Gay and Lesbian Connection

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Former Ex-Gay Leaders Join Movement To Ban Gay Conversion Therapy

August 1st, 2014 by Admin

“We all got together and said it’s time to produce a statement that is not a statement of apology, but a statement on our beliefs on how conversion therapy harms people.”

As advocates mount a national campaign against the practice, several former leaders of the ex-gay conversion therapy movement are now coming out in opposition to conversion therapy, or efforts to turn gay people straight, BuzzFeed has learned.

Nine former ex-gay leaders, from organizations like Exodus International and ministries like Love in Action, have signed onto a letter in partnership with the National Center for Lesbian Rights calling for a ban on gay conversion therapy and saying that LGBT people should be celebrated and embraced for who they are.

“At one time, we were not only deeply involved in these ‘ex-gay’ programs, we were the founders, the leaders, and the promoters,” they said in the letter. “Together we represent more than half a century of experience, so few people are more knowledgeable about the ineffectiveness and harm of conversion therapy. We know first-hand the terrible emotional and spiritual damage it can cause, especially for LGBT youth.”

The former ex-gay leaders, many of whom worked at organizations involved in the practice for several years, say they “know better now.” And many of the organizations they were involved in have shuttered or rebranded, like Exodus International, which very publicly announced it would shut down last summer. But gay conversion therapy is still practiced in many parts of the country, according to the NCLR.

Many of the signatories on the letter have previously spoken out against — and in some cases apologized for — supporting and advocating for gay conversion therapy. But for some included, it’s the most public statement they’ve made since renouncing the practice, like John Smid, who was a member of Exodus International and who served on its board for 11 years.

“We all got together and said it’s time to produce a statement that is not a statement of apology, but a statement on our beliefs on how conversion therapy harms people,” Smid told BuzzFeed. “We felt like we needed to make that statement.”

Smid said he experienced the harms of gay conversion or reparative therapy firsthand — enduring what he described as the damaging message that gay people are somehow “broken and sick and that they need to be repaired,” he said. Leading medical and psychological associations, such as the American Psychological Association, have discredited and criticized gay conversion therapy.

“In my own life, that message kept me trapped in a cycle of believing that I was emotionally ill and incapable of having a healthy life until those things are fixed,” he said. “For over two decades, I lived in that mind-set. That’s why reparative therapy is so damaging. That was the message that I received and that I taught in my involvement with Exodus and Love in Action.”

On Monday, Yvette Cantu Schneider announced via GLAAD that she is sorry for her work in the ex-gay and conversion therapy movement, “and is now fully supportive of LGBT people.” She, too, has signed on to the letter in support of banning gay conversion therapy efforts.

The former ex-gay leaders coming forward to unite in opposition the practice comes as LGBT advocates such as those at NCLR and other organizations are pushing for a movement against gay conversion therapy, including in state legislatures. Just this month, Michigan state Rep. Adam Zemke (D-Ann Arbor) introduced a bill that would ban conversion therapy for minors.

“This is about the civil rights of children,” Zemke told BuzzFeed. “A lot of children look up to adults and follow their advice blindly and innocently. They’re kids — they don’t know any better in some cases. As lawmakers, we have the responsibility to protect those kids from things proven to be harmful and this is no different. This is protecting the right for kids to be kids, whoever they are.”

Zemke said he is seeking support from lawmakers in the chamber, particularly among members of the Republican majority, to whom he points out that GOP New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed similar legislation into law just last year. Action or progress on the bill, though, likely won’t happen until later this fall, Zemke said.

However, recent efforts to ban gay conversion therapy for minors in some states have fallen short. Last month, GOP leadership in the New York State Senate blocked such legislation and in April, a similar bill was defeated on the floor of the Illinois House.

Either way, advocates and other critics of gay conversion therapy, hope to expand the debate over the practice coast to coast. The letter from the former leaders comes as part of NCLR ramping up its #BornPerfect campaign, which it launched last month.

“We are committed to protecting LGBT children and their families from the severe harms caused by these dangerous practices,” NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell said in a statement. “These practices have been thoroughly discredited by every major mental health organization, and yet, every day, young lives are wrecked. We intend to stop the practices once and for all.”

Category: Acceptance, ex-gay ministries | No Comments »

Fish Gotta Swim, Birds Gotta Fly

November 23rd, 2009 by Admin

Here is the speech given by Enid Jackowitz at the Stand Up Florida rally this weekend in West Palm Beach

I am honored to be here today as the proud mother of a gay son and a PFLAG mom. 

When my son came out over twenty years ago I had a very hard time accepting that he was gay.  Back then I thought being gay was a choice.  I didn’t know it then but I was filled with homophobia.  A word I didn’t know but one I would become very familiar with.  Thankfully I found a wonderful therapist and as I began educating myself, I learned that what I knew about homosexuality was tinged with half-truths and misconceptions.   Over the years I went back to school and became a psychotherapist.  Now I specialize in Gay & Lesbian issues.

One of the things I’ve learned is that we can change many things about ourselves—like the color of our hair, or with contact lenses even the color of our eyes, and with surgery we can change the shape of our nose.

But, what we can’t change is our sexual orientation. That is part of our fundamental nature. And that is what these reparative therapy groups try to do. The reality is if someone is gay, he or she is gay. No matter how hard you try, you can’t change a bird into fish because you don’t like the song it sings. You might teach a bird to swim,  But eventually it will fly; that’s what birds do.

To purposely try to change someone who’s gay into someone who‘s straight by attempting to change his or her natural sexual orientation is not only psychologically damaging, it’s downright Orwellian.  And why is this done?  For what purpose —To make gay people “straighter” and therefore more acceptable to mainstream society.

These “reparative therapy” programs persist, even though organizations like the American Psychiatric Association, The American Psychological Association, and the National Association of Social Workers, almost ½ million mental health professionals have rejected and discredited their position.

There is nothing wrong with our children. They do not need to be cured or changed. Homosexuality is not the problem in our world today. Homophobia is—and it’s not a gay problem.  It’s society’s problem.

Knowing personally as well as professionally how difficult the coming out process can be for both parents and gay children I wrote a book to help parents through the coming out process.

The book is called, The Rest of the Way.

The title comes from an ancient story about a king and son who had a major disagreement. The son, feeling angry and misunderstood, gathered his belongings and departed his father’s kingdom and settled in a distant land.    After many years had passed, the king, missing his son greatly, sent word for his son to come home.  Although time had healed some of the pain, the son could not bring himself to return to his father’s kingdom. So he sent word that he would not come because it was too far to travel. The king then sent this reply to his son: “Then come as far as you can, and I will meet you the rest of the way.”

 Isn’t it time for all of us to travel the rest of the way and end homophobia NOW.







Category: ex-gay ministries, harassment, Gay-Lesbian | No Comments »

Gay Youth Coming Out

April 9th, 2008 by Admin

More young people are coming out to themselves, earlier than ever before as gay and lesbian.  But this increasing awareness of their sexuality does not come without a host of problems.     Often they have to hide their sexual orientation from their peers, family members and others, which can leave them both socially and emotionally isolated.  Those who are not closeted may face discrimination, verbal or physical harassment.  That’s bad enough  but there seems to be an epidemic of homelessness among gay youth.  And recently ex-gay ministries have shifted their focus to young people.                                              So while coming out  is more prevalent today than it was 25 years ago, one thing hasn’t changed: the lives of gay youth can be difficult and challenging.      

Category: ex-gay ministries, Sexual Orientation, homelsessness, harassment, Youth, Coming Out, Gay and Lesbian | No Comments »

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