In her February letters, Maziarka calls homosexuality a "condition," and makes the unsupported and unsupportable claim that "people leave homosexuality every day." Further, she insists that the library is practicing censorship by not having enough books that promote "reparative" therapy, psychological practices that attempt to change the sexual orientation of homosexuals (also called SOCE, for Sexual Orientation Change Efforts).
There are many reasons why a library might include or exclude books on SOCE, and I want to be clear that I'm not trying here to tell the library what to do. One of the factors the library might consider is that the American Psychological Association has thoroughly rejected reparative therapy as ineffective and not infrequetly causing harm. While recently reconfirmed, the rejection of SOCE by professional organizations is decades old, although some groups and individuals have been a bit slow on the uptake. I agree with Sleepless In West Bend, who wrote, "That's not censorship; it is called responsible and professional librarianship."
Let's be clear about the harm these books can do:
- They enable anti-gay bigotry by promoting the idea that sexual orientations other than exclusive heterosexuality are a disorder, an idea rejected decades ago by the American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, and the Amerian Psychological Association.
- They give false hopes to parents concerned about a child's possible homosexuality, delaying, perhaps even terminating, the parents' process of coming to a position of acceptance.
- They confuse children and teens who are struggling with their sexual orientation by painting a counter-scientific picture of human sexuality and offering false hopes of change.
- They encourage parents and children to waste time and money in forms of psychotherapy that are unlikely to work.
- They mis-represent the risks of such therapy, encouraging parents and children to engage in a process that may cause psychological harm, including low self-esteem, depression, and suicide.
That's enough from me on the point. I'd like to let the recent report on SOCE by the American Psychological Association to speak for itself. Quotes below are verbatim, but reformatted slightly to fit this blog.
"We see this multiculturally competent and affirmative approach as grounded in an acceptance of the following scientific facts: Same-sex sexual attractions, behavior, and orientations per se are normal and positive variants of human sexuality—in other words, they do not indicate either mental or developmental disorders." (p.2)
"These studies show that enduring change to an individual’s sexual orientation is uncommon. The participants in this body of research continued to experience same-sex attractions following SOCE and did not report significant change to othersex attractions that could be empirically validated, though some showed lessened physiological arousal to all sexual stimuli. Compelling evidence of decreased same-sex sexual behavior and of engagement in sexual behavior with the other sex was rare. Few studies provided strong evidence that any changes produced in laboratory conditions translated to daily life. Thus, the results of scientifically valid research indicate that it is unlikely that individuals will be able to reduce samesex attractions or increase other-sex sexual attractions through SOCE." (pp. 2-3).
"We found that there was some evidence to indicate that individuals experienced harm from SOCE. Early studies documented iatrogenic effects of aversive forms of SOCE. These negative side effects included loss of sexual feeling, depression, suicidality, and anxiety. High drop rates characterized early aversive treatment studies and may be an indicator that research participants experienced these treatments as harmful. Recent research reports on religious and nonaversive efforts indicate that there are individuals who perceive they have been harmed. Across studies, it is unclear what specific individual characteristics and diagnostic criteria would prospectively distinguish those individuals who will later perceive that they been harmed by SOCE." (p. 3)
The following is a resolution recommended in the report, but not yet finalized by the APA:
"The American Psychological Association advises parents, guardians, young people, and their families to avoid sexual orientation change efforts that portray homosexuality as a mental illness or developmental disorder and to seek psychotherapy, social support and educational services that provide accurate information on sexual orientation and sexuality, increase family and school support, and reduce rejection of sexual minority youth." (p. 121).
[*Page numbers above refer to the The APA report on SOCE, which can be download from: http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbc/publications/therapeutic-response.pdf.
I would like to thank Sleepless in West Bend for bringing attention to this issue in a post on the APA Report and on a Press Release by PFOX, an organization that pushes "reparative" therapy.]