’Ex-Gay’ Coach Accused of Molesting Male Clients

by Steve Weinstein

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday July 19, 2010

JONAH stands for Jews Offering New Alternatives to Healing. It is a the Jewish equivalent of Christian organizations that, in the group's words, "through psychological and spiritual counseling, peer support, and self-empowerment, seeks to reunify families, to heal the wounds surrounding homosexuality, and to provide hope."

In other words, it is part of the highly controversial "reparative therapy" that incorporates psychology and religion to "cure" gay men (primarily) and lesbians of their same-sex attraction.

Truth Wins Out is an organization founded by Wayne Besen, who wrote the book Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth that helped expose the raft of "ex-gay" organizations.

Over the past several years, many "ex-gay" leaders and spokespersons have been exposed as not only not having overcome their same-sex inclinations, but being more aggressive sexually than most out-day men.

In the spring, one of the most prominent "experts" in the field, George Rekers, was photographed with a young escort he found on Rentboy.com. In the ensuing media frenzy, late-night comics and editorial writers had a field ridiculing the "ex-gay" movement.

The fallout from this "therapy," however, is anything but humorous for the men caught up in the web of such counseling.

Now, another "ex-gay therapist" has been exposed as not only not having overcome his same-sex attraction, but using his position of authority to come onto his patients. Truth Wins Out has released a video that shows two clients of Alan Downing -- Ben Unger and Chaim Levin -- alleging "that during individual therapy sessions, Downing made them undress in front of a mirror and touch their bodies while the significantly older therapist watched. Unger and Levin call the sessions a 'psychological striptease' and believe they were harmed by what they consider unprofessional behavior and sexual misconduct."

According to TWO, Downing admits he is still attracted to men. Nevertheless, he works for JONAH full-time as the group's lead therapist.

"He was encouraging me, 'It's okay Ben, you can take your shirt off'...here was a man that was much older than me, and I was around 20," Unger says in the video. "At that point, I was just staring at a mirror with my shirt off and he was right behind me staring at the mirror with me at my body. Then telling me to look at my body and feel my body. It was weird."

"While I was standing there without my clothes on, he asked me to touch my genitals," says Levin. "Once again, I communicated that I was not comfortable with it. And he was like, you know, 'Just feel yourself. Just feel it for a second. So, you can grasp your masculinity physically.'"

"If you believe having a closeted gay therapist undressing clients makes one straight, than you'll believe that playing doctor makes one a brain surgeon," Besen said. "The concept is both outrageous and ridiculous and these sick, exploitative practices should be abandoned immediately."

Steve Weinstein has been a regular correspondent for the International Herald Tribune, the Advocate, the Village Voice and Out. He has been covering the AIDS crisis since the early '80s, when he began his career. He is the author of "The Q Guide to Fire Island" (Alyson, 2007).