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Tuesday, December 02, 2003


Book review: Anything but Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth by Wayne R. Besen

Despite years of hearing, reading, and writing about this topic, I can’t think of a better ex-gay resource than Wayne R. Besen’s book Anything but Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth. Besen not only gives an accessible and easy-to-follow history of the sham’s path of destruction but also makes it clear why so many gays and nongays choose to believe its obvious lies. He also exposes the many people who profit monetarily, politically, or even sexually from ensnaring more ex-gay followers.

Still, Besen also shows how most of the people who become involved with or lead these ministries probably mean well. More importantly, he shows how gays and their allies can expose these hurtful groups, which rely heavily on wild semantics, shaky statistics, pseudo psychology, and highly questionable science, all the while trying to appear Bible-based.

Besen also shows how gays can make their communities less vulnerable to ex-gay groups, while warning those communities about insidious new tactics that the increasingly media-savvy ex-gay leaders use to lure parents into forcing children to join the ex-gay circus. For groups that keep claiming that all of their members come there voluntarily, they certainly keep taking advantage of parental pressuring and other fears of rejection!

Best of all, Besen offers resources and alternatives for people who might want to join these groups. He even defends, to my satisfaction, his undercover efforts to capture all of the information that appears in this sometimes shocking but always fascinating volume. I suggest Besen’s study for all gays, all of their allies, and anyone who thinks the ex-gay movement needs support or more recruits.

I wrote about the ex-gay movement and various other gay-related topics extensively in works that appear in my collection Holding Me Together: Essays and Poems. I use a fictional character to explore ex-gay issues in “Mirrors: A Blackmail Letter,” a story that appears in my book The Acorn Stories; that character reappears in “Fat Diary,” a more light-hearted story I wrote for an anthology, The Acorn Gathering.

I also suggest Ronald L. Donaghe’s scathing fictional treatment of the ex-gay movement, The Salvation Mongers, as well as the disturbing documentary One Nation Under God and—for some needed levity on the topic—the silly yet likable comedy But I’m A Cheerleader.