The ‘Trojan Couch’ Confronts Cultural Consensus on Homosexuality

What happens when a widely accepted way of thinking is exposed as false? There might be several disparate responses. For someone deeply invested in the original viewpoint, there might be denial, followed by a strong effort to discredit the expose.  But for those for whom the original idea had negative effect, the new view would be liberating.  And for some, the expose would be considered inconsequential.

Assuming that the expose is in fact verifiable truth, the question could be asked how the original thought became accepted in the first place.  A second question might be raised as to the value in attempting to assert the veracity of the expose to the unconvinced.

In a 2004 article written by Jeffrey Satinover, “The Trojan Couch: How the Mental Health Associations Misrepresent Science”, Satinover exposes the intellectual and scientific rationale for the LGBT political agenda as a misrepresentation of science, demonstrating that the agenda is based instead in ideology.   Consider this comment in his introduction:

Some of my psychiatric and psychological colleagues have woven for themselves their own set of illusory robes of authority, and for the past thirty -five years have been proclaiming doctrines in the public square that depend upon the authority that derives from the public’s belief that these robes exist. In particular, they have claimed to the Supreme Court that the scientific data show that homosexuals form a “class” whose boundaries are defined by a stable “trait.” This presumption is false, yet the recent Supreme Court decisions pertaining to same-sex marriage have taken it for granted.

In Part 1 of his four part essay, Satinover traces the steps that led to the removal of homosexuality from the American Psychiatric Association (APA) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in the early 1970’s.  As Satinover comments, “…a change that many now accept as simply indisputable in spite of the fact that it was based wholly on fiction.”

In Parts 2 and 3, Satinover reviews in great detail the “…massive misrepresentation of the scientific record…” found in the amicus briefs for two important Supreme Court cases: (1) the Lawrence v. Texas case (2003) which resulted in the striking down of anti-sodomy laws not only in Texas (the origin of the case) but in all other states where such laws still existed (in 1960, ALL states had anti-sodomy laws), and (2) the Romer v. Evans case (1996) which struck down a Colorado state constitutional amendment which would have disallowed the designation of homosexuals as a definable class such as race.  In Part 4. Satinover examines in the claim that homosexuality is an innate and immutable trait, exploring as well the role of the cultural environment in the persistence or lack thereof of same-sex attraction.

The removal of homosexuality from the APA’s DSM was accomplished politically by threat of force – Saul Alinsky tactics – and using a 1957 study by Evelyn Hooker published in the Journal of Projective Techniques entitled “The Adjustment of the Male Homosexual” as its sole “scientific” justification.  Satinover’s point-by-point dismantling of this article renders it scientifically erroneous and useless.  Here is his summary of Hooker’s article:

“In sum, in spite of its being the lynchpin for the APA’s decision to de-list homosexuality as a disorder, and the only study offered with any details in the Lawrence brief, Evelyn’s Hooker’s 1957 “scientific research” on homosexuality is the American equivalent of Trofim Denisovisch Lysenko’s scientific research on the inheritance of acquired characteristics in plant seed left to “germinate” in the Siberian Arctic.” 

In other words, the Hooker report was demonstratively ideology and not science.

An important study that Satinover references is that by Laumann et. al. (1994) “The Social Organization of Sexuality”.  One of the unexpected results of that study was the absence of homosexuality as a fixed trait.  Satinover quotes…

“'[E]stimating a single number for the prevalence of homosexuality is a futile exercise,’ Laumann declares in the first paragraph of an entire chapter devoted to the subject. It is futile not because of bias, underreporting, methodological difficulties, or complexities of behavior, but ‘because it presupposes assumptions that are patently false: that homosexuality is a uniform attribute across individuals, that it is stable over time, and that it can be easily measured.’   All the evidence points to the fact that homosexuality is not a ‘stable trait.’ Furthermore, the authors found to their surprise that its instability over the course of life was one-directional: declining, and very significantly so. Homosexuality tended spontaneously to ‘convert’ into heterosexuality as a cohort of individuals aged, and this was true for both men and women —the pull of the normative, as it were.”

One of the leading proponents for the removal of homosexuality from the DSM in the 1970’s was psychiatrist Robert Spitzer.  However, in the years following the publication of Laumann et. al. , he apparently began to have doubts about the un-changeability of homosexuality.   According to Satinover:

“In contrast, by the time of the Lawrence brief, Robert Spitzer had begun to suspect that homosexuality was in fact ‘not stable’ and that the increasingly large number of claims of change he had been hearing might in many cases be true. Upon completion of a pilot study, he presented his findings privately to the Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists (a group within the APA) expecting his results to be met with scientific objectivity. As he told me, he was urged to suppress his findings on the grounds that, whether true or not, they would harm the civil rights of gays and lesbians. He later received a letter from Wayne Besen, then President of the Human Rights Campaign, warning him not to attempt to perform and publish a full -fledged study. As he wrote me: ‘the intimidation was in the form of telling me that if I did such a study I would be exposed as doing fraudulent research in front of my colleagues.’

Satinover points out that even though Spitzer was a well-recognized psychiatric research expert and one of the leaders in accomplishing the removal of homosexuality from the DSM, it took nearly two years to get his pilot study published; even the journal for which he was senior editor refused to publish it.  If the LGBT leadership would threaten one of their own leaders, a man with superior credentials, how many other lesser lights in the guilds have they likewise bullied into silence?  And what evidence is there a decade later that anything has changed relative to that bullying?

Satinover also addresses the social and cultural impact on the occurrence and perseverance of homosexuality.  He cites a 2003 New Zealand study which contradicts the contentions contained in the Lawrence amici brief.  After summarizing the salient findings in the study, he comments:

This study specifically contradicts amici’s claim that change might affect behavior but not attraction. To the contrary, large, dramatic drops in homosexual attraction occur spontaneously for both sexes. Furthermore, not only does this study demonstrate the extraordinary influence of the social and cultural milieu in general, it demonstrates specific effects (e.g., higher education) whose desirability needs to be considered dispassionately and not automatically presumed positive, especially as it is being misattributed to biology.

Satinover is noting that the worldview and mindset on campus – especially as articulated by the authority figures (i.e., the faculty) – has a demonstrable effect on the degree to which students identify with regard to same-sex attraction.  He goes on to make this statement:

Hence, if the results of this [i.e. New Zealand] study were to replace the erroneous explanations provided by the mental health guilds, then without introducing value-judgments it could be expected over time to reduce the prevalence of homosexual identification—sans “therapy.”

 In other words, if the pro-LGBT propaganda delivered by higher education was replaced by the truths revealed in the New Zealand and similar studies, then the expected decline in same-sex attraction over time demonstrated by the Laumann study would occur within the population of students in their 20’s, even without application of reparative therapy!  There are big consequences when authority figures proclaim false narratives to their adoring followers.

Satinover concludes his lengthy treatise with the following indictment of the methodology of the proponents of same-sex attraction with the psychiatric and psychological professions:

In both the Romer and Lawrence briefs, the mental health guilds take great pains to emphasize that homosexuality is an early-established, fixed and stable condition—thus suitable for suspect class status. The authors buttress this claim by footnoting a selected pool of authorities whom they rarely directly quote, and by citing themselves in other places where they have offered the same opinions in different words (and even when their own findings are contradictory). Additionally, they refer to the study of Laumann et al. whose work they completely misrepresent. They do this by extracting portions of his sentences so that his meaning is turned into its opposite, by citing page numbers not relevant to the statements they make, and primarily by simply not reporting the vast bulk of the Laumann study, whose conclusions in every area with respect to homosexuality are explicitly opposite to what the authors hold, and also opposite to the formal positions of the mental health guilds with respect to the stability of homosexuality and to its very definition and definability.

Satinover goes on to further note that the authors of the briefs ignored the volume of research following the Laumann study which confirmed its conclusions: homosexuality is NOT a stable trait, but rather vectors over time in the direction towards normal heterosexuality; further that that vector clearly can be influenced and modified by environment, including “…early and continuing sexual activity and later cultural and demographic reinforcement, even education.”  And if a pro-LGBT environment can delay the natural progression from homosexuality to heterosexuality, then would not the converse also be true, namely that a reparative therapy environment may be able to accelerate that transition towards normality?

In Satinover’s Trojan Couch essay, his focus is on the professional societies and the misuse of the results of studies dealing with aspects of same-sex attraction.  Additionally, he may be seen several times commenting on reparation therapy (also referred to as Sexual Orientation Change Efforts, or SOCE) in the extremely informative documentary video “Understanding Same Sex Attraction”.  He also discusses some of his experiences in dealing with SOCE with clients in an interview with David Virtue of the Voice for Global Orthodox Anglicanism, and his 1994 book, “Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth” might be the most insightful book available on the topic.  

In both Satinover’s book as well as the “Understanding…” video, the issue of the “Gay gene” is dealt with.  In his book, he states that there is a genetic role for the homosexual in the same sense that there is one for players in the NBA (National Basketball Association).  In other words, there is some genetic basis for susceptibility to the formation of homosexuality, but it is by no means determinative.  In a 2000 Australian study of 33,000 pairs of identical twins, it was found that when one twin was homosexual, the other was homosexual only 11% of the time.  If there was a “Gay gene” that should have resulted in 100% of the other twin being homosexual.  There have been many other studies in recent years arriving at the same conclusion.

 It is clear that all of these issues are highly politicized, with the views of Satinover and others deeply at odds with the prevailing narrative in our culture today.  The alarming truth is that although this narrative in manifestly false, it is being codified in increasingly restrictive manner: attempts to ban SOCE is an example.

Discussion

The conclusions of Trojan Couch need to be compared with the cultural consensus a decade after its publication in 2004.  There is no doubt that there have been great advances in the acceptance of the LGBT political agenda in those years: well-known people “coming out of the closet”, the implementation of Gay marriage in many states, growing support for Gay Christianity in the evangelical community, and retreat from some in the SOCE movement, complete with apologies. 

But have there been scientific breakthroughs?  Improved methodology?  Or rather, in the context of Trojan Couch, has there been a continuance of ideologically-based advocacy, serving to obfuscate and corrupt inquiry and analysis?  Or has there been a dramatic pivot to objectivity and honesty?

All of these questions must be explored in the context of the advancement of the LGBT political agenda over this time-span.  If the 30 years prior to 2004 are any indication, then scientific and research pronouncements from both the LGBT activists and the guilds after 2004 must be taken with great skepticism.  Trojan Couch decimates the “science” from the LGBT ideologically based studies prior to 2004.  There would need to be dramatic changes for LGBT science to gain objective respectability in this last decade

Consider a few recent examples.

In 2009 a task force was assembled by the APsyA (American Psychology Association) to consider appropriate therapeutic responses to sexual orientation.  An analysis was undertaken and a report produced which cast SOCE in a bad light.  However, the objectivity of the report was clearly suspect.  For example, even though prominent conservative psychologists were proposed as study participants, only those with a known, pre-conceived negative view of SOCE were chosen, and 5 of the 6 identified themselves as LGBT.  Further, very stringent requirements were affixed to anything supporting efficacy with SOCE, whereas the bar was much lower for reports of harm.  And all reports from religious sources were by definition disallowed.

Even the results seem inconclusive.  For example, on p.28 there is the following statement:

We thus concluded that there is little in the way of evidence that could clarify whether SOCE does or does not work in changing same-sex sexual attractions.”

And yet later it states on p.83:

“The results of scientifically valid research indicate that it is unlikely that individuals will be able to reduce same-sex attractions or increase other-sex attractions through SOCE”.

Based on past record, does anyone believe that a similar conclusion would result if the task force had been composed of 6 conservative psychologists?  It seems clear that we have here another ideology-based study, worthless in an objective scientific framework (although not politically!).

In addition to the 2009 APsyA report, there have been even more recently (2013/2014) published articles casting SOCE in a bad light.  While it is beyond the scope of this essay to provide details, an objective dismantling of these reports can be found in a June 2014 video entitled “Scientific Integrity and the Issue of Harm”, and in a thorough companion paper entitled “Shidlo & Shroeder (2002): New studies introduce anti-SOCE advocacy research to the next generation”, both presented by Dr. Christopher Rosik of NARTH (National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality).  And there is also an important extensive policy brief dealing with attacks on SOCE entitled ”Laws Banning Sexual Orientation Change Therapy are Harmful and Violate Fundamental Human Rights” which is posted on the website of “Family Watch International”.  The bottom line is that attacks on SOCE are based upon ideological advocacy and not science and rationality.  That of course is not to give a carte blanche to SOCE; it must be undertaken with great skill and sensitivity, and similar to other intervention therapies will have a wide range of results.

Finally, in recent months there have been several recantations of note, and these need to be addressed.  With the accelerating success of the LGBT political agenda in our culture in the past year or so, it is not surprising that some who have previously taken positions contrary to that agenda might be tempted to escape the extreme animus directed at them.

One such example is that of psychiatrist Robert Spitzer, mentioned above as a leader of the movement in the early 1970’s to remove homosexuality from the DSM, but who also published a 2003 study of individuals who reported a change from same-sex orientation to other-sex orientation.  For this heresy, Dr. Spitzer was transformed from a hero to a traitor to the “cause”.  Thus in 2012 at age 80, suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, he apologized to the LGBT community and disavowed his controversial study.  He said: “The findings can be considered evidence for what those who have undergone ex-gay therapy say about it, but nothing more.”  He went on to say:

“The Fatal Flaw in the Study – there was no way to judge the credibility of subject reports of change in sexual orientation. I offered several (unconvincing) reasons why it was reasonable to assume that the subject’s reports of change were credible and not self-deception or outright lying. But the simple fact is that there was no way to determine if the subject’s accounts of change were valid.” 

He then apologized.

The problem with this is that there have been many other analyses and reports of people transforming from same-sex to other-sex orientation both before and after Spitzer’s 2003 report, and all Spitzer is saying is that he didn’t vet his subjects extensively enough; in no way did his recanting “prove” that SOCE doesn’t work.  As author Eric Metaxas wrote in 2012, “Of course, there was never any chance the gay lobby was going to accept Spitzer’s study — no matter how well designed it was. They are too heavily invested in the claim that people are ‘born gay’ and cannot possibly change their orientation.”

Too bad that Spitzer gave into the threats such as that by Wayne Besen (see above); had he followed his 2001 pilot study on SOCE with a thorough, scientific study, the results could have caused serious damage to the LGBT narrative.

Another example is that of the resignation of Alan Chambers as president of Exodus International, and the subsequent closing of that ministry, followed by an extensive apology to the LGBT community.  As part of that apology he admitted that even though he had left the LGBT lifestyle many years ago, and had a long and satisfying marriage, he secretly continued to deal with some same-sex attraction issues in his own life.  And he clearly felt that Exodus International had gone about things in the wrong way.

This case seems more complex than the Spitzer turnaround, in part because of the internal struggle that Chambers had been undergoing, and also because a detailed understanding of how Exodus undertook their ministry is not readily available; thus a full analysis of Chambers’ turnaround is beyond the scope of this essay.  However two thoughts: (1) the cultural and political pressure that undoubtedly played a significant role in Spitzer’s change of heart were surely an important factor with Chambers as well; how could it be otherwise in 2012/2013?  And, (2) even though Exodus was a large, well-known organization dealing with sexual orientation reparative services, there are hundreds – thousands? – of organizations that to this day continue to operate and successfully support people who wish to change their sexual orientation from same-sex to other-sex, and who are not recanting.  See for example NARTH and Family Watch International.

The bottom line?  The only change of importance in the past decade has been the accelerating ascent of the pro-LGBT agenda within our culture, with all of the resulting fallout.  Nothing has appeared to refute the findings of Trojan Couch.

Summary

In the above some glimpses have been provided into demonstrable truth as expressed in Trojan Couch that runs in direct opposition to and a direct expose of a growing American cultural consensus concerning same-sex attraction, with insights provided as to how this cultural consensus was initiated. 

Among the major conclusions:

  • Removal of same-sex attraction from the APA DSM was based on intimidation and falsified research.
  • Homosexuality is not a fixed human trait, and its origins are not genetic; thus it cannot and should not be considered to be a definable class such as race.
  • Reparative therapy for homosexuality is no different in outcomes from other reparative therapies.
  • Cultural factors have an impact on the persistence or lack thereof of homosexual identity over time, with the overall trend absent these factors being the transition towards heterosexuality.

These conclusions run counter to the reigning political and cultural narrative of the day, although it is likely that a significant minority in our society would not object to them.  However, accomplishing any political goals based on these conclusions – for example, repealing laws or ordinances that treat LGBT people as a definable class — would certainly be very difficult.

One area where these conclusions could be influential is in the ongoing conversation over same-sex attraction issues within the evangelical Christian community.  The impact there could be in both decisions on how to navigate in a counter-cultural fashion within the wider culture, as well as in dealing with in-house matters such as scriptural interpretation, codes of conduct in Christian organizations, and especially in ministering to and with people who deal with same-sex attraction.  However, to the extent to which these conclusions would move evangelical Christianity in a more conservative direction, the greater would be the conflict with the prevailing culture, a conflict which is already increasing in a significant fashion.

The intent of this posting is to provide exposure to Dr. Jeffrey Satinover’s groundbreaking 2004 essay “The Trojan Couch”, as well as other resources dealing with similar issues.   Further no disrespect is intended to either those who identify as LGBT, or those who struggle with unwanted SSA.  Rather, it is designed to proclaim that which is objectively true, because truth sets us free. 

I have also deliberately steered clear from speculating on how these conclusions should be applied to a range of contemporary issues, other than to note that they run counter to prevailing cultural narratives, and place advocacy “science” in a bad light.   However, as a culture we ignore these conclusions to our detriment.

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