Wednesday, July 20, 2005

PFLAG Executive Director's Response to PFOX President

A couple of weeks ago, Richard Cohen, President of PFOX (Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays ... which would be "PFOX-GAG" if they really meant the "and Gays" part), who lives in Bowie, Maryland, presented public comments on the health education curriculum to the MCPS Board of Education. A couple of weeks before that, Mr. Cohen had published a letter in the Washington Times in response to David Fishback's letter commenting on a Times editorial on the Montgomery County curriculum (see these discussed on the Vigilance blog HERE and HERE). Here is Mr. Cohen's June 17, 2005, letter:
'Dubious theories' about same-sex attraction

Without specifically identifying to whom he is referring, David S. Fishback obliquely mischaracterizes the position of former homosexuals and groups that represent them ("Sex-ed in the margin," Letters, Wednesday). He disingenuously states that " 'dubious theories' are those propagated by groups that cling to the long-since-rejected ideas that all homosexuals are diseased and can be 'cured' of the disease."

This is simply untrue. Groups representing former homosexuals, such as Parents and Friends of Ex-gays and Gays (PFOX), have never taken the position that homosexuality is a disease or that people choose to have homosexual feelings.

The position taken by PFOX has always been that no one is born with same-sex attraction. We know that those feelings develop involuntarily because of a number of factors. Furthermore, we believe that a person with unwanted same-sex attraction may, with proper therapy, help and self-determination, come out straight. This is a view supported by many health care professionals, contrary to Mr. Fishback's suggestion.

As president of PFOX's board, a former homosexual who has been married for 23 years, father of three children, and a professional psychotherapist who has helped hundreds of men and women change from homosexual to straight, I know firsthand that people can change from homosexual to straight. There are, quite literally, thousands who have done so and are glad they did. I stand as one of them.

International Healing Foundation

National PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) Executive Director Jody Huckaby wrote a letter to the Washington Times in response to Mr. Cohen's assertions. The Times recently informed Mr. Huckaby that his letter would not be published. Here is Mr. Huckaby's letter:
Richard Cohen, President of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX), attempted in his letter of June 18 ('Dubious theories' about same-sex attraction) to defend his groups' support of "proper therapy" to make homosexuals into heterosexuals. What readers should know is that Cohen's credibility is itself dubious, and that his notions of "proper therapy" for making gay people straight have long been soundly rejected by all credible professional mental health associations who in fact call such therapy damaging. He was himself found in violation of numerous ethics codes by the American Counseling Association a few years ago and was expelled permanently. So if he is still a professional psychotherapist making a living teaching people to suppress the homosexual orientation that is natural to them, it is without the express blessing of at least one professional mental health association and is repudiated by the rest.

Jody Huckaby
Executive Director
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)

Let me throw in my two cents' worth. People like Cohen would like the public to believe that there is scientific support for what they do, that it is credible and legitimate psychotherapy, and they would like you to actually believe that gay people can become straight by subjecting themselves to some kind of therapy program. There is no evidence for this, lots of evidence that it does not work. The "ex-gay" movement is a landscape littered with scandal -- there are lots more ex-ex-gays than ex-gays out there.

The upcoming months will be challenging for us. It will be necessary for people to educate themselves, to learn to distinguish between real science and wishful-thinking-pretending-to-be-science. You can't tell the difference without learning a little bit about the field, and about how science works. Cohen is not a doctor, having neither an MD, PhD, PsyD, nor anything else; he was, as Huckaby noted, expelled from the American Counseling Association for ethical violations; and his techniques are not accepted by legitimate practitioners. He is just another brick in the wall of anti-gay bigotry -- the saddest type, the gay man struggling with his own orientation, occasionally giving in to his true feelings (this is all described in his own writings), and all the while ranting about how much better it is to be heterosexual. He and his organization should have nothing to say about anything that is taught in our public schools.

If you're like me, you never gave any thought to anything like "ex-gays." You probably never wondered whether gay people can become heterosexual, and you don't know anything about it. And now PFOX and CRC intend to use our ignorance to drive a wedge into our community, to separate the skeptics from the gullible. They are counting on the community's insecurities and lack of knowledge to increase the numbers of the gullible.

The moral of the story: inform yourself.


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