Love In Action Suspends Residential Ex-Gay Program
September 2nd, 2011
Memphis-based Love In Action has announced that they have “suspended indefinitely” their residential ex-gay program:
Love In Action’s Residential program has been suspended indefinitely. Simply put, there is a significant need to bring all of LIA under one location for it to be more cost effective. We continue to counsel and grow through our 4-Day Intensives, Hourly Counseling, Conferences, Support Groups, and Church Assistance Program.
LIA refers web visitors to Woodstock, Georgia-based HopeQuest for those interested in an ex-gay residential program.
Love In Action became the focus of international attention in June 2005, when sixteen-year-old Zach Stark announced on his MySpace blog that his parents were sending him away to an ex-gay non-residential youth program after he came out to them. He also posted the program’s rules that he would be forced to live under while locked away in the “therapy” program. Advocates protested for several days outside the main offices of Love In Action. That incident has become the basis for a new documentary film, This is What Love In Action Looks Like.
Love In Action’s residential program maintained group homes throughout Memphis in residential neighborhoods for their charges. Clients were placed three to a bedroom, and shared household duties as part of their treatment program. The program itself was horrendously abusive. As former clients related to me, one important element of their treatment program involved undergoing an exhausted “personal inventory” in which they recount in explicit detail each and every sexual “sin” they have ever committed — whether it was detailed descriptions of sexual acts, or if they had been celibate then detailed descriptions of their sexual fantasies. Over the course of weeks and months, they revisit their personal inventory and add to it anything else that they may remember.
Then during the “Friends and Family Weekend,” friends and family members were invited to come to the Love In Action campus to visit with their “struggling” loved one. They were ushered into a room and are seated on one side, but not before undergoing a counseling session before hand. The clients are then brought into the room and made to stand before their families and friends. They are then ordered to read aloud from their personal inventory — with complete details over their most humiliating sexual act or fantasy. This, they read aloud in front of their parents, friends, siblings — whoever happens to be there for the weekend.
In that counselling session before seeing their loved ones, visitors were advised ahead of time that they will likely hear something very disturbing from their loved one, and that a key component of this “therapy” is that they were not to offer any approval for their client. They couldn’t say, “we love you anyway”, they couldn’t say “we forgive you,” they couldn’t say anything positive. Instead, they were instructed to condemn their loved one, to tell them how disappointed they were, how disgusted they were, and so forth. The effects of this encounter was often devastating to clients and family members alike.
Peterson Toscano, a former LIA client and current ex-gay survivor and gender advocate reacts to today’s news:
I am thrilled that the sun has finally set on this part of the program–one that housed and harassed many of us these past 30 years. While they will continue to offer some limited services, it appears that they have begun to dismantle operations.
What better way to celebrate than you see the new documentary by LIA protester and filmmaker Morgan Jon Fox. This is What Love in Action Looks Like chronicles what happened when a 16 year old boy was forced to attend Love in Action and how his friends responded and ultimately help shut down the youth program back in 2007. Or pop in your DVD of Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway Housse, now a HISTORICAL satire of the Love in Action program.