Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Thursday | November 22, 2012
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Homosexual reparative therapy revisited
Clinton Chisholm, Guest Columnist

M
y article 'That puzzling California law' appeared in The Gleaner on October 9. That very morning, very early, I received an email from one Matthew Thomas pointing me to an article in Scientific American which raised serious questions about the articles I had used (from the American Journal of Psychiatry) as support for the reality of successful reparative therapy.

I learned from that article that Virginia Johnson of the sex research husband-and-wife team of Masters & Johnson publicly challenged the findings of their own Masters & Johnson Treatment programme for dissatisfied homosexual men. (See 'The Masters & Johnson Treatment Program for Dissatisfied Homosexual Men', American Journal of Psychiatry).

Ms Johnson, according to the 2009 Scientific American piece by Thomas Maier, made damning allegations about the results of the 10-year study (five-year follow-up) conducted by her divorced late husband.

Virginia Johnson and other team members, Maier informs, said they suspected fabrication based on William Masters' refusal to share research information. Johnson and others who worked with Masters during the '70s allegedly said they did not participate (hands on) with the actual subjects, methods, and outcomes.

inconclusive data

As clinical psychologist Dr Neal Walker of Maryland says, "Collaborating on initial research methodologies [and] findings is always helpful (best approach). .. The claim (decades later) [by staffers] that they suspected the methods were 'not scientific' is ... troubling." But as Dr Walker urges, "Masters, himself, stood by his findings; went to his grave insisting on the high value of his research findings."

If we assume the accuracy of the Scientific American article by Maier and the things attributed to Ms Johnson and former staffers at the Masters & Johnson clinic, we now need to ponder what conclusion to arrive at in light of the very belatedly revealed suspicion by Virginia Johnson and her former colleagues that Dr Masters' methods and findings on reparative therapy were 'not scientific'.

Does the suspicion amount to a clinical refutation of the reparative therapy done by Dr Masters, or does it only raise questions about the therapy?

As Dr Walker continues, "Maier's book (on Masters and Johnson) has received much media attention ... but the charge of fabrication against Dr Masters is open for debate. Dr Masters did not recant at all. ... He died [in 2001] holding firmly to his position that 'conversion therapy' has value (some hope) for some homosexuals who desire such treatment."

A related issue that deserves some reflection is the argument advanced by some that sexual orientation is immutable and a right that should be legally protected. The clinical basis for this view is dubious at best and the legal basis is extremely tenuous.

a personal decision

The website of the American Psychological Association (APA) describes sexual orientation thus: "Sexual orientation refers to an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to men, women, or both sexes. Sexual orientation also refers to a person's sense of identity based on those attractions, related behaviours, and membership in a community of others who share those attractions."

Though sexual orientation is a complex reality, there is nothing in the APA's clip that would suggest an immutable or genetic reality. All sexual orientations, whether homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, bestial or otherwise are influenced by multiple variables.

Even as a thought experiment, it is difficult to see how anyone could know that orientation change has never happened unless, of course, one can advance a clinical or other cogent argument that such a change cannot at all happen!

From a legal standpoint, defining and defending human rights is notoriously difficult beyond the basic rights guaranteed in national constitutions.

In a personal correspondence, Prof John Warwick Montgomery, who specialises in human-rights law in Strasbourg, France, said of the California law banning reparative therapy: "... The Californians have simply made the non-conversion of homosexual minors a 'right' by fiat. Of course, this is simply ridiculous. It would be like legislating that people over 65 years of age cannot benefit from surgery, regardless of its proven success - on the grounds that it is the 'human right' of the general populace to have medical treatment limited to those who are societally productive ... ."

Even if a third party thinks otherwise, should I not be allowed access to therapy that I think I need?

Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and clintchis@yahoo.com.

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