Anti-Heterosexism Conference–why so negative???

Beyond Ex-Gay along with Soulforce, The National Black Justice Coalition, Truth Wins Out, Equality Florida and Box Turtle Bulletin announce that pre-registration for the Anti-Heterosexism Conference (Nov 20-22 in West Palm Springs, FL) is now open!

Wow, that is a mouthful. In addition to the main conference, there will be a pre-conference Ex-Gay Survivor event hosted by Beyond Ex-Gay. Ex-Gay Survivors and allies are welcome to take part in a day of programming designed to better understand ex-gay experiences including the potential damages of gay reparative therapy and strategies for recovery. It will also give ex-gay survivors a chance to connect with each other, share their stories and decide how they can get involved in countering the ex-gay myths in thoughtful and honest ways.

I imagine that someone scanning this blog post or the conference website may get the impression,

“Gee this is all so negative–anti this, ex-gay that, and damage too! Lighten up people!”

The first time I heard the phrase “anti-racist” I was taken aback. I served on the board of True Colors, a Connecticut-based non-profit that advocates and provides services for LGBTIQ youth. The organization worked with many young people of color near cities where institutionalized racism daily undermined the health, well-being and futures of people of color. The organization stated that it was not enough to say that they were inclusive. Racism ran so deep in the very fabric of society, we need to become Anti-racist and maintain that position. It continues to hold a strong anti-racist stance which influences its policies, practices and programming.

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According to the Conference Page:

Heterosexism is the presumption that others are heterosexual and that opposite sex attractions and relationships are preferable and superior to those of the same sex. Heterosexism has been encoded into nearly every major social, religious, cultural, and economic institution in our society and it leads directly to discrimination and the harmful efforts by some health care providers and religious groups to change or repress the sexual orientation of those under their care.
Anti-heterosexism involves recognizing and questioning the power and privileges society confers on heterosexual people because of their sexual orientation. It involves respecting and fostering the inclusivity and diversity of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.

Take a listen to ex-gay survivor Daniel Gonzales (w/his fetching new look. Daniel, I like the chin beard 🙂 ) as he talks about his own experience and the role of heterosexism in pursuing “change” from being gay.
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=elg9jlN1J38&hl=en&fs=1&]
Daniel mentions NARTH and Joseph Nicolosi in his video. NARTH will also hold a conference in the same city the same weekend as the Anti-Heterosexism Conference. No it is not coincidence. The connection between heterosexism and reparative therapy is firm and deeply rooted. It’s not just about faith. It not even just about gay sex. It is about what is considered “valuable” and “normal” and the lengths people will go to adhere to societal demands about orientation and gender presentation.

Jeff Lutes of Soulforce posted an essay today called Let’s All Be “Anti” So No One Else Ever Has To Be “Ex”. Jeff writes,

I believe “change”, “repair”, and “conversion” are indeed possible. Millions of people have changed their minds and now believe that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender citizens deserve full equality under the law. A growing number of churches have repaired their previously broken theology and now welcome and affirm everyone in their congregations. Slowly, the religious denominations that create and enforce church doctrine are undergoing a conversion in their understanding of LGBTQ people (let’s hope the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America undergoes such a conversion this week).

But the only way things change is if you and I are willing to be “anti” so that no one ever again has to be “ex.” Focusing on the work of anti-heterosexism (undoing the notion that straightness is superior and preferable) undermines the toxic belief system that encourages so many to waste thousands of dollars and precious years trying to become “ex-gay” in therapies and programs that end up doing more harm than good.

This is going to be an excellent conference that I believe will bring the discussion about gay reparative therapy and ex-gay ministry to a deeper place–one that cuts through the muck of religious rhetoric and bogus science that is too often used to prop up ex-gay practices. We have seen a lot of aggression over the past 20 years by those who promote and provide ex-gay theories and treatments. We need to press in with an assertive stance. Being “anti” is a positive expression of our commitment to create a world that is safe for LGBTQ people without the fear of someone forcing them into therapy or insisting that they must change to belong.

Check out the Anti-Heterosexism Conference page or the Facebook Event page. Let’s build on the momentum and the surge of informed opposition to treatments and theories designed to fix transgender, bisexual, lesbian and gay people. Let’s come together to support each other in our recovery and to make the public aware of the stories of ex-gay survivors.

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