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.
This week, Truth Wins Out has been busy raising awareness about GOP Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin's church, which supports so-called "ex-gay ministries." Wasilla Bible Church believes that people can "pray away the gay" and is actively promoting Focus on the Family's Love Won Out conference -- which will be coming to Anchorage this Saturday.
This morning, I board a plane and travel to Anchorage to fight back against the ex-gay lies that have harmed so many gay and lesbian people. I will be joining the Metropolitan Community Church and other local organizations to help young GLBT people understand that they are not broken and in need of fixing. They are not sick and in need of healing.
These young people are fine just the way they are and we will make sure they know it.
Truth Wins Out likes to be on the ground where the action is. It is not enough for us to sit in the comfortable confines of New York City and send out press releases over a fax machine. We travel where vulnerable people in conservative areas need to hear our messages of love, hope and acceptance.
But, our work takes money and we need your help to continue our outreach. Help me fight back in Alaska by giving what you can today. If you can generously give $1,000, please consider doing so. If what you are able to offer right now is $10, we can use your help. Join the fight to educate America and help GLBT teenagers find the self-acceptance they deserve.
The first thing that struck me about the Republican National Convention in St. Paul was the stunning lack of diversity. Only the GOP is capable of making Minnesota whiter. Into this cocoon of Caucasians stepped the ultra-pale John McCain and his moose-whacking VP, Sarah Palin, who together could have billed the ticket as "Powder and Gun Powder."
This convention proved that the GOP does not run on actual persons or positions, but manufactured personas and plot lines. The phony dog and pony show began with the enormously wealthy Mitt Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts, who oddly condemned the snooty northeastern elite. This pampered pretty boy was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, yet he haplessly works to fool blue-collar conservatives into believing that that the shiny utensil is aluminum. Has any politician ever been more "Full of Mitt?"
The most fantastical fiction of the week was the Cinderella story of "Sarah Palin." The only White House anyone ever thought she would live in was an igloo, yet there she was on America's largest political stage. The joyous thrill from her two main constituencies -- the religious right and the tabloids -- was palpable.
Palin portrayed herself as a reformer, even though she was for the infamous, "Bridge to Nowhere" before she was against it. She touted her experience as head of Alaska's National Guard, until it was shown that she had not made one executive decision in this capacity. Then, she was lauded for her anti-corruption efforts in Alaska, even as she was under serious investigation for abusing her power. Most disturbing, Palin described herself as an advocate for special needs children, as she cut the state's Special Olympics budget in half.
It is scary to think that McCain believes Palin has enough foreign policy know-how to run this nation during a time of war. Indeed, his vice presidential pick did not get a passport until 2007. There are literally college-age backpackers traipsing around hostels in Europe with more overseas experience.
As for McCain, convention speakers endlessly recounted his time as a POW. It truly was inspiring the first twenty-seven times I heard it. I suppose reliving the past is what a candidate, no matter how heroic, must do who has no plan for the future. McCain's speech was as empty as the vault used to hold the national surplus after eight years of Republican rule.
It was also fascinating to watch McCain portray himself as an agent of change. His message essentially was to re-elect Republicans to reform America from the mess that the same Republicans got us into. This was highlighted by the GOP's Herculean efforts to render George W. Bush invisible. If they had shoved Bush any deeper into the closet, he would have bumped into Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID).
Cheering on the sidelines was baroness Cindy McCain, wearing an outfit that Vanity Fair priced at $300,000. Republicans went bonkers when John Edwards got a $400 haircut -- yet seemed ambivalent about her majesty's opulent costume. I suppose the GOP is the party of the working class, if you count the minions toiling on Cindy's dress, jewelry, make-up and hair, as well as tending to McCain's private jet plane.
The convention's most pleasant surprise was its lack of overt gay bashing. Perhaps, attacking gays is not polling as well as it did only a few years ago. Or, maybe "Family Values" was an inappropriate theme considering Palin's "Family Vaudeville."
But, gay Log Cabin Republicans had little time to rejoice before Palin's church said that being gay was a choice. The Wasilla Bible Church was caught promoting Focus on the Family's Love Won Out conference, with a Bible insert that said, "You'll be encouraged by the power of God's love and His desire to transform the lives of those impacted by homosexuality."
It is imperative that Palin answers whether she agrees with the views of her church. If she does, Log Cabin should immediately withdraw their endorsement of McCain. Unfortunately, Palin will not talk to reporters until the GOP believes she is ready to go without her training wheels. The smokescreen her campaign is using to justify her silence is that she should not have to discuss her religious beliefs. Interesting, how a woman who recently asked Alaskans to pray for a natural gas pipeline now believes religion is off limits.
If Palin says that she endorses Love Won Out, it could cost McCain the election. Consider this: In 2000, national exit polls put the gay vote at 4 percent, with 25 percent saying that they voted for Bush. This translated into one million gay votes for W., which may have cost Gore Florida and New Hampshire.
While homosexuals can't be turned into ex-gays, Palin's support of such ministries could create enough ex-Republican gays to swing the election in favor of Obama.
The group Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays is working overtime to get lies into public libraries. Our friends at Queerty said today that PFOX was embarking on a public library project to get titles like Arthur Goldberg’s, "Light in the Closet: Torah, Homosexuality," and "A Parent's Guide to Preventing Homosexuality," by Joseph and Linda Nicolosi.
The only way such titles should be in libraries is in the fiction section. These are essentially fake medical books without scientific backing. Librarians literally have millions of books to choose from - so why take books that have theories rejected by all medical and mental health organizations?
Peter LaBarbera's posting (Americans For Truth) announced that his organization and P-FOX would work together with what LaBarbera termed "other pro-family groups and ministries" in order, LaBarbera wrote, "to attain–at the very minimum -- balance in the selections that libraries carry on the homosexual issue." Added LaBarbera, "There is no logical or common sense reason why taxpayer-funded public libraries should make available every latest gay-affirming book–including those designed to open up young minds to the false and dangerous notion that homosexuality is normal--while NOT carrying faith-based and ex-gay books that oppose a pro-homosexual ideology."
It seems to me that barring political books posing as legitmate science-based material is quite logical. What next, a slew of books promoting that the earth is flat? When frauds like LaBarbera can show us real ex-gays who are not on the payroll of anti-gay organizations, then we might listen. Indeed, three of his poter boys (John Paulk, Wade Richards and Michael Johnston) have fallen off the hetero wagon. If there is one person in America who should know better than to promote ex-gay books, it is Mr. LaBarbera.