(Pictured: Peterson, left, and Christine, right) An exciting new website was launched this week that helps people who have been harmed by the ex-gay ministries and also tells the stories of these victims. The entrepreneurial venture was started by comedian Peterson Toscano and former ex-lesbian Christine Bakke.
"In the fight against the 'ex-gay' myth there has been a real void in reaching out to former ex-gays and giving them the tools and love they need to heal," said Truth Wins Out Executive Director Wayne Besen. "Beyond Ex-Gay will accomplish this, as well as tell the moving stories of survivors. The site will serve as a bank of testimonies that will help all of us in our efforts to expose this hoax."
"My dream, of course, is to have an alternative to the messages from Exodus, to see people heal from their ex-gay experiences, and to deter people from experiencing something that is often emotionally and spiritually harmful," said Bakke.
The site is visually appealing, offers depth on the topic and an abundance of resources to help people escape the ex-gay trap. There will also be a survivors conference sponsored by Beyond Ex-Gay and SoulForce (June 29-July 1) at the University of California Irvine. Truth Wins Out urges all former ex-gays to attend. Remember, there is strength in numbers. Congratulations to everyone involved with this fine effort.
Joining Besen will be Rev. Jerry Stephenson, a victim of the ex-gay ministries and author of Coming Out of the Closet and into the Light. Stephenson has been featured on many talk shows including Phil Donahue. Also sharing his experience is former 'ex-gay' survivor Shawn O'Donnell, who was featured this week on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360.
Truth Wins Out will deploy mystery bloggers inside of Love Won Out to let Americans know what is going on inside the conference. This is important, because while Focus has previously "invited" gay activists, these advocates are usually turned away by musclebound guards.
"Focus has repeatedly gone back on their word and refused peacful entry by gay advocates,"said Besen. "I'm not sure what they've got to hide, but we intend to find out."
In 2000, Besen photographed Love Won Out founder and Focus on the Family's ex-gay poster boy John Paulk in a gay bar in Washington, DC.
Truth Wins OUT is a non-profit organization that counters right wing propaganda, exposes the "ex-gay" myth and educates America about gay life. For more information, visit www.TruthWinsOut.org.
For nearly six years, Richard Cohen was the Tom Cruise of the so-called "ex-gay" movement. His book, Coming Out Straight, was all the rage and catapulted him into the realm of superstar status. In 2000, he was even a featured therapy trainer at the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality's (NARTH) annual convention in Washington's prestigious Mayflower Hotel.
Many of the religious right's elite, such as Rev. Lou Sheldon and Bob Knight, graced the gilded conference hall, which I also attended while working on my book, Anything But Straight. During Cohen's presentation, he discussed how men who are "transitioning into heterosexuality" must find mentors.
"I solicited all three of my straight male mentors," Cohen recalled. "'Would you like me to service you? I'm really good at it,' I told each one of them. When they rejected me, I knew they loved me for who I am."
Most of the middle-aged conservatives in the crowd looked stunned and a tad sickened by Cohen's inappropriate remarks. Still, they followed his orders to take off their shoes and massage each other's backs while new age music piped through the speakers. "Touch, Yes! Sex no!" Cohen bellowed. Following his demonstration, there was a mad rush to Cohen's booth where he was hawking his book. The right wing was so infatuated with their new gay-healing guru they ignored passages in his book that revealed he once belonged to a bizarre sex cult. They even "overlooked" disturbing pictures of him banging a tennis racket against a pillow while yelling out his father's name.
Cohen was soon catapulted to the board presidency of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX). Until Cohen's arrival, the group was primarily an outlet for its leader, Regina Griggs, to vindictively get back at her son for coming out to her as gay. Cohen quickly seized control of the message and ludicrously cast ex-gays as victims of discrimination and set PFOX's sights on getting their theories into the public schools.
Like Tom Cruise, Cohen's bright star eventually crashed because people started to realize that this guy just might be nuts. The wheels began to fall off the car when I got a tip that Cohen had been kicked out of the American Counseling Association in 2002. He managed to hide this career suicide from the public until I informed the media in 2005.
With his counseling career in ruins, Cohen turned to the media as his only channel to attract new clients to his "healing" seminars. However, his act that played so well at the NARTH convention made him look like a quack to mainstream Americans. On his appearance on CNN's Paula Zahn Now earlier this year, Cohen actually performed his tennis racket routine to the guffaws of million of viewers. He made a further buffoon of himself on ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live where boxer George Foreman, who was also a guest, looked as if he wanted to give him a left hook. He further disgraced his image on Showtime's Bullshit, starring comedians Penn and Teller. (Boxer George Foreman looks Away In Horror As Cohen Touches Him)
However, Cohen's "jumping on Oprah's couch moment" came on his appearance with me on Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. To prove he was heterosexual, Cohen belched and cursed and when he was feeling the heat, he got up in the middle of the interview to "shake it off."
Cohen's antics were even more than PFOX and NARTH could take and they heaved him overboard, purging their websites this month of his kooky books and articles. The largest ex-gay group, Exodus International, even put out a statement saying they do not endorse the counselor's work.
In kneecapping their Top Gun, these groups have been quite disingenuous. Richard Cohen did nothing wrong other than make public what the right wing strongly endorsed and applauded behind closed doors. Cohen's only real sin is that he went on television. As far as his outrageous and ridiculous therapies, NARTH and PFOX intimately knew about them for at least six years, as they are vividly discussed in his book. So, these disloyal groups are not dumping Cohen because he is off his rocker, they are dumping him because he is off-message.
Cohen may be the fall guy, but the fact that conservatives fell in love with him in the first place demonstrates how they will embrace practically anyone who is willing to make their living condemning homosexuals.