Sam Brinton, former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Spent Fuel and Waste Disposition and influential activist against ex-gay conversion therapy, once a shining star of LGBTQ celebrity, has found himself the subject of intense scrutiny, and not just because he happened to get caught stealing expensive luggage. In a shocking display of journalism, LGBTQ Nation headlined, Has Sam Brinton's story always been too good to be true?
The article notes support from many LGBTQ activist organization saying: "These organizations, such as the Trevor Project and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), ignored clear warning signs and incontrovertible evidence because Brinton provided these groups with a seemingly perfect ex-gay survivor story to expose horrific conversion therapy practices and ideology." The warning signs, it seems, involve clear evidence Brinton was fabricating his entire victim story all along.
Before his stunning promotion to such a vital role in the government, Brinton was best known for launching a campaign with The Trevor Project, to ban conversion therapy across the country called, #50Bills50States. He boasted, "We passed more than 20 laws ending conversion therapy, protecting future generations from ever having to go through what I went through."
The 35 year old claimed that around age 11 he came out as bisexual to his parents who physically abused him, sent him to the emergency room and then put him through a 2 year conversion therapy nightmare.
LGBTQ Nation notes, "Brinton alleges this practitioner used aversion therapy, which included sessions where they were tortured with extreme heat, ice, and needles."
He also claimed the therapist subjected him to pornographic images of gay sex and then electrocuted him. This was stated to have happened between 1999 and 2001. But as the author of the piece, Wayne Besen, who is also an activist against conversion therapy, explains, Brinton never provided any information to substantiate his claims.
The author asked a simple question of who the therapist was and what facility did the abuse occur in, arguing it was necessary, "First, to share Brinton's story, we had to verify if it was true. Second, Brinton's testimony involved a torture center where hideous abuses were presumably still occurring against children at least as young as 11. If such a place existed, there was a moral imperative to rapidly identify the abusive therapist and contact the authorities to stop the atrocities."
Instead of viewing the investigation as necessary, Besen faced a backlash from members of the LGBTQ community demanding to know why he wasn't promoting, as he put it, "such a powerful example of the harm caused by conversion therapy." He responded, "Until he provides more information to verify his experience, he makes it impossible for us to use him as an example. Indeed, it would be grossly irresponsible for us to do so."
With growing suspicion after Brinton finally answered Besen's inquiry, dismissing him by saying he simply didn't remember the name of his therapist, Besen reasoned, "To believe Brinton, one would have to suspend reality and buy their explanation that they couldn't recall the name of a therapist that, "for over two years, I sat on a couch and endured emotionally painful sessions." Does this sound plausible? Or is Brinton more concerned about keeping their story unverifiable?"
Besen's investigation turned up no evidence of any conversion therapists in Orlando, Florida as Brinton claimed and Brinton's mother, who even uses her son's preferred pronouns they/them, confirmed her son went to therapy, but not for conversion therapy and argued she loves him dearly. His mother denied the claims of physical abuse and suicide attempts as well. Brinton never tells the same story twice, it seems, claiming the therapist was in Florida, that he had a long string of equally cruel therapists and that he was sent for out-of-state treatments.
When he spoke to the UN's Committee Against Torture in Switzerland he once again cited his experience, but this time changed his story to detail his therapist was licensed, as Besen noted, only after his campaign to ban licensed therapists from practicing conversion therapy. Despite these concerns, when Besen urged organizations to be wary and verify Brinton's story, one, the National Center for Lesbian Rights dismissed him saying, "we must believe all survivors."
He concludes, "Brinton should never have been given a platform by national LGBTQ+ organizations without having crucial details of their story confirmed. LGBTQ+ groups were sloppy, ethically negligent, and shockingly unprofessional, choosing expedience over prudence in turning Brinton into a national spokesperson. They were warned but didn't listen." The fact is, as Besen originally asks, the story was "too good," too "perfect," to ignore.
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