In making his way to Anchorage, Alaska to confront, once again, a James Dobson Love Won Out ex-gay conference scheduled for Saturday, Wayne Besen stands at the vanguard of one of the most vehement battles of the gay-Christian culture war -- the Christian-based ex-gay movement which seeks to "cure" homosexuals. Yet, the ex-gay movement he hopes to expose operates in relative obscurity, and with little opposition.
In 2000, when Exodus Chairman John Paulk was being hailed as the golden boy of the ex-gay movement by such media heavyweights as Newsweek and CBS's 60 Minutes, Besen secretly photographed him flirting with men in a gay Washington D.C. bar and wrote about his apparent fall from grace in Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth. The revelation shocked both the ex-gay movement and the media who had glamorized it, and Paulk was subsequently removed as chairman of Exodus.
Besen has since founded Truth Wins Outs, a non-profit organization that advocates against ex-gay ministries, and, more recently, RespectMyResearch.org, where social and behavioral scientists can voice their displeasure at having their research distorted and used to prop up ex-gay theories.
Before leaving for Anchorage, Besen spoke with us about his gay-Christian feud with Focus on the Family Chairman, and Love Won Out sponsor, James Dobson.
OTM: How did your feud with James Dobson begin?
Besen: I have a deep disdain for Focus on the Family because this group is uniquely truth challenged. They are the captains of an industry that causes a great deal of pain and suffering for GLBT [gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender] people. They are responsible for much of the hate against gay and lesbian people in America, because they pump out huge amounts of anti-gay propaganda, that demeans our lives and devalues our families. What makes them a dangerous group, is that they dehumanize us in the name of "love" and "family values." What they do is Orwellian.
Focus on the Family began to target me for smear campaigns after I photographed their "ex-gay" poster boy, John Paulk, who founded their Love Won Out program, in a gay bar in Washington. Since this time, they have tried to tar me with whisper campaigns that absurdly call me "the Fred Phelps of the gay community." I guess when a massive anti-gay organization that rakes in more than $150 million a year targets me and my small organization, Truth Wins Out, we are doing something right.
Our feud was taken to a whole new level when I founded, RespectMyResearch.org last year. Basically, when Focus on the Family distorts research, we go right to the scientists whose work has been manipulated. We videotape them demanding that Focus immediately stop lying about their research. Our program has been quite devastating to the credibility of Focus on the Family, so they have upped their attacks on TWO and their efforts to tar me personally. I could not be more pleased. The day Focus on the Family likes me, is the day I have stopped doing my job.
"Meanwhile, I'm not trying to ban fundamentalist Christian marriages."
This is exactly what people driven by the anti-gay ideology can't understand. They can't distinguish between someone merely being gay, and someone being as loud and oppressive as they are about forcing it down other people's throats.
Not once in my life have I ever said anybody should be gay, or that straight people shouldn't have the same rights. There are no religions that preach anti-heterosexual intolerance; no brainwashing camps set up to "cure" heterosexuals and make them all gay.
Thanks for all you do. Most people (gay and hetero)just bitch about a myriad of things, but are too apathetic to act.
posted by Anonymous, at
9/10/2008 2:32 PM
The religious right has always tried to force and bully people into living the way they think that they should live, while often living less morally correct lives themselves. Things are usually different "when the lights go down." We debate these things here as though they are par for the course, but the religious right is anything but normal or mainstream. Ranting and raving about other people's private lives is, ironically, incredibly queer.
posted by Chris L., at
9/10/2008 2:48 PM
two thoughts come to mind when I think of the work of Wayne Besen
"Shall we make a new rule of life from tonight: always to try to be a little kinder than is necessary?" JM Barrie
I find Wayne Besen's determination to challenge those who seek to oppress a truly wonderful thing.
and from another favorite:
"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." Dr. Suess
Lively discussions help to develop our minds, stimulate compassion in our hearts, and nuture our souls.
posted by rusty, at
9/10/2008 3:41 PM
Check this one out. Am not sure if this guy is serious or not about the ex-gay myth.
posted by Robert, NYC., at
9/13/2008 7:48 AM
This is clearly written by someone who is deriding the ex-gay myth, in my humble opinion. It is a gay guy who is making fun of the ex-gay crowd by embracing their silly stereotypes and throwing them on their face. The only bad thing about the article are the "Ivy league college students" who gave their opinions in the comments section. They call for censorship and are clueless about his technique. Whenever a college student says, "You shouldn't be allowed to say/print/think this," take my advice and thank God you never went to Harvard. As a progressive, I cringe when liberals say, "you can't say that." Truly disgusting.
posted by Chris L., at
9/13/2008 2:44 PM
No prob. As for views that we do find offensive, I think the best way to defeat one's opponent is to step back and let them run their mouths. Works almost every time!
posted by Chris L., at
9/14/2008 12:33 PM
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