Dr. Oz Show Irresponsibly Frames "Ex Gay" Topic

GLAAD, GLSEN and PFLAG have released a joint statement addressing several serious problems with today's episode of the Dr. Oz show, which dealt with so-called reparative therapy. I'll post the whole thing below - but first, I'd like to note, as someone who was on the show, that several key points were left on the cutting room floor, including a direct challenge about why this show was being done in the first place, and critical information about the LGBT-affirming faith groups that exist within all religions.

Upon rewatching, I can also say I was especially disheartened and even disturbed by the way Dr. Oz ended the show, which he did by implying that this matter is still up for debate, and that the two sides need to "talk to each other" in order to resolve the issue.

That's not how healthcare works.

Dr. Oz is a cardiothoracic surgeon. Let's say he has a patient who needs open heart surgery ASAP.

Now let's say that I sell electric bathtubs. I firmly believe that all this patient needs to do is buy one of my electric bathtubs, have a good soak, and they'll be good as new. (Also relevant because virtually everybody who espouses "reparative therapy" also financially benefits from it.)

What's Dr. Oz's hospital going to do? Are they going to grab a couple of folding chairs and lock me and Dr. Oz in a broom closet until one of us has convinced the other that our method is better? (I'm not budging, by the way.)  Or would their responsibility be to do what's in the best interest of the patient?  Would they ignore my nonsense and save the patient's life? Of course they would.

This show ends inconclusively.

To end a discussion of this topic inconclusively requires one to pretend that the entire mainstream medical community hasn't completely rejected one side of this alleged "debate."

And to pretend that this is unsettled is to put actual lives in danger.  It's fine to talk to these people, but to let them get two segments completely unchallenged, and to end a program as though the issue is unresolved, on a show hosted by an actual medical expert, in my opinion, is the height of irresponsibility.

Now here's our statement:

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GLAAD, the nation's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) media advocacy and anti-defamation organization, The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students and PFLAG National, the nation's largest family and ally organization for LGBT people, today released a joint statement denouncing  the Dr. Oz Show for airing an episode debating the merits of so-called reparative therapy, and positioning a representative of the discredited National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) as an “expert.” The groups are calling on Dr. Oz to stand with the entire medical community against this so-called therapy, and to tell his LGBT viewers that he does not support the idea that their sexual orientation should be “repaired.”

Producers of the Dr. Oz Show framed their program on so-called reparative therapy in a way that provided a lengthy platform for junk science. The first two segments of the show featured two proponents of so-called reparative therapy, neither of whom was challenged, at any point, by Dr. Oz or any guests.  These two “ex-gay” activists, however, were invited to stay and rebut statements by opponents throughout the rest of the program. NARTH representative Julie Hamilton was introduced by Dr. Oz as an “expert” and spoke to countless parents and youth in the audience, as if NARTH’s work and practices represent legitimate and acceptable medical practices. Producers held conversations with GLAAD, GLSEN and PFLAG National leading up to the episode, but did not disclose that a representative of NARTH would be featured.  Although the show also featured guests who condemned the idea and practice of “reparative therapy,” Dr. Oz himself never weighed in, and the audience was misled to believe that there are actual experts on both sides of this issue. There are not.

NARTH is a splinter group of anti-gay therapists/activists, formed in 1992—according to its founders—in order to “fully understand the homosexual condition and the factors which drive this self-destructive behavior.” NARTH co-founder Charles Socarides called gay people “a purple menace that is threatening the proper design of gender distinctions in society.” NARTH says it supports clients who seek to “diminish their homosexuality and to develop their heterosexual potential” through therapy.

This idea, which is NARTH’s main focus, has been dismissed by every single mainstream health and welfare organization in the country, including the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Counseling Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Association of Social Workers. Each of these organizations, and more, has rejected the notion and practice of any therapist attempting to change a client’s sexual orientation.

A coalition of 13 national health, mental health, education and religious organizations spearheaded by the American Psychological Association produced "Just the Facts About Sexual Orientation and Youth: A Primer for Principals, Educators and School Personnel" in response to concerns raised by GLSEN in 1999 that schools and parents were receiving inaccurate information on the issue of sexual orientation, particularly about whether youth can change their sexual orientation.

“GLSEN would not have participated in The Dr. Oz Show had we known that NARTH would be represented,” said GLSEN Executive Director Dr. Eliza Byard. “The Dr. Oz Show provided a platform to a fringe organization promoting dangerous and harmful practices that every major health, mental health and education organization has consistently repudiated as harmful to youth. As we have since 1999, GLSEN and our partners in the Just the Facts Coalition will continue to hold the line against dangerous misinformation that threatens the wellbeing of youth.”

 “This issue is not one that can be discussed as though both sides are equally valid” said GLAAD President Herndon Graddick.  “The idea of therapists attempting to change a patient’s sexual orientation has been proven ineffective and dangerous, and has been soundly and conclusively rejected by the entire medical establishment. This line of thinking is outdated, ultimately harmful, and in modern media, should be treated like lobotomies or medical mercury.”

PFLAG National Executive Director Jody Huckaby agrees with Graddick. “A doctor’s first oath is to do no harm, and yet by making the decision to air this show, the harm has already been done. The doctrine espoused by so-called “ex-gay” organizations—that gay people can and should change their sexual orientation—has been condemned by every mainstream professional medical and mental health association. LGBT youth and their families must have access to safe and accurate information, and all responsible medical doctors, psychiatrists, and therapists have a responsibility to convey such information, not offer up dangerous debunked methods as legitimate or as fact. What LGBT youth need is the love, support, and acceptance of their parents, families, and friends, not to be told to change who they are.”

The American Medical Association states “(We) oppose any psychiatric treatment, such as “reparative” or “conversion” therapy which is based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or based upon the a priori assumption that the patient should change his/her homosexual orientation.“ The AMA also says that “most of the emotional disturbance experienced by gay men and lesbians around their sexual identity is not based on physiological causes but rather is due more to a sense of alienation in an unaccepting environment.”

By presenting former NARTH President Julie Hamilton as an “expert” on this topic, Dr. Oz chose to ignore what the actual experts say, and wrongfully presented this topic to his audience as an ongoing debate, rather than as the settled matter that it is within his own medical community. As someone who is trusted to deliver sound medical advice by his own patients and an audience of millions, his failure to do so on this topic is troubling. We ask that Dr. Oz stand with his colleagues and peers who oppose “reparative therapy.”

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