Ex-Gay Survivor To Former Leader: “This Is What An Apology Looks Like”
October 13th, 2011
The recent statements from John Smid, the former director of the Memphis-based Love In Action ex-gay ministry, in which he says that he has never met an actual ex-gay who has changed his sexual orientation, and that gay relationships can be incorporated into “an authentic relationship with Christ,” has been hailed throughout the LGBT blogosphere as a startling and welcome change. It certainly gives new meaning to Exodus International’s slogan, “Change Is Possible!” Smid has followed up his previous post with a new one expressing his gratitude for the response and announcing that he will be undergoing an “I’m Sorry Campaign” as part of this weekend’s Memphis Pride.
There are a couple of problems with all of that though. While it’s well and good for Smid to announce a public “I’m Sorry Campaign,” he needs to be very careful of two things. First, the announcement of the campaign with Chicago-based Andrew Marin skirts dangerously close to becoming a hey-everyone-look-how-sorry-I-am self-promotional bandwagon. If Smid’s goal is to truly demonstrate how sorry he is for all that he has done in the two decades he headed the ex-gay residential ministry, a parade (whether it be literal or figurative) strikes me as an unseemly and inappropriate setting for that.
But the greater problem could be with who he’s apologizing to. Sure, Memphis’s LGBT community deserves an apology. But as ex-gay survivor and former Love In Action client Peterson Toscano pointed out in a comment he left here at BTB, he has a lot more work to do with those he harmed directly before forgiveness can be granted and healing can begin:
I believe there is an important difference between “hating on John Smid” and critically considering his transformation, what he has said, what he has not said, and his entry into spaces among the very people he previously reviled. It is more than a simple matter of someone “doing something stupid,” offering an apology, and then being berated. There is history that cannot be ignored. There are people who have been harmed who are “in the room.”
These are big changes for Smid, perhaps part of an on-going evolution in his beliefs, perhaps first steps before many, but after years of devising and practicing psychological torture to the many men and women who suffered under his treatments and theories, he should not be just given a free pass and a full, cheerful welcome into LGBT spaces and particularly “gay Christian” spaces inhabited by many people directly harmed by ex-gay treatment. Thoughtfulness for the victims needs to be considered.
It is a complicated and delicate matter when a former abuser admits wrong and seeks to rebuild relationship.
John Smid and his staff are responsible for the pain and suffering of hundreds if not thousands of people. For over two decades he has spoken passionately in public, in the media, at conferences and churches, spreading harmful and inaccurate teaching that has set parents against children and fueled the self-hatred of LGBT people.
As a former client, I understand that John Smid provided me with weapons to go to war against my sexuality and personality. His program was abusive, cruel, and damaging to me and others. People have suffered and still suffer and have needed to spend time and money seeking recovery from the treatment Love in Action inflicted upon us. Many of us went to John Smid and LIA seeking help. We ended up harmed. Some were even forced against their will to endure these treatments.
John Smid, like all of us, needs community, and it is likely that his former friends and colleagues in the ex-gay world and conservative anti-gay church will want nothing to do with him. But his entry into the LGBT world is complicated for some ex-gay survivors.
And while his statement is yet another brick to fall off the crumbling ex-gay edifice, I believe he needs to do much more to demonstrate his regret and new found understanding. It is proper justice for John Smid to acknowledge what many of us already discovered for ourselves. It is proper justice for John Smid to begin to set the record straight. It is proper justice for John Smid to seriously and deeply consider the harm he has caused. And before people forgive John Smid and welcome him into the fold on the behalf of all of us, I believe it is essential to ask critical questions and expect much much more from someone who has done much much harm.
What will that much much more look like? How can John, if he is willing, begin to make amends for his destructive actions?
For just a small taste of those destructive actions, listen to former LIA client Jacob Wilson describe one component of the “treatment” — LIA’s “Friends and Family Weekend:
I’ve had other LIA clients corroborate Jacob’s experience. Peterson wrote about the destructive impact that weekend had on his parents, with damage that haunted his mother right up until the day she died.
And so you can well imagine that while those of us who haven’t been personally affected by Smid’s two decades of abuse at LIA might be inclined to accept his apologies, we are not the ones in a position to do so. I do not want to diminish the tremendous and welcome journey that Smid has undertaken since leaving Love In Action, and I do not think we should dismiss the importance of his change of heart. I do believe it is worthy of encouragement and praise.
But we cannot offer absolution. We are not the ones in a position to forgive him. That can only come from the thousands who crossed his path at Love In Action. And I believe it will only come about through one personal apology at a time. Just as Smid forced everyone to undergo exhaustive personal assessments and stand up before a stage in front of their parents and loved ones to reveal each and every deep, darkest secret they can uncover, Smid will now have to demonstrate his willingness to undergo the same humiliating experience himself. When you consider the foundations of his Christian faith, it is not without precedent. Christian theology holds that Christ’s “humbling upon the cross” is the very cornerstone of forgiveness.
Which means that the act of repentance will likely end up being a lifetime of work for Smid, just as he originally saw his leadership in the ex-gay ministry as his life’s calling. And you can also imagine that it is going to take much, much more work (and I would suggest, probably much more humility on John’s part) for those thousands who walked through Smid’s door to let bygones be bygones.
Peterson has posted what he thinks an appropriate apology might look like. But by ending his re-working of Smid’s apology with questions, he shows how difficult the task remains: “What can I do further to address the wrongs I have done? How can I demonstrate just how much I regret my actions and the consequences they brought to you and to others?”
Surviving an Exorcism To Cast Out the Gay
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.
A Fishing Expedition to “Cure” the Gay: Bad Parents? Difficult Birth? Freemasonry?
January 31st, 2010
Patrick Strudwick, a British reporter for the Independent, went under cover posing as a gay man wanting to be cured. His journey began at at a conference in London last spring put on by Joseph Nicolosi, founder of the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality. From there, Patrick underwent “therapy” with one of Nicolosi’s acolytes:
She begins her wound hunt by asking about my family. I tell her that I have a close relationship with my parents and that they always gave me huge amounts of love, so I didn’t understand why Nicolosi says that homosexuality is caused by inadequate parenting. “Well, there was something happening within your family dynamics that led to your depression,” she says.
Lynne explains that people only identify as gay when they are already depressed. “There’s a confusion, there’s an anxiety, there’s a lot of pain,” she says. “Often the thought can be, ‘Oh I’m confused about my sexuality so I must be gay’.” She says that at the heart of homosexuality is a “deep isolation”, which is, she says, “where God needs to be”.
“Did you have a difficult birth?” she asks. No, I say. Why?
“It’s just something I have noticed. Often [with homosexuality] it is quite traumatic, the baby was put into intensive care and because of the separation from the mother there can be that lack of attachment.”
She moves on. “Any Freemasonry in the family?” No, I say, again asking her to elaborate. “Because that often encourages it as well. It has a spiritual effect on males and it often comes out as SSA.”
When you catch a cold, you generally know you caught it from a virus. Bipolar bipolar, Schizeophrenia, Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome can be caused by a number of things — typically biological in the first two, specific stressors in the third. But rarely when dealing with a real pathology is one forced to undergo a wide-ranging fishing expedition where any insignificant detail can then become the thing that causes everything to go wrong. And if they can’t find what they’re looking for — Freemasonry? Really? — they’ll just keep digging, even if nothing is there:
I began to constantly analyse why I found particular men attractive. Does that man represent something that’s lacking in me? Do I want him because he looks strong which must mean I feel weak? Did something happen in my childhood? The therapists planted doubt and worry where there was none.
My experiences, I learn, are typical. I speak to Daniel Gonzalez, one of Nicolosi’s former clients. “Conversion therapy is a very complicated form of repression,” he says. “It’s a way of convincing yourself that your same sex attractions have some alternate meaning. It continued to haunt me for years.”
I also speak to Peterson Toscano, who spent 17 years in Britain and the US trying every different reorientation treatment available. He says simply: “It’s psychological torture.”
Do Ex-Gays Hook Up In Ex-Gay Programs?
February 1st, 2009
Peterson Toscano spills:
Peterson Toscano: Why I went Ex-Gay
January 12th, 2009
Peterson Toscano has been thinking lately about some conversations he had last October with other ex-gay survivors about why they tried the ex-gay route. In an email, Peterson further shared:
In sharing ex-gay survivor narratives, I see the importance of digging up the many non-religious reasons people go ex-gay. For too long Focus on the Family, Exodus, etc, have been hiding behind a religious curtain. Similarly many ex-gays and former ex-gays I meet express that their ONLY reason for going ex-gay was their faith. Warren Throckmorton capitalizes on this sort of thing claiming that the struggle is an incongruence between faith and sexuality, when in reality for many it is primarily a conflict between society and sexuality.
Here’s Peterson in his own words:
Love In Action’s New Director Announces Comically High Success Rate
June 15th, 2008
Peterson Toscano served as Grand Martial of the Memphis pride parade this weekend which prompted another round of media coverage on the ex-gay movement there. Check out this passage from the Memphis Commercial Appeal:
But according to [Love In Action], Toscano’s experience differs greatly from those of most other people getting treatment. Of 400 people who have gone through the program, more than 300 have been turned straight, the group says.
“Our success rate is higher than our dropout rate,” said Love In Action director Jim Scott. [pictured above]
“It works for some people, and for some people it doesn’t.”
Perhaps Scott is equating successfully completing and graduating from LIA with “turning straight.” Long term “success rate” isn’t addressed leaving Scott’s claims laughable at best and misleading at worst for those unfamiliar with the contrived working tricks common in the exgay movement.
Beyond Ex-Gay Gathering in Barcelona
May 20th, 2008
Wherever there are ex-gay groups, there are ex-gay survivors recovering from the experience. Exodus Global Alliance has been trying to make inroads into Spain for quite some time. Beyond Ex-Gay, in conjunction with local LGBT groups, will be holding an ex-gay survivors gathering at the University of Barcelona on May 30.
Conference speakers include Jordi Petit, Honorary President of la Coordiandora Gai-Lesbiana de Catalunya (the Gay-Lesbian Network of Catalonia), Noemí Domínguez, Clinical psychologist and Master’s in sexual and couple therapy (University of Barcelona), and Peterson Toscano, ex-gay survivor and co-founder of Beyond Ex-Gay.
Aussie Ex-Gay Humor
April 4th, 2008
Today In History: BXG!
April 2nd, 2008
On April 2, 2007, one year ago today, Beyond Ex-Gay was founded. And what a year it’s been. It has been my pleasure to play a very small part in this young group’s activities over the past year. They’ve accomplished a lot in a very short time. Happy birthday, BXG!
Image from Peterson’s blog.
“Refried Freud” — Psychoanalysis and Ex-Gay Therapy
March 30th, 2008
Beyond Ex-Gay co-founder Christine Bakke is truly a delightful woman. I got to spend a little bit of time with her again last February in Memphis during the Beyond Ex-gay Mid-South Regional Gathering. Not nearly enough time though — she was exceptionally busy putting together the art show for the weekend.
Last Friday, Christine posted a very thoughtful essay inspired by Peterson Toscano’s comments that ex-gay ministries are still depend on the developmental theories of Sigmund Freud — “Refried Freud” he called it. Which, when you think of it, means that the ex-gay movement is stuck in a very peculiar time warp. Most of their operating theories are founded on some rather ancient Freudian theories that the rest of psychology has largely abandoned.
Some of us are old enough to remember when Freudian psychoanalysis was all the rage back in the 1950′s and 1960′s. Everyone who was anyone, it seemed, was seeing an analyst. And everyone who was anyone was just as messed up after seeing their analyst as they were before. It’s no wonder that Freudian psychoanalysis has largely fallen by the wayside. As a discipline, they remained too wedded to a narrow set of untested and untestable theories, while the rest of psychology and psychiatry honed their methods and understanding over generations of research and observation, throwing out old theories when they were disproved and adopting new ones as they came along.
Meanwhile, Freudian analysts and their ex-gay therapy counterparts, undeterred by the march of time, continued to press forward with their oft-parodied opening gambit: “So now, tell me about your mother.”
Christine Bakke knows where that leads all too well:
The fishing expeditions (a friend started to believe he didn’t feel his father’s love after being badgered with, “did your father say he loved you? It doesn’t matter if you knew; did he say it? He didn’t say it? Then you didn’t really know it, did you? Of course you didn’t know it; didn’t feel it. How can a child know it if they’re not explicitly told it?” and so on) and leading questions and suggestions (one pastor’s wife suggested I make up abusive things that might have happened to me, so that I could break the curse of satan, just in case I didn’t remember specific things that might have happened to me in my life. I forcefully refused.) I was even told that sometimes women can be gay because they have not been able to grow out of the stage of penis envy.
I knew one women whose therapist gave her assignments to flirt with men. An ex-gay guy who went on several dates to try to learn how to be with a woman (without disclosing that he identified as ex-gay), on the recommendation of his therapist. A woman who was counseled by the leader of the ex-gay group that women should wear makeup (“need to put some paint on the side of the barn”). A man who changed his last name because his ex-gay therapy led him to believe that his parents were to blame for him being gay. A woman who insinuated that she had been abused because she felt like her story didn’t “fit” the ex-gay model without some kind of a root cause. A young man who said that after he got out of the ex-gay movement and was finished with reparative therapy, that’s when the real repairing began. He had to repair the relationships with his family after buying into the belief that they were distant from him and made him gay.
The American Psychological Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in 1973. In doing so, they relied on non-psychoanalyitic studies like those of Evelyn Hooker. But the American Psychoanalytical Association dismissed non-psychoanalyic studies as “superficial.” This created a strange closed-off echo chamber where evidence that ran counter to a theory was thrown out because it didn’t fit the theory. In fact, the APsyA remained hostile to homosexuality until 1991, when openly gay candidates were for the first time allowed to apply for acceptance by the APsyA.
Since then, the APsyA has begun to consider the implications of research in a whole host of mental disorders like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, which today are regarded as being at least partly physiological disorders. This would have been anathema to psychoanalysts a mere generation ago. Last year, the APsyA issued a statement supporting same-sex marriage. That’s quite an improvement since 1991.
But ex-gay therapies continue to rely on the same outdated theories that once threatened to make psychoanalysis a historical footnote. While the APsyA are allowing nonpsychoanalytic research to inform their work, ex-gay ministries remain stuck firmly in the past. But the problem with relying on untested and untestable theories is that they are no more scientific than any other folk remedies or superstitions. And some of these remedies may be damaging. Christine Bakke contrasts her experience with therapists and misguided religious-based lay leaders, and concludes:
Of course, like in my case, even licensed therapists who have an ex-gay mindset and agenda can be just as damaging as the lay leaders. Sometimes I can’t decide which is worse. Counseling by a therapist we think should know the best because we think they’re the experts and we trust them more, or lay leaders who we think love us more because we are not paying them. No matter what, ex-gay counseling done by therapists or lay leaders, many poorly equipped through books, Exodus conferences, Living Waters training programs (one week long), Love Won Out day-long conferences, on-the-job training, or for some, nothing more than being ex-gay themselves, mixed with refried Freud, is a recipe for disaster.
I highly recommend you read her entire essay.
Has Ex-gay Leader John Smid Stepped Down?
March 26th, 2008
That’s the rumor anyway. We’re still looking for confirmation, but former Love In Action client Peterson Toscano got an interesting voice mail today:
I am running to do a show and just got a voice mail from a former Love in Action staff member who said, “I’m sure you heard the news, but if not, you may be interested to know that John Smid resigned from Love in Action.”
John Smid has been the executive director of the Memphis-based ex-gay residential program Love In Action since the early 1990′s, when he moved the ministry from California. If this is true, it is probably a good move. Here’s just a small taste of what this man thinks is good advice for struggling “ex-gays” (Hint: The best part is at about the two minute mark):
So now that you’ve heard that, read the rules that the residential clients at Love In Action are expected to follow. I’d say that his leaving Love In Action can’t be anything but a good first step — assuming it’s true.
Update: It’s official.
Alan Chambers: Exodus “Backing Out of Policy Issues”
March 5th, 2008
Last summer, we reported on Exodus International’s political lobbying activities, specifically the hiring of Amanda Banks as Exodus’ Director of Governmental Affairs. Ms. Banks spoke at the Exodus Freedom conference in Irvine about the many irons they had in the fire to try to make life more difficult for gays and lesbians who chose not to follow the ex-gay path.
There have been some rumblings that some Exodus-affiliated ministry leaders were dissatisfied with this latest move. Some felt that this political involvement was a unwelcome distraction to Exodus’ core mission as a ministry. And more to the point, a few worried that by maintaining such a public anti-gay posture, Exodus might actually interfere with a few of their member ministries’ efforts to engage in non-confrontational and non-judgmental outreach efforts.
Believe it or not, there are a few such ministries — perhaps a precious few, but they exist nonetheless — who really want to try to work in a less confrontational and judgmental manner. In fact, according to Exodus co-founder Michael Bussee, this was a key part of Exodus’ original vision.
More recently, Wendy Gritter, Executive Director of Toronto-based New Directions, gave a keynote address (MP3: 28.9MB/1:03:07) at an Exodus leadership conference in January. She urged her audience to put an end to its political lobbying, to stop emphasizing “change,” and to show genuine respect for those who are comfortable with their sexual orientation. She also joined several former ex-gay leaders with an apology of her own posted at Ex-Gay Watch:
I want to begin by saying I’m sorry. I’m sorry for the pain that some of those who follow this site have experienced from leaders like me and ministries like the one I lead. I’m sorry that some of you connected with this site who identify as Christian have had your faith questioned and judged. I’m sorry there is a felt need for a site like XGW. I’m sorry that it feels like legitimate concerns have not been listened to. I am sorry for the arrogance that can come across from leaders like me.
And now Exodus International president Alan Chambers talked with Ex-Gay Watch’s Dave Roberts and said that he has backtracked from his original decision to take Exodus in a more explicitly political direction. Last August, at about the same time we were reporting on Amanda Banks’ new job with Exodus, Alan “decided to back out of policy issues and our Director of Government Affairs took a position with another organization.”
But to the question of whether these changes were permanent, Alan replied:
One area that we found to be incredibly beneficial was simply sharing our stories with lawmakers. If and when there are opportunities to do that we will.
As for lobbying, promoting policies, etc., I don’t see us being involved in the near or distant future. Will we ever feel the need to get involved? Maybe — as a ministry we care about religious freedom and we are always watching to see how changes in policy might negatively impact our freedom.
They’ve used the “religious freedom” meme as an oft-repeated objection to hate crimes legislation — even though the proposed legislation only addresses violent crime and not speech, religion, or any other Constitutionally protected right.
This is good news indeed and comes after much work on the part of folks both within and outside of Exodus to help the leadership to consider backing away from getting tangled in debates about LGBT rights.
Back in July during the Ex-Gay Survivor Initiative sponsored by Soulforce, ex-gay survivors shared their stories around the country with a recurring theme about harm, but also with a call to ex-gay leaders and church leaders to consider pastoral care and people’s lives before politics.
It’s not just former ex-gays who feel this way. While I was attending the Exodus conference in California last June, I ran into a few “strugglers” there who also disagreed with Exodus’ political activities. A few of them voiced to me some rather sharp of anti-gay statements made by prominent religious leaders, some of whom taped video welcome messages which were played at the start of the conference. There were a few names and faces which flashed on the screen which prompted scattered pangs of anguish and hisses among a very few members of the audience. And particular disgust was registered at those who were known for having used HIV/AIDS as a cudgel against the gay community in the past.
These changes at Exodus are long overdue and will be welcome by many both inside and outside the movement — assuming these changes are lasting and substantial. Whether that happens, only time will tell. I suppose we all will be putting together our own personal litmus tests over the next few months. Here’s mine: maybe this will mark the end of Alan’s appearances like his recent showing at the Family Impact Summit. That would be welcome news indeed.
Peterson Toscano Debates Memphis Pastor on Christian Radio
February 26th, 2008
Peterson Toscano went on the Info Radio Network to debate pastor Bill Bellican from Memphis’ Central Church, which hosted the Love Won Out ex-gay conference this weekend. It’s a very long program and difficult to listen to at times. It is definitely not for the faint of heart.
But I love how host Larry Bates suddenly rushed to commercial when Peterson vigorously challenged him on the story of Sodom and Ghomorrah (that’s at about the 20 minute mark). Also, at the 34 minute mark the host went straight to the usual Paul Cameron statistics. At the one hour mark, he very adroitly and compassionately handled the alcoholism analogy. And at the 1:32 mark, Peterson was able to reveal to that audience what the Jones and Yarhouse ex-gay study really found — something that very few ex-gay proponents are willing to acknowledge.
But the worst is at the 1:36 minute mark when the host said, “The reason that a lot of homosexuals are upset with programs like Love Won Out, the ex-gays getting out of the gay lifestyle is, quite frankly, is they’re raiding the meat market, in other words you’re just simply are losing propects, because the average gay man and gay woman has multiple partners and you’re running out of prospects.”
At times, the program appeared to be two-against one, with the host and pastor on one side against Peterson. And yet Peterson seemed to retain the upper hand through it all. I’m amazed at how well he was able to keep his cool throughout the two hour program. I really don’t think I could have done it.
Seeing the sights of Homo-no-mo
February 25th, 2008
My weekend in Memphis was absolute non-stop activism but one afternoon we had a little free time to see some of the less traditional sights of Memphis. In Peterson Toscano’s one-man-play “Doin Time In The Homonomo Halfway House” he references a local mega-church nicknamed “Fort God” or “Six Flags Over Jesus.” This would be that church.
Of course I’ve got loads of video footage from the weekend which I’ll be releasing over the next week or so once I get a chance to sort through it all.
Ex-Gay Survivors Talk About Love In Action and other Ex-Gay Ministries
February 22nd, 2008
It’s been a very long day here in Memphis, where several of us have gathered for the Beyond Ex-Gay Mid-South Regional Gathering taking place this weekend. Earlier today, we had a press conference to talk about the experiences of those who had participated in ex-gay ministries and therapies, and to talk about the Love Won Out ex-gay conference taking place here on Saturday.
I’m posting the videos of that press conference a bit out of order because I really want to highlight Jacob Wilson’s comments. Jacob was a client at Love In Action, the residential ex-gay program in Memphis made famous by Zach, the sixteen-year-old blogger who was forced into the program against his will. Listen as Jacob describes his experience there, especially the infamous “friends and family weekend,” which was an integral part of the program. If you don’t watch any other video in this post, you must at least see this one:
I was standing near another former client of Love In Action as Jacob spoke. He described his experience at a different “friends and family weekend” which was very nearly identical to Jacob’s. I cannot imagine a more outrageous form of abuse short of physical abuse than to force anyone to speak like this in front of their parents. Coupled with Love In Action’s bizarre rules, we would be calling this outfit a brain-washing cult if it weren’t being operated as a “Christian ministry.” Christians everywhere should be outraged.
Other videos from the press conference, in order of appearance:
Yours truly, talking about what was said at Love Won Out, and how real live parents who were attending responded to what they said:
Brandon Tidwell went into Love In Action six years ago, soon after coming out to his parents:
After Brandon and Jacob spoke, John Holm talked about the collages which ex-gay survivors put together to describe their personal experiences which they will share tomorrow morning at the Love Won Out conference:
And finally, the hardest working woman in the whole program, Christine Bakke took reporters on a tour of the art show that she oversaw at the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center.
The Burden of Blame: How Love In Action Harms Parents
February 19th, 2008
I’ve written before about the cruel messages that parents often pick up from the ex-gay movement, messages which say that parents are to blame for their child’s homosexuality. Several people have questioned me about whether this is true or not. All I can do is report what I heard from talking to parents themselves. Former ex-gays have come forward to talk about their experiences, but so far few parents have spoken up.
Ex-gay surviver Peterson Toscano has posted a very poignant video in which he recounts his parents’ devastation after attending a “Family and Friends” weekend at the Love In Action residential ex-gay program in Memphis, Tennessee. It was a message which Peterson’s mom carried with her for the rest of her life. Watch it:
Peterson talked later with someone at Love In Action about his parents experience and received an unbelievably callous response:
But when I spoke with someone … about all that happened with my mom and the years of doubt and torment she suffered, he shot back, “Healthy people ask for what they need.” I said, “Wait, what!?” He continued, “If your mom was having problems, she should have gotten some help.” But my mom had already been burnt by “experts,” and I know she didn’t want to expose herself to more hurt. But even if she could of or should of talked to someone to help her understand the issues better, what a pitiful response from this Christian leader.
Love In Action bills themselves as Christians, professionals, and experts. But with actions like these, they defile all three labels. We’ll have more on Love In Action later.
Ho-Ho-Homo No Mo
December 20th, 2007
Here’s a touching and true Christmas story from performance artist and ex-gay survivor Peterson Toscano. It’s not Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, but the Isle of Misfits certainly comes to mind. Here’s Christmas at the Homo No Mo Halfway House.
Good Stuff On TV And Radio Tonight (Tuesday)
November 13th, 2007
Ex-gay survivors Peterson Toscano and Christine Bakke will be on a gay radio show called Strictly Confidential tonight starting at 9:00PM (eastern time). The program can be streamed online right here. Also, I’m told it’s a call-in show.
If I don’t call to harass Peterson during his interview then I’ll be watching NOVA which is doing a program tonight on the Dover school board’s promotion of intelligent design and the ensuing trial and election.
Peterson Weekend Roundup
November 6th, 2007
Peterson Toscano was here over the weekend to perform his Homo No Mo play, after which he was asked to sign autographs. Here you see him deep in thought coming up with something to write:
Last night we were both photographed for an upcoming magazine article I’m not yet at liberty to name.
“Homo No Mo” Comes To Denver This Weekend
November 2nd, 2007
Peterson Toscano is performing his signature play “Doin’ Time In The Homo No Mo Halfway House” this weekend here in Denver.
Sunday, November 4 @ 7:00pm
MCC Of The Rockies
980 Clarkson, Denver 80218
ADMISSION IS FREE