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Location: Kansas City, Missouri, United States

Doing my part to irritate Republicans, fundamentalists, bigots and other lower life forms.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

One lap dance away from heterosexuality

Maybe it's time I stopped picking on the "ex-gay" movement. The way some factions of the homo-no-mo' crowd are picking on each other, I think I'll sit back and let them do my work for me.

Case in point: The American Fascist ... Oops! I mean "Family" Association web site carries an article titled "Experts Split Over 'Bizarre' Sexual Orientation Therapy Techniques." (For a group like AFA to call an "ex-gay" therapy bizarre is what originally piqued my interest. Usually AFA reserves adjectives like "bizarre" for descriptions of abortionists, feminists, lesbians (which is sort of a synonym for "feminist" in the AFA lexicon), homo-seck-shuls, people with memberships in the ACLU and the every popular "radical homosexual agenda.)

In this particular case, "bizarre" was the word used to describe the reparative therapy techniques of Richard Cohen, president of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX) and author of Coming Out Straight, a book purporting to outline Cohen's ideas for turning even the swishiest queen straight. For an idea of the esteem Cohen's ideas are held in, check out the link and read some of the reader reviews. Or you could just save time and read the headlines such as "How long will this stupidity continue?," "Worthless--except as a propoganda piece" and "WARNING! This book will be harmful to your health!"

Apparently more than just "radical homo-seck-shuls" are giving Cohen and his theories the thumbs down. He's also drawing criticism from some of his fellow practitioners of "ex-gay" snake oil salesmanship. According to the AFA article:

Christian psychotherapist Richard Cohen, board president of the ex-homosexual education and outreach organization known as Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX), is addressing criticism leveled against certain therapy techniques he uses on clients with homosexual desires.

Cohen, a former homosexual and the author of the book Coming Out Straight (Oakhill Press, 2005), insists that no one is born with homosexual desires. He claims his reparative therapy group, the International Healing Foundation (IHF), has helped many men and women with unwanted homosexual desires achieve their goal of changing their sexual orientation and becoming heterosexual.

It is not a choice to have homosexual desires, the IHF director contends, but it is a choice to act upon those desires. He says those unwanted homosexual feelings are the result of temperament, familial influence, and environmental or social conditioning, all of which can be addressed through specific therapeutic principles and practices.

Cohen's methods have raised some questions, however; and he has lately taken sharp criticism over a May 23 appearance on Cable News Network (CNN), in which he demonstrated a technique that involves cuddling a male client in his lap. ...

Cohen, who refers to himself as a reorientation therapist, explained the "holding therapy" exercise as a means of using "healthy touch" on clients, who very often were "touch deprived" as children. He says this technique is one of the most effective ways to help men and women leave homosexuality.

Ummmmm ... yeah, I can see where being forced to sit on Cohen's lap would make me denounce my sinful ways. Especially if Cohen began the session with, "Come here and sit on my lap and we can talk about whatever pops up. (Giggle!) Yeah, that's right ... now sort of rock back and forth a bit ... mmmmmm ... yes! ... Now bounce up and down. ... Faster! ... Oh yes ... yes ... yes! Sweeeeeeet Jay-zuz!!!"

I shudder to think of the scene. Apparently so does a former colleague of Cohen's who is openly critical of him in the AFA piece.

Psychologist Dr. Warren Throckmorton, director of college counseling at Grove City College in Pennsylvania, maintains a blog on sexual identity change therapy and related information for interested individuals. He is not a reparative therapist, but he claims Cohen's techniques as demonstrated on CNN are bizarre and are not based on solid research.

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.

"Richard means well and has a good heart," Throckmorton acknowledges. "I think he is interested in helping people achieve the change that he himself has achieved. However, I also am concerned that the techniques and the portrayal of them left the wrong impression in the minds of many people in the public."

The impression the psychologist and Grove City College official is concerned about leaving with the public, he explains, is the false notion that all change-oriented therapists engage in the kind of techniques employed by Cohen. Not all reparative therapists use such techniques as Cohen's, the former PFOX spokesman says, nor is their use widespread or mainstream in change therapy circles.

I can see why Throckmorton is concerned. Nothing would scare off potential clients quicker than a request of sit on a therapist's lap. Even with only a couple of college psychology courses and a year's subscription to Psychology Today that has long since lapsed, I think I am qualified to tell the difference between bona fide therapy and something that's a mutant offspring of a sexual harrassment lawsuit waiting to happen and the start of a bad 1970s porn movie.

It's too be expected that real psychologists are aghast at Cohen's techniques. In fact, in January 2005 Cohen was permanently expelled from the American Counciling Association for ethical violations "which included inappropriate behavior such as fostering dependent counseling relationships, not promoting the welfare of clients, engaging in actions that sought to meet his personal needs at the expense of clients, exploiting the trust and dependency of clients, unethically soliciting testimonials from clients and promoting products to clients in a manner that is deceptive," according to author and activist Wayne Besen who writes frequently on the "ex-gay" movement.

What's astonishing is that people in the reparative therapy community like Throckmorton are working hard to distance themselves from Cohen and his "bouncy-bouncy" therapy. That's kind of like being kicked out of the asylum because the other inmates took a vote and declared the new guy to be crazy.

It's almost enough to make you feel sorry for Cohen. Almost. But then you realize that he's out of the street looking for the gulible to convince they are one private lap dance away from heterosexuality.