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EN [USA] The Campiest Summer Camp

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  • Autumn Sandeen
    [Commentary] Anything But Straight: The Campiest Summer Camp By Wayne Besen Falls Church News Press - Falls Church,VA,USA Thursday, 30 November 2006
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 30, 2006
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      Anything But Straight: The Campiest Summer Camp

      By Wayne Besen
      Falls Church News Press - Falls Church,VA,USA
      Thursday, 30 November 2006


      I am frequently asked if the big screen comedy depicting a wacky
      ex-gay camp, "But I'm a Cheerleader," accurately reflects these
      conversion groups. People are surprised to learn that the hilarity
      and hijinx portrayed in the movie, starring drag diva RuPaul, is not
      farfetched from reality. Sometimes it is hard to tell if the zany
      movie is art imitating life or the other way around.

      For example, this week we have learned that Exodus International,
      the largest ex-gay organization, has partnered with a Christian
      group, Ignite Student Outreach, to produce the campiest ex-gay camp
      America has ever seen. The featured speaker at the summer retreat is
      Justin Lookadoo, a peroxide blond who looks like punk rocker Billy
      Idol on crack.

      If you click on Lookadoo's webpage, he poses bent over while
      grabbing his tush. He lists among his favorite singers "Ricky
      Martin, when he was still Latino and Michael Jackson, when he was
      still black."

      Lookadoo and other "wholesome" figures will lead four summer camps
      this summer in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.
      Ostensibly, they cater to all Christian youth, but if you delve
      below the surface, it appears to be a thinly-veiled front for ex-gay
      recruitment and the indoctrination of young Christian leaders.

      What is particularly disturbing about Ignite Student Outreach is
      that it does not explicitly claim to be ex-gay and focuses on "close
      encounters" with God. However, even a cursory look at their webpage
      reveals that it is laced with a dangerous ex-gay message, lists
      Exodus Youth as its only affiliate (at least until my blog publicly
      revealed the camp this week) and features ex-gay speakers.

      Indeed, Alan Chambers, the president of Exodus International, is
      scheduled to speak at the camp, as is his hunky Exodus Youth deputy,
      Scott Davis.

      This camp appears to be a stealth strategy for Exodus to get a
      foothold into summer camps and mold impressionable minds. The way
      they are trying to accomplish this is by appearing "cool," utilizing
      trendy graphics, innovative CDs and featuring hokey hipsters such as
      Lookadoo. The camp is also actively recruiting gay youths at
      colleges in the south through targeted e-mail campaigns.

      While Ignite Student Outreach has lavished resources on seeming hip,
      has it focused the same attention on keeping out hypocrites? What
      measures has the camp put in place to ensure that youths are safe
      from predators?

      Even Exodus claims no more than a 1/3-success rate and compares the
      transition to homosexuality as a constant "struggle." In a candid
      moment, Chambers told me in an interview for my book, Anything But
      Straight, "I don't think [change is] going from gay to straight.
      Just saying that doesn't sound like an accurate representation of
      what Exodus facilitates or proclaims."

      Given the admitted failure rate, the inability to achieve complete
      transformation and the constant battle against "sins" of the flesh,
      it seems that it is exceedingly unhealthy for Exodus to be in the
      youth business.

      We know from dealing with Catholic priests that men who try to
      suppress their sexuality often fail and look for easy targets to
      satisfy their urges - like youths in a summer camp. Given this
      parallel, why would a "struggling" ex-gay be admitted to lead a
      summer camp?

      Indeed, Exodus has already encountered problems with leaders preying
      on vulnerable children. According to the Los Angeles Times , in
      1998, one family sued Desert Stream, arguably Exodus's premier
      ministry, alleging that a minister had sexually abused a teenager
      while the youth was undergoing therapy to turn him straight.
      According to the article, the family settled its lawsuit for an
      undisclosed sum.

      I'm sorry, but this is totally unacceptable behavior for an
      organization that is working to get into pup tents with youth in the
      woods. If Exodus wants to expand into camps, they must come clean on
      what really happened in California and explain what actions were
      taken against the alleged molester. They must also reveal all other
      such episodes that may have occurred since this incident.

      There is the additional concern that Exodus will admit teens into
      these camps against their will. Just last week, I spoke to a
      distraught father whose daughter was taken from him by his ex-wife
      and placed in a desert bootcamp in the Southwest where she was
      forbidden from bathing. The father rescued her, but said he wanted
      to "burn her clothes" because they were so fetid.

      While ex-gay groups promote theories that belong in comedies like
      "But I'm a Cheerleader" the damage and mental abuse perpetrated by
      their leaders is nothing to cheer.

      (C) 2006 Falls Church News-Press


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      ~~Autumn Sandeen~~
      Transgender American Veterans Association Secretary
      Transgender Equality Alliance team member
      Transgender Advocacy And Services Center (TASC) of San Diego
      Planning Group Member
      transgendernews YahooGroup News Archivist/Moderator
      GLBT_News YahooGroup News Archivist/Moderator

      "We need, in every community, a group of angelic troublemakers."
      --Bayard Rustin

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