In making his way to Anchorage, Alaska to confront, once again, a James Dobson Love Won Out ex-gay conference scheduled for Saturday, Wayne Besen stands at the vanguard of one of the most vehement battles of the gay-Christian culture war – the Christian-based ex-gay movement which seeks to “cure” homosexuals. Yet, the ex-gay movement he hopes to expose operates in relative obscurity, and with little opposition.

In 2000, when Exodus Chairman John Paulk was being hailed as the golden boy of the ex-gay movement by such media heavyweights as Newsweek and CBS's 60 Minutes, Besen secretly photographed him flirting with men in a gay 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. The revelation shocked both the ex-gay movement and the media who had glamorized it, and Paulk was subsequently removed as chairman of Exodus.

Besen has since founded Truth Wins Outs, a non-profit organization that advocates against ex-gay ministries, and, more recently,, where social and behavioral scientists can voice their displeasure at having their research distorted and used to prop up ex-gay claims.

Before leaving for Anchorage, Besen spoke with us about his gay-Christian feud with Focus on the Family Chairman, and Love Won Out sponsor, James Dobson.

OTM: How did your feud with James Dobson begin?

Besen: I have a deep disdain for Focus on the Family because this group is uniquely truth challenged. They are the captains of an industry that causes a great deal of pain and suffering for GLBT [gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender] people. They are responsible for much of the hate against gay and lesbian people in America, because they pump out huge amounts of anti-gay propaganda, that demeans our lives and devalues our families. What makes them a dangerous group, is that they dehumanize us in the name of “love” and “family values.” What they do is Orwellian.

Focus on the Family began to target me for smear campaigns after I photographed their “ex-gay” poster boy, John Paulk, who founded their Love Won Out program, in a gay bar in Washington. Since this time, they have tried to tar me with whisper campaigns that absurdly call me “the Fred Phelps of the gay community.” I guess when a massive anti-gay organization that rakes in more than $150 million a year targets me and my small organization, Truth Wins Out, we are doing something right.

Our feud was taken to a whole new level when I founded, last year. Basically, when Focus on the Family distorts research, we go right to the scientists whose work has been manipulated. We videotape them demanding that Focus immediately stop lying about their research. Our program has been quite devastating to the credibility of Focus on the Family, so they have upped their attacks on TWO and their efforts to tar me personally. I could not be more pleased. The day Focus on the Family likes me, is the day I have stopped doing my job.

OTM: You've pointed out that Dobson benefits economically from his anti-gay rhetoric. Do you see it as hypocritical that you have built a career – and therefore also benefit – out of policing Dobson's rhetoric?

Besen: I don't profit off of hatred, while Dobson does. So, we are in an entirely different business. I'm trying to secure rights for millions of people, while he is working to take these basic rights away. What we do is not analogous. Indeed, he is even trying to write gay relationships out of the Constitution, by pushing for the Federal Marriage Amendment. Meanwhile, I'm not trying to ban fundamentalist Christian marriages. What we do and who we are cannot really be compared.

Furthermore, this is hardly a profit center for me personally. While there are many wealthy televangelists, no one has ever become rich as a gay activist. I have actually sacrificed quite a bit with my career to do what I believe in. The moment I retire from this business, I'll make more in the private sector. To be honest, this business is not always glamorous and can really be a pain in the ass. It is constantly begging for money and is hardly a cash cow. I only do this because it is a labor of love and I want to leave the world a better place for future generations.

Coming out was an incredibly painful experience for me and my family. I vowed to do everything in my power to change the world so being gay was not something stigmatized by society. I am proud to stand with many fine leaders in the GLBT community who have created a kinder reality right in front of our eyes. We are winning this fight; it is quite gratifying to be a part of it.

OTM: Do you feel a symbiotic relationship with Dobson?

Besen: Not really. He gets up in the morning to hurt people, and I get up to help them. My goal is to put Dobson out of business – and thus allowing myself to close up shop. I'd like nothing more than for my services to no longer be needed. It is hardly enjoyable to see the incredible damage and harm that Focus on the Family does to people.

OTM: Have you ever spoken with or met James Dobson?

Besen: No, but I would meet with him. I have met high-level members of his staff. I will do so again this year. But, these infrequent meetings are private and off-the-record, so I won't discuss what is said. I meet in an effort to lower the temperature in the culture war and with the faint hope that progress can be made. You can never stop dreaming and people do come around sometimes. It never hurts to keep an open mind and be open to dialogue.

I really do wish that people at Focus on the Family would stop attacking our families and start helping all families. They can have a positive impact on society – but they need to get out of attack mode. By going after us, they are accomplishing nothing in the long run. What have they really accomplished, other than causing some gay people to be rejected by their families or creating marriages that end in divorce, or scandal like Ted Haggard? Their “solutions” are really the problem and they need to take a hard, long look in the mirror and ask themselves tough questions about the results of their war on gays. At the end of the day, they will lose credibility and will end up apologizing – as past religious bigots did on slavery, the rights of women, the treatment of Jews, etc.

OTM: In the past weeks we have been witnesses to several conservative nuts reacting violently to people with progressive views. This Besen-Dobson feud seems to be getting louder. Do you ever worry about it spiraling out of control?

Besen: I do receive threats and have taken appropriate security measures and precautions. I don't let it worry me. There is simply too much work to do – and you can't live in fear or the bad guys win.

OTM: What do you see as the core of this disagreement? And, do you take this all personally?

Besen: The core disagreement is that Dobson has set up a fib factory that portrays gay people as perverted, dysfunctional and sick. When these lies filter down into society it causes discrimination and even hate crimes. Focus on the Family dehumanizes us and the moment they stop, so will our feud. This is not about me and Dobson, or Focus on the Family and Truth Wins Out. 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 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.

On the net: Truth Wins Out is at