The National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) is a self described “non-profit, educational organization dedicated to affirming a complementary, male-female model of gender and sexuality”www.narth.com
NARTH explains in their mission statement “clients have the right to claim a gay identity, or to diminish their homosexuality and to develop their heterosexual potential.” They claim to attain this through years of reparative therapy, (also used interchangeably with the terms conversion therapy and sexual brokenness) a practice the American Psychiatric Association says can “lead to depression, anxiety and self destructive behavior, and may reinforce self hatred.”
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NARTH, was founded in 1992, by Benjamin Kaufman, M.D, Charles W. Socarides, M.D. , and Dr. Joseph Nicolosi in response to the American Psychiatric Association’ (APA) removal of homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in 1973, an action they all vehemently opposed.
Dr. Benjamin Kaufman explained in an interview on the group’ website, “I saw that I could not turn to the American Psychiatric Association, or any other such professional organizations. All had totally stifled the scientific inquiry that would be necessary to stimulate such a discussion. It remains very politically incorrect–very marginalizing–to even make the suggestion of a dialogue that opens up the question of the normality of homosexuality.”
Dr. Nicolosi has long been the President of the organization. In 1977, he graduated from the California School of Psychology near downtown Los Angeles. In a 1996 study published by the American Psychological Society, the school was ranked 176th out of 185 graduate programs.
NARTH proclaims to be a secular organization but often supports reparative therapy and participates in ex-gay events conducted by an array of religious organizations including Focus on the Family’ Love Won Out symposium. In many instances, NARTH’ rhetoric is indistinguishable from sectarian organizations.
“We, as citizens, need to articulate God’s intent for human sexuality,” Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, President of NARTH, said in CNN’ 360 Degrees with Anderson Cooper, April 14, 2007. At the Feb. 10, 2007 Love Won Out conference in Phoenix, the “secular” therapist told the audience, “When we live our God-given integrity and our human dignity, there is no space for sex with a guy.”
Confronted with protesters at their 2006 national conference in Orlando, NARTH instructed its members to “sing a hymn or pray instead,” according to Mother Jones magazine, in its Sept.-Oct. 2007 issue.
Some of NARTHs approximate 1,000 members are in fact ex-gays and many have close ties to churches, even holding dual degrees in divinity or religious studies as well as in Psychology and Psychiatry. NARTHs website contains links entitled “Theological issues”, “Political issues” and “Gay activism in schools”.
Some of NARTH members and even the founders have been quoted on record making disparaging remarks about the GLBT community. Dr. Nicolosi has said in his first book, “Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality that, “I do not believe that any man can ever be truly at peace in living out a homosexual orientation.”
The late Dr. Socarides, who has a gay son that once served as President Bill Clinton’ gay liaison, told The Washington Post on August 14, 2007, “Homosexuality is a psychological and psychiatric disorder, there is no question about it. It is a purple menace that is threatening the proper design of gender distinctions in society.”
NARTH relies on outdated studies and frequently confuses stereotypes with science. Dr. Nicolosi, for example, often tells audiences that people are gay because they have a rift with a same-sex parent or a have domineering opposite sex parent. It has been decades since any serious scientific body subscribed to these views and there is no contemporary research to uphold these anachronistic theories. Yet, NARTH’ co-founder Dr. Joseph Nicolosi repeats the empty mantra, “We advise fathers, if you don’t hug your sons, some other man will.”
Dr. Nicolosi’ regularly jokes with audiences at Focus on the Family’ Love Won Out conference that, “If the father drops the kid and the kid gets brain damage, at least he’ll be straight. Small price to pay.”
Another disturbing aspect of these organizations is that they seek to “prevent” toddlers from becoming gay. If a child shows signs of atypical gender behavior, NARTH suggests ex-gay therapy. Indeed, the group takes clients as young as three years old.
“The parents bring me kids who are unhappy. It’s my job to increase the possibility of a heterosexual future for these effeminate boys,” NARTH’ Dr. Joseph Nicolosi told the Advocate Magazine in a Nov. 11, 1997 interview.
NARTH also has bizarre theories, such as encouraging male clients who drink Gatorade and call their friends “dude,” because this will supposedly make them more masculine. Dr. Nicolosi also espouses the bizarre idea that, “Non-homosexual men who experience defeat and failure may also experience homosexual fantasies or dreams.”
In 2006, NARTH had a meltdown after two major controversies. In the first, psychiatrist Joseph Berger, MD, a member of their “Scientific Advisory Committee,” wrote a paper encouraging students to “ridicule” gender variant children. “I suggest, indeed, letting children who wish go to school in clothes of the opposite sex–but not counseling other children to not tease them or hurt their feelings,” Dr. Berger wrote on NARTH’s website. “On the contrary, don’t interfere, and let the other children ridicule the child who has lost that clear boundary between play-acting at home and the reality needs of the outside world. Maybe, in this way, the child will re-establish that necessary boundary.”
In the second controversy, Gerald Schoenwolf, PhD, also a member of NARTH’s “Scientific Advisory Committee,” wrote a polemic on the group’s website that seemed to justify slavery: “With all due respect, there is another way, or other ways, to look at the race issue in America,” wrote Schoenwolf. “It could be pointed out, for example, that Africa at the time of slavery was still primarily a jungle, as yet uncivilized or industrialized. Life there was savage, as savage as the jungle for most people, and that it was the Africans themselves who first enslaved their own people. They sold their own people to other countries, and those brought to Europe, South America, America, and other countries, were in many ways better off than they had been in Africa. But if one even begins to say these things one is quickly shouted down as though one were a complete madman.”
The fallout from this controversy helped cause NARTH’s co-founder and president, Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, to be voted out of his job at the group’s annual meeting. A new President is expected to take the helm in 2008.
In 2006, the American Psychological Association issued a statement that expressed concern that ex-gay or “conversion therapy” was potentially damaging and might create an intolerant and discriminatory political and social climate. According to the statement:
“For over three decades the consensus of the mental health community has been that homosexuality is not an illness and therefore not in need of a cure. The APA’ concern about the position’ espoused by NARTH (The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality) and so-called conversion therapy is that they are not supported by the science. There is simply no sufficiently scientifically sound evidence that sexual orientation can be changed. Our further concern is that the positions espoused by NARTH and Focus on the Family create an environment in which prejudice and discrimination can flourish.”