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Disputed Mutability on “Love Won Out”

Jim Burroway

December 3rd, 2007

The blogger Disputed Mutability finally got around to posting some of her impressions about the Love Won Out conference in Indianapolis last October. This is the start of a series of posts I’ve been looking to for a long time. She identifies as ex-gay (“until a better label comes along”) and is supportive of the ex-gay movement, (“in the deepest, truest, and purest sense”), she is often critical of many of the culture-war aspects of ex-gay ministries. She is also one of the smartest and wittiest observers of the movement I’ve come across.

I had several pull-quotes set aside that I was going to repeat here, but DM isn’t one to be pull-quoted or soundbit. Just read her review and go with the flow. It’s wonderfully rewarding.

Okay. One quote, which has almost nothing to do with the rest of her post. I just wanted to highlight it because I couldn’t agree more:

Driving in, we saw a small cluster of protesters in the dark (Indianapolis at 7:45 am on the day before the end of Daylight Savings is pitch black!), no more than 15 I’d say. The only sign I could make out then was “PFLAG.” There were no protesters when we went out for lunch. We counted 12 on our drive out at the end of the day–I tried to make eye contact and smile and give a friendly nod to each as we drove slowly by, but mostly got blank stares from dour faces. One guy finally did grin back at us and wave; we waved back of course. I was shocked at how somber they all seemed–they wore the same vaguely constipated looks of solemn judgment that the quiet brand of antigay protesters wear. I understand they must have been saddened by the goings-on inside the church, but to me it seems like a poor way to change hearts and minds. It wasn’t very seductive.

This has really bothered me about most responses to Love Won Out. I had similar thoughts at the Palm Springs event in 2006. I mean, we’re supposed to be, like, gay, aren’t we? LWO tells everyone at the conference how miserable and angry we are, and then when the conference is over they look at us as they drive off and we’re standing there confirming everything they heard about us. I mean seriously, I thought we were supposed to be more creative than that.

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Bruce Garrett
December 3rd, 2007 | LINK

I mean, we’re like, gay, aren’t we?

I suppose. I’ve been to some of those protests myself and it’s really, Really hard for me not to think at those times, of Lance Carroll telling Morgan Jon Fox about the time his mother started beating the living crap out of him after he got out of LIA still as gay as he ever was. Kinda hard to be all bright and perky and bubbly in front of people who just have to drive that stake into the love between parents and their gay children so God can know that they’re righteous, who tell parents it’s their poor parenting that made their kids gay, that being molested made their kids gay, and…well…you’ve heard it all yourself haven’t you? One filthy self-serving lie about homosexuals and homosexuality after another after another after another…on and on and on and on. And they wonder why we don’t smile at them? Gosh.

‘Constipated’ doesn’t…exactly… describe the feeling inside of me as I stood outside those gatherings. Really. Nor, ‘saddened’. Not even close. I can appreciate why she might want to view it that way though.

Zeke
December 3rd, 2007 | LINK

Bruce, I couldn’t have said it better.

Here, here!

disputed mutability
December 4th, 2007 | LINK

Bruce,

I certainly wasn’t expecting anyone to be perky. And I understand why people would feel any or all of a number of negative emotions. I just think it was a strategic mistake to express them in the way they did. It looked to me like a missed opportunity for PFLAG to effectively reach out and offer an alternative, especially to parents. (I assume that they were trying to reach the folks attending the conference in some way–I didn’t see any media presence, and there were no random passersby, so I’m not sure who else they were there for.)

One thing you see at LWO is that the organizers are terrified that gay “infiltrators” are going to get inside and present an alternative message. They know that many of the people attending the conference are confused, unsure, and vulnerable to hearing about different perspectives. If I were running an LWO protest, I would have exploited that. I would have tried to reach out to anyone who seemed remotely receptive.

Anger is fine, but you had better make darn sure that the people know why you were angry. If I were an average LWO attendee, I would probably assume that the protesting parents looked so bitter and upset because of how their children were destroying themselves in the homosexual lifestyle. Of course I know better than that, but your average Joe at LWO doesn’t. This seems to me to be a serious communication problem. I think those driving past the protesters would find the messages they heard at LWO confirmed rather than undermined by what they saw.

I think it’s a mistake to confuse the LWO organizers, presenters, and exhibitors with the variety of ordinary people attending the conference for one reason or another. Perhaps I am one of The Enemy, and should be treated as such. But I think it is a bad move to do that to the parents. So, if the protesters want to blankly stare past *me* with a pursed-lips grimace, no big deal. But if they do that to the car behind me, with the two parents of a young gay teenaged son who has just come out to them, who are confused and desperately want to do the right thing for their child but aren’t sure what that is, well I think that is a big deal.

Looking at the PFLAG announcement/invitation for the event, it seems that they were planning or aiming for something more upbeat. “A Peaceful Gathering in Celebration of our LGBT Loved Ones….we want to convey a positive message of love and acceptance…” There was nothing celebratory or positive in what I saw. Whether it was their emotional reaction to the messages of LWO, the discouragement of protesting almost invisibly in the early morning dark (If a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one to hear it…?), or the low turnout, I don’t know.

Okay. Five paragraphs expounding on an off-hand minor observation/sidetrack in my post is more than enough.

Randi Schimnosky
December 4th, 2007 | LINK

No, you’ve got it wrong disputed mutability. To be all smiling and gay at a protest is to give the contradictory message that you approve of the goings on at “love” won out. Those parents dragging their newly out gay child to “love” won out need to know that they are doing something wrong, that we don’t approve of this destruction.

Timothy Kincaid
December 4th, 2007 | LINK

Jim,

I’m glad you mentioned the Palm Springs LWO conference. At that event there were two groups of people.

There was the local organized protest which marched in a circle chanting. And yes, they were most definitely dour and “protesty”.

And there was you, me, Daniel, Regan, and a few others that stood on the corner and tried to make eye contact with those driving in. Yes, we had signs expressing our disagreement with the LWO message, but we also smiled, waved and yelled “good morning”. I don’t know when I had last smiled that much.

I believe that our approach was much more effective than the circle marchers. And we did have some participants come up and talk to us.

Jim Burroway
December 4th, 2007 | LINK

I’ll back up what DM had to say with my experience protesting LWO in Palm Springs.

I and a small group (Including Timothy Kincaid and Daniel Gonzales) gathered first thing in the morning at the entrance to the church holding our signs, and we greeted every single car that entered the facility with a cheerful wave and a hearty “Good Morning.” Some glared at us, some smiled and waved back, and some even pulled over and talked very friendly to us. We had some good conversations that morning.

About an hour later, a large bus of rather more typical protestors showed up with bullhorns and pickets emblazened with the word, “hate.”

Guess what happened? Nobody stopped. Everyone was afraid to cmoe near us. They didn’t feel “shamed” or felt like they were doing something wrong. Quite the contrary. They felt like they were doing something right and were being “threatened.”

Look, the reason gay-rights opponents run circles around us is they know how to talk to a target audience. And that is by meeting the audience where they are and bringing them along. Do you really think that happens through shouting and confrontations?

I’m all about confronting the leaders, but here it’s the parents we’re trying to reach. We need a very different approach if we ever want to reach them. I’m glad PFLAG was in Indy — they are probably the best ambassadors to events like this. Now we just need to get PFLAG to remember that the best engagement is parent-to-parent, and that happens best when LWO parents feel like its safe to approach our side.

As some of them did in Palm Springs before the bullhorns and charges of “hate” arrived.

This is the fundamentals of marketing 101, and we’re failing miserable.

Timothy Kincaid
December 4th, 2007 | LINK

This is the fundamentals of marketing 101, and we’re failing miserable.

Careful Jim. With these sorts of comments you may become the new Marshall Kirk or Hunter Madsen

Mike A
December 4th, 2007 | LINK

Randi,

You seem determined to prove the LWO leaders right — that you and your family are angry and miserable in the “homosexual” or “cross-dresser” lifestyle, and that if approached by someone from the opposing side, you will shout them away.

Way to go.

jim-n-alpharetta
December 4th, 2007 | LINK

I’ve been reading this blog for some time and I have to say the post and link to what Disputed Mutability wrote regarding the LWO conference in Indianapolis was some of the best and most honest writing I’ve seen on this subject.

DM I think you hit the nail on the head:
“it’s a mistake to confuse the LWO organizers, presenters, and exhibitors with the variety of ordinary people attending the conference for one reason or another.”

Look, there are parents, friends, relatives of gay men & women who are at these conferences because they are completely conflicted and they want to figure out in their own minds how they can help ‘correct’ their loved one. They want to believe their Bible and their church’s position on homosexuality.

What they don’t realize is that ‘correction’ is not an option. But I guess for those with a bit of a mind, that would go without saying.

LWO and it’s various related conferences will continue to pursue a more ‘nice’ and ‘kind’ approach.

However, it won’t work because in the end, the reality of homosexuality as a normal state will override their derisive rhetoric.

Zeke
December 4th, 2007 | LINK

Mike A, way to go with using the language of “the opposing side” when you say “homosexual” or “cross-dresser” “LIFESTYLE”.

Perhaps you’re one of those on “the opposing side”?

Mike Airhart
December 5th, 2007 | LINK

Zeke, I was mocking the ex-gay movement’s language and Randi’s affirmation of antigay activists’ stereotypes. Randi has made a hobby out of behaving exactly like the enemy.

No doubt you think Ex-Gay Watch and Box Turtle Bulletin are part of the vast antigay conspiracy because we both dare to suggest that anger and judgment are sometimes not the best methods of communicating the truth to the public.

Jerry Sloan
December 5th, 2007 | LINK

I agree being friendly and waving at people attending LWO is probably the better way to do, however, as noted they are very fearful of “infiltrators.”

I infiltrated LWO in Sacramento a few years ago by obtaining press credentials issued by our Sacramento gay press. While FOF was reluctant to allow access they did so knowing it would cause bad publicity not to allow it.

By being press the conference fee was waved.

I wore my rainbow flag jacket and made sure everyone I interviewed up front knew I was representing the gay press.

Also I was able to talk to John Paulik, Frank Worthen and other leaders of the ex-gay movement.

It was all I could do to keep from asking Paulik, “Child, if God has healed you of homosexuality, how come he left you with all of the symtoms?”

He did not have a butch bone in his body. :)

Jason
December 5th, 2007 | LINK

Randi, Without talking to someone, a “frown” can say a lot of things.

It can say:

-I’m not actually upset, my face is just shaped this way.

-I’m mad at you.

-I’m an angry person.

-I’m a sad person.

-I’m a lonely person.

Left to their own devices, what do you think a confused parent is going to believe about that frowning gay activist?

I think Disputed Mutability is pointing out the old adage, you get more flies with honey than with vinegar.

You can’t really counter confusion with anger.

grantdale
December 7th, 2007 | LINK

Anyhoo… back to the guts of DM’s post…

(Thoroughly enjoyed reading it too DM – thanks. Better you, and Jim, than me!)

This struck me as “the guts”.

Difficult words? No, that’s the funny thing. The words themselves are quite easy. It’s the living of the thing that is hard … don’t see how it would be made easier for anyone by what Focus had to teach and offer that day. That was the biggest gaping hole in the conference … virtually no practical content on how to live … no counsel on how to support someone else (like your child! hello parents!) in doing so. Everything was directed towards “healing,” towards attraction change, towards making it all go away.

This betrays — along with much else that DM mentioned, and regardless of what disclaimers are made — what LWO intends.

Far from a focus on “strugglers” (or whatever they’re self-identifying as today), we have instead a primary aim of mis-presenting homosexuality and gay people.

Plainly it isn’t intended that the audience walk away with some refreshing “new” ideas about how to love and support anyone in conflict (on this, or any other matter).

Nope, what you’ll hopefully walk away with is a deep feeling of sadness and pity for those poor pathetic people; so misguided, such lost souls that we need not even bother respecting them.

And with an attitude like that, so much else is therefore possible. In a passive, but nevertheless still aggressive, way.

ie we no longer, in this day and age, think it acceptable to call gay people “low-life”.

Instead, we now want you to burst into tears and weep for how their lives could have fallen so low.

A low-life. A low life.

What a difference punctuation makes…

Emproph
December 8th, 2007 | LINK

-Disputed Mutability: This seems to me to be a serious communication problem. I think those driving past the protesters would find the messages they heard at LWO confirmed rather than undermined by what they saw.

-Jim Burroway: This is the fundamentals of marketing 101, and we’re failing miserable.

-Timothy Kincaid: Careful Jim. With these sorts of comments you may become the new Marshall Kirk or Hunter Madsen

Lol. Here, here, Timothy. We certainly wouldn’t want anyone to know about our conspiracy plan to openly achieve equality.
~~~

To the point though, I agree with the “communication problem” portion of the problem.

How much does it cost to make 10,000 copies of your own DVD these days?

You guys are already making videos.

Why not make a short video highlighting the lies and flaws of Love Won Out, and pass those out at protests?

It would seem that with such a gesture, neither side would feel pressured to be prepared to engage the other in any confrontational way. Any confrontation could be directed toward watching the video and / or included contact information.

And in addition, each year we can fling out our unused inventory at gay pride parades.

© Paul Cameron needs to be made a household name productions.

John Cole
December 9th, 2007 | LINK

Funny thing, almost all the ‘gay’ people I’ve ever met were not at all gay, in the happy sense. ‘In your face,’ check. ‘Angry,’ check. ‘Epater les bourgeois,’ check. But GAY? Not so much. Maybe I’ve not met the right ones.

Jim Burroway
December 9th, 2007 | LINK

John, you should get out more.

Next time our crowd goes to the UofA hockey game (the good guys lost last night, by the way), you should come along.

Okay, our team lost so maybe last night wouldn’t have been a good example. But I know of a real kickin’ Christmas party next weekend.

Timothy Kincaid
December 9th, 2007 | LINK

John,

You definitely run with the wrong crowd. You need to find yourself some less angry and hostile people to be around.

Remember, though, if you want to be around pleasant, friendly, nice and happy people, you’ve gotta put out pleasant, friendly, nice and happy. People tend to gravitate to those who are similar in outlook and attitude.

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