Anti-Gay Pundits Attack ABC for Bachmann ’Ex Gay’ News Segments
The question of whether Bachmann & Associates, the clinic run by Marcus Bachmann -- husband to Tea Party favorite and contender for the GOP presidential nomination Michele Bachmann -- promotes so-called "reparative therapy" reached the mainstream media on July 11, with a report aired on ABC News.
A follow-up on July 12 reported on the stance that reputable mental health professionals take with regard to the practice.
A staffer for Truth Wins Out, an organization dedicated to countering the message that gays are somehow unhealthy because of their sexual orientation and can be "healed" from their sexuality, went undercover, posing as a Christian struggling with unwanted homosexual urges. The staffer, John Becker, attended a series of sessions at Bachmann & Associates, carrying concealed video cameras to record what his counselor told him.
Among other things, Becker heard that God had meant for him to be heterosexual.
Reputable mental health professionals see same-sex romantic and erotic attraction as part of the normal variation within the realm of human sexuality, and warn that attempts to "convert" gays into straights can have dangerous, perhaps even lethal, consequences.
The ABC News item referred to reparative therapy as "discredited," and included an interview with Dr. Jack Drescher, who is the president for the Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry.
"This is mostly faith healing," Drescher told ABC News. "There's a lot of technical language that sounds like mainstream psychology or mainstream psychiatry, but it's not." Drescher went on to add, "This is so far outside the mainstream it's practically on Mars."
Wayne Besen, founder of Truth Wins Out, told EDGE something similar.
" 'Ex-gay' therapy is junk science used to justify a fundamentalist worldview," Besen wrote in an email to EDGE. "Anti-gay activists realize that they cannot beat back LGBT equality with religious arguments alone. So they try to win over mainstream voters by distorting real scientific studies or inventing fake science that appears to back their beliefs. So-called ex-gay therapy fits into this mold."
But the campaign to characterize homosexuality as some form of moral failing or illness can have drastically negative consequences for the very people to whom it purports to offer healing. Drescher warned that gays and lesbians who undergo the therapy "may feel more depressed, more anxious, some people may feel more suicidal because this treatment didn't work."
The report included snippets of the video footage taken by Becker. The Truth Wins Out staffer himself wrote an article on his experiences, which he posted to the group's website on July 8.
The counselor told Becker that God had created male human eyes to register the female form with delight, and suggested that there are no such thing as gays or lesbians -- only heterosexuals who have somehow become confused about the who it is they find attractive. He also speculated that Becker had "become gay" in part because he had seen gay pornographic magazines as a young child -- a memory that Becker made up for the occasion.
"Marcus Bachmann had denied the family's suburban Minneapolis treatment centers employed so-called reparative therapy in a newspaper interview five years ago, but ABC News reported Monday on the experience of a former patient, and on an undercover operation mounted by gay rights advocates. Both provided evidence that practice is occurring there," the text portion of the story recounted.
Marcus Bachmann told a Christian radio program last year that gays are "barbarians" who need "discipline." He also expressed the idea that homosexuality is contagious and could imperil schoolchildren.
Mental health professionals expressed concern at the idea that state and federal funds Bachmann's clinic has taken in -- more $160,000 -- might have gone toward counseling gays that it was possible for them to "convert."
But mental health professionals were not the only ones weighing in on the original July 11 news segment. Anti-gay blogger Peter LaBarbera, who runs a website called "Americans for Truth About Homosexuality," blasted the report in July 12, calling it a "hit piece" on Michele Bachmann and criticizing ABC News for not interviewing an outspoken "ex gay" activist who is close friends with the Bachmanns.
"Folks, it sure didn't take long for the liberal media to go into Christian-bashing mode against GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann," LaBarbera posted following the July 11 news report.
Going on to call the ABC News segment "comically biased," LaBarbera lambasted the program for seemingly taking the side of Truth Wins Out, and went on to call the organization " 'Focus on the Failures' because their nonsensical argument seems to be that since many practicing 'gays' fail in their quest to change, transformation away from homosexuality is a myth.
"Incredibly, ABC even went so far as to title its piece 'Pray Away the Gay at Bachmann Clinic?' - recycling TWO founder Wayne Besen's mocking and bigoted attack-slogan for the idea that people can overcome homosexual desires through faith in God," LaBarbera wrote. "Shouldn't it have occurred to Ross to sit down with and interview a SUCCESSFUL former homosexual like Janet Boynes..." ?
In his comments to EDGE, Besen dismissed the idea that Boynes is a spokesperson for any genuinely "ex-gay" individuals.
"Janet Boynes is a fraud," Besen stated bluntly. "She misrepresents herself as an 'ex-lesbian' when she has always been actively bisexual. She is a former drug-dealing thief, habitual liar, bar brawler, and crack addict who allegedly found Jesus.
"I find it quite interesting that, according to her book, she was up on stage preaching about 'ex-gays' while she was still living with a woman and had not actually changed," Besen added. "It shows an intense thirst for the spotlight.
"Boynes, in my view, is a street hustler who quit her job as a maid to peddle her book and become a public speaker. It is important to note that she has not once put forth success stories from her ministry. The one person she did parade on a Lisa Ling special on the Oprah Winfrey Network -- a man named Christian -- had not changed. He was still super-gay and Boynes had him trying to change with cartoonish methods like trying to lift weights."
Besen is not alone in his skepticism. Others have also pointed out that although there are individuals willing to say that they were once gay or lesbian and now have managed to "convert" to heterosexuality, there are just as many, if not more, who say that attempts to be "cured" or even "exorcised" of homosexuality were unsuccessful, and deeply shaming, experiences.
Moreover, it is impossible to know objectively whether individuals claiming to have been "cured" of their same-sex romantic and erotic feelings were ever truly gay or lesbian to begin with. It is not uncommon for heterosexuals to experiment with same-sex relationships when they are young. This does not, however, make them homosexual. As with gays who dabble in heterosexual relationships before understanding who they are, straights in gay relationships cannot simply "change" into gays because of those experiences.
Some individuals describe their "conversions" as a matter of squelching same-sex attractions while concentrating on sexual and romantic feelings for people of the opposite sex. What is unclear in such cases is whether the "Ex gays" are truly gay, or bisexual.
Moreover, many "ex gays" describe their inner lives as a daily "struggle" against innate same-sex attraction. Some describe conquering homosexual attraction only at the cost of all sexual impulses, leaving them without conscious sexual urges of any sort.