In a March 18 op-ed in The Washington Blade, aggrieved-parents group PFOX responds publicly to the disclosure (months ago) that its president, Richard Cohen, had been expelled from the American Counseling Association for ethical violations in 2002.

Speaking for PFOX, Cohen responds not by directly addressing his loss of professional credentials, but by questioning unrelated claims by activist Wayne Besen.

Here is Besen’s response, as e-mailed to Ex-Gay Watch:

Richard Cohen, President of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays, blatantly lied in last week’s 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.

In the very op-ed he denies that PFOX is fixated on change, Cohen writes, "Ex-gays prove that change is possible."

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 that, "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 1990’s. 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 political
right wing organization, The 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.

—Wayne Besen

Addendum, Mar. 23: Besen’s e-mail to Ex-Gay Watch is now a column at

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