Featured Speaker:Ted Cox
by Shiva Kasravi
In early 2010, I was serving as the President of the Agnostic & Atheist Student Association at the University of California-Davis when word arrived about local atheist writer Ted Cox. Cox had gone undercover to investigate the gay-to-straight religious conversion therapy and was interested in speaking to student groups about the experience. We contacted him and arranged an event titled, “What I Learned at Straight Camp” which filled the second largest lecture hall on our campus and attracted regional media attention.
At his presentation, Cox presented excerpts from speeches, showed audio and video clips, and described his ordeal attending weekly support meetings and conferences. He even told about a 48-hour long camp in Arizona, called Journey into Manhood, aimed at helping homosexual Christians become heterosexual. He recounted the therapy provided by religious, unlicensed counselors who explained that homosexuality was a result of childhood trauma and lack of fatherly love. Cox’s breezy, sarcastic humor often targeted these counselors, at one point asking how being fondled by a dozen men in a position called ‘The Motorcycle’ is going to stop anybody from being gay? But the melancholy struggle of the participants resounded through the humor, and he made a compelling case for the urgency of addressing their situation.
When asked what attracted him to this particular issue, Cox, an ex-Mormon, explained, “I feel guilty for the way I treated gays and lesbians when I was a Mormon. Maybe through my research, I can help reverse some of the damage my former church has done.” He also explained, “[The] gay community is the scapegoat du jour…So my interest is partly a reaction to the nonsensical, hypocritical fear of the gays.” In his estimation, non-theism can help solve the problem by offering “a non-judgmental, accepting, scientific world view of human sexuality,” Cox says.
But the secular community isn’t immune to homophobia, he said. “When I have male audience members demonstrate the ‘healing touch’ therapy from ex-gay camp, the audience – presumably full of secularists – bursts out laughing. So I started asking the audience, ‘Are we laughing only because curing gays through cuddling is funny? Or are we also laughing because we’re uncomfortable with male-male affection?’”
After the speech at UC Davis, Cox continued to speak and write about religious gay-to-straight programs and is currently working on a speech titled “The History and Future of the Universe (According to Mormons).” He runs the blog God Hates Protesters and continues to wreak havoc on any traces of calm and normalcy left in the Sacramento area.