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American Psychiatric Association
Condemns "Ex-Gay" Claims

Religious 'Conversion Therapy' Threatens Misled Gay Patients

Board of Trustees is Unanimous Issuing Healthcare Resolution

Compiled by GayToday

Denver, Colorado--The board of trustees of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) passed a resolution Friday at their quarterly meeting in Denver, that condemns the practice of "reparative therapy."

The APA's rebuke reaffirmed the scientific and mental health community's long standing objection to this practice which attempts to convert homosexuals to heterosexuals. The APA's resolution, which passed unanimously, was spurred by a million-dollar ad campaign by religious political groups who urged people who are gay or lesbian to seek to change their sexual orientation through "reparative therapy." exgaydebate2.gif - 11.68 K The Ex-Gay Debate Rages On
Collage: GayToday

"We applaud the American Psychiatric Association's condemnation of this thoroughly discredited practice that causes great harm to people who are gay but not yet comfortable with their sexual orientation," said David M. Smith, HRC's communications director. "`Reparative therapy' is nothing less than psychological terrorism used by religious political groups as a tool to undermine fair public policy for lesbian and gay citizens."

The APA's statement stressed that "reparative therapy" is not benign and often has deleterious effects. The statement said "reparative therapy" practitioners often mislead patients and are motivated by personal prejudices. According to the resolution:

"The potential risks of `reparative therapy' are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior, since therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient.

"Many patients who have undergone `reparative therapy' relate that they were inaccurately told that homosexuals are lonely, unhappy individuals who never achieve acceptance or satisfaction. The possibility that the person might achieve happiness and satisfying interpersonal relationships as a gay man or lesbian is not presented, nor are alternative approaches to dealing the effects of societal stigmatization discussed ... the APA opposes any psychiatric treatment, such as `reparative' or `conversion' therapy which is based on the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or based on a prior assumption that the patient should change his/her sexual orientation."

The American Psychiatric Association was the first mental health organization to remove homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1973. In August 1997, the American Psychological Association overwhelmingly passed a resolution at its convention that asserted that there is no sound scientific evidence on the efficacy of "reparative therapy," which seeks to "cure" homosexuals.

nichols98a.gif - 39.45 K GayToday editor Jack Nichols was first--in 1963-- to ask the gay and lesbian movement to object to psychiatry's classification of homosexuality as an illness. Decades beforehand, however, professional psychiatry and psychology were some of leading ideological anti-homosexual forces operative in the United States.

John D'Emilio's celebrated history, Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities: The Making of a Homosexual Minority in the United States 1940-1970 (University of Chicago Press) tells of the challenge issued to the gay and lesbian movement in 1963 by GayToday's current senior editor, Jack Nichols. In that year, the few existing liberation groups mostly accepted officialdom's dogmas. D'Emilio writes:

"It took persistence on the part of the militants to persuade the majority in their organizations to reject the medical establishment's authority. Jack Nichols first broached the subject in October 1963, in a letter urging the organization's executive board (that of the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C.) to adopt the position that homosexuality was not a disease. 'The mental attitude of our own people toward themselves,' he observed,

'that they are not well—that they are not whole, that they are LESS THAN COMPLETELY HEALTHY—is responsible for UNTOLD NUMBERS OF PERSONAL TRAGEDIES AND WARPED LIVES. By failing to take a definite stand, a strong stand…I believe that you will not only weaken the movement ten-fold, but that you will fail in your duty to homosexuals who need more than anything else to see themselves in a better light.'

"Nothing, however, came immediately of Nichols' plea," says D'Emilio's text.

This past summer, 18 far-right organizations, including the Christian Coalition and the Family Research Council, started the "Truth In Love" campaign in which full-page ads were purchased in several major newspapers with the message that gays can change.

In October, these organizations followed up their print campaign by launching a television ad campaign with the tag-line, "It's not about hate, it's about hope." Contradicting her denial that their campaign is politically motivated, campaign architect Janet Folger told the New York Times that she wanted to "strike at the assumption that homosexuality is an immutable trait and that gay people therefore don't need protection under anti-discrimination laws."

In response, the Human Rights Campaign started the "Ray of Light Project" which aims to highlight the abuses of so-called "ex-gay"ministries and "reparative" therapy by telling the stories of those who were involved.
Related Stories from the GayToday Archive:
GayToday's Ex-Gay Series

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