“Pray the Gay Away?” Shame on You, Oprah.

Last Tuesday, the newly-created Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) broadcast a segment of their “news” program Our America entitled “Pray the Gay Away?”  It purported to ask, and by implication perhaps answer, the question, “Can a person be Gay and Christian?”  I can describe this program in two simple words:  EPIC FAIL.

Where to begin. I don’t know anything about Lisa Ling’s alleged journalistic credentials, but obviously objective reportage is either something that she never learned or simply was not the purpose of the show. The simple facts:

1) Forty minutes of the hour were spent on Alan Chambers, Exodus, Janet Boyne and her so-called “success story” Christian, who was still as gay as the month of May even though she got him to stop doing drag. As for Chambers’s “marriage,” it is best not spoken of. And Michael Bussee’s segment was much too short; if you blinked, you would have missed him completely.  Michael Bussee, for those who may not know the name, was one of the original co-founders of Exodus; after trying to live as a heterosexual man and even marrying and fathering a child, in the end he fell in love with one of his male Exodus co-workers, Gary Cooper,  and they ended up leaving Exodus, celebrating a commitment ceremony in 1979, and were together until Cooper’s death from AIDS in 1993.  Their story can be found in the excellent documentary ONE NATION UNDER GOD (1993), directed by Teodoro Maniaci and Francine Rzeznik.

2) Twenty minutes were devoted to the Naming Project, a summer camp for kids who want to live as Christian and Gay.  We did not get to know the kids very well because of the rush job on this segment; basically all we learned was that it was a summer camp for kids who are Christian and Gay.

3) Lisa Ling repeatedly and offensively used the word “lifestyle;” on the live follow-up segment with Gayle King she attempted, unsuccessfully, to weasel out of it by claiming that she only used the word because Chambers did.

4) The follow-up show was not much better; if Oprah insists upon giving her BFF Gayle King her own talk show she could at least teach her how to host one. Plus, Janet Boyne appeared YET AGAIN on the follow-up show, as if we had not had enough of this obnoxious woman.  I tried several times to call in but could not get through; I wanted to tell Boyne directly, “Lady, you’re a DYKE!  DEAL!!!”

5) No probing questions were asked of anyone in the “ex-gay” movement; the whole thing was so low-key that, whatever their intention may have been, they succeeded only in making the “ex-gay” movement look like a viable alternative.  While she danced around the question, Ling never actually came out and asked about their (nonexistent) “success rate.”  Only on the follow-up show did they have a doctor who stated flatly that “reparative therapy” is nothing but, to quote her directly, “quackery.”

Shame on Lisa Ling for lousy reporting. Shame on Gayle King for not being able to handle a call-in show.  King promised a caller on hold before the final commercial break that they would get to her, and never did.  And shame on Oprah Winfrey for showing such pap on her own network.  There was a time when Oprah used to ask the hard questions.  Not any more.  Or maybe she actually believes what this show suggests.

All I can say is this:  If it were possible to “pray the Gay away,” there would not be a single gay person in the world today.  OWN took a ridiculous premise and not only did nothing to expose the truth, they actually helped promote “reparative therapy,” and I find that reprehensible.


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