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[COMMENT: Truth, given enough time, wins.  We are a long way from "home free", but this (like the also current change of mind of the Archbishop of Canterbury) is a big step.    E. Fox]

August 25, 2006

APA President Signals Policy Change on Homosexuality
by Pete Winn, associate editor

The message that gays can change may finally be getting through.

Ex-gay groups and organizations that counsel people with unwanted same-sex attractions say they are pleased, but puzzled, by recent remarks by the top official of the American Psychological Association.

At a town-hall meeting during the APA's convention in New Orleans, APA President Gerald P. Koocher responded to questions about the organization's pro-homosexual positions and its lack of recognition of former homosexuals and their therapists.

Koocher's response was simple: "APA has no conflict with psychologists who help those distressed by unwanted homosexual attraction."

Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International, a network of ministries for those struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction, said it was an unexpected turn of events.

"Given the APA's track record of the last two years," Chambers told CitizenLink, "it is very unusual that the president would come out and state our case for us, that people have a right to self-determination to determine their own path for their mental-health status."
Chambers said he believes a protest organized by ex-gays and their therapists outside the convention hall had an impact.

"We protested because the APA hasn't been very solid on these issues," he said. "They haven't respected a psychologist's right to help patients that want help in overcoming their same-sex attraction.

"They have written position papers and made it very public that they're opposed to people being able to choose the path that I, and hundreds of thousands of other people like me, have chosen, and that is to overcome their homosexuality."

He also said change is coming about because of pressure from within the APA.

"What we found at the protest, is that 80 percent of the attendees people that were coming off of the buses and walking into the convention center were supportive of what we said," he added. "I believe that it is through the ongoing efforts of groups like Exodus and NARTH, the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, that the board of the APA is realizing it is out of step with its membership."

Research by Dr. Robert Spitzer has also helped the cause. Spitzer, a New York-based psychiatrist who helped to convince the APA in 1973 to remove homosexuality from the list of psychological disorders, found that some people who are highly motivated to leave homosexuality may return to heterosexuality.

"I think Dr. Spitzer has helped our cause a great deal by being someone who isn't pro-faith or pro-change, but who is someone who respects the rights of clients," Chambers said.

Prior to the convention, NARTH sent Koocher a petition signed by 75 licensed psychologists asking the APA to reconsider its stance on change therapy. David Pruden, a NARTH board member, was one of them.

"I think that we got their attention," he said. "It is hopeful that they are now talking and corresponding with us and that President Koocher felt the need to respond to the members about the right of individuals to seek treatment."

Even more astounding was a statement by Clinton Anderson, director of the APA's Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Concerns Office, who acknowledged that people can change from being homosexual to being straight, since they can change the opposite way.

"This is the first time we've heard from someone in that type of position acknowledge that sexual orientation can change," Pruden said. "It's a pretty dramatic change in the official position of the association."
Ironically, Pruden said the APA gave NARTH and ex-gay groups the brush-off when they tried to be part of the convention.

"We petitioned and asked that we be allowed to have a booth inside the conference to hand out literature that would talk about the idea of change therapies and some of the things that would be available to people," Pruden said. "We were denied that opportunity. We also asked for the chance to run an ad in an APA publication, The Monitor, and we were turned down."

Recognition that change is possible is the goal, Pruden said. Ex-gay groups will continue to put pressure on the APA for a place at the table.

"They need to do everything they can to encourage sound scientific research, discussion and exploration of these type of issues," he added. "They need to get out of the business of trying to shape policy and mold science to fit political agendas."

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