- (Photo: Reuters/Tim Shaffer)
A critically acclaimed psychiatrist, often considered the father of modern psychiatry, has come forward with an apology to the homosexual community for suggesting that there was a therapy to reform sexual orientation.
Dr. Robert L. Spitzer, a former Columbia University student who at an early age became a junior member of the American Psychiatric Association, changed the way the world perceived homosexuality when he pushed for the association to remit homosexuality as an "illness" in 1973. He successfully redefined the issue as "sexual orientation disturbance," a disorder which affected individuals whose sexual orientation, gay or straight, caused them distress.
At first lauded as a victory for gay rights activists, Spitzer was later accused of being a "trader" for suggesting that homosexuals could undergo therapy and successfully change their orientation by undergoing "sexual reorientation" or "conversion" therapy.
"The majority of participants gave reports of change from a predominantly or exclusively homosexual orientation before therapy to a predominantly or exclusively heterosexual orientation in the past year," his initial paper concluded.
The study was presented in 2001 and now, after more than a decade, Spitzer has decided that he made a poor career decision. The reason? According to Spitzer, there was no way to confirm whether or not people were telling the truth about their reformed lifestyles. Ho also suggested that those who participated in the original study had not always undergone complete therapy.
"People lie, to themselves and others. They continually change their stories, to suit their needs and moods," the New York Times reported, as a conclusion to Spitzer's revelation.
"I believe I owe the gay community an apology for my study making unproven claims of the efficacy of reparative therapy," Spitzer said in a letter to Dr. Ken Zucker in April. "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."
Spitzer's confession comes a week before the doctor's 80th birthday amidst a struggle with Parkinson's disease, a condition which affects nerve cells in the brain and leads to muscle dysfunction.