LDS scholars critique Byrd, Cox & Robinson review

Monday, I posted a statement from J. Michael Bailey, prolific sexual orientation researcher at Northwestern University, regarding what he called a “blatant misquotation” and misrepresentation of his views by Dean Byrd, Shirley Cox and Jeffrey Robinson in a 2005 book review of In Quiet Desperation. Yesterday, I posted a link to the rebuttal by In Quiet Desperation co-author, Ty Mansfield.

Today, I am posting another rebuttal to the review from Byrd et al, this time from four LDS scholars who write on gay issues – William Bradshaw, Robert A. Rees, Ron Schow, and Marybeth Raynes. You can read the review and the authors’ bios on an LDS website featuring resources for same-sex attracted people.

As with the Mansfield, I want to include excerpts and make a comment at the end.

Bradshaw et al make religious critiques of Byrd et al and then note what appears to be confirmation bias emerging in the review.

It is disturbing that Byrd, Cox and Robinson, all of whom have had extensive experience in counseling, would make judgments about both Stewart Matis and Ty Mansfield that they are in no position to make. Without knowing anything about the personality or therapeutic history of either man and based only on what evidence they find in the Matis-Mansfield narratives, they draw therapeutic conclusions, characterizing Stuart Matis as having “temperamental sensitivity,” “an obsessive preoccupation with being different,” and “perfectionism.” They assert, again without having counseled with him, that Stuart’s “story may have had a much different outcome had Stuart found. . . needed help”; they challenge the Matises’ interpretation of “their son’s attraction for other boys (‘crushes’) as somehow related to his homosexual attractions,” by stating declaratively, “They are not”; they state, “What Stuart failed to secure was competent, professional help, the kind of help that could assist him deal [sic] with very chronic, very difficult challenges.”

They conduct the same kind of arm-chair psychological analysis of Ty Mansfield: “Though Mansfield notes that his homosexual feelings have remained unchanged, this is impossible”! As they do with Stuart Matis, Byrd, Cox and Robinson, pigeonhole Mansfield as suffering from “temperamental sensitivity, obsessive introspection and perfectionism.” They seem to know Mansfield’s therapeutic experience: “Rather than seeking help, however, Mansfield seems stuck in his gender confusion”; “Mansfield has simply conceded victory to his homosexuality.” Such conclusions are as irresponsible as the medical analysis of Senator Bill Frist upon viewing videotape of the comatose Terry Shiavo. If these authors are familiar with what are surely the confidential medical and psychotherapeutic records of Matis and Mansfield, they should say so; otherwise, their analysis is not only inappropriate, it is professionally irresponsible.

A common theme among reparative influenced therapists is to see nails since the tool they have is a hammer. If you think homosexuality is caused by weak fathers, temperamental sensitivity, and/or perfectionism, then that is what you see in those who are same-sex attracted. Even if you only have a bits of information about a person, it is enough because you can always fill in the blanks.

Here the authors note the lack of documentation or data for the claims of reorientation.

Without providing adequate scholarly documentation, Byrd, Cox and Robinson refer to the success of reparative therapy (although they don’t label it as such). They contend that “many men (and women),” “many individuals,” “many people,” and “many men and women” “make successful transitions out of homosexuality.” In a review critical of others’ use of scientific evidence, one would expect some reference to a scholarly study that details exactly how many “many” is. Given the fact that Byrd was the lead person directing therapy for same sex attraction at Church Social Services during a period when many hundreds of Latter-day Saints were undergoing reparative or change therapy, one would think he would cite the findings of such therapy. It is in fact scandalous that such studies either were not undertaken or have been suppressed since the findings would help enlighten our present discussion of this subject. We are acquainted with one therapist at Church Social Services during Byrd’s tenure who did a large portion of this work in that he counseled with nearly a thousand homosexuals and whose experience contradicts the point of view taken in this review.2

The footnote #2 reads:

Our informant has told us that in over a 30 year career at LDS Family Services he worked with about 400 single men, 200 of whom left therapy after 1-2 sessions. Of the remaining 200, only 20 (10%) were able to marry. Furthermore, 19 of the 20 who married identified themselves as bisexual when they entered therapy. The quality of these marriages is unknown. Another Latter-day Saint therapist with whom we are familiar reports that of the hundreds of clients with sexual identity issues she has seen only those clearly identified as bisexual are given any chance of making successful marriages.

This seems reasonable but it is unfortunate that the mystery therapist did not step forward with some verification.

It seems clear that there are some divisions within LDS circles which are similar to what occurs in the evangelical world.

8 thoughts on “LDS scholars critique Byrd, Cox & Robinson review”

  1. “temperamental sensitivity, obsessive introspection and perfectionism.”

    I have thought long and hard about this over the past few years, and I have concluded that, for what it’s worth, those traits describe my earlier years — childhood through young adulthood — to a T. Naturally, it would have made me more vulnerable to depression and anxiety. Who knows how it could have influenced my same-sex attractions or other sexual temptations?

    Other factors are in the equation (CSA, father/mother issues, a sexually permissive climate leading to curiosity), all of which could have converged to influence my need to seek amelioration or “completeness” with the same sex.

    It always makes my head hurt when I try to put it all together. We all know it’s complex and, in some ways, defies understanding. Certainly defies categorizing.

  2. …a perfect partner….

    This would suggest a kind of anxiety different from neurotic anxiety, more like flooding.

  3. Obsessive anxiety, and introspection…reasonable that one would want soothing or distraction in such a state.

    Sexual feelings (regardless of orientation) could be a quick balm. Erotic identification with a masterful partner would both lower anxiety and increase pleasure.

  4. RE: the temperamental traits – I would want to see data. I do not see that in my clients, except during highly emotional times. I think the traits could be effects of stress rather than causes of same-sex attraction.

    I suspect they have seen some obsessional clients who worried about being gay; helped their obsessions and called it a cure.

    I want to see data not generalizations from people who have demonstrated a willingness to diagnose people without seeing them.

  5. This assessment, generally (not in this specific application), strikes me as worth further discussion:

    “temperamental sensitivity, obsessive introspection and perfectionism.”

  6. David – You are correct, I was pretty restrained here. I think it kind of speaks for itself.

    Bradshaw et al nail this well. Reparative therapists have their clients diagnosed before they ever get in the door. And then to do this in print for someone they have never seen is irresponsible. I wonder if Mr. Mansfield would have a complaint he could file if wanted to…

  7. Well, whatever Byrd is doing he’s being vague in such a way that his desired outcomes are not being supported. It’s just one more example that people like me would look at over the years (the last 40 years in my case) and think that the ‘experts’ don’t know what they’re talking about. Byrd in particular decries our own lives seemingly without listening to what gay men have experienced from the culture or our religions, friends and family. With him it is as if we are presumed guilty without a trial. And that is often the way it was when I first came out in the 60s. One should hope some change relating to a better understanding of the pressures a young gay person may feel would have come into play by now….

  8. Warren,

    You seem overly cautious in this posting.

    Isn’t clear that Dr. Byrd is being criticized for unethical use of psychological diagnoses (assessing a patient he has never seen)?

    He is also being criticized for using his experience at the LDS center in such a way that his “findings” cannot be verified; only to reinforce his conclusions.

    He is capable of being a good academician and researcher…

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