In 2001, Dr Spitzer presented the paper “Can Some Gay Men and Lesbians Change Their Sexual Orientation” which studied whether ‘gay cure’ therapies can change sexuality.
The study said that 66 per cent of the men and 44 per cent of the women Spitzer spoke to had achieved “good heterosexual functioning” after attending ‘gay cure’ therapy.
The five criteria Dr Spitzer used to test whether those taking part in the study met the classification of “good heterosexual functioning”; they needed to be in a loving heterosexual relationship during the last year, have heterosexual sex a few times a month, achieve physical satisfaction through heterosexual sex and to not think about a person of their sex for more than 15 per cent of the time during sex with a heterosexual partner.
The American Psychological Association distanced itself from the study. It was later published in the Archives of Sexual Behaviour and became the subject of widespread criticism because of its sampling methods. As 93 per cent of subjects had been motivated to attend therapy because of their religion, and 66 per cent were referred by ex-gay ministries and the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality.
In a recent interview with Dr Spitzer he The American Prospect that “In retrospect, I have to admit I think the critiques are largely correct. The findings can be considered evidence for what those who have undergone ex-gay therapy say about it, but nothing more.”
American Prospect journalist Gabriel Arana who conducted the interview wrote in the article that Dr Spitzer “spoke with the editor of the Archives of Sexual Behaviour about writing a retraction, but the editor declined. Repeated attempts to contact the journal went unanswered.”
In 2001 Dr Spritzer had said that the study showed it was likely to be a “pretty low” number of people who could turn straight, but the study showed that some people can, “and we ought to acknowledge that”.
He was also instrumental in removing homosexuality as a psychiatric disorder form the Diagnostics and Statistics Manual of Mental Disorders in 1973.