2004 Interview with Dr. Robert Spitzer

In early 2004, I interviewed psychiatrist Robert Spitzer for the documentary, I Do Exist. Only a portion of the footage made it in the video. During the Spring semester, GCC senior Randy Fulton transcribed the entire interview for an independent study. Thanks to Randy for that. The interview fully covers Dr. Spitzer’s much discussed study. Of current interest is what Dr. Spitzer had to say about sexual orientation and depression. There is some conflict over what his study actually suggested with regard to the relationship of sexual reorientation and depression. Wayne Besen quotes Dr. Spitzer as complaining that Melissa Fryrear misinterpreted his study. As I read Ms. Fryrear’s comments, it appears to me that she accurately represents what Dr. Spitzer said in 2004.

Here is what Melissa Fryrear said about the Spitzer study to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation: “Some clinical studies, including one by Dr. Robert Spitzer, have linked contemplating suicide to unwanted attractions to the same sex, she said.”

Wayne Besen is reporting that Dr. Spitzer said this about Melissa’s comments:
“Unfortunately Focus on the Family has once again reported findings of my study out of context to support their fight against gay rights,” said Dr. Robert Spitzer, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University.”

and then…

“Although a third of the subjects in my study reported having had serious thoughts of suicide related to their homosexuality, not one of them blamed the gay rights movement’s advocating a ‘born-gay’ theory of homosexuality as the cause of their suicidal thinking,” said Spitzer.

I do not see Melissa saying that Dr. Spitzer’s study made a direct connection between the gay rights’ movement and contemplating suicide.

Now on point, I have reproduced my interview with Dr. Spitzer from 2004. It appears that some of the subjects did in fact feel depressed as the result of being told by therapists that they couldn’t change.

From our 2004 interview:

Dr. Throckmorton: Were there any mental health consequences of attempting to change?

Dr. Spitzer: The majority of subjects reported moderate to severe depression before they went into therapy. And a marked change, very few were depressed after therapy. So that was an important finding, I think, that depression was, you know, there was a tremendous conflict over homosexuality, and many were very depressed that they had made previous efforts, that was another interesting thing, was many of the subjects reported that they had gone to mental health professionals and were told, just, you know, accept it, that there’s no way to change. And they were not satisfied with that, and were very depressed thinking that they could not, you know, change.

Dr. Throckmorton: Were there any other mental health consequences.

Dr. Spitzer: Um, well many had been so depressed they were suicidal. And a few had made actual attempts. So, I mean they reported a very unhappy state of mind before they changed. The other thing is that the change was not quick…another reason why I believe in credibility; you would think that, if you want to present the best way of presenting therapy, you would say that it started to work pretty soon. You wouldn’t say that it was on average two years before there was really much change, which was the case. Many said it took several years before they actually noticed change, and on average it was two years. The people were in some kind of therapy for an average of 7 years. But, often that was still being in some group experience they would keep going to a support group for several years.

It does appear that he did get feedback from subjects saying that mental health professionals discouraged change and the position that sexual orientation was immutable was associated with depression. In other words, the depression was not adequately addressed by the mental health professionals saying just accept your feelings.

To read the entire interview, go here.

38 thoughts on “2004 Interview with Dr. Robert Spitzer”

  1. It is important to note that Dr. Spitzer has repudiated this study. He does not now believe that there is any credible evidence (this study included) that sexual orientation per se is changeable. All studies to the contrary that I have seen would confirm that the rare cases of any reported changes do not include more than 1 number change on the Kinsey chart.

    So it is very important for those that want changes to know that they will not find “a complete cure” or makeover even like changing one’s hair color.

  2. In a current 2011 discussion I mentioned the Spitzer study so I searched on Warren’s website for Spitzer and found this article, and went and read the whole Throckmorton/Spitzer inerview. I thought the interview was very good and very informative.

    Then I read all of these comments and see that Robert Stephenson, if you clicked on his name here, took you to his website. However 5 years later in 2011 his website is gone. That makes me curious as to what happened to him. Hmm one can only speculate. Enough time has gone by that it would be so enlightening if Spitzer would do a follow up study with the same participants, don’t you think?

  3. /snort — just noticed.

    Robert… Saul is Paul. Saul is his Jewish name. His original, JEWISH name. I’m a bit old fashioned that way.

    sigh. What sort of a Christianity expert are you if you cannot get that correct? Bet you think he wrote in English too.

    There are no studies showing that coming out causes suicide, and you haven’t provided any. Your opinion, or Fryrear’s, is not good enough.

    There are studies showing that coming out young, and being unable to resist or being unsupported against bigotry causes some to contemplate suicide. No doubt some do.

    It’s the bigotry after they come out, not the coming out. For that reason, and that alone, we encourage younger teens to find a supportive environment before coming out.

    This, alas, still leaves effeminate teens — gay or straight — vulnerable to abuse.

  4. Grantdale wrote:

    But in your pursuit of pleasure and happiness, please don’t make other people’s lives a misery. Or talk nonsense about others. Or fabricate in order to “sell” something.

    And please don’t tell deeply faithful but also deeply upset people that they are “bad Christians” if they fail to live up to YOUR expectations.

    You’re not they one they need to convince.

    Just a couple of comments and then I will retire from this blog.

    You need to take your own advise by applying this part of the above to what you promote: “..in your pursuit of pleasure and happiness, please don’t make other people’s lives a misery. Or talk nonsense about others. Or fabricate in order to “sell” something.”

    I have read some of the comments on ex-gaywatch and there are is a lot of nonsense about others, especially those who disagree with your agenda.

    You appealed to Saul (I think you meant Paul) and RC priests. However, what RC priests and those “bad Christians” you want to coddle simply ignore is this warning from Paul:

    2 Timothy 4:1-4
    4:1 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths. NAS

    What I find interesting about ex-gaywatch and other pro-gay sites is the fact you appeal to studies that support your agenda that actually contradict each other. Studies that try to ignore environment and personality contradict studies that understand that every human being is influenced by their environment and their personality. You appeal to studies that support your contention that religious bigots contribute to the high rate of gay teen suicides while ignoring those studies that show that by promoting gay teens to come out before they are mature enough to handle peer and societal prejudice also contribute to the high rate of gay teen suicide. You appeal to studies that try to show a correlation between brain activity and sexuality, but ignore the fact no scientist has yet to prove that brain activity is not also affected by behavior.

    “You’re not they one they need to convince.” On the other hand I am not the one they need to convince. You see if the Bible does not tell us what God expects of those He will not judge then it is God you have to convince, not me. You see God is not only the Lawgiver; He is the Supreme Court and those professed Christians who ignore this simple fact will suffer the consequences.

    Here is another quote from Paul that is ignored by those who put their personal desires above all else:

    Romans 13:9-10
    9 For this, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; love therefore is the fulfillment of the law. NAS

    The Lawgiver will determine who is doing wrong to their neighbor.

  5. Grantdale wrote:

    But in your pursuit of pleasure and happiness, please don’t make other people’s lives a misery. Or talk nonsense about others. Or fabricate in order to “sell” something.

    Back at you.

    I respect psychologists and psychiatrists who put their clients (patients) welfare above their own prejudices, my contempt is aimed at an organization that claims to be scientific and then allows activists to dictate what is and is not scientific truth.

    As to the study you linked to, LeVay, Hammer, and others have stated that environment, biology, and personality contribute to developing a gay orientation. Your study totally ignores environment and personality. What is interesting about studies that limit there research is they can come up with erroneous conclusions.

    I have an older brother and a younger brother who are straight and a younger brother who was gay (he passed away in 1995). I also have a sister sandwiched between the 4 boys. Our father’s attitude toward and treatment of us both contributed to our being gay. Both of us were supposed to be girls and my father did not hesitate to let us both know he was disappointed we were not girls. My mother has a lesbian niece who was sexually abused by a family member and a family member also sexually molested my oldest niece who is a lesbian. Their family’s reaction (especially their fathers) to both cases of abuse was less than supportive of the trauma that sexual abuse causes. Now, I know you will come back with these are anecdotal. However, all research that depends on the responses of individuals is anecdotal, so my anecdotal statements carry as much weight as that of researchers who limit the scope of their research in order to come up with an erroneous conclusion.

    BTW, there are studies that state birth order has no correlation to sexual orientation, but I bet you already know this.

  6. IMO, slavish devotion to figuring out the specific whys can actually be counterproductive for some people; while helpful for others.

    hahahahaha. ooh. oh.

    What does one conclude if a person is fascinated by the general question, but couldn’t care less personally?

    Damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead???


    Also, more on the maternal immune response

    (Given I am the first born, I hate to imagine how much more gay a younger brother could have possibly been. Boggles the mind! Could one be MORE gay? The first Kinsey 7 ???)

  7. Robert, your message board is easily reached from your site. We know that. We really have no desire to be, what, number 8 in 2 or 3 years? Sorry, but Warren’s much more interesting 🙂

    Actually, having now read back over your site (for rather perverse reasons, having now done it) — am a little amazed you would be concerned with what any psychologist would have to say; even one who’s gone to the dark side hahaha. You had a rather sweeping and not very complimentary thing to say about the entire profession. Bad experience?

    (Look, “they” rarely have normally adjusted children, as neither do religious ministers, but honestly they aren’t all that bad… well, they try not to be. Psychiatrists are far worse. /snort As has been said before, we all seek a profession according to our own pathologies. Not sure, as yet, what “Chemical Engineer” and “Teacher” would indicate; but I’m sure a therapist somewhere could make a suggestion. And be wrong.)

    Warren — heart attack pill now… (actually you’ve heard this before so you prob’ly don’t need one.)

    Have to say we are completely at one when Warren says that behaving in accordance — or at least attempting to behave in accordance — with one’s own deeply help religious faith is not only “possible”, but achievable. One will probably fail to stick to it, at all times, but that is probably not really the point. Warren, and us, probably also attempt to be the best of partners to our own chosen ones; and no doubt fail horridly at times. Again, best intensions and all that… but also not the entire point. We do our best.

    This is not a gay or a straight thing. We know too many “successful” heterosexual — and gay — RC priests to think otherwise. They have all, with greater or lesser difficulties, managed to maintain their vow of celibacy. Some have had their moments of crisis of faith over this very issue (but not the gay ones, of note). Other’s have managed easily.

    But… they all chose that VOCATION. It was not a duty. Or imposed. Or compelled. Or required. Or expected. It was one way — ONE WAY amoung many — to fulfil their faith. Most feel they made the right decision

    None pretend anything about their human sexuality, either. It exists. They know it. They do not deny it. They know what Saul meant.

    Robert, if you are genuinely happy with your life now, we would not want things to be otherwise. No, really. Everyone should have that.

    But in your pursuit of pleasure and happiness, please don’t make other people’s lives a misery. Or talk nonsense about others. Or fabricate in order to “sell” something.

    And please don’t tell deeply faithful but also deeply upset people that they are “bad Christians” if they fail to live up to YOUR expectations.

    You’re not they one they need to convince.


  8. I believe those case studies could be published if they were presented.

    To be clear, I believe you and your experience. There are things that I used to deal with as a younger person that I do not deal with at all now; and there are things that I still deal with. This is human nature. So when people say they have changed as a result of their faith, I tend to believe them. For those who say, they believe they have tried to do what they can to change and haven’t, I tend to believe them too.

  9. Warren, I agree with you. Complete change is possible, but not always probable. As to what is found in professional literature, can you tell me how many psychologists/psychiatrists are hesitant to report spontaneous change in sexual orientation due to the APA’s dogmatic stance that change is impossible? Or how many have changed their sexual orientation without the aid of a mental health professional?

    What factors determine an individual’s worldview and value structure? Your experience as a mental health professional is not the same as my experience as an ex-gay male who overcame homosexual desires or the experiences of those who changed not only their behavior but also their desires without the aid of a mental health professional.

    Dr. Spitzer found that those whose worldview and value structure is founded in fundamental Bible principles could and did report change ranging from behavior to a total reorientation of their sexuality, which is in line with my experience.

  10. Robert – you wrote: So the question any Christian dealing with homosexual desires must ask themselves is “why do I deal with these desires”.

    This may be helpful to a point and for some people but I would say one could insert any “off-mark” behavior in the slot. Any Christian dealing with ____ (greed, pride, porn, etc.) must ask the same question. I think the orthodox Christian answer is original sin. Further, the orthodox teaching is that we will not eradicate sin nature in this life. IMO, slavish devotion to figuring out the specific whys can actually be counterproductive for some people; while helpful for others.

    I would not characterize the professional literature as being “full of reports” about change. There are a few and I have reported those in my articles on the subject. These reports and my own experiences with clients lead me to be skeptical of the extreme denials of change. However, I do not believe that complete desire change is likely for all people, no matter how devout and focused on holiness they are. I believe change for such persons is behavioral, worldview, and value-based.

  11. Matthew 10:37-39
    37 “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 “He who has found his life shall lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake shall find it.

    1 Corinthians 10:13
    13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it. NAS

    The problem with sexual immorality, be it gay or straight is people do not even try to endure it. They simply give in and go with the flow. The poor may be tempted to steal, exteme anger can tempt one to murder, lust can tempt people to commit sexual sin, and etc. Temptation is not sin, temptation becomes sin when a person either acts on or contemplates acting on the temptation.

    So the question any Christian dealing with homosexual desires must ask themselves is “why do I deal with these desires”. This is where professional counseling can help. The professional literature is full of reports where gay clients entered counseling for a reason other than their sexual orientation and as a result of their counseling changed their sexual orientation. It is these clients who suffer from ego dystonic homosexuality rooted in their environment.

    Who determines a teen is pre-homosexual? Gay activists who want to ignore that verbal, emotional, and sexual abuse can contribute to developing a gay orientation? When a boy is attracted to an athlete is he gay or just envious? Does a physical reaction to an external stimulus equate to sexual orientation? Men and boys can have a physical reaction for reasons other than sexual stimuli.

    Warren is correct; dissecting my Internet site is irrelevant to this blog, which concerns an interview with Dr. Spitzer. My Internet site targets Christians dealing with desires they want to overcome, not the gay community as a whole. The APA’s decision in 1973 totally ignored all studies published in the professional literature that demonstrated proper counseling is effective in helping clients achieve their stated goal. Grantdale, if you want to dissect my Internet site email me and I will give you the url to a message board where you can voice your opinions.

  12. Robert – Could you comment about the quotes grantdale have produced? My understanding of Christian theology is that temptations are not eradicated with conversion and that would include temptations to engage in sexual behavior. Thus, I could be conformed to the image of Christ and still experience temptation. Certainly, Christ did. I do not think homosexual temptations would be any different from a moral perspective than other temptations (reminding the readers that within a traditional Christian framework such behaviors are considered sin). If this is not your worldview or perspective then this discussion is probably irrelevant.

  13. Fair enough Warren — and, urgh, you’ve made us go read it again. Thanks for that 🙂

    Fortunately, it’s not too difficult to locate it:

    Successful completion of this journey depends on the traveler and his/her desire and motivation to live in obedience to Jesus Christ as Lord. If you find this statement offensive that is unfortunate.


    The ability to change our sexual preferences does not reside in us, it resides in our Lord and His Spirit. He has promised to finish the work and that must be our total focus. However, we must cooperate, He will not change us or anything about us against our wills. Those who continue to focus on the past and continue to bemoan how difficult it is to change will continue to struggle and even fail to succeed. We are who and what we think we are and until we change our way of thinking, we cannot mature or move forward.


    Can you change your sexual orientation? …. Our ability to overcome is limited only by our motivation, our deep-seated desires, and our trust in His ability to conform us to the image of His Son.

    Etc. And, whatever.

    But I’m sure you’re only too familiar with the implication of deliberately linking exgay “success” or “failure” directly to a measure of whether a client is therefore a truly obedient, cooperative, motivated, trusting Christian; particularly if being one is a very important attribute for the person.

    What did you think about the idea of gay mentors for (Nicolosi terminology) “pre-homosexual” teens??? Hope you didn’t have to wipe too much blurted coffee off your screen 🙂

  14. Michael Johnson and Kerusso Ministries get mentioned in a negative manner on my site:

    “There are two public policy ministries (Kerusso Ministries and Stephen Bennett Ministries) organized and run by ex-gay men who know the truth of this yet they have chosen to promulgate the lie that sexual orientation is a choice made for whatever reason. In all fairness to Stephen Bennett and Michael Johnson they do not teach that homosexual desires are choosen, however, by aligning themselves with the PRR they are giving tactic approval to this misconception which I call a lie.”

    In view of the collapse of Kerusso Ministries and Michael’s demise and false witness I will remove all mention of him from that one page.

    Change means many things to those who struggle with gay desires. It can mean anything from abstaining from sexual relationships with the same gender to a 180 degree shift from homosexual to heterosexual. Therefore any person who professes to be a Christian can change.

    The word “faith” appers many times on my site, but usually in Scriptures I quote and my reasons for seeking to change. But I never say on my site that those who fail to change fail from lack of faith.

  15. Robert, we have already been over your site with a fine tooth comb. We last did it when you got mentioned at egw.

    (Have you still got a reference to Michael Johnston and Kerusso Ministries on the site? You know, the part where you claim him as someone who changed?)

    You do claim anyone “can change”. Or rather, you claim anyone can change if they are a good enough Christian. In your mind, those who fail to change were just not trusting God hard enough.

    We’ve also read — many times — all of nonsense you’ve recommended.

    You are free to believe any absurd, paranoid, or rejected theories you care to. Knock yourself out, if that makes you feel better. But clinging to those will also be the reason you will be ignored. There is a reason the ideas you regurgitate have been rejected, and it’s not because a handful of “gay activists” have somehow managed to hoodwink several hundreds of thousands of professional therapists. I’m not sure whether they should be humoured or insulted by your claim.

    We will, however, take up your suggestion that adult gay men and women should get in contact with gay teens before they come out and give them the life skills to cope with the bigots of ths world. I’m not exactly sure how we’re going to identify those teens, but you’ve probably got some curious suggestions about that too.

    You don’t get out much, do you?

  16. Grantdale, you need to educate yourself. Focus on the Family is a latecomer to the ex-gay movement, which started in 1972 not when Love Won Out was formed. Exodus was organized in 1976; Love Won Out (Focus on the Family’s ad hoc ex-gay ministry) was organized in 1998.

    As to exgaywatch, first I know I have been unfavorably mentioned on that site, as have many ex-gays who take a public stance that change is possible (which it is). Second, exgaywatch is far from an unbiased source of reliable information. Your appeal to exgay watch is as ludicrous as an atheist pointing to Phelp’s of godhatesfags infamy is a reliable source of information concerning Christianity. Third Joe Dallas does not work for Focus on the Family; he is program director and founder of Genesis Counseling. He speaks at Love Won Out conferences, as do many ex-gays not on Focus’ payroll. Third, appealing to what Chad wrote on a blog in response to your out of context quotes is ludicrous. Have you read Loving Homosexuals as Jesus Would? Have you visited his Inquerry site? Fourth, you appeal to the majority of scientists whose stance is based on political activism not real science. Have you read Dr. Stainover’s “Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth”? And before you site exgaywatch on Dr. Satinover I have read his book and verified his scientific data. Also have you listened to the NPR broadcast 81 Words http://www.thislife.org/pages/descriptions/02/204.html? The APA’s decision to remove homosexuality from the DSMII was not based on science, it was based on emotion, gay activism, Kinsey’s discredited 1948 study, and Dr. Evelyn Hooker’s biased and far from scientific research. Dr. Hooker’s research universe was a hand picked group, not a random group. If those who support the possibility of change had used her criteria in any study the resulting criticism would be well deserved. While I agree that not all homosexuals are dealing with pathology, those who are should have access to trained mental health professionals whose only goal should be to help their client (patient) accept or overcome their pathology. In other words it is not up to gay activists or liberal/conservative psychiatrists/psychologists to dictate what will or will not benefit the individual. Ego dystonic homosexuality is a real pathology that can be successfully treated when the individual dealing with this pathology is committed to change for the right reasons. I repeat, gay activist do not have the right to control a professional organization and neither does the religious right.

    As to gay teen suicides, if you take the time to read the notes left by gay teen suicides you will find that a number of them include statements to the effect they believe change is impossible and because they do not want to be gay they prefer to die. There is no doubt that gay teens suffer discrimination, abuse, rejection, and need a supportive and accepting environment, but then so do obese teens. The increase in suicides and attempted suicides in gay youth has a direct correlation to gay activists encouraging gay teens that do not have the proper coping skills to deal with peer pressure to come out. This statement Grantdale is based on published studies you can find on sites like http://www.lesbianinformationservice.org/suicideabs.htm If gay activists are going to encourage teens to come out they also need to furnish them with the coping skills to handle the reaction from their peers before they come out. It is ludicrous for adults to promote an action they know will result in verbal or even physical abuse and isolation that will result in deep depression even suicide.

    Now, before you continue to assume that my Internet site takes the stance that all gays can change I suggest you visit my site and read my FAQ. I do not take the stance that all gays can or even want to change and that the gay community should be treated with the same love and respect due all human beings.

  17. Robert,

    You made so many sweeping and unsupported statements it’s barely possible to respond without clogging this blog up.

    1) Your attempt to separate exgays from Focus is rather ridiculous given that the largest group, Exodus, functions as an offshoot of Focus. And Exodus appears constantly at anti-gay political events. As do NARTH. And PFOX etc etc.

    2) Focus gets as much attention as it deserves, given that fact it controls Exodus an is heavily involved in anti gay politics. But you are wrong in any case. Let’s see what is at exgaywatch at the moment. In order:

    – Exodus
    – CWFA (and Grove City)
    – Ex-ex-gay
    – a self-identified ex-gay
    – Presbyterian church
    – Throckmortn/PFOX
    – Exodus
    – Focus (Fryrears misuse of Spitzer)
    – APA
    – Focus (earlier post of above)
    – AFA/Aricle8 lies

    Hardly a focus on Focus now is it? Even you’ve had a mention at exgaywatch in the past (and not in a good way). Exgaywatch’s broad range of subjects would be fairly typical of most.

    3) Joe Dallas does actually work for Focus — he’s been appearing at their Love Won Out (sic) for years. Did you forgot to mention this?

    4) Right… Chad of inqueery is your benchmark for honesty. Well, OK — you may think that. But it’s certainly not our experience: he was flat-out dishonest both at exgaywatch and here at Warren’s blog over something absurdly easy to prove otherwise. Not a good place to start in the honesty stakes, I’d say. Not a good indicator more generally.

    5) Do you have any evidence to back your claims about why gay teens are depressed or suicidal? All you’ve done is repeat the same wild and unsupported claim by Melissa Fryrear.

    The overwhelming majority of professionals disagree with you. Some — eg Bontempo and D’Augelli (2002) — have even identified the cause: it’s the anti-gay abuse and attitudes.

    Anti-gay abuse makes even the heterosexual victims feel depressed and suicidal.

    Get it?

    Bottom line: the abuse and the attitudes is what causes people to be depressed and suicidal.

    One form of that abuse is to tell people they can change their sexual attractions if they t try hard enough, and to blame them when they fail to do so.

    And you just did exactly that.

  18. Is the ex-gay movement dishonest? My experience disagrees with this charge. In fact those who make this charge seem to limit their perception of ex-gay ministries to quotes from Focus on the Family.

    Do some political religious right action groups misquote researchers? Yes, just as gay political groups misquote some involved in the “ex-gay movement”. If those who are so critical of ex-gays would take the time to read books like Joe Dallas’ Desires in Conflict they would discover that we do not insist that all gays can or even want to change. Joe makes it clear in his book that change is neither quick nor easy and that those who seek change only to please family or because of societal pressure are doomed to fail and should not even try.

    Now, as to why it took Dr. Spitzer 2 years to find 200 ex-gays that met his criteria the reason is that ex-gays generally do not trust mental health professionals. And since Dr. Spitzer was one of the men who made the change to the DSMII, he would be the last one any of us would open up to.

    As to ex-ex-gays, I know many men who label themselves ex-ex-gay. The one common denominator I see in all of them is they did not take the possibility of change seriously. They are what we term “sightseers”. Also the target audience of ex-gay ministries are those who for religious reasons want to change their sexual orientation, they do not target the gay community as a group and for the most part are not politically active.

    Just as the political religious right does not have the right to force their beliefs on the gay community, gay activists do not have the right to control a professional mental health group to support their political agenda. Science should be allowed full freedom to do science without interference from those promoting a social agenda.

    Does the gay political movement contribute to the gay teen suicide rate? Yes, and the sooner gay activists understand that their dogmatic position that change is impossible accept the reality that change is possible but not always probable then gay teens will understand that for those with deeply held religious beliefs there are viable options they can investigate.

    Now, back to the ex-gay movement is dishonest, I recommend you who think so check out Chad Thompson’s “Loving Homosexuals as Jesus Would”. Not all ex-gays are dishonest and for the most part neither is the ex-gay movement.

  19. Mom – (not my mom, but the mom in the post) – I do not know why these lesbian-identified teens contemplated suicide. However, there were control groups of sorts with heterosexually identified teens and the numbers of suicide contemplaters were lower. Thus, something related to lesbian identity may be implicated. Now since correlation does not imply cause, there could be a third factor which has a causal relationship with contemplating suicide for that group. Could be pre-identity factors (bad homes, abuse), could be concurrent factors (harassment, stigma). We do not know from the Canadian study.

  20. Dear Mom,

    What do we think? We think you are very presumptuous.

    We (and that’s we, not I) have three sisters, and one sister-in-law of 20 years. And two mothers. And one remarkable 90 year old grandmother. And wide circle of extended family and friends. “They” are not a mystery to us.

    I presume you don’t object to Dr Elizabeth Saewyc slapping Fryrear down? Dr Saewyc is a woman, you realise.

    Regardless, we don’t need to rely on our combative (male) opinions to know that Melissa Fryrear has completey distorted the RESEARCH. The research isn’t our opinion, and we’re not interested in whatever warped and baseless feelings that Fryrear might have that is contrary to the evidence.

    Since when did being a woman give Fryrear the right to make wrong statements and/or lie and not be corrected?

    I don’t know about you, but our mothers didn’t raise their daughters that way. Or their sons.


  21. I’m sitting on the side lines here, been married for 45 years, and a mom of a girl and a boy. There is a world of difference between the temperaments of each. Do any of you guys have sisters? Did you understand them growing up? Probably not. Probably didn’t care. You guys cannot understand how important feelings are to girls growing up. You guys for the most part are too busy trying to “out do” each other and I must say on this blog site you are still doing it. Competitiveness is much a part of a man’s world. There is nothing wrong with that, it is purely being a man. [I’m not saying women can’t be competitive too but it is different. I’m not saying men can’t have feelings either, but it is different.] My point. No man can understand how women really think and to blog about why a girl becomes a lesbian or what would make them suicidal is quite comical. Women have mood swings that guys will never understand. Women see the world differently, thank goodness.
    I’m talking from observation but I think guys tend to keep some emotions hidden because to reveal them would make them vulnerable. How do you guys feel about this?

  22. Dr. Throckmorton,

    I’m not going to argue the point that some self-identified straight people can’t become gay, and some self-identified gay people can’t become straight. My point, and the point that Reparative Therapists everywhere seem to dodge, is that, even with the best figures, the majority of gay people will not be able to change. The whole “Change is Possible” mantry is misleading if not downright dishonest, because people see this and interpret it as Change is probable, when it clearly isn’t. I just want the Ex-Gay movement to be honest, with everyone, especially its clients, and let the latter know that, in all likelihood, you will not be able to get rid of your same sex attractions, even if a small percentage claim that they can get rid of most.

  23. On the concept of homosexuality and heterosexuality being of recent origin see this link. For free 🙂 – I would agree that sexual response can be modified for those identifying as gay or straight. For some on both extreme ends, it would be more difficult than for others (on how many posts do I have to write that?)

    On Melissa’s statements: I see where you all are coming from. She is not a researcher and did not speak precisely. I am pretty sure her beliefs are there are underlying causes (sex abuse, being the most often mentioned) for lesbian attractions. And she probably thinks that the reason for suicidal feelings may be the underlying issues. I believe Ritch Savin-Williams has also raised this hypothesis about early declarers of gay identity. However, I agree that you can’t get any of that from the Canadian study and Bob’s work is not directly on point. To the untrained, being told that one cannot change sexual orientation is about like being told that one is born gay but it is not technically the same. I emailed Bob and asked him about this and this is the distinction he made.

  24. Dr. Throckmorton,

    I think what we would all like to see is just some acknowledgement that Focus on the Family is wrong, instead of this wishy washiness when it comes to criticizing them.

    That link you published show us anything we didn’t already know, and neither do the claims of people who identify as ex-gay. Ex-Ex gays used to identify as Ex-Gay as well.

    Is there some reason you refuse to publishe my comments?


  25. Dear Dr. Lehrman,

    First, surely you realize that just because this idea popped up with an on-the-edge group in Germany, does not make the idea wrong or FALSE, as you put it. Secondly, if you really want to go down that road, you can say the same thing about heterosexuality. The idea that heterosexuality is permanent and irreversible is also a falsehood. I’ve seen many people with Opposite Sex Attractions walk away from that lifestyle and lead happy, homosexual lives.

    As for the idea that change is possible for everyone, we only have to look at the failures in the Reparative Therapy movement to see this is false. Even the BEST estimates, made by the very proponents of this movement, only show a 33% success rate for real change, and most other studies show much lower rates. Even among these 33% though, most still have SSA, so what does that really say about your idea that homosexuality is permanent and irreversible?????

  26. Everyone,

    N.S. Lehrman, M.D. is Nathaniel S. Lehrman — a collegue of Scott Lively.

    A holocaust revisionist, he denies that gay men were targetted by the Nazis’. In fact he claims they created the Nazi’s.

    google “Hitler homosexual” for a interesting insight into a disturbed mind.

  27. Red herring Warren.

    Let’s go back to where this started: Fryrear claimed that lesbians (note: lesbians, not exgays) have a high suicide rate because pro-gay people tell them they cannot change.

    The survey revealed that nearly four out of 10 lesbian girls say they have attempted suicide in the last year, compared to 8.2 percent of heterosexual girls.

    Melissa Fryrear said there’s a reason why the numbers are so high.

    “Regrettably, they think they have to embrace homosexuality because pro-gay advocates told them that they were born gay,” she said. “And that is absolutely not true.”

    Fryrear quoted Dr Saewyc as “proof”. Saewyc quickly said this is incorrect.

    Fryrear didn’t say “oops, sorry”. No, she charged through Saewyc’s correction and up pops a misquote of Spitzer as “proof”.

    Spitzer corrected her. And rightly so. He did not study lesbians — he interviewed some exgays. His study in no way supports Fryrear’s original wild claim.

    Spitzer did indeed have a small number of exgays mention feeling depressed because they were told they could not change (but also note: the reasoning is conflated with a raft of issues for feeling depressed, including failure to actually change).

    However, Spitzer’s study or his comments to you in 2004 provides utterly no support for Fryrear’s claim about lesbians as a group. She wasn’t talking about a small number of exgay lebians, but claiming this applied to lesbians overall.

    Would you agree that lesbians, as a group and not just exgays, do not want to change?


    Would you agree that, when considering lesbians as a group rather than just some exgays, that a higher suicide rate (or depression) is overwhelming caused by a negative social environment and prejudice rather than being told they cannot change?

  28. The notion that homosexuality is permanent, inborn and irreversble is a falsehood created in Germany in 1870 by a group of same-sex devotees who claimed they were men born with women’s souls, and that they were therefore not responsible for their behavior, which would otherwise have been considered criminal. The “laundering of homsexuality” – from crime and/or sin (wsith total responsibility), to illness (without responsibility) to “accepted alternate life style” is described in my paper of that name in Midstream, 44 (3), Apr. 1998, 30 – 32. Copies are available at $1.00 each.

    N.S. Lehrman, M.D.

  29. Oh My God, Throck, your logic-defying backflips are truly entering an artful phase. This is almost entertaining.

    First you blog some Ah-HAH moment because gay teens get depressed if told they probably won’t change. What’s odd is that you’ve said the same thing, in essence, that even your wonderous efforts don’t really change them. So, I’m wondering how you feel being…dum dum dum…responsible for teen suicide.

    But I’ll lift that burden off you, in favor of the obvious: realizing you have a mega identity issue to deal with, in your teen years, can cause some anxiety.

    What ever shall we do, you rhetorically ask.

    I dunno, how about we start by allowing their straight friends and teachers start groups that try to foster a slight less “beat up the fag” enviornment in their school?

    But no, that’s where your pals over at Focus on the Family will soon be swooping in to raise biblical *and* litigative hell.

    Can you even see the illogical circle you’re spinning here? And do you even really care that you’re asking kids to jump on that hell ride with you and your Old Testament minions?

    Nice work. And we’re supposed to say God Bless You, I suppose.

    No deal.

  30. Nice try Throcky – but what part of Spitzer’s comment’s don’t you understand?

    “Unfortunately Focus on the Family has once again reported findings of my study out of context to support their fight against gay rights,” said Dr. Robert Spitzer, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University.”

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  32. I do not see Melissa saying that Dr. Spitzer’s study made a direct connection between the gay rights’ movement and contemplating suicide.
    – Dr. Throckmorton


    “Regrettably, they think they have to embrace homosexuality because pro-gay advocates told them that they were born gay,” claimed Melissa Fryrear, a spokesperson for Focus on the Family, on their website.”

    Dr. Throckmorton, surely you understand that just because someone doesn’t specifically state a connection doesn’t mean they didn’t try to imply one existed

  33. On the basis Dr. Spitzer believes ex-gays are rare, I would say that you would be required to say that ex-ex-gays are rarer still. Shidlo and Schroeder took five years to find 176 ex-ex-gays.

    Dr. Throckmorton,

    Perhaps you missed Grantdale’s original response to your argument that Drs. Schidlo and Schroeder took a long time to find ex-ex gays – in that case, here it is again:

    Well, for one thing they didn’t have several hundred groups running around desperately attempting to drum up a study group. Warren, you know very well that NARTH and Exodus started beating the drums over this from the get go (after, that is, Nicolosi personally approved the study design).

    By contrast, I don’t know of any campaigns to find subjects for Shidlo and Schroeder. They had a rather plain webpage with contact details and took out a few plain ads in some papers. They didn’t access, say, the membership lists of PFLAG, HRC, NGLTF etc and send out pleas. I doubt many ex-ex-gays even knew of the study.

    (We’d emailed them at the beginning of the study, after stumbling on the webpage, and they seemed rather vague about when they’d finish. But it was going to be years off. Sounded like a very part time effort.)

    And – let’s not overlook — Nicolosi should have been able to provide the 200 himself — if we believe his claim that “1/3 succeed”

    He provided 9.


    My response was that the Ex-Ex gay story is all over the web. I know a few people who identify as Ex-Ex Gay myself. I think our problem is, as always, what we mean by the term Ex-Gay. Obviously a majority of people who identify as Ex-Gay really haven’t let go of most of their same sex attractions – so are they really Ex-Gay? – no one understands what this term means, and from looking at various Ex-Gay leaders, neither does the movement itself –

    My point is that the Ex-Gay movement is NOT HONEST. Its main goal is NOT about helping gays, but undermining the gay community. The religious right, and powerful groups like focus on the family use Reparative Therapy as a political weapon – they bludgeon people with it – If they used it as a tool for healing that would be one thing, but I rarely see them do that.

    You are also taking the focus away from the whole point of this article as well – Focus on the Family MISREPRESENTED two studies in one week to further its agenda. I’m saddened that you aren’t more upset by this – but then, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

    Nothing is immutable anymore: hair color, sexual orientation, race, personalities, etc. When did we stop trying to teach young people how to be happy with themselves and instead cater to their every whim of change – or worse yet, allow parents to re-create children in the image of their choice?


  34. By the way, read the entire interview, Dr. Spitzer believes that changers are rare. Relying on his belief is not proof of anything. On the basis Dr. Spitzer believes ex-gays are rare, I would say that you would be required to say that ex-ex-gays are rarer still. Shidlo and Schroeder took five years to find 176 ex-ex-gays.

  35. Just because someone is unhappy with an aspect of who they are doesn’t mean they should be given cart blanche to change it.

    Then what should they do? Just be unhappy? Change their faith? Something has to give when there are conflicts. Why do you think you should decide that for someone else? I do not think I can decide that for you or anyone else.

  36. There are people from many different minority groups who are depressed because they do not want to be a part of the group. Black and Asian kids who want to be white, for example. Does this cause them distress? Yes it does? Do these feelings mean that we should allow them, through any means necessary, to try to change their ethnicity? I don’t think so. Just because someone is unhappy with an aspect of who they are doesn’t mean they should be given cart blanche to change it. We live in a society today where parents allow children to receive plastic surgery – not for serious scarring, but for minor issues. Dr. Spitzer, in article after article, has said that only a very tiny percentage of people are going to be able to experience real change, and that the religious right has hijacked his study.

    What Focus on the Family has done, as Steve said above, is just offer more proof that their “love the gay person” mantra is really a cover for their political agenda. Their main goal is not to help the homosexual, but to politically “undermine the gay community”

  37. Is this posting just a distraction from what I posted earlier – In less than a week, Focus on the Family has taken the results of two seperate studies out of context to support their political agenda. Dr. Robert Spitzer and Canadian researcher Dr. Elizabeth Saewyc, the authors of these studies are the ones criticizing Focus on the Family, not some disconnected liberal group. More proof that these conservative Evangelical groups don’t ultimately care about gay people, just undermining the gay community. If their motivation was geniune love, then we wouldn’t see such constant anti-gay rhetoric from such groups.


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