MCC is joining with human rights activists, LGBT Jamaicans, and people of faith from around the world for a day of global protest on Wednesday, 6 August 2014, in opposition to Jamaica’s Anti-Buggery Law. The law has provided legal cover for extreme anti-LGBT violence throughout the country. The anti-LGBT movement in Jamaica has been highly effective in spreading hateful propaganda about the community. MCC joins activists from around the world in calling for a coordinated, global response in solidarity with LGBT people on the ground.
6 August is Jamaica’s Independence Day, and we invite you to join us in calling for an end to violence and the legal system that enables it.
Jamaican Consulate Protests:
Our Day of Action will send a powerful message that the British-era colonial law has no place in any modern society. Dwayne Brown, the founder of Jamaica Anti-Homophobia Stand, said, “For too long, the government of Jamaica has failed to take decisive action to address the ongoing crisis of anti-LGBT violence. One important step is immediately repealing the buggery law, which has been used in various ways to terrorize the LGBT community.” It will further support the legal challenges taking place in the Jamaican judicial system to eliminate the anti-buggery law, an effort led by MCC’s Maurice Tomlinson.
Here’s what you can do to join the movement:
An Italian advocate for transgender rights and former member of parliament was detained at the Olympics for unfurling a rainbow flag with “Gay is OK” on it. Russian officials denied it, but the Italian foreign ministry activated its crisis protocol for Italian travelers in trouble.
Russian President Vladamir Putin showed up last week at a celebration party for Irene Wust, an openly lesbian gold medal winner from Netherlands. Just days before, outside of the Olympic arena, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) supporters were arrested during a peaceful protest.
When the Olympians go home, it will be business as usual. Orthodox Church leaders will continue to work hand-in-glove with the political machinery that scapegoats LGBTQ people. The lack of outcry against Russia’s anti-LGBTQ laws are producing a climate where gangs now go “hunting” to track down gays to torture them. Their impunity is so great, that many were willing to be filmed for an upcoming documentary without disguises while they humiliated and brutalized a person they identified as gay.
Read more on the Huffington Post here
11 FEBRUARY 2014 | BY ANNA D’ALESSIO
Gay people in Nigeria are calling on the world to help them protest against anti-gay laws.
Signed into law by Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan in January this year, the Solitary Alliance is hoping international pressure could help repeal the legislation.
The law prescribes 14 years of imprisonment for LGBTI people in the country, and also criminalizes the witnessing or aiding of same-sex relationships.
Michael Ighodaro, gay rights activist and human rights advocate, said: ‘Aside from the fact that sections of this law are in direct violation of our fundamental human rights – freedom of expression and assembly, freedom to have a private and family life – and set back the provision of healthcare services, they effectively signify that it is open season to attack the LGBT community.’
Since the signing of this law, a number of people have been arrested.
Gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans and intersex people, as well as their friends and family, are living in fear against state-sanctioned violence.
The Solitary Alliance, Nigeria calls on the rest of the world to join in a Global Day of Action on 7 March to stand against homophobia and the violation of human rights.
Ighodaro added: ‘The world has been silent on the passage of the bill, the silence is like saying Nigeria gays are not as important as gays in Uganda or Russia.’
‘That’s why we are calling on everyone to come out on [7 March] to show solidarity to Nigeria’s LGBT community, to show that the world has not neglected us.’
World’s Largest Democracy
Reverses Decision Upholding LGBT Equality
Activists Vow to Fight On
On Wednesday, December 11th, the Supreme Court of India hearing the case of Suresh Kumar Kaushal v. Naz Foundation overturned the historic 2009 Delhi High Court ruling decriminalizing the life of LGBT citizens in India and upholding the full equality of all India’s peoples.
The former February 2009 decision had been hailed as an historic victory for all nations plagued by the remnants of colonial era imposed legislation. Chief Justice Shah’s premise of “constitutional morality” and the principled belief of Dr. Ambed Kar that majorities have no right to discriminate against minorities simply because the former outnumber the latter served to embolden a decade of activism in India that changed the face of LGBT life and inspired Queer people throughout the region.
Today’s decision will, in effect, reinstate section 377 of the Penal Code dating back to 1860 and India’s days under British Imperial rule, imposing a maximum of 10 years in prison if convicted of “sex against the order of nature.”
Though today’s decision represents a loss, it also serves as a reminder to all of us that laws come and go with political and social climates. We must not be defeated by the momentary defeats, nor be content with singular and isolated victories, but rather keep our eyes on the prize of universal and full human equality for all people everywhere.
We must hold to the conviction that human rights are not given or taken away by courts or legislators. Human rights belong to all the people of God by virtue of our common humanity. What we fight for is the recognition of the inherent truth that we are all the valued and beloved children of God, worthy of being treated equally and with dignity in all things.
Let us all commit to living our lives openly and with heads held high, and to praying for our brothers and sisters in India who must once again summon the resolve to battle both the external forces of hatred and violence that are fueled by decisions such as today’s, and the fear and temptation to hide that become the internal battles of those under siege. Let us together pray for the day when honesty is no longer criminalized, but rather recognized and lauded as the virtue of all people who know themselves to be fully human and absolutely created in the image of God.
This statement prepared in conjunction with the Global Justice Institute
and the Public Policy Team of Metropolitan Community Churches,
Rev. Pat Bumgardner, Executive Director, Mr. Kareem Murphy, Public Policy Team,
and Rev. Jim Merritt, Marriage and Relational Equality Liaison.
Today we join our voices with many others calling for an end to the rampant violence against LGBT people in Russia. Reports of anti-LGBT violence continue to be received, including harassment, physical brutality and government condoned murder of LGBT people since Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law a bill banning the “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors.”
Prominent British broadcaster Stephen Fry likened the new laws to the Nazis’ persecution of the Jews earlier this week, and on Thursday, Russia’s envoy to the United Nations was personally confronted on his New York doorstep by activists wielding a petition signed by more than 300,000 people.
“The events unfolding in Russia should rightly cause concern for all fair-minded citizens of the world. They’re a complete travesty meant to divert the attention of the Russian people from President Putin’s failure as their leader,” said Human Rights Campaign Vice President for Communications Fred Sainz.
Rev. Pat Bumgardner, Executive Director of the Global Justice Institute (GJI), said, “We, as human beings, must not remain silent while any of our lives are criminalized. It’s not simply the right to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly that are at stake here, but our very lives when you consider the rise in violence and increased rates of HIV in areas where LGBTI life is deemed illicit.” She added, “Russia, and indeed the world must be put on notice: Attempt to silence any of us and you will hear from all of us.”
The GJI calls for an end to violence against LGBTQ people in Russia around the world. We call on fair minded people of faith to join efforts to speak against these acts of violence and murder and to stand in solidarity with those who are victimized. We call on members of the clergy to speak boldly for the divine value of every person. Finally, we join our prayers with those of people of faith for an end to the victimization of LGBTQ people in Russia and around the world.
This statement prepared by Rev. Dr. Jim Merritt on behalf of
The Global Justice Institute, Rev. Pat Bumgardner, Executive Director.
Contact: Rev. Dr. Jim Merritt at
Pope Francis asked a stunning question: “Who am I to judge?” This was in response to inquiries about whether or not there are gay priests in the Vatican — the now-renowned “gay lobby.”
In a 90-minute interview returning from his travels in Brazil, an affable, relaxed Pope Francis covered a range of topics, but the “who am I to judge?” response made the world do a double take.
“Who am I to judge?”
Well, the pope! You are the pope who inherited two millennia of, well, pontificating about what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s moral and what’s immoral.
I am sure the Vatican leaders are wringing their collective hands over a pope who may be viewed as a security and PR nightmare. He may seem out of their control, dispensing mercy and off-the-cuff pastoral kindness that blurs the lines of official church policy and pronouncements. We could almost feel the winds of Vatican II blowing.
My hope is that this is not just the kind of rock-star popularity that masked the sometimes-kind conservatism of John Paul II. He gave “warm fuzzies” to big crowds but became increasingly dogmatic as a corrupt system of financial and sexual exploitation lurked beneath the surface.
Pope Francis’ step toward humility was stunning, but few are naïve enough to think that everything has changed. Gay priests must still be celibate, and Pope Francis declared that “the door is closed” on the ordination of women. But what the pope did in that interview was to begin to live up to the Catholic Church’s own teachings about humankind.
Honestly, if all Christian denominations and traditions lived up to their own teachings about humanity, there would be a great revolution of respect. But that respect must include women as full human beings, worthy of greatness — worthy of ordination — and it must include lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people.
I sincerely hope this pope really does want to shake up things. Celibacy should be optional. Catholic women need the church to move into the 20th, not to mention the 21st, century and recognize their full eligibility for the priesthood. Sexual assaults on children must be eliminated. Decisions about contraception, reproductive health and choice should be in the hands of women, not by unaffected men who like to dictate policy. The use of condoms to save lives through prevention of HIV/AIDS must be commonplace. A revolution of respect can happen!
Virtually every faith tradition has a core belief that human beings have inherent worth as creations of God. The inherent worth of each human being means that Christians should be aghast at the brutal murders of gay men in Russia, Cameroon, Yemen and even in theUnited States.
In South Africa, where so-called “corrective rape” is used mostly against lesbians but also against transgender people and gay men, the brutality is shocking and too often endorsed by family members. Duduzile Zozo was raped with a toilette brush and left to die in early July. Bishop Tutu presided at her memorial service and famously said that he “would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven.”
Most anti-LGBTQ rapes, beatings, tortures and murders happen with little comment because it is too dangerous to report the assault or murder of a gay friend or family member for fear of police reprisal. Even with high publicity, the Cameroon police do not seem to be pursuing the person(s) who murdered gay rights advocate Eric Lembembe. Instead, Cameroon police arrested three organizers who have been critiquing the lack of action by Cameroon officials!
Where are the faith voices? Pope Francis, we urge you not to be silent! Use your moral weight to stop vicious attacks and cruel persecution. Promote a campaign for tolerance. We do not have to punish people for being different!
Why are Christians silent when Eric Lemembe is tortured with a hot iron in his own home? Why are Christians silent when lesbians are raped — even raped to death? Why are Christians silent as Russia, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and so many other countries pass laws that make talking about the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people punishable by prison or fine?
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe recently condemned LGBTQ people and promised to cut off our heads. Pronouncements like these are de facto endorsements of street violence, mob attacks, family rejection and official persecution against anyone who is perceived to be LGBTQ — as well as against their families. Mugabe is a Catholic who should hear from his new pope that violent homophobia is unacceptable for Catholic leaders.
Although the pope did not suddenly change the church’s view that LGBTQ people should remain celibate, whether as priests or as lay people, he did tell Christians around the world that it’s time to live up to the highest values of the faith rather than descend to base disrespect for human beings.
Pope Francis modeled a more tolerant approach to LGBTQ people. He is the first pope to use the word “gay.” Tolerance is a humble platform from which people across the world can be speaking out for mutual respect. It is not a perfect platform, but it appears that it might suit a pope who doesn’t think of himself as infallible but as a human being who respects God’s good diversity. How refreshing!
As the head of Metropolitan Community Churches, which has ministries in 40 countries, I know that it is time that Christians step up and strive to fulfill the basic teachings of Jesus: Feed the poor, clothe the naked, visit prisoners — and, like the pope, judge not.
Moderator of Metropolitan Community Churches
Calls for Prayer and Personal Discernment
as Zimmerman Trial Verdict is Released
Earlier this evening, a jury of six women found George Zimmerman, a now 26-year-old neighborhood watch volunteer, not guilty in the February 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
Trayvon Martin was 17 years old when, walking to his father’s home through a residential area in Sanford, Florida on a rainy evening , he was shot in the heart after an altercation with Zimmerman. Wearing a hoodie and talking on his cell phone, having just purchased a package of Skittles and a can of iced tea, Martin became a symbol of young people of color across the United States who are often targeted by law enforcement, shop owners and other citizens as “suspicious.”
Approached and followed by Mr. Zimmerman for this reason, a physical fight ensued that would end in the death of a child, and come to symbolize our nation’s on-again/off-again struggle to accept and value its diverse citizenry.
As a community of largely LGBTI people of many religious, ethnic and cultural backgrounds, many of us know what it is like to be viewed with suspicion simply because of who we are. Many of us still live in parts of the world where our sexual orientations or gender identities are sufficient to endanger our lives.
Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, Trayvon’s parents, appealed for peace in the wake of a verdict and said that they could finally see “the end of the tunnel.”
The real end of the tunnel for all of us will be on that day when we stand face to face with the Creator God who made us all and pronounced all life good. In the end, we will be invited to share one table together. The Gospel of Matthew says people will come to that table from East and West, North and South, meaning from many directions.
I know the members and friends of Metropolitan Community Churches may be coming from many directions with regard to this case and all the issues it has raised, from racially motivated animosity to the use of firearms. People around the globe suffer and struggle daily with the loss of children’s lives to violence — violence that is often times fueled by the failure to value the diversity of God’s creation.
Yesterday at the United Nations, another child targeted by violence, a 16 year old girl from Pakistan named Malala, spoke to the world saying that education is the key to a future of peace and good will for all of us. Shot because she was a girl wanting to go to school in a culture devaluing its female children, she said, “They thought that the bullet would silence us,” but what really happened was that “weakness and fear died…and courage was born.’
I urge all of us on this night when many of us may be reacting with shock, disbelief and anger and others with support for a legally rendered verdict, to really search our hearts and minds and spirits for the ways prejudice and fear have weakened our commitment to the prophetic vision of a world where lions lay down with lambs, and little children play safely over adder’s dens. I urge all of us as people of faith to recommit to the Biblical injunction against taking a life for any reason. The legal standard for “self defense” can never replace Scripture’s call to love others as God loves all of us.
Pray with me this night for the family of Trayvon Martin who, regardless of a verdict, lost a child to fear and violence. Pray for the day when all of us are at ease in the presence of difference and see only in each other’s faces a brother or sister in Christ.
The Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson, Moderator
Metropolitan Community Churches
This statement prepared in conjunction with the Moderator’s Public Policy Team,
The Rev. Pat Bumgardner, Chair. For more information or to arrange further comment
contact The Rev. Jim Merritt, Public Policy Team Communications, at
Exodus International leader Alan Chambers apologized recently for the harm done to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people by the so-called “ex-gay” movement. In that moment, the face that came to mind for me was the bruised, burned and emaciated face of 15-year-old Raymond Buys.
In 2011, Raymond was sent to a South African boot camp where boys — especially effeminate boys, or boys who were thought to be gay — were supposed to become men. The camp directors are now on trial for torturing Raymond to death. I am haunted by photos of his emaciated body in the hospital bed where he looks like a victim of a Nazi death camp.
Alan Chambers can apologize for suicides, deaths, lost years and damage to families, but his apology is only as good as real actions to counter the lies spread throughout the world by Exodus and other groups that underpin so much anti-LGBT persecution. Religious people who promoted ex-gay programs must bring the same fervor to saving our lives as they have brought to trying to separate our souls from our God-given sexual orientations and gender identities.
Around the world, effeminate boys and masculine girls continue to be tortured, raped and sometimes murdered with the tacit support of so-called “ex-gay” movements. For decades, they have promoted the lie that LGBT people could be heterosexual if we really wanted to and prayed hard enough.
Even in a country with constitutional protections like South Africa, Raymond’s mother was not immune to homophobia. Raymond’s mother thought her son could man up with a little help from a boot camp.
She was devastated by his death and learned through testimony that Raymond had been chained to his bed for extended periods and left in his own soil. Tortures included being forced to eat his own feces, and camp leaders put a pillowcase over his head and used an electric cattle prod on his fragile body. When he arrived at the hospital, he had multiple burns, his bones were broken, and he was starved and dehydrated. Medical attention came too late.
Too many mothers and fathers send their children to military boot camps or through so-called “ex-gay” or “reparative therapy” programs where debunked psychology is enmeshed with religious bigotry to produce persecution and unwarranted shame.
Alan Chambers’ apology is historic, but apologies from others who left these pseudoscientific programs have not been able to stop the purveyors of “ex-gay” lies. Exodus International is shutting its doors, but Exodus Global Alliance is still perpetrating spiritual violence against LGBT people around the world. Spokespeople like Alan Chambers must step up and condemn these programs as well.
What led up to this moment?
Chambers is not the first “ex-gay” program survivor to come out and apologize. Michael Bussee, founder of Exodus, recanted years ago and now spends his life working for equality.John Paulk, a one-time Focus on the Family star who was once featured on the cover ofNewsweek as “ex-gay,” said he is gay and expressed regret for the harm his work had done.
Some are outed. Paulk only apologized after being photographed in a gay bar. Matt Moorewas caught on a hookup site called Grindr. Moore is still saying that he was using Grindr to just see who was “in the neighborhood.” After being caught, Moore sold his computer, locked his phone, ended his blog and said more “seasoned believers” than he should be in the public eye.
When secrets, lies and obsessions combine with dogma and vulnerable people, it is always a disaster.
For example, Aubrey Levin (dubbed “Dr. Shock”) was arrested in Canada after a career of torturing gay men with electric shock aversion “therapies” in South Africa. He moved to Canada, where he continued to prey on vulnerable men. Finally, he was stopped when one of his court-mandated patients secretly recorded a session where Levin sexually abused him.
In another public debacle, a Florida newspaper photographed George Alan Rekers, a board member of NARTH (North American Reparative Therapy), vacationing with a “rent boy.” He tried to say the man was there to carry his luggage for him.
In New Jersey, Chaim Levin and three other men recently filed suit against leaders of JONAH, a Jewish “reparative therapy” network. Levin’s description of being told to strip naked as part of his therapy is shocking.
Tragically, much of the efforts to convert lesbian and gay people are deeply rooted in misguided religious beliefs. Originally, groups like Exodus and NARTH tried to position themselves as traditional counseling and psychotherapy, but no research has held up under scrutiny, and key players like Joseph Nicolosi and Richard A. Cohen lost all credibility as a result of ethics violations.
There is no viable scientific support for “ex-gay” programs. In 2007, the American Psychological Association assigned a Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation. The task force reviewed more than 80 studies, which were overwhelmingly flawed, and none could prove that sexual orientation could be changed.
In 2012, the researcher highly cited by conservatives, Dr. Robert Spitzer, apologized for his own research in which he interviewed people in the so-called “ex-gay” movement and asked them if they had changed their sexual orientation. Of course, a few claimed to have changed, but there was never proof.
With the veil of scientific legitimacy in shreds, the only remaining smoke screen has been religion.
In a 2009 study on “ex-gay” programs, researchers from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force concluded:
Young people are now being used as ammunition in the evangelical Christian and political right-wing’s war against equality for LGBT Americans. Ex-gay organizations, in particular, have taken what used to be an intensely personal process (coming out to one’s self, friends and family) and have created dedicated programs and conferences that link the personal lives of young people to battles over same-sex marriage and the election of conservative political leaders.
When Christians from almost 200 countries gathered in South Africa for the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization, the “ex-gay” movement was there. This time, it was the Exodus Global Alliance. This 2010 conference was the largest evangelical gathering in recent history. Exodus presenters claimed there are no more than a few thousand gay people in each African country, and that these are all products of the West. They intone that being gay is not a greater sin but say no other sin has a movement for acceptance. A speaker parroted the completely discredited myths about rejection, sexual abuse and distant fathers as “causes” for being gay.
In a world that allows Raymond Buys to be tortured to death because he was a soft and delicate boy, the travesties continue.
Even though nine countries in Europe, several in Latin America, and South Africa have marriage equality, more than 70 countries throughout the world have laws making same-gender love illegal, and in seven countries, being gay is punishable by execution.
What is critical to understand is that conservatives who claim they are acting out of Christian love are exporting these same defamed and debunked conversion “treatments” all around the world as a “gentler and softer” alternative to prison and execution. These same people are perfectly willing to label gay people as evil and sinful and then are surprised when punitive laws are enforced and people in the street begin to take the law into their own hands and attack and kill people they believe are gay.
Just last week, USA Today reported that an evangelical pastor appointed to head Brazil’s Human Rights Commission led the committee to approve a bill to make it legal for psychologists to treat homosexuality as a disorder or pathology. Where is the voice of Alan Chambers on this scandal?
Whether it is in the United States, South Africa, China, Africa, Latin America or Eastern Europe, homophobia is still at work, and too many evangelicals are still trying to position “ex-gay” ministries as the compassionate approach.
They are not!
Whether it is the death penalty, prison, shock treatment, laws that silence, or conversion therapy, all of it kills. Whether it kills the spirit, promotes suicide or results in the death penalty, carnage lies in its wake.
Raymond Buys, rest in peace. I will not forget you. I will not forget your broken body. I will stand shoulder to shoulder with all those who defend our young people who are LGBT or gender-nonconforming. Your journey ended, but your story continues.
“For decades, Exodus International has been synonymous with the idea that people need to be ‘cured’ or ‘healed’ of homosexuality. This week’s historic apology from Exodus leader, Alan Chambers, for the harm done to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people by Exodus is encouraging,” said the Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson. “Sadly, nothing will bring back the lives lost to suicide based on pseudo-psychology and corrupt theology. Any apology for past suicides, lost years and damage to families is only as good as real actions to counter the lies spread throughout the world by past Exodus action.
“What is needed is true repentance and a conversion to truth telling. The theology of condemnation must be replaced with a theology of grace in the service of God’s good creation-including LGBT people. The trail of emotional, psychological and spiritual damage must be mitigated by evangelistic outreach around the world where the lives of LGBT people hang in the balance at the hands of religious and political leaders who would shed their blood, rape their bodies, and crucify their spirits for their own careers.
“We will not be satisfied until we see Evangelicals bring the same fervor to saving our lives as they have to trying to separate our souls from our God-given sexual orientations and gender identities.
“Around the world, MCC is known as ‘The Human Rights Church’ because we are sometimes the only faith tradition standing up for the lives of LGBT people. Exodus has the opportunity to join us.
“In just days, MCC will celebrate 45 years of ministry and advocacy as we gather in Chicago, July 1-5, for our 25th General Conference. We exhort Exodus leaders to join us. Join us to celebrate the life of Bishop Christopher Senyonjo of Uganda who risks his life every day to fight the infamous ‘kill the gays’ bill. We challenge you to sit at the feet of leaders who founded the Global Justice Institute and are working with LGBT leaders in Asia, Africa and Latin America.”
“Words are cheap. Lives are precious,” concluded Dr. Wilson. “Do not disappoint us.”
by The Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson
A trial began this month for the death of a boy who, in 2011, was sent to a South African boot camp where boys were supposed to become men—especially effeminate boys or boys who were thought to be gay. Photos of his emaciated body in the hospital bed look like the body of a Nazi death camp victim.
Fifteen-year-old Raymond Buys was not the first boy to die at this camp. Two others in earlier episodes died at the hands of the camp leaders who are affiliated with white supremacist groups. Camp leaders attributed the previous deaths to heart attacks but autopsies revealed choking in one victim and dehydration, broken bones, and brain hemorrhaging in the other.
Raymond’s roommate from his camp days said that Raymond had been chained to his bed for extended periods and left in his own soil. Tortures included being forced to eat his own feces and camp leaders put a pillowcase over his head and used an electric cattle prod on his fragile body. When he arrived at the hospital he had multiple burns, his bones were broken, and he was starved and dehydrated. He died.
It is for such travesties that The International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) was created to be observed each year on May 17.
We would like to think that Raymond’s death was perpetrated by criminals but it was Raymond’s mother who wanted him to man-up. How many mothers and fathers force or “encourage” their children to change their gender expression through such military boot camps or through so-called “ex-gay” or “reparative therapy” programs where debunked psychology is enmeshed with religious bigotry. How many boys are sent off to be “toughened up” without consideration of the persecution they might endure at the hands of enforcers of hyper-masculinity?
Whether pseudo-military, pseudo-psychology, or pseudo-religious, these programs demean, torture and even kill boys and girls—as well as men and women—if they don’t fit gender or heterosexual expectations.
“Poster children” in these pseudo-programs in the United States who claim to have been changed, over time, have come out and admitted they did not change their identity or sexual orientation. Michael Bussee, founder of Exodus, recanted years ago and now spends his life working for equality. Alan Chambers took over the leadership of Exodus and announced that Exodus should let go of their slogan, “Change is Possible!” He realizes that sexual orientation cannot be changed; the best you can do is to decide not to be sexual or to force yourself into a heterosexual marriage. Recently, John Paulk, a one-time Focus on the Family star, and who was once featured on the cover of Newsweek as “ex-gay,” said he was gay and expressed regret for the harm his work had done.
Paulk was photographed in a gay bar. Another “ex-gay” activist, Matt Moore, was caught on the pick-up site, Grindr. Paulk seems to just want to get on with his life but Moore is still saying that he was using Grindr to see who was in the neighborhood. After being caught, Moore sold his computer, locked his phone, ended his blog and said more “seasoned believers” should be in the public eye rather than himself.
Worse scandals reveal the tragic result of these lies. A few years ago, “Dr. Shock,” Aubrey Levin, was arrested in Canada after a career of torturing gay men with electric shock aversion “therapies” in South Africa and then moving to Canada where he continued to torture and exploit vulnerable men. Finally, he was stopped after one of his court-mandated patients secretly recorded a session where Levin sexually abused him. In another public debacle, a Florida newspaper photographed George Alan Rekers a board member of NARTH (North American Reparative Therapy), returning from a vacation with a “rent boy” in tow. He tried to say he was there to carry his luggage.
When secrets, lies and obsessions combine with dogma and vulnerable people, it is a disaster.
Tragically, much of the efforts to convert lesbian and gay people are deeply rooted in misguided religious beliefs. Originally, groups like Exodus and NARTH tried to position themselves as traditional counseling and psychotherapy, but key players like Joseph Nicolosi and Richard A. Cohen were discredited and barred from the highly respected American Counseling Association for ethics violations.
In 2007, the American Psychological Association assigned a Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation. The Taskforce reviewed more than 80 studies, which were overwhelmingly flawed, and none could prove that sexual orientation could be changed.
In 2012, the researcher highly cited by conservatives, Dr. Robert Spitzer, apologized for his own research in which he interviewed people in the so-called “ex-gay” movement and asked them if they had changed their sexual orientation. Of course, a few claimed to have changed, but there was no proof.
With the veil of psychology in shreds, the only remaining smoke screen is religion. Yet, even the biblical texts used to disparage LGBT people are fading as families headed by same-gender couples are front and center in support of the moral and civic institution of marriage. Across the United States, faith leaders are standing shoulder to shoulder in support of equality. Racial divides have been diminished as President Obama and the NAACP continue to speak out for equality.
In a better world, this would also be a requiem for misguided conversion therapies. However, in a world that allows Raymond Buys to be tortured to death because he was a soft and delicate boy, the travesties continue. Our young people are in the crosshairs of narrow-minded Evangelical Christians who will treat them as collateral damage if they cannot conform to compulsory heterosexuality and gender roles.
Even though nine countries in Europe, several in Latin America, and South Africa have marriage equality, more than 70 countries throughout the world have laws making same-gender love illegal, and in seven countries, being gay is punishable by execution.
What is critical to understand is that conservatives who claim they are acting out of Christian love are exporting these same defamed and debunked conversion “treatments” all around the world as an alternative to prison and execution. These same people are perfectly willing to label gay people as evil and sinful and then are surprised when punitive laws are enforced and people in the street begin to take the law into their own hands and attack and kill people they believe are gay. So-called “ex-gay” programs originating in the United States are the backdrop for much of the expanding international homophobia .
Evangelicals from almost 200 countries gathered in South Africa for the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization. Leaders of this 2010 conference, the largest evangelical gathering in recent history, included leaders from the Exodus Global Alliance. Exodus presenters claimed there are no more than a few thousand gay people in each African country and these are all products of the West. They intone that being gay is not a greater sin but say no other sin has a movement for acceptance. Another speaker parroted the completely discredited myths about rejection, sexual abuse and distant fathers as “causes” for being gay. She closed with the rejected slogan, “Change Is Possible.”
Whether it is in the United States, South Africa, China, Africa, Latin America, or Eastern Europe, homophobia is still at work, and Evangelicals are still trying to position “ex-gay” ministries as the compassionate choice. It is not! Whether it is the death penalty, prison, shock treatment, laws that silence all discussion of LGBT concerns, or conversion therapy, all of it kills. Whether it kills the spirit, promotes suicide or results in the death penalty, carnage lies in its wake.
Raymond Buys, rest in peace. I will not forget you. I will not forget your broken body. I will stand with all those who mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. I will stand shoulder to shoulder with all those who defend our young people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and gender non-conforming. Your journey ended, but your story continues.