USA Today, in a case of journalistic malpractice, chose to publish today an op-ed supporting so-called “ex-gay” or “reparative” therapy, a practice that has been denounced and labeled as not only ineffective but actually dangerous by many if not all major medical organizations. The op-ed is authored by a psychologist linked to NARTH, the “National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality” whose main body of “work” is by Dr. Paul Cameron, a wholly discredited “scientist.”
USA Today is in the business of publishing news and opinion from reliable sources, and has failed miserably in this instance. The editorial board should remove this dangerous column, apologize for publishing it, and follow up with one explaining the facts about “ex-gay” therapy and the dangers associated with it.
Contrary to popular desire among anti-gay and anti-science conservatives, some issues — like climate change and evolution — are settled science. There’s no “debate” to have because they are proven facts. The danger of “ex-gay therapy” is one of those settled science facts not up for debate any longer.
Additionally — shamefully, lazily, callously, and offensively — USA Today used an image of LGBT activists and allies from a recent New Jersey United for Marriage rally to accompany the op-ed, clearly without their express consent of it being used in association with this dangerous opinion piece. It was a poor choice and should be changed if the editors refuse to remove the piece entirely. Figured prominently in the image (screenshot, top) is New Jersey native Penny Gnesin, wife of former Army Captain and LGBT activist Sue Fulton.
“That’s Penny, in the scooter,” the couple told The New Civil Rights Movement in an email today:
“In eighteen years together, we’ve dealt with job loss, MS, and breast cancer. We’re strong enough to stand up to the haters, but we won’t allow our images to be used by those who would use their crackpot theories to mistreat young, vulnerable gay and lesbian kids. We are outraged.”
Now, to the actual op-ed.
“Sexual reorientation therapy not unethical” is by Nicholas A. Cummings.
Cummings’ bio in the piece says he “was president of the American Psychological Association (1979-80).” It does not state that he is associated with NARTH, nor does it state that he delivered a keynote address for the group, nor does it state that the man NARTH used to use before they were forced to turn to Cummings has denounced his previous reparative therapy studies.
In fact, every major leader in the “ex-gay” movement has denounced their participation and apologized for the harm they’ve caused.
But USA Today is oblivious to this fact, and by publishing Cummings’ op-ed has given unnecessary and false “hope” to some who still believe homosexuality is a disease and something in need of a cure, like cancer, diabetes, or high blood pressure.
In fact, homosexuality is as normal as being born blond, left handed, or tall.
“The sweeping allegation that such [reparative therapy] treatment must be a fraud because homosexual orientation can’t be changed is damaging,” Cummings writes. He is wrong, and there are countless medical professionals who have, do, and will oppose him.
“I personally saw more than 2,000 patients with same-sex attraction, and my staff saw thousands more. We worked hard to develop approaches to meeting the needs of these patients,” Cummings writes, as he links to an article at NARTH — another dangerous and poor choice by USA Today for allowing it, which they do again below.
“They generally sought therapy for one of three reasons: to come to grips with their gay identity, to resolve relationship issues or to change their sexual orientation,” Cummings continues:
We would always inform patients in the third group that change was not easily accomplished. With clinical experience, my staff and I learned to assess the probability of change in those who wished to become heterosexual.
Of the roughly 18,000 gay and lesbian patients whom we treated over 25 years through Kaiser, I believe that most had satisfactory outcomes. The majority were able to attain a happier and more stable homosexual lifestyle. Of the patients I oversaw who sought to change their orientation, hundreds were successful.
That last part, “hundreds were successful,” has been disproven time and time again by case after case after case of so-called ‘ex-gays” who amazingly get caught not being ex-gay. The perfect example is former officer and scientific advisor to NARTH, George Rekers, whom, you’ll remember, was caught with a young male prostitute coming back from a European vacation. NARTH quickly scrubbed their website of any vestige of his name and Rekers was forced into exile.
Alan Chambers is another example.
Chambers is the former president of the now defunct Exodus International, which used to be the top “ex-gay” organization. Here’s what he recently said about his “work”:
“I am sorry for the pain and hurt many of you have experienced. I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn’t change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents.”
Chambers also acknowledged that his work has ultimately resulted in suicides, and said:
“I have heard many firsthand stories from people called ex-gay survivors. Stories of people who went to Exodus affiliated ministries or ministers for help only to experience more trauma. I have heard stories of shame, sexual misconduct, and false hope. In every case that has been brought to my attention, there has been swift action resulting in the removal of these leaders and/or their organizations.”
At Think Progress, Zack Ford explains the harm caused by “ex-gay therapy”:
The APA has concluded that sexual orientation change efforts are at best ineffective, if not harmful. In a survey of ex-gay survivors — those who once attempted to change their orientation then later embraced it — over 90 percent reported that they experienced harm. A study designed to prove ex-gay therapy worked found that even those who claim success are just acting the part — their orientation hasn’t changed. Arguably, many of the “treatments” the plaintiffs in the JONAH case experienced were not only ineffective and potentially psychologically harmful, but outright abusive.
Again, USA Today must remove the op-ed and apologize for publishing it. And they must publish one in its place detailing the dangers of “ex-gay” therapy.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Dr. Cummings as a psychiatrist. He is a psychologist.
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