Friday, March 23, 2007

Cohen, PFOX In Meltdown Mode

The Daily Show is part of the routine at our house. It comes on at eleven, and my wife and I usually watch it before we crash, for a last laugh before the day ends. We have to have the coffee made, the dog walked, the lights turned out, by eleven. Well, sometimes, eleven-thirty, for Colbert.

The other night you might have seen Richard Cohen and Wayne Besen on. Besen, I don't know, I guess that was funny. But Richard Cohen ... man, what a weirdo.

Cohen, if you don't know, claims to be "ex-gay," and practices a kind of unlicensed psychotherapy that he claims changes people from gay to straight. But, you look at him, and -- what can you say? The best part, I thought, was throwing the football at the end.

Cohen has been banned for life from the American Counseling Association for ethical violations. He's an ex-Moonie who was president of PFOX -- the anti-gay group that joined in the lawsuit against our county in 2005, and in the appeal to the state this year -- but his name seems to have disappeared from their literature (though his web site still lists him as an "advisory board member" for PFOX). He has sat in the Montgomery County boardroom and addressed our school board, trying to get "ex-gays" added to our kids' curriculum. He lives in Bowie.

In reality he's a laughingstock. He has been on several TV shows this past year, where they made fun of him and made him look like an idiot. Well, they didn't really do anything but invite him on, he did the rest. His counseling business is essentially a sham, his techniques are bizarre and self-serving (he likes to hug and cuddle with men who are trying not to be gay, as he is). Warren Throckmorton did some digging after the Daily Show, where Cohen claimed to be a "Certified Sexual Reorientation Coach," and found that Cohen is "the lead certifier and, at present, probably the only CSRC in the world."

Now a prominent "ex-gay" spokesman is coming unglued. Pam's House Blend had it:
Yipes. Is there a catfight? After "conversion therapist" Richard Cohen's embarrassing, clownish appearance on The Daily Show demonstrating his techniques on how he frees men from homosexuality ..., Exodus International's Randy Thomas couldn't take it any more. He had to unload on Cohen for making the movement look bad.

She goes on to quote Thomas, who said:
Richard is not the foremost of anything except making a spectacle of himself and completely misrepresenting the larger "ex-gay" movement. He is not a part of Exodus and apparently not willing to take our private feedback and accountability to heart.

So, if he is willing to allow "ex-gays" to continue to be circus show fodder for those who mock our sincere beliefs, he deserves the public denouncement this post brings.


By the way, note that Exodus puts "ex-gay" in quotes.

Then, yesterday, gay-converting shrink Warren Throckmorton posted a letter by Cohen to ... the world, basically, apologizing for being a buffoon. Part of the letter said:
I would like to address the questions that some friends have expressed in regard to some of the media appearances I've done recently, including Jimmy Kimmel Live, Paula Zahn Now, The Montel Show, and this week's Jon Stewart's The Daily Show on Comedy Central.

I've chosen to do interviews on shows such as these in an effort to reach people who would normally never hear our message. Some of these shows have mocked me and this work. Most times though, the interviews on these and other shows have turned out in our favor. I have had wonderful opportunities to get the truth out clearly and have seen many people respond because of these interviews, seeking out healing and change through various PATH (Positive Alternatives To Homosexuality) organizations.


This week's interview on The Daily Show was difficult. It took place in my home and office, and was the most degrading experience I've had in the media. I unknowingly allowed myself to be manipulated and coerced by the producer and the host. I take full responsibility for this mistake. I have learned since my interview with The Daily Show that this program treats most of the experts they interview the same way they treated me: taking bits and pieces of the interview, re-edit it out of order, and make the interviewee appear foolish.

Happily, regular Daily Show viewers-which I am not-are in on the gag and know that this is the way the show generates laughs. I have learned well from this experience to better research future interview opportunities and to be more discerning about the offers that I accept, and what therapeutic approaches I demonstrate on the air. I sincerely apologize if my decision to be on this and other interview programs has caused you any hurt or harm. Please forgive me.

Read the rest if you're interested.

Meanwhile, one of the leaders of the "ex-gay" movement, Alan Chambers, had joined up with PFOX (stands for Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays). ExGay Watch has it:
One of the conditions of this arrangement was that PFOX remove all ties with Richard Cohen, the unlicensed, self described "psychotherapist and educator," and director of the International Healing Foundation. Cohen has received notoriety for frequently appearing on TV, sometimes in venues one might find questionable (Howard Stern?) for someone claiming to be able to "heal homosexuality."

To date PFOX remains deeply entrenched in Cohen's questionable ideology, and Cohen's own site lists him as "an advisory board member of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX)." Citing this, and a heavy work schedule of his own, Alan Chambers has informed us that he has resigned from the board of PFOX and is no longer associated with their operation. Exodus President Alan Chambers Resigns from PFOX Board

Also, they note that Chambers' organization, Exodus International, has posted this statement:
Exodus International does not endorse the work of Richard Cohen or the methods utilized in his practice. Some of the techniques Mr. Cohen employs could be detrimental to an individual's understanding of healthy relational boundaries and disruptive to the psychological and emotional development of men and women seeking clinical counsel and aid.

Now ... let me say something.

Our county, Montgomery County, Maryland, has been under attack by a loose band of ignoramuses or ignorami, depending on how proper your Latin is, who do and say anything to make gay people look bad, and to try to stop the schools' attempt to teach some factual information about sexual orientation.

That band of anti-gay radicals identifies itself with several larger groups. Well, the Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum is just a couple of people, but nowadays they are joined by a Mormon group called Family Leader Network or something, and -- PFOX.

I never knew anything about this stuff before, so the past couple of years have been a real education for me. One thing is, I have met and talked to a pretty wide range of people who are gay and grew up in really strict Christian religions that do not approve of homosexuality. I actually sympathize with them. When I read thoughtful web sites like Box Turtle Bulletin and ExGay Watch, I see that these guys are really trapped, they really don't know how to resolve the dilemma. Why do God and Nature pull in opposite ways for them, but not for everybody else? Jesus went into the desert for forty days of temptation and fighting the devil, but the trials last a lifetime for these people. They feel forsaken, and yet, they are brave enough to face who they are and how they feel and try to reconcile their feelings with their faith.

I think some of the organizations really try to support these poor souls and help them meet the demands of their church. I personally would not choose that, but it's there if they want it, and some do. I don't understand, exactly, but it looks to me like some of them are sincere.

PFOX isn't like that. The executive director of PFOX has a gay son and PFOX represents the institutionalization of her state of denial; the organization's desperate goal is to force the rest of the world to play along with the pipe-dream that gay people can magically become straight. PFOX insists that gay people can change, that they should change, and they pretend that there are thousands -- sometimes they say tens of thousands -- of formerly gay people who have completely changed their sexual orientation. I have called this a "cruel hoax," and I stand by that.

You grow up, you find that nature has made you attracted to your own sex, you belong to a church that doesn't approve of that: what do you do? Personally, I'd be shopping for a new church. But if you've grown up with those beliefs, those values, belief in that God who doesn't approve of you, it is not that simple. PFOX holds out the hope that they can just stop having those feelings, and that's not right.

Richard Cohen is a huckster, and PFOX is a pathological case. These people have no place telling anybody what should be taught in school. The other ministries put up with them for quite a while, and it sounds like they even tried to help them out, but now PFOX is on their own. They're exposed as a bunch of nuts, and the serious ones have abandoned them.


Blogger andrear said...

Well, when you are involved in shysterism- it's hard to separate the nuts from the plain dishonest folks. It's like certain right wingers who drew away from Ann Coulter and others who gave her support in her latest hate attack. So the guy from Exodus quit PFOX-does that mean some CRCers will have to make a decision because Richard Cohen becomes more nutty by the day? Lies, fake therapy, general nuttiness- I just can't feel too bad for any of the people involved in these groups- Did someone like Cohen give them the feeling that there was some science/ some fact behind their shared nonsense? . And those pulling away from Clown Cohen- so what? Saving their own reparative therapy BS skins?

March 23, 2007 7:10 PM  
Blogger grantdale said...

Yeah well, of course all the best people like The Daily Show!

Here's the links to those Jason Jones' reports. Richard Cohen appears in Part 2.

Diagnosis Mystery: Part 1

Diagnosis Mystery: Part 2

And that was weird and creepy, no? Wanna be "coached" on your sexuality by that disgraced psychologist? Oh, why ever not?

For some more background: ever wondered what the virulently anti-gay "researcher" (and another disgraced psychologist) Paul Cameron actually looks like ... ponder no more in this story about The Gays(c) in the military. As a warning for the more sensitive among us, you will also see rather a lot of Jones dancing with a mirror ball.

Tangled up in Bleu

And, gratuitously, one from Samantha Bee -- simply because, well because she's fantastic!

Gays of Thunder

Where oh where do they find these people to interview: utterly irony impaired.

And after the laughs, just to refresh people's minds about what's ultimately at stake...

This is all that some students get told in their health & sexuality classes, elsewhere:

(8) An emphasis, in a factual manner and from a public health perspective, that homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public and that homosexual conduct is a criminal offense under the laws of the state.

Gee thanks teacher. Perhaps I should just go jump of a bridge right now and spare you all the disgrace and criminality of my life.

March 24, 2007 1:55 AM  
Blogger Orin Ryssman said...

Richard Cohen writes,

I unknowingly allowed myself to be manipulated and coerced by the producer and the host. I take full responsibility for this mistake. I have learned since my interview with The Daily Show that this program treats most of the experts they interview the same way they treated me: taking bits and pieces of the interview, re-edit it out of order, and make the interviewee appear foolish.

Duh! What a moron.

Oh, and btw, he probably did have an idea what he was in for...he just could not resist the opportunity to receive publicity for "The Cause".

Stupid is as stupid does.

March 24, 2007 7:33 AM  
Blogger digger said...

It's worth noting that Exodus' Alan Chambers is openly saying that they do not promote or promise real and permanent change in sexual orientation (object of desire) but in behavior. There seems to be a big debate among the X people about what terms to use, and what is meant by "ex-gay." Warren Throckmorton seems to have moved to the idea of helping live their lives according to their religious beliefs (which for people at the end of the Kinsey scale means celibacy) rather than significant changes in orientation, which I believe is the position of the Catholic group Courage. Spitzer also says his research indicates that strong change in orientation is exceedingly rare. The ex-gay movement for years has been kind of a halfway house for LGBT people, a way to sort of come out, admit your same-sex attractions to someone, hate yourself for it for a while, then move on.

Dear PFOX and CRC, pay attention: people are jumping of the ex-gay bandwagon, because it just isn't true.

PFLAG Gala last night was fun.


March 25, 2007 2:47 PM  
Anonymous David S. Fishback said...

It was good to see Robert at the Metro DC Gala. The Gala, as always, was a wonderful, moving experience. As every year, Catherine and Ike Leggett hosted a table, which, happily, was next to the table my wife and hosted. PFLAG is mainstream, certainly in Montgomery County, where the County Executive just completed several years as a member of the groups Board of Directors.

Check out the websites:

March 25, 2007 8:42 PM  

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