Steven Fales

Steven Fales
Steven Fales -- Actor/Writer/Producer

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Reparative Therapy and Me -- Introduction

This the introduction to a three-part essay called "Reparative Therapy and Me" that goes into great detail about my extensive experiences in the Ex-Gay Movement including some of the most famous and controversial "Reparative Therapists" of our day including NARTH founder Joseph Nicolosi (Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality), Jeffery Satinover, Bill Consiglio, Dean Byrd and the others I personally did therapy with. My relationship to Carol Lynn Pearson and Emily Pearson is highly featured in this essay as well. Experiences at HOPE, Evergreen International, etc. are also mentioned. To whet your appetite, please watch me on the Tyra Banks Show discussing these various therapies.

"Reparative Therapy and Me"


                That moment of ecstasy (after just your first meeting or phone contact) when your latest cult seems to have all the answers to life’s toughest questions and you protest too much too soon with all the energy of your grateful, eager soul, “Dad, if I had a million dollars I would give it all to NARTH!”  I manically exclaimed this to my physician father over the phone back in 1998. I was a struggling graduate student, a “same-sex attracted overcomer”, reporting back from the wicked, liberal East Coast (Hartford, Connecticut) to my holding-his-Mormon-breath dad back in the faithful, stalwart West (Las Vegas, Nevada). Dr. Fales was thrilled (and relieved) to hear that I was still on track. I was in!

It was as if I had just skeptically gone into a Multi-Level Marketing Introduction at the Javits Center, but left the rally surprisingly and completely won over to the latest snake oil—cheerfully dropping off the first of many enthusiastic (metaphorical and actual) $500 checks on the way out the door—and off to catch the Transformation Train to my new, healed, whole and complete, “limitless” underground life! (Wait, didn’t I need that $500 to feed my children? Wait, shouldn’t I get a second opinion?)

Brainwashed at the time, I would settle for a shut-out-the-sunshine “subway”, a second-class existence as I checked my effeminate baggage to belong to my new clandestine, quack esprit de corps. This was unpopular stuff to keep quiet and secret from the outside world. Shhh. “They” wouldn’t understand where this “keep-me-straight” train was going. NARTH was privileged information. This was not the electro-shock therapy of the past! Even Carol Lynn Pearson, the great gay Mormon guru endorsed it! I couldn’t wait to share the good news with someone closest to me with utmost alacrity. “NARTH is the way. I am not gay! Dad, I’m gonna be okay!” I was in. Oh was I in.

                Beware the zeal (and/or future retaliation) of a convert with proselytizing skills and prior experience. I’m such a good devotee. I was willing to do nearly anything to get the money this was going to cost. If I didn’t, I was sure to someday lose my beautiful, talented wife and above average children. This was not going to be happen.  Say what you want about my wife, my kids were the greatest motivation of all. I was straight. If you weren’t in this with me, you were out!

It was the perfect “reparative therapy” storm. (Or “conversion therapy” if you prefer.) My family has a long-history of cult-susceptibility (I’m working on that!), I was desperate to be straight as I was married to a woman (we had two adorable kids when NARTH found me), and I was still not as straight-acting as I wanted and needing to be onstage to consistently play leading men (my internalized homophobia and self-loathing is diminishing fast, too!). The National Association of Research and Therapy of Male Homosexuality (NARTH) under Catholic, conservative guru-author Dr. Joseph Nicolosi (author of Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality) seemed to have the cure that would prevent me from becoming gay. It was seductive Kool Aid served up by Dr. James Dobson’s “Focus on the Family”. As a faithful Mormon I was definitely in.

 At 28 years old I seemed to have time-released, burgeoning, repressed “Same-Sex Attraction” (or if you prefer, “Same-Gender Attraction”). They were only pesky feelings at the time (that wouldn’t go away). After years of prayer, I was still plagued. I was still (fortunately) a homosexual virgin. I had so relatively little romantic or sexual experience with men I made typical straight fraternity brothers seem gay. I had made it through my mission to Portugal without even touching myself let alone touching anyone else. (Well, I did slip and masturbate once or twice toward the end of the second year. I still feel a lot of shame about not being able to speak Portuguese as perfectly as I wanted.) Yet, after five years of monogamous marriage, I conceded I still had to fantasize about a man to ejaculate while making love to my wife. Maybe not always, but I was in—trouble!

With NARTH I would be able to stay married to Emily Pearson (Dancing with Crazy), the daughter of celebrated Mormon poet/playwright Carol Lynn Pearson whose ex-husband was gay and died of AIDS (it’s all there in Carol Lynn’s bestseller Good-bye, I Love You), keep my salvation intact (you can only make it to the top shelf of Latter-day heaven if you are married in the temple—which we were), and please my Doctor Dad, M.D. (he never completed a residency, by the way, so you may want to be cautious of his opinions on this subject especially).  I was training to be a man of the apostate theater (so I could teach acting someday at Brigham Young University), but I was relieved with every fiber of my being that I wouldn’t have to become gay, too. I was an exception and would escape unscathed. I would also arrogantly help lead others out of homosexual bondage! There’s nothing quite so enticing as the possibility of becoming a poster child for something outlandishly controversial. Ask current golden boy Ty Mansfield. I feel his pain. I used to get the strokes he’s been getting from his wife. “As he is I once was, as I am, he may become.” He is only doing that which has been done in other worlds . . . “ (Allusions to Mormon doctrine for those who wish to delve deeper.)

My father would later try to remind me of what I told him on the phone that fateful, na├»ve night from Connecticut. He will never forget what I first said about NARTH even though I have found it to be quack science and the blood-letting of the Twenty-first Century. After all the cults we’ve been through, he still needs to believe his firstborn son can change after all we’ve been through. He’s now a Mormon bishop. He has to believe I can change in order for him to fit into his eternal world view and the hierarchy. There’s a lot of personal glory at stake—for him.  And so this terribly inconvenient essay, like my other memoir work, will get personal.

Exposing “reparative therapy” is one of the reasons I still perform Confessions of a Mormon Boy all around the world. I only give a comic thumb-nail sketch of my reparative therapy experiences onstage, so I’ve decided to write much more in-depth as it gets much darker than a stand-up routine allows. People with hardly any experience (if any) in the Ex-Gay Movement are acting like experts. “I went to Evergreen International a few times, let me tell you everything you need to know, Joe Blow! But first download my average album, first.” I’m amazed at how non-discriminating we are when it comes to choosing out spokespeople. We don’t have to settle.

Show me your wounds, brothers and sisters.” And those who aren’t even gay are talking out of turn. It’s time for me to be thorough and specific. This three-part essay is dedicated to the Texas GOP because I have been known to run in Log Cabin Republican circles, not just with Stonewall Democrats. Let’s take a good, hard look at “Reparative Therapy” from someone who lives right in the middle of both extremes. (I’m an Independent.)

We’re about to deconstruct all things reparative therapy and ex-gay the only way I know how. I’m going to tell you MY "pray-away-the-gay" story in three parts.

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