Man Says Ore. Psychiatrist Told Him He Wasn’t Gay
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Max Hirsh says he sensed something wasn’t quite right when the psychiatrist focused on his failures with sports and teenage girls, as well as his deficient relationships with older men, particularly his father.
Hirsh became convinced of the psychiatrist’s rationale for those questions by the fourth session, when he essentially told the openly gay Hirsh that his true sexuality was in the closet.
"But you’re heterosexual," Hirsh recalls the psychiatrist telling him.
Hirsh insisted he was gay; the psychiatrist wasn’t buying it.
"He said ’No,’ like he had some extra information about my sexuality that I didn’t," Hirsh said.
Hirsh, 22, contends the Oregon psychiatrist was practicing "conversion therapy" to change his sexual orientation. His experience is the subject of an ethics complaint filed this month by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which plans to take the same action in other states as part of a national campaign to stop therapists from trying to make gay people straight.
The complaint sent to the American Psychological Association and the Oregon Psychiatric Association arrived in what has become something of a watershed month for opponents of the form of psychotherapy. California legislators advanced a bill to the state senate that would ban children younger than 18 from receiving conversion therapy. And Dr. Robert Spitzer, a prominent retired psychiatrist, apologized to the gay community last week for a "fatal flaw" in his influential 2001 study that found conversion therapy to be a successful option for some people.
Hirsh’s experience with the psychiatrist, who he was seeing because he was depressed, could not be independently verified. The Southern Poverty Law Center blacked out the doctor’s name in a copy of the complaint supplied to journalists, and Hirsh and his lawyer would not identify the doctor. Christine Sun, the law center’s deputy legal director, said the psychological associations require confidentiality when investigating complaints.
The American Psychological Association, in a 2009 resolution, said mental health professionals should not tell gay clients they can become straight because there is no solid proof that such a change is likely. The law center wants its anti-conversion effort to spur tougher restrictions and, down the road, more legislative action, such as what’s occurring in California.
"Our immediate goal is for the APA to take these allegations seriously and ultimately ban conversion therapy by its members," Sun said.
Supporters of what is called reparative therapy contend the overwhelming majority of gay people are not born that way, and those who want to change should not be denied access to qualified professionals.