Punishing The Fraud Who Championed 'Gay Reparative Therapy'
Dr. Robert Spitzer
I find that, somewhat to my surprise, I am in favor of demeaning, lasting punishment for people who have deliberately used their training, expertise, and position over time to bully and harm. I find, too, that I am for this even for those closer than most to life's end and even when they appear to repent. (I know I am a bad person.)
Such a one is the renown psychiatrist Robert Spitzer, now eighty. Ten years after publishing what he now admits he knew at the time was a deeply scientifically flawed effort, Dr, Spitzer has apologized for what was by many, considered a ground-breaking study of homosexual men. His fudged data -- published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, spurred on and legitimated a nationwide pseudo-scientific cottage industry for the hateful, lunatic Religious Right. Dr. Spitzer's work was nearly universally-read among practitioners. He alleged that gay men could, through concentrated psychotherapy, throw over their sexual-orientation and, were patients to work very hard at it, enjoy Better Living Through Heterosexuality.
The doctor has written an apology in the form of a letter to the editor of Archives. In it he says that, according to the New York Times, "he had no way of knowing whether the patients who said they had changed were deceiving themselves, lying, or reporting accurately." He went on to say that the claims he made were, in fact, "unproven" about what has come to be called reparative therapy.
The 'Times' reports that Dr. Spitzer's study lacked a control-group and that his subjects had largely been recommended to him by other quacks who had been engaged in this kind of faux-therapy for some time. The doctor's letter apologizes for any harm that may have, he says, resulted from his work.
That harm he caused, in fact, includes having led many to serious "depression and suicidal...behavior."
For far too many this apology sounds and is sickeningly hollow, for the fact remains that the enemies of thoroughgoing civil rights for LGBT citizens have used and continue to use Dr. Spitzer's work to justify their inane claim that gay sexual-orientation is a (poorly) chosen lifestyle and, therefore, all manner of vicious discrimination under law is justified. The 'Times' refers to Dr. Spitzer as a longtime "towering figure" in American psychiatry and that, given the man's enormous influence, was true. The tower's now crumbled yet the evil he has done continues to subvert lives.
As I've admitted, I'm a bad person: in a lesser moment I'd have no trouble referring the disgraced man, even at eighty, to the care of Lisbeth Salander, my Dragon Tatooed sweetheart, for some exquisitely permanent and painfully appropriate ink.