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So Here We Are

Monday, March 25th, 2019

SoHereWeAreTextMy heart has been heavy the last couple of days. I’m overwhelmed with the number of LBGTQ people who are suffering with the effects of PTSD in their current life.

I began to evaluate my own life while talking with my husband, Larry, last night. Damn, just the trauma alone of growing up as a gay boy in this culture is traumatic enough then when you add to it, life events, family struggles, painful relationships, loss, grief, identity struggles, and on and on, it’s really tough.

The effects that all of that has on us is incalculable. I look back and see so many ways in which I have been wounded and the ways that I have endured things that were really tough for me, I can see the rejection I’ve felt that seems to continue in many ways. I’ve hungered for some relief but it just keeps going.

And yet, AND YET,

These life circumstances make us into who we are, trauma and all. There are some people who surround us who actually see through our pain into the beautiful people that we are in our colorful ways! They see our introspection as insight for their own lives. They see the unique views of life that we bring to the table as a challenge to their own process of development. They see our tears, often invisible, as a tenderizer for their own rocky parts. They love us just because, because of who we are and how our lives bring something unique and incredible to their own.

There are those who don’t get it. For whatever reason they don’t see through our lives into their own. That’s okay. Nothing we can do will change that. But I recognize that I MUST look around me to see the crowd that is closest to me, who love me, who appreciate not only my pain, but my impact on their life.

Phew, trauma? Yes. PTSD? Yes. But here we are, here I am.

Some reflections I’ve collected from a FaceBook Post:

I try not to dwell too much on what I have been through, but instead try to find ways to be an example or offer a hand up to those who are struggling with their gayness.

While things have gotten somewhat better for our youth since my years growing up gay in the 60s/70s, there are Still Parents throwing their children out the door and onto the streets as well as Bigots attacking LGBTQ folk for sport.

I am thankful you talk about your experiences. So much of our history is lost.


John, thank you so much for posting this. Yes, so much pain and sorrow and shame — and agree with Kevin, the consequences of my pain and suffering had devastating effects on my relationships. I had no idea how to communicate, how to deal with conflict resolution, how to dream. I am writing my story and this has been profound — facing the process of healing. I’ve also created a workbook based on Ezekiel 34 that has also brought so much healing into my heart and mind.

One thing that continues to haunt me is the underlying feeling of guilt… and I know it is just a side effect of the misinterpretation of Gen 3, the Fall, and being told over and over again and being JUDGED by media, family, society, church that I am different, wrong, perverted, odd, and I need to change, to dress more feminine, etc. etc. I participated in the judging and misinterpretation too as I was a ex gay leader as well. I so wish I knew then what I know now. What a heavy responsibility leaders have… to make sure they are a true shepherd and not a wolf.

I am so sorry for the pain I may have caused anyone by not having the attitude of compassion and love… but one of conforming to a false religious experience. My heart needed to soften and my mind needed to be renewed. It is my mission and passion to unravel the lies I was told and present the beauty of the metaphoric truth of Scripture –which is GOOD NEWS and brings peace and compassion and inclusion. If anyone is interested in this healing tool, connect with me and I’ll send you a free PDF.


The evidence of the neurosis among gay men is all around our community. When you begin to demean and diminish the character of a young boy at an early age, it has to have a life-long effect. And it does. It not only damages the person, but it negatively effects every other person in his life.

We struggle with our relationships because of the emotional damage inflicted on us by parents, religious leaders, educators, classmates, coworkers and society in general…and then they openly critique and criticize the social symptoms of that damage.

We as a community are also guilty of inflicting damage when we treat each other like hunks of flesh rather than persons. When muscular bodies and substantial genitals become the measure of a man…we have joined the ranks of the “damagers”.


John, what’s worse is that there really has never been enough research on PTSD in rural gay youth. Why? Because it’s a largely inaccessible population (at least it was when the research was most needed). The military has helped strengthen PTSD research, because we have access to that adult population… but gay kids living in Paris, Texas? Nope. Not so much.

As an aside: I’d also like to see more resiliency research on gay youth from backwoods Texas, etc. My unofficial hypothesis is that one reason gay folks are often successful, genuine, and kind, is because of the traumatic experience coupled with the resiliency that the trauma solidified. Great great post my friend!


Thankful we are friends. Thankful you show me grace when I don’t always understand because I traveled another road. Thankful you make the effort to understand my journey, too.


Parents, you are NOT the cause of your children’s homosexuality!!!!!

Thursday, January 19th, 2017

JohnSmidPensiveB&W#1I just saw a post that there is an upcoming one day conference in Arkansas stating its for people struggling with same sex attractions and their parents. They say they will answer questions for pastors, leaders, and parents. The brochure states these questions for parents:

What could we have done differently?

What did we do wrong?

How did this happen and why didn’t I see it sooner?

For over two decades I taught that homosexuality was developed based on life experience and poor parental relationships. Several years ago I discovered I was wrong, dead wrong. I evaluated my experience and was shocked, and ashamed that what I had believed, and taught for over 20 years was deceptive and caused tremendous harm in the lives of LBGT people as well as their families. This teaching added to the shame parents already felt about having gay kids and very often created an even wider chasm between them and their children.

Several years ago a former client of Love In Action told me that after his mother died his dad gave him a letter she’d written to him before her death. In it she said, “I’m so sorry I was such a bad mother.” The depth of his pain was great and he realized she was referring to what she’d believed about him being gay and the role she thought she’d played in causing it. Story after story of broken family relationships have come from this false teaching. I’m not sure I know of any positive effects from parents believing their parental relationships with their kids caused them to be gay. Time and time again, I’ve heard LGBT people trying to tell their parents they didn’t cause this and in far too many cases the parents have believed their pastor’s sermons and other Christian literature over the heart of their child.

I’d like to quote from one of my friends’ story:

“When I came out to my parents in 2003 as someone who “struggled with same sex attractions” as I began participating in an intensive weekly support / recovery program, I told my parents not to blame themselves; however, as I went through that program and as I read a ton of books afterwards, I found myself desiring a closer relationship with my father (a good thing) and found myself distancing myself from my mother (a bad thing) because I subconsciously believed that my relationships with my parents had some sort of impact on  me having same sex attractions. So I was doing whatever I thought necessary in order to “meet those unmet emotional needs that caused me to be attracted to my own gender.”

As I began accepting the fact that I am gay in 2012, and after reading “The Velvet Rage”, by Alan Downs, I began to see that I had the type of relationship with my parents that I did growing up *because* I AM gay. They didn’t know about my growing same gender attractions, but they were relating to me the best way they knew how as the parents of a gay son. The ex-gay world taught me the opposite; that I was “attracted to men” because of the type of relationship I had with my parents. Coming to this new realization was life-changing and life-giving to me.”

Thankfully, his story has a good ending as far as his relationships with his parents goes. But not all end up well, and certainly not without the pain they all endured during the time they believed homosexuality was developed from bad family relationships.

Questions like the ones promoted by this upcoming conference do nothing but add to the misbeliefs. Regardless of how this conference handles those questions, bringing them up smack in the face of every parent who hasn’t gotten free from the shame and guilt.

I’m FURIOUS that this harmful deception continues today in 2017!!!!

Exodus International, a very large coalition of ExGay ministries, shut down several years ago. As they evaluated the success and failures of the 40 year run of the ministry they realized that no one had changed their sexual orientation and that many, if not most, were struggling with their faith, their sexuality, and their family relationships. The leaders, including myself,  now spend a tremendous amount of time apologizing and making amends for our part in promoting the lie of child development theories.

Rob and Linda Robertson, parents of a gay son, created a documentary, Just Because He Breathes, about how ExGay theories and child development causation of homosexuality led to the untimely death of their son. He had believed he had shamed his parents and the division in their relationships led him to self medicate through chemical addictions and he passed away from the effects.  Rob and Linda went through a hellish evaluation of their family relationships and have now come to realize their son was gay, period. Their story is a glaring example of the extremely harmful results of this shame-based teaching.

A couple of years before their son passed away they attended an Exodus conference where there was a strong emphasis on youth. While the young kids were meeting with the leaders I met with the parents in a space just outside the door to the auditorium where their kids were hearing lectures. When I met them again recently, my heart dropped realizing that I was in part responsible for their false beliefs about the development of their son’s homosexuality. This stuff is extremely dangerous!

I’ve known parents who have separated from their LBGT kids as a result of religious based teaching that they needed to see the harm of homosexuality and practice tough love and stringent boundaries with their kids. Thousands of LGBT youth have become homeless from the division with their parents, arguing, fighting, and alienation. LGBT youth shelters have risen up all over the country in an attempt to meet the needs of the homeless teens who are gay.

I’ve personally attended over 35 conferences produced by Focus on the Family called Love Won Out. These conferences promoted the deception that people can see change in their sexual orientation, taught child development theories on the causation of homosexuality and scared people into believing that there is a homosexual agenda that is attempting to breed into our school system. Each conference had an attendance of over 800 – 1000 people primarily comprised of parents. The oceans of tears from the audience did not appear to come from hope, rather it was a manifestation of the grief producing teaching that came from the facilitators of this horrific display of false doctrines and theories.  For several years I helped facilitate the Q & A after the parents sessions. In my position I held to their general presuppositions, but in my heart I wanted more to show the parents how to love their kids unconditionally. After a season, I was no longer asked to help. I was considered to edgy and far too loose on my standards for their comfort. Something inside me was deeply challenged but at the time I didn’t know what it was.

As the leader of Love In Action for twenty two years as well as my service on the board of directors for Exodus International for eleven of those years, I’ve seen thousands who have begged God, pleaded, wept and searched their hearts deeply while looking for change in their sexual orientation. I’ve experience parents who have cried until there are no tears left in the hope they’d see the miracle of change in their kids’ lives. After I resigned from Love In Action in 2008 I began my own search for truth. I finally looked back with honesty and realized I had not seen anyone’s sexual orientation change and got in touch with the wreckage that had occurred in many men and women’s lives.

Over the years I was asked many times about the success of our programs. I knew I could never talk about sexual orientation change so I just kept my responses on God. “Oh, people here leave with a better relationship with God, and that is success in my opinion. That’s what is most important.” I always had that conflict in my heart. Most people came with a desire for change and parents support their loved ones’ decisions because they too hoped for change. That was not the reality of the outcome of our ministry work.

But honestly, the only real healing I’ve seen take place has occurred when LGBT people find grace and peace in accepting themselves as they are and for parents who have come to realize they did NOT cause their kids to be gay. The real peace comes when they finally accepted their kids while no longer expecting them to seek change. I’ve now seen tremendous healing when families come back together with more honest expectations and real unconditional love for one another!

I’m speaking out once again! Far too many still believe these things. Families must be reunited in love, acceptance, and support for one another.

THIS MUST STOP!!!!! The lies must no longer be acceptable to people of faith!

Parents, you are NOT the cause of your children’s homosexuality!!!!!


I’m Weird

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

Graham MooreThe 2015 Oscars had many poignant moments for me. It’s interesting that I remember more of the extras than I do the actual movie awards. But for me,  Lady Gaga singing The Sound of Music and the moving acceptance by Julie Andrews, Patricia Arquette speaking out for equal rights for all women, which is a long time battle that is not won yet, were two that stood out to me. Something that I related to more than the others was when Graham Moore in his acceptance speech for his work in writing the script for The Imitation Game, spoke of his experience with a suicide attempt when he was 16 years old.

“When was was 16 years old I tried to kill myself because I felt weird and I felt different and I felt like I did not belong,’ said Moore who is now in his early 30s. And now, I’m standing here.”

When I was 16 years old I also felt weird. I felt isolated from the others in school. Everywhere I went I wanted to hide, to escape and to find relief. I wasn’t like the other guys at all and I certainly wasn’t like the girls, even though I felt more comfortable around them.

I wanted so much to become an architect but I felt stupid and believed I could never pass the prerequisite classes to sign up for architecture classes. I skipped physical education classes as much as I could and flunked it in 10th grade all because of how much I wanted to avoid being around the guys. I took “COOP, on the job training” in my senior year just so I wouldn’t have to attend school as much and I’d separate myself from more of the discomfort of High School. So I worked a full time job from m my junior year on believing I just wanted to make money and support myself. I was emotionally shut down and did everything I could to avoid the reality of my home life and my personal existence.

I wasn’t a brave soul and therefore suicide didn’t enter my mind but as I grew older and experienced even more the pain of life I began to ponder ways in which I could remove myself from this world. I thought it would be much easier to kill myself then to go on.

Several weeks ago my husband and I were babysitting our little five year old niece, Morgan. We were having loads of fun, laughing, singing goofy songs and just being crazy. At one point Morgan spoke up and said:

“I’m the weird one in my family”

I immediately responded and said,

“Morgan, I’m the weird one in my family too.”

It struck me that at my ripe old age of 60 I finally accepted that I’m weird and I always have been. I’m finally comfortable enough to reveal my quirky personality with more ease. I’ve accepted myself to a point now where I’ve begun to accept my weirdness as a positive character trait. I believe I give something to people around me that brings laughter and fun to their lives too.

Just yesterday we ate lunch with some of our church friends. I said some really crazy things, teased a friend as we often do, talked about sewing, gardening, carpentry, antique collecting, winning the lottery and many other random things that come to my head in one sitting. Yep, I’m weird!

“Stay weird, stay different, and then when it’s your turn and you are standing on this stage please pass the same message”

-Graham Moore

As I heard these words come from Graham Moore I knew they were coming with wisdom and personal life experience. He was offering hope and courage to young people who are like I was, the weird ones in their families. I wish I’d had someone who could have affirmed me when I was 16.

I’ve known some amazing, wonderful, creative, and mysterious weird people. I’ve seen how much they add to my life, to our society. It grieves me terribly to think of those who have not made it to adulthood where they can accept themselves. We are missing part of our family of diversity and I’d like to see more acceptance and support for those that are with us today.

I LOVED Lady Gaga’s performance in the Oscars. The contrast of her beautiful voice, her tribute to The Sound of Music, and her tattoos and reputation for her unique personality and intelligence. It shows something that we can all learn from. Weird people can be well appreciated by others and accepted for who they are. Even in the popularity contest of the Oscars.

I’d like us all to think of the weird people we’ve known and ask ourselves how much color and wonder they add to our lives. The next time you see one of your weird friends, please tell them how much you love them and what their weirdness adds to your life.

I can’t wait to continue to affirm our little niece in her weirdness. She is incredibly intuitive, intelligent, and adds so much color and wonder to our family’s life. I cannot imagine what it would be like if she were no longer with us. I hope she’ll grow up accepting herself as she is and that her strength will lie within her confidence to be who she is.


Banning Sexual Conversion Therapy

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

homo-therapyAs the Executive Director and on behalf of the Board of Directors of Grace Rivers Ministry, I’d like to make the following statement regarding the banning of Sexual Orientation Conversion Therapy.

At Grace Rivers Ministry, we believe that a person must make healthy, authentic, and respectful decisions about how they will act upon their sexual desires. We believe people should be given the freedom by loved ones, the culture, and religious institutions to make those decisions without condemnation or coercion within appropriate limitations such as rape, pedophilia, sex slavery or sexual acts that will emotionally or physically damage another person. We also believe that a person considering marriage to a person who has a different sexual orientation should do so with great caution, counsel, and honesty with themselves and the one they are considering marrying.

We know that within religious culture there is vast disagreement as to what the Bible says or doesn’t say about homosexuality or transsexuality. Due to these diverse perspectives we believe a person should also have the freedom to believe and to follow their religious convictions in their actions and sexual relationships. However, we do not believe that a person’s sexual orientation can be changed through counseling, conversion therapy, Reparative Therapy or religious practices such as deliverance, or exorcism.

We believe that messages that communicate that someone’s sexual orientation can be changed through such processes or that one’s orientation should attempt to be changed to conform to society or religious belief can be tremendously harmful. At times these messages or practices can even be toxic to a person’s sense of self and psychological well being.

It is also our experience that when a person marries someone with a different sexual orientation (“Mixed Orientation Marriage”) that this marriage is destined to have great complications including the probability of divorce in time. We advise an honest evaluation of the potential effects prior to making the decision to enter into a mixed orientation marriage.

We stand against counseling practices aimed at changing one’s sexual orientation. It is our conviction that it is far better to provide support, counsel, and mentors to help people accept their sexual orientation as it is. It is within these supportive actions and relationships that we believe a person can far better make healthy and appropriate decisions as to their sexual practice and relationships.

Psychological problems, addictions, unhealthy relationships and the potential for suicidal ideations and actions can come as a result of coercion to change, or condemnation for individuals whose sexual orientations are different from the hetero-normative. When youth struggle with accepting their homosexuality or transsexualism and they do not have healthy and supportive mentoring, this can delay their emotional and sexual development causing immature, harmful and potentially damaging consequences.

I have personally been negatively impacted and I’ve experienced the consequences brought about by sexual conversion therapy. I also have led hundreds of men and women through sexual conversion therapy over a period of two decades. I’ve seen the harm and painful outcome of this inappropriate attempt to alter or change a person’s sexual orientation or identity.

We believe that sexual conversion therapy should be considered harmful, destructive, and should be banned as the toxic practice that it is.

John J. Smid, Executive Director

Board of Directors, Grace Rivers Ministry

BornPerfectWe support of the Born Perfect campaign. NCLR (National Center for Lesbian Rights)  has launched #BornPerfect: The Campaign to End Conversion Therapy in the next five years by passing laws across the country to protect LGBT kids, fighting in courtrooms to ensure their safety, and raising awareness about the serious harms caused by these dangerous practices.


What are they seeing?

Friday, December 5th, 2008

I was talking with a friend one day and he was strugging. “John, people I work with treat me strangely. It’s like they don’t like my ethnicity. They must be prejudiced.” When I saw the way he was standing as he spoke to me, I saw his ethnicity – with an edge to it!


My response to my friend was, “quit putting your international heritage out front and just show them yourself without the edge.” I could see that instead of just being himself he was putting a spin of defense that was not appealing to relate to. Our discussion went from there to talking about his insecurities that were more present and that he was putting on the ethnic edge as a safety mechanism.


I have another friend who is professed to be gay. When I spend time with him, I don’t see “gay” anything and we really don’t discuss his personal sexual preference. He and I talked about how people present themselves and I told him he was easy to relate to because he didn’t present a public image of an issue, rather he just presented himself, the person, for others to know and appreciate. He is a great guy to be around.


Then, there are others who profess being gay that are really complicated to relate to because being gay seems to be more of their identity presentation to me and others. Being gay is really what is seen, rather than just being a person.


I often sense that I see gay, or ethnicity in someone because these things are covering up their heart. It is the heart that I believe we connect to in a person but when self protection wraps itself around the heart, it is harder to connect to the real person behind the issue.


In Memphis, there is a pretty divided racial climate. I have friends who are black that I must say, I don’t see as being black or any other color. They are just people and I see through any skin color to the person. They don’t live with a cultural edge as their presiding image; rather they are just people and friends of mine. Then there are others that I know around town that to be honest, when I see them, I see “black people”.


I had an experience with another young man at a conference who was wearing a strange shirt, a polka dotted tie, and brightly colored hair. He was asking me some questions about my life and seeking growth in his own life. At one point, I asked him, “Help me understand the strange combination you are wearing?” He said, “Well, if people are willing, like you have been, to press through this off-putting exterior, then I trust their sincerity more.”


My response to him was strong, “Don’t manipulate me like that”. “It is not fair to me or anyone else to cover yourself up with barriers to relationship that are offensive or just plain strange. It only robs you of the very thing you are looking for; it also prevents me from being able to know you, your heart, and your reality.”


1 Sam 16:7
“But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”


I guess the bottom line of this is that responsibility lies on all sides when it comes to relating to people. It is true that God looks at the heart and we often struggle with seeing the outward appearance first. I believe we are all called to look deeper into one another’s lives and see that inside, we are all the same and that there are times when we all put on a false cover – especially when we are hurt or insecure.


We must be willing to let down our guard in deference to relationships. We must also be willing to love each other through our “strange” exteriors because we all have them!