Robert Spitzer Apologizes for His Ex-Gay Study

Truth Wins Out  is reporting the text of an apology by Dr. Robert Spitzer to Ken Zucker.  Zucker, to whom Spitzer’s letter is addressed, is the editor of the Archives of Sexual Behavior, the journal in which Spitzer’s landmark study was originally published in 2001.  Here is the text:

“Several months ago I told you that because of my revised view of my 2001 study of reparative therapy changing sexual orientation, I was considering writing something that would acknowledge that I now judged the major critiques of the study as largely correct.  After discussing my revised view of the study with Gabriel Arana, a reporter for American Prospect and with Malcolm Ritter, an Associated Press science writer, I decided that I had to make public my current thinking about the study. Here it is.

Basic Research Question. From the beginning it was: “can some version of reparative therapy enable individuals to change their sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual?” Realizing that the study design made it impossible to answer this question, I suggested that the study could be viewed as answering the question, “how do individuals undergoing reparative therapy describe changes in sexual orientation?” – a not very interesting question.

The Fatal Flaw in the Study – There was no way to judge the credibility of subject reports of change in sexual orientationI offered several (unconvincing) reasons why it was reasonable to assume that the subject’s reports of change were credible and not self-deception or outright lying. But the simple fact is that there was no way to determine if the subject’s accounts of change were valid.

I believe I owe the gay community an apology for my study making unproven claims of the efficacy of reparative therapy. I also apologize to any gay person who wasted time and energy undergoing some form of reparative therapy because they believed that I had proven that reparative therapy works with some “highly motivated” individuals.

Robert Spitzer, M.D.
Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry,
Columbia University

This statement follows up an earlier statement to Gabriel Arana and my earlier post: “Dr. Robert Spitzer Retracts 2001 Landmark Ex-Gay Study”.    For over a decade, ex-gays have relied on the results of this study to prove their claim that ex-gay therapy works and that sexual orientation can successfully be changedAnyone wishing to continue promoting this flawed research will do so only in the knowledge that its author has now retracted his initial claims, publicly disowned the study and apologized for making unproven claims of the efficacy of reparative therapy.


About Alex Haiken

Born to a Jewish family in New York City, I came to faith in Christ in 1982 after trying to disprove the Bible. I found so much evidence in support of the claims of Jesus and the Bible that it required more faith to reject it than to believe it. I hold a Master’s degree from Westminster Theological Seminary and among other things am a lecturer, teacher, blogger and conference speaker. I came out as gay at a young age but was taught when I came to faith that I could not be both Christian and gay. I served for a time as a leader of an ex-gay ministry but shifted my views after recognizing that when the few passages generally appealed to in this debate are examined more closely and in context, the traditional anti-gay interpretations do not hold up to scrutiny. I learned that the ex-gay route is a scripturally unsound mirage, a specious illusion that deceitfully draws people not to a life-giving oasis but to a deeper and deeper spiritual desert. Seeing the immense need for education in this area, I began to speak and write about my experience and new-found convictions. I am also passionate about helping the Church better understand her rich Jewish roots; helping other Jewish people understand Jesus as their Jewish Messiah; and helping other gay people integrate a theologically sound, committed Christian faith with their sexuality. It is my hope that the reflections in this blog will prompt you to explore the paths they suggest, leading to your own more eloquent thinking, exploration and action. If you want, visit the “Contact” page and let me know what you think.
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3 Responses to Robert Spitzer Apologizes for His Ex-Gay Study

  1. Andinho. says:

    There will be a time when people will learn that homosexuality isn’t a choice or something that you can change.

    • Alex Haiken says:

      Andinho, it would appear we’re already well on the way. It’s been predicted that in our own lifetime, if not certainly within the next generation, that those who insisted otherwise will look as foolish and as outdated as George Wallace does today in the videos of him standing on the school steps of the University of Alabama, keeping James Hood from entering because he was black.

  2. Steve says:

    I am wowed by his admission on this issue. His honesty is quite admirable. I’m pleased to see him take an objective view on this issue.

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