World Magazine on the APA sexual orientation task force report

Alisa Harris at World Magazine has a web only article out today discussing the APA task force report. I am quoted along with David Pruden at NARTH. There are a couple of points in the NARTH information that are incorrect.

Psychologist Warren Throckmorton once met a woman who was in a lifelong lesbian relationship and suddenly, with no prefaced desire to leave her lesbian lifestyle, fell in love with a guy at work. She left her lesbian partner and married the man.

The American Psychological Association just published a report on whether therapists can make this change happen. In examining change therapy, which claims that people with homosexual desires can switch to heterosexual desires, the report says there is insufficient evidence that the therapies work.

This kind of story is a good argument for control groups if you really want to rule out spontaneous change from the claims that therapy produced it. If this woman and others I know like her were in therapy, perhaps they would have attributed the change to the therapy.

NARTH of course is skeptical:

The panel surveyed 83 peer-reviewed studies, most of which occurred before 1978 and had methodological flaws, according to the panel. But the 138-page report left out certain key studies by Jones and Yarhouse, Karten, and Spitzer, said Pruden, adding that there was no minority report and a lack of ideological diversity on the task force. In a response to the APA report, NARTH argued that “homosexuality is more fluid than fixed” and that there’s substantial evidence someone can change his sexual orientation.

This comes from the NARTH press release in response to the APA report:

NARTH appreciates that the APA stressed the importance of faith and religious diversity. Unfortunately, however, the report reflects a very strong confirmation bias; that is, the task force reflected virtually no ideological diversity. No APA member who offers reorientation therapy was allowed to join the task force. In fact, one can make the case that every member of the task force can be classified as an activist. They selected and interpreted studies that fit within their innate and immutable view. For example, they omitted the Jones and Yarhouse study, the Karten study, and only gave cursory attention to the Spitzer study. Had the task force been more neutral in their approach, they could have arrived at only one conclusion: homosexuality is not invariable fixed in all people, and some people can and do change, not just in terms of behavior and identity but in core features of sexual orientation such as fantasy and attractions.

At least one problem here is that the task force report did consider Jones and Yarhouse, Karten and Spitzer. I would have preferred that the criticisms of the Jones and Yarhouse study would have been considered in a different manner (not in a footnote) but I do not think the outcome would have been much different given the APA distinction between orientation and identity.

On the claims of omission, a quick search of the APA report demonstrates how misleading the NARTH press release is. The Jones & Yarhouse study is referenced 17 times, Karten’s dissertation is mentioned three times, and Spitzer’s study is referenced 19 times.

I was glad Ms. Harris included the following:

The idea that people develop homosexual tendencies because of sexual abuse or distant parents is “one of the easiest theories to falsify,” he argues. “There are many gay people who have perfectly fine relationships with their parents and are not sexually abused.” Instead of telling his gay clients that they can become straight, Throckmorton helps them figure out how they want to live and then helps them get there.

3 thoughts on “World Magazine on the APA sexual orientation task force report”

  1. “with no prefaced desire to leave her lesbian lifestyle”

    Was that World magazine’s choice of words, or yours? If yours, please do tell me what a “lesbian lifestyle” is. What style of life do all lesbians enjoy?

    Do you think that “lifestyle” – a term which was used by anti-gay political activists in the 1970s in order to equate sexual orientation with “swinging” – is a term recognized in psychology?

    1. Nope, her words. She was attempting to get across that the woman was happy in a longterm same-sex relationship. Then abruptly her attractions and desires changed. Her friends were trying to get her into counseling to maintain SSA. She wondered about it too. In any event, therapy did not change her; something else did, and to my knowledge, she has not really isolated a set of causes but just went with it. I have lost track of that situation, although I am aware of other similar ones.

      But to address your question, no I did not use the term (and dislike in a negative context). Knowing Ms. Harris, I think she meant it in the way I suggested.

  2. The idea that people develop homosexual tendencies because of sexual abuse […] is “one of the easiest theories to falsify,”

    The answer in the interview is perfect. It is surly not the normal way and not every sexual abuse is linked to homosexuality. (Like Toscano, which separated his abuse and his homosexuality and then there was healing for him. And before all had said: This is absolutly linked. And one other from Beyond Ex-Gay was with his father at Nicolosi for the first time and Nicolosi asked multiple times if there was a sexual abuse.)

    But for information in general: It is not so, that a trauma after a sexual abuse (hetero or homo) can make someone recall bad situations and doing something similar? And i had read Gay Guise from a gay therapist. But there it is not much sexual attraction, more sexual lust.And some rare: A parcinson-client (Didier J., 47, father of two children, France) had taken pills with dopamin. As a side effect he had pathological gambling, cleptomanie, compusive homosexual lust (when my memory is OK, then primaly hypersexuality and men was esier to reache.) and three suizide attemps. For specialist hypersexuality (also with exhibitionism and pedophile) from these pills (i.e. Dopaminagonist Pramipexol (SIFROL)) is not new complication.And just out of curiosity: Homosexual behavior as sleep disorder. 🙂 Sleep and Sex: What Can Go Wrong? A Review of the Literature on Sleep Related Disorders and Abnormal Sexual Behaviors and Experiences

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