The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), the so-called "ex-gay" organization that has been facing many legal challenges and a deteriorating reputation, has decided to rebrand itself. Now known as the NARTH Institute, the same organization has become a division of the new Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity.
The organization claims in its "Breaking News" launch video to be expanding its mission to "meet the needs of a new generation" in "matters related to psychological care." But don't let this video fool you. The "psychological care" of which they speak is "conversion therapy," also known by the misnomers "reparative therapy," "ex-gay therapy," or "sexual orientation change efforts."
According to the American Psychological Association, "conversion therapy" is particularly harmful to youth. The American Psychiatric Association declassified being gay as a mental disorder in 1973, and the general consensus of all major medical and mental health associations is that this therapy is dangerous. Young people who participate in this practice are at a huge risk for severe depression, lowered self-esteem, alienation from their families, substance abuse, and even suicide.
Truth Wins Out, an organization working to demolish anti-LGBT bias and counter anti-LGBT organizations, is warning mental health professionals not to be fooled by NARTH's new rebranding. According to Truth Wins Out:
"Although NARTH claims to be a group that offers therapy, what it does isn't therapy at all. Instead, it is anti-gay hate speech wrapped in medical language, in an effort to make it more palatable to mainstream Americans."
Recently, many former so-called "ex-gay" leaders, those whose faces were once at the forefront of the movement, have come out against the practice. One of these leaders, Yvette Cantu Schneider, who made her career working with ex-gay and pro-family movements including the notoriously ant-LGBT Family Research Council and California's Proposition 8 campaign, reached out to GLAAD for an exclusive interview where she removed herself from the "ex-gay" movement, condemned the therapy practice, and admitted that conversion therapy does not work. She told GLAAD:
"Many people I knew suspected all along that change – true change where all same-sex attractions disappear or become rare and incidental, and heterosexual attractions take their place – never happened. I can say I've never met an 'ex-gay' man I thought was not still attracted to men and would not go back to gay relationships under the right circumstances."
She also gave this advice to young LGBT people:
"Don't let anyone define you. I let other people define me for years…decades. I let them, most of them pastors and ministers, tell me what was wrong with me, how I wasn't good enough, how I needed to change. Don't give anyone that kind of power over you. Be your own person."
Following after Schneider, many other former ex-gay leaders stepped up and crafted a letter calling for an end to the practice. In this letter they wrote:
"At one time, we were not only deeply involved in these ‘ex-gay’ programs, we were the founders, the leaders, and the promoters. Together we represent more than half a century of experience, so few people are more knowledgeable about the ineffectiveness and harm of conversion therapy. We know first-hand the terrible emotional and spiritual damage it can cause, especially for LGBT youth…. We once believed that there was something morally wrong and psychologically 'broken' about being LGBT. We know better now. We once believed that sexual orientation or gender identity were somehow chosen or could be changed. We know better now. We once thought it was impossible to embrace our sexual orientation or sexual identity as an intrinsic, healthy part of who we are and who we were created to be. We know better now."
NCLR, an organization that has been dedicated to expanding the civil and human rights of LGBT people for over three decades, launched a national campaign in June called the #BornPerfect campaign. Hoping to raise awareness about the serious harms caused by this therapy's dangerous practices, NCLR is working to pass laws across the country to protect LGBT youth. Currently California and New Jersey are the only two states that have laws in place banning the use of conversion therapy by licensed mental health practitioners, therapists, and doctors with minors. One of the rebranded NARTH Institute's missions is to lobby against these laws so that they can continue promoting their harmful practice.
Truth Wins Out's Executive Director Wayne Besen exclaimed:
"NARTH can put lipstick on this new pig, but it's the same old swine peddling junk science to desperate and vulnerable people. This cynical rebranding effort is an attempt to mask NARTH's past failures, history of consumer fraud, and shredded reputation. We urge mental health professionals not to be fooled by NARTH's new facelift."
Check out the #BornPerfect campaign's resources to learn more about the "therapy" practice, watch the campaign's legal progress, read the stories of conversion therapy survivors, and find out how you can help. Don't let others be tricked into believing the NARTH Institute is any better than the same old NARTH.