'Ex-gay' recruiters go for youths
- 'Ex-gay' recruiters go for youths
by Peterson Toscano
July 01, 2005
PlanetOut News July 29, 2005
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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,
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
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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