In June, I penned a column, “The Fall of the Ex-Gay Myth,” which predicted that so-called “ex-gay” programs would crumble from internal rot. “It’s time for the discredited ‘ex-gay’ myth to simply go away and be rightfully viewed as an experiment that was tried and failed,” I wrote at the time.
In the months since this column was written the decline of these “pray away the gay” organizations has only accelerated. Here are the Top 10 ex-gay-related stories of 2011:
1) Bachmann Scandal: Nothing brought the idiocy of reparative therapy into the spotlight more that Truth Wins Out’s undercover operation that proved the clinic of Marcus Bachmann, husband of Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), practiced this form of discredited therapy. Prior to the investigation, Marcus had lied to the American people by denying his practice engaged in such quackery. The story made a mockery out of such practices and was featured in media across the globe.
2) John Smid: Love in Action “ex-gay” ministry leader John Smid went public with a startling confession: “I’ve never met a man who experienced a change from homosexual to heterosexual.” The honest words of this “ex-gay” poster boy sent shockwaves through the entire “ex-gay” industry. Observers of these groups asked: “If Smid’s hardcore regimen of prayer and therapy did not work for him, whom would it work for?”
3) Exodus SOS: Ex-Gay Watch’s David Roberts reported that a Nov. 16 secret summit took place in New York City, where Exodus President Alan Chambers desperately plotted how to “keep Exodus International from social and financial oblivion.” The report discussed how an ill-advised real estate deal and increasingly convoluted messages have brought Exodus to the precipice of total failure.
4) Rekers Study Unmasked: Prior to getting caught with an escort from RentBoy.com, Dr. George Rekers was the “ex-gay” industry’s most prominent therapist. Much of Rekers reputation was based on a study where he cited the alleged sexual conversion of a boy named “Kraig.” Box Turtle Bulletin’s Jim Burroway undermined this claim by discovering that “Kraig” had grown up to be a gay man and his family alleged the therapy with Rekers led to his suicide. This story, covered in an excellent CNN AC360 series, demolished a key pillar of “ex-gay” research.
5) Exodus iPhone app: Exodus International created an “ex-gay” iPhone app to promote people using their mobile phones to “pray away the gay.” It was so obnoxious that the website Fierce Mobile Content listed it in the Top 5 most offensive apps of 2011. Fortunately, Truth Wins Out launched a 160,000-signature Change.org petition drive to persuade Apple Inc. to remove the “ex-gay” iPhone app.
6) Lisa Miller Saga: Lisa Miller and Janet Jenkins had a Vermont civil union in 2000 and Miller then gave birth to a daughter, Isabella, conceived through artificial insemination. Miller became a born again Christian and fled to Virginia with her daughter. When a judge handed custody of Isabella to Jenkins, Miller fled the country with her daughter. Kenneth L. Miller, 46, of Stuarts Draft, Va., was recently arrested for assisting Lisa Miller as she absconded to Nicaragua. This story is not yet finished and may ensnare anti-gay figures that may have aided and abetted international kidnapping. Keep your eye on this story!
7) Sergio Viula: This man was the leading provider of “ex-gay” quackery in Brazil. In an interview he gave to the Secular Humanist League of Brazil, Viula called such programs “brainwashing” and said, “In fact, ex-gays don’t exist – it’s pure self-suggestion.”
8) Ex-Gay Goes International: As the “ex-gay” industry fails at home, they are opportunistically searching for fresh markets to exploit overseas. A perfect example occurred in Hong Kong, which hired a therapist, Hong Kwai-wah, to cure gay people by urging them to take cold showers when aroused. The controversial hire caused protests from Hong Kong to New York City.
9) Dr. Warren Throckmorton: This Christian therapist from Grove City College has surprisingly emerged as a leading critic of “reparative therapy.” A former member of The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), his knowledge of this topic has made him a ruthlessly effective foe of NARTH’s quack-like theories. Even more damaging, he has created a competing therapy model that gives LGBT Christians the option to come out of the closet or hold onto their fundamentalist beliefs – but it does not lie to them by promising that they can pray away the gay.
10) PFOX Lawsuit: Greg Quinlan, President of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX), appeared on television and fabricated an incident that never occurred: “Truth Wins Out if you look further, including Wayne Besen. He’s asked for people, you know, somebody needs to run Greg over. He needs to be hit with a bus. Somebody should inject him with AIDS.” As a result of Quinlan’s fake story, I am preparing a defamation lawsuit against PFOX that will play out in 2012.
Wayne Besen is a columnist and author of the book “Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth.”