dissatisfaction with their homosexuality and a desire to function heterosexually. These clients were strongly motivated (many were in marriages and some were likely bisexual), and the Masters and Johnson two-week daily therapy program proved effective for 29 out of 67 clients, in that these individuals were helped in terms of behavior. Their fantasies, dreams, and erotic arousal were not taken into account, which other sex researchers view as a serious flaw in the research and the conclusions often drawn from it. The key is the word function. Being able to function or “perform” heterosexually does not signify a conversion to heterosexuality if their psychic response had not altered along with the change in behavior.

Found here: http://www.rca.org/page.aspx?pid=3577

These are common flaws with almost all studies on sexual orientation change efforts. They do not take into account bisexuality and they pay attention more to behaviour rather than attractions, feelings and fantasies. Bisexuals can easily hide or ignore their attraction to men while only paying attention to their attraction to women. Paying attention only to behaviour is also a flawed method as having sex with the opposite sex doesn’t necessarily mean you are no longer attracted to the same-sex.

Judd Marmor, who was an American psychiatrist known for his role in removing homosexuality from the American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, also commented on the study. (Note that Kinsey rating ranges from 0-6 with 0 being exclusively heterosexual to 6 being exclusively homosexual). He had this to say:

First, it must be recognized that as the authors themselves emphasize that this was a highly selected, highly motivated treatment group. Secondly, only three of the 54 men and two of the 13 women accepted into the program had Kinsey ratings of 6. That means that the vast majority of these subjects had some prior heterosexual experience. Indeed, about 80 per cent of them rated 2,3, or 4 on the Kinsey scale and could properly be considered bisexual.

Thirdly, the follow -up program for this group was quite unsatisfactory (the authors call it their “disaster are”). In contrast to the sexual dysfunction group, almost all of whom responded on follow-up, a substantial percentage of the conversion or reversion group were lost to follow-up. Moreover  it is far from clear, even from those who did respond, whether all or any of the “successes” in the group had actually lost all their capacity for homosexual eroticism or whether they continued to have homosexual fantasies.

Found here: http://ps.psychiatryonline.org/article.aspx?articleID=66992

Also a website known as “Religious tolerance” gave its analysis of the study/book:

Masters and Johnson claimed an impressive conversion rate of 50 to 60% which was maintained for 5 years after treatment. There were a number of unusual factors in this study: 1

bullet the conversion rate refers to behavior, not orientation or feelings
bullet the 67 clients were not randomly selected; they had to be highly motivated to change their behavior
bullet all subjects had to have a partner of the opposite gender with whom to attempt heterosexual sex during the program
bullet 40 of the clients were already married to persons of the opposite sex
bullet all clients were given a test to determine their sexual orientation, ranging from 0 (purely heterosexual) to 6 (exclusively homosexual). Only five of the subjects (7%) were given the latter classification. Presumably there were no “0’s” in the study. This means that 93% of the subjects were bisexual. 55 (82%) were rated 2, 3 or 4 and were more or less equally attracted to men and women.
bullet the client’s own definition of success was used to determine how many subjects changed behavior. Some of the clients had very limited objectives.

This study basically concluded that many bisexuals are able to decide to confine their sexual activity to members of the opposite sex, and to not act on their continuing attraction to members of the same sex. The results say nothing about homosexuals. It is not known whether any of the exclusively homosexual subjects were able to convert to heterosexual behavior.

Found here: http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_exst.htm

Is reparative “therapy” safe or effective enough for children?

3)

The website of the American Psychological Association (APA) describes sexual orientation thus: “Sexual orientation refers to an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to men, women, or both sexes. Sexual orientation also refers to a person’s sense of identity based on those attractions, related behaviours, and membership in a community of others who share those attractions.”

Though sexual orientation is a complex reality, there is nothing in the APA’s clip that would suggest an immutable or genetic reality. All sexual orientations, whether homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, bestial or otherwise are influenced by multiple variables.

Even as a thought experiment, it is difficult to see how anyone could know that orientation change has never happened unless, of course, one can advance a clinical or other cogent argument that such a change cannot at all happen!

First of all sexual orientation defined by the American Psychological Association(APA) is “an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to men, women, or both sexes”. We are not sure how “bestial” fits into that definition. It’s also quite troubling that Rev. Chisholm believes that by using his thought experiments he can figure out whether or not sexual orientation is changeable. Let us ask this question. If you force a left-handed person to use their right hand, can they eventually unlearn how to use their left-hand? Unfortunately for Rev. Chisholm, science doesn’t work on “thought experiments”.

He then goes on the claim that the APA doesn’t say that homosexuality was an immutable or genetic reality. While this is true,nowhere did they say sexual orientation was mutable or not genetic either. On the topic of mutability, the APA says: ” To date, there has been no scientifically adequate research to show that therapy aimed at changing sexual orientation (sometimes called reparative or conversion therapy) is safe or effective.“(See here: http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/sexual-orientation.aspx). While there is no proof that sexual orientation can’t be changed where is the sound proof that it can? The APA did a report in 2009 using 83 studies from 1960 to 2007 to arrive at this conclusion as all the studies done are either methodologically flawed, not convincing enough, repudiated or debunked by their own authors. The APA also did not rule out the possibility of genetic influences. They said: ” Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles; most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.

4)

From a legal standpoint, defining and defending human rights is notoriously difficult beyond the basic rights guaranteed in national constitutions.

In a personal correspondence, Prof John Warwick Montgomery, who specialises in human-rights law in Strasbourg, France, said of the California law banning reparative therapy: “… The Californians have simply made the non-conversion of homosexual minors a ‘right’ by fiat. Of course, this is simply ridiculous. It would be like legislating that people over 65 years of age cannot benefit from surgery, regardless of its proven success – on the grounds that it is the ‘human right’ of the general populace to have medical treatment limited to those who are societally productive … .”

Even if a third party thinks otherwise, should I not be allowed access to therapy that I think I need?

We are not sure how human rights got into this discussion but apparently it was made up by the man in France Rev. Chisholm spoke to. However, what is medical treatment and when and how should it be administered? Is medical treatment simply what we want it to be or to cure an actual illness. Homosexuality isn’t listed as an illness in any major mental health manual in the world. Not only are the “therapies” proven to be ineffective but they have been known to show harm even to minors. The only people who spoke of “rights” in this debate are parents who complain of parental “rights” being taken away from them to force their children into an ineffective “therapy” proven to cause harm(See here: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/health/2012/10/01/california-bans-gay-conversion-therapy-for-minors/). There are certain things people cannot do to their children especially when mental health expertise advise against.

But what about cases where the child wanted the “therapy” to change his/her sexual orientation. Of course we would not go through the risky procedure of removing a child’s toe if he was dissatisfied with it so why do the same with homosexuality? There are therapies available to treat children who were sexually abused or are struggling to deal with societal or familial pressure when it comes to their sexual orientation. The California law doesn’t even ban therapy for adults and neither does it stop religious procedures to attempt to change sexual orientation. It only bans those done by licensed psychotherapists.

Even if a third party agrees, would it be wise to put a child through dangerous ineffective “therapy” proven to cause harm?

If Rev. Chisholm saw or read up about some of the techniques used to do some of these therapies he would have probably agreed with me.

5)

“Freedom” from homosexuality?

Since Rev. Chisholm believes that sexual attraction can be changed through “therapy” using “thought experiments” let us use the “thought experiments” of the “ex-gays” themselves who can testify to being involved in the “ex-gay” movement for years and have “counselled” many people seeking to change their sexual orientation. While testimony isn’t scientific fact, it is still worth hearing the experiences of others.

Alan Chambers is the current president of Exodus International which is the world’s largest “ex-gay” organisation. Furious so-called “ex-gays” tried to have him removed from the position after he issued this statement. He has this to say recently in an article:

“I do not believe that cure is a word that is applicable to really any struggle, homosexuality included.For someone to put out a shingle and say, `I can cure homosexuality’ – that to me is as bizarre as someone saying they can cure any other common temptation or struggle that anyone faces on Planet Earth.”

“I consider myself fortunate to be in the best marriage I know,” Chambers said. “It’s an amazing thing, yet I do have same-sex attractions. Those things don’t overwhelm me or my marriage; they are something that informs me like any other struggle I might bring to the table.”

See herehttp://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/27/exodus-international-ex-gay-christian-group-reparative-therapy_n_1630425.html

The article continues to say that “Chambers acknowledged some Exodus affiliates might still offer reparative therapy. But he said “99.9 percent” of people he’s encountered in two decades with Exodus were not able to completely rid themselves of same-sex attraction. He believes the organization must be honest about that when people come looking for help.

See his interview here:

John Smid is another one of our favourite. He was the former director of the Memphis, Tennessee ex-gay ministry Love In Action, a position in which he was a leading spokesman for converting homosexuals into heterosexuals. He said: 

“For me, I am married, I’ve been married for 22 years, I love my wife dearly, we have an amazing relationship,” said Smid, who resigned as Love In Action’s executive director in 2008. “But at the same time, I do experience homosexuality…it’s a part of my history, it’s a part of the life that I live.”

See here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/20/john-smid-former-ex-gay-minister-sexual-orientation-_n_1022417.html

“Yes, there are homosexuals that make dramatic changes in their lives as they walk through the transformation process with Jesus. I have heard story after story of changes that have occurred as men and women find the grace of God in their lives as homosexual people. But, I’m sorry, this transformation process may not meet the expectations of many Christians. I also want to reiterate here that the transformation for the vast majority of homosexuals will not include a change of sexual orientation. Actually I’ve never met a man who experienced a change from homosexual to heterosexual.”

See here: http://fcnp.com/2011/10/12/former-ex-gay-activist-admits-gay-people-dont-change/

These statements are from men who are or were “ex-gays” themselves but have been deeply involved with it. What do you have to say about these Rev. Chisholm?

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