Fairy Tales

Gay advocate Wayne Besen bashes the ex-gay myth.

Wayne Besen Borders Books & Music, 3466 Mayfield Road in Cleveland Heights 7 p.m. Saturday, November 15. Free; call 216-291-8605
Wayne Besen caused ripples in the gay community three years ago, when he photographed John Paulk coming out of a gay bar in Washington, D.C. The scandal? As the poster boy for the "ex-gay movement," Paulk claimed that he had married a "former lesbian" and was recovering from life as a drag queen named Candi.

In his new book, Anything but Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the "Ex-Gay" Myth, Besen debunks "ministries" led by once-practicing gays who claim they've been "cured of the disease." "The groups that promote this [belief] love to show the pretty wedding pictures, but they never show you the ugly divorce papers five years later," says Besen, the former spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, a national gay-advocacy group.

In his undercover research, Besen interviewed self-proclaimed ex-gays, who told him they overcame their homosexual behavior through various types of treatments, but admitted they still fended off same-sex attraction. Their workshops included "nude therapy." "It involved getting naked and having adults breast-feed on women in a church and a lot of fondling while in the buff," Besen reveals. "It led to nude massages, phone sex, and mutual-masturbation seminars."

Because the ex-gay movement has a "higher defection rate than the Cuban national baseball team," Besen calls it a Trojan horse for the religious right to lobby for anti-gay legislation (including a nationwide ban on same-sex marriages). "I want to take this strategy away from them, by exposing the ex-gay myth as the spurious and specious fraud it truly is," he says. "They are miserable, bitter, confused, and hurting a lot of people, including themselves."

But ex-gays insist they're not. The Homosexuals Anonymous website trumpets itself as "a fellowship of men and women, who through their common emotional experience, have chosen to help each other live in freedom from homosexuality." Besen dismisses the group. "Homosexuality is not a choice, but you can choose to love and accept a person for who they are and how God made them."

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