Warren Throckmorton, a professor at a Bible college in Pennsylvania, is frequently cited as a scholar by PFOX and other ex-gay political activists.
In an essay reprinted June 2 at the antigay michnews.com web site, Throckmorton criticizes the professional National Mental Health Association for denying a conference table to the antigay parents’ political group Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX).
Despite his frequent work with PFOX, Throckmorton begins his essay by misportraying PFOX’s mission. The organization does not claim to be primarily a support group for ex-gays. It claims to offer support to the antigay parents and friends of adult gay individuals.
But its activities do not always conform to its mission. PFOX’s political activities can be reviewed elsewhere at Ex-Gay Watch or freshly observed through PFOX’s official Yahoo group as well as a discussion group where PFOX officials and supporters correspond frequently.
More than just supporting antigay parents and peers, PFOX has opted to:
- pressure schools and teachers to supply teen-agers with antigay religious literature;
- supply antigay parents with political, sexual and religious stereotypes about their same-sex-attracted adult children, and
- lobby for discriminatory laws against gay Americans.
Throckmorton’s missteps regrettably do not stop with the description of PFOX.
Throckmorton cites data from Dr. Robert Spitzer’s study, but it seems to be presented out of context. Throckmorton selects a study that he knows intentionally overlooked everyone — several thousand people — who exited ex-gay programs, unchanged or sometimes injured by the experience. Spitzer’s study only admitted subjects reporting long-term ex-gay success. (If Throckmorton had intended to be honest about ex-gay therapies’ overall impact on depression, he might have selected any of several broader studies that he is aware of — such as those by Ariel Shidlo et al.)
Having selected the wrong data set for his argument, Throckmorton then violates a Dr. Spitzer’s warning about his study: The data indicate only a few individuals have changed their sexual orientation somewhat, not that everyone can or should change from homosexual to heterosexual attraction. Here’s what Spitzer said:
“Yes, I think change is probably extremely rare, otherwise it would not have taken so long to find the participants. And, yes, the change I found was seldom from one extreme to the other. But nevertheless, there was change. And that seems to me to be a worthwhile discovery, isn’t it?”
Among Spitzer’s 200 ex-gay subjects, some reported circumstantially that they were less depressed than when they identified as gay.
XGW is always glad to hear of people who have overcome depression. However, from this circumstantial factoid, Throckmorton implies that it is the ex-gay therapies that successfully treated the subjects’ depression. In fact, several ex-gay peer-support personnel — including some affiliated with PFOX and its Yahoo group — have discouraged medical treatment for clinical depression. Reasons differ, ranging from distrust of “secular” therapies to a belief that depression is caused by homosexuality or by demons, not by chemical imbalances in the brain. Throckmorton does not mention this, nor does he acknowledge that most ex-gay programs are informal peer-support efforts, not professionally guided therapy centers.
Throckmorton closes his essay by needlessly insulting the NMHA — saying it lacks an “open mind” toward the clinical distortions and political biases of PFOX and Throckmorton.
If PFOX and Throckmorton wish to establish respect and acceptance among mental-health professionals in the future, then they have some obvious options. One option, for example, would be to avoid distorting professionals’ studies. Another option would be to acknowledge those who feel they were injured by ex-gay therapy programs.