Alice Dreger writes in The Atlantic that the the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan E. Méndez, has called for action in cases of “reparative” therapy aimed at making gay children straight, as well as legal movement against “forced genital-normalizing surgery” being performed on children who are born with genitals that are sexually atypical. That includes children born with what doctors call “ambiguous genitalia.” Dreger says that , “These moves come as part of a just-released report to the United Nations Human Rights Council on “certain forms of abuses in health-care settings that cross a threshold of mistreatment that is tantamount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” According to Méndez, “the report sheds light on often undetected forms of abusive practices that occur under the auspices of health care policies.”
In the article I discuss my view of reparative therapy:
This new UN report may also have an impact on legal wrangling over California’s new law banning “conversion therapies” for minors who are gay. I asked Wayne Besen, founder of the non-profit Truth Wins Out, whether he thinks this development will have a positive effect within the United States.< He agreed with the Special Rapporteur’s basic message — that “medicine” may be used inappropriately in ways that add to, rather than diminishing, the suffering of sexual minorities. Besen told me, “People who push ‘reparative therapy’ are using medicalized language to stigmatize us. This treats us as criminals under the language of therapy, and doesn’t even use real science to back it up. The more I look at this, the more I think we can make the case that this is not even therapy at all — it’s a public relations campaign to stigmatize a whole group of people.”
It is my view that any person who practices repartive therapy should have their license stripped. If a person admits to being a known member of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), they should immediately be banned from the therapeutic profession for a minimum of three years. The facts are beginning to come into focus: NARTH is a sham organization that conducts no original research and has zero interest in real therapy (although these therapists do like collecting fees from their victims). It is indisputable that NARTH is a group that specializes in degrading and dehumanizing LGBT people, with the ultimate goal of delegitimizing efforts to achieve legal equality. These so-called” therapists” deliberately portray LGBT people as sinful and sick in an shameful effort to diminish their standing in society and in the eyes of the law.
My position on NARTH will ultimately be adopted by professional bodies because it is medically and morally correct. I strongly urge all appropriate medical and mental health organizations to begin serious discussions on how deal with these unscrupulous and unethical practitioners who traffic in this harmful and ineffective scheme. NARTH will counter with a weak argument about client determination. However, a gay client can’t determine to be heterosexual any more than he or she can determine to be a mackerel or a goat. Any therapist who claims otherwise is committing consumer fraud and taking desperate clients for a ride. Furthermore, decades of gratuitously virulent and vituperative attacks on homosexuality by NARTH’s leadership incontrovertibly betrays their phony and misleading claim that they exist to help people.
There are some well-meaning, but terribly misguided souls in the psychological community, who worry that prohibiting reparative therpay would create a slippery slope that could lead to excessive regulation of their profession. This is a specious argument that ultimately suggests that illegitimate forms of harmful therapy must be blindly supported and protected, lest legitimate forms of therapy be targeted. This line of thinking is faulty because each form of therapy should and must be debated on its own merits. Most disturbing of all, this argument turns a blind eye to abuse and brazenly discards the lives of clients damaged by harmful practices. It is shocking that any mental health professional would consider some clients to be “throw away patients” who are to be sacrificed in the name of allegedly protecting the profession from outside intrusion.
Finally, the so-called therapists at NARTH loathe gay people with a special, burning passion and even bristle at the idea of their very existence. It is incomprehensible that people who hold such violently homophobic views are allowed to lord over LGBT people in a doctor/patient relationship. NARTH’s barely transparent assaults on vulnerable gay clients must end, and those who inflict this low-grade form of torture must be held accountable.