Doctor Challenges Homosexual Assumptions

by Dr. Jeffrey Satinover

Editor's note: This concludes testimony by Dr. Satinover which was delivered May 3, 2004, before members of the Massachusetts Legislature, as that body deliberated whether or not to legalize same-sex "marriages."

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Claim 2: That homosexuality is an immutable state of an individual.

The 1973 decision to delete homosexuality from the diagnostic manual of the American Psychiatric Association has had a chilling effect on scientific objectivity with respect to homosexuality and on both public and professional attitudes concerning its permanence as an individual characteristic. The decision tended to confirm the sentiment that, since homosexuality has been voted out as a formal "disorder," it need not, cannot, and should not be "treated," regardless of the principle that in a free society individuals should be free to pursue happiness each according to his own lights, consonant with the well-being of others.

But the American Psychiatric Association, like most other professional-practitioner associations, is not a scientific organization. It is a professional guild and as such, amenable to political influence in ways that science per se must not allow itself to be. Thus, the decision to de-list homosexuality was not based on scientific evidence as is widely claimed. As Simon LeVay (founder of the Institute for Gay and Lesbian Education in San Francisco, cited in part 1) acknowledges, "Gay activism was clearly the force that propelled the American Psychiatric Association to declassify homosexuality."

But of far greater import is the fact that whether it is deemed a "disorder" or not, it is undesirable to many, and susceptible to change. The evidence for this fact should not be obscured by the false assumption that homosexuality is either innate and unchangeable, or a "lifestyle choice" and changeable at will. It is neither: It is most often a deeply-embedded condition that develops over many years, beginning long before the development of moral and self-awareness, and is genuinely experienced by the individual as though it was never absent in one form or another. It is, in other words, similar to most human characteristics, and shares with them the typical possibilities for, and difficulties in, achieving sustained change.

A review of the research over many years demonstrates a consistent 30-52% success rate in the treatment of unwanted homosexual attraction. Masters and Johnson reported a 65% success rate after a five-year follow-up. Other professionals report success rates ranging from 30% to 70%.

Dr. Lisa Diamond, a professor at the University of Utah, concludes that, "Sexual identity is far from fixed in women who aren't exclusively heterosexual."

Dr. Robert Spitzer, the prominent psychiatrist and researcher at Columbia University, has been the chief architect of the American Psychiatric Association's diagnostic manual and he was the chief decision-maker in the 1973 removal of homosexuality from the diagnostic manual. He considers himself a gay-affirmative psychiatrist, and a long-time supporter of gay rights. He has long been convinced that homosexuality is neither a disorder nor changeable. Because of the increasingly heated debate over the latter point within the professional community, Spitzer decided to conduct his own study of the matter.

He concluded: "I'm convinced from the people I have interviewed, that for many of them, they have made substantial changes toward becoming heterosexual...I think that's news...I came to this study skeptical. I now claim that these changes can be sustained."

When he presented his results to the Gay and Lesbian committees of the APA, anticipating a scientific debate, he was shocked to be met with intense pressure to withhold his findings for political reasons. Dr. Spitzer has subsequently received considerable "hate mail" and complaints from his colleagues because of his research.

Douglas C. Haldeman, Ph.D., an independent practitioner in Seattle, Wash., is a prominent gay-affirmative theorist. He comments, "From the perspective of gay theorists and activists...the question of conversion therapy's efficacy, or lack thereof, is irrelevant. It has been seen as a social phenomenon, one that is driven by anti-gay prejudice in society."

Regarding change and the right to treatment, lesbian activist Camille Paglia states the following, in terms considerably sharper than most of us feel comfortable with:

"Is the gay identity so fragile that it cannot bear the thought that some people may not wish to be gay? Sexuality is highly fluid, and reversals are theoretically possible. However, habit is refractory; once the sensory pathways have been blazed and deepened by repetition-a phenomenon obvious in the struggle with obesity, smoking, alcoholism, or drug addiction...helping gays to learn how to function heterosexually, if they wish, is a perfectly worthy aim."

Furthermore, just as locking onto a "choice versus genetic" dichotomy obscures reality, so, too, does locking onto "unchangeable versus therapeutic change." For it is also the case, well-documented but unobserved and unremarked upon, that the majority of "homosexuals" become "heterosexual" spontaneously, without therapy.

By way of introduction to the scientific evidence for this, it's worth citing Paglia again: "We should be honest enough to consider whether homosexuality may not indeed be a pausing at the prepubescent stage where children anxiously band together by gender."

The scientific evidence is as follows:

The most comprehensive, most recent and most accurate study of sexuality, the National Health and Social Life Survey (NHSLS), was completed in 1994 by a large research team from the University of Chicago and funded by almost every large government agency and NGO with an interest in the AIDS epidemic. They studied every aspect of sexuality, but among their findings is the following which I'm going to quote for you directly:

"7.1 [to as much as 9.1] percent of the men [we studied, more than 1,500] had at least one same-gender partner since puberty. ... [But] almost 4 percent of the men [we studied] had sex with another male before turning eighteen but not after. These men. . . constitute 42 percent of the total number of men who report ever having a same gender experience."

Let me put this in context: Roughly ten out of every 100 men have had sex with another man at some time-the origin of the 10% gay myth. Most of these will have identified themselves as gay before turning eighteen and will have acted on it. But by age 18, a full half of them no longer identify themselves as gay and will never again have a male sexual partner. And this is not a population of people selected because they went into therapy; it's just the general population. Furthermore, by age twenty-five, the percentage of gay-identified men drops to 2.8%. This means that without any intervention whatsoever, three out of four boys who think they're gay at age l6 aren't by 25.

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Claim 3: The only disadvantages of homosexuality are those caused by social disapproval and discrimination.

To mistakenly support three out of four gay-identified men in their identification with homosexuality is not a benign mistake. Bailey (of the twin study) recently examined the question as to whether homosexuality is associated with a higher level of psychopathology. He concluded:

"Homosexuality represents a deviation from normal development and is associated with other such deviations that may lead to mental illness[or, another possibility]... that increased psychopathology among homosexual people is a consequence of lifestyle differences associated with sexual orientation."

He specifically cited "behavioral risk factors associated with male homosexuality such as receptive anal sex and promiscuity." He noted that it would be a shame if "sociopolitical concerns prevented researchers from conscientious consideration of any reasonable hypothesis."

The specific concern in supporting young men in a gay identification is that innumerable studies from major centers around the U.S. and elsewhere note that a 20-year-old man who identified himself as gay carries 30% (or greater) risk of being HIV positive or dead of AIDS by age 30. A recent Canadian study published concluded that in urban centers gay male identification is associated with a life expectancy comparable to that in Canada in the 1870s.

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Claim 4: A society composed of same-sex couples raising children in family-like units will differ from a society composed of traditional family units in no undesirable ways.

There has recently been an attempt to demonstrate that raising children in a same-sex household has no ill effect. These studies are few in number; none has ever looked at those areas where difficulties would be expected; and one of the most repeatedly-cited researchers was excoriated by the court for her testimony when she refused to turn over her research notes to the court even at the urging of the ACLU attorneys for whom she was testifying.

What is known, from decades of research on family structure, studying literally thousands of children, is that every departure from the traditional, stable, mother-father family has severe detrimental effects upon children; and these effects persist not only into adulthood but into the next generation as well.

In short, the central problem with mother-mother or father-father families is that they deliberately institute, and intend to keep in place indefinitely, a family structure known to be deficient in being obligatorily and permanently either fatherless or motherless.

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Jeffrey Satinover, M.D., is a board-certified psychiatrist who has practiced psychotherapy and/or psychiatry since 1974. He is the author of numerous articles in peer-reviewed journals of psychology and of neuroscience. Among books he has written or contributed to is Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth.

This article comes from Traditional Values Coalition

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