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6 Ways Religious Frauds Try to Make Gays and Lesbians Straight

Thanks to the unscientific, unregulated underworld of ex-gay therapy, frauds and hacks of all stripes are getting away with any kind of therapy they can think up.

The “ex-gay” movement, which purports to save religious men and women from their unwanted same-sex attractions, will resort to any method to scam its unfortunate adherents.

Earlier this month, Truth Wins Out, an organization run by ex-gay-group watchdog Wayne Besen,* released an exclusive video of two men describing how ex-gay life coach Alan Downing had encouraged them in separate counseling sessions to stand before a mirror, undress and touch themselves.

A significantly older life coach, who also admits to being attracted to men, making 20-something men strip naked in his office? In the unscientific, unregulated underworld of ex-gay therapy, frauds and hacks of all stripes are getting away with any kind of "therapy" they can think up.

Make no mistake: every major, reputable professional psychological and medical association has stated that not only is there no evidence supporting the possibility of changing somebody’s sexual orientation, but that such programs harm those involved; depression and suicide are all-too-common in the ex-gay world.

Below are some of the strangest and most disturbing techniques ex-gay leaders use in their failed attempts to turn their victims -- who are tragically struggling to reconcile their faith with their sexuality -- straight.

1. Rubber-band therapy

Like all human beings, ex-gays face temptation at every turn. Unlike the rest of us, however, ex-gays are sadly forced to fight their natural attractions. One way to do that, as suggested by ex-gay therapy? Snapping a rubber band on your wrist.

Here’s how Exodus International, the largest ex-gay umbrella group, explains it: “Every time you catch yourself watching someone erotically or engaging in fantasy, snap the band. This will cause a moderate stinging pain, which serves as a shocking reminder of what you are doing. This should help you interrupt the spell.”

“Like a smoker trying to quit smoking, my ex-gay therapist told me to snap this rubber band every time I saw a guy that I was attracted to,” Brian Nesbitt says in a Truth Wins Out video. “It was embarrassing, it was humiliating, and it didn’t work.”

2. Healing touch therapy

The central idea behind ex-gay therapies is a twisted, neo-Freudian theory that homosexual desire is caused when a child doesn’t properly identify with a same-sex parent. As the child develops and enters puberty, he or she sexualizes the need for daddy’s or mommy’s affection.

As discredited ex-gay psychologist Joseph Nicolosi infamously tells concerned Christian fathers, “If you don’t hug your sons, some other man will.” So, how do you restore that father-son bond? By having another man hold him, of course.

Healing touch therapy was something I experienced when I went undercover at Journey into Manhood, a 48-hour ex-gay retreat in Arizona:

Three staff members take a seat in the middle of the room. They demonstrate three different “healing touch” techniques.

First: Side-by-side, where two men sit shoulder-to-shoulder, facing the same direction, their legs outstretched in front of them. The man giving the Healing Touch puts one arm around the receiver.

Second: The Cohen Hold, named after “certified sexual re-orientation coach” and Healing Touch pioneer Richard Cohen. For this position, the receiver sits between the legs of the giver, their chests perpendicular, the receiver’s head resting on the giver’s shoulder. The giver encircles his arms around the receiver.

Third: The Motorcycle. The receiver again sits between the legs of the giver; this time, the receiver leans his back up against the chest of the giver. Again, the giver wraps his arms around the receiver.

One retreat attendee told me that in one cabin, the guys threw their mattresses into the middle of the room and held an all night healing touch session.