Box Turtle Bulletin

Box Turtle BulletinNews, analysis and fact-checking of anti-gay rhetoric
“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
This article can be found at:
Latest Posts

Posts for November, 2007

Richard Cohen Goes To The Movies

Jim Burroway

November 10th, 2007

As I was reading ex-gay gadfly Richard Cohen’s book, Gay Children, Straight Parents, I kept encountering passages that I thought would make great material for future blog posts. By the time I reached the end of the book, I looked back at all the dogears and concluded that this book could give me material for weeks. But since I don’t want to make this web site all-Cohen-all-the-time, I’ll just offer you this nice excerpt. The following is from Step 4 (“Investigate the Causes of SSA”), from his 12-step plan for parents. Enjoy!

Movie Therapy

There is much to learn about the culture by observing art. Art imitates live, and today, because there are so many SSA men and women in the entertainment industry, life is imitating art. I have rented dozens of movies with homosexual themes written, directed or produced by SSA men and women. These films are the best testimonies about the unhappiness and misery of the SSAD condition. They teach us how lonely and unfulfilling a homosexual life actually is. Be forewarned: If you rent any of these movies, it may cause you or other family members emotional pain and unrest. Consider watching one or more of the following movies, but do so with a loved one (not your SSA child), and share about your thoughts and feelings afterward.

The Deep End. The mother is overprotective, indulging her son while the father is away at sea, and the son hungers for his father’s love. This is a typical triadic relationship: sensitive and artistic son, overattachment to mom, distant from dad.

Breaking the Surface: The Greg Louganis Story. Again, the typical triadic family relationship is depicted. Olympic gold medal diver Greg Louganis is an adopted child with an abusive father and an overprotective mother. The sensitive son tries desperately to obtain his father’s love through athletic achievement and finally in abusive relationships with other men.

Latter Days. A disturbing commentary about religious rejection of those with SSA, this movie shows that great harm that comes from ignorance. This is the story of a Mormon missionary repressing his SSA and being seduced by a “gay” man. It shows his parents’ reacting in all the wrong ways — with judgment and condemnation. They send him to a horrific program to “cure” him, but he ends up running back to his boyfriend.

Angels in America. This 2003 Emmy-winning HBO drama by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kirshner is a truly tragic story of tormented SSA souls seeking solace and comfort from one another as they confront the onset of AIDS in the 1980s. There is no hope or redemption offered. The author has no understanding about the true nature of SSA and the potential for damage.

Normal This 2003 HBO movie portrays a man who believes he was born in the wrong body and sets out to change his gender from male to female after twenty-five years of marriage. Again, it shows no understanding about gender identity disorder. There is a brief allusion to the relationship with his dad — shaming, name-calling, verbal abuse.

Let me break in here and point out something. After Cohen claims that the author of Angels in America “has no understanding of the true nature of SSA,” Elsewhere in the book, Cohen refers to homosexuality as being fundamentally a gender identity disorder. Cohen here repeates his utter confusion over homosexuality and transgenderism. He’s not alone. Ex-gay and anti-gay activists often are unable to see any difference between the two. The first refers to the gender of the object of one’s attraction, the second refers to the gender one sees onself. The one often has little to do with the other, and for most people there is no overlap. With this passage, Cohen himself has demonstrated that he has no understanding of the nature of homosexuality or transgenderism.  Okay, back to the review…

Brokeback Mountain. This Oscar-winning 2005 film depicts the unhappiness of two very confused cowboys. The movie sadly leaves out the unfulfilling life they would have had if they’d lived together. Both parties are wounded and looking for the same thing that neither one of them had experienced: healthy parental love.

Queer as Folk and The L Word. These two Showtime series depict the ephemeral lifestyle of men and women engaged in homosexual activity. Watch these shows only when you feel strong. They will evoke emotions of disgust, shock and pain.

What important movies do you think he left out and why do you think they’re important? You can leave your suggestions in the comments. And as Siskel and Ebert used to say, see you at the movies!

See also:

My review of Ricahrd Cohen’s Gay Children, Straight Parents: From Buggery To Huggery: Richard Cohen Has A Plan For Your Family

Speaking of Fair Weather Friends…

Jim Burroway

November 9th, 2007

We already mentioned Joseph Nicolosi and Rigina Griggs, whose organizations once pretended they never heard of Richard Cohen last March when the world was laughing at his appearance on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show. Now that it looks like the coast is clear, Nicolosi and Griggs back out of the closet and endorsing his latest book, Gay Children, Straight Parents.

Sun Myung Moon and his wifeMore questions are arising as to whether Cohen himself may be a fair weather friend to Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church, known colloquially as the “Moonies.” He had been a member of thee Unification Church for twenty years, and his marriage is an arranged marriage that he said was suggested by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon himself. Cohen says that he left the Unification Church in 1995 and now professes to be a Christian.

But more recently, Cohen’s organization, the International Healing Foundation, was listed by the Freedom Of the Mind Center, a cult awareness web site, as a Moon Cultural and Social Front. Cohen denied the charge, calling it a “slander.” But questions about his links continue to pile up. Warren Throckmorton has been compiling a rather exhaustive dossier on the question.

What do you think? Moonie, or just Loonie?

See also:
From Buggery To Huggery: Richard Cohen Has A Plan For Your Family

Richard Cohen’s Back In The Saddle Again

Jim Burroway

November 9th, 2007

Richard Cohen on The Daily ShowSo here’s the puzzling thing. It was just last March when Cohen’s hilarious demonstration of his “holding” therapy on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show proved to be such an embarrassment that Exodus publicly disassociated themselves from Cohen, while NARTH (headed at the time by Joseph Nicolosi) and PFOX (headed by Regina Griggs) quietly scrubbed all references to him on their web sites.But now it looks like Nicolosi and Griggs are willing to let bygones be bygones. Look at these two endorsements printed on the back of Cohen’s latest book, Gay Children, Straight Parents:

“Richard is movingly candid about the brokenness in his own family life, and he’s not afraid to get down in the trenches and cry, mourn and laugh with everyone else who struggles. This book offers sound practical advice for healing family relationships.”
— Joseph Nicolosi, author of Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality and Preventing Homosexuality: A Parent’s Guide

We all want the best for our children. Please read this book and follow Richard’s suggestions for building a healthy parent-child relationship, one based on unconditional love and mutual respect.”
—Regina Griggs, national director, PFOX

Among the “sound practical advice” that Cohen offers in Gay Children, Straight Parents is the same therapy that he demonstrated on CCN, Jimmy Kimmel Live, and on Comedy Central. Cohen’s “suggestions for building a healthy parent-child relationship” haven’t changed one iota since they first appeared in his 2000 book, Coming Out Straight. So why are they now endorsing something that they found so terribly embarrassing then? Maybe Cohen’s fair weather friends are ready to rejoin Cohen’s huggery bandwagon after all.

You can read all about each of his twelve steps for parents in our latest report, From Buggery To Huggery: Richard Cohen Has A Plan For Your Family.

Richard Cohen’s New Book From InterVarsity Press

Jim Burroway

November 8th, 2007

Richard Cohen’s “Gay Children, Straight Parents”Richard Cohen, ex-gay gadfly and director of the International Healing Foundation and former president of PFOX, has a new book out from InterVarsity Press. Debuting this month, Gay Children, Straight Parents: A Plan for Family Healing offers advice for parents who have just learned that their son or daughter is gay.

And what sort of advice does he give? Well, in this latest offering he offers a twelve step program to help parents deal with their failures as parents. Well, not entirely; I’m obviously being a bit flippant. But if your operating theory on what causes homosexuality involves the failure to connect with your child during critical stages of childhood, what else is there?

It turns out there’s actually plenty more. But his advice to parents often return to the need to mend their own ways and reach out to their child to rebuild that emotional bond. In our latest report, I review all twelve steps outlined in Gay Children, Straight Parents. For sheer entertainment value, my favorite step (and probably yours too) is Step 8. It’s a step that Cohen is so enthusiastic about, he even performs it with his own adult son. It looks something like this:

ComingOutStraight-208d.jpg

Want to know more? Sure you do. You can continue to read all about each of his twelve steps in our latest report, From Buggery To Huggery: Richard Cohen Has A Plan For Your Family.

Insanely Inappropriate Children’s Book

Timothy Kincaid

August 16th, 2007

Page 7 of Cohen’s “children’s” bookI never really knew what was in Richard Cohen’s children’s book, Alfie’s Home.

But DormItem has pictures. From the graphics and language, it’s clearly aimed at small children – but the subject matter is not. It is totally cringe-worthy.

(hat tip to commenter Aaron at XGW)

PFOX and Richard Cohen: On the Downlow

Jim Burroway

July 20th, 2007

Richard Cohen had been president of PFOX, but was forced out a year ago after publicly embarrassing himself and PFOX on CNN. Last spring, he embarrassed himself again on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show. That prompted PFOX and NARTH to scrub their web sites of all mention of him.

Wayne Besen, of Truth Wins Out, reports that PFOX hasn’t exactly cut all their ties with Richard Cohen. They just took their relationship on the downlow:

To find out if there was a clandestine collaboration between PFOX and Cohen, Truth Wins Out conducted a simple experiment. The organization sent PFOX a request for an “ex-gay” speaker under the screen name FamilyManMd.

PFOX first offered an African American ex-lesbian. However, when “FamilyManMd” requested a Caucasian male speaker, the screen name received a rapid e-mail from Cohen offering his services. Cohen had previously been expelled from the American Counseling Association, which he failed to mention in his e-mail prompting his services.

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

Do These Folks Agree With Cameron’s “Solution”

Jim Burroway

May 14th, 2007

Dr. Warren Throckmorton has also posted about Paul Cameron’s disturbing views expressed in Cameron’s article, “Gays in Nazi Germany.” Dr. Throckmorton concludes:

Suffice to say that Dr. Cameron is not simply ideologically opposed to homosexuality, he is fixated on “solutions” that I find abhorrent. I call on fellow social conservatives who still refer to the Camerons’ work to take a hard look at these posts and reflect on whether someone with such extreme animosity could possibly approach social science data with sufficient objectivity to be trusted.

When Ex-Gay Watch pointed out that Exodus was using Cameron’s research, Exodus finally responded by removing those web pages from their web site. On the other hand, NARTH has so far failed to act.

I wonder how many of these individuals, organizations and publishers agree with Paul Cameron’s Solution for those who live “parasitic lives”?

E-mail me or leave a comment if you find someone who is using Cameron’s “science” and I’ll add them to the list.

Publications:
American Family Association:
Americans For Truth:
Courage:
Concerned Women For America:
Ears To Hear:
Evergreen International:
Family Research Council:
International Healing Foundation (Richard Cohen):
Lifesite News:
National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH):
One News Now:
Renew America:
Virtue Online:

Let me know if you find any others.

Richard Cohen Is “Disappeared”

Jim Burroway

March 31st, 2007

Ex-gay impresario Richard Cohen’s embarrassing performance on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show continues to reverberate through the ex-gay movement. Ex-Gay Watch reports that PFOX and NARTH are quietly scrubbing their web sites of all mention of him. It’s as if he never existed. Nope. Nothing to see here.

Richard Cohen had been president of PFOX, but was forced out after his previous embarrassment on CNN. Now PFOX and NARTH are pretending like they never heard of him. Which is odd really, considering that he never tried to hide his form of therapy from anyone. In 2000, he wrote a whole book about it — complete with photographs — with Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s endorsement featured on the front cover. NARTH even sold it in their bookstore. How can anyone pretend this is new information?

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

Fallout From Richard Cohen’s “The Daily Show” Appearance

Jim Burroway

March 23rd, 2007

Since Wayne Besen and Richard Cohen appeared on the Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” last Monday, many in the ex-gay movement have been deeply embarrassed by Cohen’s performance. And apparently, Cohen has been feeling the heat. Warren Throckmorton received an E-mail from Cohen that said, in part:

This week’s interview on The Daily Show was difficult. It took place in my home and office, and was the most degrading experience I’ve had in the media. I unknowingly allowed myself to be manipulated and coerced by the producer and the host. I take full responsibility for this mistake. I have learned since my interview with The Daily Show that this program treats most of the experts they interview the same way they treated me: taking bits and pieces of the interview, re-edit it out of order, and make the interviewee appear foolish.

Happily, regular Daily Show viewers–which I am not–are in on the gag and know that this is the way the show generates laughs. I have learned well from this experience to better research future interview opportunities and to be more discerning about the offers that I accept, and what therapeutic approaches I demonstrate on the air. I sincerely apologize if my decision to be on this and other interview programs has caused you any hurt or harm. Please forgive me.

Richard Cohen on CNNIn other words, he’s sorry he demonstrated on the Daily Show the same therapeutic approaches he showed on CNN. Which also happen to be the same techniques he demonstrated in his own book clear back in 2000. That book has been widely available for seven years It’s not an obscure book, but the way. It features a foreword by Laura Schessinger.

From Richard Cohen's Book, 'Coming Out Straight', page 207

I think it’s important to notice that he’s not apologizing for his inappropriate and bizarre techniques, he’s only apologizing for demonstrating them before a national audience. But they say when life gives you lemon, make lemonade. Or make a fundraising appeal. Or something like that. Cohen’s message continues:

I am not a public relations expert and very much need the help of one. I have had to handle the media on my own. I realize now that this needs to be changed.

If you can contribute financial resources toward funding public relations and media strategizing, so we can launch a positive campaign to promote the truth about SSA and the possibility of change, please contact me. I/we need and appreciate your help in this urgent matter.

The fallout from that appearance has continued. Ex-Gay Watch now reports that Exodus president Alan Chambers had joined the board of PFOX last year. Cohen had just been forced out of PFOX in the wake of previous embarrassing television appearances, and Alan joined to try to make a positive change on the condition that PFOX sever all ties with Cohen. Nevertheless, PFOX has remained wedded to Cohen’s methods and theories, and Cohen himself claims to be an advisory board member for PFOX. For this and for other reasons, Alan Chambers has resigned from the PFOX board.

And that’s not all. This brand new policy statement was added to Exodus’ web site:

Exodus International does not endorse the work of Richard Cohen or the methods utilized in his practice. Some of the techniques Mr. Cohen employs could be detrimental to an individual’s understanding of healthy relational boundaries and disruptive to the psychological and emotional development of men and women seeking clinical counsel and aid.

Alan Chambers has taken a very positive step. I congratulate him on his move.

Hat tips: Warren Throckmorton and Ex-Gay Watch.

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

Wayne Besen on “The Daily Show”

Jim Burroway

March 20th, 2007

Wayne Besen, Executive Director of Truth Wins Out was featured in a segment that aired on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” last night. He shared the spotlight with former PFOX president Richard Cohen. You’ve got to see it to believe it.

Part 1:

Part 2:

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

Newer Posts