New York City’s repeal of its conversion therapy ban offers an opportunity to educate the public.

David Schwartz, Dovid Schwartz
Dr. Dovid Schwartz sued the City of New York in order to engage in a practice that is both ineffective and harmful. Dr. Schwartz’s PhD is from a for-profit correspondence school.

via Alliance Defending Freedom

New York City’s ban on conversion therapy is all but history. The City Council is likely to repeal the ban shortly. However, in January of this year legislation was signed into law in New York State banning conversion therapy by licensed mental health counselors on anyone under the age of 18. To quote part of the legislative summary:

… the license,
registration or certificate of a mental health professional shall be
revoked, suspended or annulled, or such professional shall be subject to
discipline by the provider’s licensing entity, if such mental health
professional engages in sexual orientation change efforts upon any
patient under the age of eighteen years old. The bill only applies to
mental health professionals licensed with the State of New York … and does not apply
to counseling services provided by members of the clergy …

It is worth noting the margins by which this legislation passed both chambers of the state legislature. Democrats hold 39 of 63 seats in the State Senate and 106 of 150 seats in the assembly. However, the vote in favor of this ban went well beyond party lines. The tally in the Senate was 57-4. In the Assembly, the measure passed by a margin of 134-3.

The publicity that New York City has generated by considering a repeal offers an opportunity. There is an important message to convey in regards to conversion therapy:

Conversion therapy is ineffective

There is no evidence that conversion therapy works. There is no peer-reviewed study in support of conversion therapy that has been published to a respected academic journal. The one study meeting this criteria (Spitzer, 2003) was withdrawn with an apology in 2012. Dr. Spitzer stated:

I believe I owe the gay community an apology for my study making unproven claims of the efficacy of reparative therapy. I also apologize to any gay person who wasted time and energy undergoing some form of reparative therapy because they believed that I had proven that reparative therapy works with some ‘highly motivated’ individuals.

In an interview with Psychiatric News, Spitzer said it was an apology long in the making. He said he had his doubts about the study from the beginning, particularly when he read the almost uniformly negative commentaries that accompanied the study’s publication. Long before he retracted the study, Spritzer expressed reservations over how Focus on the Family was exploiting his work.

Peter Sprigg at Family Research Council (an anti-LGBTQ hate group) routinely makes claims about the efficacy of conversion therapy. He continues to tout the Spitzer study in spite of the fact that it was retracted. He cites another study “published” without peer-review to the journal of the Catholic Medical Association (Linacre). Sprigg calls the survey of a Baptist Church a study. He points to three others that have significant issues and appear in very substandard journals.

For example, one of Sprigg’s favorites is a 2000 article by Nicolosi, Byrd, and Potts that appeared in Psychological Reports. Psychological Reports is ranked 131st among behavioral health journals (a couple of slots below Dreaming). Another is Karten and Wade, 2010 in the Journal of Men’s Studies (by Men’s Studies Press). It is now defunct and was never an academic journal in the first place. Furthermore, the subjects were not required to possess more homosexual feelings than heterosexual feelings to be included.

All of these relied on convenience samples culled from conversion therapy practitioners and NARTH.

Conversion therapy is toxic

Just last week, researchers at Harvard Medical School concluded that any efforts to change someone’s gender identity caused a lifetime of misery.

Every mainstream medical and counseling association in the United States has concluded that conversion therapy is ineffective and harmful. For example:

The American Psychoanalytic Association issued a position statement
in June 2012 on attempts to change sexual orientation, gender, identity,
or gender expression, and in it the association states: As with any
societal prejudice, bias against individuals based on actual or
perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression negatively affects mental health, contributing to an enduring sense of stigma and pervasive self-criticism through the internalization of such

But there is more. Just the existence of sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts poses a real peril to children. Claiming success (which is never adequately documented, let alone substantiated), these practitioners encourage religious parents to believe that their children can be fixed — “repaired.” In essence kids are told that they have what amounts to a disease and that it was caused by their parents.

That is harmful at the outset. The child is not going to change. Then the kid is told that he did not try hard enough or wasn’t sufficiently motivated. “Motivation” is forthcoming in the form of shame or even outright parental rejection. Eventually, under tremendous pressure, the child lies and claims redemption. This takes a real toll on the child’s ego and on the family dynamic.

The ultra-orthodox Jew who sued the City of New York, David Schwartz AKA Dovid Schwartz, is a licensed clinical social worker in Brooklyn. His doctorate is from a for-profit correspondence school. No practicum was required. Not only is the PhD worthless but the fact that Schwartz paid for a worthless degree tells you something about either his judgment or his honesty — possibly both.

The bottom line is that Schwartz is an amateur with a half-assed PhD whose primary qualification seems to be his literalist religious belief (he is a Lubavitch Hassidic Jew). Schwartz has sued to engage in a practice that has no scientific foundation whatsoever but which exists because of Hassidic opprobrium towards sexual minorities or, as I would say, superstition.

Returning to the quote from the American Psychoanalytic Association. Dovid Schwartz will be contributing to an enduring sense of stigma and pervasive self-criticism through the internalization of prejudice by his patients who believe he can deliver.

One of the reasons that I might have preferred the City to sustain its ban was a possible opportunity to subject Schwartz to questioning. Prior to the ban going into effect how many patients did he see who wanted to change their sexuality, what was his success rate and what was that based upon?

Not only do we have an opportunity to educate the public but an obligation to do so. Now is a very good time to write to your local newspaper and you do not have to be in New York to do so.

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By David Cary Hart

Retired CEO. Formerly a W.E. Deming-trained quality-management consultant. Now just a cranky Jewish queer. Gay cis. He/Him/His.