Man’s disappearance renews debate on ’Ex-Gay’ netherworld

by Joseph Erbentraut
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Monday Aug 10, 2009

The mystery surrounding the location and well-being of Bryce Faulkner, a 23-year-old medical student who appears to have entered into an ex-gay treatment facility, has again thrust the controversial topic of reparative therapy into the public eye.

With any updates arriving heavily filtered through the gatekeepers of Faulkner's family, we are left only to speculate what can be found inside the ex-gay labyrinth.

The last person to have heard from Faulkner was Travis Swanson, a man who claims to be his boyfriend. That was on June 15, before Faulkner's family appears to have intervened in their son's relationship.

His mother Debra told FOX News Bryce is "fine" and that stories to the contrary are "not true." A statement by Bryce, released through a family representative, denied coercion on the part of his family.

Rev. Brett Harris, a pastor who has led a Web-based effort to get in touch with Faulkner, suspects otherwise. He has continued his effort despite receiving nearly 20 death threats from the site's visitors and a lawsuit threat from the Faulkner family.

"It would be simple for [Bryce] to get on a webcam and say 'I don't want to be gay anymore, I went to this camp on my own volition.' If he does that, God bless him and I'll take the site down," Harris told EDGE. "But there is no information coming from Bryce himself. This instantaneous conversion story that Debra is putting out there is baloney. She bullied and brow-beat him."

"[Bryce]'d lose everything including the family's love if he continued the relationship," Harris continued. "The loss of love is a very powerful thing, especially the loss of the love of your family. The fear of that happening is a great motivator to keep someone in a conversion therapy program."

Desperate and Vulnerable
Fear, often in combination with financial dependence, continues to play a major role in the decisions of some young gay men to enter into ex-gay programs, including those offered by national groups like Exodus International and Love in Action, according to gay and psychiatric observers opposed to their practices.

These companies sponsor hundreds of programs around the nation which vary greatly from one-on-one therapy sessions to intensive group live-in programs.

Wayne Besen, executive director of Truth Wins Out, an organization whose mission is to expose the "ex-gay industry," argues programs like Exodus deliberately market their programs to religious parents of recently out gay children. He was not surprised by the Faulkner case.

"These groups understand very well that they're marketing to desperate, vulnerable people who are looking for a lifeline. They tell [parents] what they want to hear, and when they hear those promises, they write the checks," Besen shared.

"The people who run these programs aren't qualified to give the psychological advice they're providing. They're causing great harm and avoid accountability at all costs. We don't know what their failure rate is, but we know from survivors that they're not doing so well in terms of success."

Next: Coerced Into a Labyrinth


  • Marc Adams, 2009-08-10 20:55:22

    What is happening to Bryce is standard fare for those entering or coerced into restorative therapy. One of the first steps is to eliminate any kind of outside interference which generally means that if you have friends or family members who disagree with restorative therapy, you immediately cut them out of your life. (Very similar to the way many Christians are taught to deal with non believing family/friends.) What is happening to Bryce is COMMON not uncommon. The difference here is that Travis (Bryce’s BF) has the courage to stand up fight back. This is why HeartStrong ( has been working so hard for well over a decade to help students like Bryce. This is also why HeartStrong operates as a way to reach those who have found themselves by choice or by coercion in restorative therapy.

  • , 2009-08-15 10:18:52

    TOWARD AN UNDERSTANDING OF GENETIC SEXUAL DIVERSITY There are two types of sexual human beings: heterosexuals and non-heterosexuals. You are one or the other, but you cannot be both. The source of such a range of genetic expression lies in the deoxyribonucleic acid molecule (DNA), a molecule capable of mutation that is responsible for all living things as you know them. Living organisms of whatever complexity arise from an evolutionary-derived genetic substrate. This genetic substrate is capable of producing an infinite number of phenotypic expressions. Phenotypes are finished products of the DNA blueprint, one of which is sexual expression. Non-heterosexual rights is clearly a civil rights issue! There is no natural right to heterosexual supremacy. Should we reinvent the wheel and begin again with a Supreme Court declaration of separate but equal status? I think not. If I may continue to ramble (just sayin’). Nature has no purpose; only consequences. Thrusting a planet into space will cause that planet to follow a straight course...unless acted upon by another force. Consequently, Earth revolves around the sun because the sun’s gravitational field pulls it. Throw a ball into the air and, consequently, it returns toward Earth because another force, Earth’s gravity, acted upon it. The consequence of a scaled range of human reproductive success (ranging from heterosexual to non-heterosexual phenotypes) is the convergence of the gene pool. The consequence of a converged gene pool is obstruction to human speciation. Consequently, humans are the end of an evolutionary line. There are many races, but only one species. And that will remain so. No other human species will arise because the genetic pool is unable to expand. Despite many isolating factors such as (1) the prehistoric migration of the human species throughout the world, (2) prolonged remote isolation of the human races, (3) deoxyribonucleic acid mutations, and (4) substantially elapsed periods of time (all the ingredients of speciation), no other human species has evolved, or will. Only selective breeding and assortative mating can cluster desirable (or undesirable) genetic characteristics. Homogenization of the human races, as is the current trend, may produce a genetically more robust human species. Selecting out superior genetic characteristics from the convergent gene pool may succeed. Superior human qualities may be promoted via public policies that are socially desirable and acceptable. If the evolution of humans has halted, then strategies to evoke desirable human qualities may be proposed. One conceivable method is global competition among all individuals in the economic and educational arenas. This will select out desirable traits from those who are healthy, wealthy, and wise. But manipulated selection will not benefit everyone! E A Mortarelli

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