USA Today has published an op-ed by Nicholas Cummings defending ex-gay therapy, and in particular, the Jewish ex-gay group JONAH, which is being sued by ex-gay survivors for consumer fraud. Cummings offered the treatment himself as a therapist from 1959–1979, and served as president of the American Psychological Association from 1979–1980, but it’s unclear what professional experience he’s had since then.
Most of his op-ed is a rehash of an affidavit he filed defending JONAH in the lawsuit. Disagreeing with the consensus among his professional peers, Cummings contends that sexual orientation is not immutable and that of the patients he oversaw who sought ex-gay therapy, “hundreds were successful,” though he does not reference one specific success story:
Of the patients I oversaw who sought to change their orientation, hundreds were successful. I believe that our rate of success with reorientation was relatively high because we were selective in recommending therapeutic change efforts only to those who identified themselves as highly motivated and were clinically assessed as having a high probability of success. […]
Whatever the situation at an individual clinic, accusing professionals from across the country who provide treatment for fully informed persons seeking to change their sexual orientation of perpetrating a fraud serves only to stigmatize the professional and shame the patient.
Cummings’ final point is truly ironic, given that ex-gay therapy itself relies upon shaming patients, encouraging them to repress their own identity.
The ex-gay professional organization NARTH champions Cummings’ support of the harmful treatment. He has also featured as a keynote speaker at NARTH conferences, where he claimed that the LGBT movement uses “homophobia as intimidation” to oppress those who oppose homosexuality.
The APA has concluded that sexual orientation change efforts are at best ineffective, if not harmful. In a survey of ex-gay survivors — those who once attempted to change their orientation then later embraced it — over 90 percent reported that they experienced harm. A study designed to prove ex-gay therapy worked found that even those who claim success are just acting the part — their orientation hasn’t changed. Arguably, many of the “treatments” the plaintiffs in the JONAH case experienced were not only ineffective and potentially psychologically harmful, but outright abusive.