Last week I had the honor of submitting testimony to the Miami-Dade Board of Commissioners recommending passage of a policy banning conversion therapy for minors. Unfortunately, they did not pass the ban, and LGBTQ+ youth will continue to be forced into abusive counseling that starts from a damaging and false premise that they are somehow broken. These youth deserve better and should receive counseling that is genuinely healthy in affirming them for who they are; counseling that will equip them to enter the future with healthy confidence, not closeted shame.
Here is the post in full but please visit Equality Florida and Faith In Public Life to learn more about these fantastic organizations. Also, thanks, Rev. Terri for making the connection for me to be able to be a part of this effort to protect LGBTQ+ youth and their families.
“Former ‘Ex-Gay’ Leader Warns About The Dangers of So-Called ‘Conversion Therapy'”
(Last) Tuesday, the Miami-Dade Board of Commissioners rejected a proposed ban on conversion therapy, a harmful practice I can speak to all too well. After 23 years in the conversion therapy and ex-gay world I tried everything to change my sexual orientation as a gay man, nothing worked. I was a respected “ex-gay” leader, an ordained minister, as well as the Executive Vice President of Exodus International and spoke out frequently about “change” and “freedom from homosexuality.”
Then the blinders were ripped off when I lost a dear friend of 23 years to suicide in January of 2013 becfause he couldn’t “pray away the gay.” I had to come to grips with the fact that even though I had tried everything, taught and spoke all over North America on the topic, what I had believed in was a destructive lie; nothing had changed my sexual orientation, and all I had accomplished was a self-destructive behavioral modification. Even worse, I spent a large part of my adult life reinforcing religious stigma against LGBTQ+ people. It breaks my heart to admit that but it is true, and today I seek to do better now that I know better.
Conversion therapy is not therapy; it is deadly religious stigma hiding behind the big smiles and open arms of licensed counselors dishonoring their profession. It’s bad enough for adults to be manipulated into thinking that being LGBTQ+ is “broken” and conversion therapy is their only option, but to inflict this stigmatized worldview on children is child abuse with devastating results to the family and possibly the child’s well-being. It is not in the best interest of this governing body to allow licensed counselors to inflict what even their peers in every mainstream medical and mental health organization have debunked.
As stated, with over 20+ years in the ex-gay/conversion therapy world, and in my role at Exodus International seeing countless numbers of people desperate to find answers, I know that what is being offered by conversion therapists is not a viable “self-determined” path. LGBTQ+ children should be affirmed and celebrated, not shamed and condemned. I plead for any and all appropriate governing agencies to ban conversion therapy for minors; it is in the best interest for Miami, any city, any state and even the Federal government to do so. More importantly, to ban conversion therapy for minors will save the lives of some LGBTQ+ youth.
In June 2013, I helped to make the case to the Board of Directors of Exodus International that not only had Exodus failed its mission. It had become a tool of destruction. The Exodus Board unanimously voted to shut down Exodus, and we did so the summer of 2013. I came back out on January 12th, 2015 and while subsequently lost my post as a pastor, I currently live with my partner and his daughter in Mount Dora, Florida. I want to continue to educate others about the dangers of conversion therapy and help those who are caught in it to leave that world and to heal.
Being free is good,