New York Times covers sexual reorientation issue

Michael Luo has a story in the New York Times this morning titled, “Some Tormented by Homosexuality Look to a Controversial Therapy.” Intended to provide coverage of reorientation efforts in the greater New York City area, the article reviews some familiar ground.

The article focuses on Corey Larson, a young man who is seeking change through People Can Change and David Matheson, a student of Joe Nicolosi’s. At first read, it looks to me like a surface review of some issues that breaks little new ground.

Bob Spitzer is quoted sounding like he has changed his views on the prevalence of change. However, he has been saying that change is rare ever since the study came out.

In the audio accompanying the article (Part one, Part two), Mr. Larson described how he has reframed his attractions as being expressions of emotional neediness rather than sexual attractions. Specifically, he says he has emotional needs to connect with men at an emotional level but that these needs are not met through sexual contact. He also describes how change to become completely heterosexual is not now his objective but rather to live consistent with his beliefs is more it.

Mr. Larson speaks highly of the People Can Change group and the Journey Into Manhood weekend. A glance through the website reveals the heavy reliance on reparative drive theory to explain homosexual attractions. I am not sure the creators of this site would say all homosexuals are subject to a deficit in masculine identification but they are saying that their homosexuality was based on that dynamic.

9 thoughts on “New York Times covers sexual reorientation issue”

  1. My perceptions of People Can Change also was that they view homosexuality to be the opposite of masculinity. It makes me chuckle – and wonder just who was part of that gay rugby team I chatted with a few months ago.

    Anyone ascribing to the masculinity v. homosexuality dichotomy may want to check out Gay, Straight, or Taken on the lifetime network. Those poor girls are almost never able to figure out who the gay guy is.

  2. Spitzer must seem like deja vu all over again for you Michael. 🙂

    Bob’s study was methodologically much better than that one and it does tell us some useful information. For one thing, Bob did not care how it came out. And you can bet if it had come out looking like there was never change, Spitzer would have said so. I suppose the study would have been quoted just as much but by different folks 🙂

  3. Spitzer: “,,,reports of change were just anecdotal, there were no systematic studies.”

    He also speaks of the great difficulty in finding research subjects. We had similar difficulty back in the mid 1970’s. E. Mansell Pattision MD asked us at the EXODUS office to find subjects who had changed their orientation. We went through several hundred cases, found 30 we thought MIGHT make the grade and Dr. Pattison found that only 11 of these had made “siginificant change”. His “results” were published in the American Journal of Psychiatry. {“Religiously Mediated Change in Homosexuals,” Amer. J. Psychiatry , Vol. 137, pp. 1553-1562, 1980)

    My lover, Gary, and I were 2 of those eleven. I know personally that the other nine were not heterosexual, but had only experienced a decrease in homosexual desire. Some of those still had gay sex on occasion. EXODUS and other organzations continued to quote the Pattison article as evidence that “gays can change” — even years after Gary and I exposed the facts.

    Keep in mind: WE selected the subjects hoping for “good” results and Mrs. Pattison conducted the interviews hoping for “good results” — all anecdotal stuff and all from guys who wanted very much to believe (and have others believe) that their orientation had changed. Hardly scientific.

  4. I’m not sure Dr. Spitzer changed his views based on what I read in the NY Times. In his interview with you, he talked about the difficulties of finding 200 people who claimed to have changed their sexual orientation:

    My own sense of this is that we had a great deal of difficulty getting those 200. It took us about two years, and we had several sources where we could make it known that in thestudy we wanted people who had changed to participate. Since it was so hard to get those200, and we were not flooded with hundreds of people, my own view and I, thereÂ’s no way that I can be sure, is that probably a relatively rare experience that people change as much as these people did.

    Also, a little later:

    Dr. Spitzer: Um, sure, you know, one of the issues that critics have, you know, brought up is: have I really changed my viewpoint or what did I really think? Well, one thing I do recall is there was I believe in the early 80s, Geraldo did a show on “Can gays change?” and the producer got in touch with the American Psychiatric Association because they wanted someone to represent the official viewpoint, so they picked me. And I was up there, and what I said was the official viewpoint, and that was that reports of change were just anecdotal, there were no systematic studies. I was quite, you know, not believing of it. So I mean, that was my view. I think if I would have been asked 5 or 10 years ago, I doubted, now I didn’t know, but I certainly thought probably, that nobody really changed.

    Dr. Throckmorton: And now?

    Dr. Spitzer: Well, now I think that that is not the case. Although again I have to say I think it’s probably relatively rare.

    Dr. Throckmorton: Ok.

    Dr. Spitzer: (Laughs) You won’t eliminate that relatively rare?

  5. I think the amount of the fee is probably in line with what most psychologists and therapists charge on a per-hour basis. But I would point out that his fee would most likely not be covered by insurance the way they might pick up or subsidize the tab for, say, depression. This is probably out-of-pocket costs for the clients, which can add up very quickly as you can imagine.

  6. I thought the same thing when I read the Spitzer comment. Which makes me wonder about the comment about Matteson charging $240/session. It makes him sound like he’s just in this for the money, which I suppose is possible. However, I would have preferred to see his average charge (I’m assuming he uses a sliding scale) rather than what must be his highest fee.

  7. Here’s the reference to Spitzer: “But after enduring an avalanche of criticism from peers who said he had given too much credence to the accounts of his subjects, many of whom were leaders of ex-gay ministries, Dr. Spitzer now says many advocates of sexual reorientation have misrepresented his views.”

    “Although I suspect change occurs, I suspect it’s very rare,” he said. “Is it 1 percent, 2 percent? I don’t think it’s 10 percent.”

    “Giving too much credence to the accounts of his subjects…” Hmm… You mean that science should rely on evidence, not anecdotes?

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