Can Ex-Gay Pride Month Match that of Gay Pride?

 

If you’re upset that June’s Gay Pride month has ended, you can change your tune and celebrate for another full month by revoking your gay status.

In response to the increasing acceptance and equal legal standing of lgbtq people in the United States, the Family Research Council is launching two new ex-gay organizations and sponsoring a dinner in Washington DC to cap what they are calling the first annual “Ex-Gay Pride Month.” The new organizations Voice of the Voiceless, a lobbying group whose work is “to defend the rights of former homosexuals, individuals with unwanted same-sex attraction, and their families,” and Equality and Justice for All, sought a Presidential Proclamation (that has not come) in June to acknowledge the month of July to “recognize the unique experiences of ex-gays and former homosexuals and celebrate their existence in American culture.”

While advertising as having events throughout, the main focus is a dinner being held in DC at the end of the month. The groups cite that since DC protects ex-gays under its non-discrimination laws pursuant to a 2009 district court case filed by Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays it is the only safe city to meet and celebrate. The invitation for the dinner bills the event “to celebrate the lives of former homosexuals and hear about their unique stories and achievements!” Those invited to speak include Representative Michele Bachmann, Representative Tim Huelskamp, former Senator Jim DeMint—all whom greatly oppose gay rights, board members of Voice of the Voiceless, and other ex-gay ministry organizations.

This event comes at a poor time in the ex-gay movement. Mid-June, Exodus International announced that they would be closing after 37 years of advising ex-gays and using conversion therapy. This Orlando-based group was the largest in ministry-based conversions and was situated worldwide.

The President of Exodus International Alan Chambers released an apology entitled “I Am Sorry”  aimed at the lgbtq community. He wanted to detail what he saw was wrong with the work his organization did and on what he would be working to change it. Acknowledging the highly-criticized methods rejected by the American Psychological Association, among others, Chambers said, “I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn’t change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents.”

Many people have criticized the ex-gay movement as being harmful in the way it “cures” people of their homosexuality and by basing what they do on improper science. Others have criticized the notion of the ex-gay movement needing a pride month, stating that ex-gays are not denied rights and aren’t discriminated against, they are simply not accepted by the lgbtq community, whom they work against.

While the events of the “Ex-Gay Pride Month” are advertised as celebrating people, with those advertised to attend and speak it will most likely turn into a forum for denouncing and vilifying the lgbtq rights movement and to try to drum up support for a failing business model.

 

Exodus international Shuts Down: What’s Next?

Alan Chamber’s Opening Address

On June 19, 2013, the first evening of the 38th annual Exodus Freedom Conference, President Alan Chambers announced to attendees that Exodus International was shutting down. He did not make this announcement until the end of a one hour speech.

Eighteen months ago, leaders with the North American region of Exodus International met to discuss the future of the organization which Alan Chambers described as an organization “entrenched in rules” and “behavior, sin management, and shutting out God.”

According to Alan Chambers the organization considered four options as to how to proceed: stay the same; rebrand; modify; or shut down. He referred to rebranding as putting “lipstick on the pig to make it look different.” Even though the group chose to “modify” the organization, it didn’t seem to work.

So when the Board of Director recently reevaluated their chosen path of “modification” Alan Chambers said that they realized that “God doesn’t want us to modify Exodus anymore.” The attendees seemed to be stunned at this announcement. There was no audible reaction from the crowd.

Apology to Gays and Lesbians

Prior to making a public announcement of Exodus International shutting down, Alan Chambers reached out to Lisa Ling of the television broadcast Our America in search of a public forum in which to issue a public apology to gay and lesbian individuals who had been “harmed” by Exodus International.

According to Alan Chambers, Lisa Ling asked if he would be willing to speak directly to some of the individuals who had been harmed by the program. He agreed but reportedly asked not to be involved in choosing the individuals who participated in the discussion.

At least two of the participants Dr. Jallen Rex and Gail Dickert, were from the organization Beyond Ex-Gay.  Having personally heard stories of Beyond Ex-Gay members with Exodus International, it was very difficult to watch the video of individuals sitting in the room with Alan Chambers and his wife as he read his apology to them. The pain was palpable.

Reactions from others regarding Alan Chamber’s apology have been mixed. For some individuals the apology triggers old wounds and for others, anger. Some feel the apology was sincere.

What’s Next for Alan Chambers?

So what’s next for Alan Chambers and Exodus International? In his speech to the conference attendees he stated that “local affiliated ministries which have always been autonomous, will continue, but not under the name or umbrella of Exodus.”

He also told the participants that “this is a new season of ministry, to a new generation,” said Chambers. “Our goals are to reduce fear and come alongside churches to become safe, welcoming, and mutually transforming communities.”  The new website reducefear.org is still under construction.

Support for Gay and Lesbians

Alan Chambers told the conference participants that Exodus International would never abandon them but seemed to struggle with offering any specific support at this time. As he stumbled he told them that he hoped they already had some type of support system in place.

So I began thinking of organizations that already exist that help to “reduce fear” and are “safe, welcoming, and mutually transforming communities.”  Soulforce  is one of these organizations. Their mission is to work nonviolently to end the religious and political oppression of LGBTQ people. Soulforce Executive Director Dr. Cindi Love wrote a letter to Alan Chambers after the announcement inviting the organization to go beyond the apology and be a change agent in very specific ways. A copy of her letter is available here.

Another organization that is a “safe, welcoming, and mutually transforming community” is Beyond Ex-Gay. They are in the process of visioning for their future and are soliciting ideas.   Both organizations are available to help those in need and would appreciate the gift of your time, ideas, and monetary support. Check them out. They are worth it.