From the March-April 2011 issue of News & Letters:
Memphis, Tenn.–On Feb. 21, Wayne Besen, executive director of Truth Wins Out (TWO), gave a multimedia lecture at Rhodes College here. Besen, author of Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth, founded the organization in 2006 to alert the public to the fact that so-called “ex-Gay therapies,” purporting to turn LGBT people straight, do not work and in fact do great harm.
Religious right counselors practice these “therapies” in individual sessions, in “ex-Gay” group homes and day camps. However, there are no licensed therapists, and their notions of what is supposed to make people Gay and what is supposed to “cure” them are not accepted by any major medical associations (who also all agree that this “therapy” is psychologically harmful). The “therapies” are made up to support the ideology that Gays should become heterosexual. The real motive of this movement, Besen says, is to create a homophobic climate so that anti-LGBT legislation can be passed. Leaders of the movement support sodomy laws and the federal marriage amendment; they oppose hate crime laws, legal protections against job discrimination, LGBT adoption, and programs to stop school bullying.
Three other speakers told of their experiences with these programs. One man said that the major “ex-Gay” group, Exodus International, had targeted him for “homosexuality prevention therapy” at the age of 10 because his behavior did not seem “gender appropriate.” At 19, he voluntarily went to an Exodus counselor who practiced “touch therapy” in which the counselor holds and touches the client and he sexually harassed him in other ways. Like many in these programs, the speaker stated that he struggled with self-hatred because he was told that being Gay would lead to unhappiness and drug addiction.
A married Gay male couple, who had met while seeking counseling from the Memphis “ex-Gay” group Love in Action (LIA), described the cult-like rules at its group home: at group sessions, clients take turns describing their sexual histories and thoughts in front of the group and then make these same statements to their parents. They said after they left the program, former staff members of LIA contacted them to apologize.
Besen stated there are dangerous new directions in the “ex-Gay” movement. Its goal for 2011 is to target children as young as three years old. The movement is having more success in other countries, including Uganda, which is considering instituting the death penalty for homosexuality.
Besen’s group, TWO, is looking for people to testify against “ex-Gay” programs in court and he is optimistic about defeating this movement. He said, “we are winning” because society is becoming more accepting of LGBT people and more are coming out.