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NPR Claims Debate Over “Ex-Gay” Therapy Is Still “Raging”

August 01, 2011 3:59 pm ET by Carlos Maza

NPR still isn’t convinced that the debate over “ex-gay” therapy is settled. In an August 1 entry from NPR’s Health Blog, reporter Alix Spiegel describes what she sees as an ongoing dispute over the effectiveness of efforts to turn gay men and women straight:

The debate about the value of conversion therapy, also known as reparative therapy, has been raging in psychological circles for more than a decade.

About three years ago, the American Psychological Association came out with an official position paper on it. The APA said that it was basically a bad idea, and that there was no evidence that it was possible to change sexual orientation. Therapists also shouldn't tell their clients that change was possible, the APA noted.

This morning on Morning Edition I profile the conversion therapy experiences of two men. They represent two sides of a debate that hasn't been resolved despite the APA's position.

In her effort to create two sides to this story, Spiegel fails to mention that the APA isn’t the only group to have officially come out against “ex-gay” therapy. In fact, every major medical association in America, including the American Medical Association, National Association of Social Workers, American Counseling Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Psychiatric Association, all came to the same conclusion.

No legitimate medical organization in the U.S. supports the use of “ex-gay” therapy. Groups like the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) and the deceptively-named American College of Pediatricians have all been widely criticized for relying on junk science to advance their anti-gay political agendas.

By describing the debate over “ex-gay” therapy as “raging in psychological circles,” NPR creates the illusion that some respected and credible scientific sources actually support the practice. They don’t.

This kind of reporting has the effect of desensitizing readers to the real harms of reparative therapy: lowered self-esteem, depression, suicidal behavior, etc.  Research has demonstrated that when news outlets present both sides of a political issue without commenting on which side is correct, readers tend to feel powerless to determine which position is actually the right one.

Spiegel’s description isn’t just inaccurate; it might actually put real LGBT people in harm’s way. As Aaron McQuade of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) wrote:

If even one parent who thinks his or her child might be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, sees media coverage of this issue and comes away with even a sliver of doubt as to whether so-called “ex-gay therapy” is a terrible idea – if even one parent thinks they don’t need to love and accept their child exactly the way they are and that they can try to change them – if even one young person or adult sees one of these stories and decides to try it out for themselves – then the media has failed to cover this issue accurately.

NPR’s commitment to presenting both sides of every story is admirable, but, in this case, it just isn’t worth the cost. 

Previously:

Coulter Defends "Ex-Gay" Therapy, Wants DADT "For Society"

Rep. Allen West: Gay People Can “Change Their Behavior”

S.E. Cupp: Bachmann's Embracing Of "Junk Science" Isn't "Cooky Or Extreme"