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
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
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
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
"Militant gay advocates working in a small but forceful network have
caused apathy and confusion in American society," said Nicolosi in his
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
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
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
Nicolosi's patients, most controversially, can be as young as 3 years
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.
Deputy Director of Communications
Human Rights Campaign