|Since 1973, the once dreaded American Psychiatric Association (APA) has become an ally of gay and lesbian equality. They have consistently withstood outside pressure from right-wing organizations and have instead chosen to do what was in the best interest of LGBT mental health. Most notably, they endorsed same-sex civil marriage in a groundbreaking 2005 position paper.
In 1997, the APA first addressed ex-gay (or reparative) therapy by stating, “The potential risks of ‘reparative therapy’ are great and include depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior — Further, APA calls on these organizations and individuals to do all that is possible to decrease the stigma related to homosexuality wherever and whenever it may occur.”
In 2000, the APA issued an even stronger statement and recommended “that ethical practitioners refrain from attempts to change individuals sexual orientation, keeping in mind the medical dictum, to ‘first do no harm.’”
Unfortunately, a terribly misguided gay psychiatrist, Dr. David L. Scasta, is violating the spirit — if not the letter — of APA policy statements. In May, he will be part of a controversial symposium (Scasta calls it historic) he organized. It includes ex-gay therapist, Dr. Warren Throckmorton, who is the Sultan of Stigma and a leading purveyor of religion-based shame therapy.
Writing in the Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists’ newsletter, Scasta claims this forum will seek, “common ground” on “both sides of the religious divide.” He also urges that participants keep the symposium “scientifically and rationally based” and hopes those on stage are committed to “avoiding rhetoric.” Near the end of his article, Scasta claims his goal is to “ratchet down the forces of polarization.”
If the seminar’s mission is to let cooler heads prevail, inviting Throckmorton is a curious choice. An unlicensed psychologist who teaches at fundamentalist Grove City College, Throckmorton wrote an inflammatory paper for a right-wing website titled, “Is Sexual Re-orientation Possible?”, that compared leaving homosexuality to quitting smoking.
“Most people who stop smoking report cravings but don’t give into them,” Throckmorton wrote in his paper. “Does this minimize their status as former smokers?”
In the same paper, Throckmorton claimed that he “healed” a gay client after teaching him “self-understanding and assertiveness.” Even more bizarre, Throckmorton suggested taking anti-anxiety drugs might “cure” homosexuality.
Throckmorton also produced a defamatory ex-gay video entitled “I Do Exist.” The movie’s opening scene was a wide shot of New York pornography shops that supposedly represent gay life. His film featured Joanne Highley, a known exorcist. [Ed. Note: In 2003, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County (N.C.) Schools Superintendent Don Martin encouraged school system personnel, including counselors, to attend a presentation by Highley at a local church.]
Scasta’s having an extremist like Throckmorton talk about reconciliation between religion and science is like inviting Louis Farrakhan to a seminar to discuss Mid East peace between the Jews and the Palestinians.
Asked what he thought about the symposium, Dr. Jack Drescher, former chair of APA’s Committee on GLB Issues said, “In our AGLP newsletter, Dr. Scasta described this panel as ‘Letting the Wolves into the Hen House.’ I can only speak for myself, but I’m pretty sure no one at the APA will be eaten. But I am concerned that when a respected colleague lies down with wolves, he may catch something more than he bargained for.”
While Scasta may be well intentioned, he seems woefully ignorant of his guest’s dubious credentials. Scasta justifies offering Throckmorton a platform because the doctor has rebuked the infamous Dr. Paul Cameron (who claimed gay people die by the age of 40). Big deal. Cameron had become so radioactive that even Focus on the Family admonished him as early as 1996 saying they do not “adhere to Cameron’s statistics.”
Scasta also points out that Throckmorton called bizarre ex-gay therapist Richard Cohen a “menace.” What he fails to say is that Throckmorton wholeheartedly supported Cohen up until the moment Cohen humiliated himself on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”
Similarly, in a desperate attempt at self-preservation, Throckmorton took “I Do Exist” off the shelf the very week one of his “changed” subjects seemed to back away from supporting ex-gay ministries. The good doctor appears to have a habit of altering the facts by omission.
Throckmorton tries to appear enlightened because he rejects traditional “reparative therapy” which blames parents for causing homosexuality. This has more to do, however, with his ongoing campaign to undermine his chief rival, reparative therapist Dr. Joseph Nicolosi.
Throckmorton’s goal is to supplant Nicolosi’s reparative therapy model with his own ex-gay therapy regimen, known as Sexual Identity Therapy (SIT). Instead of blaming parents, SIT urges clients to suffer in deep, closeted denial in order to please God. Although Throckmorton says he has counseled 250 patients, he is unable to bring any of his successful cases forward.
Finally, Throckmorton habitually downplays the harm done by ex-gay therapy, despite the increasing number of survivors who have come forward to discuss their negative experiences. Why aren’t any ex-gay therapy victims represented on this panel?
It is a mystery why Scasta would want to legitimize a fringe professor from a small anti-gay fundamentalist college. Instead of furthering understanding, Scasta is eroding his own standing and possibly that of the American Psychiatric Association. Scasta is placing science on the same plane as right-wing sophistry — all at the expense of the mental health of LGBT people.