Anthony Falzarano, the shrill “ex-gay” activist who founded Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX) and once derisively referred to hate crime victim Matthew Shepard as a “predator to heterosexual men,” has died. A staunch proponent of spiritual warfare, Falzarano once told CBS News, “AIDS comes from the devil, directly from Satan. He uses homosexuals as pawns and then he kills them.”
Prior to his “transformation” he claimed to be a former prostitute and the late Roy Cohn’s houseboy. Falzarano’s entry into the “ex-gay” scene in the early ’80s has always been a little murky. In one version of his tale, God told Falzarano to go straight before the AIDS crises hit. In another version, after many of his friends had passed away, God told him to become “ex-gay.” In yet a third version, one of his sexual conquests felt guilty after their encounter and introduced him to Christ. Obviously, these colorful versions are contradictions and they can’t all be true.
Falzarano put the bite in soundbite and was media friendly, clever and opportunistic. In 1998, he started the wretched organization PFOX with an $80,000 grant from the virulently anti-gay lobby group the Family Research Council. This is the same year that 15 religious right organizations unveiled the high-profile $600,000 “Truth in Love” campaign. Falzarano regularly appeared at Family Research Council press conferences and in the media during this tumultuous time period when the “ex-gay” industry was in its heyday. Falzarano also told me that he was one of Dr. Robert Spitzer’s subjects in his recently renounced study.
Falzarano departed PFOX after a bitter dispute with the religious right. In a media conference at the National Press Club, he claimed that conservative political groups who sponsored a high-profile 1998 ad campaign, had no use for ex-gay organizations other than for public relations purposes:
“Many of us in the ex-gay movement feel we are being used,” said Falzarano. “The [anti-gay coalition] is not coming close to the needs of homosexuals. We did that very successful newspaper campaign last year … the Christian Coalition did not send us a dime. All we’re asking for is possibly some money to pay for postage stamps.”
Falzarano was kicked out of PFOX and at one point refused to vacate the group’s office, which led to a stand-off. Eventually he departed and started a rival organization, Parents and Friends Ministries. However, the group quickly hit a snag when it tried to host a three-day “Healing for the Homosexual” conference at The Catholic University of America. The school cancelled the event after the university said that Falzarano applied for use of school facilities under “false pretenses.”
According to the Washington Times, CUA spokesman Victor Nakas said Falzarano misrepresented the intent of the conference in newspaper ads – giving the impression it would deal with ministering to victims of child abuse – when he signed the contract.
“We do not rent space when people come to us under false pretenses,” Nakas said in the Times article. “When we found out the purpose of the conference was different than he had applied for, we contacted him on May 17. We do not rent space to people who misrepresent themselves. If the conference had been described to us as it was in the ad, it’d be a completely different story.”
More recently, Falzarano moved to West Palm Beach and authored Such Were Some of You: One Man’s Walk Out of the Gay Lifestyle.
Over the years, I personally got to know Falzarano. In my view, he was a very likable guy and I enjoyed his sense of humor. Unfortunately, he also had a crazy side and was severely truth-challenged. His most frequent lie was claiming that people became homosexuals because they were molested as children.
My favorite story: I visited his office in late 1999 to ask him a few questions about PFOX. He practically dropped to his knees and begged me to come with him to Jerusalem for the millennium so we could be closer to God when the world ended. He was a bit embarrassed the next time I saw him, which was on Earth, not in heaven as he swore would be the case.
While we had a few civil conversations behind the scenes, we sparred in the media, such as The Roseanne Show, where he yelled “you lie” as I spoke.
The last time I saw Falzarano was in 2011 at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C. There were many aspects of Anthony Falzarano that I liked, and others that I loathed. His dishonesty and inability to tell the truth defined him as a human being far more than his false claim to be a “former homosexual” ever would.
Wayne Besen is a columnist and author of the book “Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth.”