April 23rd, 2012
Peter “Porno Pete” LaBarbera tweeted that Anthony Falzarano, co-founder of the ex-gay group PFOX (Parents and Friends of Ex-gays and Gays, allegedly), has died. LaBarbera isn’t generally one to be trusted with conveying much of anything true, but since he’s not saying something about an openly gay person, it is conceivable that fabrication reflex remained unengaged when he sent out this tweet. So I’ll go with LaBarbera as a source, this time. If LaBarbera’s wrong, then Mr. Falzarano will have the rare privilege of seeing his own obituary, and maybe he can take it as an object lesson. If LaBarbera’s right, then we can still go forward with that object lesson albeit with a grudging admission that in this one instance, LaBarbera may have somehow managed to tweet something true.
Falzarano was certainly one of the more colorful figures in the ex-gay movement. Sadly, he didn’t get as much ink in this blog as he deserved. (As you’ll see, he created his own ink.) But by 1999 when Mark Pietrzyk wrote this rundown on a number of figures in the ex-gay movement, Falzarano had already managed to create three different creation myths about himself as an ex-gay man, two of which were, in Pietrzyk’s charitable view, “in considerable tension with each other.” In one of those creation myths, Falzarano claimed to have been one of Roy Cohen’s house boys. Pietrzyk also noted that Falzarano had two polar opposite stories about what it was like for him to be gay, depending which audience he was talking to. But one thing that remained an integral part of Falzarano’s message was that gay people and AIDS both were agents of the devil.
Falzarano has blasted the gay rights movement as being filled with the “spirit of the anti-Christ,” and his language abounds in the sorts of conspiratorial and apocalyptic tropes that one might think would embarrass some of his backers in religious right and conservative circles. At the “Homosexuality and American Public Life” conference held at Georgetown, in which such figures as ABC News commentator William Kristol and neoconservative cleric Rev. Richard Neuhaus played prominent roles, Falzarano declared that the media is “controlled by” a 1,200-member gay journalists’ organization, and that “their objective is to homosexualize America and destroy Judeo-Christian values. … Disney studios is [also] controlled by the gays.” Appearing on a CBS News special report, Falzarano was quoted as saying, “AIDS comes from the devil, directly from Satan. He uses homosexuals as pawns and then he kills them.” At a recent P-FOX conference, Falzarano described Matthew Shepard, the 105-pound boy who was brutally beaten and killed by thugs, as “a predator to heterosexual men.” One of Falzarano’s recent projects is to gather a group of parents who have lost children to AIDS to sue the American Psychiatric Association for malpractice, on the grounds that the APA’s declassification of homosexuality as a mental illness in the 1970s led to the creation of a generation of homosexuals who died of AIDS.
PFOX’s founding was seeded by the Family “Research” Council in 1996, and for a while it looked as if PFOX would become a major player in the ex-gay movement. Their second conference in McLean, Virginia in 1998 drew Alveda King, niece of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to address the gathering. In 1999, GOP presidential candidate Alan Keys was the keynote speaker. But Falzarano’s caustic and erratic behavior proved to be his (and PFOX’s) undoing. The very organization he helped to found canned Falzarano as leader in August 1999 and turned to Richard Cohen to, I don’t know, restore its credibility? At any rate, Falzarano tried again with a new venture, Parents and Friends ministries. At least there he was consistent.
Fast forward to 2007, when Exodus International held its annual conference in Irvine, California. A brand new ex-gay survivor’s movement was born in a gathering that same weekend, also in Irvine. Before the ex-gay survivor’s conference got underway, three former ex-gay leaders issued formal apologies for the harms that they did while involved with the ex-gay movement. When we posted interviews with the three former ex-gay leaders (Michael Bussee, Darlene Bogle, and Jeremy Marks), Falzarano felt moved to leave this comment:
…My name is Anthony Falzarano. I am director of an ex-gay ministry in West Palm Beach FL. I know that Exodus International has failed many of you. It is not the ministry that was so filled with the Holy Spirit when I got help from it. The devil has invaded the leadership and Exodus has got a lot of repenting to do for the lukewarmness that has entered its ranks…BUT please don’t blame God for the weakness of Exodus. Keep your focus on Jesus Christ and the Bible. I had to leave Exodus because as I began to point out to them the great attack that was coming from within our leadership I was villanized. …
Again with the devil. And for whatever reason, Falzarano would turned his focus on Darlene Bogle. She used to be a leader of an Exodus-affiliated ex-gay ministry when she met the woman who would later become her partner at a 1990 religious conference. Darlene soon left the movement to built a life with Des. In 1996, Des was diagnosed with breast cancer, and she passed away in 2005. When Falzarano learned about her death in 2008, he wrote to Darlene saying that Des’s death was God’s way of “calling you back” to the ex-gay movement. Darlene was shocked:
I was appalled when I read his words, which on the surface seem so compassionate. It was such a strong reminder of why I left Exodus and could never consider going back under their “umbrella of faith.” How arrogant of Anthony to send such a condemning statement as to ask if God was sending me a message! [Emphases in the original]
When we posted about that, Falzano again felt the need speak up in BTB’s comments. Not to apologize, but to say this:
Dear Darlene, I would not be so happy about the fact that you no longer feel conviction about living as a practicing lesbian. Romans Chapter 1 beginning about vs. 18 describes you now. I pray that you have not blsphemed the Holy Spirit. Keep doing what your doing Darlene and you will give an account to God for all the OTHER people you deceived into the gay lifestyle with you “gay theology”. The Word of God tells us that in the “last days” many will depart from the FAITH and will tell you what you want to hear VS. WHAT YOU NEED TO HEAR……….
Two months later, Falzarano appeared again in BTB’s comments section, in another series of comments in a thread about California’s Prop 8:
Marrioge can only be defined by God. Because He invented it. Tolerance of homosexual people cannot mean acceptance of the gay lifestyle! The gay activists are really not the true friend of the homosexual person. They are using homosexual person as a pawn to achive their agenda which is to attempt to destroy the Church of Jesus Christ. The gates of hell will not prevail against the Church! You can abandon the ship of the gay political movement by jumping on to the “rescue liferaft called the ex-gay movement. Our website parentsandfriends.20m.com wil give you details. May God Bless and protect you, Anthony
He left several more comments on that thread, but it quickly became apparent that he was more interested in promoting his web site than engaging in any sort of dialogue. We placed him on moderation, and he stopped coming by. The next time we noticed him, he was in New York lobbying against marriage equality. We all know how well that went.
I tried calling the number on his web site to confirm LaBarbera’s tweet, but I got a recording saying that the number is “not reachable,” with no options to leave a message. If what LaBarbera is tweeting is true, then Falzarano is dead. Undoubtedly, his passing is deeply mourned by his family and friends. We offer our condolences, as we do to anyone who experiences the painful shock of losing a loved one. But as for his passing itself, make of it what you will, but also be mindful of the lessons you try to foist onto others. They may become your legacy.
Update: Ex-GayWatch confirmed Falzarano’s death with the coroner.
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Prologue: Why I Went To “Love Won Out”
Part 1: What’s Love Got To Do With It?
Part 2: Parents Struggle With “No Exceptions”
Part 3: A Whole New Dialect
Part 4: It Depends On How The Meaning of the Word "Change" Changes
Part 5: A Candid Explanation For "Change"
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