FRIDAY

Activist, talking head, homo crusader, and now author Wayne Besen means well, I’m pretty sure. He can’t be making much money. And it’s not as if he’s using his powers for evil. Certainly his targets—Exodus International and other “ex-gay” ministries—deserve to be exposed for what they are: immensely problematic exercises in self-denial, based in a wrongheaded reading of scripture. But Besen won’t be making new friends for us queers with Anything But Straight, the hardcover product of his four-year exploration of the “ex-gay” world. Basically, he’s mean: His attacks are as much personal as logical, and he strikes at his targets’ humanity as often as at their hypocrisy. It’s not enough for Besen to describe the scene at Mr. P’s, the cruisy Dupont Circle dive where “ex-gay” poster boy John Paulk is discovered holding up the bar; he describes Paulk’s “prodigious love handles” and his “well-nourished body,” too. In undercover excursions among Southern “ex-gays,” he encounters “a strikingly effeminate man” and “a linebacker-sized woman,” and reports these characteristics to indicate that these poor fools haven’t really changed their sexual orientation. (Apparently the stereotypes we deplore in the arsenals of narrow-minded straights are viable ammunition in Besen’s holy war.) He handles English as roughly as he handles his enemies, and in one passage he proves that his judgment can be as bad as Paulk’s: A defensive African-American “ex-gay” man gives Besen “a look as lethal as a drive-by shooting.” Take issue with his word choice when Besen speaks at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 5, at Lambda Rising, 1625 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 462-6969. (Trey Graham)

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