Seth Kreigh

“Ex-Gays” in the News Again

Filed By Seth Kreigh | September 19, 2005 5:48 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement

As posted in the August 2005 Policy Update by SIECUS:

Recent news stories have shed light on attempts by some organizations to “convert” gay, lesbian, and bisexual people through so-called “reparative therapy.” “Reparative therapy” or “conversion therapy” refers to psychotherapy aimed at changing the client's sexual orientation and eliminating all homosexual desires. Clients who feel they have successfully changed their sexual orientation often identify as “ex-gays.”

The story of Zach,{1} a Tennessee teen who was sent to Refuge, a “reparative therapy” program affiliated with Love in Action International and Focus on the Family, became national news when desperate entries on his Weblog described the tactics of the program. Refuge submits the young people in its program to a 2-3 day orientation period without any communication or eye contact and bans on “campy” behavior or private journaling.{2} Zach's story, as reported by SIECUS last month, prompted an investigation by the state of Tennessee.

Zach's story was also the focus of an article in the recent edition of the national magazine The Advocate that exposed this practice and told the stories of many other teens who have been exposed to “ex-gay” ministries.{3} The Advocate article sparked interest and questions from readers. To help readers further understand the issue, the magazine printed the American Psychiatric Association's (APA) statement on “reparative therapy,” in which it officially discounts the practice, in an exclusive.{4}

In its statement, the APA is joined by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychological Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Association of Social Workers in its position that reparative therapy “is based on an understanding of homosexuality that has been rejected by all the major health and mental health professions.”{5} The APA finds the approach not only misinformed but also potentially harmful. On its website the APA elaborates, stating that “the potential risks of ‘reparative therapy' are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior, since therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient.”{6}

Despite being discredited by all major medical and mental health associations, “ex-gay” groups are asserting themselves in public debates on everything from therapy to sex education. In Montgomery County , Maryland , Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX) filed a suit along with other conservative organizations against the school district over a new sexuality education curriculum which portrayed homosexuality as a legitimate sexual orientation and explained same-sex households as just one of “many types of families.”{7} PFOX has ties to other radical right organizations such as Focus on the Family and the Liberty Council, which provided pro bono legal representation to the group in their lawsuit.

PFOX president, Richard Cohen, who is a “conversion therapist” and identifies as an “ex-gay,” was recently profiled in the Washington Post.{8} Cohen conducts what he refers to as “coaching” sessions with men struggling with their sexual orientation.{9} According to Cohen, touch is an essential part of his therapy. He recommends that his clients “develop intimate friendships with heterosexual mentors who will cuddle them in a parental, nonerotic way, making up for the love they did not get from their fathers.”{10} Cohen and other supporters of “reparative therapy” argue that the APA is “anti-ex-gay”{11} and only represents one side of the story.{12} Cohen was permanently expelled from the American Counseling Association in 2002 for multiple ethical violations.

For more information on the Montgomery County, MD sex education controversy:

View the APA position statement.


{1} Zach's full name has not been published because he is under the age of 18.
{2} Kelly Griffin, “Brainwashed No More,” Advocate , 30 August 2005, Issue 945, accessed 19 August 2005, <>.
{3} Griffin.
{4}American Psychiatric Association, “The Real Meaning of ‘Ex-gay',” , 15 August 2005, accessed 19 August 2005, <>.
{5} Ibid.
{6} American Psychiatric Association, “Position Statement on Psychiatric Treatment and Sexual Orientation,” Released 11 September 1998, accessed 19 August 2005, <>.
{7} Lilliana Segura, “Teaching Sexuality,” The Nation , 17 August 2005, accessed 19 August 2005, <>.
{8} Sandra G. Boodman, “A Conversion Therapist's Unusual Odyssey,” The Washington Post , 16 August 2005, accessed 19 August 2005, <>.
{9} Ibid.
{10} Ibid.
{11} Ibid.
{12} Kim Trobee, , “Getting the Ex-Gay Message Out,” Family News in Focus , 16 August 2005, accessed 19 August 2005, .

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AUTHOR: Marla R. Stevens

DATE: 9/19/2005 07:41:37 PM

The Blade says that the state of Tennessee is going after Love In Action for operating a live-in therapy facility sans licensure. LIA says they are a church and are thus exempt. Problem is, they've persuaded a number of health insurers to pay for their clients' stays as inpatient (and outpatient as that applies) psychotherapeutic treatment.Sounds like that little logical inconsistency I like to point out to them where they say I'm both sick and a sinner, which would be a contradiction in terms.Operating an unlicensed psychotherapeutic inpatient facility in Tennessee is a class D misdemeanor.But, if they are required to be licensed and are not, they could lose the fiscal support that you and I partially pay for with health insurance premiums.Couldn't happen fast enough!

AUTHOR: Seth Kreigh

DATE: 9/20/2005 08:04:40 PM

Here's a related article.