The big story this week is the Love Won Out ex-gay conference taking place today in Anchorage, Alaska, sponsored by James Dobson's Christian fundamentalist group
Focus on the Family, where
participants are exposed to a number of deceptions about being
gay – primarily that it is “curable” and a choice.
Sexuality, certainly, is a complicated
puzzle. There is no single switch that controls it. But
it simply goes against common sense to believe that people would choose
being gay when the world continues to be littered with hateful, and
often demeaning, anti-gay messages.
And perhaps the organizers of such
events don't really – believe that is. More likely, they use the
poor unsuspecting mugs of their skulduggery as props in their
continuing gay-Christian fundamentalist culture war.
Serving as watchdog to the ex-gay
movement is an unlikely protagonist, author Wayne Besen, founder of
Truth Wins Out, a pro-gay group
that advocates against ex-gay ministries. In 2000, Besen
exposed ex-gay group Exodus Chairman John Paulk, who was telling his
fascinating tale of gay conversion to media titans Newsweek
and CBS's 60 Minutes, as the ex-gay charlatan he was. Besen
photographed the golden boy of the ex-gay movement flirting with men
at a Washington D.C bar and wrote about his apparent fall from grace
in Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind
the Ex-Gay Myth.
Besen, along with the Alaska chapter of
pro-gay group Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays
(PFLAG), say their presence at the conference is to support the youth
attending. At a similar conference in Orlando, Florida earlier this
year, PFLAG parents and allies stood outside of the event with signs
that said, “I love my gay son.”
Before he left, Besen spoke to On Top Magazine about what motivates him to police the ex-gay
movement's primary sponsor: Focus on the Family Chairman James
“Dobson has set up a fib factory that
portrays gay people as perverted, dysfunctional and sick,” Wayne
Besen said. “When these lies filter down into society it causes
discrimination and even hate crimes. ... This is about a powerful,
wealthy anti-gay organization that is committed to ruining our lives
through propaganda and transforming democracy into theocracy. ...
This is a fight that is bigger than the GLBT [gay, lesbian, bisexual
and transgender] community. What we are really fighting for is
keeping America a free country and out of the hands of religious
zealots who want to see America become a Christian version of Iran.
Our community stands in the way of this very scary vision. We are on
the front lines of this battle and we will never give up. Our very
lives and love depend on us winning – and so we will.”
The Anchorage location of the of the
ex-gay conference is about thirty miles from vice presidential
nominee Sarah Palin's hometown of Wasilla. And
concern has been expressed over Palin's involvement with – or knowledge
of – her church's promotion of the ex-gay conference.
An insert in the bulletin of the
Wasilla Bible Church, where Palin has prayed for about six years,
says, “You'll be encouraged by the power of God's love and His
desire to transform the lives of those impacted by homosexuality,”
according to a report by The Associated Press.
“We are deeply
concerned that Sarah Palin may share the extreme and medically
unsound view that gay and lesbian people can and should be cured,”
said Besen. “We call on Palin to express her views on this issue
so we have a clear idea on where she stands. We hope this is an area
where she disagrees with her church.”
are also at the forefront of the question of gay & lesbian
couples right to marry. While Mormon Church leaders and Catholic
bishops in California both endorse Proposition 8 – the ballot
initiative that would constitutionally ban gay marriage in the State
– six of the highest ranking California Episcopal bishops are supporting gay marriage.
“Jesus calls us
to love rather than hate, to give rather than to receive, to live
into hope rather than fear,” the Episcopal bishops said in a
prepared statement. “We believe that this continued access [to gay
marriage] promotes Jesus' ethic of love, giving, and hope.”
And it was our own Gay Entertainment Report that brought me news that Michael Douglas has been drafted to play uber-entertainer Liberace in an upcoming film biopic about
The Gay Slant is a feature of On Top
Magazine and pops in most Saturdays. Walter Weeks can be reached at