Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

Ex-gays purge leader


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The ex-gay movement has quietly purged all references to what had been one of its leaders, the self-described "psychotherapist and educator" Richard Cohen. Ex-Gay Watch member David Roberts posted a detailed documentation of the expurgation on the group's Web site on March 31.

As recently as last year Cohen had been president of Parents and Friends of Gays and Ex-Gays, whose slogan is "supporting the right of homosexuals to choose change." PFOX believes that individuals can change their sexual orientation and has paid for a series of controversial billboards promoting that idea.

The name of the anti-gay group was chosen as a twisted alternative to the pro-gay group Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

Cohen had been expelled from the American Counseling Association in 2003 for violating its code of ethics. He continues to offer counseling in Maryland without a license.

One of the most recent of his frequent media appearances was a "Diagnosis Mystery" segment on The Daily Show , on March 20. Words cannot describe how hysterically bizarre the segment was.

Two days after the segment aired, Cohen sent out a fundraising appeal for his International Healing Foundation. In it he said he did such media appearances "in an effort to reach people who would normally never hear our message."

He called The Daily Show experience "the most degrading experience I've ever had in the media. I unknowingly allowed myself to be manipulated and coerced by the producer and the host. I take full responsibility for this mistake." He accused the program of taking comments out of context and making him look like a fool.

The Daily Show segment appears to have been too much for Cohen's ex-gay allies.

"Over the past couple of days, the National Association for the Therapy of Homosexuals [a small group of psychologists who believe in reparative therapy], and PFOX have quietly removed all traces of any affirmation of Richard Cohen," Roberts wrote on his Web site. Some articles were removed entirely, while others were selectively edited to remove references to Cohen.

The tactics are reminiscent of a purge by the Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, where former allies were made enemies and liquidated, even to the point of retouching photographs to remove them.

Wayne Besen recounted a string of recent television appearances by Cohen "that confirmed everybody's worst fears in America about how weird these things are [reparative therapy]. You just can't do justice to it by explaining it. He has made the complete transition to buffoon." Besen monitors and debunks ex-gay programs and appeared on The Daily Show segment.

Besen said that the far right loves these guys until they go on TV and show in public the interventions for "reparative therapy" that they practice in private. "But the right wing has no loyalty. It's funny now how they are trying to distance themselves from Cohen," Besen said.

Roberts is surprised by the purging of Cohen. He said, "At the very least, PFOX and NARTH need to make a clear public statement disavowing Cohen and his methods once and for all, not drop him from their sites in the middle of the night."

The Daily Show segment can be viewed at

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