Cowboy Church of Virginia Pastor Raymond Bell’s claim that Equine Assisted Psychotherapy can turn people straight is horse manure


… AND THE HORSE HE RODE IN ON  | If Pastor Bell thinks being around horses can turn people straight, he’s probably never attended a gay rodeo. (Chuck Marcelo/Dallas Voice)

Haberman-Hardy-As a Texan, I have been around horses for years. I have never been a horse owner, and my riding skills are cursory, but I have petted, ridden and cozied up to my fair share of equines. And so, according to Pastor Raymond Bell, I should not be gay.

Bell, chief pastor of the Cowboy Church of Virginia, purports that “addictions” such as homosexuality can be cured by what he calls Equine Assisted Psychotherapy. He claims he uses horses to teach men how to “stop being gay” and encourage them to be more masculine.

In an interview with Gay Star News, Pastor Bell said, “EAP can help any person who is living the homosexual lifestyle or involved in it in any way.”

I guess Bell has never attended a gay rodeo or hung around with any of the thousands of gay cowboys and their admirers. The gay cowboys I know are about as masculine as they come, so I just have to question whether this brand of snake oil the pastor is selling has any merit.

The American Psychological Association went on record back in 1975 to declare that homosexuality was not an illness and therefore any kind of “cure” was mere quackery or worse, just plain inhumane.

The good pastor also goes on to claim that being gay comes from events and influences like rape, abandonment and lacking a male role model.  Funny, most people would consider me plenty masculine and I’ve had great male role models like Marlon Brando in The Wild One or Steve McQueen in The Magnificent Seven.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the pastor’s idea that people choose to be gay or lesbian is just plain silly.

Now, choosing to be a cowboy — well that is arguably something that is a genuine choice. Although lots of people are born on ranches, they actively choose whether to stay there or seek another life outside the rural setting. I know a whole lot of people who actively chose to live in the “big city” rather than live on a farm, my partner included.

But before I go sending the idea of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy out to pasture, I want to state that it has been shown to be an effective tool for working to improve confidence, emotional growth and personal responsibility, especially for adolescents. There are lots of studies that back this up.

The big problem is when you try to use EAP to “cure” something that doesn’t need curing, that’s just plain horse sense. That’s one reason why California tried to ban “reparative therapy” for minors back in September. It is also why Bob Spitzer, a pioneer of “reparative therapy,” denounced his own activities back in April 2012: “I believe I owe the gay community an apology for my study making unproven claims of the efficacy of reparative therapy. I also apologize to any gay person who wasted time and energy undergoing some form of reparative therapy because they believed that I had proven that reparative therapy works….”

As for Pastor Bell and his claims, well perhaps he has been grazing on a little loco weed. That is the only way I can believe his therapy might be seen as having any value. Frankly I think the whole thing is just plain horse manure.

Now saddle up and let’s head over to the Round-Up Saloon for some boot scooting!

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and board member for the Woodhull Freedom Alliance. His blog is at

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 4, 2013.