The latest incarnation of Richard Cohen’s International Healing Foundation
July 3rd, 2013
One of the highest profile – and astonishingly clueless – advocates who ever championed fixing Teh Ghey is Richard Cohen.
Richard was never the one to quietly live a life of example. Nor did he hit the church circuit selling the redeeming power of Christ and showing off his wife (which, since he married her in a Moonie mass wedding, would be odd anyway). Nope. Richard opted for publicity.
In 2000, he wrote Coming Out Straight – with forward by Dr. Laura Schlessinger – about how he was cured of his homosexuality through reparative therapy. And though it included cringe-worthy photos of the process, it was his passport to credibility.
Soon Richard was founder of the International Healing Foundation and president of PFOX (Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays), the most colorful of the ex-gay organizations. He was a speaker at NARTH and Exodus events and an ex-gay therapist with a rising star. Richard used that platform to launch his image to a greater audience, CNN’s Paula Zahn Now.
But he probably didn’t realize just quite what impression he was giving while he explained that one’s homosexuality could be healed through hitting a pillow with a tennis racquet while screaming, “mom! mom! mom! mom! Why did you do that to me?” or cuddling in another man’s arms (a method he calls “good touch”). Rather than praise his clever methods, most people just fell off their couch laughing.
I attribute that moment to be the beginning of the end of the ex-gay movement.
It was around that point that some supporters of Cohen’s reparative therapy theories began to see exactly what kind of lunacy they were connected to. Most notably, Dr. Warren Throckmorton told PFOX that either Cohen took a hike or he would pull his support (over time Throckmorton would disavow reparative therapy, acknowledge possible biological bases for orientation, and eventually publicly question some of evangelical Christianity’s assumptions about what expectations can be put on gay people).
Then Cohen unwisely followed his CNN debacle with a 2007 visit to The Daily Show. Either he didn’t notice that the show was on the Comedy Channel or he didn’t guess who would be providing the laughs.
National public mockery was too much even for NARTH, who scrubbed mention of him from their sites.
Shortly after that a much earlier endeavor got noticed, Richard’s 1993 children’s book, Alfie’s Home, all about how little Alfie got molested.
Even for Cohen, this was really really icky.
It was time for a change. A new direction. A new image.
Having realized that his brand of hands-on therapy was not well accepted by much of anyone, Cohen took a new tack. He decided that parents of gay kids were truly in need of his services. So November 2007 brought us a book to help them, Gay Children / Straight Parents.
After all, who doesn’t need a book to tell fathers that what they really needed to do was touch their sons more? (Okay, it was creepy just writing that). I can’t possibly do justice to this in a sentence, but fortunately Jim wrote an extensive review.
But this was just the ticket Cohen needed to get back into the good graces of PFox. They praised his book and his ideas. But it came with a price.
Cohen had kept his religious connections pretty low key and PFOX and NARTH had long sought to sell themselves as secular. But with a growing social acceptance for gay people, increasingly the ex-gay movement was narrowing itself down to social conservative Christians. And there just wasn’t a whole lot of room for followers of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon.
So Cohen’s International Healing Foundation needed a new face. And in February 2009, IHF gave a trial run to Caleb Lee Brundidge.
Brundidge’s first run out the gate was to Uganda, where he spoke at a conference on homosexuality to pastors in Kampala and where he had an audience with the legislature. Cohen’s Coming Out Straight was presented as a primer and source.
That conference led to Uganda’s notorious Kill The Gays Bill, which not only resulted in at least one death, but severely damaged Uganda’s relationship with most of it’s Western supporters. By the end of the year, Cohen and IHF were reeling from the bad publicity and issued “statements” and “disavowals” and Brundidge became invisible.
In 2010, CNN’s Kyra Phillips ran a piece on a California legislator’s bill to remove from the books a forgotten and obsolete law from 1950 that authorized the state to look for cures to homosexuality. To “balance” the segment she decided to bring on Cohen. This time it was Phillips who was embarrassed by the association and who had to apologize – well, bitch and whine, really – for her lack of wisdom.
And that was it for a while. He joined PFOX in their amicus brief in support of Proposition 8, but that was small potatoes.
Again, it was time for a new angle.
So in late 2011, Cohen decided that he would apologize and just love everybody. His new mantra would not be “change is possible” but “coming out loved”. It was painful. Just sort of imagine Paula Deen inviting African-American leaders over to apologize for her recent comments, and serving them chitlins and watermelon… that kind of painful.
Beginning today, IHF’s doors are wide open to everyone in the LGBTQ and straight communities. The new mission, “Coming Out Loved,” is the catalyst of true tolerance, real diversity, and equality for all. IHF staff will assist anyone who is conflicted about their sexuality and other challenging issues that arise for many in the gay community.
The universe yawned. Perhaps the universe found Cohen’s disingenuous definitions of “true tolerance” and “real diversity” to be more pathetic than shocking.
Because it didn’t take long for us to learn that “true tolerance” is for those who demand that you acquiesce to their demands over your life or you are the “real bigot” who doesn’t accept their “sincerely held beliefs”. And “real diversity” is one that puts Cohen on an equal standing with a person of character and integrity.
Not that anyone paid attention or cared.
But I decided to see what Cohen’s IHF is up to these days. And, as it turns out, his IHF has a new face, a new name, a new site, and a new project.
Yes, Cohen is speaking up for those who have no way to speak for themselves. He’s calling for their recognition and to make them feel valued. And especially to defend their rights.
The mission of Voice of the Voiceless is to defend the rights of former homosexuals, individuals with unwanted same-sex attraction, and their families. We also support the faith-based community and work actively in the United States to defend the constitutional rights of all Americans to share their views of homosexuality in the public forum. We support similar international efforts and provide assistance, whenever possible, to individuals and organizations abroad who align with our mission and goals.
Translation: we insist that it’s possible to change your orientation. We insist that those who seek to bash and attack and harm gay people can do so without criticism. And, of course we didn’t mean it when we disavowed the murder in Uganda. We celebrate the nations that deny rights to gay people.
Cohen himself is invisible from the group. It’s cofounded by one of the IHF “counselors”, Christopher Doyle, and none other than the old ranting racist loon, D.L. Foster. And just because it must be ol’ home week, the vice president is the unfortunately named David Pickup (whose original ex-gay counseling advertisement was mistaken by many to be a parody).
And as for the ex-gays, well they deserve a month of their own to… well, I’m not sure what, but if those who “suffer from same-sex attraction” get a month, then so should ex-gays.
So, if you want to catch up on these fellows and see how they are all doing, you can do so right here in July, Ex-Gay Pride Month. You can write ex-gay music or better yet, go to their dinner. It is bound to be entertaining – though you may be the only one there who thinks so. And God only knows what insanity, embarrassment, or tragedy will ensue.