Outrageous Displays of Public Ex-Gay Misinformation

I don’t often get heated in media appearances, but when faced with the outrageous, one needs to express outrage. Last night I appeared as one of several guests on Wellness for the REAL World with Dr. Veronica Anderson, an Internet program on Blog Talk Radio. It aired live, and is available on demand here. The topic? When a Straight Couple finds out One is Gay. Here’s the show description:

Former Forbes Magazine writer Kiri Blakeley, author of Can’t Think Straight: A Memoir of Mixed-Up Love, drolly details the emotional fallout after her fiancée announced he was gay. Not wanting to deceive her any longer after a 10-year relationship, he tearfully admitted he’d been questioning his sexuality for the past two years. Dr. Veronica discusses the stages of her emotional journey, and other guests share their own stories when a straight couple discovers one partner is gay. Do they inevitably split? Or do some decide love really does conquer all, and they stay together despite a need for separate sex lives? Other guests include Bonnie Kaye, host of BTR’s Straight Wives, Peterson Toscano, who spent 17 years and $30,000 trying to become straight, and Arthur Goldberg, who runs a service that helps gays become straight.

Kiri Blakeley talked about her 10 year relationship with a man who ultimately came out gay. Bonnie Kaye, who discovered her husband was gay, has also written about that experience. On the show Bonnie spoke pointed out the unnecessary pain and suffering many couples face because of an unworkable marriage pressed on them by homophobia and the imbalanced value society places on heterosexual marriage. Similar to my own story, Joseph Knudson also shared about living as a gay man in a straight relationship.

Arthur Goldberg, co-director of JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality) and a supporter of other anti-gay* groups like People Can Change, also appeared. And this is when I felt outrage. Goldberg was a last minute addition to the program. The producer told me that they wanted to get all sides of the story. That may sound reasonable particularly if the topic is a political issue with opposing opinions, but in the case of gay-to-straight conversion, having guests who represent “both sides of the issue” creates a false dichotomy as if we are looking at two equal sides of an issues.  In this case the sides are reason and madnesshealth and harmsound medical practice versus quakery performed by unlicensed and untrained religiously motivated bigots.

Imagine this scenario. A local school has been rocked with an epidemic of drug abuse resulting in the hospitalization of students because of unknown dangerous chemicals added to the drugs. Parents suffer as their children live at risk of exposure to drug dealers selling a potentially life-threatening substance. A local TV chat program decides to air an episode to highlight the issue. They bring in parents, children directly affected, and a teacher. Then to show all sides of the issue–they also bring on one of the drug dealers to talk about how happy his customers are with his product and allude to studies that suggest that his drugs help people. I don’t think so. For the health and well being of the community and the listeners, a drug dealer selling dangerously laced drugs does not get a public platform to push his junk.

See this is not about “airing all sides.” It is about responsible and accurate reporting. Theories and treatments that suggest it is wrong to be gay and that some sort of “cure” is possible put people at risk of real harm. As the program last night highlighted, one of the risks comes to straight people, particularly women, who marry gay men trying to be straight. The harms to bisexual, gay, lesbian, transgender, and gender non-conforming individuals are great. For this reason the American Psychological Association and ever major medical association have denounced ex-gay treatments.

Arthur Goldberg

After hearing Kiri, Bonnie, and me speak about the real suffering we experienced, the devastating situations we endured, Arthur Goldberg made no reference to any of it. He simply launched into a string of misinformation about supposed studies that prove “thousands of people” have changed their sexual orientation. To add insult to injury, one of the co-hosts asked Goldberg to share in greater detail his faulty theories and practices. After which Arthur Goldberg disingenuously tried to convince the hosts (and perhaps himself) that he was not anti-gay, that he took a neutral stance on the issue all the while explaining that gays are gay because of emotional misshaping.

Broken by ex-gay survivor Jason T. Ingram

Exodus International, the large anti-gay organization just put out a video commercial advertising their Love One Out conference, an event that serves to reinforce the harmful notion to parents and pastors that it is wrong to be gay (or bi, lesbian, or trans) and that gay people can and should change. As Evan Hurst has pointed out, the Exodus ad offers up images of sad homosexuals looking forlorn and tragic. The message they attempt to portray is that being gay sucks. But juxtaposed to the sad queers  they display images of happy homosexuals like Neil Patrick Harris with his partner and their children, and out and proud gay Christian singer Ray Boltz. Exodus undermines its own message. In fact, the message they are inadvertently communicating is that being ex-gay sucks. Trying to suppress your gay side, living to please others, engaging in an inauthentic life filled with self-loathing and violence towards one’s desires result in pain and suffering.

Like Arthur Goldberg in last night’s program, Exodus and its leader, Alan Chambers, have never directly addressed the suffering of the majority of their former clients who experienced harm at the hands of ex-gay ministers and reparative therapists. Even by Exodus’ own rosy estimation, at least 70% of people who go through the doors of their ministries come out gay. The treatment fails.

But what happens to these people? Does Exodus know? Do they care? They do know because we have communicated to them directly and on-line (see Beyond Ex-Gay) about the devastating results of  their “care.” Former Exodus leaders have publicly renounced the work of Exodus and offered apologies.

Renewed by Jason T. Ingram

Many of us have suffered for years needing expensive therapy to undo the faulty treatment we received at the hands of misinformed ministers and counselors. Wasted years, wasted dollars, lost opportunities. Most of us have worked through the pain and confusion and ultimately came out and reclaimed our lives. But it takes work and sadly there are also many casualties that experience the negative psychological, emotional, and spiritual affects of Chamber’s and Goldberg’s teaching for the rest of their lives. With work, proper care, and a willingness to embrace reality, we grow healthy, well-adjusted, and yes, happy–content in being authentic.

Dr. Veronica Anderson and her co-host, Russell Cook failed by bringing Arthur Goldberg onto a program ironically called, Wellness for the REAL World. Fortunately the other guest spoke with clarity, knowledge, and truth. I guess one might say that by hearing the madness of Arthur Goldberg, listeners will only get more convinced that ex-gay treatment is a bad idea. Perhaps, but Goldberg, like Chambers and other dishonest propagandists for the anti-gay religious movement, expertly weave in falsehoods into every sentence. They have been proven unreliable witnesses who do not deserve invitations to public platforms. They have their blogs and conferences to share their message to those with itching ears to hear it. I say leave the rest of us out of it.

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*  “anti-gay” because ex-gay is a misnomer. Really groups like Exodus, JONAH, NARTH, Living Waters, etc seek to annihilate gayness in individuals and in some cases in society by supporting anti-gay legislation. As someone who lived 17 years in that “ex-gay” world and in religious groups that feared gay rights, I understand that the basis of much of the ex-gay theories and practices are really anti-gay.

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This post has 19 Comments

  1. scottsteaux63 on February 2, 2011 at 1:05 pm Reply

    I am SICK unto DEATH of the way the media handles this question. Inevitably, in addition to listening to the stories of the victims of these programs, the people who run them are brought in to have their say, all in the name of “balance.” Well, pardon my language, but FUCK balance. Do they bring in the KKK to provide “balance” when discussing issues concerning African Americans? Neo-Nazis when discussing Jews? Please. Spare me.

  2. Dr. Veronica on February 2, 2011 at 2:01 pm Reply

    Yes. As an African-American, I would listen to what people have to say who disagree with me and my view, including the KKK. I understand that I am unusual in that.
    This is American and the beautiful thing about it is that we all can speak freely which includes on our radio and televsiion shows, our blog posts and in commentaries to post as I am doing now.

    One thing disturbing to me is the intolerance displayed by those who say themselves that they are the victims of intolerance. In saying that, I am prepared for the personal attacks that will come from those who disagree with my style.

    I thank you, Peterson, for coming on my show and sharing your story. People only learn and consider changing their view when they are able to hear and decide on their own free of coercion what they believe. So I will continue to invite people like you and Arthur Goldberg on the my show, at the same time. When emotions run high from listening to very different view points, then people start to have discussion about important issue.

    I would like to see us be able to have thought-provoking discussion free of the accusations and personal attacks. This is why on my show last night, I specifically asked that people respect each others view points by abstaining from verbally attacking other guests.

    Thank you for the opportunity to post in your forum
    Dr. Veronica

  3. Russell Cook on February 2, 2011 at 2:51 pm Reply

    I am producer and co-host for Wellness for the Real World, and it was Dr. Veronica’s and my mutual decision to include Mr. Goldberg. As I said on the air last night, I also happen to be a gay man who went through my own lengthy coming out process, which included a year of intense Christianity. I think I made it quite clear that I don’t personally agree with Mr. Goldberg in the least. (Although, like you, there was a time in my life when I would have followed anyone who said they could change me.)

    So the notion that we somehow coddled or gave special treatment to him comes as a bit of a surprise to me. Please note that there were a total of 6 guests on last night’s show, 5 of whom shared our general view.

    We try to present a range of views. We think it’s not informative or interesting radio if we only include guests with one opinion. Does “Meet the Press” do that? Does “Oprah?” Should they? I don’t think so.

    We also do not invite any guests with the intention to “ambush” them because we don’t agree with them, like so many talk radio shows do.

    We prefer to let people speak their piece, as did Mr. Goldberg. He said he has scientific proof, and we asked him to provide it to us. He has not as yet.

    And then we let Peterson and other guests respond to him and rebutt. I would not change anything we did last night.

    Peterson, believe me, I personally sit and become rabid when I watch certain political “news” shows that spout their particular dogma as truth.

    But we don’t do that. I understand your feelings, but I think they’re a little misplaced here. We happen to be on the same side.

  4. Scott Amundsen on February 2, 2011 at 3:13 pm Reply

    “Yes. As an African-American, I would listen to what people have to say who disagree with me and my view, including the KKK. I understand that I am unusual in that.”

    Excuse me, Dr Veronica, but that is not what I said. While YOU might be willing to listen to the views of such people (and kudos to you for that), the point I am making is that the media, generally speaking, DOES NOT GIVE THEM A VOICE. And why? Because everybody knows their views are hateful and wrong; if equal time were still given to the KKK or the neo-Nazi movement, we would have to face the fact that the lessons of the Holocaust and the Civil Rights Movement went completely unlearned.

    The fact remains that the LGBT community is the last group that it is still acceptable to attack, both verbally and physically. Usually on religious grounds, but oddly enough, not always; I know some atheists who are as rabidly anti-gay as any Fundamentalist Christian.

    The message that needs to get out is that these people are WRONG. They are hard-hearted, mean-spirited, and they resort to half truths and outright lies to support their condemnation of the LGBT community. And the fact that most of them tell these lies in the name of God makes it all the more reprehensible.

  5. Darlene Bogle on February 2, 2011 at 3:47 pm Reply

    As a former Exodus leader myself for 10 years, I think it’s important to point out that Goldberg cannot “provide” documentation for those changed lives because they do not exist.
    You cannot change who you are, and being Gay is not a choice.
    You have a choice to follow a Christian path, but that has nothing to do with sexual orientation.
    I am a Christian Lesbian, and I concur with Peterson’s evaluation of presenting “both sides.” There are not two sides…there is justice and equality, not tolerance for a “lifestyle choice”.
    In all my years with Exodus there were those, including myself, who said we were healed, delivered etc…but words are not necessarily an expression of reality. Where are the hundreds of “changed”? Hopefully in loving, committed, same sex relationships, if they did not dispair of the false promises and kill themselves!

  6. Michael Hulshof-Schmidt on February 2, 2011 at 4:27 pm Reply

    Peterson,

    What a great article! Kudos to you for calling these bigots out on their crap. I am so impressed by the way you talk about what is balanced reporting. I just did an entire article about you and your blog on my blog. Keep up the good work. Hope you will check my blog out and hope you enjoy it.

    http://hulshofschmidt.wordpress.com/2011/02/02/dangerous-homophobic-ex-gay-misinformation/

    Best regards,
    Michael

  7. Michael Hulshof-Schmidt on February 2, 2011 at 4:30 pm Reply

    Sorry, I am getting even angrier after reading Dr. Veronica and Russell Cook’s comments on your blog. Sorry, but you both are bigots and you both have now contributed to feeding into an already hostile homophobic climate. Nice work in the wake of so many teen suicides.

    Peterson, I do hope you never return to that show.

    Best regards,
    Michael

  8. paul on February 3, 2011 at 1:05 am Reply

    Dr Veronica wrote:

    “Yes. As an African-American, I would listen to what people have to say who disagree with me and my view, including the KKK. I understand that I am unusual in that.”

    But would you invite a member of the KKK onto a show entitled: “Wellness for the REAL World?” Listening “to what people have to say who disagree with [you]” is different from providing them a forum to speak. I can’t imagine that Dr. King would have invited a member of the KKK to speak at his church. Of course, that was a different time… which is part of my point.

    I appreciate your sentiment and intent, but I think it is misplaced and ill timed. Almost a hundred years after the emancipation proclamation, our country still had need of a civil rights movement. Society is not always quick to see, let alone adhere, to ‘reality.’

    The LBGTQ populace is early into it’s own civil rights movement. Laws are still being made forbidding us equal rights. Clearly, those who would agree with the the likes of Mr. Goldberg represent a significant segment of American society. Their forum are plethora, their voices are freely and easily heard in this county. I suggest, that for many, because you are a professional, your invitation to such a person gives legitimacy to his message.

  9. penguinlad on February 3, 2011 at 10:58 am Reply

    Great post, Peterson. Thank you for sharing your experience. It’s sad when even people with the best of intentions buy into the false dichotomy of “balanced reporting.” Sometimes there aren’t two equal sides to a story.

    This reminds me of the Washington Post using Tony Perkins to “balance” Dan Savage. Idiocy in journalism at it’s blindest.

  10. Anthony Venn-Brown on February 4, 2011 at 9:20 pm Reply

    yep…..good post.

    I dont supposed they talked about the fundamental flaw in the “I’m not gay, I’m married’ message…….Situational Heterosexuality

    http://gayambassador.blogspot.com/2010/04/most-misunderstood-concept-in-ex-gay.html

    Love your work Peterson.

  11. Michael Hulshof-Schmidt on February 4, 2011 at 9:27 pm Reply

    Might I also add that the Founder of Exodus is now openly gay and one of the harshest critics of the very organization he helped to found.

    Sorry, Peterson. I’m still quite angry with our Dr. Veronica and her crew of fools.

  12. almightyllama on February 5, 2011 at 1:45 pm Reply

    Hey peterson, take a look at this comic.
    http://www.khaoskomix.com/cgi-bin/comic.cgi?chp=1

  13. Shirley on February 6, 2011 at 7:59 pm Reply

    Yes, we can all speak freely. That makes us very fortunate. It also makes us very responsible.

    It was a very strange turn for the show to take. At first it was an interesting discussion about people who have experienced great unhappiness because of trying to live as someone else, a discussion about double lives and intolerance. And then suddenly it became a different discussion, one about how people might change. Do you see how strange that is? No-one in the first place was discussing whether or not gay people should become straight, and then suddenly there was this big leap to discussing HOW gay people might become straight and IF it COULD really happen. It just didn’t really make sense, and yet if you glanced at it, the way you might scan down a newspaper article, it might look like a kind of debate where there were two equal and opposite sides having a lively chat about the pros and cons of something. It was really quite odd.

    I believe you when you say you’re trying to give everyone a voice. But it was not done well. You need to have two separate shows. One about what it’s like having a marriage which is full of heartache and secrets. And another about mental health and the ex-gay movement, which would seem entirely appropriate given that show is about ‘wellness’. I think the confusion here is not with tolerance, it’s about what you were trying to do with this particular show.

  14. JR on February 9, 2011 at 1:01 am Reply

    You brave man Peterson, thank you for standing up to such small minded insanity and blatant misuse of language and in correctly titled programming! I hope you intend to continue this very important endeavor of sharing your experience.

    It is very important. I worked with gay youth for 5 years and can not express the importance with enough weight and passion.

    – JR

  15. Stephen on February 16, 2011 at 4:53 am Reply

    Jumping in and changing the subject a bit, but after listening to the entire show I have say that there was also blantant biphobia in the show, which no one picked up on or challenged. Once again bisexual men are erased from the conversation.

  16. Bi Bob on November 20, 2012 at 7:38 pm Reply

    In a March.com article called “Could-Your-Boyfriend-Be-Gay” and you will see Kiri Blakeley saying bisexuality doesn’t exist. Now, her former boyfriend might not have been bisexual but that does not mean sexual orientations are just a black-and-white/gay or straight classification for everyone. Very biphobic.

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