Alan Chambers (Alan Chambers)

(Weekly Column)

I know this is hard to believe, but the “ex-gay” group Exodus International is the next Starbucks. The organization, according to its executive director Alan Chambers, is expanding so fast that it will soon have storefronts on every corner where forlorn homosexuals can pray away the gay.

In 2003, Chambers claimed that there are “thousands of former homosexuals.” By 2004, he announced that he knew “tens of thousands of people whom have successfully changed.”
Last week, Chambers stunned the world when he boasted to The San Francisco Chronicle that there are “hundreds of thousands” of ex-gays. This must have been shocking news to the masses of gay people in San Francisco’s crowded Castro neighborhood, that didn’t know they were on the verge of extinction.

Folks, we need to put this mushrooming phenomenon at the top of the gay agenda. Even the success of Brokeback Mountain can’t halt the expansion of these free the fairies franchises. If we don’t stop Chambers by 2008 – a presidential election year – there will be millions of former homosexuals and most will vote Republican. And by the end of the decade, the number of ex-gays will look like a Bill Gates ATM receipt. Exodus might even have to get a sign, like McDonalds, so we can watch the numbers turn to keep track of the billions of transformed lives.

Sure, it seems like more people are coming out, but in Exodus “surreal-ity” the masses are going back in. I know it appears that gay Pride events are growing larger each year, but is it just the liberal media puffing up the crowd size to hide the fact that Chambers is decimating the annual parades? Thanks to Exodus, will Gay Pride soon be reduced to three stubborn drag queens lip-synching on a flat bed pick up truck?

Of course, there are still skeptics who believe that Chambers likes to pull numbers out of his posterior. He bases his inflated figures on the alleged 400,000 phone calls the organization receives each year. Why do I get the feeling that Exodus counts as ex-gays wrong numbers, telemarketers and calls from the pizza delivery guy? I called Chambers twice last year for columns and wonder if I was counted as two ex-gays?

What I find bewildering, is that if there are so many ex-gays, why can’t Chambers provide any to speak to the media that are not ministry leaders or paid lobbyists? Why do Exodus and Focus on the Family use the same tired ex-gays in their advertisements? Why do they continue to highlight the testimony of Phil Hobizal, a Portland ministry leader who stepped down in 2003 after having an “emotional entanglement,” whatever that means? Why must the American Family Association peddle a video by ex-gay Michael Johnston who suffered a “moral fall?” Perhaps, there simply are not replacements for these failed leaders?

One just has to look at Dr. Robert Spitzer’s 2001 study of ex-gays to underscore the difficulty of finding these mythical people. The psychiatrist had so much trouble coming up with a mere 200 study subjects that he unethically resorted to using paid ex-gay shills and referrals from anti-gay groups such as the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH).

There is even a cloud of suspicion surrounding the subjects who said anti-gay groups did not refer them to Spitzer. Daniel S. Gonzales, a former patient of NARTH’s Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, alleges that his right wing therapist “asked me to lie to Spitzer when I called in for my study interview by denying Nicolosi had referred me.”

In light of this revelation, Dr. Spitzer has an obligation to contact all of his supposedly “independent” subjects and find out if they were coerced into participating in his study under false pretenses.

Fortunately, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force released a paper this week, “Youth in the Crosshairs: The Third Wave of Ex-Gay Activism,” that examines how these groups prey on youth, often manipulating parents to force their children into psychologically damaging therapy against their will. These groups harm children as young as five years old and lure them and their parents with comics, youth groups and a slick CD Rom called “The Map.” More studies, such as this one and my book Anything But Straight, are needed to counter the ex-gay myth that is the centerpiece of the right wing’s campaign to deny gay people equal rights.

In 1979, most Americans believed there were few homosexuals. To challenge this misperception, the GLBT community held the first of four massive rallies in the nation’s capital. If Exodus wants to silence the skeptics they should put up or shut up. It is time for them to hold an ex-gay March on Washington where we can actually see, once and for all, the invisible hordes that only seem to exist in Alan Chambers over-active imagination.