I. RAPID RESPONSE WEB ACTIVISM
It is crucial to develop a comprehensive and interactive web site to expeditiously respond to right wing misinformation campaigns, particularly by ex-gay organizations. On a daily basis, TWO will quickly counter falsehoods and discredit distortions. The web site will also offer thorough resources, tell the powerful stories of victims and highlight the bizarre methods ex-gay therapists use to supposedly turn gay people into heterosexuals.
II. LAUNCH COUNTER MOVEMENT
Launch a support group to assist victims of ex-gay ministries and reparative therapy to recover from abuse. This will be a support group to allow ex-ex-gays to tell their stories to keep others from falling into the destructive ex-gay trap. We will call the organization the Foundation for the Recovery of Ex-Ex Gays (F.R.E.E.)
III. LANDMARK LEGAL STRATEGY
The ex-gay ministries are vulnerable to potential lawsuits because they abuse victims and even cause sucides. TWO will create a Legal Advisory Board by working with GLBT legal organizations. This Legal Board would play defense against the latest ex-gay strategy, which is to partner with Jerry Falwell’ Liberty Counsel in an effort to intimidate school districts into including ex-gays in public school curriculums.
IV. TRAIN MEDICAL AND MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONALS
There is a dearth of mental health experts who feel comfortable talking about the harm caused by reparative therapy. There is a great need to train spokespeople who can authoritatively counter reparative therapists from a mental health perspective. TWO will work with the Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists and other groups to accomplish this. TWO will also form a Mental Health Advisory Board. Members will assist us in rapidly responding to false and misleading studies propagated by far right organizations.
In addition, one of the most effective right wing tools is taking pro-gay studies and twisting facts to make it look as if a particular piece of research actually supports anti-gay positions. Often, when the original researchers are informed how their studies were misused they are shocked and angered. TWO will film these researchers indignantly blasting the right for distorting their work. These video testimonies will come in handy when our opponents try to disingenuously present false scientific “facts” to school boards and legislatures. Imagine the look on the faces of right wing operatives when we ambush them with videos of the very scientists they say support their theories, scolding them for lying about their work!
V. MEDIA CAMPAIGN
Central to the ex-gay charade are slick advertising blitzes. Backed by the deep pockets of Focus on the Family and Pat Robertson, ex-gay groups have placed billboards, bus and subway placards, newspaper ads and have broadcast television and radio campaigns. These groups have also produced letters to the editor, op-eds in national and local newspapers and pitched television stations for sympathetic feature stories.
TWO will counter the right with its own multi-media advertising. While TWO will never match them dollar-for-dollar, it is realistic to produce enough high-quality advertising to inform the national debate, shape the message and disseminate the truth.
The organization will also strategically place op-eds and direct a letter writing campaign. Additionally, TWO will provide media training and offer talking points to effectively retort our opponent’ faulty arguments.
VI. EXPOSING FRAUD
The greatest blow to the ex-gay ministries is catching their outspoken leaders in the throes of scandal. Tips are often received where people reveal that major ex-gay spokespeople are engaged in inappropriate behavior. The results speak for themselves.
- In 2001, Besen photographed ex-gay leader John Paulk in a Washington, DC gay bar. He was suspended from Exodus International and Focus on the Family. The incident was mentioned in Newsweek, AP and featured on the ABC News magazine 20/20.
- In 2003, Besen exposed Rev. Jerry Falwell’ personal ex-gay Michael Johnston as a fraud. Johnston, who is HIV+, was having unsafe sex with multiple men in the Virginia Beach who he met online. After Besen uncovered his double life, Johnston was sent to a sex addiction facility in Kentucky.
- In 2005, Besen revealed that ex-gay therapist Richard Cohen, the author of “Coming Out Straight,” was kicked out of the American Counseling Association for malpractice. This was a major blow, because Cohen is also the President of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX), the leading group that works to get ex-gay speakers into the public schools.
TWO will verify credible information and potentially create devastating consequences for the future of the ex-gay ministries. Indeed, a limited ad campaign inquiring about such leads coupled with a hotline would likely yield results. We have uncovered major scandals with no formal mechanism for doing so. Imagine the potential for success if we address this issue with a laser-like focus.
VII. OPPOSING LOVE WON OUT
The single biggest ex-gay threat individual communities face is Focus on the Family’ Love Won Out conference. Love Won Out is a one-day event in select cities where ex-gays and “experts on homosexuality” are trotted out to distort gay life. It is a smorgasbord of hate and misinformation that often gets an avalanche of media attention, while harming gay and lesbian people.
In the past couple of years, protests and counter conferences have been extemporaneously organized to offer an alternative view. TWO will help these local organizers by setting up a limited fund, supplying professional speakers and providing advertising support. The group will also work with local media to ensure fair and accurate coverage of the issue.
VIII. NATIONAL COLLEGE SPEAKING TOUR
Much of the battle over the ex-gay myth is being stealthily waged at the university level in an attempt to influence America’ future leaders. Groups like Campus Crusade for Christ frequently bring ex-gay speakers to colleges. These visits generate media coverage and give ex-gay groups ample opportunity to promote their dangerous message.
TWO will set up a national speaking tour at universities to offset the large number of ex-gay speakers. Without such a tour, the GLBT movement may be ceding crucial ground and fertile minds to our opponents.
IX. RELIGIOUS RESOURCES
The victims of ex-gay ministries need friendly houses of worship to help them make the transition back into the GLBT community. TWO will use its website to connect these victims with affirming churches, mosques and synagogues.
TWO will also provide religious perspectives to help people of faith answer spiritual questions and overcome the effects of indoctrination. This will save lives and show that GLBT Americans can also be strong people of faith.
Finally, TWO will work with existing groups to organize supportive mainstream religious support for GLBT equality.
X. NETWORK OF AFFIRMING THERAPISTS
Each week, gay men and women search for affirming therapists to undo the damage of homophobia and religious-based bigotry. Sadly, some of these people mistakenly end up in the hands of “reparative therapists” who brainwash them. TWO will create a database of gay-friendly therapists and counselors. This will particularly aid ex-gays who want to escape these cults and transition back into mainstream society.