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"Lies With A Straight Face" Brings Clarity To The Ex-Gay Movements Twists, Turns, and Destruction
This book belongs on every queer person's bookshelf.
I am posting a book review of Wayne Besen's important new book, Lies With a Straight Face. After our tumultuous past, it's a miracle I can even come to a place of agreement with him on anything ex-gay.
I have known Wayne for about 25 years. I never hated him, even liked him when our paths crossed in the wild. However, we were NOT on the same side on anything back in my Exodus days. Since coming out, I have gotten to know him more and respect his insights and opinions.
So, I read his latest book by listening to it on Audible (I also have a printed copy). Now to the review.
Besen Brought the Receipts!
Part of the book's description:
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.
Yes, I am mentioned in the book a few times. I am the "embodiment" of the "titanic failure" of the collapse of Exodus. When I first read that, I was slightly offended. A half a second later, I concluded he was probably right and am choosing to see that descriptor as a compliment. :)
Now to the points of the book matter:
Wayne does an impeccable job of lining up the evolution of the ex-gay movement/industry with turning point events that changed its trajectory. I know the history and the ex-gay movement's development well (I lived it for decades and was involved on some level with many turning points). Still, I had yet to ever read about it clearly and concisely from an outsider's (not behind the scenes) perspective. His research is thorough and well-documented, from the beginning of Exodus and the ex-gay movement, its history of almost four decades, its closing down, and how the movement is still going.
There are many points in the book where the reader might say, "How did this abuse and the movement it produced last so long?" Wayne explains why with excellent insights and facts to back up those insights; it is very impressive. Along these lines, I am so glad he echoed what I have been saying for years: the toxic ideology that drove/drives the ex-gay industry has its roots in the conservative evangelical church pulpits and culture wars. Exodus didn't produce the underlying theology that brought about all this destruction. Exodus was a product of that stigmatizing theology and was used as a cultural battering ram whether we were aware of it (we were at times) or not (sometimes we didn't realize it).
This same base of religious teachings and beliefs is what mainstreamed "ex-gays" into the cultural lexicon. It empowers manifestation after manifestation of new leaders and efforts when the old ones come out of the closet after realizing it was all a lie.
Humanizing Participants While Holding Past & Present Leaders Accountable
I also like that Wayne displayed a good amount of situational empathy with a few of us. I didn't expect that and am grateful he tried to see us through that lens, especially when he wrote about Alan Chambers and how he had always liked him.
A few times, Wayne's incredible humor cuts like a knife. Pulling no punches is one of Wayne's specialties. I cringed a little bit a few times but wouldn't change anything. One of his talents is Wayne's ability to communicate with the reader in ways that capture attention and help the learning points stick with the reader long after they finish the book.
Wayne's book is epic in scope and unparalleled in documenting the ex-gay phenomenon, its hypocrisy, and its destructive legacy. Lies With A Straight Face should be on every single bookshelf belonging to LGBTQ+ advocates, professional counselors, affirming clergy, allies, and anyone negatively impacted by or hurt by religious stigma and the ex-gay "industry."
Also, I believe this book should be given to anyone considering going to these dangerous ex-gay groups to dissuade them from going.
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