Ex-Gay Research: Analyzing the Spitzer Study and Its Relation to Science, Religion, Politics, and Culture

By Leight, Arlen Keith | Contemporary Sexuality, December 2007 | Go to article overview

Ex-Gay Research: Analyzing the Spitzer Study and Its Relation to Science, Religion, Politics, and Culture


Leight, Arlen Keith, Contemporary Sexuality


Ex-Gay Research: Analyzing the Spitzer Study and Its Relation to Science, Religion, Politics, and Culture Editors Jack Drescher and Kenneth J. Zucker, PhD. Harrington Park Press, 2006. $34.95.

Seasoned clinicians, educators and researchers will recognize Ex-Gay Research: Analyzing the Spitzer Study and Its Relation to Science, Religion, Politics, and Culture as another Hayworth Press Publication conglomeration of articles, position statements, interviews and commentaries. The editors' attempt at any organization fails miserably, and the volume is disjointed without direction or conclusion. That being said, the work gives the reader everything he/she ever wanted to know about the current state of the debate regarding so-called reparative therapy, and it is up to the reader to come to his/her own conclusions.

Ex-Gay Research focuses on Robert L. Spitzer's 2003 journal article "Can Some Gay Men and Lesbians Change Their Sexual Orientation? 200 Participants Reporting a Change from Homosexual to Heterosexual Orientation." The original piece is reprinted in the book along with a follow-up article by Spitzer and a personal interview. Remembered as the man instrumental in helping to remove homosexuality as a mental disorder from the DSM, Spitzer's work is lauded by the religious right and proponents of reparative therapy and denounced by gay rights groups and the psychology/sexology community. The book presents the article's pros and cons, exploring the political, social and scientific ramifications of Spitzer's study. The fact that the work is heavily weighted toward the flaws in methodology and conclusions is testament to the fact that the study was more about Spitzer's ego than scientific contribution. In the interview Spitzer states, "I admit, there is something in me that is always looking for trouble or something to challenge the orthodoxy."

The vast majority of contributors found a biased sample selection to be the study's greatest flaw. Almost all of the 200 subjects were recruited from ex-gay religious ministries, the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (a conversion advocacy group), or from therapists that provide sexual reorientation therapy (which, by the way, is never clearly defined). …

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