Being Gay, Becoming Strong

Jim Burroway

April 1st, 2007

I didn’t come out until sometime around my fortieth birthday. So I must admit a certain amount of envy when I read stories like this one from today’s New York Times.

Zach O’Connor, center, with his brother, Matt, 15, and their parents, Cindy and Dan. (New York Times)

Zach O’Connor knew early on that he was gay, even before he knew there was a word for it. He also knew that his classmates would’t consider this to be “normal,” which was a huge source of conflict for him. The pressure built until he could no longer contain it.

Then, for reasons he can’t wholly explain beyond pure desperation, …he told a female friend. By day’s end it was all over school. The psychologist called him in. “I burst into tears,” he recalls. “I said, ‘Yes, it’s true.’ Every piece of depression came pouring out. It was such a mess.”

That night, when his mother got home from work, she stuck her head in his room to say hi. “I said, ‘Ma, I need to talk to you about something, I’m gay.’ She said, ‘O.K., anything else?’ ‘No, but I just told you I’m gay.’ ‘O.K., that’s fine, we still love you.’ I said, ‘That’s it?’ I was preparing for this really dramatic moment.”

Ms. O’Connor recalls, “He said, ‘Mom, aren’t you going to freak out?’ I said: ‘It’s up to you to decide who to love. I have your father, and you have to figure out what’s best for you.’ He said, ‘Don’t tell Dad.’ “

“Of course I told him,” Ms. O’Connor says.

Zach is very lucky to have such wonderful parents. He was also fortunate that his school system had a gay/straight alliance that he could attend. Now, he’s a seventeen-years-old high school junior and no longer needs the support he found in that club. What’s more, his grades are up, his self-confidence has skyrocketed, and he has a wide circle of male friends for the first time in his life.

I think it’s wonderful that more young people are growing up in an environment where there’s less stigma attached to being gay than when I was growing up. Like I said, Zach is very lucky. But even today, not all kids are as lucky as Zach. There are no accurate figures available, but according to one estimate some 20-40% of homeless youth are LGBT youth.

It’s important for all kids like Zach to know that their lives are valued, and they can receive support wherever and whenever they need it. When I was growing up, I never thought it was possible to live a well-balanced and fulfilling life as a gay man. Unfortunately, I’m a slow learner. Zach’s story is different. Maybe someday examples like his won’t be so remarkable.

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?

LGBT Elders Retreating To The Closet

Jim Burroway

March 31st, 2007

Gays and Lesbians are now having to face the scarcity of safe places for their long-term care as they get older. There are very few places they can turn to where they feel safe and accepted. This is forcing some back into the closet as they enter their twilight years.

Opposition to Hospital Visitation Rights

Jim Burroway

March 31st, 2007

Many anti-gay activists complain when gay rights advocates bring up the issue of hospital visitation rights, saying it’s a red herring. But Minnesota anti-gay lobbyists apparently didn’t get the memo. The Minnesota Family Council is opposing a bill before a state Senate committee that would guarantee access for same-sex partners to their loved ones in the emergency room.

Medical Examiner: Andrew Anthos Was Not Attacked

Jim Burroway

March 29th, 2007

From a surprising twist, the Detroit News reports that Andrew Anthos may not have been attacked after all:

Medical Examiner Dr. Carl Schmidt said evidence did not support the report of an attack on Anthos and said a head injury likely came from falling.

Anthos suffered from a degenerative condition known as spinal stenosis. Anthos probably flexed his neck, which caused arthritic spurs to compress his spinal cord enough to paralyze his legs, the Detroit Free Press reported. After surgery, the paralysis spread through his body, and he died of respiratory failure, the medical examiner said.

This is sure to come as stunning news to many who followed the reports last month. Police had been looking for a man who had reportedly hit Anthos in the back of the head with a pipe after verbally assaulting him on a bus about his sexuality. Investigators were publicly treating the incident as a hate crime. Based on an eyewitness, they had even released a composite sketch of the suspect. At this point, it’s somewhat unclear how all of this could have happened.

Investigators now say the case will be closed due to a lack of evidence. Meanwhile, Anthos’ family continues to believe that he died due to injuries from an attack. This latest report clearly raises far more questions than it answers. Stay tuned.

American Family Association Columnist Has A Change Of Heart

Jim Burroway

March 27th, 2007

Pam Spaulding has published an amazing interview with Joe Murray, a former columnist and staff attorney for the American Family Association. Pam had written about some of his anti-gay columns before. That’s why she was very surprised to read a column in which Joe Murray attacked the AFA’s “borderline bigoted” behavior and condemned the manner in which the AFA supported General John Pace’s remarks that “homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral.”

Pam was very impressed with Joe Murray’s column. She contacted him and asked if he would be interested in doing an interview. He agreed, and that interview is now online. Here are some highlights.

On Murray’s evolution in his opinion on homosexuality:

After adopting the AFA party line for some time, something in the back of my head kept tearing away at my conscience. How could AFA, an earthly organization, declare the divine intention of the God and condemn the souls of homosexuals? How was it that men could make the declaration of who was getting into Heaven and who was getting the one-way ticket to Hades?

I thought who are these people to say who is getting into Heaven and who is not? I thought of the story of Joan of Arc, who, when she was being burnt at the stake, was ask the question of whether she would go to Heaven.

Her response? “If I am not, may it please God to put me in it; if I am, may it please God to keep me there.” In other words, it is God, not man, who decides who gets to pass through the gates of Heaven. So, how could groups like AFA even hint that gays were doomed to hell? This smacked of the politics of man, not the divine mercy of God.

On why he wrote some of the things he did:

…I have always been concerned about the values coming out of the Castro District. I see the hatred some of these people have towards my Church, the Roman Catholic Church, and I just took their anger as proof that some folks on the Christian right were accurate in their depiction of the “homosexual agenda.” I failed to investigate the matter and just adopted the party line — this was a monumental error on my part.

It was not until I began to look closer at the issue that I came to realize that: (a) not all of the gay community is represented by those marching in the streets of San Francisco and (b) those in the streets had a right to be angry, for they have been told for years that they were immoral, sinful and shameful. How horrible must it be to be condemned due to a trait you had no control over. I thought, hell, I would be angry, too. Even further, when I looked at society, I found that most of our societal institutions worked against the gay community.

On the AFA’s obsession with homosexuality:

As for the fixation with the “homosexual agenda,” you are right — it is a significant part of the ministry’s drive. I am not able to judge the hearts of other men, so I cannot speak to whether they truly believe that homosexuals are out to “convert” the children of America or they are merely using this issue as a method of fundraising. Either scenario, though, is disturbing.

And I while say, it is my own personal view that at least some inside AFA find the obsession with this issue uncanny. AFA needs to open its eyes to the idea that gays are not the enemy. I did.

On why the AFA do what they do:

… I am equally confused with AFA’s actions. AFA preaches the Gospels, but uses broad stereotypes to pigeonhole an entire community of individuals. I will not tell you what is in the hearts of these people, but I will look at the evidence.

If AFA believes they are trying to help people, they are sorely misguided. As stated by Edward Bulwer-Lytton, “an ounce of help is better than a pound of preaching.”

On the evangelical church’s reaction to Ted Haggard:

As for me, it always amazes me how quickly some Christians turn on one another. The Haggard story is one of sadness, for it tells the tale of a man who has been so indoctrinated with hate and fear, that he has been fighting something he cannot fight. He is denying his very identity. I only hope that Haggard’s story humanizes the treatment of gays inside the church and causes people to reevaluate their position, but I am doubtful about this.

On anticipating the anti-gay lobby’s tactics in the near future:

My best guess is that AFA, and groups like them, will try to paint the gay rights movement as a radical fringe that is poisoning the cultural well and seeking to impose their will on a defenseless America. In other words, fear will be the main motivating force.

I am sure that pictures of half naked gay men will make their way into action alerts, as well as concerns over homosexual indoctrination in the school house. Hate crimes will be an issue and many will try to scare preachers into believing that the passage of the hate crime bill will penalize the Sunday morning sermons. This is shameful.

This is an amazingly candid interview. Pam is soliciting questions in her comments for a possible Part Two. Go over there and read the entire interview for yourself. It’s a rare and informative glimpse into one of the more powerful anti-gay lobbying groups in America.

TVC, Concerned Women, and Focus Completely Make Up Hate Crime Statistics

Jim Burroway

March 25th, 2007

Update (3/27/2007): This post was revised to account for the official definition for “intimidation.” The original version of this post did not have that definition.

The Traditional Values Coalition and Concerned Women of America are propagating more hate crime nonesense, with Focus on the Family acting as the enabler. Get this:

Homosexual advocates who support the bill say violence against homosexuals is on the rise. They contend 14 percent of the 1,000 hate crimes reported in 2005 were due to sexual orientation.

“They claim that this is an epidemic, [but] one third of the ‘hate crime’s statistics’ are for ‘name-calling,’ ” Andrea Lafferty, executive director of the Traditional Values Coalition, told Family News in Focus. “This is not a reason to bring in the federal government. The ultimate objective is to use the [prosecution] of hate speech against people of faith.”

The article’s subtitle claims, “The House is considering a measure that would make opposition to homosexuality a crime.” That is ridiculous. The First Amendment makes prohibiting opposition to anything illegal. Remember that the next time you see a Klan rally in the news. And everything else in that article is demonstrably false as well. And you don’t even have to believe me because it’s so easy to look up the data for yourself, thanks to the Internets.

First, go to the FBI’s 2005 Hate Crime Statistics web site. Bookmark it because this won’t be the last time Focus, TVC, or anyone else will lie about these statistics.

Now, see where it says, “Incidents and Offenses”? Click on where it says “Access Tables”. That’s where all the data is. From there, click on “Table 4”. Have a look around.

First of all, you will notice that there were 8,380 total hate crime offenses for 2005. Scroll down and you’ll see that it includes 1,171 offenses based on sexual orientation. Look below that for my personal favorite statistic: the 23 anti-heterosexual offenses. You’ll also see 58 anti-Protestant offenses and 935 anti-White offenses. So much for “special rights” for “more valuable victims.” Now you see why I keep saying that line of argument is complete hogwash.

Anyway, there weren’t 1,000 hate crimes reported in 2005, there were 8,380. But yes, the 1,171 offenses based on sexual orientation were 14% of the total. But now scroll back up and look accross the top. Do you see all of the categories of hate crime offenses?

I see murder, I see rape, I see, …. Oh, here it is. Intimidation. Is that “name calling”? Nope. The FBI defines “intimidation” this way (PDF: 71KB/29 pages. See page 23.):

Intimidation — To unlawfully place another person in reasonable fear of bodily harm through the use of threatening words and/or other conduct, but without displaying a weapon or subjecting the victim to actual physical attack.

So no. It’s not name-calling. It’s making a specific threat of bodily harm. And according to the statistics there were 301 intimidation incidents based on sexual orientation. Let’s see, 301 divided by 1,171 — why that’s only 26%. Not a third. Wrong again.

So it turns out that they didn’t get any of their statistics correct — except the 14% figure.

But let’s go ahead and humor them a little bit. Let’s remove “intimidation” from the totals and see what happens:

  Hate Crime Incidents: All reported incidents Hate Crime Incidents: Minus “Intimidation”
Race 4,691 56% 3,165 54%
Religion 1,314 16% 974 17%
Sexual Orientation 1,171 14% 870 15%
Ethnicity 1,144 14% 782 13%
Disability 53 <1% 45 <1%
Multiple Bias 7 <1% 5 <1%
TOTAL 8,380   5,841  

Did you notice what happened? The percentage of hate crimes based on sexual orientation actually went up when “intimidation” was removed from the statistics — as does the percentage of hate crimes based on religion. That’s right, it gets worse without “intimidation.” And why is that? Well, it turns out that while “intimidation” makes up 26% of all hate crime incidents reported both for sexual orientation and religion, it makes up 33% of all hate crime incidents for race and 32% for national origin.

In other words, victims of sexual orientation-motivated hate crime incidents are just as likely to claim “intimidation” as are victims of religously-motivated hate crime incidents.

But that doesn’t really matter because when it comes to the proposed federal hate crimes legislation that the TVC, Concerned Women and Focus are so upset about, the whole “name calling” thing is not just a red herring. The proposed legislation only applies to violent crimes — murders, assaults, kidnappings, rapes, etc. It doesn’t even apply to property crimes or intimidation. And I don’t expect you to take my word for it. The bill’s text is online so you can see for yourself.

It’s time for everyone, including those espousing “traditional values”, “families” and “concerned women” everywhere to just stop lying about what hate crimes are all about and simply debate the issue on its merits. That, however, appears to be something they are utterly incapable of doing.

An Example of Distorted Science From The Pro-Gay Viewpoint

Jim Burroway

March 25th, 2007

Anti-gay activists aren’t the only ones doing this. Warren Throckmorton was disturbed by a “scientific” statistic presented by Dr. Alicia Salzar on the March 15th episode of the Montel Williams Show:

During the Montel Williams Show that aired called Homosexuality…Can it be cured?, Dr. Alicia Salzer said in response to Alan Chambers: “…science has shown us that 96% of people cannot change and along the way, absorb an enormous amount of self-loathing, a lot of confusion, a lot of family conflict, so I know the harm.”

I encourage you to read the rest of Dr. Throckmorton’s analysis.

The only point I would disagree on is his half-hearted defense of the 30% success rate that is often touted by ex-gay ministries. As he points out, that figure is nothing more than a guess (okay, estimate, if you want to use what we call a “five-dollar word” back where I come from) that includes therapeutic techniques that we consider unethical these days — aversion therapy to be precise. He says, “However, lack of knowledge does not mean that number is incorrect, it means we don’t know.” True, but that is also true for any number between 0 and 100%. In my opinion, the “30%” figure is hardly more defensible than Dr. Salzer’s “96%” figure.

But I’ve read the Shidlo and Schroeder report myself (Shidlo, Ariel; Schroeder, Michael. “Changing Sexual Orientation: A Consumer’s Report.” Professional Psychology: Research and Practice 33, no. 3 (June 2002): 249-259; abstract available online here.) I can vouch for Dr. Throckmorton’s assessment: this study only describes some of the benefits and harms of sexual reorientation therapies, not success or failure rates. While the authors reported that a majority of their sample reported failure in changing their sexual orientation, the authors specifically cautioned that the study should not be used to base any estimates on. It wasn’t designed to make such a measurement.

Dr. Salzer was right to describe the harms that Shidlo and Schroeder reported. She was wrong however to use their report as a basis for an estimated failure rate.

I’ve spent a lot of time and energy in exposing how legitimate scientific research has been distorted by anti-gay lobbyists. It sometimes takes hours of research to put together a single post. I’ll probably spend another three hours at the university library this morning preparing for future posts. And while I tend focus my efforts on anti-gay lobbyists who distort research, pro-gay advocates aren’t immune to that temptation either. That’s unfortunate. Maybe I need to shift my focus a little from time to time.

Because the fact is, the unvarnished scientific evidence is plenty strong enough to support our positions. We don’t need to “do unto them” what they “do unto us.” It only weakens our credibility when we do so.

The Massage Table Is Back

Jim Burroway

March 23rd, 2007

Bidding for a good cause broke the $1,200 mark. Then the auction was interrupted.

Now it’s back. This time, if anyone objects to this massage table being sold publicly, maybe they should scare up the money to buy it and get it out of public view. And in doing so, they can finally do something positive for those who live with HIV/AIDS.

Update: Karen Booth has made a generous apology:

I shouldn’t have labeled Mike as a “gay prostitute” or “male prostitute.” Jim Burroway was correct to nail me on that. I shouldn’t have made disparaging remarks about Mike’s integrity or questioned his motives. That was an ad hominem attack that has no place in public discourse. And before I contacted eBay, I should have first contacted Mike with my concerns and appealed to him to end the auction. That would have been the Biblical – and healthy and loving – thing to do.

She is however clear about what she’s not apologizing for: protesting eBay’s auction itself. And it looks like she will continue to do so, as I continue to strongly support it. But at least one wrong was set right, and I applaud Rev. Booth’s courage in doing so publicly.

But I think a solution to the second problem — the auction itself — can be reached with just a little creativity. Maybe Transforming Ministries, New Life Church, or another evangelical group can buy the table. That way the proceeds will go to a worthy HIV/AIDS charity and presumably nobody will have to see the infamous table ever again. How about it?

“Love Won Out”: A Pause

Jim Burroway

March 23rd, 2007

Yes, I know. For those of you who have noticed, the right-hand column has been promising another installment on the Love Won Out series. I imagine many of you might have given up hope.

So let me explain. The next post will be about how the word “change” is used at Love Won Out. It’s used a lot, but the definition is often unclear. Just when you think it means one thing, somebody uses that word to describe something else. It can get confusing — at least for me.

Describing “change” really shouldn’t be that difficult. But it does require a lot of courage to be really accurate about it. I am very happy to report that at least one person had the courage it took to define it.

In one small session (NPR’s Rene Gutel estimated that only about 75 people attended that breakout session) entitled “Hope for Those Who Struggle”, Alan Chambers gave what I thought to be a very honest — and even vulnerable — talk about the importance of setting realistic expectations when talking about “change.” And in that talk, he finally gets to the heart of the matter.

Now I could very quickly pull out some very tiny quotes and remove the context and exclaim, “Aha! See? They finally admit it!” And it’s true. Someone finally “admits” to what we all suspect. But a drive-by post like that would leave an equally distorted impression of what “change” is all about. It would also be a distortion of what Alan was saying. I think his talk was thoughtful enough — and honorable enough — that the only way to do it justice is to carefully describe what he said.

And yes, I really do mean it when I say his talk was honorable. And no, I didn’t drink any Kool-Aid that day. We still disagree on fundamental things as well as less fundamental ones. But in that sparsely-attended talk, I finally got the sense that I could believe what he was saying, which is quite unlike my experience of hearing him speak elsewhere.

So that’s why it’s taking so long to write my next post. Alan’s talk could easily be used as a weapon against him. I’m sure he’s used to that by now. But that’s not why I’m writing this series. I’m trying to impart what really goes on at Love Won Out. I’m not interested in supporting assumptions and stereotypes. I didn’t see any one-eyed monsters, and I’m sorry if that disappoints anyone. Instead, I’m committed to describing what I saw as honestly as I am capable of describing it. I have an example, I believe, in which Alan spoke as honestly as he was capable of speaking.

Of course, I’m still critical of him and his mission. That hasn’t and won’t change. And because of that, he probably won’t agree with some of the conclusions I draw or some of the criticisms I make. But I hope to at least try to treat his talk with the respect and dignity that it deserves.

Ummm. So yeah. That’s why it’s taking so long.


If you haven’t already, you can look over the previous installments of the “Love Won Out” series:

Prologue: Why I Went To “Love Won Out”
Part 1: What’s Love Got To Do With It?
Part 2: Parents Struggle With “No Exceptions”
Part 3: A Whole New Dialect
Part 4: It Depends on How The Meaning of the Word “Change” Changes (Coming soon. No, really!)

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 that appearance, 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.

Leper Colonies For Sodomites

Jim Burroway

March 22nd, 2007

I have a thing for British accents. Always have. I’ve always found them to be incredibly sexy. And maybe it was the formative influence of my parents watching Masterpiece Theater with Alister Cooke when I was growing up, but I always associated British accents with intelligence and sophistication — a far cry from the Appalachian accent I grew up with.

This gentleman changes everything:

YouTube Preview Image

You know, the whole time I was listening to this, I couldn’t help but wonder — wouldn’t this make a great soundtrack for a techno club remix?

Hat tip: Good As You

Another Death, More Silence

Jim Burroway

March 22nd, 2007

On March 20, The San Francisco Chronicle reported on a murder victim whose naked body was found near a freeway. According to the news report, Inspector Karen Lynch of the San Francisco Police’s homicide detail “said it appeared the victim had been in the process of becoming a woman.”

That same day, Mike Savage (real name, Michael Alan Weiner), a San Francisco-based syndicated talk radio host, reacted to that news report KVOR 740 AM in Colorado Springs and WDBO 580 AM in Orlando.

I bring up those two communities specifically because they are homes to Focus on the Family and Exodus International respectively. And as I mentioned previously, Mike Haley — who is not only a director of gender issues at Focus on the Family’s Public Policy Division, but also the board chairman for Exodus International — had this to say about hate crimes at the Love Won Out conference in Phoenix:

I think, too, we also have to be just as quick to also stand up when we do see the gay and lesbian community being come against as the Body of Christ. We need to be the first to speak out to say that what happened to Matthew Shepard was a terrible incident and should never happen again. And that we within the Body of Christ are wanting to protect that community and put our money where our mouth is…

I brought this up previously when Andrew Anthos was murdered and nobody “put their money where their mouth is.” Some have suggested that this incident may be too obscure for them to notice. Okay, maybe. Although as I pointed out then, they are perfectly capable of scouring up some pretty obscure stuff when they want to.

But this is not obscure. Michael Savage is a national broadcaster. His show is carried on more than 300 radio stations across the country. He often shares the same airwaves with other popular talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh, Laura Schlessenger, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham. These are not obscure radio stations and he is not an obscure radio personality. He is the third most popular talk radio host in the nation.

And yet, Focus and Exodus remain silent as a very popular conservative commentator spews what can only be described as hateful filth across the airwaves and into hundreds of homes across America. Someone was brutally murdered, Michael Savage justified it, and Focus and Exodus remained silent.

(Well, not entirely silent. Focus on the Family did take the time today to re-iterated their opposition to hate crimes legislation by trotting out the same old “special rights” nonsense — even though the FBI reported that in 2005 there were 23 anti-heterosexual, 58 anti-Protestant and 935 anti-white hate crime incidents. Are their rights “special”?)

Christ said, “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’.” The meaning is clear. If you say you’re going to do something, then just do it. Don’t say something ought to be done simply because it will make your audience think the kinder of you. Say what you mean and mean what you say. This is all anyone has a right to ask.

Denouncing Savage’s hatred should not be that difficult. You should not have to think about it. There’s no controversey in it, is there?

Is there?

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:

The Prostitute and the Pharisees

Jim Burroway

March 20th, 2007

Note: This post began as a comment I left on Warren Throckmorton’s web site.

Rev. Karen Booth, Executive Director of Transforming Congregations, an Exodus-affiliated ex-gay ministry based in Delaware, left this comment more than a week ago describing her ministry:

My “organization” is not politically involved, so we don’t have the goal of squelching equal rights. In fact, we’re also connected to the United Methodist Church, which takes a strong stand on the rights of the LGBT community.

But then, last Friday Rev. Booth left a comment in a free-wheeling thread on Warren Throckmorton’s web site that led me to look around a little. That’s when I found this on Transforming Congregations’ web site:


I recently discovered that Mike Jones, the gay prostitute that “outed” Rev. Ted Haggard, is selling his massage table on eBay… Even though Jones claims the proceeds will go to an AIDS charity, this act is reprehensible.

It is very difficult to register a complaint with eBay, and almost impossible to do so through their website… I have sent a message (which follows at the end of this report) that can be used as a model for you to fax eBay with your concerns…

So if Rev. Booth’s ministry is not political, why is she encouraging her supporters to engage in a political act? What exactly does interfering with a charity auction have to do with “equipping the local church” to “meet the needs of confused, trapped and hurting people”?

Later in that same thread on Warren’s site, she returned to taunt everyone there:

BTW – Mike Jones eBay auction was cancelled by eBay. I’m really glad, and hope they got a ton of complaints. Interesting that I didn’t see any criticism of Mike’s action (who was also on the Montel show) in this thread. But then, it’s so much easier to just keep bashing Alan [Chambers].

I spent the rest of the weekend wondering why nobody — myself included — rushed to Mike Jones’ defense. And I guess we all know why, really. He’s a former prostitute.

Sure, it’s salacious and in poor taste for Mike Jones to put his massage table up on eBay for charity. The proceeds of the auction were to go to Project Angel Heart, which “promotes the health, dignity and self-sufficiency of people living with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other life-threatening illnesses by providing nutritious, home-delivered meals with care and compassion.”

Yes, putting the “Ted Haggard massage table” on eBay is in extremely poor taste. Also in poor taste? How about the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, who organized some of the first safe-sex messages when official health departments were afraid to touch the subject? They also raised money for home AIDS care, food and housing when nobody else would.

And don’t forget all those leather daddies, also in extremely poor taste and a terrible influence, many of them. They also have a reputation for being among the most generous donors of time, money and talent towards AIDS care at the height of the crisis.

And we cannot forget the Dykes on Bikes, who cleaned apartments, cooked meals and walked the dogs. You get my drift…

Now don’t get me wrong. The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence deeply offend my Catholic sensibilities. Leather daddies are not my scene — in fact, I find all public displays of sexual fetishes offensive. As for the Dykes on Bikes, I have nothing against them — they just scare the bejeezus out of me.

But Sunday evening, Chris and I had several friends over for dinner, including two gentlemen who had lived in New York City during the early ’80’s, just as the AIDS epidemic was getting started. They reminded us of the abject fear they felt of not knowing what was happening, the feeling that nobody anywhere in the country cared about what was going on, and of course, of attending memorials two or three times a week. Alan said, “it was simply exhausting.”

And I can tell you right now that if you had been in my home Sunday evening, you would have heard nothing but gratitude for everyone — no matter who they were or where they came from — who worked hard and tried to make a difference. You would have heard words of immense gratitude for the Sisters, the Dykes, the daddies, the drag queens — every blessed one of them. They were among the more prominent groups who were key to establishing and funding many of the AIDS service organizations that exist today, organizations which continue to do the hard work that nobody else is interested in. They all did this because nobody else would.

And where was the church during all that? Well, I think we don’t really have re-hash all of that, do we? Everyone knows the answer. Ex-gay author and counselor Joe Dallas gave a powerful, emotional talk at Love Won Out on the church’s shameful failure. He listed the church’s sins of omission as well as its sins of commission. And he concluded that portion of his talk in a thunderous voice, “And they [they gay community] will never forget it!” By the tone of his voice and the look in his eye, he left unspoken the words “… and who can blame them?” He left that part unspoken, but I think everyone there understood it that way anyway.

Rev. Booth, if you really want to know why many in the gay community are not willing to condemn Mike Jones or any of the other “salacious” groups, it’s because when the chips are down, there are still today — twenty-five years later — only two responses: thunderous condemnations or silence on the one hand, or rolling up your sleeves and getting to work on the other.

So today, we have Mike Jones, a prostitute. I’m not going to defend his profession. Not by a long shot. But the folks at New Life Church made the brave decision to embrace him and forgive him. No, not forgive him, thank him for revealing what Ted Haggard was doing.

And if he wants to raise money for a worthwhile AIDS charity, nobody’s going to hear any protest out of me. I’d rather follow Christ’s example and choose the prostitutes over the Pharisees any day.

Update: Rev. Booth responds in the comments. I reply to Rev. Booth at Ex-Gay Watch.

Update: The auction is back up and Rev. Booth has a partial change of heart.

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