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Wayne Bessen

PFOX’s Richard “Quack” Cohen lies in the Washington Blade

PFOX billboard promoting their sexual re-orientation programs.


Richard Cohen, president of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays, blatantly lied in a recent issue of the Washington Blade by denying the political and mean-spirited mission of his organization. While there are simply too many mistruths to counter, I would like to set the record straight on a few key points:

Myth: Cohen said, “PFOX is not in the changing business.”

Fact: Cohen’s farcical statement is betrayed by their expensive advertising campaign that focuses exclusively on “change.” Take a look at the PFOX billboard with the huge headline “Ex-Gays Prove that Change Is Possible” and judge for yourself.

Myth: Cohen said, “As a professional psychotherapist, I have helped hundreds change from gay to straight.”

Fact: Cohen conveniently fails to mention that he was permanently expelled from the American Counseling Association in 2002. Manager of Ethics & Professional Standards Larry Freeman, told the Blade, “If a person is sanctioned by the ACA code of ethics, it indicates that there’s been a practice of malpractice.”

It is interesting that if one reads his book, not one of the people featured has actually gone from gay to straight. Cohen steadfastly refuses to keep real statistics so the public can have a true idea of his failure rate.

Finally, Cohen failed to inform Blade readers that he once belonged to the Wesleyan Christian Community Church, a cult that was infamous for practicing nude therapy. Today, Cohen practices the very controversial method of “touch therapy” that has led to many abuses across the nation.

Myth: Cohen says, “I lived a gay life for many years. Today, I am happily married with three kids.”

Fact: Based on his own life story, Cohen’s testimony of change is highly suspect. For more than two years, Cohen left his wife and cruised New York City looking for men.

“It was a very bizarre time. I was out running around New York City with my boyfriend and she was at home alone taking care of our son, knowing her husband was out with a man,” Cohen wrote in his book, “Coming Out Straight.”

Cohen readily admits that he once lied to the public and even his own family. So why should we believe him today?

Myth: Cohen said, “We are in the loving business.”

Fact: If one looks at the history of PFOX, it is very difficult to find even a hint of love. Roy Cohn’s former houseboy, Anthony Falzarano, who once called Matthew Shepard “a predator to heterosexual men,” founded the group in the late 1990s. Falzarano also once told CBS that “satan uses homosexuals as pawns and then he kills them.” With this type of rhetoric it is no surprise that the right-wing Family Research Council helped launch the group with an $80,000 grant.

Richard Cohen, Falzarano’s replacement, also comes up a little short in the love department. While he claimed in the Blade that ex-gay therapy is a “civil right,” Cohen has regularly lobbied legislators in Annapolis to ensure that people in Maryland can be fired from their jobs just because they are gay or lesbian.

Dr. Laura Schlessinger, the controversial talk radio host who once referred to gay people as “biological errors,” wrote the forward for Cohen’s book. Cohen also says that gay people can’t be happy and believes that they are mentally ill, coining a phony diagnosis with a derisive acronym, Same-Sex Attachment Disorder (SSAD).

Finally, Cohen admits that he was once fired from the Red Cross and “their reason was that I was homophobic and spreading hate.” There are a lot of words to describe Cohen and PFOX’s work, but love is not one of them.

Myth: Cohen said, “We are in the education business.”

Fact: Cohen and PFOX exist to spread outdated myths about gay life. Their work is rejected by every respected medical and mental health organization in America.

Cohen’s favorite media sound bite is “born gay, no way,” although he offers no credible evidence to back up his assertion. Despite the incontrovertible fact that countless gay men are close to their fathers, in an interview I did with Cohen for my book “Anything But Straight,” he said:

“I don’t believe that you or anyone else can have same-sex attractions and have successfully attached to both Mom and Dad. It’s an impossibility and I do not believe it can be true.”

Another educational gem from Cohen is, “The penis and the vagina fit together. Two penises and two vaginas, they don’t work.”

PFOX offers false hope and traffics in broken families. It should do its members a favor by disbanding and sending these misguided people to PFLAG where they can learn the true meaning of love and acceptance.

Richard Cohen has made a career out of degrading the lives of gay and lesbian people. While he and his clientele might not have changed into heterosexuals, we can certainly set the record straight. If Cohen is up to the challenge, I am interested in a public debate on this issue. Of course, he may feel it is in his best interest to continue letting his distortions and falsehoods go uncontested.

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