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Psychiatrist admits gay people can't be converted

Robert Spitzer has retracted his 2001 claims that gay people can be converted - he now says 'gay cures' can be harmful
Low Memorial Library at Columbia University, where Robert Spitzer worked before retiring.

An American psychiatrist responsible for a 2001 study which suggested lesbian, gay and bisexual people could change their orientation has admitted he was wrong.

Over the course of his career Robert Spitzer has repeatedly made waves with his research into the psychology of same-sex attraction.

On the one hand, he was responsible for the removal of homosexuality from the American Psychological Association’s list of mental disorders in 1973.

Yet, in 2001 he published a paper entitled Can Some Gay Men and Lesbians Change Their Sexual Orientation? In it he claimed that it is possible for some ‘high motivated individuals’ to change their sexuality.

The study, based on 200 participants, is often still used as evidence by ‘ex-gay’ organisations that conversions to heterosexuality are possible. It has been extensively criticized by members of the scientific community for the small number of participants and the fact that many were referred to Spitzer by ex-gay organizations.

Spitzer, 79, worked at Columbia University in New York, retiring in 2010 and now has Parkinson’s disease. He has now admitted that these criticisms are accurate.

He said: ‘In retrospect, I have to admit I think the critiques are largely correct.’

Spitzer also admitted that attempting to convert sexuality can be ‘quite harmful’ and has called for his paper to be retracted so he ‘doesn’t have to worry about it anymore’.

Wayne Besen, executive director of Truth Wins Out, a non-profit LGBT organisation, said: ‘Spitzer just kicked out the final leg from the stool on which the proponents of 'ex-gay' therapy based their already shaky claims of success.’

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