“Wayne writes with the passion and skill of a novelist as he tells this story of so-called ‘ex-gay’ therapy. Lies with a Straight Face is a beautifully written, well-researched and up-to-the moment science-based volume.”
–Frank Schaeffer, Author, Crazy for God
About the Book: The Definitive Story of the ‘Ex-Gay’ Industry’s Implosion
In 1998, the Religious Right’s most prominent organizations joined together. They set out to prove that LGBTQ people could be converted to heterosexuality through prayer and therapy. The centerpiece of this aggressive, unprecedented effort was the Truth in Love campaign. So-called “ex-gays”, who had allegedly “changed” sexual orientation or gender identity, were featured in slick newspaper advertisements and in television commercials.
Truth in Love was a national media sensation. The riveting campaign graced the cover of magazines, such as Newsweek, and led to countless newspaper features and TV interviews. The provocative ads turned “ex-gay” into a household term and sparked innumerable water cooler conversations. By the time the campaign ended, virtually every American had heard the message that it was possible to “pray away the gay.”
Unfortunately, for the Religious Right the Truth in Love campaign curdled into, perhaps, the most spectacular public relations disaster of the century. One-by-one, their leading “ex-gay” spokespeople were ensnared in tawdry gay sex scandals or came out of the closet to denounce conversion programs. The organizations they touted, led by “former homosexuals”, shut down after admitting that no one had transformed. Rarely in American history has a PR effort crashed and burned in such a spectacular, humiliating fashion. The right-wing organizations behind the campaign squandered their credibility and lost face.
For several years after the collapse of Truth in Love, “ex-gay” programs receded, and social conservatives shied away from their “ex-gay” conversion message. With the passage of time, however, these nefarious groups are beginning to cynically rebrand and reboot. They are presenting the disastrous “ex-gay” industry as new and innovative, instead of the same old snake oil dressed in a different package.
I wrote Lies with a Straight Face: Exposing the Cranks and Cons Inside the Ex-Gay Industry, to ensure that future generations know the truth. Once upon a time, The Religious Right campaigned vigorously in support of the “ex-gay” industry. They instead proved the opposite of what they had intended. Efforts to “change” a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity are ineffective and harmful. Real people are hurt, families torn apart, and lives destroyed.
Tragically, we live in an age of great historical revisionism. Books are censored, curriculums carefully crafted to omit inconvenient truths and facts are routinely confused with fiction. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis even recast slavery, in the state’s middle school history classes, as a jobs program that provided slaves with skills. Ryan Walters, Oklahoma’s far-right superintendent of public instruction, believes that schools should teach students about the 1921 Tulsa race massacre without acknowledging that race was the impetus for the murderous rampage against black people.
When cunning politicians are audacious and pernicious enough to spin slavery and race massacres, nothing of historical import is safe or off the table. Efforts to erase the past or render minorities invisible are rapidly accelerating. PEN America reports that 1,477 instances of book bans were tracked during the first half of the 2022-2023 school year and affected 874 unique titles. They found, “Book bans continue to target books featuring LGBTQ+ themes or LGBTQ+ characters, characters of color, and books on race and racism.”
Lies with a Straight Face is a vital follow-up to my book published in 2003, Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth. Nominated for two Lambda Literary Awards, my original book documents the history of conversion “cure” programs from the early 20th Century to 2002. My new book discusses what happened from 2003, up to the present day. Lies with a Straight Face tells the fascinating story of the precipitous rise and fall of the “ex-gay” industry in a manner that is both enlightening and entertaining.
The Religious Right is praying that people have amnesia and forget the implosion of the “ex-gay” industry, so they can stealthily reintroduce these toxic programs. When they do, my new book will exist to vividly set the record straight, in the service of keeping painful past events from repeating. It is imperative that we own the truth, disseminate facts and refuse to let prevaricators rewrite history in the service of wicked intent.
** On October 16, Lies with a Straight Face will have a book release dinner event hosted by Bona Italian Restaurant in Wilton Manors. If you live in South Florida, please consider attending the affair—I’d love to meet you and talk to you about my exciting, new book.