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Committee Probes Psychiatrist's Sex 'Cure' Involving Male Patients

by Kilian Melloy
Tuesday Mar 13, 2018
Committee Probes Psychiatrist's Sex 'Cure' Involving Male Patients

The roundly discredited sham of so-called "reparative therapy" - touted by its practitioners as a way to "convert" gays into heterosexuals - raises eyebrows for its claim that gays suffer from a "disorder." But one Toronto psychiatrist's approach to "treating" homosexuality sparked a committee review of the doctor and his methodologies, reported the Toronto Star.

Dr. Melvyn Iscove, 72, came under scrutiny by the discipline committee of the College of Physicians and Surgeons after two former patients claimed that he had sexual contact with them in his office. Masturbation, oral sex, and an episode of anal sex were all reportedly engaged in by Iscove and the men claiming abuse.

The Star article said that the incidents in question "mostly date back to the 1990s and early 2000s."

"Neither complainant described any emotional or romantic aspects of the sexual activity with Dr. Iscove," a report by the committee stated, "and both said that at some point, they thought that the sexual activity was part of the therapy and an attempt to cure them of homosexuality by engaging in the acts, rather than fantasizing about them."

One of the men offered an account in which he sought treatment from Iscove in his 20s because he suffered anxiety around the issue of being gay. At some point in the course of their association, Iscove gave the man permission to touch him intimately; after that, doctor and patient engaged in sessions of masturbation and oral sex, the committee's report said.

The other man said that he went to Iscove when he was 18 - not because he had any doubts about his sexuality, but rather because he was depressed and suffered anxiety. Iscove told the man that his fantasies of straight sexual encounters were actually a coping mechanism.

"Fantasies that involved heterosexual relationships were identified by Dr. Iscove as being a way of denying his homosexuality," the committee's report said, adding that the young man "firmly believed that Dr. Iscove was attempting to 'cure' his homosexuality."

British newspaper The Daily Mail noted that Iscove was a proponent of theories promulgated in the 1950s by Dr. Edmund Bergler, who posited the notion that being gay is a pathological condition and can be "cured." Bergler authored the 1962 book "Homosexuality: Disease or Way of Life," in which he advanced the opinion that same-sex desire among men amounted to "an unconscious search for a duplicate of oneself as a boy" - a claim that managed to combine two scurrilous ideas: That being gay is a mental disorder, and the equally spurious - but, in homophobic circles, widely circulated - idea that gays prey on children.

Credible experts in the contemporary world say that so-called "conversion therapy" is ineffectual and can even harm those upon whom it is inflicted. The practice, which has been decried as torture by activists seeking to protect children, is currently outlawed in ten states - California, Connecticut, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Illinois, Vermont, New York, New Mexico and Rhode Island - as well as in the District of Columbia and various municipalities around the country. Washington State is now also poised to outlaw the practice with respect to minors.

Nor do credible mental health professionals embrace the idea that to be gay is to be in any way necessarily "disordered." The American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses in 1974; the World Health Organization lagged behind by a decade and a half, but also declassified homosexuality as a mental illness in 1990.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


  • , 2018-03-16 22:13:39


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