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"Ex-gay" and "reparative therapy" movement in its death throes, Besen tells OKC audience

Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report
Wayne Besen, of Truth Wins Out, spoke Thursday at the Cimarron Alliance Equality Center in Oklahoma City.
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OKLAHOMA CITY - While the long discredited "ex-gay" and "reparative therapy" movement in America is clearly dying, as evidenced by the shocking closure and apology made Wednesday by the leader of Exodus International, a key organization in that movement, author, activist and leader of Truth Wins Out, Wayne Besen, told an Oklahoma City audience on Thursday that there is still work to be done.

Besen's presence before 61 people at the Cimarron Alliance Equality Center was due to the fact that the Restored Hope Network , a known "ex-gay" cult, was holding a seminar this weekend at Cherokee Hills Baptist Church in Oklahoma City. Their event is "Restoring Hope 2102: The Truth that Transforms" and features ex-gay leaders including Robert Gagnon, Andrew Comiskey, and a founder of Exodus, Frank Worthen.

Restored Hope Network, which Besen dismissively called the "No Hope Network," wants to coerce LGBT people to change their sexual orientation, something Besen said can't be done and has been admitted as much by former ex-gay activists who are finally facing up to the truth.

And while dangerous "reparative therapy" is going the way of phrenology and alchemy, Besen warned the rapt Cimarron Alliance crowd that the ex-gay folks may be down, but they're not out.

"What is the future of the "ex-gay myth" now that Exodus is closing its doors? Well, first, as they lose support at home, they will increasingly seek markets abroad. For instance, places like Uganda, Russia, Poland and Jamaica. Hong Kong is another. They are particularly searching out totalitarian societies where free speech can't be used to counter their lies."

"(LGBT people) face persecution, they face potential violence they face imprisonment," Besen said of LGBT people in totalitarian countries. "(The ex-gay movement) only succeed in places where people are scared, where they're afraid, where free speech cannot match their false speech."

And here in the U.S., he said, public opinion about homosexuality has begun to radically shift towards supporting gay rights, causing the ex-gay movement in this country to panic and look to shift their errant efforts overseas.

But those who dig in their heels and remain, Besen said, will be relegated to the fringes of the extreme right-wing.

"Clearly they're in trouble," Besen said. "Because it would take Houdini to get out of the mess they're in."

The religious right, he said, only has the "ex-gay myth" and little else, so a few, he said, will double down, only marginalizing themselves further in the process.

But they do have an audience, in places like Oklahoma City, as evidenced by the three-day "Restoring Hope 2013" conference.

And like many willfully ignorant people, they shut their eyes to the facts that science has to offer.

Besen noted that many respected medical organizations, like the American Medical Association, have publicly stated that "attempts to change sexual orientation can cause anxiety, depression and self-destructive behavior."

Besen said his group of LGBT-rights activists expect domestically-based ex-gay folks to face lawsuits, based on consumer fraud, and increased difficulty in using their quackery to target young people, as they have done repeatedly in the past, with laws being passed in places like California and New Jersey that would make it illegal to do so.

He also notes that promoters of the ex-gay myth will increasingly run up against scientific proof showing that "sexual orientation has biological origins," Besen said. "Further undermining the obsolete theories pushed by reparative therapy con artists."

Besen said that while he is committed to fighting those who want to force LGBT people to turn into something they never were, he does admit to a small amount of sympathy for these people, not that their movement is crumbling all around them.

"Imagine dedicating most of your adult life to an unraveling hoax," Besen said. "You think you're on a journey, but you only find you've been riding around aimlessly in a cul-de-sac on a bicycle all these years. That's a difficult pill to swallow, if you think about it."

Scott J. Hamilton, executive director of the Cimarron Alliance, told Red Dirt Report that having Wayne Besen here in Oklahoma City was a real honor and that he always loves working with Besen and Truth Wins Out.

Hamilton added that since the announcement by Exodus International that they were shutting down, Besen had been interviewed by numerous domestic and international news outlets, from National Public Radio to the BBC.

Hamilton said he was "impressed by how many people showed up" at Besen's talk and was also shocked at the news of Exodus International shutting down.

"I figured we were at least another five years away from that ever happening," Hamilton said, adding that Christian ex-gay promoters have dismissed Exodus, saying that the group had "strayed from biblical principles" anyway, and it should come as no surprise.

All in all, Hamilton said, the news about Exodus is a "big, big deal" but the fight, he noted, "is far from being over."

Copyright 2013 Red Dirt Report

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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