"Ex-Gays" | News | Robert Spitzer

Robert Spitzer, Psychiatrist Behind Controversial 'Ex-Gay' Study, Apologizes to the Gay Community

Dr. Robert Spitzer, a psychiatrist who published a controversial 2001 study suggesting that in rare instances gay people could change their sexual orientation, retracted those claims in an American Prospect article published last week. Spitzer had led the effort to declassify homosexuality as a mental illness in 1973, and the 2001 article was an attempt, according to Spitzer, to "question 'whether everything you've been taught is wrong.'"

Robert_spitzerNow, in a letter to Dr. Ken Zucker, Spitzer is apologizing for the wrongs he caused:

I believe I owe the gay community an apology for my study making unproven claims of the efficacy of reparative therapy. I also apologize to any gay person who wasted time and energy undergoing some form of reparative therapy because they believed that I had proven that reparative therapy works with some “highly motivated” individuals.

Read the full letter at Truth Wins Out.

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  1. Maybe he should also apologize to the families of all the teens who killed themselves over the last ten years.

    I'm sorry, but this "Gosh, what could I have been thinking?...oh well...la de da" attitude doesn't cut it.

    Posted by: Trev | Apr 25, 2012 6:47:14 PM

  2. Thanks!

    Posted by: Andrew | Apr 25, 2012 6:52:36 PM

  3. So he's insane and can't decide on a consistent view. And I should care what he thinks why?

    Posted by: Paul R | Apr 25, 2012 6:55:09 PM

  4. This man has done more good and more harm than most people could accomplish in ten lifetimes. Does one outweigh the other? Thats above my pay grade to figure that out.

    Posted by: jack | Apr 25, 2012 6:59:21 PM

  5. Apology rejected. Maroon.

    Posted by: Ted | Apr 25, 2012 7:46:17 PM

  6. Mea culpa. His 2001 'study' was as devastating as his 1973 efforts were heroic. And his long awaited retraction is music to my ears.

    Thank you Dr. Spitzer for doing the right thing.

    Posted by: Rick | Apr 25, 2012 7:52:15 PM

  7. I would like to associate my decision to NOT commit suicide to the fact that the psychiatric community declassified homosexuality in 1973 while I was still in high school. His leadership in this probably saved my life.

    Having spent some time studying psychiatry in college, I understand his need to test the ideas that are held as "givens" in social science. I feel he was inappropriately cited by ex-gay theorists as supporting their ideas. He did not support anything, he questioned and found very few individuals who might have changed their orientations, but I did not see any scientifically proven study to support what he found.

    My problem has been that Dr. Spitzer did not become vocal enough or visible enough when his work was originally misrepresented. THAT is the issue and one in which I believe his appology is acceptable and appropriate.

    We need those who are credible social scientists to do work that I believe will eventually show that ex-gay therapy is harmful to those upon who it is practiced. Only then will we, as a group, be able to retaliate through the courts and through policy change.

    Posted by: Scott | Apr 25, 2012 7:54:31 PM

  8. And the reason for the ad at the top of the page saying homosexuality can be changed…is?

    Posted by: RC | Apr 25, 2012 8:06:53 PM

  9. Does he try to avoid being dumped to hell by god after he passes out?

    Posted by: PC | Apr 25, 2012 8:09:10 PM

  10. Sorry, your hands have been covered with the out flown of red and the wrath of many innocent lives. Hell is only a mile away from you.

    Posted by: PC | Apr 25, 2012 8:15:50 PM

  11. Spitzer? Is this guy related to Democrat horndog Elliot who porked a high class hooker and cried about it then explained to the American public that he was champion for women's rights?

    Posted by: Alan | Apr 25, 2012 9:10:16 PM

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  13. Scott,
    Well put. My sentiments exactly.

    Posted by: Sam | Apr 25, 2012 10:52:45 PM

  14. I just want to say that I blame Focus on the Family more that Spitzer. I read Spitzer's study at the time and in it he is careful to point out that the ability to "change" is extremely rare. He pointed out that he had to go hunting for these cases (so it wasn't a random sample) and of those cases, only a minority claimed to actually have a shift in orientation (which for the purposes of the study meant arousal where there was previously none). A few people, out of 200, claimed that they were able to "perform".

    I know, I know. Being able to perform just sounds so romantic doesn't it.

    But Focus on the Family, a Christian organization, really misappropriated his work which essentially just said that a better study needs to be conducted. FOTF reworded his entire position and in his defense Spitzer has always said that FOTF misappropriated it.


    If you poke around Truth Wins Out, you'll see that FOTF has done this to several other people. So please, while it might feel good to verbally bash Spitzer, direct it at Focus on the Family. Check and see if your Grandmother donates to them, for example. Mine did (past tense) until I told her about their anti-gay ministries. Direct your anger at FOTF and let it flow!

    Posted by: Brim | Apr 25, 2012 11:46:40 PM

  15. Damage has been done, and an apology will not rectify it, especially since his initial findings were published and have been used and will be used forever by homophobes.

    Posted by: CB | Apr 26, 2012 12:24:55 AM

  16. I am a bit taken aback by the vitriol being hurled at Dr Spitzer in this thread.

    This is the man who led the fight to have homosexuality removed as a mental illness in 1973. That has done an enormous amount of good.

    He is a man of integrity, and as such, is always questioning the way things are in an effort to find the truth.

    His 2001 study said that some highly motivated people could change their orientation in extremely rare circumstances. It was a very guarded finding. Admittedly that is all the bigoted groups needed as a figleaf of credibility (although they'd still be out there, doing there thing, ruining lives regardless).

    Because Dr Spitzer is a man committed to finding the truth he's looked back at his 2001 study and realised it was flawed. He's admitted the flaws and changed his position. This is the way science works. It is always a work in progress.

    It's tragic that a flawed study has been used to justify conversion therapy over the past decade, but let's hold off on the vitriol. Direct your anger at the bigots instead.

    Posted by: Hass | Apr 26, 2012 1:06:22 AM

  17. "I am a bit taken aback by the vitriol being hurled at Dr Spitzer in this thread."

    I agree. It is shameful. It strongly suggests that those who are bashing him here never read his 2001 study, or his criticisms of how it was exaggerated and misrepresented. They've just jumped to a knee-jerk reaction, which is the very thing that homophobes do to us all the time.

    Posted by: Cassandra | Apr 26, 2012 1:46:18 AM

  18. You all need to read this comic: http://xkcd.com/882/

    Scientists publish their findings for the benefit of other scientists. It's not the same as advocating a political position.

    Scientists understand that studies sometimes give misleading results.

    The guy never said he personally believes people can change their orientation. He did a study that found weak evidence for it and published it.

    Are you suggesting he should have censored his findings because of the potential political fallout? There's too much of that already.

    Sometimes you do a study that finds that red is blue. You publish it so that other scientists can follow up and say "Yes, we confirmed that red is blue", or "No, red is red, and we figured out what's wrong in the original study".

    Also, a good scientist is willing to challenge their own assumptions. A scientist who believes that sexual orientation is immutable might well conduct a study to find out if it IS mutable. That's not the same as flip-flopping.

    Posted by: InscrutableTed | Apr 26, 2012 3:52:01 AM

  19. Ex-Gay proponents have never given a poop about the GBLTQI community, scientific studies, facts, honesty or truth. Their outright hate disallows then any reasonable views or opinions about homosexuality. I don't see Dr. Spitzer's retraction as having any effect upon these ignorant coprolites.

    Posted by: StevyD | Apr 26, 2012 4:04:43 AM

  20. Having spent some time studying psychiatry in college, I understand his need to test the ideas that are held as "givens" in social science. I feel he was inappropriately cited by ex-gay theorists as supporting their ideas. He did not support anything, he questioned and found very few individuals who might have changed their orientations, but I did not see any scientifically proven study to support what he found.

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