Conversion therapy outfits like Journey to Manhood, the ex-gay getaway retreat created by Richard Wyler and David Matheson, usually frown on reporters trying to infiltrate their secret dens of mischief. But Wyler and Matheson (pictured below) made an exception for Nightline, letting cameras roll as self-hating homosexuals engage in a $650 course of changing their sexuality. Well, letting cameras roll at a reunion — a made-for-TV regrouping of former clients. UPDATE: It appears ABC has yanked the segment offline.
It generally takes either disgruntled clients or undercover reporters to know what gay men — who are steered to these harmful programs by groups like Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality (JONAH) — actually are subjected to at these events. But Journey Into Manhood, an event put together by the group People Can Change, welcomed the coverage of the ABC News program. And why not? The network basically posed the question about whether ex-gay programs can work as a real possibility.
The segment left activist Wayne Besen wanting more: “JIM does not work for the vast majority of people who go through it. Yet, ABC made the critical mistake of focusing on the hand-picked alleged success stories, while largely ignoring the vast majority of attendees — which were victims who were ripped off by this scheme. Why would a network elect to create what essentially was an infomercial for JIM, while skimming over the harm perpetrated on the majority? Shouldn’t this story be told in the form of an expose from the perspective of the victims?” Besen says what ABC’s cameras filmed was a “Potemkin Village,” not the destructive “therapy” gay men actually face.
The segment does include (very brief) responses from ex-ex-gays Chaim Levin and Ben Unger, who call bullshit on the therapy.
And it also includes some pretty bold admissions from supposed ex-gays themselves, including Preston who says by age 12 he began feeling same-sex attractions, and “it wasn’t a struggle prior to that until I learned from other people and was shamed into thinking it was a problem.” That is: Preston had no problem being gay until bigots made him feel “disgusting” about it. Now Preston, who says he is “sometimes” attracted to men now, is married. And his wife Megan says the pair cruise guys together.
Well if that isn’t a resounding endorsement of Journey Into Manhood, I don’t know what is.