Former "Ex-Gay" Spokesman Tells Advocate Magazine That "Change" Groups Don't Work
WASHINGTON - A high-profile "ex-gay" spokesperson, Wade Richards, came out in an interview with the Advocate magazine this week, once again damaging the already shaky credibility of the "ex-gay" ministries and "reparative" therapists who say they can make gay people into heterosexuals through prayer and treatment.
"This is the latest in these ministries long history of failures and scandals, and once again the 'ex-gay' myth promoted by anti-gay political organizations has been shattered," said HRC Associate Director of Communications Wayne Besen. "Wade's experience echoes the opinions of every respected medical and mental health organization who say these ministries do not work and can often be harmful."
In the Advocate, Richards discussed how right-wing political organizations paid to have him traverse the nation to testify how he had "changed." Earlier this year, he said he was "ex-gay" at a Washington press conference hosted by American's For Truth About Homosexuality President Peter LaBarbera. The highlight of his "ex-gay" career came with his May appearance on the ABC newsmagazine 20/20.
"I've been through so much in my life already," Richards, 21, told the Advocate. "But the one constant is I'm gay. I just want to spend some time being who I am." In addition to Richards coming out, the "ex-gay" ministries have been setback by the new formation of groups of former "ex-gays" who say the ministries do not work. According to a Boston Globe article published last week: "Washington and California, ex-ex gays have created support groups and others have taken their gripping testimonies to the Internet. Gay rights specialists say 'ex-ex gays' began coming out again after the Christian right published ads in leading newspapers in 1998, promoting what they refer to gay 'conversion' therapy."
Richard's revelation follows the release of the Human Rights Campaign's report on the ministries and "reparative" therapy, "Finally Free: How Love and Self-Acceptance Saved Us From the Ex-gay Ministries." "Finally Free" is a landmark publication that features the personal stories of people who have survived the "ex-gay" ministries and have come forward to expose the harm done by these groups.
The "ex-gay" ministries have long been embroiled in embarrassing episodes of scandal and failure, says HRC. Two men who helped found Exodus International, the Seattle-based group that is a leader of the change ministries movement, fell in love with each other while counseling other gay men. Gary Cooper and Michael Bussee, who had been counselors at the Melodyland Christian Center in Anaheim before launching Exodus, decided they were hurting other gay men by trying to change people's sexual orientation. They left their wives for each other in 1979, and wore matching wedding bands until Cooper's death several years ago.
In 1998, according to a July Los Angeles Times article, a La Mirada, Calif. family sued Desert Stream Ministries, alleging that a minister had sexually abused a teenager while the youth was undergoing religious therapy to turn him from his homosexuality. The family settled its lawsuit against the ministry last fall for an undisclosed sum. The family is scheduled to return to court to pursue a separate suit against the minister. Desert Stream says the minister was fired immediately, but it would not discuss the settlement, the article said.
Additionally, the onetime leader of Homosexuals Anonymous, Colin Cook, was ousted for having sex with male counselees.
"While many people are permanently damaged from the 'ex-gay' experience, others use it as an unpleasant stepping stone on their coming out journey," said Besen. "National Coming Out Day is October 11, and we hope Wade's testimony will help people reach a place of self-acceptance on this special day of celebration and reflection."
The Human Rights Campaign is the nation's largest national lesbian and gay political organization with members throughout the country. HRC effectively lobbies Congress, provides campaign support, and educates the public to ensure that lesbian and gay Americans can be open, honest, and safe at home, at work, and in the community.