National Public Radio has yet to apologize for the platform it provided Rich Wyler on Monday to spout as many lies about sexual orientation as he could fit into the segment. NPR featured Wyler for being ex-gay and allowed him to testify about all the promise he believes reparative therapy offers to people not happy with their same-sex attractions, despite the fact that there is scientific consensus that ex-gay therapy is harmful and ineffective. But NPR made another big journalistic mistake besides its inappropriate framing of ex-gay therapy — the story neglected to mention that Wyler makes his entire living off of providing ex-gay therapy to vulnerable and insecure men he convinces to try to change.
Wyler’s ex-gay organization, People Can Change, utilizes the stigmatic notion that people should change to drag men through an emotionally traumatic weekend called Journey Into Manhood (JiM). And it’s all for the low, low price of $650 (plus travel)! According to its tax forms, the organization takes in over $200,000 a year, most of which goes to the costs of providing these “coaching” weekends, although about $50,000 goes directly into Wyler’s pocket as his salary.
And what happens at these weekends? Writer Ted Cox infiltrated JiM to find out. The therapy is built on the premise that men have same-sex attractions as a weakness of their manhood. Wyler uses a lot of emotional trauma to shake these men to their core, accompanied by borderline homoerotic “healing touch” to somehow help them connect with their inner masculinity. Cox explains one of the opening exercises, a re-enactment of Jack and the Beanstalk:
The story, a narrator explains, is loaded with coming-of-age symbolism. Fatherless Jack has lived in the safe, feminine world under his mother’s care; the old man in the village represents ancient tribal elders who help boys transition into manhood; the seeds given to Jack represent both his sperm and the masculine potential for creation. Like most women, Jack’s mother doesn’t understand the importance of the seeds, so she chucks them out the window. The reenactment ends with Jack sent to bed without supper. After all, he screwed up his masculine duty to provide food for his family.
Much like Jack’s adventure, Journey into Manhood is the initiation into the mysterious world of heterosexual masculinity that has supposedly eluded us for so long. But as I look at the men filling in seats around the lodge room, especially the men who appear to be in their late 50s, I wonder: Have they never felt like men?
This is the work of Rich Wyler. These are the bogus ideas NPR decided to highlight under the guise that they were merely “controversial.” And by promoting these ideas, Wyler will no doubt scam more men into his expensive, torturous weekends, where their egos will be beaten into submission as their attractions are, if anything, reinforced through inappropriate touching. There is no controversy around providing therapy to people who are gay. There are professionals who improve gays’ well-being through affirmation and then there are con-men eager to make them feel worse by reinforcing stigma.
Ted Cox has written a response of his own to the NPR segment, with more reflections from Journey into Manhood.