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Spitzer's Gay Study: A Classic Case of Contradiction
(Written August 4, 2001)

Homosexuality, an explosive topic under the most normal of circumstance, was thrust back into the spotlight courtesy of a report that claims to show that "highly motivated" gays can turn straight with the help of counseling.

The study, conducted by Robert Spitzer, was immediately greeted with ecstatic cheers from antigay forces, who now feel validated in their efforts to "repair" gays.   Gay organizations and professionals point to the study's reliance on referrals from ex-gay programs as proof of its flawed logic.  In the end, the report was too controversial for the American Psychological Association, who cancelled a session on the study during its convention.

Lost in the rhetoric was a close scrutiny of the terminology used in the study.  Using his own methodology, Spitzer created a standard of "good heterosexual functioning."  Rather than basing outcomes on the actual loss of same-sex desire, he instead used factors like being able to rate emotional satisfaction on a scale of 1-10 and "never or rarely" thinking about gay sex during straight sex.

What kind of rationale is this?  If you're thinking about anything or anyone else other than the person whose bed you're sharing, I strongly suggest that the sex is so uneventful that you're better off stopping the act and instead watching TV or anything. 

More interesting were the means by which this conversion was achieved.   Unsurprisingly, the top winner were psychologists, who long have had the ability to influence their patients' behavior with their suggestions.

If you take anyone as emotionally fragile as conflicted, traditionally religious gays are and place them under the supervision of a mental health worker who has an antigay agenda, it is not shocking to think the combination of their guilt and the doctor's pressures would result in a "change."

In actuality, a lesser-known survey that was released at the same time as Spitzer's study states that most people who turn towards psychologists to deal with sexuality issues end up emotionally damaged.  This study was conducted by two gay doctors, whom I've yet to see given the same amount of media attention as Spitzer.

But what is curious is Spitzer's listing of "heterosexual mentoring" as a prime factor.  By mentoring, he includes such things as having someone to discuss questions, serve as an example of straight life and perhaps even be a social link to other straight people.  Mentoring, such a positive word.

Wait a minute.  Aren't these same activities branded as "recruiting" and "seduction" why applied to gay people?  That lack of mentoring is a main reason gay youth have a suicide rate much higher than their straight counterparts, and explains many of the most superficial aspects of mainstream gay culture.  But I guess the difference between "mentoring" and "seduction" depends on which side of the fence you're on.

The double standard of Spitzer's work should be challenged by a reverse study: can otherwise "willing" straights develop into gays?  Surely we know of the phenomenon of "trendy gays," straights who, for whatever reason, throw themselves into gay culture for extended periods of time, only to return to their straight identity after discovering it wasn't as exciting as they'd hoped.  Why not give them some gay "mentoring" to see if they change? 

The scenario sounds funny, but it points to the true purpose of Spitzer's work.  The unending focus on homosexuality's causes and potential for modification is the result of some people's desire to finally eradicate its existence.

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