LGBT groups plan protest of conference for therapists who view homosexuality as a disease
Hundreds of therapists who view homosexuality as a treatable disease are expected in Dallas-Fort Worth for the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality conference on Oct. 26-28.
“There will be several hundred quacks,” said Wayne Besen, founder of Truth Wins Out, a national organization devoted to exposing practitioners of ex-gay therapy as charlatans. “The whole flock will fly down south from all over.”
In response, Truth Wins Out is organizing a protest at the Marriott Dallas-Fort Worth Airport North hotel, where the conference is scheduled to take place. A conference call between leaders of local LGBT groups and Besen was held on Thursday, Oct. 4, to arrange plans for the protest, which will be announced soon.
NARTH, which is based in Encino, Calif., advocates the reclassification of homosexuality as a mental disorder. The American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality as a mental disorder from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual in 1973.
NARTH was founded in 1992 by three therapists with the mission “to continue the scientific study of prevention, treatment and problems associated with homosexuality.” The founders contended that the APA “undermined the scientific integrity of the mental health profession” by succumbing to the demands of gay activists.
Besen said it would be the second annual protest of a NARTH conference. His group organized LGBT groups in Orlando last year to demonstrate outside of the therapists’ conference site.
At the Orlando demonstration, Besen and other protesters dressed in duck suits to make their point.
“We quacked at the therapists,” Besen said. “It drives home a very important point. Their work is not worthy of a legitimate discussion because their work is so unscientific. The proper response is to laugh at them. It is patently absurd what they are doing.”
Besen described the therapists as “religious politicians masquerading as therapists and giving the most bizarre, wacky and screwy ideas anybody has ever heard of.”
“It’s basically a repository of stereotypes presented as science,” Besen said of the conference schedule.
A voice mail message left at NARTH headquarters this week was not returned.
The NARTH conference schedule includes seminars such as “A Proposal for the Development of Treatment Guidelines for Unwanted Same-Sex Attractions,” “The Role of Free Will in Same-Sex Behavior,” “The Interpersonal Approach to the Psychological Care of Men with Unwanted Homosexual Attractions” and “Religious Values, Science and Same-Sex Attraction.”
NARTH’s president, Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, claims no “man can ever be truly at peace in living out a homosexual orientation.” The group’s deceased cofounder, Dr. Charles Socarides described homosexuality as a “purple menace that is threatening the proper design of gender distinctions in society.”
Besen described NARTH’s therapists as “con artists” who have developed anti-gay therapy procedures as means of reaping big profits.
“It’s a good business model,” Besen said. “Ethical therapists won’t do this work. It’s a way for them to get perpetual clients who never get any better. It’s a big scam. As therapists, they are the worst of the worst.”
Besen noted that Christopher Austin, an Irving therapist who was a member of NARTH, was recently convicted of sexual assault in connection with his ex-gay therapy treatments at a counseling center run by Church of Christ South MacArthur.
Randy Martin, a Dallas therapist, said he is unfamiliar with NARTH, but he has treated clients who had undergone ex-gay therapy.
“I do see that work as potentially harmful,” Martin said. “I have worked with clients who have been through similar programs who have really been damaged by it, becoming even more deeply shame based about themselves related specifically to their sexual orientation.”
Fernie Sanchez, president of Valiente DFW, said his group would participate in the protest at the airport hotel. As a former mental health worker, he views NARTH’s mission as a step backwards.
“I think it behooves all of the LGBT organizations in town to do something about that,” Sanchez said.
“Some of the things these trained professionals write about treating homosexuality are astounding to me in this day and age.”
Sanchez said he is concerned NARTH therapists do “more harm than good” to unsuspecting gay clients.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 5, 2007