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10/09/2006

Video: The one researcher they love to quote and the multiple caveats they love to ignore

by Jeremy Hooper

Uploaded to YouTube by "ex-gay" researcher Warren Throckmorton (the film's producer), this is an interview with Dr. Robert Spitzer from the "former homosexual"-advocating documentary, I Do Exist:

But reading Dr. Throckmorton's own transcript of the full interview, it's interesting to see what was left out. For example:

Dr. Spitzer: Now the other issue is that the study has been severely criticized on the grounds that you will give a false impression that change is easy, and that itís common for those who go into this kind of therapy, to make this change. Now, of course, this study was not a study of how often, because we only started with people who had made a change. 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 the study we wanted people who had changed to participate. Since it was so hard to get those 200, and we were not flooded with hundreds of people, my own view and I, there ís no way that I can be sure, is that probably a relatively rare experience that people change as much as these people did.

It also important to realize that there were some of the people that we did not accept, because they had only changed in their behavior. There were those who said, well, I know now that I am heterosexual because God made me this way, but I still have homosexual feelings.

And:

Dr. Spitzer:...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?

Dr. Throckmorton: I guess I would just, I'll maybe press you a little on that. Really, because of the way that your particular study was done, we really donít know for sure.

But, of course, both of these exchanges were left out. And when you couple these with quotes that Spitzer has made to the media about his study...

"I did not conclude that all gays should try to change, or even that they would be better off if they did. However, to my horror, some of the media reported the study as an attempt to show that homosexuality is a choice, and that substantial change is possible for any homosexual who decides to make the effort." [Wall Street Journal, May 23, 2001]

"Our sample was self-selected from people who already claimed they had made some change. We don't know how common that kind of change is. . . . I'm not saying that this can be easily done, or that most homosexuals who want to change can make this kind of change. I suspect it's quite unusual." [CNN, May 9, 2001]

"...I suspect the vast majority of gay people would be unable to alter by much a firmly established homosexual orientation." [Wall Street Journal, May 23, 2001]

"...the kinds of changes my subjects reported are highly unlikely to be available to the vast majority [of gays and lesbians]... "[only] a small minority -- perhaps 3% -- might have a "malleable" sexual orientation." He expressed a concern that his study results were being "twisted by the Christian right." [Advocate, July 17, 2001]

...and then when you factor in the claims of Gareth Fenley, a licensed psychotherapist who wrote a piece on this video for the Southern Voice...

I submitted my op-ed on deadline and sent an e-mail to Spitzer comparing him to a physician who supports prescribing Thalidomide to pregnant women because some of them actually have a good experience and are not harmed. I told him that the reason APA does not support any type of method to change sexual orientation is that safety and efficacy have not been established for any treatment. Spitzer wrote back and told me that he thought I might be surprised that he agrees with me, and he regrets participating in the documentary.

...the Spitzer YouTube clip really ends up looking about as useful as this:

Far less fun, too!

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