Features

Pro-choice on change?

National | Condemnation of therapy for gays ignores patients' wishes

Issue: "Federal Testing," Sept. 13, 1997

The American Psychological Association (APA) last month adopted a resolution it hopes will limit treatment designed to change the behavior of homosexual men and women. Known as "reparative therapy," the technique seeks to help homosexuals troubled by their lives. What's wrong with that, you might ask, so long as people are not coerced or intimidated? From the gay rights lobby's point of view, there is plenty wrong. If homosexuals can change their behavior, then their argument for special protection under civil rights laws designed for people whose status has nothing to do with behavior (i.e., racial minorities, women, the disabled) falls apart. That's why they have stepped up the media assault, including 30 gay and lesbian characters showing up on television this coming season, according to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. It is also why they conduct organized letter-writing campaigns to newspapers demanding the censoring of any writer who does not embrace and promote their view. The APA backed away from wording that would have deemed reparative therapy "unethical," but it's only a matter of time before such a resolution is approved, given the political direction of the organization. It has an office dedicated exclusively to gay, lesbian, and bisexual issues that helped craft the approved resolution. But the facts (as opposed to the politics) are that people who want to change can change, because it is behavior at issue-not race, sex, or physical abilities. In 1980, clinical psychologist Robert Kronemeyer wrote in his book Overcoming Homosexuality: "With rare exceptions, homosexuality is neither inherited nor the result of some glandular disturbance or the scrambling of genes or chromosomes. Homosexuals are made, not born 'that way.' Buried under the 'gay' exterior of the homosexual is the hurt and rage that crippled his or her capacity for true maturation, for healthy growth and love. After a quarter-century of clinical experience, I firmly believe that homosexuality is a learned response to early painful experiences and that it can be unlearned. For those homosexuals who are unhappy with their lives and can find effective therapy, it can be overcome." There's no "hate" or "bigotry" (as gay rights people brand those who disagree with them) in that statement. Just clinical, observable facts. One of the most successful at reparative therapy is the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH). In May, NARTH released the results of a two-year study conducted among nearly 860 individuals struggling to overcome homosexuality and more than 200 psychologists and therapists who treat them. The survey found that before treatment 68 percent of respondents perceived themselves as exclusively or almost entirely homosexual, with another 22 percent stating they were more homosexual than heterosexual. After treatment, only 13 percent perceived themselves as exclusively or almost entirely homosexual, while 33 percent described themselves as either exclusively or almost entirely heterosexual. Ninety-nine percent said they believe treatment to change homosexuality can be effective and valuable. Even their thought-life had been transformed, with 63 percent indicating they had frequent and intense homosexual thoughts before treatment and only 3 percent indicating they had such thoughts after treatment. Among the psychotherapists, 82 percent said they believe therapy can help change unwanted homosexuality. Why would a professional association like APA oppose therapy for people who say they want to change their lifestyles and thoughts? How is medicine or science advanced when an organization denies homosexuals the freedom to choose (something virtually all professional medical societies support when it comes to abortion)? Why would the APA oppose treatment that is not coercive and that is conducted only with those who seek it unless it has a political agenda? c 1997, Los Angeles Times Syndicate

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Cal Thomas
Cal Thomas

Cal, whose syndicated column appears on WORLD's website and in more than 500 newspapers, is a frequent contributor to WORLD's radio news magazine The World and Everything in It. Follow Cal on Twitter @CalThomas.

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