Conference in Italy with Dr. Joseph Nicolosi
“‘Diversity’ also includes those of us with more traditional anthropological viewpoints.”
By Lucia Braghini
On May 21-22, 2010, a conference entitled “Gender Identity and Freedom” was held in Brescia, Italy and attended by 168 people.
The first seminar was entitled, “The Approach to Unwanted Homosexuality: Psychological Treatment Tools,” and was aimed at psychologists, educators, and professionals, with 99 attendees. The second, “Gender Identity: The Condition and Causes of Homosexuality” was open to the members of the twelve associations that had organized the conference (131 attendees).
As soon as news got out that a conference with Dr. Nicolosi would be held in Brescia, interest about the event soared. People all over Italy who wanted to listen to the lectures began making preparations to be there.
But so did those who were willing to bend over backwards to prevent people from getting to know about an approach--and the clinical experience from which it stemmed--which didn’t tally with gay ideology. Gay-activist groups called for a demonstration at the venue; then, there was a change of heart and they decided to ignore the conference so as to avoid drawing attention to it.
These same groups then put pressure on the Board of Psychology of the Lombardy Region of Italy to take a public stand against reorientation therapy. Accordingly, the deliberation issued by the Board on the 12th May warned against the risks of such therapies.
Both organizers and attendees reported being very satisfied with the outcome of the conference. The lectures were deemed to be extremely interesting, challenging and clearly delivered, which resulted in a very attentive and actively participating audience. According to the questionnaires filled in anonymously, it appears that professionals found the lectures useful for their everyday practice, and attendees personally involved (i.e., interested in the topic for personal reasons) claimed to have largely gained (in terms of understanding, encouragement and support) from the seminars. A positive side- effect was that the event was for many, the occasion to get to know other people either with the same problems, or with the same interests. Several asked to keep in touch and suggested creating other, similar occasions.
Ten days before the conference, the major national newspaper, “Corriere della Sera,” published a short article entitled, “Gays say ‘no’ to the physician who treats homosexuality.” The article reported the objections from gay-activist groups which had attempted to have the conference cancelled, and also described the aim of the conference organizers, which was fostering open scientific discussion on the topic.
It was also announced that gay-activist groups would turn to the Board of Psychology for support in achieving their own aims.
In the following days, the focus was on related political news which favored gay activism: representatives from the gay-activist group “Arcigay” were received in Rome by the President of the Italian Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, who urged political groups to acknowledge the rights of gay-identified people; and Minister Mara Carfagna, who had previously denied permission to hold a gay-pride parade in 2008, this time actually apologized to the gay-activist community for having done so.
Two articles appeared in the newspaper “Libero” about the Brescia conference (one in favor of the conference and one against it). Interestingly, only one local newspaper, “Bresciaoggi,” (unfortunately not the most widely read), provided adequate coverage. This was the only newspaper that had a journalist actually present at the press conference. Although clearly more sympathetic to the views of the gay-activist group “Arcigay,” the articles did allow the readers to catch a small glimpse of the worldview of the people who had organized the conference.
The most popular local newspaper “Giornale di Brescia” published a short article on the day of the first seminar, quoting the opening question -- “Do male and female genders still exist?” -- from the conference leaflet. The newspaper “Bresciaoggi” published an interview with Dr. Nicolosi on May 22nd.
After the conference, “Voce del Popolo,” the weekly paper of the Brescia Catholic Diocese, published an interesting and insightful article by Prof. Giuseppe Mari (Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore), who had attended the conference. The weekly magazine “Tempi” also published a thoroughgoing interview with Dr. Nicolosi.
One of the conference organizers commented: “Homosexuality is an enormously controversial ideological issue in Italy. There is a strong ideological prejudice shown by the majority of journalists, psychotherapists, politicians, teachers, and intellectuals in general, although there is a greater openness to understanding this issue by the common people. The clergy, on the other hand, is generally confused and terrified.”
The Board of Psychology’s Viewpoint
A translation of a statement about the conference issue by Carlotta Longhi of the Board of Psycholgy of Lombardia is as follows: (http://www.opl.it/news/leggi.asp?ART_ID=6699):
“If a person asks the psychologist to change their sexual orientation, the psychologist must not respond to help to modify it. It would be like if the client should declare that he wants to die, and ask the psychologist to help him commit suicide.”
The Board of Psychology objected to Dr. Nicolosi’s foundational anthropological position; which is that homosexuality cannot represent “who one is” in the truest and deepest sense of one’s being. The Board also objected to the view that in human nature, some sexual behaviors are "natural" and some "unnatural." “This position,” they said, “can be supported from a religious perspective, but definitely not from science.”
Mauro Grimoldi (president) (http://www.opl.it/news/leggi.asp?ART_ID=6703): quoted Dr. Nicolosi’s views from his most recent book. Dr. Nicolosi had said: "I believe that gender identity and sexual orientation are based on biological reality. The body tells us who we are and we cannot build, assemble or disassemble a different reality, where gender or sexual identity are not synchronized with biology" (Gender Identity, 2009, Sugarco, p. 14).”
In holding this anthropological view, Mr. Grimoldi said, "reparative therapists are committing a grave mistake...By just offering reparative therapy, therapists implicitly deny that homosexuality can be healthy.”
The Board of Psychology Contradicts its Own Ethical Standards
Despite the Board of Psychology’s claim that reorientation therapies should not be offered, the Code of Ethics for psychologists, Article 4 says: “Psychologists must respect the dignity, self-determination and autonomy of those who use their services. They must respect their opinions and refrain from imposing their own system of values, and not discriminate based on religion, gender, or sexual orientation.”
“If the Lombardy Board of Psychology is consistent in its views,” said Dr. Nicolosi, “it must recognize that there are differing understandings of human nature. A gay-affirming viewpoint can be one of those views, but a place at the table must also be made for those of us who see human nature as designed for gender complementarity.
“‘Diversity,’ rightly understood, must inevitably be inclusive of psychologists with more traditional anthropological viewpoints.”