Amazon Pulls Books By Catholic Writer Who Promoted Conversion Therapy

LGBTQ activists say Dr. Joseph Nicolosi's books sought to give scientific credibility to the ex-gay movement.

Amazon is no longer selling books by a Catholic author who promoted the scientifically discredited idea that it’s possible to alter a person’s sexual orientation through conversion therapy.

Several titles by psychologist Dr. Joseph Nicolosi were removed from the online retail giant’s website, Amazon confirmed to HuffPost in an email Friday. A search for Nicolosi’s books on the site failed to produce any results. The company said it reserves the right to not sell books that contradict its content guidelines.

LGBTQ activists have been urging Amazon to take action against the books for months. More than 82,000 people have signed a petition since it launched five months ago, calling on the company to stop selling books that promote conversion therapy.

Sam Brinton, head of advocacy and government affairs for the suicide prevention group The Trevor Project, said they consider the removal of Nicolosi’s books to be a positive step.

“Amazon is the nation’s largest seller of online books,” Brinton said. “It is significant that they are taking the threat of conversion therapy seriously by refusing to be a party to the exploitation of concerned parents and other customers who deserve accurate information, not DIY conversion therapy manuals that should clearly be labeled as ‘fiction.’”

Nicolosi, who died in 2017, was known to some as the “father of conversion therapy,” sometimes called reparative therapy. This form of therapy operates under the premise that same-sex relationships are unhealthy ― a stance that the American Psychiatric Association repudiated in 1973, when it removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses.

Through numerous media appearances, Nicolosi promoted the idea that homosexuality is a symptom of early childhood trauma, and that people could diminish same-sex attractions through reparative therapy. He wrote several books outlining ways to supposedly cure queer people, including “A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality” and “Healing Homosexuality: Case Stories of Reparative Therapy.”

As a practicing therapist, most of Nicolosi’s patients were teenagers ― a population that is particularly vulnerable to the risks associated with conversion therapy. He was also the founder of the Thomas Aquinas Psychological Clinic in California and the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH).

Nicolosi’s work sought to give scientific credibility to the ex-gay movement, Brinton said.

“Many of my friends and fellow survivors of conversion therapy can trace their trauma to Nicolosi,” they said. “His work aimed to prove the ‘science’ of conversion therapy, even though the practice has been discredited as dangerous and harmful by medical experts for decades.”

In 2009, the American Psychological Association took aim at Nicolosi’s writings and that of other conversion therapy proponents, declaring that there is “insufficient evidence” to support the idea that therapy can change sexual orientation. It also reaffirmed that same-sex attractions are “normal and positive variations of human sexuality.”

In addition, the American Psychiatric Association stated that conversion therapy represents a “significant risk of harm,” since it subjects patients to treatment that hasn’t been scientifically validated and undermines their self-esteem when their sexual orientation fails to change.

Eighteen states have banned therapists from practicing conversion therapy on minors. Still, two out of three LGBTQ youth say someone tried to convince them to change their sexual orientation or gender identity, according to a 2019 national survey from The Trevor Project. Youth who have undergone conversion therapy were more than twice as likely to attempt suicide as those who did not.

More than 82,000 people have signed a petition calling on Amazon to stop selling books that promote conversion therapy.
More than 82,000 people have signed a petition calling on Amazon to stop selling books that promote conversion therapy.
Jorge Villalba via Getty Images

Even though Amazon removed several titles from Nicolosi, the site is still selling many other books claiming that sexual orientation can be altered or that same-sex attractions can be diminished through therapy or prayer.

These include books by Bob Davies, former executive director of the now-defunct ex-gay organization Exodus International, and Jackie Hill Perry, an ex-lesbian hip-hop artist who is popular in conservative evangelical circles. Books about “leaving homosexuality” by Alan Chambers, a former Exodus International leader who later renounced conversion therapy, are also still being sold on Amazon.

Amazon declined to explain to HuffPost why it took action against Nicolosi’s books, while other books by ex-gay authors are allowed to remain on the site.

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