Recently, eyebrows were raised when it was reported that one of the new owners of Newsweek, Johnathan Davis, had expressed support in the past for the consumer fraud known as “ex-gay” therapy, going so far as to link approvingly to an article written by Christopher Doyle of the International Healing Foundation. Aside from being one of the most extreme anti-gay activists in the United States, Doyle, whose “ex-gay” pride events are attended by tens of people, has publicly admitted that he tried to molest girls in his mother’s daycare when he was younger, though he still refuses to answer the question of how old they were. When news of Davis’s support for “reparative therapy,” which is roundly discredited by all major medical and mental health organizations, came to light, Davis released a statement reiterating his commitment to diversity at IBT Media, the new parent company of Newsweek, and parent company of the International Business Times. At the time, Truth Wins Out noted that if Davis’s statements were true, and that if his wacky personal beliefs did not interfere with the journalistic integrity of his publications, that his beliefs would be his own business.
However, the International Business Times has now called that commitment into question, and severely. Last week, they published a piece called “Gay Conversion: I Slept With Over 200 Men, Now I’m a Happily Married Heterosexual Dad.” IBTimes stated that they ran the piece in an effort to “present both sides of the gay conversion debate,” presenting an author named James Parker, who explains that, though he knew he was gay from a young age, he changed his mind on the subject when he converted to Christianity:
I knew I was gay at about 10 or 11. My cousin himself had come out and I realised my own attractions were the same. At the age of 10 or 11 boys start getting interested in girls, but I was only interested in boys. I was definitely a number six on the Kinsey Scale – an exclusively homosexual male with no heterosexual desires whatsoever.
Teenage years were hell. I often thought of suicide, occasionally self-harmed and had a growing problem with alcohol and gay porn. I came out to my parents when I was 17, in floods of tears. But mum and dad were amazing; they said they had known I was gay and then affirmed their unconditional love for me. My mates at school also told me they had known for some time and supported me. The ‘coming out’ process wasn’t tortuous or traumatic.
At 18 I moved to London from the north of England and fully embraced my gay identity. I became the first person to live openly as a gay man in the section of the university I attended, and even established an LGBT group for other students, actively preaching against those who suggested that being gay was somehow a choice, or even wrong.
I never felt the need to change. I was born gay, it was all I’d ever known – end of.
But then, he “made the decision to enter a relationship with Christ,” which seems to contradict his earlier statements that he had always been a Christian. He found he had “commitment issues,” and solved those by dumping his long-term boyfriend and going into therapy:
I realised I had some issues, centring on commitment. I discovered I had a deep-rooted fear of rejection, I was too anxious, and I used people. I had an innate fear of men – not of their homophobia, but the real thing: a chasm between me and the normal heterosexual male (Kinsey’s so-called number ones).
I terminated my relationship with my long-term partner to get a clean slate, and, acting on a friend’s advice, I went into therapy to address my commitment issues. There was nothing brutal or harrowing about the help I received; the horror stories you hear from some of those gay-straight ‘conversion’ documentaries don’t apply here. It was simply a mixture of cognitive therapy, to challenge my core beliefs and root out one-sided thinking; behavioural therapy, to change problematic actions trained through years of reinforcement; and EMDR, which uses rhythmic eye movements to dampen the power of traumatic memories.
My therapist and I never focused solely on my being sexually attracted to men, but my “being gay” had to be part of the dialogue, otherwise I’d have been leaving a part of my life at the door. Much of my journey was about forgiving those I needed to forgive, and recognising where I had built walls against significant others in my life, especially my parents and siblings.
I eventually came to realise that as a boy I had failed to interact with other men on any significant level. I had perceived myself to be rejected by men even as a small boy and had made an inner vow never to deeply trust them. People had reached out to me and I had spurned them, including my father and two older brothers. No wonder men had become a mystery to me and even an obsession by my teens, when I began erotically craving men and feeding this through porn.
I also realised I had thrown myself wholeheartedly into a world of the feminine, with no masculine counter-balance, yet I despised women for having the natural ability to woo every aspect of a heterosexual man, which I could not do. I discovered that my natural place was not among women.
And now, according to Parker, he has been faith healed and is happily married to a woman:
I began to see that maybe, just maybe, I was never truly gay and that there was a man as real and as noble as the men I had often admired, worshipped and yearned for hidden deep within me, waiting to be freed and released.
Physical contact with women, even touching a woman’s hair, became more enjoyable. I began to enjoy being a man, and enjoy women’s company more. This doesn’t mean I went out and was attracted to every woman I met; I wasn’t an on-heat teenager. But it was a gradual process, eventually leading to dates and relationships.
Today I’ve been married to a woman for eight years, and we have a five-year-old daughter. I love art and theatre, but I enjoy team sports in a way that frightened me as a child. One of my favourite movies is Saving Private Ryan, because it’s about brotherhood and deep male friendships, something I’d never enjoyed before.
Am I now exclusively heterosexual, some people ask? Most of the time, yes. But for most people there are periods where sexuality can be quite fluid. At times this is true for me too. I don’t miss the gay lifestyle I left behind –when I visited my ex-boyfriend, five years after therapy, it brought to home to me the drawbacks of that life. His voice had become camp and weak, and he had even contracted HIV.
I know more than ever that my decision to entertain therapy, and at a later stage the therapy which concentrates on repairing malformed sexual orientation, saved my life in the long run. It also saved a lot of taxpayers’ money too. I now believe I would have ended up considering, and no doubt requesting, gender reassignment at the expense of the public purse.
There is so much to unpack in those last few paragraphs, but we will do do that in a moment.
Firstly, though, is James Parker simply a private citizen with a story to share, or does he have a dog in the fight to spread the damaging, morally deficient gospel of Faith Healing Away The Gay around the world? It turns out that the answer to that question lies at the bottom of Parker’s column, which says:
James Parker is from the Journey Into Manhood training programme which is organised by People Can Change, a non-profit educational, support and outreach organisation.
Yes, James Parker is a company man. Nearly one hundred percent of the time, when you see a screed like this that is seemingly portrayed as coming from a common citizen, the reality is that it’s a person who is making money off perpetuating the lie of “ex-gay” therapy, and Parker is no different. At the end of Parker’s column, he says this:
But the changes in my life don’t make me want to preach or convert anyone. Therapy can be dangerous, and there’s no reason why anyone should feel compelled to ‘convert’.
This is a flat out lie. In an e-mail obtained by Truth Wins Out, Parker excoriates an “ex-gay” survivor for not trying hard enough to change, and blames him for the abuse meted out by his counselors:
It is TOTALLY up to you to quit one pathway, and to choose another pathway. No one would judge you for this, and certainly not me! But to destroy the character of other people as you desired, or have been prompted, to do – those who genuinely set out to help you – is nothing short of scandalous and a more gross betrayal than what you believe you have experienced. I only hope no one ever does this to you, ever ever ever.
You may recall that I totally indulged myself as a gay man in my late teens/early adulthood and preached and taught that being gay was normal and fine. I did not, like you, set out to become straight. I have never encouraged anyone to do this, and said this to you many times on the phone. I saw no reason to encourage people to do this. I did, however, following different types of therapy – and not just one type only as it seemed you have engaged in – begin to experience a significantly reduced sexual attraction to other men, and a growing attraction towards women, without even wanting, hoping for or expecting this!
My point is this: it is easy to criticise and throw stones when something isn’t working for you, or results are not quite what you want when you want.
If you embrace the gay lifestyle and all it offers you then I fear you will end up old and unhappy, even lonely, if you are able to live that long (and I’ve buried, and am still burying, plenty of gay friends so must speak out the truth behind this life/deathstyle. I’ve also buried my cousin recently… not nice!!). There is a spiritual consequence of embracing and indulging in all that is linked with the “gay” world, and this is merely a truth whether we like it or not. I only hope whatever you choose does not lead to a deadening of your own soul. You are a good, talented, and very lovable man. I only want the best for you!
“I only want the best for you!” This is the man who states for the International Business Times that he has no desire to preach or convert anyone. It seems that, like most “ex-gay” charlatans, James has a habit of speaking out of both sides of his mouth.
Moreover, the organizations Parker has been affiliated with exist solely to change people’s sexual orientations. Longtime readers will remember Journey Into Manhood as the program where men are taken into the woods for the weekend together to learn “how to be men.” Straight journalist Ted Cox, working undercover, reported that one of these weekends was the first time he had ever felt another man’s erection, against his will, during one of these “man training” sessions:
I don’t remember exactly when I felt his erection pressing into my back. It might have been while he whispered in my ear, “Long ago, you were the Golden Child. But, somehow, that Golden Child was hurt, and you put up a wall to protect yourself.” Or it might have been when other men in the room broke out in song:
How could anyone ever tell you
That you’re anything less than beautiful?
How could anyone ever tell you
That you’re less than whole?
I sat on the floor between the outstretched legs of a camp guide, my head leaning back against his shoulder. The guide sat behind me, his arms wrapped around my chest. This hold was called “The Motorcycle.” Five men surrounded the two of us, their hands resting gently on my arms, legs and chest.
There were about ten other groups like this sitting on the floor in the darkened room: one guide giving “healing-touch therapy” while the surrounding men rested their hands on the receiver. Some men were held in the Motorcycle position. Others were turned towards their guide, cradled the way a parent would hold a sobbing child who had just scraped her knee on the sidewalk.
In the same vein, Journey Into Manhood’s former lead counselor, Alan Downing, was disappeared from the organization after Truth Wins Out “exposed Downing for practicing therapeutic lap dances, known as touch therapy and asking his much younger clients to strip nude in his office.”
In his work with Journey Into Manhood and People Can Change, Parker has also appeared as an advocate against full equality for gays and lesbians, speaking out in 2007 against equality in adoption rights. Consider these words:
For a child to be taken away from its biological father and mother, from whom it is created, can often be traumatic enough. For lawmakers and society at large to then hoodwink the same child into believing that two men or two women can provide the necessary maternal and paternal love and care needed for it to mature into a balanced identity is at best deeply delusional and at worst further destructive to the child’s well-being.
The primary need of an adopted child, and the most suitable environment, is a healthy experience of family where commitment and balanced parenting can be received. This place is the marriage of a man and woman.
Speaking directly about James Parker, People Can Change founder Richard Wyler and their attempts both to change people and to influence legislation designed to hurt LGBT people, Peterson Toscano remarked in 2007:
It is one thing if someone wishes to seek change for himself, although I do not advise it. Time after time most people who have attempted it report that their efforts caused more harm than good. Some men, who have had and enjoyed sex with men and still today have sexual attractions towards other men, have been able to maintain a successful relationship with a woman, at least for a few years. Perhaps it is more accurate to call such a man a bisexual instead of a “changed” homosexual or an ex-gay or a former homosexual or a heterosexual.
Regardless, it is one thing to pursue this change for yourself, it is quite another to attempt to influence legislation as a result of that change. Not to mention that every major medical and psychological organization in the world has stated that change is not possible, at least for the vast majority of people and that, in fact, pursuing such a change can actually cause harm.
Right there at the bottom of the IB Times piece, James Parker is listed as a representative of Journey Into Manhood and People Can Change, which means that he hasn’t changed or evolved, but that he’s committed to making money off of selling people the snake-oil lie that if they just rub up against men in a woodsy dude way, that they, too, can enter a sham marriage based on the idea that they weren’t “real men” before.
This brings us for a moment to some of the insane comments in Parker’s piece, about how he used to be scared of sports, but now he loves them. Saving Private Ryan is his favorite movie because bros, dude, bros. He is so straight now, and never could have enjoyed that movie before. If he had stayed gay, he says, he probably would have come out as transgender (which makes no sense, unless he’s actually transgender), but now he is a Real Man. Indeed, asked in 2007 if his wife was at all uncomfortable with his gay past, he replied:
Not at all. She knows I’m a real man.
But is he still into guys? 2007 James:
Do I – well, let’s put it this way: I can put my hand on my heart and say, “He’s an attractive man.” But I’ve no desire to have sex with him. And that’s the big difference.
2014 James (from above):
Am I now exclusively heterosexual, some people ask? Most of the time, yes. But for most people there are periods where sexuality can be quite fluid.
In short, yes he is into guys, but he’s actively repressing it, and he self-reports that he is a bro and into women now. Perhaps he’s bisexual. Perhaps he’s lying to himself and others. But he’s not “straight,” and all his yammering about how he got into sports and became a Real Man would be quite surprising to men like Jason Collins, Michael Sam and the rest of the fast-growing contingent of out of the closet college and professional athletes who understand that their sexuality has nothing to do with their manhood. Parker’s sob story might have made more sense ten or twenty years ago, but as society has changed and more and more people are coming out, we’re seeing that there’s much more of a spectrum when it comes to the gay community. Back in the day, perhaps, more effeminate gay men — those who couldn’t “pass” — blazed the trail of coming out, whereas those whom society read as straight may have taken longer to walk that path into authenticity. In short, aside from the fact that Parker’s story for IB Times is bullshit, it’s also incredibly dated.
If we are to believe that Newsweek will be responsible for ethical journalism on this and other subjects, the fact that we’re reading a piece like this in the IB Times leaves us incredulous. In 1998, under different ownership, Newsweekpublished their now infamous “Gay For Life?” cover story, featuring the tale of John and Anne Paulk, once the most prominent “success story” of the “ex-gay” movement. After a period of many years, John Paulk has now come out of the closet and is working to atone for the damage he caused by spending so much time as the figurehead of a movement based on deception and lies. Paulk is not alone either, as longtime followers of the movement know that, when it comes to the “ex-gay” world, the only people who tend to be “on the wagon,” at least in public, are those who are currently on the payroll of an “ex-gay” organization. As we have seen, James Parker fits that bill, despite his attempts to appear as some regular old joe writing an article about how he was gay until somebody was nice enough to teach him how to throw a ball. He is, again, a company man. When Alan Chambers, former head of Exodus International, was still a company man, he was selling this same lie. When he started to distance himself from the movement, he acknowledged that, in his long career, 99.9% of the people he worked with experienced no change in their sexual orientations. Perhaps someday James Parker will be telling this truth, but for now, he’s still slinging the snake oil.
When Newsweek was still owned by Tina Brown and The Daily Beast, Truth Wins Out asked them to issue a retraction to their 1998 story, telling a fuller, more complete story about the “ex-gay” industry, now that the entire foundation of their reporting had fallen away. Those calls went unanswered. At the time, we were clear that Brown wasn’t to blame for the fiasco, but that she had an opportunity to act in the service of journalistic integrity by correcting the record. Johnathan Davis and the team at IB Media have that same opportunity, but we’re finding it hard to believe that they will take that opportunity, at least while they’re still acting as if the “ex-gay” issue is a story with two equally compelling sides to tell. The fact that Newsweek hasn’t apologized for their 1998 story is unethical, but the fact that IB Times is publishing this now is unconscionable.
And the question should be asked: why is homosexuality the only issue where faith healing is considered a valid “side” of the story to tell? All major medical and mental health organizations have long agreed that homosexuality is absolutely normal, and not a disease to be “cured.” Moreover, those same organizations condemn “ex-gay” therapy as harmful and discredited. The science on the subject is showing more and more each day that sexuality is biological in origin, and a completely normal variant among humans. If Newsweek or any other publication covered actual diseases this way, for instance giving equal time to the snake-handling faith-healer position on cancer research, they would be rightly mocked and condemned for being such lazy, stupid journalists. But yet somehow, there is still a small contingent of people who have dug their heels into the ground, proud of their willful ignorance on this issue, blinded by their bigotry against the LGBT community, and still want to sell us on the idea that this is a complex, many-sided issue with valid opposing viewpoints. It’s not. I don’t care how sad the state of modern journalism is, it’s not.
There exists a group of people who make money off telling people they’re not gay anymore, up until the point where they can’t take it and come back out of the closet, leaving destroyed lives in their wakes, but that really has nothing to do with telling the story of the science of human sexuality. Tell us about the fascinating new studies that are completing our understanding of where sexuality comes from. Tell us about the “ex-gay” industry and the harm it has done and, though it’s weakened, continues to do. But don’t give what amounts to free advertising space to faith healers who have nothing but broken promises to add to the conversation.
If this is what Newsweek’s new owners consider journalism, perhaps it’s best for educated readers to confront the type of reporting they’re doing, acknowledge that it’s far below the standards of ethical journalism, and move on until Newsweek, like the “ex-gay” advocacy of John Paulk, John Smid, and so many others who have left the movement and begun to live authentically, is relegated to a mere footnote in history. Johnathan Davis and his partners have an opportunity to pick a different path, but so far, we’re skeptical. The ball is in their court.