Undercover At Ex-Gay Camp
December 5th, 2009
Last summer, we mentioned Ted Cox, a straight man who decided to go undercover into the ex-gay world posing as a gay man conflicted over his sexuality. One of the programs he attended was called Journey Into Manhood. Ted tried to write about it last August for the (Salt Lake) City Weekly, but the paper backed down when Journey Into Manhood threatened to sue over a non-disclosure agreement that Ted had signed.
Today, AlterNet published an interview with Ted, in which he describes his experiences in the ex-gay movement. In particular, he describes his time with Journey Into Manhood:
At first, I was very confused and then I became amused. But as the weekend wore on, I became really angry and sad. I was angry because I feel these men are being lied to; they’re being charged $650 for a system that, I think, does not work. I feel [these men] are victims of religious abuse and being told that there is something wrong about their fundamental identity, that they are committing a grievous sin if a man acts on what comes naturally to him. That made me angry.
I saw one man distraught that he was damaging his own sons, that they would end up gay because he was not enough of a man. And I wanted to just hug him, and tell him, “It’s OK, it’s alright. So what if your kids turn out gay? And you can’t turn them gay.” I became sad because I saw men reenact traumatic events from their childhood. The paperwork tells you [camp staff members] are not acting as professionals so you have no idea how ethical this is, how safe — psychologically — any of these programs are. I felt sad that their pain was being used to exploit them to make them feel like that was the reason they were gay.
As we’ve reported before, much of the ex-gay theories center around blaming fathers for their sons’ homosexuality. I have also experienced heart-wrenching personal conversations with fathers at ex-gay conferences beating themselves up over their supposed failures as fathers. While I attended the Exodus “Freedom Conference” in Irvine, California, I talked with one father who came to tears over his teenage son’s revelation that he was gay. Unfortunately, as a condition of attending the conference, I was unable to say to that father what Ted Cox wanted to say. All I could do was remind him of what a great relationship he must have with his son that his son would trust him enough to reveal himself that way rather than continuing to hide it. Obviously, I was imensely dissatisfied with that, and have thought about that father many times since then. It wasn’t what the father really needed to hear, but he did take my words to heart and took some comfort in them. It was a very sad and poignant moment. I really felt the pain that father felt, and was angry with the entire ex-gay message because I saw the pain it brought to a lot of good families. Ted’s characterizing it as exploitation is right on the mark.
So, why did Ted break his confidentiality agreement?
I had to. If I don’t talk about this, this is going to keep happening. I met one man who is married and has children and he would go online to hook up with other men and he was having anonymous sex with strangers and then going home to his wife. Another man was married and making phone calls to gay-sex chat lines and his daughter discovered the bill. A lot of these men are living lies and it affects themselves, their wives, their children. I can’t stay silent about this. I feel like there’s a greater good in talking about this and exposing what’s going on. [Hyperlinks in the original]