Eleven years after his profoundly flawed study of "reparative therapy" to "cure" gay people of their rampant gayness, psychiatrist Robert Spitzer has written a letter apologizing to the gay community.
Spitzer had already distanced himself from the study in 2004, when we interviewed Houston-area men who'd gone through reparative therapy, but the touching story in The New York Times illustrates how the study never stopped haunting Spitzer, who now suffers from Parkinson's.
Spitzer's study was a bit of a surprise, given that he fought with the American Psychiatric Association in the early 1970s to drop homosexuality from the revised Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. That he'd later find himself conducting a poorly conceived and executed study in which he asked reparative therapy clients if they'd "changed" must have caused some in the gay community to scratch their heads.
As we wrote, "Spitzer did not claim his study proved that reparative therapy was a cure-all, but he said the volunteers' responses indicated that some gay people can definitely change."
The study fueled the pseudoscience of groups like NARTH, the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, and "ex-gay" groups like Exodus Ministries.
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Last month, Truth Wins Out ran a draft of Spitzer's letter, in which he writes, "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."
Better late than never, we guess.