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Looking At Both Sides Of "Reparative Therapy"


Texas Matters: In their new platform, the Republican Party of Texas has called for a right to reparative therapy – a controversial method that claims to turn gay people straight. We look deeper into this therapy practice that critics say doesn’t work.

Note from the host: This episode of Texas Matters could be too much information for some listeners. The term of art is “discretion is advised.” This is a topic that is in the news and I wanted to give listeners a chance to get better informed about what reparative therapy is – or at least what different sides of the issue think about it.

The Texas GOP this month adopted a platform supporting the right to "reparative therapy" for gays and lesbians, which is a widely discredited process intended to change sexual orientation.

Under the new plank, the Texas GOP recognizes:

"The legitimacy and efficacy of counseling, which offers reparative therapy and treatment for those patients seeking healing and wholeness from their homosexual lifestyle."

Adding further to the issue, while in San Francisco this week Gov. Rick Perry said he did not know if the therapy worked. Perry then topped his visit off by giving his opinion on the question of nature or nurture in homosexuality when he was asked if he thought homosexuality was a disorder.

“I may have the genetic coding that I’m inclined to be an alcoholic, but I have the desire not to do that and I look at the homosexuality issue the same way,” Perry said.

The American Psychological Association and other major health organizations are opposed to such counseling. The groups say the practice should not be used on minors because of the danger of serious psychological harm.

  • Dan Savage, a gay writer, pundit and founder of the “It Gets Better” campaign:
"Every responsible major medical group and mental health organization in the country says that reparative therapy not only doesn't work -- you can't actually change someone's sexual orientation -- it's harmful, particularly to young people who may be forced into reparative therapy programs by homophobic or religious family members, who then are told that their relationship with God is in peril. And they are told if they just believe that God can change their hearts and change orientations. And then they fail at that. It doesn't work, they don't change.  That's why Exodus international, which is the oldest reparative therapy, ex-gay organization in the world, recently closed its doors. The head of Exodus for decades admitted they hadn't changed anyone."

  • David Pickup is a licensed reparative therapist and on his website the banner reads – “You don’t have to be gay – Maximize your heterosexual potential.”
"What reparative therapy does -- the real thing -- is it goes beyond the homoerotic feelings and reveals the underlying causes and the emotions which are, pretty much: grief, sometimes shame, anger, all the things, the issues, the wounds, I should say, that have really haunted them for many years. And so the short story is when those wounds are healed and needs are met then this is what happens: their self-esteem in their own gender rises exponentially, their depression goes down, their anxiety gets relieved, they feel whole in their gender. And when they get emotional male needs -- I'm talking about men right now, obviously -- the lessening or dissipation of homoerotic feelings spontaneously, automatically occurs. And this happens with most every one of my clients -- not that every one is successful, but most every one of my clients experiences this and there's a lot of testimonies that can testify to this."

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi