Narth ‘Study’ a New Low in Junk Science

Published in: September-October 2009 issue.


IN A BRAZEN EFFORT to pre-empt an American Psychological Association report on human sexuality before its scheduled release in August, an anti-gay organization unveiled its own report, which amounts to rubbish in the guise of research. The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality’s (narth) “new” study, “What the Research Shows: narth’s Response to the American Psychological Association’s Claims on Homosexuality,” is so embarrassingly slipshod that no scientist would take it seriously.

But, of course, the goal is not to impress researchers, who would cackle at the kookiness. The real aim, according to Dr. Jack Drescher, a renowned psychiatrist and author, is to confuse the public and the gullible media into believing the APA and narth are equally credentialed scientific bodies engaged in a legitimate dispute over homosexuality. The truth, however, is that narth is a fringe group held in total disrepute by anyone who has even a rudimentary knowledge of science. The organization is best known for encouraging male clients to drink Gatorade and call friends “dude” to increase masculinity.

The first clue to the study’s worthlessness was the fact that narth and Focus on the Family referred to it as “new” research. In fact, not one iota of fresh research took place. Not one moment was spent in the lab, not a subject was recruited to broaden the base of knowledge on the etiology of sexual orientation. Instead, the study was basically a compilation of everything negative ever written about gay people, regardless of how unfounded or biased the conclusion. narth essentially blasted shit out of a cannon, hoping at least some would stick to the wall.

The second clue to the inanity of this report was that it was guided by narth’s own Scientific Advisory Board. The last time this assemblage of reprobates appeared in the news, it was after one of their members (Gerald Schoenwolf) seemed to endorse slavery, while another (Joseph Berger) opined that gender variant children should be “ridiculed” by their peers.

The third clue came when narth claimed that its work appeared in the peer-reviewed Journal of Human Sexuality. They conveniently failed to mention that this is their own journal, staffed by other like-minded quacks! This would be the equivalent of me offering a glowing review of my last book on my own personal website, while pretending it was an independent overview.

The fourth clue was that narth refused to rely on modern research. Instead, they elected to incorporate discredited, century-old studies, where gay subjects were often recruited from prisons or mental hospitals. It’s no coincidence that narth used work from the horse-and-buggy era, as no research in more than thirty years has supported their views on homosexuality. Can you imagine how people would howl if an organization used 125-year-old studies on African Americans, climate change, or any area of medicine?

Most absurd of all, narth invoked the Stonewall uprising that ushered in the modern gay rights movement to highlight the alleged oppression of “ex-gays.” According to the group’s website: “Those who have received help from reorientation therapists have collectively stood up to be counted—as once did their openly gay counterparts in the 1970’s. The first time a formal demonstration against the American Psychiatric Association was protested against [sic]—not by pro-gay activists, but by a group of people reporting that they had substantially changed their sexual orientation, and that change is possible for others—was on May 22, 1994, in Philadelphia.” Interestingly, narth writes this passage as if it is a casual observer witnessing an organic uprising. What they conveniently fail to point out is that the group engineered and staged these protests as a public relations gimmick. I was at the so-called “protest” in New Orleans. The demonstrators were all professional “ex-gay” activists or members of narth—including the group’s president Joseph Nicolosi and his son.

So, let’s put this “study” in perspective. Narth is repackaging 125-year-old research as new and unveiling its “findings” in its own publication, while trying to claim that the study survived peer review. The group is also pretending to document a spontaneous popular uprising that they had actually staged. They are hoping to pull off this publicity stunt by creating an on-line echo chamber, with Christian news outlets mindlessly repeating their lies.

Clearly, narth is not interested in science but in promoting bigotry, which has always been their agenda, as set forth by their co-founder Dr. Socarides: “Homosexuality is … a purple menace that is threatening the proper design of gender distinctions in society.”


Wayne Besen is the founding executive director of Truth Wins Out.