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Archive for December, 2018


ExGay App Refused by Apple, Microsoft and Amazon

Saturday, December 29th, 2018


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Ex-Gay Programs Are Harmful and Don’t Work


After much thought and encouragement, I’ve written one of the strongest commentaries I’ve ever written against sexual orientation change efforts!


By John Smid


John Smid is the former Executive Director of Love in Action, recently portrayed in the movie Boy Erased


The new film, Boy Erased, has sparked heightened interest in sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE). The movie tells the story of a young gay man whose religiously conservative family, desperate to turn him from gay-to-straight, enrolls him in Love In Action, an intensive “ex-gay” ministry. While the experience portrayed in the movie was shocking to many people, it was largely an accurate depiction of such programs. I should know, because I’m the former Love in Action Executive Director played in the movie by Joel Edgerton.


The film was difficult to watch because it vividly illustrated the horrific reality of my own journey over a 25-year period. In 1987, I was taught that my homosexual desires were rooted in sinful places in my dark heart. I was told to submit to God so that he would forgive me of my sinful nature. I was also taught that God was a miracle and through obedience and a faithful life, my sexual orientation could be transformed and I would discover my latent heterosexuality.


When one comes from a conservative Christian background where homosexuality is discouraged, it is easy to get caught in this cycle of shame. I was desperate. I was led to believe I could never be a man of integrity if I didn’t change. So, when I discovered Love In Action, it seemed to be an answer to my prayers. That ministry was part of a now defunct umbrella group of “ex-gay” programs, Exodus International. At the time, I truly believed that they were experts and a “worldwide recognized authority on helping men and women find freedom from homosexuality.”


After 24 years of heart wrenching attempts to live as a married heterosexual man, I became honest and began my journey to authenticity. I realized that through my own desperate attempts to alter my sexuality I also led thousands of others down that fraught path. I’ve spent the last 10 years making amends for the harm that was caused through my faulty messages of change.


While leading Love in Action, I attended numerous conferences through Exodus International where all I saw were desperate, wounded people crying at the altars of prayer in hope that God would give them the miracle they were seeking. Leaders shared stories of their own transformation while covering up that they actually remained unchanged. Year after year, the same stories surfaced about distressed people falling away to their own shame caused by the conditional messages that if they didn’t become “straight” it was their fault. Many succumbed to suicide due to their own despair.


Although Exodus and Love in Action shut down due to a lack of efficacy, there are still ministries across the globe today who peddle fraudulent sexual orientation change efforts. Unsuspecting, vulnerable people still enter these programs because they are terrified of the stigma and rejection they may face, by family, church, and friends, if they accept their genuine sexual orientation or gender identity.


What haunts me today is that the remaining organizations know nothing but failure. Yet, they blithely disregard the mountain of evidence: Thousands of people in their care are not becoming straight as advertised, yet these programs cruelly condition God’s love on transitioning to heterosexuality. This causes painful cognitive dissonance and leads to emotional, mental and spiritual scars. For many clients, paying for residential programs and therapy sessions can also be a drain on finances.


As a former leader in the “ex-gay” movement, I wholeheartedly agree with the leading medical and mental health organizations that condemn sexual orientation change efforts. The American Psychiatric Association says that such efforts can lead to “anxiety, depression, and self-destructive behavior”, including suicide. The American Psychological Association says, “There is simply no sufficiently scientifically sound evidence that sexual orientation can be changed.” Such “therapy” is considered so detrimental that fourteen states and the District of Colombia ban practicing it on minors.”


I also agree with Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon’s recent decision to stop selling, in their online stores, a “pray away the gay” app created by Living Hope Ministries. Google should rapidly follow their lead before the app ruins more lives. Such apps are easy to access and compound shame and stigma, while often dispensing psychological advice by people who aren’t qualified and have little or no medical training.


I am particularly concerned by the effects such programs have on young people when their families reject them. Dr. Caitlin Ryan, a researcher at San Francisco State University, found in her 2009 study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, “LGBT teens who experienced negative feedback from their family were 8 times more likely to have attempted suicide, 6 times as vulnerable to severe depression, and 3 times more likely to use drugs.”


A Nov. 2018 study by Dr. Ryan, who also directs the Family Acceptance Project, reports in the Journal of Homosexuality, “Parent-initiated attempts to change participant’s sexual orientation during adolescence were associated with more negative mental health problems for young adults.”


As I look back to my own 22-year history as an “ex-gay” leader featured on programs such as ABC’s 20/20, I can now say that I was swindled into believing I could change. In so doing, I subsequently deceived many because of my own inability to be honest with myself. I continued to solicit clients and donations for our ministry with a watered down message that somehow God was providing the miracle of change.


Thankfully, I finally became free enough that I could honestly evaluate my life vocation. I’ve spent a tremendous amount of energy attempting to make amends and clearly speak the truth. It is imperative that sexual orientation change efforts stop before more young people, as well as adults, are harmed. Conversion therapy in any form is dangerous and potentially lethal. The answer is not self-denial and lies. It is self-acceptance and living one’s truth.


Ex'd OutI’ve written my story of transition in my book, “Ex’d Out, How I Fired the Shame Committee.” I participated in the documentary film, “This Is What Love In Action Looks Like.” I was a special consultant in the recent film, “Boy Erased.” I’ve told my story on a podcast, “Unerased.” I’ve participated in numerous interviews and news stories. My goal in all of these projects is to be very clear that I was wrong and the message needs to be told, ExGay ministry, conversion therapy or whatever anyone wants to call it, must STOP.


If one person, hopefully many, could be spared a life of conflict, guilt, unending confusion and pain through my story, it’s worth sharing it!

Also published in the Advocate!


 

Reflection on Conversion Therapy – Former Leaders

Friday, December 7th, 2018


At the request of Wendy VanderWall Gritter for submission to a church denomination, these former ExGay ministry leaders wrote a statement about how they view conversation therapy after having participated in ExGay ministry for many years.


Statements from Former Ex-Gay Leaders Regarding Conversion Therapy:


Darlene Bogle; Former Founder, Paraklete Ministry

I spent 10 years teaching conversion therapy in the 70’s and 80’s as an ExGay leader. These efforts never made any significant difference in changing the direction of sexual attraction in those whom I counseled, or in my own life. The despair and constant failure added shame and isolation to their journey. I found freedom from false expectations when I found a UCC church who accepted me and my wife into fellowship within the congregation! It was an amazing thing to loudly declare that the teaching of conversion therapy does more harm than good.


Alan Chambers; Former President, Exodus International

During my 22-year involvement in Exodus International I never met one person who changed their sexual orientation, including me. While our stated mission wasn’t to convert from gay to straight, for many of those years our motto was “change is possible” and “freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ”. I closed Exodus International in 2013 because it failed to represent Jesus Christ and the Church well. It represented shame, marginalization, and the belief that LGBT people were less than, not equal to. Exodus, for most of its years, caused undue shame and grief for parents who were told they played a part in the development of their child’s homosexuality. While I believe in an adult’s right to self-determine their own path, I believe any and all sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) should be banned. No lay person or professional should be allowed to use any methods to try to change someone’s sexual orientation. I believe it is the role of the Church to love and serve all people and not to inflict unnecessary trauma, which is precisely what happens when LGBT people are told they are less acceptable or unacceptable because of their orientation and/or actions.


Jeremy Marks; Former Director, Courage UK

After spending 30 years in Christian ministry to LGBT people, I am not happy with the term conversion therapy – because it implies that something professional is being offered. The truth is that most organisations that purport to offer some sort of “help” to “change” sexual orientation – masquerading under the heading of CT – are religious organisations seeking a way to sublimate their unrecognised and internalised homophobia by offering something that hasn’t the least scientific, anthropological or spiritual foundation. The real and deeply toxic issue that is extremely hard to legislate against is the underlying erroneous belief, so succinctly summarised by the RC church, that declares that homosexuality is “intrinsically disordered”. In truth, the term CT somehow needs to cover any kind of anti-gay rhetoric in whatever form it appears. Antigay attitudes would be better recognised as a form of racism – that is equally abhorrent, utterly offensive, deeply damaging to those undergoing CT, and totally anachronistic in any civilised society today.


John Smid; Former Executive Director, Love in Action; Former Board Member, Exodus International

As I take an honest look back over the two decades I led a conversion therapy ministry, I realize how many individuals and families whose lives were shredded. Many lost hope for their lives, some to the point of suicide.


Teaching the insidious theories that a person’s homosexuality was caused by life events, unhealthy family relationships, or developed from sexual wounds, caused horrible destruction. Most were left in despair and debilitating confusion.
I know; I have spent tremendous energy and time following up with the hundreds of people I worked with over the years. Their stories are the proof.


As my own daughter told me several years ago, “Dad, I’m sorry you spent so much time trying to fix something that never needed to be fixed in the first place. Think about how much you lost along the way. I hope you stop hurting people.”


Wendy VanderWal Gritter; Former Executive Director, New Direction Ministries

Regardless of the terms used: ex-gay, conversion therapy, reorientation, or sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE); or the method: talk therapy, electro-shock, Bible study, prayer, or exorcism; the practice of attempting to alter someone’s sexual orientation has proven ineffective and profoundly harmful. Most conversion therapy efforts are motivated by religious expectation. It is therefore crucial that the church speak with a strong and united voice in the effort to ban the practice. LGBTQ+ individuals are beloved of God as they are. The way they love and the families they form are gifts to the church. This unequivocal message must be declared consistently and clearly to protect the vulnerable.