Salt Lake Tribune: NARTH Distorts Professors’ Study

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

By Brian Maffly
The Salt Lake Tribune

A national group that advocates “treatment” of homosexuality is being criticized for allegedly distorting a Utah researcher’s work to advance the theory that people choose their sexual orientation – a controversial notion rejected by mainstream psychology.

Lisa Diamond, a University of Utah psychologist whose sexual identity studies suggest a degree of “fluidity” in the sexual preferences of women, said in an interview Tuesday that the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality, or NARTH, misrepresents her findings. Position papers, some penned by NARTH president A. Dean Byrd, an adjunct professor in the U.’s Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, point to Diamond’s research as evidence that gays’ sexual orientation can be straightened out through treatment – much to Diamond’s dismay.

“If NARTH had read the study more carefully they would find that it is not supported by my data at all. I bent over backward to make it difficult for my work to be misused, and to no avail. When people are motivated to twist something for political purposes, they’ll find a way to do it,” Diamond says in a videotaped interview posted on the Internet.

Diamond made those remarks two weeks ago as Californians were debating Proposition 8, the divisive ballot measure that mandates marriage as solely between a man and a woman.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints encouraged members to give time and money to the successful campaign, triggering a cascade of criticism and protests.Diamond’s comments specifically targeted Encino, Calif., psychologist Joeseph Nicolosi, co-founder of NARTH and the author of “Healing Homosexuality,” and “A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality.”

“You know exactly what you’re doing,” says Diamond, an associate professor of psychology and gender studies, in the videotape. “There’s no chance this is a misunderstanding or simply a different scientific interpretation. … It’s illegitimate and it’s irresponsible and you should stop doing it.”

Nicolosi did not respond to an interview request and Byrd claimed he did not know why Diamond, a fellow U. faculty member, took umbrage with NARTH’s citation of her work.

“NARTH’s view is that people can adapt any way they want and there is freedom of choice,” Byrd says. “If it says ‘fluidity’ it says ‘fluidity.’ How you interpret it is something else.”

Diamond, who has never met Byrd, said in an interview that NARTH “cherry picks” findings or references from her work that appear to support their position. Her denunciations of NARTH was instigated by Truth Wins Out, a New York City-based watchdog that patrols social conservative groups’ use of social science in support of hot-bottom agendas.

“They use these fake statistics and distort science to support bigotry and discrimination. It’s important to take these tools away from them,” founder Wayne Besen says.

NARTH is based in Nicolosi’s California office, but maintains an office in the same downtown Salt Lake City building as Evergreen International, a Mormon faith-based group that encourages gays to abandon same-sex attraction. While the two groups do not advertise their association, NARTH’s sole paid staffer last year was Evergreen’s executive director David Pruden, according to tax documents.

NARTH is no stranger to controversy. One past president, the late psychiatrist Charles Socarides, campaigned for years against the American Psychiatric Association’s 1973 decision to discontinue listing homosexuality as a mental illness. The American Psychological Association likewise maintains a stance of deep skepticism toward reparative therapies that seek to convert patients to heterosexuality.

“To date, there has been no scientifically adequate research to show that therapy aimed at changing sexual orientation is safe or effective,” the APA says on its Web site. “Furthermore, it seems likely that the promotion of change therapies reinforces stereotypes and contributes to a negative climate for lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons.” Diamond goes even further.

“The therapists are saying, ‘We can change your orientation,’ when all of the data, all of the data suggest that is not the case. They say same-sex attractions can disappear – they don’t,” she says. Reparative therapies “do additional damage” with techniques that incorporate electroshock and nausea-inducing treatments “that leave people feeling greater shame, greater guilt, worse about themselves.”

Minnesota Monitor: Focus on the Family Distorts Work

Friday, May 2nd, 2008

Minnesota Monitor
by Andy Birkey

Professor Gary Remafedi, M.D.Professor Gary Remafedi, M.D., of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Minnesota called on James Dobson of Focus on the Family to correct “gross misrepresentations” of his research in a letter sent to the religious right group on Wednesday. Remafedi is the latest in a long line of researchers who have demanded that Dobson and Focus on the Family correct inaccurate references to their research, citations that are often used to create a false and negative impression of gays and lesbians.

“I want to draw your attention to a gross misrepresentation of our research at the website of Focus on the Family,” wrote Remafedi. A section of the site called “Myths and Facts” makes the assertion that sexual orientation is easily swayed in adolescence and that “homosexual activist groups” and a culture supportive of gay marriage can influence teens to become gay.

“Many teens today either know someone struggling with homosexual thoughts or behavior – or are battling the desire to enter into this kind of a life for themselves,” the Web site reads. “What’s worse is that some teens have given up the fight and have surrendered to the idea of being gay. During early adolescence, many children experience a period of sexual-identity confusion when they can easily be influenced in either direction.”

Dobson then uses Remafedi’s research to back up his claim. Remafedi says his research doesn’t say anything to that effect. In fact, he wonders if Dobson even read his research.

“Had the authors of ‘Myths and Facts’ actually read the article, they would have found no support for their contention that ‘many children experience a period of sexual-identity confusion when they can be influenced in either direction,'” wrote Remafedi. “The word ‘confusion’ does not appear in our article; nor did we find that anyone can influence a young person’s sexual identity.”

Remafedi is not alone in his concern that research is being grossly misinterpreted in order to engage in culture-war positioning. New York University sociologist Judith Stacey was infuriated when she saw her research in Focus on the Family materials used to paint gays and lesbians as unfit parents.

“I’ve had to spend a lot of time correcting the record,” she wrote. “The bottom line is there is no research-based reason to deny rights to same-sex couples and their children. We should be passing laws and making policies that make life easier for all families — not harder.”

In a Time magazine op-ed in 2006, Dobson used research to make the case that gays and lesbians are unfit to raise children. Several researchers were alarmed to see their research misused. New York University educational psychologist Carol Gilligan, Ph.D, in a letter to Dobson said, “My work in no way suggests same-gender families are harmful to children or can’t raise these children to be as healthy and well adjusted as those brought up in traditional households.”

“I trust,” the letter said, “that this will be the last time my work is cited by Focus on the Family.”

Kyle Pruett, M.D., of the Yale School of Medicine also told Dobson to correct the record on his research. “You cherry-picked a phrase to shore up highly (in my view) discriminatory purposes,” he wrote. “This practice is condemned in real science, common though it may be in pseudo-science circles. There is nothing in my longitudinal research or any of my writings to support such conclusions.”

Remafedi sent his letter to Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out, a watchdog group that monitors instances where research is used erroneously against gays and lesbians.

“Focus on the Family has engaged in a disturbing pattern of misrepresenting the work of legitimate researchers to further their anti-gay agenda,” Besen said in a press release. “We call on Focus on the Family to immediately expunge all falsehoods and fallacies presented as ‘facts’ from their past and present literature.”

Remafedi’s full letter to Dobson:

Dr. James Dobson
Focus on the Family
Colorado Springs, CO 80995

April 30, 2008

Dear Dr. Dobson,

I want to draw your attention to a gross misrepresentation of our research at the website of “Focus on the Family” (see http://www.family.or…). In the third paragraph of the article, “Myths and Facts,” our research is cited in support of the statement: “During early adolescence, many children experience a period of sexual-identity confusion when they can easily be influenced in either direction.”

First, please note that the citation itself is incorrect. The original article was published in Pediatrics, not Journal of Pediatrics. The correct reference is: Remafedi G, Resnick M, Blum R, Harris L. Demography of sexual orientation in adolescents. Pediatrics. 89(4):714-721, 1992. More important, had the authors of “Myths and Facts” actually read the article, they would have found no support for their contention that “many children experience a period of sexual-identity confusion when they can be influenced in either direction.” The word “confusion” does not appear in our article; nor did we find that anyone can influence a young person’s sexual identity.

The purpose of our study was to explore patterns of sexual orientation in a representative sample of more than 34,000 Minnesota students in grades 7 to 12. We found that the percentage of student who reported being “unsure” about their orientation steadily declined with age from 25.9% in 12-year-old persons to 5% in 18 year-old students (p. 716). Youth who were “unsure” were more likely than others to entertain homosexual fantasies and attractions and less likely to have had heterosexual experiences (p. 720). These and other data suggested that uncertainty about sexual orientation “gradually gives way to heterosexual or homosexual identification with the passage of time and/or with increasing sexual experience” (p. 720).

Please ask the authors of the misstatements to correct them as soon as possible. In the interest of accurate translation of research into practice, a copy of this letter will be posted at www.truthwinsout.org. Thank you for your attention.

Respectfully yours,

Gary Remafedi, M.D., M.P.H.
Professor, Department of Pediatrics
University of Minnesota