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Posts for January, 2011

Laura Schlessinger: My Rights Were “Assassinated”

A commentary

Jim Burroway

January 19th, 2011
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I haven’t even begun to talk about Sarah Palin’s utterly contemptible attempt to cast herself as a victim as Tucsonans were burying six of our dead. The reason is simple: I simply can’t wrap my brain around the kind of narcissism that prompts someone to release a video ostensibly addressing the tragedy that was 95% me, me, me, me, me.

Impromptu shrines are still popping up around Tucson.

But this lesser outrage presents a smaller portion that is more easily digestible. Laura Schlessinger appeared on the Today show yesterday to complain about the reaction to her use of the n-word last August. CNN’s Anderson Cooper was upset that she misrepresented CNN’s coverage of the controversy. I can understand that; he has a personal stake in that portion of Schlessinger’s comments.

But what I find deplorable (and, again, unbelievably narcissistic) is her use of the word “assassinated.” She said that the incident forced her to go on Sirius radio where she could “have the freedom of speech without being assassinated.”

There are victims, and there are “victims.” To help lessen the confusion between the two, what do you say we reserve the word “assassinated” for those who have actually been assassinated. Can we at least agree on that? I think a lot of people here in Southern Arizona would really appreciate the effort.

DADT round-up

Timothy Kincaid

December 3rd, 2010

Yesterday the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of Defense testified before Congress in favor of repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Today the Service Chiefs testified with mixed messages.

Marine Corps Gen. James F. Amos said that he didn’t want repeal “at this time.” I think it’s pretty clear is that Gen. Amos doesn’t want repeal at any time under any circumstances due to his own personal prejudices.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. believes that DADT should be repealed eventually but not right now.

Air Force Gen. Norton A. Schwartz thinks that the repeal should occur, but that the report is too optimistic. He recommended repeal, but that the change not take effect before 2012.

Only Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead supported the immediate repeal of the policy (LA Times)

Navy sailors routinely train and work in close quarters alongside the service members of allied navies that allow homosexuals to serve openly, said Roughead. After studying the integration of gay sailors into other navies over the past decade, Roughead described the impact on the effectiveness of the force as a “non-event.”

John McCain, of course, will not be listening to the Navy Chief. Rather, he has been obsessing over the subset of the Marines who oppose repeal. Do you get the impression that if the typists in the stenopool were the only servicepeople who opposed repealing the policy, that McCain would declare them to be the most essential part of the Military operation?

Meanwhile, everything is being held up by the Republican Senators’ cohesive effort to force a vote to extend current tax rates. (And no, this is not a tactic that was created to block DADT.) It is difficult to know whether this block will hold together should a compromise plan be proposed (one that does not define a couple making $250,000 in Los Angeles as “millionaires and billionaires” but draws a higher threshold.)

Eventually, the Defense Appropriations bill will go before the Senate. And even in the new Senate, there may not be enough Republican votes to uphold a filibuster.

To date, at least two Republican Senators have pledged support (and more are likely): Susan Collins of Maine and Scott Brown of Massachusetts:

“I have been in the military for 31 years and counting, and have served as a subordinate and as an officer,” said Mr. Brown, who is in the Massachusetts National Guard. “As a legislator, I have spent a significant amount of time on military issues. During my time of service, I have visited our injured troops at Walter Reed and have attended funerals of our fallen heroes. When a soldier answers the call to serve, and risks life or limb, it has never mattered to me whether they are gay or straight. My only concern has been whether their service and sacrifice is with pride and honor.”

Mr. Brown added, “I pledged to keep an open mind about the present policy on ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ Having reviewed the Pentagon report, having spoken to active and retired military service members, and having discussed the matter privately with Defense Secretary Gates and others, I accept the findings of the report and support repeal based on the secretary’s recommendations that repeal will be implemented only when the battle effectiveness of the forces is assured and proper preparations have been completed.”

Meanwhile a very influential voice on the right has joined in calling for an end to the ban.

It is time to recognize the desires of all people competent to serve in our Military and afford them the opportunity to contribute to this noble, often thankless, but very necessary profession.

Dr. Laura was immensely proud of her son’s service in the Marines Army and would often reference it on her show. This endorsement carries a great deal of weight with her listeners.

Although there are various sound-bites that supporters and opponents can latch onto from the past two days of testimony, there is one thing on which all of the Chiefs agree: that legislative repeal will be far less disruptive than a judicial decision ending the policy. And they have good reason to fear just such a decision.

The ONLY defense provided by the Department of Defense in Log Cabin v. the US was that Congress was going to repeal the policy and that they should be allowed to do so. Should Congress fail to take such action, then there is no argument whatsoever that the government has left to make in the appeal to Log Cabin’s victory.

And Log Cabin will not play nice with the administration. They will undoubtedly file with the appeals court that the appeal be tossed out and that, at the very least, the current hold on the injunction be lifted. The Department of Defense can hardly claim a likelihood of success in the courts if they have nothing at all on which to base their defense.

There is a very real possibility that if Congress declines to enact a plan to roll out a gradual repeal, the courts could end the policy immediately. And while McCain would rather play Curmudgeon in Chief, those who care about defense policy should carefully consider the consequences of inaction.

Laura Schlessinger and the First Amendment

Jim Burroway

August 18th, 2010

Laura SchlessingerAfter I posted the news of Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s announcement that she was quitting her radio program at the end of the year over controversy over her usage of a racial epithet on her program last week, I thought some more about her tendency toward playing the victim. I gave a few examples from rather ancient history in that post, but I didn’t include her latest example. Last night, when she announced her retirement from radio on Larry King Live, she said:

SCHLESSINGER: You know, when I started in radio, if you said something somebody didn’t agree with and they didn’t like, they argued with you. Now, they try to silence you. They try to wipe out your ability to earn a living and to have your job. They go after affiliates. They send threats to sponsors.

KING: That’s their right, too.

SCHLESSINGER: Yes, but I don’t hatch the right to say what I need to say. My First Amendment rights have been usurped by angry, hateful groups who don’t want to debate. They want to eliminate.

So, that’s why I decided it was time to move on to other venues where I could say my piece and not have to live in fear anymore that sponsors and their families are going to be upset, radio stations are going to be upset, my peeps, as I call them, are going to be upset.

I think Schlessinger has a rather odd view of the First Amendment. It only says that the government will not infringe on anyone’s right to say whatever they want to say. As we’ve pointed out many times, that provision protects some egregiously racist speech, much much worse than anything Schlessinger has ever said or written. And their rights have been protected in the courts as hers would be.

But as anyone with a passing familiarity with the First Amendment knows, that right doesn’t extend to private platforms. Any broadcaster or editor is perfectly free to bar any opinion, and they can use any arbitrary or inconsistent whim they wish to apply. The First Amendment does not prohibit that in the least. Talk Radio Network, which syndicates Schlessinger’s program, is free drop her program anytime they want, and they can do so for any reason as long as it is in accordance with their contract with her.

But that’s not what’s happening. It’s Schlessinger who’s walking away, not Talk Radio Network. Nor is Clear Channel Communications refusing to handle her satellite distribution and advertising sales. The decision to end Schlessinger’s program, according to her own admission to Larry King last night, is entirely her own.

Schlessinger prides herself on her calling-’em-as-she-sees-em aggressive style. To her, this brand of honesty is the essence of character. But she’s clearly not exhibiting it here, and that shouldn’t surprise anyone. It’s just another instance of a longstanding pattern. When her short-lived 2000 television talk show fell apart over low ratings and controversy over staff members posing as fake guests, she blamed gay activists for silencing her. Fast forward a decade, and she’s ending her radio show of her own volition and claims that someone — I don’t know who — is silencing her. But that’s not true. She’s only going away because people are criticizing her, and she seems to think the First Amendment ought to somehow make her immune from that. She’s wrong. Criticism is part of the essence of the First Amendment, not its enemy.

Ironically, one of Dr. Laura’s books is titled Stop Whining, Start Living.  That’s rich because being tough-talking and thin-skinned is a really bad combination. She might consider that as the basis for an eleventh stupid thing people do to mess up their lives.

Dr. Laura Announces End To Her Radio Program

Jim Burroway

August 18th, 2010

One week after enduring mounting criticism over using a racial epithet on her radio show, Laura Schlessinger announced that she will not renew her contract when it expires at the end of the year.

Schlessinger has a long history of anti-gay comments on her program, but to my knowledge I don’t think she ever used the word “faggot.” But according to a transcript posted at Media Matters, she repeated the word “nigger” eleven times to a black woman in an interracial relationship who called for advice on how to deal with insensitive comments and treatment from some of her in-laws. Schlessinger later apologized, but continues to blame the media for her woes.

In 2000, Schlessinger attempted to launch a television show based on her radio call-in advice program. That effort was met with calls for a boycott by LGBT groups who were angry over her strong anti-gay stance. She called homosexuality a “biological error” and a deviancy, compared gay parenting to pedophilia by saying that “a huge portion of the male homosexual populace is predatory on young boys,” and blamed Matthew Shepard for his own murder. In the same year, Schlessinger wrote a forward to a book by controversial ex-gay “coach” Richard Cohen, who himself would later incurred a lifetime expulsion from the American Counseling Association for ethical violations.  Schlessinger endorsed his book, writing:

We live in a world in which the radical homosexual activists have, through aggressive lobbying and successful strategic initiatives successfully managed to infiltrate and effect change in government, public schools, churches, and even in our scientific institutes. Slowly and ever so surely, they are deconstructing the conventional family in order to accommodate their own personal desires and political goals. In the name of human rights and equality, the extremists in the homosexual community have altered the fundamental fabric of cultural and moral norms.

…Though they would like yo to believe otherwise, the homosexual activists do not concern themselves with the welfare of individuals. Theyare not dedicated to the betterment of society or the freedom of the people. What these zealots really want to do is shove everyone who believes differently than they into the closet and throw away the key. Like many other fringe extremist groups, they are concerned with furthering a political agenda and rebuilding the infrastructure of traditional morality.

…Richard Cogen is living, breathing, loving testimony to his own assertions that homosexuality can be cured and anyone willing to make that change has the right to do so. With intellect and care, he offers invaluable insight into the reasons for same-sex attractions and, for those willing to brave it, he illuminates a challenging journey from the isolation.

That’s right. Schlessinger thought Cohen was a man of intellect and care.

In more recent years, Schlessinger has evolved somewhat on her radio program. She no longer believes that ex-gay therapy is effective and she has provided a bit more of a gay-positive stance. Bbut she also has been trying to doctor her anti-gay past and continues to play the victim over the cancellation of her short-lived television career due to poor ratings — and controversy over a staff member appearing twice on her program as a “guest” on two consecutive days (on the second day, she appeared in different hair and makeup as a woman living with her boyfriend).

While her radio program will come to an end in another four months her so, she says she will continue to speak and write books. But undoubtedly, her influence will wane without her daily platform. And so her career tapers down much as it began, as a tough-talking but thin-skinned and angry woman railing against the injustices of her imagination.

Dr. Laura doctors her past

Timothy Kincaid

July 10th, 2010

dr-laura.jpgAs I have noted in the past, Dr. Laura Schlessinger does not at this time use her radio show to rant about gay people with disgust in her voice. In fact, she advises gay people to come out to their families and told Larry King last year that commitments between same-sex couples are “beautiful thing and a healthy thing”.

But girl has still got her some pent up anger about a boycott of her early 90′s television show which destroyed her chances of being Dr. Phil. Well, that and the fact that her show was simply unwatchable.

And so – yet again – Schlessinger has set out to “set the record straight”. In a June 22 blog post, Laura says that she’s always been supportive and that statements to the contrary are lies about her.

Nothing new here. I’ve been commenting on this for a while, but last night a friend approached me…a friend approached me and asked me how he should handle a particular situation. (I thought I was getting into “Dr. Laura gear”). Somebody had contacted him and challenged him about being my friend because, (and to quote that person) “she hates gays”. For almost a dozen years (I think they’re automatically renewed computer-wise daily…you’ve probably seen it or heard about it), a blog appears under different sources, ostensibly asking me to answer questions about some of the Bible’s entries about slavery, daughters…so forth. It supposes that I ever quoted Leviticus that homosexuality is an abomination. That never happened. I repeat: that never happened. I never said that. I don’t believe that.

In fact (which they will deny…don’t you love activism?) I was one of the earliest radio hosts to support organizations such as PFLAG (you know, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) and other efforts to encourage openness and acceptance of gays in their own families, much less society. But to my surprise (but not naivetë), to many activists, truth is irrelevant when the intent is to rally support through raising passions, especially negative passions. Get people angry and they stop thinking for themselves.

She goes on to state that she opposes gay marriage and gays raising kids but that “listeners and fans who are gay” adore her. She quotes several letters and conversations to prove her point.

Having people believe that I’m a bigot and hate me…and “hate” is the word…is horrible, frustrating, demoralizing and unbelievably painful.

But the problem is that these angry “activists” are not wrong. While it is true that Dr. Laura can be supportive today, she has not always sought to encourage openness or supported the goals of PFLAG. In fact, the Dr. Laura of 2000 said some things that certainly would not be considered “supportive” and which did use the Bible as justification for bigotry.

Rather than “efforts to encourage openness and acceptance of gays in their own families, much less society,” in 2000 Dr. Laura was lamenting “the celebration of sexual deviancy and license” and saying that she “reveres the Bible and determines morality by the words of God.”

That year Dr. Laura Schlessinger wrote the foreword to wacky ex-gay gadfly Richard Cohen’s book, Coming Out Straight : Understanding and Healing Homosexuality. She didn’t have any opinions about his beat-the-pillow methods or about the appropriateness of cuddling as a gay cure, but she sure had a lot to say about gay folk.

She started it this way:

We live in a world in which the radical homosexual activists have, through aggressive lobbying and successful strategic initiatives successfully managed to infiltrate and effect change in government, public schools, churches, and even in our scientific institutes. Slowly and ever so surely, they are deconstructing the conventional family in order to accommodate their own personal desires and political goals. In the name of human rights and equality, the extremists in the homosexual community have altered the fundamental fabric of cultural and moral norms.

Oh, but not all gay people were “radical homosexual activists”. Those who agreed that they were sexual deviants, opposed civil equality, and were “struggling with personal and spiritual turmoil” were just fine. In other words, Dr. Laura loved her some ex-gays.

And she was furious that “these zealots” had convinced the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association (neither of which she is qualified to join) to state that there is no proof supporting conversion therapy. The gall!

I do give Dr. Laura credit for changing her views. I appreciate that she no longer seems to believe that change therapy is effective. I’m glad that she finds same-sex commitments to be “a beautiful thing and a healthy thing.” And I’m delighted that a lot of conservative parents today do hear her message of acceptance and support.

But let’s not pretend that the anger wasn’t earned. So to Dr. Laura and her latest complaint, I say:

For heaven sake, Dr. Laura, you weren’t the injured party. You don’t get to complain.

You don’t deserve a reward or praise for supporting gay people. That’s just expected; it’s the right thing to do. And no one deserves credit for simply doing what is right.

But you do need to own up to your past bigotries. By all means denounce them, but don’t deny them. You said it, you meant it, and you need to still be held accountable for the damage you have done.

Read her full FOREWORD after the jump

Read the rest of this entry »

Dr. Laura Supports Same-Sex Couples

Timothy Kincaid

April 9th, 2009

dr-laura.jpgDr. Laura Schlessinger is the go-to girl for conservatives (and others) who want folksy but direct advice on their lives and relationships. Although she has had a less-than-friendly relationship with the gay community in the past, in July of last year we reported on our impression of a much gay-friendlier Dr. Laura. She seemed to have adopted a more pragmatic approach to gay men and women.

Last night she was on Larry King Live to plug her new book, In Praise of Stay-At-Home Moms. Asked about lesbian parenting, Dr. Laura gave a vague answer that seemed to suggest that she was not favorable (an issue we discussed last June). But this was followed by an exchange in which Dr. Laura seemed to endorse same-sex relationships, if not the term “marriage”.

KING: This week, the Washington City Council voted to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. And the Vermont legislature voted to override a gubernatorial veto of a bill legalizing same sex. Do you think this — now we have four states, about to be five states.

SCHLESSINGER: Well, it’s issues of — sometimes it’s done by courts, sometimes it’s done by legislatures.

KING: Basically, five states now say you can have it. What do you think of that? What are you laughing at?

SCHLESSINGER: Well, I don’t have much of an opinion on it.

KING: You have no opinion on it?

SCHLESSINGER: Not much, no.

KING: But you’ve always favored that marriage must be between a man and woman.

SCHLESSINGER: I’m very big on human beings finding love, attachment and commitment and being faithful to it, because there’s more to benefit when there is real true commitment and faithfulness to it. I still believe, as just every president has, and all the people who ran for office, that marriage is a sacrament between a man and a woman. So not calling it marriage works for me. But that two people would have that sort of commitment to me is very healthy and very positive thing in their lives and society as a whole.

KING: So, you favor marriage between a man and a woman, but you applaud the fact that even people of the same-sex can have that kind of commitment to each other.

SCHLESSINGER: That’s a beautiful thing and a healthy thing.

KING: We’ll be back with more of Dr. Laura Schlessinger.

Dr. Laura has great sway in influencing the thinking of your average conservative housewife. And if Dr. Laura isn’t much upset by recent changes to state marriage laws, then this gives plenty of folks in Iowa permission to not be upset either.

And while I’d prefer an endorsement of marriage equality, I’m delighted that she is defining same-sex commitment as healthy and positive in the lives of gay people and in society as a whole.

(hat tip to reader David)

A Gay-Friendlier Dr. Laura

Timothy Kincaid

July 1st, 2008

dr-laura.jpgI’ve listened sporadically to the Dr. Laura radio show for years.

Dr. Laura Schlessinger, who dispenses advice – usually common sense – to callers with relationship and other issues, has had a rocky history with the gay community. Originally she was fairly friendly and matter of fact. But in 1998, Schlessinger converted to Orthodox Judaism and I began to detect a change.

More and more Dr. Laura seemed to encourage her listeners to do more than “go do the right thing”; she advised them on political opinions and partisan issues and sought their help in influencing legislation. Time previously spent on advising housewives about how to deal with their mother-in-law was now used to complain about law or the culture.

It was also at this time that Schlessinger’s attitude about homosexuality took a sharp turn. While previously supportive, Dr. Laura began to use terms and support ideas that were less than favorable.

Dr. Laura began to support, ex-gay claims and efforts. Her language also came to reflect a changed view about the nature of homosexuality. In 1998 she made her now famous statement,

“I’m sorry, hear it one more time perfectly clearly: If you’re gay or a lesbian, it’s a biological error that inhibits you from relating normally to the opposite sex. The fact that you are intelligent, creative and valuable is all true. The error is in your inability to relate sexually intimately, in a loving way to a member of the opposite sex – it is a biological error.”

And in 2001, ex-gay gadfly Richard Cohen published his book Coming Out Straight: Understanding and Healing Homosexuality with a foreword by Dr. Laura Schlessinger. In it she states, “It will open the door to a new, happier, and fulfilling heterosexual life.”

For some time a battle raged between Dr. Laura and the gay community. When Schlessinger got a TV deal for her own show, a group of gay activists including John Arivosis started a website, StopDrLaura.com, which monitored the site, contacted sponsors with documentation of Schlessinger’s anti-gay content, and identified embarassing programming decisions.

Schlessinger tried to downplay her statements and made public apologies. But after her television show was canceled she maintained and expressed bitterness against the gay community and gay persons on her radio show.

But in 2003, Schlessinger denounced her affiliation with Orthodox Judaism. She told her radio audience that while she still considers herself a Jew, “My identifying with this entity and my fulfilling the rituals, et cetera, of the entity — that has ended.” And as recently as the past week, Dr. Laura has mentioned that she does not keep Kosher.

Since her deconversion, I’ve noticed a softening of Dr. Laura. She seems less interested in preaching and more interested in finding practical solutions to her callers’ problems.

Today, while out getting lunch, I heard Dr. Laura address a caller. Considering her history, I was particularly interested to hear how she would respond to this young man who “really very much wants to get married and have children and grow old with some woman” – but finds himself attracted to men. He had been living celibately but was finding his life frustrating.

I was wondering if Dr. Laura would advise reoreintation efforts or perhaps marriage with the intent of denying himself and living with fidelity.

But she told him, “No.”

Dr. Laura told the caller that a woman wants a man who wants her, and that it is unfair to deny some woman a chance at a real relationship.

And although the caller hopefully expressed that he had had girlfriends in the past, at no time did Dr. Laura suggest that he was anything but gay or that there was even the possibility of “change”. She told him that while she would like to be “a Fairy Godmother (pardon the term)” and grant all the wishes of her callers, she can’t and we don’t always get to have what we want.

She then went further and told him that he would be happier if he came out to his family. She recommended throwing a big “Coming Out” party and invite everyone.

I wish that she had told him that gay relationships can provide a loving commitment in which he could grow old happily. But she did tell him that her own personal closest friend is gay.

And I wish that she didn’t believe that children need both male and female presence. But she did tell him that if he lived with his mother (for that female presence) that there’s no reason he couldn’t be a great parent to kids who need one.

I do wish that Dr. Laura Schlessinger would use her access to an audience that most of us cannot reach to bring about civil equality and social acceptance. But I am happy that today, on the air, Dr. Laura provided a pragmatic real-life response in a way that was neither judgmental or confrontational. She treated this gay man’s concerns for what they were and offered neither a sermon nor false hope.

Richard Cohen Shifts Gears

Jim Burroway

July 8th, 2007

Grove City College’s Warren Throckmorton noticed that Richard Cohen, the self-proclaimed ex-gay “psychotherapist” who heads the International Healing Foundation, has quietly announced that he is no longer personally counseling clients who want to change their sexual orientation.

Cohen does however continue to offer personal consultations, treatment plans and referrals. He also sells a series of internet-based teleconferences and what he calls “healing seminars,” and he is more than happy to “certify” other therapists in his unorthodox methods for $1,400 a pop. And it looks like some have taken him up on the offer.

And all of this, of course, follows his own line of books, audio CD’s and DVDs. In case you were wondering, buying his products happens to be “step 1″ of his “process of healing”. He doesn’t even want you to contact him until you’ve done that.

Which is probably for the best, because when you read his 2001 book Coming Out Straight — the one with Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s endorsement on the front cover — you’ll find out what his “process of healing” is all about.

ComingOutStraight-208d.jpg

But if you’ve read his book and you’re still interested in getting in on his act, he has an entire line of products for each of the remaining four steps of healing. In fact, he has an entire ladder of healing; an ex-gay pyramid, if you will.

With so many products to sell and seminars to hold and teleconferences to sponsor, maybe one-on-one counseling has become a poor revenue stream from a return-on-investment standpoint.

It’s amazing what one can get by with in a wide open field with no standards, no regulation, and no accountability. Caveat emptor.

See also:

Richard Cohen Shifts Gears
Richard Cohen Is “Disappeared”
Fallout From Richard Cohen’s “The Daily Show” Appearance
Therapy In the Wild, Wild West

Therapy in the Wild, Wild West

Jim Burroway

July 24th, 2006

By now this is all very old news. In the online world, anything more than a few weeks old is ancient history, but I experienced a sort of deja vu this weekend as I re-read Richard Cohen’s 2000 book, Coming Out Straight. Interesting reading, I know. Let’s just say it’s what I do on my afternoons off.

You may remember ex-gay activist Richard Cohen, president of PFOX (Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays), who was featured on CNN’s Paula Zahn Now on May 23rd demonstrating his unusual methods for “curing” homosexuality. He advocates some very unorthodox therapeutic exercises — many of them drawn from pop-psychology fads of the 1970′s and 1980′s.

Richard Cohen on CNNOne technique involves the client beating a pillow with a tennis racquet while screaming at his parents. Remember when that was all the rage? Beating a pillow while screaming about how angry you are at your parents presumably allows you to work through your feelings about your remembered “abuse” which, according to Cohen, you weren’t allowed to express as a child. There’s a lot of recycled “adult children” talk sprinkled throughout his theories, and they’re all described in his book from six years ago. Not much has changed here.

But his most controversial therapy involves “holding” or “touch” therapy, where he takes a male client onto his lap, holds him gently, and repeats affirming words to him. Cohen claims that this recreates the father-son bond in the “adult child,” which, according to the distant father/domineering mother theory which he favors, is supposed to be the key missing component in the lives of gay men. He went on to demonstrate this technique on-camera with a client identified as “Rob.”

This raised quite a few eyebrows among professional therapists. Among those shocked by this display was Dr. Warren Throckmorton, a professor at Grove City College in northwestern Pennsylvania, who himself is very active in the ex-gay movement:

When my wife watched the clip (I taped it), she said she couldn’t get past the “ick factor” to even evaluate what was said. We discussed which was the ickiest, the tennis racket slamming the pillow while screaming at mom; or the client-cuddle technique where Richard holds his client like a baby in a kind of nursing position. We couldn’t decide.

Dr. Throckmorton had worked closely with PFOX in their attempts to force the Montgomery County (Md.) school system to revise its sex-education programs to include information about ex-gays. This “information” from PFOX includes, for example, a reading list for teachers and students which promoted the idea that gays are diseased and need to be “healed” — a position that is incompatible with modern psychology.

I don’t know to what extend Dr. Throckmorton was bothered by these actions. But he has clearly decided that the sight of a colleague who is a well-known figure in the ex-gay movement embarrassing himself on national television would be the last straw:

Since viewing the “Paula Zahn Now” segment, Throckmorton has notified PFOX that, although he supports its mission and its belief that people are not born homosexual, he will not represent the group as long as Cohen remains its board president.

Holding Therapy in "Coming Out Straight"So why do I bring all of this up now? Well, I was reminded of it as I was reading Cohen’s book. And there it was, exactly what I was looking for: the same detailed descriptions of his “holding therapy” in pages 207 through 211 that he demonstrated on CNN. This book isn’t exactly obscure. It comes with a glowing foreword written by that other famous non-therapist therapist, Laura Schlessinger.

Cohen’s enthusiastic endorsement of this holding technique is found throughout his book (along with pillow-beating, or “bioenergetics” as it is termed). This nationally-televised demonstration may be shocking, but it’s not new. It’s been a part of Cohen’s practice for several years, and no one can accuse him of hiding it.

And there’s another thing that’s no longer hidden: Cohen’s permanent expulsion from the American Counseling Association in May 2002 — although he’s doing his best to hide that. You certainly won’t find any mention of it in PFOX’s website.

ComingOutStraight-208d.jpg

While we disagree strongly in many points, I’ve come to respect some of Dr. Throckmorton’s recent actions. He’s one of the few ex-gay proponents to recognize that biological factors can play a role — in possible combination with environmental and developmental factors — in the sexual orientation of many gays and lesbians. This position, more or less, is generally in agreement with those held by most serious researchers, although Dr. Throckmorton places more emphasis on environmental factors. But at least it’s a start. More specifically, he recently criticized Joseph Nicolosi’s “reparative” theory of homosexuality (which is essentially the “distant-father” half of the weak-father/strong-mother theory), declaring “I am not a reparative therapist.” Nicolosi (with the late Charles Socarides) is often looked to as a father of the ex-gay movement, and this theory is the operative theory among almost all of the most prominent ministries. (Ironically, it is this “reparative” drive that Richard Cohen’s techniques are supposed to “heal.”)

And despite his enthusiastic participation in Exodus conferences and other ex-gay activities, he has offered draft guidelines for the practice of what he calls ‘sexual identity therapy” which seeks to establish an ethical framework by emphasizing the actual needs and aspirations of the client, and not the political, religious or moral ideals of the therapist. For example, the draft states, “Therapists should be open to the possibility that embracing same-sex attractions may place other vital aspects of identity at risk. It is also important for therapists to take a neutral stance toward the client’s worldview.” There are areas in these guidelines which can stand improvement, but this effort is certainly a welcome departure from NARTH’s draft guidelines which simply regurgitate the customary anti-gay rhetoric.

Besides, I have to believe that anyone who grew up just a few blocks away from me — a fellow River Rat from Portsmouth, Ohiocan’t be all bad.

But like any specialty in which standard practices, ethical guidelines, certification, and official oversight are all absent. and especially where the distinction between religious ministry and clinical practice is often obliterated, the field of sexual reorientation therapy can resemble the wild west, complete with charlatans and snake-oil salesmen. When one makes it his life work to enter into this kind of work, one must be very careful when choosing those with whom one associates and makes common cause.

See also:

Richard Cohen Shifts Gears
Richard Cohen Is “Disappeared”
Fallout From Richard Cohen’s “The Daily Show” Appearance
Therapy In the Wild, Wild West