Commentary by A. Dean Byrd, Ph.D., MBA, MPH
In 1998, the American Psychological Association (APA) published a brochure titled “Answers to Your Questions about Sexual Orientation and Homosexuality.”
This particular document was ostensibly published to provide definitive answers about homosexuality. However, few of the assertions made in the brochure could find any basis in psychological science. Clearly a document anchored more in activism than in empiricism, the brochure was simply a demonstration of how far APA had strayed from science, and how much it had capitulated to activism.
The newest APA brochure, which appears to be an update of the older one, is titled, “Answers to Your Questions for a Better Understanding of Sexual Orientation & Homosexuality.”
Though both brochures have strong activist overtones (both were created with “editorial assistance from the APA Committee on Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Concerns”), the newer document is more reflective of science and more consistent with the ethicality of psychological care.
Consider the following statement from the first document: “There is considerable recent evidence to suggest that biology, including genetic or inborn hormonal factors, play a significant role in a person’s sexuality.”
That statement was omitted from the current document and replaced with the following:
“There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles…”
Although there is no mention of the research that influenced this new position statement, it is clear that efforts to “prove” that homosexuality is simply a biological fait accompli have failed. The activist researchers themselves have reluctantly reached that conclusion. There is no gay gene. There is no simple biological pathway to homosexuality. Byne and Parsons, and Friedman and Downey, were correct: a bio-psycho-social model best fits the data.
On the question of whether or not therapy can change sexual orientation, the former document offered a resounding “no.” However, the current document is much more nuanced and contains the following statement: “To date, there has been no scientifically adequate research to show that therapy (sometimes called reparative or conversion therapy) is safe or effective.”
Of course, no mention is made of the Spitzer research, the Karten research, or the recent longitudinal research conducted by Jones and Yarhouse — all of which support the conclusion that some people can and do change.
Of the Spitzer research, psychologist Dr. Scott Hershberger (who is a philosophical essentialist on questions of sexual orientation) conducted a Guttman analysis of the study sample, and declared:
“The orderly, law-like pattern of changes in homosexual behavior, homosexual self-identification, and homosexual attraction and fantasy observed in Spitzer’s study is strong evidence that reparative therapy can assist individuals in changing their homosexual orientation to a heterosexual one.”
The Spitzer study found no evidence of harm. Neither did the Karten study, nor the Jones and Yarhouse study.
For the rest of this commentary please see the website of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality here: