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Psychology Today Elicits
Disappointment & Concern from HRC

Magazine said Accepting Ads from NARTH, an Anti-Gay Group

Misrepresents Gay Men and Lesbians, Reflecting Harmful Views

Compiled by GayToday
Human Rights Campaign

Washington, D.C.--In the wake of inquiries about anti-gay advertising to Psychology Today from journalists representing Planet Out and GayToday, the Human Rights Campaign's Wayne Besen has sent the following open letter to Robert Epstein, Ph.D., the mental health magazine's Editor-in-Chief:

Dear Dr. Epstein:

I write on behalf of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nations' largest gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender advocacy group. We are greatly disappointed and concerned that you and your magazine are reportedly accepting advertising from NARTH, a political organization that disparages gay and lesbian Americans under the guise of science.
HRC's Deputy Director of Communications Wayne Besen

Psychology Today is a respected magazine and a leader in the field of psychology. It is successful because it focuses on factual information, credible research and respectable work. Unfortunately, NARTH does not meet any of the criteria or high standards usually set by Psychology Today. HRC would like to inform you about NARTH's work so you can better judge whether the magazine wants to associate with their harmful efforts.

There are four main issues here. The first is whether NARTH is a reputable organization that is truthful and accurately represents gay life. The second is whether NARTH's political activity clouds its work. The third issue is NARTH's offering a platform to people with dangerous views. And the final issue is the harmful, bizarre techniques endorsed by NARTH's leaders.

I. NARTH Misrepresents Gay Life

On the first issue the evidence is clear. NARTH uses base stereotypes and misrepresentations of gay life to lure and retain its clients. Consider the following quotes from NARTH's Dr. Nicolosi:

  • "I do not believe that any man can ever be truly at peace in living out a homosexual orientation," says Nicolosi in his book, Reparative Therapy in Male Homosexuality: A New Clinical Approach.

  • "I think the homosexual condition has certain limitations to it," he once remarked on CNBC's Equal Time. "I think that two men in a relationship have difficulty and two women would have difficulty where there is a certain compatibility between male and female."

  • According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Nicolosi once told a crowd at an anti-gay seminar that gay men are "disconnected" from other people and live in an unreal world and that's why they like theatre.

  • "Homosexual men are twice as more likely to sexually molest than the heterosexual man. And then let's think about it for a moment, let's look at this heterosexual man who sexually molests a homosexual boy. How do you define homosexual or heterosexual? Is he a homosexual or is he heterosexual. Well he might be married, but so what don't gays themselves say 'we are everywhere?' Is he homosexual or is he heterosexual? One of the best ways to define a person's identity is by his behavior and let me get this straight, you're having sex with a boy, hmmm, two penises, now is that homosexual or heterosexual, this is how absurd it becomes. I said the word penis, they'll have to edit that out." (Nicolosi at ex-gay conference in Atlanta, October 2001)

    Dr. Epstein, I'm sure you would agree that there are many openly gay people who are happy and have found peace in their lives. Nicolosi's attempt at tying gay people to child sexual abuse is also reprehensible and not consistent with the scientific facts. Therefore, Nicolosi's statements are unscientific, clearly biased and an imposition of his own values at the expense of the truth, if not his clients' mental health. This type of bias, stereotyping and antipathy towards a group is usually absent from Psychology Today and endorsing it now would set a bad precedent.

    II. NARTH's Work Clouded By Politics

    On the second point, NARTH is a group tied to virulently anti-gay political organizations, such as Focus on the Family. Many of their statements reflect strident political judgments, rather than measured scienti

    fic opinions. For example, consider the following statements:
  • "It [homosexuality] is a purple menace that is threatening the proper design of gender distinctions in society," said former NARTH President Charles Socarides.

  • "Militant gay advocates working in a small but forceful network have caused apathy and confusion in American society," said Nicolosi in his book.

  • Prominent members of NARTH have lobbied government against laws that would protect gay and lesbian Americans against job discrimination.

    As you can see, the rhetoric used by NARTH has more in common with a direct mail fundraising letter from Rev. Jerry Falwell, than it does with the pages of Psychology Today.

    III. NARTH's Dangerous Ideologues

    On the third point, NARTH has given a platform to scientists who offer peculiar views about homosexuality. Consider the following statement from one of NARTH's favorite doctors:

  • "When we consider that there is no objective distinction between homosexuality and the other perversions, we can easily see how the development of the homosexual 'habit' fits into this framework (of cures through medication)," wrote Jeffrey Satinover in his book Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth. "Some...are being successfully treated with Prozac..."

    Another NARTH contributor is Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively, co-author of The Pink Swastika, a book partially blaming gays for the Holocaust.

  • "The Pink Swastika will show that there was far more brutality, torture and murder committed against innocent people by Nazi deviants and homosexuals than there ever was against homosexuals," wrote Lively in his book.

    IV. NARTH's Bizarre Techniques and Theories

    Finally, NARTH's leaders have some bizarre theories and techniques that are unscientific and may harm patients:

  • Nicolosi theorizes, "Non-homosexual men who experience defeat and failure may also experience homosexual fantasies or dreams."

  • Nicolosi seems to blame any mental health issue a gay person might have on his or her sexuality. In his book he faults one man's "fear of tall bridges" on the clients sexual orientation. Anther client's "phobia of the phone" is somehow traced back to his homosexuality. Nicolosi even says gay men are more likely to be "pee shy" and have trouble urinating in public places.

  • Nicolosi's patients, most controversially, can be as young as 3 years old.

  • NARTH's leading trainer is Richard Cohen. One of Cohen's methods for a patient to achieve heterosexuality is retrieving "intrauterine memories". This is where clients are induced into having flashbacks, remembering traumatic events that happened while they were in the mother's womb.

    As long as prejudice and violence against gay people exists in society, there will be a few gay men and lesbians who try to avoid discrimination by attempting to change their sexual orientation. These tormented individuals often fear coming out will mean rejection by family and friends, as well as withering condemnation in their house of worship.

    There are groups, unfortunately, who are in the business of exploiting these vulnerable and desperate people by peddling false hope and illusive cures for homosexuality. We hope Psychology Today will continue to support only legitimate organizations and not embrace politically motivated, scientifically bankrupt groups such as NARTH. If you have any questions, please contact me and we can discuss this issue further.

    Wayne Besen
    Deputy Director of Communications
    Human Rights Campaign

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