The Southern Poverty Law Center monitors hate groups and organizations that take a decidedly “anti” stance–anti-Black, gay, woman, etc. They also maintain an excellent site for educators and schools called Teaching Tolerance.
They have coved the ex-gay movement, but in their recent Intelligent Report, a quarterly print and web publication they provide a long article about the ex-gay movement as well as an interview with a former ex-gay leader through Desert Streams/Living Waters. I’m especially glad they included information about Living Waters. This program operates under the radar, has an international reach and does some of the most destructive forms of ministry I have seen.
Lots of us were interviewed for the piece including Scott Tucker, Daniel Gonzales, Eric Leocadio and me, all of whom attended the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference this summer. Sadly they did not interview Christine Bakke. I find the lesbian perspective gets ignored many of these stories even after I suggest to reporters to include women like Christine. Pam Ferguson, writer for Ex-Gay Watch and the former wife of a former ex-gay, does share some of her experience.
Over all I find it a decent article with few errors. (The writer states that I was in Living Waters, but I never attended that program. He also suggests that Love in Action’s residential program has closed. Actually the Refuge teen program was discontinued and replaced with a shorter weekend seminar for parents, but as far as I know, the adult program presses on.)
Sometimes I feel frustrated with journalists who get ex-gay details wrong. This was especially true during the 2005 protests of Love in Action. Reporters quoted me saying stuff I never said and routinely mixed up the facts. Of course I have had some involvement with the Ex-Gay Movement since 1982, so the nuances and minutia have become part of my brain. I guess it is sort of like World of Warcraft (hmm in so many ways actually) in that it is a world unto itself, and it can take a lifetime to discover all the nooks and crannies and players in it.
I appreciate that the writer of the piece, Casey Sanchez, does include a reference to the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference this summer in Irvine. More and more reporters recognize a trend where ex-gay survivors come forward to share their stories of what they hoped and felt was promised by ex-gay promoters and providers and the harm these earnest seekers experienced. No two ex-gay programs are alike, and some are much more dangerous than others. I know that some current ex-gays shudder when they hear about what went on in Love in Action when I attended (and likely continues today).
Even thoughtful ex-gay leaders (yes, they too exist) may appreciate the SPLC’s report on ex-gay ministries and programs. No doubt harm has happened and will continue to happen until leaders seriously consider what they do, why they do it and how they do it.
I appreciate SPLC stepping up and taking the time to look into the complex world of ex-gays and exposing some of the madness in it.