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Ex-Gay Research: Analyzing the Spitzer Study and Its Relation to Science, Religion, Politics, and Culture
Reviewed by PEDRO RUIZ
Am J Psychiatry 2007;164:176-177.
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edited by Jack Drescher, M.D. and Kenneth J. Zucker, Ph.D. Binghamton, N.Y., Harrington Park Press, 2006, 352 pp., $49.95.

Ex-Gay Research: Analyzing the Spitzer Study and Its Relation to Science, Religion, Politics, and Culture, edited by Jack Drescher, M.D. and Kenneth J. Zucker, Ph.D., is not an ordinary book; instead, it represents a compendium of previously published chapters, all addressing from different perspectives the controversial study conducted by Robert L. Spitzer, M.D. and presented on May 9, 2001 in a scientific symposium during the Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association held in New Orleans, Louisiana. At first, I questioned the idea of putting together a series of previously published papers on a topic that, from my opinion, is no longer scientifically relevant. The issue of homosexuality being a “mental disorder” was clearly and unequivocally put to rest in 1973 when the American Psychiatric Association’s Board of Trustees decided, via a vote, to remove “homosexuality” from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Second Edition (DSM-II). This decision was later ratified in 1974 via a membership referendum. From that historical moment on, any initiatives to revert that decision had no validity whatsoever from my point of view.

The basis of Dr. Spitzer’s paper of 2001 is questionable from a scientific standpoint. Whoever might have also taken into consideration or will consider such a study should have considered the merits. The idea of this book refocusing on this issue once more made me somewhat uncomfortable at first. Why revisit an issue that has been moot for over three decades?

In any case, as I read chapter after chapter I began to discover a different perspective about this book. While there is no longer a need to prove that homosexuality is not a mental disorder or that Dr. Spitzer’s study of 2001 lacked scientific rigor, this compendium of papers/chapters permitted the review of this historical series of events together rather than separately. This historical and comprehensive approach has some value when seen in this context. However, for the reader who might want to examine both sides of this issue for the purpose of deciding who was right or who was wrong on this topic, reading this book will serve no purpose whatsoever, since that type of decision has no validity in the 21st century.

In terms of the book itself, it has 37 chapters, divided into four sections. The first section lays out an introduction to the topic of this book and the book itself. The second section focuses on the concept of “changing sexual orientation.” The third section is comprised of a series of commentaries about Dr. Spitzer’s controversial study of the early 2000s and his response to them. Both sides attempt to explain how right or wrong Dr. Spitzer’s study was. The fourth section includes commentaries on the Spitzer study as well as an interview with Dr. Spitzer conducted by Dr. Jack Drescher.

In summary, despite its shortcomings, this compendium of previously published papers offers a unique opportunity to review and understand the historical perspective of “homosexuality” as perceived by the profession and society at large during the last several decades. From this viewpoint, I strongly recommend this book to those interested in this historical perspective.

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