Coordinators of demonstration at Marriott DFW Airport North Hotel want to underscore “‘horrors’ of ex-gay therapy as therapists gather
Leaders of five local LGBT groups have pledged their support for a protest against the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality conference at the Marriott Dallas-Fort Worth Airport North Hotel on Oct. 27 at 11 a.m., according to the protest coordinator.
Wayne Besen, executive director of Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Truth Wins Out, said in a telephone interview the leaders of Equality Texas, the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance, Valiente DFW and the Metropolitan Community Church of Greater Dallas agreed in a conference call to turn out protesters for the event.
Besen said protesters have the option of wearing “scary costumes” in connection with the protest’s theme that “reparative therapy is scary.”
“It will highlight the horrors of coming out of the ex-gay movement,” Besen said. “As scary as the costumes might be, they pale in comparison to the real thing.”
But Besen said he hopes no one shows up in anything that might be considered obscene.
“We want to present a colorful depiction of reparative therapy, but we don’t want anyone providing poster images for the ex-gay movement,” Besen said.
Last year, Besen coordinated a protest of the group’s conference in Orlando, where the protesters wore duck suits and “quacked” at the therapists. Duck suits would also be appropriate this year, he said.
Hundreds of therapists are expected to attend the weekend conference at the DFW Airport hotel. The therapists believe that homosexuality is a mental disease, and that it can be cured, according to the NARTH Web site.
Besen claims the therapists’ beliefs are based on religion rather than science.
A position statement published on the group’s Web site at www.narth.com notes, “We believe that clients have the right to claim a gay identity, or to diminish their homosexuality and to develop their heterosexual potential.”
It also calls “on our fellow mental health associations to stop falsely claiming to have scientific knowledge that settles the issue of homosexuality. Instead, our mental health associations must leave room for diverse understandings of the family, of core human identity and the meaning and purpose of human sexuality.”
NARTH was founded in 1992 by three therapists with the mission “to continue the scientific study of prevention, treatment and problems associated with homosexuality.”
Patti Fink, president of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance, said she and the other group leaders feel obligated to join the protest against the Encino, Calif.-based group and to encourage their associates to join them.
“We certainly felt like we need to make a statement in opposition to their views on our lives and how harmful what they are proposing can be for LGBT people,” Fink said. “You read on their Web site about people falling for it and feeling incredibly ashamed of themselves and horrible. It’s so incredibly demeaning.
“They want us basically to be ashamed and to hide and change ourselves in what they want us to be. That can be very demoralizing for anyone who buys into reparative therapy.”
Fink said the American Psychological Association has a committee reviewing NARTH’s therapies. NARTH has criticized the APA for removing homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in 1973 and wants it reinstated.
“We certainly don’t want them to get a foothold in legitimizing their religious beliefs into therapy,” Fink said.
Fink said the protest provides a unique opportunity for Dallas activists.
“It’s an opportunity for our community to step up and speak for our community nationwide,” Fink said. “We’re here and we’re able to participate. If it was happening in another city, I would hope the community there would step up.”
Besen said he is hoping other groups will join the protest.
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This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 19, 2007