Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Besen on Games Ex-Gays Play

Wayne Besen has a terrific article about an ex-gay boot camp that tries to convert gay men to straight by having them do really macho things with each other, sometimes while naked. A long excerpt below the fold:

Realizing their forte was white-knuckling prayer, not bare-knuckled machismo – several ex-gay organizations began outsourcing to a paramilitary, pseudo-psychological outfit, The ManKind Project. Ex-gay programs, particularly Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality (JONAH), have aggressively promoted The ManKind Project’s New Warrior Training Adventure.

This cult-like national program is a $650 weekend boot camp where participants – mostly straight – are greeted by large, intimidating men dressed in dark clothing and faces painted black. During their stay, the men are forced to take cold showers, survive on about four hours sleep, and subsist on very little food. In follow-up meetings, the activities include shaving another man’s face, kidnapping a member of another camp group and changing clothes with other men. The idea is to help them get in-touch with their feelings and uncover and heal deep wounds that are barriers to successful lives.

The alternative publication, The Houston Press, uncovered a letter Michael Scinto wrote to the Madison County Texas sheriff’s office, just prior to committing suicide allegedly as a result of the boot camp. The Scinto family has filed a lawsuit against The ManKind Project, while the deceased man’s letter to the sheriff claims the New Warrior program practiced bizarre rituals that include:

* Blindfolded walking tours in the nude

* People blowing sage smoke in his face while 50 or so naked men danced around candles

* Men sitting in a circle discussing their sexual histories while passing a wooden dildo called “The Cock”

* Naked men beating cooked chickens with a hammer

That last one gives a whole new meaning to beating one’s meat. I also like how he debunks one of the more idiotic myths about gay men:

A central tenet to “ex-gay” theory is that a male turns gay because of a poor relationship with his father. Under this baseless hypothesis, a sensitive boy perceives paternal disapproval, and as a defensive measure, the child rejects his dad and all things masculine that remind him of the broken relationship. The mother supposedly reinforces the downward spiral by becoming the child’s fierce protector. The circle is complete when the spurned boy rebuffs sports and male peers in school and instead chooses female friends and leisure activities such as playing house.

Of course, this quackery ignores that many gay men had terrific relationships with their fathers and have close heterosexual male friends. There are also countless men who had horrendous relationships with their dads and they turned out straight. Another curveball to this absurd psychobabble is that that gay men, such as former professional baseball player Billy Bean, can hit a 100 mph fastball with a sliver of timber. I have yet to see any sports-promoting ex-gay therapists duplicate such athletic prowess.