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'Ex-gay' recruiters go for youths

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  • John.Schott@phila.gov
    Ex-gay recruiters go for youths by Peterson Toscano July 01, 2005 PlanetOut News July 29, 2005 (Embedded image moved to file: pic11462.jpg) I ve done some
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 1, 2005
      'Ex-gay' recruiters go for youths

      by Peterson Toscano
      July 01, 2005
      PlanetOut News July 29, 2005

      (Embedded image moved to file: pic11462.jpg)
      I've done some nutty things in my life (like going on the unforgiving
      "sweet potato and grapefruit" diet), but my friends all agree that the most
      insane thing I've ever done was sentence myself to a two-year stint at the
      Love in Action (LIA) "ex-gay" program in Memphis, Tenn.

      While in LIA, one of the staff members, hoping to straighten us queers out,
      regularly taught that a definition of insanity is doing the same thing over
      and over again while expecting different results.

      Since I was a teenager, I made several stops along the "ex-gay" Underground
      Railroad, where I attended Exodus "ex-gay" support groups and dozens of
      Christian ministries. I met for intimate counseling sessions with pastors
      and Christian therapists. I endured three exorcisms and finally subjected
      myself to two years at the LIA "Homo No Mo" rehab.

      Just as I did with those sweet potatoes and grapefruits, I imposed this
      "ex-gay" torture on myself. Fueled with homophobia and self-loathing, I did
      a number on myself that nearly destroyed me.

      In total, I spent 17 years and over $30,000 in pursuit of the hetero
      impossible dream. In 1999, I finally came to my senses and came OUT. Oh,
      happy day!

      Many adults have done what I did. What's worse is that ex-gay recruitment
      efforts are now targeting youth more often.

      A few weeks ago, a 16-year-old named Zach alerted friends through his blog
      that instead of going away to, say, a band camp or soccer camp or any
      normal camp, his parents had enrolled him in LIA's teen reprogramming
      "ex-gay" boot camp.

      In a burst of righteous indignation, Zach's friends and many other
      Memphis-area teens rose up in protest. Each day, in the insufferable
      Mississippi Delta heat, they stood as witnesses to the persecution of Zach
      and many other queer teens -- all done in Jesus' name.

      Without any prompting from the adult queer community, these young people --
      queer and straight -- publicized Zach's story through blogs, protest signs
      and now media coverage. Like the rioters at Stonewall, which occurred at
      around the same time of year back in 1969, these Memphis young people have
      alerted America and the world to the madness around them -- in this case
      the madness of forced conversions.

      For years the Religious Right has slandered our community, accusing us of
      orchestrating a gay agenda that targets America's youth. They have claimed
      that we recruit and convert young people.

      They have been wrong about this for years. As if our community were that
      organized and in agreement about anything. Many of us queer folks find that
      it's hard enough to detox from a weekend of cheese fries and cosmos, let
      alone survive an elaborate process of de-homosexualization.

      But now look at who, with evangelical zeal, is targeting young people, and
      then is attempting to recruit and convert them. With the fundamentalist
      world view of saving a lost and dying world, "ex-gay" groups have taken
      upon themselves the mission to transform queer and questioning youth into
      their own image. Talk about hypocrites. In spite of the mountain of
      evidence by the American Psychiatric Association and every major medical
      organization in the world, they engage in unethical practices to make gay
      kids straight.

      In the words of Susan Powter, the great transformer herself, "Stop the
      insanity!" Let the captives free! And if some misguided, well-meaning,
      insane queer adult wants to reform himself into a shadow of a heterosexual
      -- fine, so be it, but let's leave the kids out of this.

      Peterson Toscano, an "ex-gay survivor and theatrical performance activist,
      shares his story throughout the United States in his one-person comedy,
      "Doin' Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House."



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