TLC denies claims that its newest show, "My Husband's Not Gay," helps promote the discredited notion that gay men can choose to be heterosexual. But one of the show's stars has a history of promoting "ex-gay" therapy, even acting as a spokesman for a major "ex-gay" organization.
TLC's new show, which follows a group of men who admit to being attracted to other men but have chosen to date and marry women, has been widely criticized by members of the LGBT community for promoting the widely discredited practice of "ex-gay" or "reparative" therapy.
GLAAD has condemned the program, calling it "downright irresponsible" and warning that it puts "countless young LGBT people in harm's way." Truth Wins Out, a group dedicated to stopping "ex-gay" therapy, has pointed out that many of the shows stars are closely affiliated with North Star, a fringe Mormon "ex-gay" group. So far, a Change.org petition calling for the show's cancellation has gathered nearly 100,000 signatures.
TLC has thus far shrugged off the criticism. "TLC has long shared compelling stories about real people and different ways of life, without judgment," the network said in a statement. "The individuals featured in this one-hour special reveal the decisions they have made, and speak only for themselves."
But one of the stars of TLC's show - Preston "Pret" Dahlgren - has a history of speaking on behalf of "ex-gay" ministries, repeatedly using his testimony to promote organizations that promote reparative therapy.
Dahlgren is the former chairman of Evergreen International, a Salt Lake City-based ex-gay organization which catered to the Mormon community. The group promised to help people "diminish... same-gender attractions and overcome homosexual behavior," largely relying on the work of the notorious National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH). At a 2012 Evergreen Conference Fireside, Dahlgren gave a speech defending efforts to help people overcome same-sex attraction, stating that "same-sex attractions are almost invariably rooted in deeper issues":
Dahlgren made similar comments in a video for the 2013 Reconciling Faith & Feelings Conference, an event that promotes "ex-gay" therapy and believes that it's possible to diminish a person's same-sex attractions:
When Evergreen International shut down at the beginning of 2014, Dahlgren joined the board of North Star International. In a video for North Star's "Voice(s) of Hope" project - which seeks to promote "positive and healthy alternative responses to same-sex sexuality" - Dahlgren told his struggle with dealing with his attraction to men:
Another star of TLC's show, Jeff Bennion, is a spokesman for North Star and has written in defense of "sexual orientation change efforts" (SOCE).
TLC's "My Husband's Not Gay" won't air its first episode until January 11, but it's worth noting that at least one of its stars has a real professional incentive to use his new, national platform to promote a kind of "treatment" that all major professional medical organizations agree is ineffective and can do serious harm to LGBT people.