Sunday, August 16, 2009

Because They Lie - ALL THE TIME

The right wing hysteria over sexuality continues unabated. Today's installment comes in the form of Lifesite's response to the APA Report on Sexual Orientation conversion therapy.

This is a piece which is filled with ad-hominem attacks, distortions and outright lies about the psychology profession, and in particular how psychologists handle clients with sexual and gender identity issues.

It starts off with a whopper, too:

A man goes to a psychologist with a problem. "Doctor," he says, "I'm suffering terribly. I feel like a woman trapped inside the body of a man. I want to become a woman."

The psychologist responds: "No problem. We can discuss this idea for a couple of years, and if you're still sure you want to be a woman, we can have a surgeon remove your penis, give you hormones for breast enlargement and make other changes to your body. Problem solved."

Gratified, the first patient leaves, followed by a second. "Doctor," he says, "I feel terrible. I'm a man but I feel attracted to other men. I want to change my sexual preference. I want to become heterosexual." The psychologist responds: "Oh no, absolutely not! That would be unethical. Sexual orientation is an immutable characteristic!"

The irony of this little tale is that, while reading like a joke, it is in reality an accurate description of the mental health professions today. While dismissing and condemning reparative therapy for homosexual orientation, the majority of psychiatrists and psychologists in Anglophone North America have embraced the concept of "sex change," a procedure that does nothing more than mutilate the patient to appease his confused mind.

Lie #1: The implication that getting a therapist's backing for gender reassignment is trivial. It's not. A good therapist will help their client explore all of the options open to them, and will not make a recommendation for surgery before they are satisfied that the patient is making a choice that is in their best interests.

Lie #2: That there is an equivalence between GRS as part of the treatment for transsexualism and sexual orientation change therapy. The APA is in fact quite consistent in this regard. The long term research evidence has repeatedly shown that sexual orientation does not change measurably over time, nor does gender identity - homosexual identity and cross-gender identities tend to be surprisingly fixed and unresponsive to therapeutic efforts to change them.

Lie #3: Gender Reassignment Surgery is "mutilation". Not for the patient it isn't. For those who truly need it, GRS is part of a three pronged approach to treatment which includes therapy, hormones and yes - surgery. Surgery is the last step, taken primarily when the patient has been living in their chosen gender for a long period of time. From the patient's perspective, having genitalia which are at odds with their overall presentation is a source of ongoing distress. The long term studies (Pfaefflin et. al., 1992) demonstrate repeatedly that the outcomes post surgery are positive in all but a tiny handful of cases.

The refusal of the organization to accept the increasingly strong evidence against its position is another reminder of how entrenched the sophistry of sexual hedonism has become among the leaders of the organization.

In recent years, a number of studies have been published in peer-reviewed psychology journals, indicating that significant numbers of patients who voluntarily participate in therapy to change their sexual orientation are successful and happy with the results. Combined with numerous individual testimonies by former homosexuals, evidence in favor of the practice is overwhelming.

Yet another lie. The APA statement was quite clear about the methodological problems that those published studies suffer from. The APA did not simply dismiss them out of hand, but in fact reviewed them, and pointed out some of the methodology problems that they suffer from. The fact that a paper was published in a journal does not mean that it is without flaws.

However, the authors of Essential Psychotherapy and its Treatment, a standard text in medical schools, disagree with the APA's leadership, and say that the newer studies vindicate sexual reorientation therapy.

The newest edition (2009) notes on page 488 that, "While many mental health care providers and professional associations have expressed considerable skepticism that sexual orientation could be changed with psychotherapy and also assumed that therapeutic attempts at reorientation would produce harm, recent empirical evidence demonstrates that homosexual orientation can indeed be therapeutically changed in motivated clients, and that reorientation therapies do not produce emotional harm when attempted (e.g., Byrd & Nicolosi, 2002; Byrd et al., 2008; Shaeffer et al., 1999; Spitzer, 2003)."

Again, another distortion, bordering on an outright lie. The APA's report is clear in pointing out that the evidence regarding the effectiveness of "reorientation therapy" and its potential to do harm is simply too sparse to be conclusive. The APA clearly left the door open for future research to be methodologically complete.

Although the homosexualist leadership at the APA tries to rationalize these relationships by claiming that they are caused by social stigma or other factors, their claims ring hollow. Many stigmitized groups exist in society that display none of the pathological tendencies of homosexuals, and these tendencies appear even in countries that are very tolerant of homosexual behavior, such as the Netherlands.

Yes, and in any country with a "western Christian" background, no matter how legally tolerant they may be, there is still an enormous amount of social pressure to conform with the Christian view that homosexuality is evil. It will be decades, if not centuries before sexual and gender minorities are free from the constant pressure to conform to a standard they cannot possibly meet.

I must also point out the ad-hominem attack that Lifesite's writer launches at the APA, accusing the authors of the recent report of being "homosexualists", "homosexual activists" etc. This is a recurring standard of attack from those who lack actual evidence to back up their claims - attack the authors of the "opposing" claims instead of actually addressing the subject matter.

The defense and even the promotion of mental health experts who defend child sex abuse is a terrifying, but expectable movement down the slippery slope of sexual hedonism embraced by the powers that be at the APA. It not only threatens homosexuals, who are deceived by the seductive argument that their orientation is nothing to worry about, but psychology and psychiatry themselves.

We've had several centuries of Christian proscriptions against homosexuality. It hasn't worked on the whole, and I have yet to see credible evidence that attempts to change someone's sexual identity actually work. (Much less any serious studies of transsexuals in a similar vein) We know that homosexuality has been a part of our society since the dawn of time. We also know that whatever attempts to suppress or eliminate it that have been undertaken have not been successful.

It seems to me far more constructive to help someone accept who they are, and learn to deal with their feelings constructively. Telling them to deny themselves and attempt to be something that they are not. Those who are free to live their lives openly and authentically are ultimately happier, and more productive members of society.

The outcome of the current battle over the science of homosexuality may well determine the future of the mental health professions as a whole. Will they turn back from the brink, or plunge into the abyss? And what will become of the societies that heed their counsel?

What battle? It strikes me that it's more of a "faith versus science" argument these days. On one hand, we have faith, and faith-based groups masquerading as scientific (NARTH) claiming something about sexual identity and orientation that they have yet to substantiate. Then there's what happens when rational evaluation of the evidence occurs - it tends to result in the very interesting report the APA recently released.

Once again, the religious right has to dredge up the old saw about how society is going to collapse because of homosexuality. It's hard to imagine how society would ever collapse when the incidence of homosexuality appears to have been pretty constant throughout human history - regardless of how open a society is towards it.

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