Michael King, British psychiatrist and researcher, is behind a research wesbite called Treatmentshomosexuality.org.uk. The website’s purpose is stated up front:
The website is new and under development. It is about use of so-called “treatments” that aim to make homosexual people heterosexual. It arose from research funded by the Wellcome Trust from 2001 to 2004 into the oral history of such treatments in Britain since 1950.
Treatments to change a person’s sexuality are unethical and may be damaging. This is because homosexuality is NOT a disorder. Nor is there any evidence that any such “treatments” are effective. That is the reason why we collected a number of oral histories from lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) people who had undergone therapy. We also collected oral histories from professionals who had developed and conducted the treatments. We wanted to know how patients had coped with the potentially damaging effects of “treatment” and whether the professionals had eventually realised the harm they were doing.
On this website you will find some of the oral histories that arose from that research. We have not put all the narratives here; rather we have included only those that show particular issues and that are the most revealing of how treatments were conducted. To read them click on the Narratives button and then on Patient Story or Professional Story. You can also read about and listen to views about such treatments on the Interviews page.
We are eager to make contact with other people around the world who may have undergone these “treatments”. Unfortunately, we are aware that many lesbian, gay and bisexual people have undergone psychotherapy, aversion behaviour therapy, or various forms of spiritual or reparative therapy, to try to become heterosexual. This may have happened to you or be happening to you now. You may even be a friend or relative of someone who has received or is receiving treatment. If so, we would like you to send us your story.
We are also eager to hear from professionals, be they doctors, psychotherapists, counsellors or psychologists, who may have undertaken these treatments at any time in their career. Please send us your accounts of giving these therapies and what you think about them now.
You can do this by contacting us with a written account, or an audio or video digital recording of your account. If it is suitable we shall edit it to ensure it is anonymous and will not cause offence to third parties. We shall then add it to the stories already on this website.
In particular, we want to hear from people living in places such as India, South America and China where much less research into these matters has been conducted.
With this tone and content on the front page, one might be surprised to learn that the research team is also interested in positive experiences in change therapy. Yesterday, Dr. King disclosed this apparent shift in response to a question from commenter Peter Ould. Ould asked, “Would you be amenable to using your website here to also post anecdotal stories of those who have had positive experiences of reparative therapy or other faith-based pastoral approaches?”
To which, Dr. King replied:
And yes, we will place positive accounts of treatments on the website. When we conducted our original oral history research, we couldn’t find any. However, we did find professionals who continued to advocate treatments and their comments were published in our papers in the British Medical Journal and on our website.
This research effort seems to be going down a similar road as did Ariel Shidlo and Michael Schroeder. When Shidlo and Schroeder began recruiting subjects for their study of harm from reorientation, they began with the project titled: “Homophobic therapies: Documenting the damage.” They changed their focus somewhat after some people presented with stories of benefit. A similar course may be in store for this newer effort.
To be clear, I am not posting this because I favor change therapies. I think there are some people who have experienced change to varying degrees, but I also think that if you are going to research a topic, you should minimize confirmation bias to the greatest degree possible. If it was my project, I would make the website more neutral and also hold out an invitation to clients and therapists who are/were involved in sexual identity therapy.
It will be interesting to follow this project…