Proof Unearthed of ’Ex Gay’ Therapy at Bachmann Clinic

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday July 12, 2011

The Daily Beast reports that Marcus Bachmann, the husband of GOP presidential contender Michele Bachmann, may be unwilling to tell the world at large that "ex-gay" counseling goes on at his Christian counseling practice, but he was not so shy in 2005 when he gave a presentation called "The Truth About the Homosexual Agenda" to a gathering of anti-gay religious leaders at the Minnesota Pastors' Summit -- a convocation built around efforts to get anti-gay laws on the books.

The July 10 article said that during the presentation, Marcus Bachmann made the claim that gays "choose" to be sexually and romantically attracted to people of the same sex. Bachmann also reportedly made the assertion -- challenged by reputable mental health professionals here and abroad -- that homosexuality can be "cured."

Marcus Bachmann declared that "homosexuality is both a choice and a threat," the article said. "As a finale, he brought up three people, including a prominent ex-gay activist named Janet Boynes, who testified about leaving homosexuality behind."

Since Michele Bachmann's announcement that she will be seeking the GOP presidential nomination for next year's election race, an array of troubling issues concerning the would-be candidate have surfaced, from the legal -- but ideologically inconsistent -- receipt of federal funds by Bachmann-affiliated business interests to Marcus Bachmann's 2010 interview on a Christian radio broadcast in which he railed on patient-centered modalities of psychiatric care and declared that what gays need is "discipline" by "authority figures" such as himself because they are "barbarians" who threaten the sexual purity of America's children.

But when he's been asked directly about offering so-called "reparative therapy" at his practice, Marcus Bachmann has "denied it," the Daily Beast reported. "And over the years he has kept denying it, despite plenty of evidence that both he and Michele are deeply committed to the idea that homosexuality can be cured."

But Truth Wins Out -- an organization dedicated to countering the message of so-called "ex-gay" groups -- unearthed a young man named Andre Ramirez, who told The Nation that his stepfather forced him to seek "treatment" for being gay -- and that the treatment came from Marcus Bachmann's clinic, which has received over $160,000 in state and federal funds.

"He said it was wrong, an abomination, that it was something he would not tolerate in his house," Ramirez recalled his father saying.

Something else Ramirez recalled was said to him: His counselor at Bachmann & Associates telling him that "being gay was not an acceptable lifestyle in God's eyes," and insisting that the young man could be "cured."

By that, of course, the counselor meant that Ramirez could be "converted" into a heterosexual. The prescribed course of treatment? Bible study, worship at a church populated by so-called "ex gays," and "mentorship" from a woman who claimed once to have been a lesbian.

The question of whether or not sexual attraction can be altered is controversial, not least because it is a deeply personal issue that others cannot know in the same way that the individual does. Anti-gay evangelical churches take it as a matter of faith that gays are not born, but somehow result from early life trauma, a decision to be gay, or some combination of factors. Some even believe that homosexuality is the result of demonic possession.

All programs purporting to "cure" gays have one thing in common, however: They pathologize homosexuality, rather than acknowledging it as a consistent, and natural, variation in the realm of normal human sexuality.

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 who have 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.

Reputable mental health professionals warn that trying to "cure" gays can lead to disastrous consequences. Some gays attempting to "convert" experience deeply traumatic emotional suffering; some even commit suicide.

Ramirez chose not to put himself through that. After only two appointments, he arrived at the conclusion that the course of "therapy" to which he was being subjected was not beneficial.

"I didn't feel it was something that I wanted to change, and I didn't think it could be changed," Ramirez told The Nation. "I was OK with who I was."

The Nation reported that a man employed by Truth Wins Out, John Becker, went to Bachmann's clinic outfitted with a pair of hidden cameras. Becker went through five treatment sessions, with the counselor assuring him that "[W]e're all heterosexual," and telling him, "God has created you for heterosexuality."

The counselor entertained no notion other than that gays are "sexually and relationally broken" individuals who need to be "healed" of their homosexuality. He told Becker to seek out a straight man to serve as a guide to masculinity, and probed him for early life traumas to account for why he should be gay.

"Neither Bachmann nor many of his therapists, it's important to note, have serious psychological training," reported The Daily Beast, noting that Bachmann's "Ph.D. comes from the Union Institute, a Cincinnati-based correspondence school.... he's not licensed with any of the boards that certify mental-health professionals in Minnesota, one of the few states that allows unlicensed people to practice mental-health care."

As for Becker's counselor, The Daily Beast article said, he graduated "from Argosy University, a for-profit diploma mill."

The Nation noted that Becker seemed at times to be leading the counselor with his questions and lines of conversation, but also noted that the overall approach adopted by the counselor seemed to defy Marcus Bachmann's statement that his practice does not attempt to "cure" gays.

"[T]he techniques the therapist at his Lake Elmo clinic used were typical of so-called reparative therapies, which cast homosexuality as a mental disorder and see conversion to heterosexuality as the only healthy outcome," The Nation article said.

'Reparative' Therapy: Helping ? Or Hurting?

The Daily Beast was far more critical of the very notion of "reparative therapy."

"It doesn't work, and it exacerbates the self-loathing that leads gays and lesbians to seek it out in the first place," the article said.

"According to the American Psychiatric Association, 'The potential risks of "reparative therapy" are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior, since therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient,' " the Daily Beast added.

Moreover, the Bachmanns have a close personal relationship with an African American woman named Janet Boynes, a self-described "ex gay" woman whose anti-gay activism has extended to advocating against hate crimes legislation and condemning the gay civil rights movement as an insult to blacks.

But while some Christians feel that the only way to reconcile their faith and their sexuality is through attempts to force themselves to be heterosexual -- a fate that one ex-gay man mentioned in The Nation article described as "bleeding out of my eyeballs" as he struggled with his own feelings each and every day -- others have found peace and deeper faith by rejecting the claim that God "made them heterosexual."

One of those, The Nation said, is Ramirez. "I want to send a clear message," the onetime patient at Bachmann's clinic told The Nation. "There's nothing wrong with you. One day you will find love and acceptance."

From God and from oneself, perhaps. But maybe not from certain faith traditions. The Daily Beast noted that the true danger lies with the fact that conservative Christian denominations tend to expect women to obey their husbands -- a belief system to which Michele Bachmann subscribes, having told a church, "Wives, you are to be submissive to your husbands."

In other words, Marcus Bachmann's theological views could be funneled directly into America's government at the top office, should Michele Bachmann run for, and win, the presidency.

"He's the head of the woman who wants to be the head of country," noted The Daily Beast. "He's also a man with dubious qualifications running a clinic whose counseling techniques can ruin lives."

Michele Bachmann sparked controversy when she signed a campaign agenda created by a right-wing religious group in Iowa. The 14-point pledge, titled "The Marriage Vow -- A Declaration of Dependence Upon Marriage and Family," was created by Iowa religious group THE FAMiLY LEADER. The head of the group, Bob Vander Plaats, a 48-year-old bachelor, has led anti-gay actions before. Vander Plaats led the successful campaign last year to see several Iowa State Supreme Court justices replaced when they came up for retention votes.

Vander Plaats targeted the justices because of the court's unanimous finding that a state law barring marriage equality conflicted with the state's constitution. That finding opened the door to same-sex marriage in Iowa, the first heartland state to permit matrimonial parity for gays and lesbians.

The pledge attacks sexual minorities on several fronts and hails large families. Bachmann, who is well known for her anti-gay stance, unhesitatingly signed the document the same day it debuted, on July 7. A second anti-gay politician, Rick Santorum, also signed the pledge. The religious group has given candidates a deadline of Aug. 1 to sign on.

But support from other GOP hopefuls seems unlikely. Bachmann and Santorum were targeted for criticism because the original version of the pledge --amended after the anti-gay politicians put their names to it -- declared that African American children born into slavery were better off than many of today's African American kids.

The 14-point pledge also suggests that it should be the government's job to supervise what people see, hear, and read -- a stance that seemingly contradicts Bachmann's avowed support for smaller, less intrusive government -- and takes aim at the Muslim faith.

Moreover, the pledge says that being gay is a choice, and characterizes gays as "a public health risk" -- claims that do not seem out of place when put together with Santorum's assertion from years ago that deeply devoted gay couples entering into marriage are comparable to what Santorum called "man on dog" sex.

As it turned out, the document's claim regarding slavery and child-rearing turned out to have little factual basis, having been derived from a conservative think tank paper that looked at African American families after slavery's end.

Far from signing on to the anti-gay document, one GOP contender, Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico, blasted it the extremist group's campaign agenda.

"This 'pledge' is nothing short of a promise to discriminate against everyone who makes a personal choice that doesn't fit into a particular definition of 'virtue,' " Johnson declared.

"While THE FAMiLY LEADER pledge covers just about every other so-called virtue they can think of, the one that is conspicuously missing is tolerance," added Johnson. "In one concise document, they manage to condemn gays, single parents, single individuals, divorcees, Muslims, gays in the military, unmarried couples, women who choose to have abortions, and everyone else who doesn't fit in a Norman Rockwell painting."

A Bachmann spokesperson said that the anti-gay politician was sticking by THE FAMiLY LEADER pledge despite the controversy, saying that Bachmann had signed on to the "vow" portion of the document and not the "preamble," which contained the controversial claims about African Americans.

"She stands by the points that are outlined in the pledge," the spokesperson told Fox News. "Particularly the ones for strong marriage. She's been happily married for 32 years. That's the focus of the pledge."

As a presidential hopeful, Bachmann has said both that she would support a federal Constitutional amendment to bar marriage equality for gay and lesbian American families, and that she would be inclined to leave issues such as marriage up to each state to decide for itself.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.