dr-joseph-nicolosi.jpgReparative therapist Dr Joseph Nicolosi used a conference in London yesterday to recycle a host of offensive myths about gay men.

According to David Virtue, who describes his notoriously anti-gay website as “the global voice for orthodox Anglicanism,” Nicolosi “ripped” gay organizations for promoting a “lifestyle” that is “ultimately pathological, narcissistic, self-absorbed and offers no hope for people who want to change.”

Nicolosi, the former President of NARTH, told the audience of conservative Christians that 75 percent of his clients were “completely cured” by reparative therapy, and said that he had “a great deal of evidence showing … that therapy works.”

This is an astonishing claim, given the unremarkable results of scientific studies into reparative therapy. The much-touted Masters-Johnson study of 1979 relied on dubious case studies that may even have been totally fabricated. Robert Spitzer’s 2001 study relied on anecdotal evidence from subjects with a vested interest in proving ex-gay success. The 2007 Jones-Yarhouse study was not only severely flawed, but produced only negligible evidence of change.

Nicolosi also claimed that a third of self-proclaimed homosexuals were victims of childhood sexual abuse, slanderously suggesting that as a reason why “gay activists are lobbying for the lowering of the age of consent.” He later rehashes the argument that he’s not homophobic, since he is not scared of homosexuals. Aside from being a linguistically silly contention, he clearly does fear homosexuals. He also says that “most people do not fear homosexuals,” apparently forgetting he is in the company of a group of people who obviously believe they are very much under threat from gays.

In keeping with NARTH’s general position, Nicolosi reiterated the familiar claim that homosexuality is caused by a distant father and a pushy mother. “A totally secure man won’t have sex with you,” he said. He also repeated the phrase that by now has become his mantra: “If you don’t hug your sons, some other man will.”

All about choice

“It’s all about choice, choice, choice,” Nicolosi told the conference, saying that if you choose to view yourself as “fundamentally heterosexual,” you can change.

He added, “If you believe you are born gay, you are forced to be tolerant. But if you bring in choices, it changes everything.” This is telling. In recent years, ex-gay and anti-gay activists – seemingly steeling themselves for evidence of a major biological component to homosexual orientation –  have begun to argue that even if a “gay gene” (a misnomer – but let’s take it as shorthand for “biological cause”) exists, it makes no difference to the argument against homosexuality. Nicolosi admits, however, that if sexuality is biologically determined, he has to accept it.

One might expect Nicolosi’s mind to change if more biological evidence comes to light, then – but it is unlikely. He clearly has a dismissively simplistic view of the scientific evidence so far, saying that scientists “have never found a gay gene in 35 years. There is much more evidence that it is environmentally caused.”

Where is this far greater evidence? Presumably wherever the evidence is for Nicolosi’s 75-percent success rate. No study of reparative therapy so far has stood up to scrutiny. With results apparently far more impressive than the most widely hailed studies have claimed, why are we still waiting for the scientific proof, Dr Nicolosi?


Anglican Mainstream’s Sex & the City conference continues today with speakers Jeffrey Satinover, also of NARTH, and Arthur Goldberg of Jewish ex-gay ministry JONAH. For previous coverage, see here and here.

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