Testimony – Karl Benzio, MD
Testimony Opposing Banning Therapy for Those with Unwanted Same Sex Attraction
My name is Karl Benzio, MD. I am a psychiatrist licensed to practice in Pennsylvania and Florida and have been treating patients since 1989. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor specializing in how the brain works, how we think and make decisions, how this can go wrong, and how to fix it. With this expertise, I am skilled to order medical tests, prescribe medications when helpful, and perform psychotherapy (often called “talk therapy”).
To give you some brief background, I have worked in Iraq, Uganda, and Kenya with traumatized, abused, and despairing people. I’ve been honored to testify in front of various state legislatures, U.S. Congress, and the President’s Bioethics Committee. I am also the Pennsylvania state director of the American Academy of Medical Ethics.
As I go on and use the terms “treatment” and “therapy,” I am using this in the context of an appropriate psychotherapy using evidenced-based, research validated talk therapy treatments by a state licensed therapist. I am not talking about forms of so-called “treatment” by well-meaning lay people or people with a certificate, masters, or even a PhD, but not in a mental health or psychology discipline. This is a very important distinction because some non-trained people have tried to treat same sex attraction, but not using scientifically based treatment methods, and have hurt people.
I have treated many people over the years who have opposite sex attraction (heterosexual orientation) and same sex attraction (homosexual orientation). They come to my office for various reasons most common of which are depression, anxiety, relationship issues, difficulty managing stress, or they want more out of life.
As we define goals and work on their present issues, we need to look back into their past experiences to see why and how they developed the present lenses they now see life through and how their present skills, or lack thereof, developed. The reason for their present struggle is the incorrect or smudged lenses they presently have in combination with some ineffective skills in understanding and managing their present life circumstances.
As we start to uncover past experiences that pertain to present day lenses and skills, we invariably discover some past unhealed relational wounds that still hurt and interferes with an accurate view of themselves and present situations leading to some inefficient, and often dysfunctional coping mechanisms. These coping mechanisms are in place to avoid the past hurts happening again, or experiencing similar scenarios.
The amazing phenomena I have discovered is the following. As we work on uncovering, exploring, and healing the past wounds, while correcting misinformation from their past that was stored in their brain’s databanks, many of my patients with same sex attraction start to lose this impulse and feeling and develop opposite sex attraction and feel very comfortable with this new choice. The same sex attraction was actually a coping mechanism to deal with some past wounding. Amazingly, I have never seen it go the other way where the patient has, after a healing and appropriate therapeutic process, switched from opposite sex attraction to same sex attraction.
Thinking this was only my observation; I looked through all the medical literature, research studies, and single case presentations to see what others have found. Looking at tens of thousands of cases, I have found many situations like the one I described, patients changing their attraction from same sex to opposite sex, but never going from opposite sex to same sex attraction. The lone exceptions were several cases of heterosexual male patients who were sexually molested by their male therapists (obviously not an appropriate therapy technique or process), and then developed same sex attraction. For some it was unwanted feelings and others it was embraced.
You might think my database was biased, but it includes both patients from religious backgrounds and non-religious, as well as those who were uncomfortable with their same sex attraction and those who were very comfortable, but who later changed. The research I looked through also bore this out. It didn’t matter the sex, religion, or sexual orientation of the therapist, nor did it matter what the religion, sex, or whether the same sex attraction was wanted or unwanted, with sound psychological therapy and healing, many changed to opposite sex attraction. They were also happy about the change and not fighting or unhappy about it.
This amazing, real life phenomena, shows what the medical and brain science, genetic studies, and sociological research has always born out. Same sex attraction is a choice. No one is born with it. Although many who have same sex attraction don’t think it is a choice, for most it is an unconscious choice, made over time deep in their core, that is their way of avoiding pain or coping with unresolved issues, usually emanating from developmental issued with parents and/or premature exposure to sex in some form. The third most common reason is same sex peer or sibling issues during their early childhood.
The data I present to you about those who undergo therapy and change can’t be ignored.
It shows 2 powerful points:
- Same sex attraction is a choice as evidenced by the many people who have comfortably changed to opposite sex attraction and lead happy, healthy and fulfilling lives.
- When looking on a spectrum of pathology or illness on one end and full health on the other end, opposite sex attraction is closer to the full health side than same sex attraction is. When a same sex attraction person gets therapy for their psychological struggles, they often become opposite sex attracted. But no opposite sex attracted patient, while getting therapy and becoming healthier ever becomes same sex attracted.
- If there were cases out there where therapy moves someone from opposite to same sex attraction (haven’t found it except for the abuse situations I shared), then this would also show how sexual attraction is a choice and fluid based on the psychological dynamics a person has going on inside, and static or innate state a person is born with.
Based on this data alone, please do not withhold or deny someone the opportunity of healing their desire and need. You are not a doctor, psychiatrist, or trained therapist. I don’t expect you to be able to treat someone and give them the skills to enjoy a full life and achieve their God-given potential. But your standing in the way of someone who wants to have this peace, joy, and fulfilled life would truly be cruel and unusual punishment.
By approving this bill and banning treatment options for those with same sex attraction, especially unwanted same sex attraction, you are limiting the therapeutic repertoire of doctors and others in the healing field. In essence, you would be forcing us to commit malpractice by not allowing us to provide the patient with the healing answers with the least side effects.
Finally, approving this bill and denying proven and effective treatment to a hurting person would not only be cruel and unusual punishment to the patient while forcing the therapist to engage in malpractice, you would also be trampling the First Amendment right of the patient to pursue treatment consistent with their religious beliefs (Jews, Christians, Mormons, and Muslims, as well as many other faith groups oppose same sex attraction) and trampling the Right of Conscience we need protected for all healthcare professionals. Right of Conscience is a necessary foundational building block of our healthcare system solidifying the trust necessary for a strong doctor-patient relationship. Without this trust, patients don’t divulge important information to their treaters and health measures decline and healthcare costs dramatically rise.
I am not asking you to mandate treatment for those with same sex attraction. But please vote to oppose this bill as it denies scientifically proven healing options for those needing help who also have same sex attraction.
Thank you for your time, willingness to be open to these facts, and consideration,
by HIS grace,
Karl Benzio, MD