First, thank you to everyone who has reached out about the USA Today article. Dan and I have gotten quite a bit of feedback and people reaching out wanting to share their story and experience. It might take a little bit to respond to everyone, but we will!
It’s also been great to hear from several people who went to the Exodus referral ministry in Texas that I used to lead (Living Hope Ministries.) Haven’t heard from these folks in at least 17, 18 years. It was quite emotional to see those faces and to hear their updates of finally coming to terms with who they indeed are as LGBT+ people. Their messages were filled with love and grace when, considering what I used to teach, understandably could have taken a different tone. My heart is with them, and I am eternally grateful we all managed to find our way out of the ex-gay/conversion world.
Following Up On A Few Items In The USA Today Article
There are also a couple of statements in the part regarding my story that has been on my mind to explain a bit further. There weren’t any inaccuracies, just a couple of topics I wanted to elaborate on.
For Randy Thomas, 49, of Orlando the issue is raw. After Thomas came out in 1987 at 19, his mother kicked him out of the house and he moved in with a drag queen who happened to be Christian.
All true. Only wanted to add that my relationship with my Mom is so much better today. We still have our disagreements, but this happened a little over 30 years ago. We have had some excellent conversations about this experience since then.
As joyful as it was to embrace his Christian faith, his work with Exodus took Thomas down a dark path by a group that actively promoted what it called “reparative therapy.”
For a long time, we did actively promote reparative therapists, the approach itself and reparative therapy resources. All of which is synonymous with “conversion therapy.” It is conversion therapy but under its original name. We also promoted peer-based ministries (ex-gay ministries) that the few who remain after Exodus are now thoroughly infused with the conversion therapy ideology and approach. These peer-based groups and nonprofits became a mix of “spiritual discipleship” and conversion therapy.
Plus, I believe religious stigma against LGBT+ people inspired the concept of “conversion therapy” to begin with. I believe this because I met and/or friends with most of the counselors that began the whole thing. Every one of them was staunchly conservative in their religious and social beliefs. NARTH, the original reparative/conversion therapist network was filled to the rafters with Roman Catholics, Evangelical Conservatives, and Mormons who believed that being LGBT+ was inherently “disordered” and against “God’s creative intent.”
It’s also important to note that Exodus had three networks. First, there were the Member Ministries (peer-based groups that Exodus was most known for, about half of which are still running today). Second, we had a Professional counselors network; even if they didn’t say they were conversion therapists, their approach was to try to help patients convert from an LGBT+ experience to or toward their “gender appropriate” “heterosexual potential.” Third, we had an extensive network of supportive churches. Most of whom weren’t the hellfire and brimstone of the past (a few were) but still believed in and imposed religious stigma against LGBT+ people. To be a part of the church network they also had to be fully supportive of Exodus’ efforts.
I just wanted to share that to show that reparative therapy was near the core of Exodus but it wasn’t everything we did. That said, it did influence everything we did. Hope that makes sense.
Thomas, who had risen to the position of executive vice president of the group, decided with others that Exodus needed to be shut down. In the aftermath, he lost all of his Christian and conservative friends.
About the first part, the then Exodus President and Board made the ultimate decision of course, but I helped build the case and present it to the board. The second sentence is probably something I bumbled in the interview. I meant to say that I lost all my conservative Christian friends. I did make liberal/moderate Christian friends and still have some conservative (but socially liberal) friends. It was specifically the conservative Christian friends (easily over 90% of my support system at the time) that just disappeared; some not so quiet either.
To conclude this post…
Ok… so these are the thoughts that have been tumbling in my head for the last 24 hours about this. As I have said, I am honored to have had the opportunity to speak to these issues to help end conversion therapy for minors. The USA Today article is very important and written incredibly well. Please read it if you haven’t already.
It’s time for conversion therapy for LGBT+ minors, and religious stigma against us as a whole, to end.
You are loved,