Saturday, October 15, 2011

Wayne Besen on John Smid's Admissions: "Ex-Gay" Therapy Employs Cult-Like Mind Control

Because Wayne Besen's commentary about John Smid and his recent admission that "ex-gay" conversion therapy hasn't worked for him came out the same day I wrote my own piece about this, I didn't link to Besen's statement at Truth Wins Out.  Now that I've seen Besen's commentary, I want to take note of it.  It's impossible to overstate the importance of Wayne Besen to the movement to expose the fraud, lies, and malice of the "ex-gay" movement.  He's been tracking this movement for years, and what he has to say about it is of extreme importance.

And here's what Besen has to say about Smid's recent admission that he remains a gay man married to a heterosexual woman, after years of having promoted fraudulent (and expensive) "ex-gay" conversion therapy which claims that one can change one's sexual orientation:

The amount of mind control employed by Smid to turn gay people into heterosexuals was stunning. In a 1997 interview with the Memphis Flyer, Smid, spoke of his own special technique for denying reality: “I’m looking at that wall and suddenly I say it’s blue,” Smid said, pointing to a yellow wall. “Someone else comes along and says, ‘No, it’s gold.’ But I want to believe that wall is blue. Then God comes along and He says, ‘You’re right, John, [that yellow wall] is blue.’ That’s the help I need. God can help me make that [yellow] wall blue.”

This high level of brainwashing was not uncommon for Love in Action’s star clients. For example, Anne Paulk, co-author of Love Won Out, wrote about the mind games she played to allegedly overcome her lesbian thoughts: “…I would start to experience a sexual response…So I’d look out the car window and say something like, ‘Gosh, lord, there’ a tree out there! That tree is green, and it has leaves on it. It’s got brown bark.’ I would fix my mind on anything and everything to distract myself…over time that process made me mentally disciplined enough to displace all lesbian thoughts, period.” (I photographed her “ex-gay” poster boy husband John in a gay bar)

As Besen notes, in his role heading Love in Action, John Smid was a master of cult-like mind-control techniques of the most dubious nature possible, when it comes to their therapeutic value.  The techniques he and his co-workers employed to "turn" gay people straight (i.e., to bully and guilt-trip them into pretending that the gold wall of their God-given nature was blue, as defined by the heterosexist church establishment) in and of themselves give away the game of ex-gay therapy.

It's not about helping people in the least.  It's about coercing and threatening them.  It's about doing everything in your power to make them conform to your standards of right and wrong.

Because their very being in the world, their presence in the midst of the human community, troubles you.  It troubles you since it forces you to confront a difference and otherness, a wild diversity, that you prefer to ignore in the world created by God.  And when you can't ignore it, you feel compelled to box it up in tight theological boxes, so that it has no more power to make you think carefully about the simplistic things you take for granted as the "word of God" and as "divine revelation."

The "ex-gay" movement and the attempt of faith communities in general to turn gay people straight is really all about an astonishingly idolatrous need of people of faith to try to control God, to put God into their boxes, to make God fit their expectations and norms.  Because the wild diversity Who is God is simply too troubling to live with otherwise, for many of us who believe in God . . . .

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