Richard Cohen is one of the most public purveyors of reparative ex-gay therapy, promoting and lecturing about the scientifically-unsound belief that gays and lesbians can change their sexual orientation. The American Counseling Association permanently expelled Cohen in 2002, but his bizarre reparative techniques have attracted mainstream media attention from outlets like CNN and MSNBC.
On Friday, Cohen’s counseling organization, the International Healing Foundation (IHF), announced that it was offering a “sincere, heartfelt apology to everyone in the LGBTQ community,” and shifting its focus from “Change Is Possible” to “Coming Out Loved”:
Beginning today, IHF’s doors are wide open to everyone in the LGBTQ and straight communities. The new mission, “Coming Out Loved,” is the catalyst of true tolerance, real diversity, and equality for all. IHF staff will assist anyone who is conflicted about their sexuality and other challenging issues that arise for many in the gay community. […]
Cohen asserts everyone should be loved and accepted for who they are. “By opening our doors to everyone in the LGBTQ and straight communities, we are expanding upon our mission and broadening the scope of our services,” he says.
Unfortunately, nothing at IHF seems to have actually changed. In fact, despite the sugar-coated rebranding, the organization is still promoting services geared toward people with “unwanted same-sex attractions,” citing NARTH guidelines and Cohen’s absurd mythology about the “causes” of same-sex attraction. NARTH is the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, a disavowed organization of mostly religious leaders that promotes the idea sexual orientation can be changed, in defiance of all reputable research.
If IHF is still promoting these harmful ideas to clients, then the organization is perhaps more dangerous than ever with its new duplicitous branding. The fact that Cohen’s apology did not specifically address the harm done by reparative therapy is telling. Ex-gay survivor Peterson Toscano has been recently wrestling with the “apology” of another ex-gay leader, John Smid. He suggests that if these individuals wish to recant the harm they’ve done to the gay community and make amends, “they need to speak to their own people and leave queer folks alone.”