Nicolosi Asked Me To Lie To Spitzer – A Consistent Public Record
(Part 2 of 2) These posts detail how my 4th year of college (2002) an incident of anti-gay vandalism prompted a civil debate on campus. Linda Nicolosi, wife of Joe Nicolosi intruded into the debate with an editorial in the school paper. I responded with my own letter which would be the first time I spoke out publicly about being an “ex-ex-gay.” In my letter I stated my former therapist, Joseph Nicolosi, asked me to participate in the Spitzer study and to lie when Robert Spitzer when asked how I’d heard of the study. Spitzer recently accused me of fabricating my claim Nicolosi asked me to lie. The purpose of these posts is to show my story of being asked to lie has remained the same my first public disclosure of having been an ex-gay. Part 1 can be found here.
In this week’s column, Wayne Besen mentions how my old ex-gay therapist Joe Nicolosi asked me to participate in the Spitzer study and lie if I was asked who referred me. This is by no means the first time I’ve said this since I’ve written about it before on XGW. It seems like Wayne’s column was the first time Robert Spitzer had ever heard of this. For some reason I’m sooooo hard to locate online so Spitzer chose to email Wayne, who shared the letter with me:
To: Wayne Besen
From: Robert Spitzer
This is all absurd. Mr. Gonzales is obviously lying. How do I know? Because Nicelosi had nothing to gain by asking a patient to participate in the study but deny that he had made the referal. In fact, Nicelosi was sorry that he was unable to refer more of his former patients.
Besen says that with this “revelation” I now have “an obligation to contact all of his [my] supposedly “independent” subjects and find out if they were coerced into participating in his study under false pretenses.” Note that “independent” is in quotes although I never used that word nor tried to hide the fact that most of my subjects were referred from either NARTH or Exodus.
I have welcomed critiques of my study but do not appreciate this effort to discredit it with totally false accusations.
Robert L. Spitzer, M.D.
Professor of Psychiatry
New York State Psychiatric Institute
I’ve stated consistently and publicly since 2002 that Nicolosi asked me to lie. Of course that first disclosure in 2002, long before I ever became politically involved at Ex-Gay Watch, has been locked away in the Cal Poly archives. As I outlined in part 1, Linda Nicolosi joined a campus debate by inserting her irrelevant agenda into my school paper. Up until that point I had never spoken out publicly about being an “ex-ex-gay” or my time in therapy with her husband. I was following the debate in the online edition of the school paper from Thailand that quarter where I penned my reply:
The final life raft of anti-gay argumentation has taken to the water on our campus, and for the benefit of society, it needs to be sunk. That would be the false idea that homosexuality can be changed. I’ll let Chairman of the NARTH Board, Benjamin Kaufman, put it in his own words: “Regardless of politics, homosexuality is what it is: a behavioral pattern associated with what, by any reasonable standard, must be regarded as an unacceptable prevalence of medical and emotional illness.”
Dr. Nicolosi wrote in a book on his “cure,” which he calls “reparative therapy,” and a copy of it sits in Kennedy Library. Still a Baptist my freshman year, I foolishly pursued this false cure for nearly a year with Dr. Nicolosi from his plush 13th (top) floor Encino clinic, which also just so happens to serve as NARTH’s headquarters.
Who opposes NARTH? Try the American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics. In fact, the American Psychiatric and Psychological associations have both issued statements specifically denouncing reparative therapy.
Mrs. Nicolosi asks students to look at the “scientific arguments,” which is interesting, since the medical director of the American Psychological Association says, “The APA maintains that there is no published scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of reparative therapy as a treatment to change one’s sexual orientation. The potential risks of reparative therapy are great and may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient.” Interestingly, the one sole “study” NARTH clings to is the Spitzer study, which was based on patients self-reporting the effects of “treatment.” Many of the subjects were referred by organizations like NARTH and were still paying money to such organizations.
AS a matter of face, in one of my last sessions of therapy, Dr. Nicolosi asked me to volunteer for the Spitzer study, and he specifically asked me not to say he had referred me. At that point I was beginning to realize I didn’t need to be cured, and never took part in the survey myself.
Other “ex-gays” have not fared so well. Chairman of Exodus International (like NARTH, but more Bibles) is “ex-gay” John Paulk. He WAS the poster-boy of the “ex-gay” movement and was even on the cover of Newsweek, until in October 2000 he was caught in a Washington, D.C., gay bar. His wife professes to be an “ex-lesbian” and sadly they have two kids. But there are thousands more men across the country who are willing to pay whatever it takes to let themselves believe they’re not gay, and NARTH and Dr. Nicolosi are the products.
Daniel S. Gonzales is an architecture senior who is studying abroad in Thailand.
I’d like to thank Morgan at the Pride Alliance Center and my 5th-year designated-driver-for-drinking-and-dancing Alexa. Both ladies were invaluable in helping me retrieve old articles.
Hmmm, what an extraordinary claim by Spitzer. He could have at least contacted you first.I think we may be seeing the obvious: many in the profession that claims to be able to see into deepest (and hidden) thoughts of people do not like to be told they were lied to. Successfully lied to.But first (to reiterate): we do know that Nicolosi was up to his eyeballs in Spitzer’s study. We know this because Spitzer said so.As for Nicolosi’s reasons… God only knows. This is a man who jokes about brain-damaged babies being better off than babies who will become gay adults at those cosy Love Won Out love-fests.Perhaps if Spitzer had spent more time questioning the motives of both his star subject provider and the subjects themselves he would not now be in this position. Professional exgays and professional exgay therapists have a very good reason to lie. A very good, obvious reason — they are flogging a product, or desperately doing the “name it and claim it” religious thing.Spitzer’s took comfort from the common track of the exgay testimonies as proof they weren’t lying to him, but seems oblivious to the easily discovered fact that there is a common track hammered into exgay participants in the first place. These are people who spent their days getting their story nice and ready for public consumption.Spitzer refuses to acknowledge that basic problem with taking professional touts on trust — and pooh-poohed the idea that he should have got any outside verification when this was raised by both other professionals and Wayne Besen — and yet he has no qualms to leap straight into declaring Daniel a liar.I doubt Robert Spitzer could be bothered — but it’s worth asking: tell me Prof… what reason did Daniel have to lie in 2002? Why all the sudden concern about people lying, when you showed very little interest when conducting the study itself?Gawd, what a way to conclude a distinguished career…
How ridiculous to think that “Nicelosi had nothing to gain by asking a patient to participate in the study”! Nicelosi has made his entire career on the idea that these gays could change. How many people would not lie to save career and reputation? Spitzer can’t be that ignorant to think that people will not fudge truth in surveys to acheive a determined goal.
Aaron,Spitzer is claiming that Nicolosi had nothing to gain by hiding a referral from himself. You’re thinking of broader reasons to lie during the study itself (and I agree with you on that).I can think of one, but it’d probably be good to throw it open to others:
I presume Daniel wasn’t told why, otherwise we’d have already heard from him 🙂
I hate to see this argument go in the direction that it is going.
I met with Spitzer, in person, several months ago to discuss the issue of my orientation. I was a young man in a religious crisis, and he was kind enough to discuss the issue with me. Spitzer is a kind man, and I completely understand why he questioned Daniel’s claim– not because he should view Daniel as a liar, but because Nicolosi had every reason to benefit from success stories being attributed to him. Spitzer himself told me that of those he interviewed, only NINE could be traced to Nicolosi– and this was one of the causes of his lingering doubts. This fact, also, was the nail in the coffin for me, where I realized that Nicolosi’s whole operation was a sham– nine patients to show for a lifetime of work?
What’s more, Spitzer, who is used the world over to convince people they should change, told me face to face that I faced an easier battle trying to reconcile my religion with my sexuality than the opposite.
Nicolosi could only have benefited from having more of Spitzer’s interviewees connected to himself. I do not know why he asked Dan to lie, but I believe both stories. At any rate– Robert Spitzer is a man who has tried to search for truth and to run a simple study that has been taken vastly out of proportion by both sides of the debate. To publicly attack him over Nicolosi’s misgivings, at this point, is both irrelevant and cruel to a man whose heart is in the right place and who is been drug into a fight not his own by an overzealous religious right AND gay community.
I see at least two ways in which Nicolosi might have benefited from concealing his ties to some of Dr. Spitzer’s interviewees.
1. By reducing his connection to some interviewees, Nicolosi would ensure that Dr. Spitzer publicly overrepresented the independence of his study participants and therefore the study’s perceived objectivity.
2. To what extent did Nicolosi sense that Daniel Gonzales was not one of his greatest therapeutic successes? Did Nicolosi want accounts of mediocre success to appear in the study, but not to subtract from his own stellar reputation?
I’ve said many times that I think gay activists have been too harsh toward Dr. Spitzer. I have even invited Dr. Spitzer to publicly repudiate the misuses of his study by both sides of the culture war.
But I have been left disappointed by Dr. Spitzer’s periodic pandering to the religious right (working with Prof. Warren Throckmorton, for example) and by his unwillingness to acknowledge some obvious flaws in his sampling and methodology.
Daniel Gonzales’ revelations reinforce in my own mind the sense that Dr. Spitzer suffers from a significant and persistent naivete that has tarnished not only the quality of his study but his defenses of the study ever since.
Cyrano — I will jump in quickly to add that I find what you’ve said about Spitzer as a person to be repeated time and time again.Those attributes not are relevant when discussing the study itself, alas. And I do think that someone with less of a reputation would have made sure every “t” was dotted and every “i” was cross ed (sic) :)I know that Spitzer has said he’s felt he’s been had on the matter, when talking in neutral or gay forums, but I still question why — in that case — he keeps bloody well doing it! He was questioned before publishing, a simple check could have told him who and what he was dealing with… yet he apparently chose “damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead”. It also does not explain why he continued dealing with these people in subsequent years. It is not often mentioned that Spitzer has said he believes such changes to be rare — but perhaps that should have been deliberately noted by Spitzer at the time, instead of as afterthought.That’s what I meant by an awful end note to a long and distinguished career. If that study is all that gets hawked in years to come, it will be a dreadful shame.
BTW, for those who like this type of thing.quick calc: 9 out of “more than 400” = 2%.Fairly much on parr with Spitzer’s personal estimate of 3%.Now… to get Chambers “hundreds of thousands” from that… 200,000 min div.by 2% = 10 million “processed” by Exodus.
Robert Spitzer seems to me to be a kind man who has a heart for those that he thinks are not being heard.
He was approached by gay people when others were not assessable. He listened and was convinced that homosexuality was not an illness. For this we are grateful.
He was approached by ex-gay people – or their therapists – when others were not assessable. He listened and was convinced that some tiny percentage of gay people could become ex-gay.
Unfortunately, he’s now in the middle. We criticize him because he has allowed himself to be manipulated by the political end of the anti-gay movement and because his work was not particularly strong. His new buddys say lovely things like “…even an athiest jew…” when talking about him. It can’t be a happy place to be.
Spitzer may be right. There may be some small percentage of gay people who are able to reorient. After all, we don’t know all of the factors that lead to orientation in the first place and there may be some small percentage for whom reorientation therapy can work.
The problem I have with Spitzer is that he allows too much to be concluded from his study. His conclusions are too adamant to be supported by the methods he used.
I think his heart is good and throughout all of this I think he is simply trying to be an advocate for people that he thinks are unrepresented, ie the true ex-gays. It’s too bad that this makes him look like an advocate for the ex-gay ministires and for frauds and scams. And it’s also unfortunate that he would assume Daniel is lying rather than question Nicolosi.
I hope none of this is meant to seem surprising or at all shocking. Asking people to lie is probably one of Nicolosi’s more admirable moments.
As for Spitzer, of course he’s going to call Daniel the liar. If he did anything else, he’d be calling into question his life’s work which is already, apparently, not recognized by any legitimate psychological or psychiatric association in America.
Speaking of which, you mentioned that the American Psychiatric and Psychological associations have both issued statements specifically denouncing reparative therapy. I was wondering if these could be found online. I know of a few people who need to see that. Namely my parents.
I believe Daniel. Nicolosi’s record on issues of honesty leaves him with no credibility.
But I wonder if there isn’t some middle ground. It seems that Daniel isn’t claiming that Nicolosi told him specifically to lie, but rather to not tell Spitzer he came from Nicolosi (correct me if I’m wrong, Dan). Depending on how the referrals were structured that may be the same thing – but it also could be the source of some of the dispute.
I suspect the reason that Nicolosi told Daniel to hide his association is that he realized (as Daniel was coming to realize) that Daniel was not likely to give answers that would show him to be reoriented.
What remains a mystery to me is why Nicolosi would refer Daniel in the first place.
I’ve never met Dr. Spitzer, so I cannot claim to have any insight into what makes him tick.
But Cyrano’s description of him personally rings true to me. The more I learn about Dr. Spitzer, the more I think of him as someone is severely pained at the idea of offending whoever he is talking to at the moment. Hence his appearing to pander to the far right whenever he is being interviewed by the likes of Christianity Today, countered by his willingness to soft-pedal when he speaks to gay groups.
I have no idea how to read the man. All I can read is the study itself, which is very weak indeed. For whatever reason, Dr. Spitzer only very occasionally musters the courage to publicly denounce those who misuse his study (I’m thinking of his letter to the Finnish parliament here).
But more often, he appears not to be bothered — which bothers me to no end. After all, in 1973 he was quite heroic in his stance. What happened since then?
Hi Peter,The American Psychological Association (140,000 members) maintain an extensive page with reports and policy issues. You can find it here.You’ll probably be most interested in “Answers to Your Questions About Sexual Orientation and Homosexuality” found here.The American Psychiatric Association (40,000 members) maintain a public information page, here.Even the American Psychoanalytic Association — who have generally been the most conservative professional body — have had clear and supportive policy statements for some 15 years. This is their policy on “reparative therapy” for example.A coalition of all the significant professional bodies also released a good summary for use in schools etc called Just The Facts. It was endorsed by:
If they are willing, I’d also recommend they contact PFLAG — meeting so many other parents from such diverse backgrounds and with such diverse children usually puts things in context very quickly (particularly if they blame themself or their children).(And to put things in further context — those bodies mentioned above represent all the hundred’s of thousands of professionals working in the mental health, counseling and child development fields.NARTH — a creation of Nicolosi — has a few hundred professional members (and hundreds more non-professional “supporters”), all of whom are religious or social conservatives. NARTH was created after their old-style views lost all respect within the professions and is basically an anti-gay pressure group.)
Timothy said: It seems that Daniel isn’t claiming that Nicolosi told him specifically to lie, but rather to not tell Spitzer he came from NicolosiAs Spitzer did ask where and who the person was referred by, and Nicolosi was aware of that, Daniel would have needed to outright lie to keep that hidden. So, even if the exact wording is fuzzy, it would have been a clear directive rather than any confusion. Daniel walked away with a clear understanding of what he was meant to do.—-Myself, for the reason, I lean toward Nicolosi knowing that Daniel wasn’t a good example of change (and not a good liar). Nicolosi was distancing himself from a treatment failure.Myself v2 (hey, there’s two of us, remember), I go for Nicolosi attempting to spread the range of reponse sources. It would look tooooo obvious otherwise. But the other half’s reasoning makes sense too.(Me v1 again now — given Nicolosi only provided NINE people, I don’t think it was necessary for him to spread the sources. Frankly, Nicolosi hasn’t been “successful” enough to worry about that! In fact, it would have been a stunning upset if Nicolosi could have provided all 200 subjects.)
given Nicolosi only provided NINE people, I don’t think it was necessary for him to spread the sources
But if others lied about where they came from, then Nicolosi might very well have supplied more than NINE. Don’t you see? 😉
I’m with v2. v1 doesn’t know what he’s talking about. 😉
Well, yes Jim. That would mean he could have :)But he should have. That’s why hiding them makes no sense at all. Not to me.9 out of “more than 400” is woeful — particularly given Nicolosi’s constant claim of “1/3, 1/3, 1/3” (Changed/Controlled/Unchanged)And we might start using a system first devised by our niece as a pre-schooler (she’s now a lovely 13 year young lady). She was v. keen on the Bananas at one time, and decided we were just like them. The living arrangements, not our appearance; I hasten to add.We’ll leave it to you to guess who’s B1 and who’s B2…
Thanks a lot grantdale. I showed my mother those links and her response was to sneak this on my carry-on when I got back from spring break. 😛
The Trojan Couch? NARTH’s invented big disposable latex slip-covers for their couches?