American Psychiatric Association Bolsters Condemnation Of 'Reparative Therapy' To 'Change' Gays

WASHINGTON -- The board of trustees of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) passed a resolution at their quarterly meeting in Denver, that condemns the practice of "reparative therapy." The APA's rebuke reaffirmed the scientific and mental health community's long standing objection to this practice which attempts to convert homosexuals to heterosexuals. The APA's resolution, which passed unanimously, was spurred by a million-dollar ad campaign by religious political groups who urged people who are gay or lesbian to seek to change their sexual orientation through "reparative therapy."

"We applaud the American Psychiatric Association's condemnation of this thoroughly discredited practice that causes great harm to people who are gay but not yet comfortable with their sexual orientation," said David M. Smith, HRC's communications director. "`Reparative therapy' is nothing less than psychological terrorism used by religious political groups as a tool to undermine fair public policy for lesbian and gay citizens."

The APA's statement stressed that "reparative therapy" is not benign and often has deleterious effects. The statement said "reparative therapy" practitioners often mislead patients and are motivated by personal prejudices. According to the resolution:

"The potential risks of `reparative therapy' are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior, since therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient. Many patients who have undergone `reparative therapy' relate that they were inaccurately told that homosexuals are lonely, unhappy individuals who never achieve acceptance or satisfaction. The possibility that the person might achieve happiness and satisfying interpersonal relationships as a gay man or lesbian is not presented, nor are alternative approaches to dealing the effects of societal stigmatization discussed... the APA opposes any psychiatric treatment, such as `reparative' or `conversion' therapy which is based on the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or based on a prior assumption that the patient should change his/her sexual orientation."

The American Psychiatric Association was the first mental health organization to remove homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1973. In August 1997, the American Psychological Association overwhelmingly passed a resolution at its convention that asserted that there is no sound scientific evidence on the efficacy of "reparative therapy," which seeks to "cure" homosexuals.

This past summer, 18 far-right organizations, including the Christian Coalition and the Family Research Council, started the "Truth In Love" campaign in which full-page ads were purchased in several major newspapers with the message that gays can change. In October, these organizations followed up their print campaign by launching a television ad campaign with the tag-line, "It's not about hate, it's about hope." Contradicting her denial that their campaign is politically motivated, campaign architect Janet Folger told the New York Times that she wanted to "strike at the assumption that homosexuality is an immutable trait and that gay people therefore don't need protection under anti-discrimination laws."

In response, the Human Rights Campaign started the "Ray of Light Project" which aims to highlight the abuses of so-called "ex-gay"ministries and "reparative" therapy by telling the stories of those who were involved.

The Human Rights Campaign is the largest national lesbian and gay political organization, with members throughout the country. It effectively lobbies Congress, provides campaign support, and educates the public to ensure that lesbian and gay Americans can be open, honest, and safe at home, at work, and in the community.

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