The Tenth Doctor on Doctor Who said “sorry” a lot, but when he said, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” it meant he knew something very sad about the people he was saying it to that they were not (and might never be) aware of.
To the National Association for the Research & Therapy of Homosexuality: I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.
I got this piddling email last night from the President of NARTH, one Julie Hamilton. If I could sum up the small treatise in one word, it would be “Nuh-uh!” I’ll let the abstract speak for itself:
The purpose of this article is to address misperceptions and/or misinformation regarding NARTH. Although some critics will remain skeptical and perhaps some even antagonistic, others desire accurate information. This article is written for the latter group, those who might be interested to know the facts about NARTH’s mission and purpose.
I have zero respect for NARTH (and I’m not just “skeptical” about it). But for the sake of argument, I’ll pretend to be someone desiring “accurate” information. However, my frame of reference will be the American Psychological Association’s report and resolution on reparative therapy from last August.
Let’s check out their claims:
NARTH is Not Anti-gay, nor is NARTH a Hate-Based Organization
Critics and antagonists have labeled NARTH, its leaders, and members as “bigots” and having “hatred” against homosexuality. Simply stated, these accusations are completely false. NARTH’s leaders value and esteem both those who have embraced homosexual identities as well as those who seek change of orientation or identity.
Actually, my understanding is that that’s true, not false. If you promote the idea that homosexuality is something that it makes sense to deny, then you’re promoting negative views on homosexuality. It’s right there in your name, NARTH; you suggest that homosexuality is something for which people need therapy. This only reinforces many of the hateful attitudes already present in our culture.
NARTH Recognizes Client Diversity
NARTH values the individual’s right to choose – both individuals who are comfortable with their homosexual identities and those who want to explore other options. NARTH acknowledges that some people are comfortable claiming a homosexual identity, and we respect their freedom to do so. At the same time, NARTH recognizes that others choose not to embrace a homosexual identity, are distressed by unwanted homosexual attractions, and would like to explore other options for their lives.
It’s deceitful to suggest that homosexual attractions are optional. All of the research the APA has done demonstrates that they are not.
In our culture, those who are dissatisfied with their unwanted homosexual attractions and choose to pursue change are often treated with disrespect, mockery and ridicule, as are the therapists who try to help them.
It could be because there is no valid research that supports what you practice and an overwhelming majority of professionals in your field reject the work that you do as flawed and hurtful.
NARTH Therapists Honor Client Self Determination: Clients Choose Their Own Goals while Therapists Avoid Imposing an Agenda
NARTH defends the rights of clients to seek treatment for unwanted homosexual attractions. Individuals who are dissatisfied with their unwanted homosexual attractions and enter therapy seeking change should be respected and not be coerced into embracing identities which clash with their deeply held values or religious beliefs.
Even the most deeply held values and beliefs are changeable. Sexual orientation is not. Besides, the APA found that the benefits of reparative therapy can also be provided “within an affirmative and multiculturally competent framework.” While people are entitled to hold onto their beliefs, it is deceitful to suggest that a coherence with those beliefs can be realized through therapy.
As the APA report said, “telic congruence based on stigma and shame is unlikely to result in psychological well-being.” In other words, it’s not always in patients’ interest to help them maintain beliefs that are incompatible with their sexual orientation.
Reorientation Therapy Includes Many Different Mainstream Approaches to Therapy
Reorientation therapy is simply psychological care aimed at helping clients achieve their goals regarding their sexual attractions, sexual orientations and/or sexual identities. Reorientation is not decidedly different from other therapies. There are many psychological approaches to helping clients with unwanted homosexual attractions. All approaches supported by NARTH are mainstream approaches to psychotherapy.
This is misleading. The APA resolved that mental health professionals should “avoid misrepresenting the efficacy of sexual orientation change efforts.” Any of NARTH’s efforts would fall into this category. NARTH itself falls into this category. After whining about language like “cure” and “conversion,” Hamilton makes this very point:
NARTH encourages its members to assist those who seek help for unwanted homosexual attractions, attractions which seldom occur in isolation from other issues commonly treated in therapy.
See? The help for “unwanted homosexual attractions” shouldn’t be to try to make them not homosexual; it should be to try to make them not unwanted.
While Success Rates are Similar to Some other Issues, Therapy for Unwanted Homosexuality Seems to be held to a Higher Standard
While studies on therapy for unwanted homosexual attractions seem to yield varying success rates, ranging from 30%-70%, these rates seem to be no different than success rates for many other therapeutic issues.
This is also misleading. After a thorough critical review of research, the APA resolved “that there is insufficient evidence to support the use of psychological interventions to change sexual orientation.” Even the data that NARTH uses to defend its approach does not justify the suggestion that reparative therapy is “as successful” as other forms of treatment, as this point implies.
Therapeutic Attempts to Change Sexual Orientation are not found to be Harmful
Although the media and even some professionals have reported otherwise, the APA Task Force recently reported that the research on whether or not change attempts are harmful is inconclusive.
The word “truthiness” comes to mind. The study did in fact find there was evidence to indicate individuals experienced harm, including “loss of sexual feeling, depression, suicidality, and anxiety.”
Oh, and did you know that NARTH is quite transphobic? Given their eagerness to promote gender conformity, it shouldn’t be surprising, but read this:
On the note of harm, it interesting that it is considered acceptable within the mental health field to assist a five year old boy in identifying as a girl or to administer hormone treatment to a ten or twelve year old child to physically change the child’s biological sex, but offering talk therapy to an adult who would rather not be homosexual is thought to be harmful.
As I’ve already intimated, the main point of this document is to whine, “Whaaaaaaa!”
One more defensive point.
NARTH is Neither Right-Winged, nor is NARTH a Religious Organization
Although the critics often describe NARTH as a right-wing, religious organization, NARTH is neither right-wing, nor religious. Rather, NARTH is a scientific, secular organization.
This may be. I wouldn’t call NARTH scientific, given that they ignore an incredible wealth of science so they can blindly continue doing what they do. We also know that many (if not most (if not all)) reparative therapy outlets are housed in religious organizations.
In the end, NARTH’s attempts to not look anti-gay amount to nothing. Everything that they stand for is bunk, and the end effect is to perpetuate negative opinions of homosexuality.
NARTH is a joke and they are harming our nation. On a sadder note, they are doing great harm to themselves through their ignorant ideas. I’m sorry, NARTH, I’m so sorry.