By Joseph B. Baker
A Gay Who Took
iSL Anita's 'Cure'
## J^ nita Would Rather Cure Than Fight," the
headline blared. '^M|
Just when the Jokes about Our Lady
of Dade County were beginning to fade
("Sleeping one night with Anita Is enough to turn
anyone gay") Anita Bryant Green was offering up a
new challenge: She was going to open counseling
centers to "cure" homosexuals.
But how was she going to do It? Shock treatment?
Aversion therapy? Religious brainwashing? The joy of
guilt? Take three straight pins and call me in the
As a professional journalist, I wanted to find out
As a gay man, I had to f had out
Little did I know then that Anita Bryant and her
counseling center would touch me in ways I thought I
could no longer be touched, raise issues I thought I bad
long ago dispelled and confront me with the question
of questions: If I could, wouldn't I really want to be
I thought I had answered that question nearly
eight years ago back hi the Midwest Priests,
counselors, psychologists — the whole bit When It was
'First of all, you are not
a homosexual,' he said,
'There's no such thing'
over, I had to accept the fact that I was a homosexual.
For some reason, I was physically attracted to males.
There were far worse things to be, and I decided I could
and would live with my sexual identity.
But things started to change the last year. Maybe it
was tbe pressures of the double life so many
homosexuals lead. The fear of losing my job or not
being promoted because I was gay. The fear of
rejection if family and friends found out I had come
somewhat out of my closet but certainly not entirely.
A pleasant voice answered the telephone. I
explained I wanted to set up an appointment to see the
Rev. David Renf roe, the 37-year-old Baptist minister
who Is the director of Bryant's counseling center in
Renf roe had been counseling homosexuals for the
past ten years and worked with criminals in Dallas and
Birmingham. Criminals? I fumed. But rshould have
guessed. Bryant had said in her Playboy magazine
article that she thought all homosexuals should be sent
to prison to be "straightened out" Obviously, neither
Bryant or Renf roe had ever been inside a prison.
Renf roe came on the line, and an appointment was
set up. He said he only asked one thing of prospective
clients — that they agree to a minimum of five ,
counseling sessions. I agreed, not mentioning that I was
also a journalist
Entering the offices that housed Anita Bryant
Ministries, I was immediately aware of her presence.
The walls were covered with pictures and posters of
Anita promoting Florida orange juice, plaques and
citations thanking her for fighting homosexuals and
newspaper clippings about her crusade. A half-dozen
office workers were busily answering telephones and
The counseling center was sharing f aciliti** with
the headquarters of the Anita Bryant empire. It was
from these offices that her husband. Bob Green,
managed her career, where volunteers sent out
thousands of letters warning the world about
homosexuals and asking for donations.
I stood alone inside the door of the offices before
anybody noticed me. I felt like a leper. A friendly
woman broke into my daydream. It was the beginning
of something I never expected. Not once was I ever
going to be made to feel uncomfortable by the men and
women working in Bryant's offices.
David Renf roe turned out to be equally cordial,
and I was ushered into a small front office. We made
small talk at first and then Renf roe explained the
purpose of Anita Bryant Ministries, its goals and
- The counseling sessions were to be private, flexible
and I could control what we talked about I would pay
?25 per hour, a figure mutually arrived at and based
upon my salary. Renf roe had said earlier there would
be no charge if I couldn't afford to pay.
Renf roe explained that more than 2000
homosexuals had called or written Bryant for help In
the past year, and that was the main reason she decided
to open the center. Another one would open soon in
Hollywood, Fla., and, depending on contributions and
community support, they hoped to expand into other
major cities with large gay populations.
As expected, Renfroe asked why I was at the
center. I explained I was a homosexual and I was
beginning to have doubts about the gay life style. I
asked If I could be happier if I shed my homosexual
wavs— rrtnsidering. of course, It was possible.
"Definitely, if you really want to," Renfroe assured
me. "But first of all, I have to tell you that you are not a
homosexual. There Is no such thing. You are merely
practicing homosexuality. God created only two sexes."
Renfroe said God created man and woman to
complement each other, and that I would never be.
complete and fulfilled until I experienced the love of a
woman. "That is God's plan," he said.
"But even if you dont believe the religious and
moral reasons against homosexuality, you should still
be aide to see It is biologically wrong. You dont have
the right parts to 'be' with another man."
Renfroe explained that the phrase "gay lifestyle"
was one of the world's cruelest hoaxes. "Whoever
coined that term must have had a sick mind and a bad
sense of humor," he said "What is gay about a life of
rejection, depression, loneliness and hostility?"
I argued that a gay lifestyle didn't have to be that
way; that those emotions were brought on by a society
which wouldn't let a person be who he or she was or lei
them live their life the way they had to or wanted to.
Renf roe calmly replied that I had been led to
believe the greatest lie of the gay movement—that
homosexuality is just as natural to some people as
heterosexuaiity is to others. He said people were not
born with homosexual tendencies.
"Such a drive Is not related to the glands, genes or
hormones," he said, "but Is learned behavior that
usually starts early In life and affects an individual's
total life and thinking process."
My first session lasted nearly three hours. Driving
home on Interstate 95 at its lane-changing and horn-
blowing worst Renfroe's nongay reasons kept going
. through my mind: loneliness, promiscuity, deceit guilt
alienation from God, strong tendency toward
selfishness, rejection, difficulty m«1nfrin*"g lasting
relationships, difficulty with self •acceptance, increased
social pressure, increased hostility, vulnerability to
sadism and masochism, constant threat of aging, poor
health and an early death, and greater vulnerability to
depression and suicide.
Was that the kind of life I was living? Was that my
future? How could Renfroe stereotype all gay people
like that? I knew I wasn't like that, and neither were
the homosexuals I knew. Sure, we have problems In our
lives, but were they any different than those of straight
men and women? Still, I needed someone to talk to.