“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
The book release date is October 11, National Coming Out Day. All royalties from book sales benefit Truth Wins Out. So, each purchase is a donation to help Truth Wins Out fight the “ex-gay” industry.
The Definitive Story of the ‘Ex-Gay’ Industry’s Implosion
Lies with a Straight Face tells the fascinating story of the precipitous rise and fall of the “ex-gay” conversion industry in a manner that is both enlightening and entertaining. This fast-moving, fact-based book is perfect or those who enjoy the marriage of politics, history and current events.
The book features the riveting story of the 1998 Truth in Love ad campaign, where the Religious Right’s most prominent organizations joined forces to prove that LGBTQ people could be converted to heterosexuality through prayer and therapy. Their provocative national ad campaign created saturation media coverage, turned “ex-gay” into a household term and sparked innumerable water cooler conversations.
In this book, you’ll find out the shocking results of the Truth in Love campaign and learn about what happened to their outspoken “ex-gay” poster boys and girls. Lies with a Straight Face also discusses the contemporary con artists in the “ex-gay” industry and offers tangible ways for today’s leaders to fight back.
Lies with a Straight Face is a sequel published on the twenty-year anniversary of Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth. Nominated for two Lambda Literary Awards, Besen’s original book documents the history of conversion “cure” programs from the early 20th Century to 2002. His new book discusses what happened from 2003 up to the present day.Read More »
A Euro Coalition Forms Similar to the Reagan GOP
It wasn’t long ago that fascists across the globe worshipped Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. They were enthralled by his “strongman” image, police state tactics and disdain for democracy. Unfortunately for Putin, he divided his international fan club when he embraced Russian imperialism with his disastrous invasion of Ukraine.
His all-powerful reputation also took a hit after his reign was briefly challenged by Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin. Standing by Putin now seems a riskier bet, particularly after Biden masterfully unified NATO. Even if Putin eventually conquers Ukraine, his military power has been depleted and the Russian army has revealed itself corrupt, incompetent and overrated. Even African leaders who have long kowtowed to Putin are having second thoughts on relations with Moscow.
Russia’s reputational decline has created a competition between two competing authoritarian European models. The first is the pro-Russia Hungarian faction led by Viktor Orbán. The second is the Polish model, which is staunchly anti-Russia. New Eastern Europe reports:
Hungary and Poland, two European Union member states that are often mentioned jointly when talking about illiberalism and democratic erosion, and known as fierce allies within the EU, have increasingly mimicked each other’s undemocratic turns and backed each other up in their disputes with the EU over the years.
However, despite the two EU members’ mutual support in the past, their relationship took a hit last year due to their differing stances on Russia, Ukraine and the Russian war in Ukraine. Hungarian Prime Minister Orbán’s continuous opportunism and Russia-friendly stance estranged the former allies. His reluctance to back down from his Putin-friendly position now has the potential to break the Polish-Hungarian axis in the EU for good.
It seems that the Polish model of illiberalism is winning the day. The latest evidence is Turkey’s authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pivoting away from Russia and consenting to Sweden joining NATO. Italy’s right-wing government has also surprised many observers by supporting Ukraine.
President Joe Biden will meet with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni today to solidify ties over a shared interest in defeating Russia. While I passionately support this partnership for the narrow purpose of assisting Ukraine, we can take no comfort in the normalization of fascist leaders, such as Meloni, in Europe.
The ascendant Polish model of authoritarianism looks very much like Ronald Reagan’s right-wing coalition of the 1980’s. It’s a scary alliance of fundamentalist religious cranks, virulent homophobes, misogynists urging European women to procreate, actual Nazis fueled by white supremacy who are fervently anti-immigration, and greedy corporate interests opposed to mitigating climate change. (While Reagan himself wasn’t an autocrat, he achieved power by assembling a coalition of crazies that set the stage for today’s anti-democratic GOP)
Like the Reagan era, the glue that binds the European “axis of autocrats” is a shared interest in containing Russia’s ambitions. If right wing extremists continue taking power in Europe, I predict a precipitous military buildup. While it’s in America’s interest for NATO members to increase their war-fighting budgets, taken to the extreme, we could eventually see competing European centers of military power.
One does not have to be an Ivy League historian to see that this doesn’t end well. Cynics might say, “the Europeans love their social programs and would never upend them to increase military spending.” But fascism, by definition, relies on the projection of military strength and targeting scapegoats. We all know where this road leads.
While some NATO countries are aiding Ukraine to uphold democracy, other nations are only against Russia because of their geographic misfortune of sharing a border with the fearsome Polar Bear. After the Ukraine war ends, papered-over tensions between the liberal and illiberal factions will likely intensify.
Another reason that the Polish model is triumphing is because of white supremacy. If you’re going to have a coalition that includes Nazi-sympathizers, it’s a prerequisite to include the blond hair, blue eyed Aryan/Scandinavian nations, who coincidentally are the ones most threatened by Russian revanchism. The once-unthinkable rise of fascist parties in Sweden and Finland drive home the danger the civilized world now faces.
While the far right in Europe is still divided on support for Ukraine, those differences will fade, as opposition to Russia becomes a unifying force. It will be similar to how social conservatives, libertarians and war hawks joined forces in the U.S. during the Soviet era.
Italy is a perfect example of this disturbing new paradigm. In The New York Times, David Broder wrote a chilling op-ed , “What’s Happening in Italy Is Scary, and It’s Spreading,” outlining how Meloni’s unexpected support for Ukraine has obfuscated her fascist-leaning agenda on the boot:
The comforting tale of a populist firebrand turned pragmatist overlooks something important: what’s been happening in Italy. Ms. Meloni’s administration has spent its first months accusing minorities of undermining the triad of God, nation and family, with dire practical consequences for migrants, nongovernmental organizations and same-sex parents. Efforts to weaken anti-torture legislation, stack the public broadcaster with loyalists and rewrite Italy’s postwar constitution to increase executive power are similarly troubling. Ms. Meloni’s government isn’t just nativist but has a harsh authoritarian streak, too.
Meanwhile, in Germany, the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) is gaining momentum, forcing mainstream conservatives to contemplate welcoming these fascists into their coalition. The New York Times reported on this troubling dilemma:
The ascent of the AfD, a party widely viewed as a threat to Germany’s democratic fabric, has posed a crisis for the country’s entire political establishment, but an especially acute one for the Christian Democrats, who are struggling openly with how to deal with the challenge.
Should they pivot further right themselves and risk their centrist identity? Should they continue to try to isolate the AfD? Or, as that becomes increasingly difficult, should they break longstanding norms and work with the AfD instead?
I think the answer to whether Germany’s mainstream conservative parties should entertain fascism is obvious. The last time this occurred the nation was destroyed and left in ruins. Tragically, it seems when charismatic populist autocrats work their black magic, too many gullible people suffer from collective amnesia and retreat into comforting cocoons of hate.
Hopefully, enough voters will wise up and have fascism flashbacks, electing to keep the deranged demagogues out of power. In Spain, predictions that the far-right Vox party would become a kingmaker were defied, as Vox lost seats in Spain’s July elections. Had they succeeded, it would have become the first fascist-leaning government since dictator General Francisco Franco.
While we must put aside widening rifts to help Ukraine prevail, the end of the war will mark the beginning of our next fight for freedom. Once the insidious Putin model is defeated, the hideous Polish model must be dealt with.Read More »
Conservatives have a Scary, Well-Funded Vision Being Enacted in Real Time
A compromised Supreme Court, led by corrupt conservative activist judges who think billionaire “friends” offer free vacations because of their riveting personalities, handed down a series of highly controversial decisions. In what looks more like a project than a docket, right wing court members bucked public opinion to remake our nation in their narrow, distorted image.
Analyzing the individual decisions is barely useful because it doesn’t tell the real story. One must look at the big picture to understand that the Supreme Court is but one cog in an overarching, well-funded project, conducted by apparatchiks and ideologues, who are working for a political movement instead of America.
In this Orwellian new world, people of fundamentalist faith are at the top of the totem pole. We must all bow down and give them special privileges, because they allegedly have deep consciences worthy of unique protection, while everyone else’s beliefs are deemed shallow, unprotected preferences.
To carry out this unpopular agenda, the conservative movement had to invent thinly veiled rationales. For example, they peddle “originalism”, basing opinions on guessing what the nation’s founders intended when they wrote the Constitution. This is a convenient way of jurisprudence if one is looking to base opinions on a time when women, racial minorities and LGBTQ people were second class citizens or slaves.
So, what does the big picture tell us?
- The right wing is creating an America where we must live by the rules set by their preferred fundamentalist churches, even as the nation is becoming less religious and church attendance is plummeting.
- They view women as baby making incubators who have no right to bodily autonomy or reproductive freedom.
- They believe there is no right to privacy or equal protection. Many laws that shield LGBTQ people are invalid because they derived from liberal courts who invented these rights from whole cloth due to political correctness.
- The rich and privileged don’t have to play by the same rules. A Supreme Court member can have a billionaire sugar daddy posing as a “friend”, while the average Joe is mooching if they receive student loan forgiveness. It’s why they deem affirmative action wrong at colleges based on race but have no issue providing special consideration for wealthy legacies.
- They embrace the interests of white nationalists while simultaneously insisting that the United States has moved past racism – whether for affirmative action or voting rights. This delusional fantasy world blithely ignores American history and sweeps our nation’s current racial divisions, exacerbated by Republicans, under the carpet.
- Their true agenda can be elucidated by the actions taken by the Republican base. For example, the Southern Baptist Convention just cracked down on women pastors, showing utter contempt for our mothers and sisters. According to Christianity Today:
The SBC moved to change its foundational documents to reiterate its stance: amending its constitution to explicitly state that cooperating churches must restrict “any kind” of pastor to qualified men and rewording its faith statement to say that “pastors/overseers/elders” are male.
The Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade was meant to appease these SBC Neanderthals who believe that men are superior to women. In their view, God placed men on earth to lead, and women are to follow. The fact that this movement is willing to elevate (for now) Amy Coney Barrett, a certified handmaid, to do its bidding shows its cynicism, not a commitment to equality.
In 303 Creative L.L.C. v. Elenis, a case where a web designer did not want to provide services for same-sex weddings, the Supreme Court ruled on the question: “whether applying a public-accommodation law to compel an artist to speak or stay silent violates the free speech clause of the First Amendment.”
If this case were decided in a vacuum, it would be more palatable. But the real goal of the right wing can be seen in Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis helped enact a new that law that lets medical providers deny service to patients based on their religious beliefs. Metro Weekly reports:
Under the law, which goes into effect on July 1, any medical provider, including doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers, pharmacists, mental health professionals, or lab technicians, as well as nursing home workers and hospital administrators, may refuse to provide care to patients if doing so would violate their conscience. Insurance companies also enjoy the right to deny care based on any moral, ethical, or religious objections.
Here is the part where you’re expecting me to give you the silver lining. Sorry, but I can’t deceive you. We have been outflanked and outspent by the conservative movement. Led by the sinister Alliance Defending Freedom and the Federalist Society, the right wing has injected billions of dollars into their successful bid to hijack an America increasingly at odds with their medieval agenda.
They have also created a wealthy media machine that supports think tanks, television stations, talk radio, books and magazines and Internet opinion leaders. Americans are hearing and seeing their messages at a spectacular rate that far exceeds the dissemination of other ideas. The results speak for themselves.
Meanwhile, the progressive and LGBTQ movement are by comparison destructively penny-pinching and lack vision and commitment. Unless our side gets serious and infuses our causes and political organizations with billions of dollars, the bad guys could win.
Indeed, today they did.
Conservatives changed the rules to allow dark money and then flooded their coffers with tsunamis of cash. Meanwhile, we hopelessly grope in the dark pretending that we can play by the old rules where money didn’t matter as much. Keep telling yourself that tale as the billionaire sugar daddies of Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito host them on fancy vacations.
It’s worth noting that both men looked well rested when they returned to the bench from these luxury trips, just in time to turn back the clock several decades and erase America’s progress.Read More »
Catch my interview on WBAI’s Living For The City with Michael G. Haskins.We discuss how Pride Month has been particularly dangerous this year. According to news sources, there’s been a record number of anti-LGBTQ bills introduced across state legislatures.