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Prologue: Why I Went To “Love Won Out”

Jim Burroway

February 12th, 2007

Focus on the Family and Exodus’ traveling roadshow, “Love Won Out” came to Phoenix last Saturday (Feb 10). According to the Love Won Out website, the purpose of the conference is to “promote the truth that change is possible for those who experience same-sex attractions.” These all-day conferences are held about six times a year in different cities across America. They are aimed mainly to friends and family members, pastors, youth ministers, and ordinary citizens.

I went up to Phoenix from Tucson on Friday to meet with Daniel Gonzales of Ex-Gay Watch and Wayne Besen, founder of Truth Wins Out and author of Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth.

Ex-Gay Watch has a couple of posts up already about their activities. The first post features a link to Daniel Gonzales’ interview with NPR which aired on Saturday. The second post has a couple of great videos of a press conference put together by the Arizona Human Rights Campaign and Good Shepherd Metropolitan Community Church, which featured Pastor Brad Wishon, Ruth and Ray Grove from PFLAG, Barbara McCollough Jones from AHRF, Wayne Besen, and Daniel Gonzales. That press conference was held on Friday. On Saturday, AHRF and No Longer Silent, a group of ministers in the Phoenix area, held a vigil in the morning in front of Bethany Bible Church where the Love Won Out conference took place. They also organized a protest at the church from 11:00 to 1:00.

Where was I in all that? Well, I attended the news conference on Friday, and met afterwards with Daniel, Wayne and others for some business and social time. Then on Saturday, while everyone else was voicing their opposition to LWO through public demonstrations, I did something I never thought I would do.

I walked up to the registration desk, gave them my name, got a blue wristband, and I sat right down to see what it was all about.

Why on earth did I do that? Well, I had gone to Palm Springs last fall to protest the Love Won Out conference when it was held there. That’s where Melissa Fryrear, of Focus on the Family and one of the conference’s main speakers, told the local press that if we would just put down our signs and attend, we would know that they don’t hate us and there’s nothing for us to be so upset about. Actually, I don’t remember her exact words and the Palm Springs newspaper articles are no longer online, so I’m going by memory here. But I do remember reading something to that effect. And I also remember believing that her invitation was nothing more than a stunt.

So anyway, while we were greeting the conference attendees as they drove in on that sunny fall morning, I had a chance to talk very briefly with Michael Bussee who was also walking the protest line. Michael had been involved with the founding of Exodus back in 1975, and served on its original board of directors. Another person involved with Exodus in its early years was Gary Cooper. Michael and Gary eventually left Exodus when they came to the conclusion that it wasn’t possible to change their sexual orientation, and more to the point, that they were in love with each other. They had a commitment ceremony and remained together until Gary’s death in 1991.

As I said, I talked very briefly with Michael that day, so briefly that I doubt he remembers it. I mentioned what Melissa Fryrear said, and thought that maybe I should attend myself so I could see first-hand exactly what was said and done at these things. The whole reason I run this website is so I can look at what other people claim what social science research says, examine that research directly myself, and demonstrate whether and how people take liberties with that research, either in fact or in interpretation.

I often say that you should never take anyone’s word for anything if you can observe things directly for yourself. So if I’m such a show-me kind of guy, if I believe so strongly in going directly to the source, why should I let my perceptions about Love Won Out be shaped by what others are saying? Why am I not practicing what I’m preaching in this case? The more I thought about it, the more obligated I felt to go directly to the source itself — just like I always try to do with everything else.

Michael encouraged me to go. He had been to conferences in the past, and even though everyone knew who he was and had every reason to throw him out, they welcomed him warmly and treated him kindly. This was one of my hesitations and he laid that fear to rest. Like I said, I doubt he remembers this since the conversation was so brief.

So that’s what I decided to do. I signed up and attended Love Won Out when it came to Phoenix.

So here I am, back at home, decompressing from a very long, all-day affair. I have whole notebooks of notes and armloads of material. And I have memories of people, conversations, camaraderie, laughter and tears. I now have a renewed appreciation for what Exodus is really all about.

Over the next several weeks, I plan to talk more about what I saw and learned there. It’s an incredibly rich and complex story. No, I did not go over to the other side, but as is true for so many things in life, I was better able to see so much more grey between the black and the white.

Some of what I will report on will be things you may already know. But I think also that some of what I will say will annoy some and anger others — on all sides. This is why I want to go slow on this. I want to be very clear in what I’m saying. I want to try to speak with the same precision of language that I observed at Love Won Out. I also want to portray what I saw at Love Won Out truthfully. I try very hard in whatever I do to present the material fairly and accurately, but I don’t always succeed. But I want to be as fair and generous as I can to the conference participants and leaders because they certainly deserve that much.

So don’t expect all of this to come pouring out of me right away. Including all the breakout sessions, there were more than twenty hours of presentations to go through. In addition, there were brochures, informal conversations both casual and serious, and thoughts and emotions to sort out. It will take a little bit of time for all of this to gell into coherence.

I saw some things that disturbed me very deeply, things which could very easily propel me to my soapbox — and I definitely will get to them. You can count on that. But I saw other things which told me there are a lot of misconceptions about Love Won Out which also need to be dealt with. And there were a few positives that I saw which need to be explained as well. The ordinary family members I laughed, cried, and prayed with certainly deserve nothing less.

See also:

Prologue: Why I Went To “Love Won Out”
Part 1: What’s Love Got To Do With It?
Part 2: Parents Struggle With “No Exceptions”
Part 3: A Whole New Dialect
Part 4: It Depends On How The Meaning of the Word “Change” Changes
Part 5: A Candid Explanation For “Change”

Comments

Love Won Out Indianapolis: General Impressions « Disputed Mutability
December 3rd, 2007 | LINK

[…] 90+% in agreement with, check out Eve Tushnet here for a chaste queer perspective or Jim Burroway here for a not-so-chaste queer perspective.  (Jim also has podcasts and YouTube video on his take on […]

keith edwards
June 17th, 2008 | LINK

I just read Jim Burroway’s essay on his trip to, “love won out.” I cannot believe he thinks its not about hate. After what these liars told these parents, friends, etc to make them feel it’s all their fault, their children had been molested, etc. That is all false B.S. And lies either spread or build on hate. I have had my own interactions with these people. Don’t delude yourself Jim. These people want us dead rather than as some have put it to me, “suffer and live in sin.”

Jim Burroway
June 17th, 2008 | LINK

Please re-read what I wrote. When I said “it’s not about hate”, I was speaking about the parents who attend Love Won Out. They were the only people I cared about while I was there, and they were the only people I spoke to. I firmly stand by that conclusion.

I’ll leave the readers to draw their own conclusions about the people who organize and conduct these conferences.

Keith Edwards
July 2nd, 2008 | LINK

The parents who go to these conferences are only going because they hate who and what their kid’s sexuality is. Perhaps not the kids themselves, but it’s still hate no matter how you look at it. If they really want an explanation and love their kids why not go to a PFlag meeting instead? But they didn’t. Instead they went to people who promised them another explanation and way to fix their broken kids. Still sounds like hate to me.

Speaking Up about Love Won Out « Peterson Toscano’s A Musing
October 19th, 2008 | LINK

[…] of ‘change’ in orientation. They have softened their language over the years, but from recent eyewitness accounts, their out of focus message continues to misinform people looking for real […]

Focus on the Family or the Homosexual? « Peterson Toscano’s A Musing
October 23rd, 2008 | LINK

[…] and that the parents are somehow to blame for raising a homosexual. (See Jim Burroway’s series of articles and videos about the Love Won Out he attended in […]

Speaking out about the Ex-Gay Movement « Peterson Toscano’s A Musing
February 20th, 2009 | LINK

[…] light and answers and sadly walk away misinformed and frightened. You can read Jim Burroway’s thoughtful eyewitness account of Love Won Out to find out some of what happens and what is […]

Robert Gamble
March 21st, 2009 | LINK

I’m an American from Boston, Scotch-Irish background, who has (still to my surprise) become a publisher in Poland. A conservative, but, I hope, tolerant Christian. I’m now involved in starting a Polish version of Alan Medinger’s “New Directions” course. (“Regeneration”).
MANY thanks for your wise and sympathetic report.
I’ve sponsored the publication in Polish of Dr. Nicolosi’s book “Reparative Therapy for the Male Homosexual”, and have been to a workshop he led in Berlin. He wrote an introduction to the Polish edition, incorporating much of my suggestion.
Interestingly, he seems willing to back away from the “all”, “always”. He was willing to say that if there’s not a positive reaction to the ideas of “reparative therapy”, then “gay affirmaative therapy” would be appropriate. He notes that his book may give better understanding to parents, wives and others, but attempts to push reparative therapy onto someone who doesn’t want it will backfire.
I found I had a role in Poland some 20 years ago, helping contact between very new Alcoholics Anonymous here and mature AA in America which I knew as a pastor. (“Overeaters Anonymous” is for me.) I’m nervous and a little lost with the SSA issue, but feel that there should be help for those individuals who want it. There are many, and there have been successes.
From the AA model, I find myself explaining, – success isn’t a “switch” from homo to hetero. Building an internal gender identity REDUCES the homo impullses and compulsiveness, and allows access to the body’s natural heterosexuality. More in line with Chambers, whom you compliment for honesty.

cowboy
March 21st, 2009 | LINK

When you say homo “impulses and compulsiveness”…I’m a little confused. Are you saying hetero is impulses and compulsiveness too?

Don’t confuse homosexuality as an adjunct to heterosexuality. Homosexuality not a subset of heterosexuality nor is it a variation. It’s as distinct as heterosexuality.

In other words, would you say we can REDUCE you of your heterosexuality?

A Homophobic Doubleheader « Chimaera
December 22nd, 2009 | LINK

[…] By the way, the people there mostly aren’t intolerant of your opinion. They’re intolerant of your desire to make everyone conform to your opinion, or in other words, they’re intolerant of your intolerance.  Also, congratulations on being less considerate and open-minded than this gay man who attended Love Won Out. […]

Chris
June 30th, 2010 | LINK

I always thought that someone should write a satirical rebuttal of Dobson entitled “Rub One Out.” Feel free to take me up on that as it is something that I would love to read.

Jonathan
July 21st, 2010 | LINK

I read all segments of your review of the Love Won Out conference.

I had already come to the conclusion that calling people who were religious haters and bigots was counterproductive. It was based mostly on the fact that I know many Christians whom are neither hateful nor bigoted.

I read your introduction last and I’m grateful I did. Your presentation was without judgment or prejudice. It’s exactly what we ask of them – religious people – but your writing was an epiphany. It described the lexicon, the language of ex-gay Inc. to decribe gay people. I am much better informed.

Thank you.

Five ways to talk to the religious right about marriage « Jesurgislac’s Journal
August 13th, 2010 | LINK

[…] If you want to know the kind of stuff they’ve been told is The Truth About Homosexuality, the Friendly Atheist blog recently paid for two people to attend an AFTAH event and hear the kind of stuff being said and write an outline of it post-event: but for example: Pride events are portrayed as public orgies in which people have “dangerous sex” right on the street. (This is the kind of thing that would only make sense to people who have not only never attended a Pride rally or march as participant, but also have never had one held in their home town.) And being gay or lesbian is “caused” by having been molested by an older gay or lesbian person: for a more detailed account of how this kind of unspeakably cruel lie is promoted to the homophobic parents of LGBT children, see Love Won Out. […]

Jamie
August 13th, 2010 | LINK

I was at that Palm Springs edition of Love Won Out. I went with my best friend and discipler. My parents paid for both of us to go, in the hope that I would find the wherewithal to try to change. It was not a negative experience for me, but neither was it positive. In fact, I mark that as the turning point–the definitive moment when I decided that being ex-gay was not for me. Like I said, nothing bad happened at the conference. I just had a deep and abiding intuitive sense that what was happening was wrong.

I remember driving in to the church parking lot and seeing the picket lines. I kind of resented those people who were protesting; in my perception, they were making something already difficult for me even harder to bear. But I understand now why they were there. Thank you for being there.

I look forward to reading this series. I think it will be good for me to go back and process along with you all that I experienced at a Love Won Out conference.

Mary Southard
July 13th, 2011 | LINK

I would like to honestly know why gays think their sexual orientation is normal when the body parts are not made to go together. Honestly, I would like to hear an explanation for that.

Priya Lynn
July 13th, 2011 | LINK

Mary, its normal because it consistently happens to a minority of the population. Nature has always used evolved features for whatever purpose they can be used for. If it can be done, it will and that is natural.

Mary Southard
July 13th, 2011 | LINK

Priya, evolved features?

Timothy Kincaid
July 13th, 2011 | LINK

Mary,

You appear to be misinformed.

Considering that certain nerve endings are where they are and that the prostate is located where it is, it is quite clear that the body parts most definitely were made to go together.

Need I be more graphic?

Mary Southard
July 14th, 2011 | LINK

You lost me on the significance of the human prostate location there, buddy. If there is a medical-type explanation that can be offered in a public forum like this and you care to offer it, that would be fine.

Priya Lynn
July 14th, 2011 | LINK

Mary asked “Priya, evolved features?”.

Yes, you know any characteristics of an animal such as penises and anuses. We all evolved from single celled animals and all the different appendages and so on are evolved features.

Timothy Kincaid
July 14th, 2011 | LINK

Mary,

Whether by evolutionary process or by divine intent, surely sexual pleasure is some indicator of whether parts were “made to go together.” (Unless, of course, we view God as capricious and sadistic.)

The male human body experiences significant sexual pleasure from stimulation of the prostate, and its location in the body is most conducive to certain sexual acts between men.

In other words, gay sex feels good. And not only that, but it feels good in ways that heterosexual sex cannot.

If we were to base our arguments solely on what is designed to go where, there is strong evidence in favor of a man’s body parts being made for engaging in male-male sex. Procreating procedures argue in favor of male-female sex. So the “body parts” evidence taken together argues for a man to have sex with both sexes (and probably with any person that walks by).

Now this appeal to “body parts” is not an argument I make. But, as it is the argument that you brought here, I have illustrated for you that your premise is flawed.

But somehow, Mary, I very much doubt that your opinion is based on body parts. I think it extremely unlikely that you will change your views based on the evidence of what was made to go where.

Rather, I suspect that you came up with the “body parts” argument as something that you thought would appeal to gays because you know that your real objections are not based in rational argument, but instead in your own personal religious convictions and you are aware that many here may not be of the same religion, denomination, or sect.

Mary Southard
July 14th, 2011 | LINK

Timothy,

Actually, my opinion that body parts were not made or intended, if you will, to go together remains, both sexes included. I have always believed that. My inquiry is honest and I am not in the business today to appeal to gays to change but rather I stumbled on this link while investigating the Love Won Out website.

I have always wanted to hear an explanation from someone, and never asked. (It would be interesting to hear an explanation from a woman, also) So, I did ask,and you provided an interesting explanation from the male point of view.

While I have always believed that same sex body parts are not designed or intended to go together, I also do, as you “suspected”, object to homosexual sex on the basis of religious convictions.

But no hidden agendas here. I asked a question I wanted an answer to.

Mary Southard

Timothy Kincaid
July 14th, 2011 | LINK

Mary,

Now you have me… my familiarity with female anatomy is very limited and I’ll leave that to someone else.

As to your religious objections, I won’t seek to dissuade you. Challenging someone’s doctrine has never, to my knowledge, served any purpose other than annoying them.

If you wish to, however, I would encourage you to delve into the language, context, and culture of the Scriptures that are frequently quoted as basis for condemnation of homosexuality. The first time I did so, I found myself startled at what was and wasn’t there.

Perhaps the most fascinating challenge to my presumptions was the story of Sodom. If you read it, along with the references to it, without “knowing” what it is about, the tale is actually quite different. As it turns out, the Bible lists a whole number of sins of Sodom and, well, same-sex behavior doesn’t show up. Also, the Bible lists a host of things that are like Sodom or even worse than Sodom.

And as for what Paul said… I didn’t realize that Paul literally made words up. The words he used were not part of the local and common vocabulary and the translators had to guess what he meant. And when you look at the preceding and following verses, you begin to see why those who preach against homosexuality do so using only a verse or so.

Oh, here I go preaching at you. Sorry, it’s a family trait.

But, anyway, if interested in this subject do some research. Regardless of what conclusions you reach, you’ll discover that the precision that everyone assumes that Scripture has on this issue is just not there.

Mary Southard
July 14th, 2011 | LINK

Timothy,

You seem like an intelligent and reasonable guy. You raise some interesting points about the Bible that have piqued my curiosity. And I truly might like to have a discussion about them even though I wasn’t looking for it! I may pick up with this later, but my kids are having a Harry Potter party for the premier tonight and their guests will be coming in 30 minutes.

Thanks for conversing before the world.
Most Sincerely,
Mary Southard

Timothy Kincaid
July 14th, 2011 | LINK

Mary,

Have a great party!! And I’ll be glad to discuss this later if you like.

tips about golf » Box Turtle Bulletin
November 24th, 2011 | LINK

[…] Prologue: Why I Went To “Love Won Out” Part 1: What’s Love Got To Do With it? Part 2: Parents Struggle With “no Exceptions” Part 3: A Whole New Dialect Part 4: it Depends on how The Meaning of the Word “Change” Changes Part 5: A Candid Explanation for “Change” […]

What to expect from the anti-gay marriage brigade | Jane Carnall | Live The Good Life
December 4th, 2011 | LINK

[…] chestnut is a perennial favourite. What would a GCSE in homosexuality look like? There’s a theory current in some US evangelical circles that the only way someone “becomes” gay is if they’re taught to be gay by the gay […]

What to expect from the anti-gay marriage brigade | Jane Carnall | pro-blogger
December 4th, 2011 | LINK

[…] chestnut is a perennial favourite. What would a GCSE in homosexuality look like? There’s a theory current in some US evangelical circles that the only way someone “becomes” gay is if they’re taught to be gay by the gay […]

You can’t be cured when you’re not ill | Edinburgh Eye
March 22nd, 2012 | LINK

[…] Individuals and groups who claim they can cure a person of being gay are either bigots or frauds or, quite possibly, both. […]

ricky lee
April 2nd, 2012 | LINK

Jim, You come across as an elitest with unrealistic expectations of people. Thanks for making gays look like aloof democrats! I hope your poor writing and cheesy articles get you what you want out of life. oh, and nice that you also started name-calling. That will win you the suppoort you need! PAleeze

Paul
April 23rd, 2012 | LINK

I am so glad that you shared compassion for Exodus international. I am a soon to be x of a gay female spouse. I have worked with an Exodus International pastor for several months in order to sort out my emotions. I have been appauled at how gay organizations on the web trash this compassionate organization. Gay people have the right to “come out” if they chose and Exodus is out there to help them. I am very amazed at the fact that gays are so eager to promote acceptance, but are so non accepting to those who assist people who want out. Exodus is a very compassionate loving organization, its too bad that the gay adgenda has to make them look like the enemy.

Priya Lynn
April 23rd, 2012 | LINK

Paul no gay person wants to change their orientation for personal reasons, they want to do it to avoid the discrimination of society and the eternal torture they’re told is waiting for them if they don’t. Exodus promotes this discrimination and spiritutal torture, they are not the good guys. Exodus is the guy poking you with the diseased needle so he can sell you the cure.

Timothy Kincaid
April 24th, 2012 | LINK

Paul

No breakup is happy, so let me wish you peace. I recommend that you contact the href=”http://www.straightspouse.org/home.php”Straight Spouse Network, an organization for people like yourself. You’ll find them to have resources and perspective that is less focused on “the gay agenda” and more interested in helping you cope.

But I’d like to address one of your phrases. You speak of coming out – but not what from. Yes, I know that “the gay lifestyle” is the answer, but I don’t know what that is.

Exodus is useful for same-sex attracted Christians who seek life-long celibacy. But I’m not sure that equates to coming out of something.

You are a heterosexual who is now single and, assuming that you hold conservative Christian views about sex are not now engaging in sex. Have you left the heterosexual lifestyle?

I think what you mean by “homosexual lifestyle” is a belief that there is nothing inherently wrong with being gay. That is the only distinction between gay and ex-gay that I can see.