May 21st, 2007.

Let's get this straight.

Richard Cohen is a 'conversion therapist.' An unlicensed therapist in the United States who helps gay people 'straighten up' and become 'healed' of their same-sex attraction in a controversial practice called 'sexual reorientation therapy' or 'reparative therapy'.

Among Cohen's controversial methods is 'touch therapy.' This involves Cohen basically cradling the gay person in a 'loving parental embrace'. This enables the gay person to relate to healthy non-sexual same-sex intimacy.

Another bizarre technique Cohen employs is bio-energetics whereby the gay person smacks the crap out of an object while shouting at it at the top of their voice. According to Cohen this releases anger from the muscles and thereby aids the gay person to become 'normal.'

Coming from a somewhat checkered past, Cohen is himself a former homosexual. Unsurprisingly Cohen has strong religious connections. One of his former churches, The Wesleyan Christian Community Church, was ejected from the United Methodist Church for practicing nude psychotherapy, which Cohen described as being "like paradise."

But while it's easy to look at Cohen and dismiss him as being just another crack-pot, the idea that homosexuality as some kind of mental disorder or consequence of previous experience is not that uncommon. Medical and mental health professionals have concluded that homosexuality is not a disorder and therefore cannot be 'cured.' The American Psychiatric Association declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder way back in 1973.

I can't imagine the misery it must be to live your life in denial of a major part of what makes you who you are. For those who see their homosexuality as 'sinful' and 'wrong', it is perhaps understandable how they might turn to some kind therapy to make them straight and therefore more acceptable to others, to God, and most importantly of all, to themselves.

To me, the whole idea that a person's sexuality can be reversed by therapy is utterly absurd. I'm quite sure that no amount of therapy could make me gay. Therefore I can't apply any credit to the notion that therapy in any form could change a person's sexual orientation.

I'm doubtful that Cohen, and others like him, have 'cured' anybody. Instead, I think they have simply taught individuals trapped in a cycle of self-loathing how to behave in order to find a level of social acceptance that all of us desire.