June 6th, 2010
In this month’s issue of Details magazine, Matt McAllester delved into the practice among some pentecostal and evangelical churches to perform exorcisms on gay people to drive out their gay demons. Peterson Toscano, a co-founder of Beyond Ex-gay, survived three separate exorcisms:
One took place in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn, another in an apartment on the West Side of Manhattan owned by Joanne Highley, who runs L.I.F.E. Ministry. During the latter exorcism, Highley had him lie down on her bed, then she sat beside him and began to press on his body, commanding the demons to exit through his mouth and rectum. Before the rite was complete, Toscano, who says he felt increasingly violated by Highley’s actions, stopped the ritual and left her apartment. Highley did not respond to requests to be interviewed, but she has previously stated that her process is to “cleanse and bind demonic powers . . . out of genitals, of course out of anal canals, out of intestines, out of throats and mouths if there’s been ungodly deposit of semen in those areas—we cleanse with the blood of Jesus, and we cast out the demonic powers.”
Highley was one of the activists featured in the 2004 ex-gay promotional video “I Do Exist,” which was released as a counter to National Coming Out Day. [Update: For more on this, see the end of this post] Toscano’s recalls his experience as abusive:
“For a young person, being told that you house evil, that you’re basically a mobile home for evil spirits—that is a very, very damaging concept,” says Toscano. “It’s one of the most extreme manifestations of the anti-gay rhetoric within the church.”
Particularly concerning is the story of 20-year-old Kevin Robinson, who has undergone three exorcisms (one by his mother, another by an uncle who was the pastor at his church), bouts of severe depression, was kicked out of his home by his parents, suffered a severe nervous breakdown, and underwent six month’s treatment at a juvenile psychiatry hospital. He’s out now, living on his own in an apartment and going to college. He is also a bit more comfortable with his sexuality. But not entirely. He’s also back at his same church:
He’s back in the choir, attending practice every Thursday. He hasn’t undergone another deliverance, but the dogma is the same, he says. “They want you to change. It’s just a lot of stuff you can’t do. You can’t do this, you can’t do that. I’m getting overwhelmed—again. It just feels like it’s too much, like today I just felt so overwhelmed. There’s no possible way I can be Mr. Perfect Man.”
I ask Kevin whether he would make himself straight if he could. “Yeah, I would,” he says without hesitation. “I’m not going to lie—I would love to just fit in and be accepted.”
But that doesn’t seem likely. Not long ago, after choir practice ended, another singer—a young man Kevin’s age—took exception to the look of Kevin’s slicked-back hair and effeminate manner and accused him of being “the Devil’s child.”
“I said, ‘I’m not the Devil’s child, I’m one of God’s,'” Kevin says. “He was like, ‘Yeah, right.'”
Update: Grove City College professor Warren Throckmorton, who produced I Do Exist, wrote me to explain that when he included Highley in his video, he didn’t know about Highley’s beliefs in exorcisms:
I want to make it crystal clear that the I Do Exist video never took the perspective that homosexuality is related in any way to demon possession. Ms. Highly did not mention these views when we interviewed her. No one associated with I Do Exist had any knowledge of Highly’s views when we filmed or edited the video.
In this original BTB Investigation, we unveil the tragic story of Kirk Murphy, a four-year-old boy who was treated for “cross-gender disturbance” in 1970 by a young grad student by the name of George Rekers. This story is a stark reminder that there are severe and damaging consequences when therapists try to ensure that boys will be boys.
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In 2005, the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote that “[Paul] Cameron’s ‘science’ echoes Nazi Germany.” What the SPLC didn”t know was Cameron doesn’t just “echo” Nazi Germany. He quoted extensively from one of the Final Solution’s architects. This puts his fascination with quarantines, mandatory tattoos, and extermination being a “plausible idea” in a whole new and deeply disturbing light.
On February 10, I attended an all-day “Love Won Out” ex-gay conference in Phoenix, put on by Focus on the Family and Exodus International. In this series of reports, I talk about what I learned there: the people who go to these conferences, the things that they hear, and what this all means for them, their families and for the rest of us.
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"
Using the same research methods employed by most anti-gay political pressure groups, we examine the statistics and the case studies that dispel many of the myths about heterosexuality. Download your copy today!
And don‘t miss our companion report, How To Write An Anti-Gay Tract In Fifteen Easy Steps.
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Anti-gay activists often cite the “Dutch Study” to claim that gay unions last only about 1½ years and that the these men have an average of eight additional partners per year outside of their steady relationship. In this report, we will take you step by step into the study to see whether the claims are true.
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