Ex-Gay Watch Profile: Prof. Warren Throckmorton
A quick overview of Warren Throckmorton
Associate professor of psychology
Grove City College, Pa. GCC is a conservative Christian college. Its psychology department comprises four professors.
Key project: Truth Comes Out
Editorials and research: DrThrockmorton.com
Education: B.A. from Cedarville College, M.A. from Central Michigan University, Ph.D from Ohio University.
Majors not commonly disclosed.
In November 2003, Throckmorton co-wrote a letter to the American Psychological Association. Throckmorton said he was "appalled" that an earlier article encouraged parents to accept and affirm gender-variant children.
Judith Glassgold, a leader of the American Psychological Association‘s Division 44 — Society for the Study of Lesbian, Gay, & Bisexual Concerns — wrote a letter to Psychotherapy (Spring 2002) concerning an article by Mark Yarhouse and Throckmorton. The letter addressed "serious shortcomings in the article titled ‘Ethical implications of attempts to ban sexual reorientation therapies.’ James Cantor wrote a letter on behalf of the Division to the journal Sexuality and Disability. The article in question suggested that sexual orientation change could be possible with the off-label use of medication (‘Fluoxetine-associated remission of ego-dystonic male homosexuality’)."
Throckmorton wrote "Initial Empirical and Clinical Findings Concerning the Change Process for Ex-Gays" in the June 2002 issue of the APA journal Professional Psychology: Research and Practice.
Throckmorton frequently claims that Dr. Robert Spitzer’s 2001 study of ex-gays not only supports his belief that gay people in general can change their sexual orientation, but also demonstrates that reparative therapies cure depression. However, Spitzer’s study sample purposely excluded the majority of ex-gays who are unaffected by reparative therapy, or who in some cases are harmed (made more confused and depressed). (Spitzer did this in order to focus on the veracity of success stories.) In a CNN interview about change of sexual orientation, Spitzer says: "…I’m not saying that this can be easily done, or that most homosexuals who want to change can make this kind of change. I suspect it’s quite unusual, and probably more unusual than those who claim it is…." Spitzer also says, "And I certainly would be very upset if my study now … were used to justify coercive treatment. That would be a terrible thing. If it was used to justify the denial of civil rights to homosexuals." Here at XGW, Michael Hamar notes:
Additionally, in a Wall Street Journal (May 23, 2001) editorial, Spitzer stated “In fact, I suspect that the vast majority of gay people would be unable to to alter by much a firmly established homosexual orientation." In a July 1, 2001, interview in the Advocate, Spitzer stated only "a small minority – perhaps 3% – might have a malleable sexual orientation." He also stated in the Advocate interview that his research was being "twisted by the Christian right."
Lastly, ex-gay apologist Warren Throckmorton in a June 2002 article in the APA Journal reviewed the few studies of ex-gay program success rates and found that even Joseph Nicolosi’s study (Nicolosi is the "high priest" of the ex-gay programs) revealed a failure rate of over 67%.
Throckmorton provides this spin on studies showing that reparative therapies are harmful: Yes, reparative therapies harm some people, but they help some people, too. Throckmorton encourages social acceptance of reparative therapy while making little public effort to reduce or stop the harm.
Thanks to Michael Hamar for helping to compile this information.
I’ve posted here before, but thought I would add another, since I am an alum of Grove City College and have been treated by Dr. Throckmorton. (And a correction, GCC does offer a Master’s degree in accounting).
Dr. T has posted to this site before, and if he comes across my post, I welcome any corrections to my statements. As someone typically characterized an ‘ex-ex-gay’, I feel a responsibility towards fair representation of both sides of the debate, if you will.
I received an excellent, if one-sided, education at Grove City (the reading and workload at this school is well above the norm for Christian colleges, but the scholarship is generally insulated, with a fiscally and socially conservative slant). In a similar manner, I would say the treatment I received from Dr. T (I presented with symptoms of depression) was slanted by his viewpoint that I ought to recover from my homosexual leanings. In my undergraduate days, I leaned back and forth between religious views as well as acceptance or loathing of my sexuality. Dr. T did make it clear at the outset that there are others who would take a different approach than he, and I am grateful for the inroads we made together in facing some of the tremendous difficulties I had growing up. He also, as I recall, made it clear that there was no guarantee I would be ‘free’ from my tendancies, but that he personally knew of people who had successfuly transitioned.
For Christians who are firmly decided against their sexual identity as gay, Dr. T offers a means to try to discover some reasons, a story, if you will, for how this came to be. This in itself can be a solace in the face of strong fundamentalist (a term which does not characterize most of the faculty at GCC) hatred for any sexual ‘aberrations.’ And if his methods can give these people the strength to remain celibate, to have a greater sense of self-acceptance and worth before their God, I commend him.
My concern is that his technique, and the approach of others like him, will be held out to the straight conservative Christian community as a panacea, a trump card for political activists who do not want to accept the reality of a pluralistic society.
“See,” they will say, “You can change, so we shouldn’t have to.”
A little over a year ago, I read Wayne Besen’s book, “Anything But Straight”, and asked Dr. T to read it. I have kept in touch with him via email, and participation in at least one survey, since I graduated from GCC in December of 1999. To my dismay, he has not. I read his editorials occasionally, and received one about an SVU episode which aired last fall. Ironically, in my own writing, I had surveyed that particular show and came to the conclusion that it was like an “after-school” special. But his editorial was based only on hearsay–he hadn’t seen the episode himself. To his credit, he rectified this in a later piece.
However, just as he critiques the APA in his August 10th editorial about their stance on gay marriage, Dr. Throckmorton has already come to his conclusions before he investigates (the SVU piece was only the most glaring example of this). So, to accuse the APA and pro-gay counselors of bias is unfair. He is equally biased. (And although the term ‘objective’ is sacred in the scientific community and ‘bias’ is the label of a heretic, I believe that the former is a myth and the latter is simply an affirmation of the human nature of any enterprise of knowledge.)
However, just as I hope he would strive for more accuracy, nuance and fairness in his editorials (many of which become ammunition in the hands of less educated laypeople), I hope that those of us who disagree will give him and his colleagues space for their thoughts.
CK — many thanks. I’m grateful for your balanced observations, and the correction.
Just one problem – it doesn’t seem that he WANTS to strive for more accuracy, nuance or fairness. If he does he removes the underpinnings of his entire belief system.
Just an observation…..
Just perusing Throckmorton’s web site, and found a wonderful little tidbit when he “reevaluates” the results of another study on lesbian parenting and its effect on sexual orientation of children. The study he reevaluates (actually it’s more of a reinterpretation, since I am assuming he did not have access to the actual raw data), compared 25 children raised by lesbians to 21 raised by hets. The original study researchers stated that based on this very small sample, in which only 2 of the children of lesbians reported being lesbians themselves, compared to 0 for the het’s children, they could not conclude there were any differences in the sexual orientation of the two groups of children – because of the small study size, those 2 lesbian children are basically irrelevant.
Throckmorton is fine with this, but in his reanalysis states:
“However, when the Kinsey ratings are examined, there are four participants with Kinsey ratings of 2 or higher, thus indicating at least bisexual levels of same sex attraction. There is no explanation in the article for this discrepancy in the report. This suggests the need for a re-examination of the differences between groups. If one asks the question: “Does having a lesbian mother make one more likely to experience same sex attraction?” then one may reanalyze the Kinsey ratings to answer that question. Indeed, there is a statistically significant difference between the two groups when one compares ratings of same sex attraction.”
First, Throckmorton does not report whether the 4 individuals with Kinsey ratings above 2 include the 2 lesbians already counted. But more importantly, he misses a huge issue – if these were natural children, and homosexuality is genetic, of course there would be more gay kids in the lesbian group than in the het group!
Meta-analysis of all the research done to date comparing the children of gays and straights shows similar results to this small study – no difference between self-identification as gay or straight, but a higher likelihood that the children of lesbians (there are almost no studies on the children of gay men) will themselves both a) acknowledge same-sex attractions and b) have had same-sex experiences. Again, one should expect the children of gays to be more likely to acknowledge being gay and to acknowledge same-sex attractions even when they are basically straight, both because of genetic and environment causes. Certainly the children of lesbians are not going to be indoctrinated as most children are with anti-gay attitudes, so they will be more willing to acknowledge their underlying biological sexual orientation.