Robert Spitzer admits critiques of 2011 research are 'largely correct'
By Rheana Murray / NEW YORK DAILY NEWSWednesday, April 11, 2012
Spitzer's study declared that 'motivated individuals' could turn from gay to straight with the help of so-called ex-gay therapy.
The psychiatrist behind a prominent 2001 study declaring people can go from gay to straight has retracted his original claims.
Although the research is still cited by anti-gay organizations as proof that so-called ex-gay therapy works to change someone's sexual orientation, the study has endured scientific criticism for years.
Now, Robert Spitzer, who led the research, told American Prospect that he wants to publish a retraction.
"In retrospect, I have to admit I think the critiques are largely correct," Spitzer said. "The findings can be considered evidence for what those who have undergone ex-gay therapy say about it, but nothing more."
Spitzer's confession was part of writer Gabriel Arana's account of growing up gay, and struggling to change his sexual orientation by undergoing therapy.
Arana interviewed Spitzer, 79, who is now retired and suffering from Parkinson's disease, at his home. He asked Arana to print the retraction of his study "so I don't have to worry about it."
The original study was based on interviews with 200 patients who were being treated with ex-gay therapy, which claimed to reverse sexual orientation in gay patients.
The paper Spitzer published concluded that the therapy worked "for a highly select group of motivated individuals" without providing any definitive success rate.
Still, the research was highly lauded, especially by anti-gay groups, and labeled "explosive" by The Associated Press.
One of Spitzer's colleagues said it was like "throwing a grenade into the gay community," according to American Prospect.
While the prestige the study gained infuriated gay rights organizations and psychiatrists who questioned the research, Spitzer had never commented on its credibility until now.
Wayne Besen, author of "Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth," commended Spitzer's retraction in an interview with the Huffington Post.
"Dr. Spitzer's repudiation of his 2001 study is an earthquake that severely undermines the validity of 'ex-gay' programs," he said.
"Spitzer just kicked out the final leg from the stool on which the proponents of 'ex-gay' therapy based their already shaky claims of success."