The psychiatrist behind a controversial 2001 study that suggested gay people could change their sexual orientation under rare circumstances has retracted his claims.

Dr Robert Spitzer used an interview in the May issue of American Prospect magazine to publicly disown the research.

Spitzer said he was drawn to the topic of ex-gay therapy because it was controversial and that his goal was to determine whether the claim that no one had ever changed his or her sexual orientation through therapy was true.

But he admitted that many of the criticisms leveled at the research were probably valid.

“In retrospect, I have to admit I think the critiques are largely correct,” he said.

“The findings can be considered evidence for what those who have undergone ex-gay therapy say about it, but nothing more.”

Spitzer said he spoke with the editor of the Archives of Sexual Behavior – where the study was published – about writing a retraction, but the editor declined and that repeated attempts to contact the journal went unanswered.

Spitzer, who was instrumental in removing homosexuality from the list of mental disorders in 1973, said he was proud of that effort but that he was afraid that the 2001 study would tarnish his legacy and perhaps hurt others.

He said that failed attempts to rid oneself of homosexual attractions “can be quite harmful”.

He asked American Prospect to print a retraction of his 2001 study, so he didn’t have to worry about it anymore.

Spitzer’s study was based on 200 interviews with so-called ‘ex-gay’ patients.

It has been widely used by ex-gay organisations as proof of the success from reparative therapy.

You can read the full retraction and interview here.

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