Glittering promises laced with lies: A chilling glimpse into the so-called “ex-gay” industry

Wayne Besen, the Executive Director of Truth Wins Out and the author of “Lies with a Straight Face: Exposing the Cranks and Cons Inside the Ex-Gay Industry.”
Wayne Besen, the Executive Director of Truth Wins Out and the author of “Lies with a Straight Face: Exposing the Cranks and Cons Inside the Ex-Gay Industry.” Photo: Andrés Echavarria

The following are excerpts from “Lies with a Straight Face: Exposing the Cranks and Cons Inside the ‘Ex-Gay’ Industry” by Wayne R. Besen (preorder Link) and (website). All royalties from book sales will go to Truth Wins Out, to help our efforts to fight the “ex-gay” industry. Book Release date is National Coming Out Day, October 11.

The Contemporary Cons

Anne Paulk, the Restored Hope Network’s Director, has an equally distorted version of spirituality. Paulk once learned she was pregnant, not by a medical test, but by God sending a special cloud. “As we stopped beside the road one day, I looked up into the sky and saw an unusual cloud formation. It looked like a baby. How strange, I thought, I’ve never seen a cloud like that before. I wonder…Not long thereafter, I learned I was pregnant.”

In another instance, Paulk lost a contact lens, but God interrupted His day, including waging wars, making peace and saving lives, to help her find it. “All at once I got down on my knees and prayed, ‘God, please help me! I’ve God to find my contact’…And there lodged in the corner of my jeans pocket, was my contact…There was no other explanation, my contact had been found in an impossible location. It never could have gotten there on its own. It had to be God.” 

Um, okay, if you say so Anne. But if it’s true, God needs a new chief of staff to sort out His priorities. Paulk also has a very strange way of suppressing her sexual thoughts about women:

“I would start to experience a sexual response…So, I’d look out the car window and say something like, ‘Gosh, Lord, there’s 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.”

Paulk seems haunted by the supernatural, and sees the threat of black magic around every bush. When Yvette Cantu Schneider quit the “ex-gay” industry, she told me that Paulk accused her of being under the influence of a sorcerer.

Weird Weekend: Journey into Manhood

Matt Ashcroft recalls a scene that played out during an exercise called “Carpet Time.”  There was a camper who was transitioning from male to female, but wanted to first see if they could change their gender identity.  Alan Downing was the “guide” and told them to strip down to their underwear, while Downing himself allegedly stripped to his drawers.

The person transitioning was surrounded by a handful of assistants. The group rolled a blanket up as tight as possible around the transgender camper. The idea was to simulate a live birth. As the trans camper was ready to be “reborn”, the blanket was unfurled. Downing allegedly declared, “You were a woman, and now you’re a man.” A mirror was then placed in front of the transgender camper, who was ordered to look at their reflection and repeat the phrase, “I am a man.”

This monstrosity occurred in broad daylight. Well, not exactly. Alan Downing, who led the exercise, allegedly placed garbage bags over the windows to conceal what was happening. Ashcroft recalls the sickening scene.

“The trash bags that were taped, were actually off the window a little bit, and so people could see in. There were people that walked past, and I remember him [Downing] saying, ‘Oh, fuck.’ I didn’t think anything of it, but now looking back I’m thinking, ‘What are you guilty of when you’re saying something like that?’ So I think with that, it was extremely suspicious.”

Snake Oil Doyle

Christopher Doyle was a very naughty boy.

In his personal testimony on the Parents & Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX) website, where he served as a board member, Doyle admitted to a rather shocking crime. He wrote that during his teenage years, his mom ran a daycare facility, which gave him access to the kids in his mother’s charge. In his online confession, “Christopher’s Story”, he claimed that he molested some of these children.

“I tried to have sex with the little girls that my mother watched in her daycare, and eventually, one of the girls told her parents what I was doing.”

Today, Doyle has become America’s premier conversion therapist and the heir to the quack throne of the late Dr. Joseph Nicolosi.

Doyle sleazily markets his wares in the media as a “cure”.  For example, on an episode of Dr. Oz, Doyle appears sincere and intensely stares into the television host’s eyes with the conviction of a Sunday preacher. Without a scintilla of doubt, Doyle boldly proclaims, “I’ve changed. I once was gay. I’ve been straight for eight years. So, I know personally it works. And, all of my clients, if they really do that work, they’ll stay straight.”

Doyle’s bravado on television or when fishing for new clients doesn’t conform with reality. 

Jared Dixon is a former client of Doyle’s who enrolled in conversion therapy after his parents had a negative reaction to his coming out. He says that his mother “expressed concern over me going down that path and warned me that my life was going to be hard if I lived as an out gay man.” His father drove him to an empty parking lot for a frank conversation, where he implored Jared, “Give yourself a chance. Give yourself a chance.”  

His family found out about Doyle’s services through their church. The counselor offered lofty promises of “change” if Jared participated in his nine-week program. “Chris was excited and shared how he was living his dream of being married to a woman and having a family,” explained Dixon. “At the time, he and his wife had just had their second child. Chris said that he had healed from his SSA [Same Sex Attraction]and no longer had SSA. He told me this before informing me that 85-percent of his clients change.”

Wow, an 85-percent success rate seems impressive. Yet, in a rare moment of candor with a suffering Nathan in the movie The Sunday Sessions, Doyle admits that his program is worthless and that his inflated promises of becoming heterosexual are a lie.

“Nathan, this isn’t a cure,” Doyle admits. “And I never said that you’re going to go through therapy and you’re going to get rid of all same-sex attractions. That it’s never, ever going to come back again. That would probably be an unrealistic expectation for almost anybody.”

Huh? Doyle certainly sounded more confident on Dr. Oz and more optimistic of his success rate while trying to lure Jared Dixon as a new client. This is precisely why we opponents of conversion therapy call it consumer fraud. These sharks play on the frayed emotions of desperate people in crisis. They offer glittering promises they never plan to fulfill, and bilk people in their most vulnerable state. According to Dixon:

“This time in my life was wrought with a lot of depression, confusion, anger, and self-hatred. To cope, I had begun drinking and would sometimes get a beer after my session to calm down. I would skip most of my classes the following Thursday because I was so emotionally drained from Chris’ therapy. Unlearning the bullshit I was fed in conversion therapy is still something I’m working on. Thankfully, I have an amazing therapist and wonderful medication to help me. I also have a chosen family of other survivors and a kick-ass fiancé of almost ten years. That is my middle finger to Chris Doyle!”

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