In Tuesday night’s Channel 4 documentary ‘Cure Me, I’m Gay,’ telly doc Christian Jessen explored the world of ex-gay therapy. Viewers in the UK can catch up on 4oD here.
I’ve researched and written about the ex-gay movement for the best part of a decade, so in response to this latest programme, I wanted to collate a few relevant links to some of my articles.
First, a couple of thoughts on the show. The flaws usually present in mainstream TV documentaries these days are all there, so I won’t go into detail with those. Suffice it to say, it was bitty, broad and overall gave a mere surface glance at the subject. Such seems par the course for docs these days.
It didn’t reveal a great deal of new stuff. The usual suspects appeared – David Pickup, Richard Cohen, Mike Davidson. John Smid, the former director of Tennessee-based ex-gay programme Love In Action, gave a rundown of the crazy techniques he used to employ to turn his gay clients straight.
Bizarrely, several media reported in advance that Smid was presently advocating these methods, where in fact it’s well-known that he renounced the practices several years ago and admitted he was still as gay as he ever had been.
What the Jessen documentary did very well was to delineate quite clearly the different methods. Reports of this sort often conflate the varied approaches into one supposed whole, but this made an earnest attempt to show that there were many theories and treatments out there, such as the addiction model (12-step style), reparative therapy (distant father, overbearing mother), deliverance and exorcism.
So, on to the articles. First, Mike Davidson of Northern Ireland-based Core Issues Trust, an organization that effectively brings NARTH’s reparative therapy approach to the UK. All these date to April 2012:
Ex-gays, anti-gays launch London bus ad campaign
‘Traditional Christian teaching’: Exposing an ex-gay myth
Core Issues director Mike Davidson removed from professional association
Core Issues’ Mike Davidson on being ex-gay
David Pickup is an odd character. One of the main ways he keeps himself straight is to solicit the company of muscular men to admire. To attract them, he posts his stats to bodybuilding message boards, and boasts of his great shape and how he looks ten years younger than his age. I kid you not:
Jayson Graves, David Pickup and the Exodus connection (May 2008)
Pickup contradicts himself to support reorientation therapy (August 2008)
UK: Dubious ex-gay therapists Pickup, Pilkington headline ex-gay conference (June 2011)
As for John Smid, he found himself in a helluva lot of controversy when a teenager called Zach Stark was forced into a residential programme at his ministry. He has since apologized:
Former ex-gay leader Smid can no longer condemn gays (October 2010)
Finally, a few of my pieces on the ex-gay/conversion therapy movement not directly related to those who appeared on the programme. These relate to Frontline, a large evangelical-charismatic church in the Wavertree district of Liverpool, who for about a decade have run a ministry based on a dangerously outlandish American ministry called LIFE:
LIFE: Behind Liverpool Frontline Church’s extreme ex-gay connections (November 2011)
Liverpool Frontline Church’s ex-gay-ministry: Backstory (July 2011)
How Liverpool’s Frontline Church struggles with homosexuality (The Guardian‘s Comment is free, July 2011)
In another Guardian piece, I respond to an article from The Times (UK) by Patrick Muirhead:
‘Ex-gays’ side with prejudice (The Guardian‘s Comment is free, January 2010)
Finally, one of my earliest articles on the subject, which I wrote for Third Way magazine in 2006:
Out and Cowed (PDF)