Author retracts statements about gay conversion therapy

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Key assertions in a paper on homosexuality have been removed from the Journal of the Islamic Medical Association of North America, in what the notice describes as a “partial retraction.”

The 2006 article “Homosexuality: An Islamic Perspective,” states that conversion therapy can be effective, and that gay people have poorer health. Those statements are among those that lack evidence, according to a note on the paper published in July. The retraction pulls those assertions, among others, and instead argues that a homosexual person should be helped to “accept his or her LGB identity,” and find a welcoming community.

The 2006 article is definitely a perspective — it states the opinion of the sole author, M. Basheer Ahmed, who has a private psychiatry practice in Texas, as to whether homosexuality is a choice. He thinks yes, though the science on the matter is fairly clear that it’s not.

But we still think it’s interesting that a journal chose to take back some of the statements contained in the article. Here’s the abstract from the “partial retraction” note:

The most important retractions are a repudiation of conversion therapy and acknowledging the possible role of social stigmatization in poorer health outcomes among people who engage in homosexual behavior. Other passages in the article are also retracted.

The author and the editor agree with these retractions.

(Even though the retraction is “partial” every page bears a watermark that says “retracted.” We’ve asked the journal about this choice.)

A PDF accompanying the notice specifies which paragraphs the author and editor are retracting, along with an explanation. Those paragraphs include two on conversion therapy, which originally suggested that the practice offers an effective way for someone to become heterosexual. In the reasoning for retracting them, the author writes:

Gay conversion therapy, also known as reparative therapy, purports to change sexual orientation. Now it seems that there has been no demonstration that this therapy is effective, and the results are often harmful to the welfare of the patient, especially from those modalities which employ aversive treatments. Robert Spitzer, whom I cited, has repudiated this therapy. Furthermore, this therapy with minors is now illegal in some jurisdictions in the United States.

Ahmed also clarified his statements about the supposed problems homosexuals can face:

I wrote: “People who are engaged in homosexual behavior are at an increased risk of mental health problems and suicidal behavior …” I then listed 8 such problems, citing studies from 1999.  I made this assertion without mentioning the possibility that the cause of the increased risk may be society’s stigmatization, not the behavior itself.

Ahmed also does a significant about-face regarding accepting someone’s homosexuality. Here’s a sentence from the 2006 article:

Open homosexual behavior threatens the basic Islamic values and should be prohibited. Homosexual behavior is a sinful act similar to heterosexual behavior among unmarried couples.

But in the retraction notice, he asserts that homosexuals should be helped to embrace who they are:

So while a LGB patient may be at increased risk for negative mental health outcomes, the appropriate intervention from the psychiatrist may be family interventions to promote reconciliation, helping the patient accept his or her LGB identity and introducing the patient to community resources to develop a positive collective identity.

Ahmed also retracted the following statements from the 2006 article:

Young students under the influence of a homosexual teacher may fall into this category [of sexually exploited young men.]

The finding that homosexuals more frequently reported homosexual sex with teachers suggest that homosexuality can be acquired by sexual interactions with other sexually-active homosexuals.

The feminist movement also indirectly promoted lesbian behavior because it essentially dismisses men for sexual, social and emotional needs. The movement also negates any psychological or sex linked differences. The sexual identity conflict may be expressed in lesbian behavior.

We’ve reached out to the Journal of the Islamic Medical Association of North America — which is not indexed in Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge — for more information.

We also contacted Ahmed to learn more about what prompted the retraction, and why he decided to make it a “partial retraction.” He told us:

In my article on Homosexuality I have quoted a reference from Robert Spitzer from Colombia University regarding the use of “Aversion Therapy”(reparative Therapy ) by mental health professional to treat Homosexual patients who want to change their sexual orientation.   However subsequently the further research showed that this therapy is not effective and may be harmful and I believe that Dr. Spitzer retracted his article. ( Therefore I have retracted that portion of the article. Thanks for the inquiry.

Technically, as we reported in 2012, Spitzer has just requested a retraction of the 2003 article, which suggested such deprogramming of homosexuality was possible. The journal hasn’t obliged; the editor noted in an interview with Alice Dreger for Psychology Today that he’d be happy to publish a letter from Spitzer saying he no longer believes in his interpretation of the data, but with no signs of errors or falsifications, there’s no reason to retract.

Hat tip: Rolf Degen 

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