Letters to the Editor, Wall Street Journal
Dr. Charles Socarides and his co-authors distort and exaggerate more
than 40 years of social science research about sexual orientation
(“Don’t Forsake Homosexuals Who Want Help” by Charles Socarides,
Benjamin Kaufman, Joseph Nicolosi, Jeffrey Satinover and Richard
Fitzgibbons, editorial page, Jan. 10). What they fail to tell the reader
— and this is backed up by reports conducted by members of the American
Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the
American Sociological Association — is that, at most, the small
percentage of people who claim to become heterosexuals have changed only
their behavior, not their identity, fantasies, or attractions; were most
likely bisexual to begin with; and exhibit these sexual behavioral
changes only for a short-term following therapy. Long-term behavioral
changes and changes in sexual orientation (that is, identity and
attraction) have not been established scientifically.
Furthermore, their preposterous ideas about “excessive clinging to
mothers,” defective masculinity, and feelings of guilt and shame have
not been substantiated ever since researchers began to look beyond
The authors’ remark implying that if many men had sought reparative
treatment for their homosexuality they would not have died from AIDS
uncovers one of their vicious agendas. Their assumption — that if these
men were to have become heterosexual, they would not get AIDS — is a
sad comment on their lack of knowledge about HIV transmission. With the
majority of AIDS cases world-wide attributed to male-to-female sexual
transmission, why would they think lives would have been saved by
converting them behaviorally to heterosexual sex?
Peter M. Nardi
Professor of Sociology
(Mr. Nardi is co-editor of “In Changing Times: Gay Men & Lesbians
Encounter HIV/AIDS,” University of Chicago Press.)
The American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric
Association long ago determined that homosexuality is not a mental
disorder. Research has failed to prove that one’s sexual orientation can
be changed. The “Homophobic Therapies: Documenting the Damage” project
is conducting research on behalf of the National Lesbian and Gay Health
Association with lesbians and gay men across the country who have gone
through conversion therapies or counseling. The project is being led by
Drs. Ariel Shidlo and Michael Schroeder, of New York’s Columbia Center
for Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Mental Health and Montefiore Medical
Center respectfully. Their research has found that many individuals are
significantly scarred by such ineffective interventions.
Christopher J. Portelli
National Lesbian and Gay Health Association
(Also signing the letter is Jeffrey Akman, M. D., Department of
Psychiatry, George Washington University, and board president, NLGHA.)
Dr. Socarides and his colleagues are correct in saying there is
controversy about the biological basis of homosexuality. As authors of
the Scientific American articles they cite — one arguing for such a
biological basis, one skeptical of such claims — we obviously have
diverging positions on the issue. But we are united in our belief that
homosexuality, whatever its origins, is a healthy variation of human
sexuality that neither needs nor is amenable to medical treatment. On
the contrary, we lament the great suffering imposed on gay people over
the past hundred years by misguided and fruitless attempts to change
their sexual orientation.
Simon LeVay, Ph. D.
West Hollywood, Calif.
William Byne, M. D., Ph.D.
Department of Psychiatry
Mount Sinai School of Medicine
It’s small wonder that many homosexuals seek counseling and help; in
fact, the miracle is that any one of us rise above societal
condemnations and become useful and productive citizens. What is
puzzling is how respected newspapers such as yours publish this garbage.
Most psychiatrists long ago abandoned the strong mother, weak father
theories and have instead tried to help gay people come to terms with
who they are.
The Colony, Texas
The authors say psychiatrists should suggest to unhappy gay men that
they consider therapy to become straight to reduce their risk of HIV
infection and AIDS. If one follows their line of reasoning it might also
be good to encourage unhappy straight women to become lesbians since
this would not only reduce their risk of becoming infected with HIV, but
would also totally eliminate their risk of unwanted pregnancies.
John F. Krowka
Dr. Socarides, et al., present some infrequently reported
information: Homosexuals, through therapy, may sometimes be able to
change to heterosexuality. This assertion is consistent with a survey I
conducted in 1992. The results were published in 1994 in the Journal of
the American Psychoanalytic Association, 42:4:285 psychoanalysts from
all regions of the county reported their experiences analyzing 1,215
homosexual patients (824 male, 391 female). They reported that 84% of
patients received significant therapeutic benefit, and that 23% changed
to heterosexuality. The average length of analysis was 4.2 years.
Houston MacIntosh, M. D.
I would like to thank Dr. Charles Socarides, et al, for setting me
straight (so to speak). As a conservative, middle-aged gay man, I had
come to trust your editorial page for better analysis and more accurate
information than was available elsewhere. After reading this, that trust
Perhaps the cruelest assertion by the authors is that it is despair
over not having a “normal life with a wife and children” that causes
some young gay men to feel their lives are of little value, leading them
to engage in unprotected sex and contract AIDS. If these young men feel
of little value, it is perhaps because they come of age in a society
that largely treats them as freakish, laughable, or worst of all,
nonexistent. It would be far better for us to raise our homosexual sons
with the same expectations that we have of our heterosexual sons: that
they live decent, productive and monogamous lives. That way, young gay
men would be freed from despair; and many heterosexual women would be
spared the pain of marriage to men who can never feel romantic love for
Paul M. Nicholls
One needn’t look far to see the authors’ true colors revealed. There
is a clear message here: homosexuality is wrong. Heterosexuality is
“normal,” while homosexuality is a “disorder” or a “condition.” Those
men whose sexuality the doctors claim to have changed (a dubious claim,
at best) are “improved.” As an adult gay male (and one, incidentally,
who never “clung” to my mother in early childhood nor experienced any of
the other cited “causes” for homosexuality), I know that my sexuality is
normal, as is my 15-year monogamous relationship.
Sherman Oaks, Calif.
It doesn’t take a genius to understand that being gay isn’t a choice.
Why would millions choose a lifestyle for which they will be scorned? A
lifestyle in which committed couples are not entitled to the same legal
benefits as straight, married couples? A lifestyle for which they might
get beaten up or killed? A lifestyle that may very well isolate them
from friends and family? The only choice for a gay person is whether to
accept being gay and live a happy, productive life, or deny it and live
in a lonely closet, lying and hiding.
Apparently, lesbians are not homosexuals. Why leave us desperately
unhappy women out? We too want to experience shock treatment, drugs and
psychological treatment to cure us of our terrible affliction. Perhaps
voluntary euthanasia of us poor, depressed, unfortunates might be a
quicker, cleaner solution, or concentration camps with compulsory
laughing gas to cheer us up.
The late Dr. Evelyn Hookers and others conducted research on gay men
in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s. Their research convinced most psychiatrists
and psychologists that there was nothing abnormal about same sex
attraction and that there was nothing to treat. This research concluded
that the biggest problem gay men and lesbians faced was the social
prejudices fueled by hatred and misinformation.
Dr. Socarides and his colleagues promise to help young homosexuals
who want to become heterosexuals, but their therapy administers the very
poison that causes despair in these men. Therapies that attempt to
“reverse” homosexuality have been proven ineffective, but they are not
harmless. These therapists promote self-hatred and a sense of
hopelessness that their clients have come to resolve. Research,
including my own, has shown that self-hatred, caused by the direction of
antihomosexual attitudes toward the self, causes psychological and
physical distress. From an early age, society teaches gay men and
lesbians that they have no hope for intimacy, love, and family.
Socarides and his colleagues have incorrectly concluded that young
homosexual men who seek their help experience an “unwanted sexual
Ilan H. Meyer, Ph.D.
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