Former Ex-Gay Therapist Publishes Troubling Op-Ed In USA Today

Despite certain bans being put in place both in the U.S. and abroad, ex-gay therapy continues to be offered by 70 different clinics in 20 different states, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Luckily, the SPLC has filed a lawsuit against one such organization, Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (or JONAH), alleging consumer fraud. The New Jersey lawsuit will hopefully break new ground, and set a precedent for similar lawsuits against other similar organizations. 

That doesn't sit well with Nicholas A. Cummings, a former therapist and head of the American Psychological Association, who used the lawsuit as an avenue to advocate for ex-gay therapy in an op-ed piece he wrote for USA Today. "The sweeping allegation that such treatment must be a fraud because homosexual orientation can't be changed is damaging," he wrote, claiming that the Southern Poverty Law Center has "gone astray" from its original "service for our nation in fighting prejudice."

It is worth mentioning straight away that Cummings' credentials as a therapist date from 1959–1979, and his credentials as head of the APA date from 1979–1980. As ThinkProgress pointed out, "it’s unclear what professional experience he’s had since then." Since Cummings' time as head, the APA has recognized the practice of ex-gay therapy as ineffective and potentially harmful. Nevertheless, Cummings maintains that "of the patients I oversaw who sought to change their orientation, hundreds were successful." He went on to explain:

"I believe that our rate of success with reorientation was relatively high because we were selective in recommending therapeutic change efforts only to those who identified themselves as highly motivated and were clinically assessed as having a high probability of success."

When it came to providing specific numerical or even anecdotal evidence of this "high probability of success", Cummings chose to stay conspicuously silent in his op-ed piece. Instead, he chose to lament the politicization of ex-gay therapy, and claimed that:

"Accusing professionals from across the country who provide treatment for fully informed persons seeking to change their sexual orientation of perpetrating a fraud serves only to stigmatize the professional and shame the patient. 

Exgay-therapy-23034it is also worth mentioning that Cummings does agree with the fact that "homosexuality is not a mental disorder". That is, unfortunately, where he and the APA split, since the organization has agreed that sexual orientation cannot be changed by therapy. As for those claiming to be changed by therapy? Studies indicate that they are simply "acting the part". Thus, Cummings' op-ed, which ThinkProgress calls "a rehash of an affidavit he filed defending JONAH in the lawsuit," serves only to toss around old credentials and vague evidence to advocate for abusive treatment, as was reported by plaintiffs in the JONAH lawsuit. 

Perhaps even more troubling is the fact that organizations such as NARTH, who advocate for ex-gay therapy, are already championing Cummings' article to their supporters. Then again, "he has also featured as a keynote speaker at NARTH conferences, where he claimed that the LGBT movement uses “homophobia as intimidation” to oppress those who oppose homosexuality." 

Read the full op-ed for USA Today HERE.


  1. says

    “. . . organizations such as NARTH, who advocate for ex-gay therapy, are already championing Cummings’ article to their supporters.”

    That’s why he wrote it. Remember Mark Regnerus and his study that was rushed into publication during an election year with ballot measures in four states concerning marriage? The one for which advance copies were leaked to Deseret News and NOM?

  2. oncemorewithfeeling says

    There is no such thing as “vague evidence”. Either something is “evidence” or it is not. You seem to have a problem in all your posts when it comes to stating simple reality (as in your statement that a married couple was not “technically ‘married'”, when they were just simply married). And the chatty style is beyond annoying. Good Lord, you’re terrible at this.

  3. The Milkman says

    “I believe that our rate of success with reorientation was relatively high because…”

    I am not interested in what some octogenarian psychologist “believes”. The only thing that matters is what the peer-reviewed data SHOW. And those data show that this kind of intervention is nothing short of quackery.

    I’m sure we’ll hear all about this man and his beliefs from the right wing. What a lovely way to end your time on this earth… doubling down on bigotry and ignoring the evidence. Nice job.

  4. Geoff says

    Ex-gay? Lying liars who lie. No. We are talking about self-loathing. Make-pretend is always simply THAT. Religious-affiliation is so very telling.

  5. Jack M says

    The flaw in his argument has to do with his belief that gay people who are highly motivated to change their sexual orientation can do so. It’s not really something that can be debated, as it’s his opinion.

    However, he should follow up on all of the patients that have supposedly changed their orientation to find out if they still consider themselves heterosexual or not, and if they are satisfied with the results of their treatment.

  6. says

    dear Nicholas,
    Of course you think you were highly successful with those who were highly motivated; they wanted to remain in the closet in the first place, and didn’t want to admit they were gay even to themselves.They were desperate, in a hostile society, to want so hard to be straight.You comforted them and helped their self deceptions……but don’t call that an “ex-gay cure”…… that is so self-congratulatory as to be embarrassing.

    Now, let’s hear it from the boys……..all you successful ex-gays, ex-patients, of this delusional old fart……how long did you ex-gay therapy with Nicholas last ?
    Did you still fantasize about men ?
    Did you have relationships, however brief, with men ?

    BTW, ” his qualifications date from 1959…..” wasn’t that very close to the time the American Psychological Association classified us as having a mental deficiency or incapacity ? just like the way the Catholic Church categorizes us now as “intrinsically defective” ????

  7. Michael says

    If there was just one successful conversion he would have been paraded as the golden boy NARTH.

    But you know, I’ve been successfully straight for all of five minutes. Unfortunately I still have the residual taste of semen in my mouth.

  8. Don says

    @oncemorewithfeeling: I don’t like the term “vague evidence” either, but there are levels of evidence, so I don’t think it’s accurate to say something is evidence or it isn’t. There is strong evidence and there is weak evidence. I think Towleroad does a good job of explaining things, which is why I read it. You might want to consider not reading it if you are beyond annoyed.

  9. woodroad34d says

    “…Southern Poverty Law Center has “gone astray” from its original “service for our nation in fighting prejudice.”

    “Cummings does agree with the fact that “homosexuality is not a mental disorder.”

    “When it came to providing specific numerical or even anecdotal evidence of this “high probability of success”, Cummings chose to stay conspicuously silent in his op-ed piece.”

    In order to fabricate a “truth”, liars will spew together contradictory ideas and wash over facts. He realizes that being gay isn’t a mental disorder, but will eagerly help people change their orientation to live an emotionally harmful half-life rather than helping them be who they inherently are. He then claims that the SPLC has gone astray in helping fight prejucdice, but he will help enforce prejudice and bigotry. Really, this is a classic case of “haters gotta hate”. No wonder he’s not a therapist any longer…he’s The Rapist.

  10. e.c. says

    Glad to see these snake-oil salesmen being taken to court. It’s easy enough to write an Op-Ed and make claims about your success but let’s see him get on the stand and be able to PROVE it.

  11. says

    This whole “ex-gay” therapy pretense seems deliberately constructed to reinforce the shame which some gay people feel.

    It emphasizes that feeling and milks it, whether for money (Bachman) or for Religious affiliation.
    The so called therapists always want something, whether their own validation or money.
    But one thing is certain – they are not interested in the feelings of ‘otherness’ or ‘shame’ of their “patients”, other than to exploit their vulnerability…..they never get their “patients” to face their otherness and accept their ‘otherness’.

  12. Jake says

    Ex-Scientologist is good. Ex-gay? Gays gets so unhinged if all the pins are not in a row. You thought you’d killed this movement and you didn’t. Time to get out the tired defend yourself script.

  13. says

    what a bunch of rubbish that is? What editor at USA Today fell asleep at the switch and let this one through. Deciding and being highly motivated to change ones behavior does not change who that person is. I could decide to be left handed tomorrow. Practice only writing with my left hand and eventually could probably pass for a left handed person. But at the end of the day, i am right handed and would function more naturally that way. Funny.

  14. Jim Stone says

    A brunette can dye their hair blonde but the roots will still be brunette… (Ok..who’s interested in purchasing swamp land in Florida?)

  15. anon says

    The old guard that voted against homosexuality in the 1970’s never got over the delisting. They used to have a field-day with criminal convictions on the basis of orientation as a disease. They were very bitter after their time had passed.

  16. GregV says

    Considering this guy’s age, his education would have started in the 1920’s and, though I don’t know if he took any years off between classes, he may well have finished earning his doctorate in the 1940s.
    Doctors had a lot of crazy notions back then that were based on assumptions and have long since been proven by SCIENCE as being false.
    He would have been middle-aged when doctors stopped advising their patients to smoke more cigarettes to calm their nerves. (Is USA Today going to hand their typewriter over to some old-school quack who sells tobacco and hasn’t read anything since its health effects were actually studied?)
    None of these “ex-gay” quack organizations has ever been able to produce a single star student who has actually changed his/her orientation. They re-label themselves in a feeble attempt to be accepted by their gay-hating circles.
    i’ve read through some studies whete, for example, if a guy goes from calling himself “homosexual” to calling himself “struggling with sane-sex attraction” he’s counted among the “converted.” The victoms are invariably praised in these circles for changing the words they use to describe themselves. The organizations don’t even attempt anything that’s actually scientific, like a measurent of erection ti same- and opposite-sex images to prove some sort of reversal. They probably know that if they actually devised a scientific study, it would disprove all the vlaims they use to make their money.
    And a list of all the front-page “now heterosexual” star students they were using 15 years ago counts pretty much everybody also on the list of those who have at some point since then admitted they were lying to themselves and everyone else the whole time.

    It was irresponsible of USA Today to empower this quackery by giving column space to someone who may not have learned any of the science of the past half century.

  17. millerbeach says

    He is certainly entitled to his opinion, no matter how wrong it is. Hopefully, folks who read USA Today (I know of none) will be able to discern fact from fiction, and realize this man made a healthy living off of dangerous therapy. I guess he can sleep with that….I sure could not, but then again, my moral compass seems to work.

  18. Kevin LS says

    Boycott USA Today. That article is slanted as the author must be.

    The majority of people that go to ex-gay are minors and forced by their parents.

    No only are ex-gay companies and people suggesting that people that go there go because they want to, but so is the author.

    The suggest the SPLC has ‘gone too far’ for trying to ban ex-gay in NJ.

    Boycott USA today.

  19. jamal49 says

    So, Mr. Cummings, if I came to you and said “I am straight but I don’t want to be. I want to be gay”, would you help me “re-orient” myself?

    By the way, Mr. Cummings, the SPLC has not gone astray in serving our nation to fight prejudice. See, in case you haven’t noticed, you and others like yourself are extremely prejudicial against the natural sexual orientation of gay people.

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