Category: Love in Action

Change Was NOT Possible–part 2 of 3

This is the second in a three part series. Part One: What Was I After and Why?
Part Three: Living on the Outside

Part Two–What Happens When Change is not Possible?

After all my efforts, my faith in the Bible as I understood it and my faith in God and the working of the Holy Spirit, the change from gay to straight never came. In fact, the more I pursued what I thought was God’s ordained gayless path, the more I desired men, the more severe the struggle became, the more bizarre I acted out.

Finally after losing my marriage, my job as a missionary in Zambia, my close friendships and the support of my home church, I became desperate and enrolled in the Love in Action (LIA) residential program in Memphis, TN.

During orientation the staff informed us how we should envisage the program. How disappointing to hear John Smid, director of LIA, announce that none of us should expect to become heterosexual! He considered such a goal to be unrealistic and stated that most likely we would struggle with these same-sex desires for the rest of our lives.

I despaired. What a weak, powerless Gospel! Hearing this, one of the elders in my church back home questioned the spirituality of LIA. But after 15 years of believing I could and must seek to change my sexual orientation through the power of God, in deep grief I accepted the fact that such a change was not possible for me. It rocked my faith and challenged everything I had believed about the redemptive work of the cross and the blood of Jesus.

It turns out that Exodus now teaches this very message—change in orientation is not possible—although they share this mostly behind closed doors. Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International, spoke at the Love Won Out (LWO) conference in Phoenix earlier this year and via a transcript of his talk, Hope for Those That Struggle, I read what Alan had to say about same-sex attractions and change.
(hat tip to Jim Burroway, who is working on his next installment of his LWO series).

And I’m going to shatter your world here: heterosexuality shouldn’t be your number one goal. Whether that’s for yourself or for your kid or for your loved one or your friend or your family member. Heterosexuality shouldn’t have been my number one goal.

The opposite of homosexuality isn’t heterosexuality. It’s holiness. And I think we in the church often get that wrong. We think, “okay, the best thing for this person who’s involved with homosexuality or involve with lesbianism is that they come out of that lifestyle and go into heterosexuality.

Well if that’s all we think is necessary, we’re setting people up for a terrible fall. The opposite of homosexuality isn’t heterosexuality. It’s holiness.

This is not the first time I heard the mantra about homosexuality versus holiness. (Is it an ex-gay creedal statement or a think-tank created mind-bending talking point inserted intermittently to stir up shame and fear?)

In many ways this statement proves more sinister and harmful than statements promoting the false assumption that change in orientation is possible (which most Exodus ads still suggest to this day.) What I hear in the mantra is that anything homosexual by default is unholy, unclean, dirty, ungodly, evil and demonic—the opposite of all things holy. I heard this same message over an over in my youth be it on the playground, in the media or at church.

In his statement, Alan Chambers declares that people with same-sex attractions, who refuse to renounce these attractions, are unclean, much like the leper or menstruating women in Jesus’ day. These ceremonially unclean members of society were denied access to the temple and intimate relationships. Anyone with a conservative church background today can decode Alan’s message to mean that people who accept their same-sex attractions are denied access to God and to heaven. It may not be what Alan intends to say (or it may be), but the statement exudes this damning message all the same. Only the righteous enter the holy Kingdom of Heaven and homosexuals are NOT holy.

Back at Love in Action, I understood that although change in my orientation was not possible, I still needed to sort out my same-sex desires and get the victory over them. I stood with a choice-my faith in Jesus or my same-sex attractions? I chose Jesus.

At LIA I determined to gather the necessary tools that would enable me to manage and contain my sexual desire. I still dreamed for the miracle of complete deliverance from same-sex desire, but I knew not to expect it. So with the goal to be a faithful soldier of Christ, denying myself and taking up my cross and bearing it daily, I plunged into two years of treatment at LIA.

I devoted my time, energy and heart to the effort. I allowed the program teachings to soak into my mind, much of it stuff I already knew from ex-gay books I had read but with a more therapeutic spin on them, but also new techniques, ideas and theories. The program took on many approaches (some times changing approaches weekly) and in some ways incorporated the “best” of what was offered in the ex-gay world.

Though writing hundreds of Moral Inventories, I re-interpreted every non-straight sexual experience I ever had and re-labeled them dysfunctional, inappropriate and addictive. I continued to spend time in prayer and Bible study staying in close contact with God and looking to God for strength. I also submitted to LIA’s training to make me more masculine by changing the way I dressed, my affect, my tastes and hobbies. In the language we used at the time, “I worked my program.”

Next–Part Three: Living on the Outside

Video from Love in Action Survivor Initiative

Morgan J. Fox took video of the Survivor Initiative press conference outside of Love in Action in Memphis, TN. The event was organized by Soulforce. Ex-gay survivors David Christie and Brandon Tidwell share their stories of how pursuing to change and suppress their sexuality caused more harm than good. They stood up in front of Love in Action as a witness and a warning to others.

You can learn more about the Memphis event here.

Part One

So Much Ex-Gay/Survivor News So Little Time

I go off-line for one day, and the e-mails and rss feeds and google alerts just pile up!

Here is a little round-up of what is going on out there. First I want to mention Jim Burroway’s post about the “Lesbian Gangs”. This story provides perfect fodder for urban legends and gets spread like a virus by all sorts of folks who talk about truth and family values.

Now I admit we actually have a huge lesbian gang problem in my home state of Connecticut. Some of my closest lesbian friends are gang members, well, actually it is more of a parents’ support meeting and playgroup for their kids, but still these gals are pretty severe. They make their kids go to bed by 8 pm!

  • Ethan Jacobs at Bay Windows just published a detailed piece about the Ex-Gay Survivor Movement with lots of coverage about the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference (ans especially the Chalk Talk), the public apology by former Exodus leaders, the dinner with current Exodus leaders and the on-going Survivor Initiative organized by Soulforce.
  • David Foucher, who also writes for a New England based publication, Edge, published the second in his four part series about the Ex-Gay Movement with stories from both current ex-gays and survivors. Here is Part One and Part Two.
  • The Miami New Times published a LONG article entitled Scared Straight The religious right’s ex-gay movement is scouting local recruits. It is pretty extensive with coverage of both the history of the ex-gay movement and current events. They even mention Beyond Ex-Gay (bXg). I have not been able to read through the whole thing yet, but they try to reveal the human stories behind the people seeking change. (hat tip to the person to who told me about this article–was it you Tom D?)
  • Eugene Wagner at Ex-Gay Watch raises some Questions for Exodus. Also at his personal blog, Eugene posted Rigid, in which he talks about PFOX’s recent negative comments towards ex-gay survivors and something called a Stage Three Mindset.
  • The New Statesman (UK) has put out a special GAY issue to mark the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the change in legislation affecting same-gender loving people in the UK. They contacted me to submit a piece to them for the on-line edition, so look out for it. Check out my piece I am what I am and it’s not about choice (and like my sexual orientation, I didn’t get to choose the title either)
  • Disputed Mutability has begun the first of a series of post in which she looks at the ex-gays and ex-ex-gays: Exgays vs. Exexgays (yes, the title sounds like Celebrity Death Match but I know that is not her style). I appreciate her insights and the care in which she writes.

Lots of news got generated as a result of the Survivor Initiative in Memphis outside of Love in Action.

(hat tips to David Christie and Barry James Moore for providing links)

Click here to get links to the collages and statements presented David and Brandon on Tuesday.

  • Also Bruce Garrett came to Memphis to witness the press conference and documented some of it through photos on his blog. I particularly love the photos of the young people and the posters they saved from the protests of the last two years. They presented one of these to Brandon.

The primary message I hope emerges from the press conference on Tuesday is that going through a process to change or suppress your sexuality has caused much more harm than good for many of the people who attempted it. Sure folks who assist are often well-meaning and sincere, but that doesn’t negate the harm that they assisted us in bringing upon ourselves and our families. The Survivor Initiative serves as more than an opening to dialog (although dialog has begun on several fronts). The initiative serves as a witness and a warning.

I just got an e-mail about the trailer for an upcoming documentary, Gay No More? that focuses on the Ex-Gay Movement as well as Ex-Gay Survivors. (Some quotes by one of the filmmaker appeared on Page Six of the NY Post, hat tip to Joe My God–who is not the same as Joe G.). I sat with the camera crew some weeks ago, but they also met up with my dad and interviewed him too. You can catch a little bit of him talking about zebras as his cat tries to upstage him.

Survivor Initiative at Love in Action

This morning in Memphis, TN two ex-gay survivors, David Christie and Brandon Tidwell, shared some of their experiences as ex-gays and now as former ex-gays. They then presented collages of their journey to the Love in Action (LIA) staff. The event was organized by Soulforce as part of their Survivor Initiative. (You can view David’s collage here. Brandon’s is here. See ALL the collages here. Video of their statements and the presentation of the collages is here and here.)

Seems LIA staff were confused as to the nature of the event and the organizers . I was not there myself (I’m doin’ time in Hartford–aka home), but I heard that right before the press conference began, an LIA staff member came out to group that was gathering and asked repeatedly, “Where is Peterson Toscano?”

Here’s their official statement: Actually during the press conference in Memphis, I was home in Connecticut on the phone having actual dialog with an ex-gay leader (It was a private, confidential conversation, so I will reveal no further details).

I find LIA’s statement, and particularly my inclusion in it, to be very curious, especially since I am still waiting to hear back from John Smid after a recent e-mail exchange we had. I am not one to print private e-mails, but if Love in Action is going to accuse me of being closed to dialog all the while stringing me along with promises of dialog, I may need to set the record straight.

While focusing on current (paying) clients, John Smid has not found time to connect with former clients like me after expressing a desire to do so. Perhaps LIA staff and board will launch a last minute initiative to make some calls to former clients to check in on how we are doing. If so, it is a good first step, but cannot be considered a serious, thoughtful approach to organized aftercare and follow-up.

I did not organize today’s press conference or contact any of the media, Soulforce did that. My role as an ex-gay survivor was to assist the people who could go, (and I am glad to hear that fellow Quakers showed up to voice their support.) In the past week I did connect with Brandon and David about their individual stories, which you can view along with other narratives over at Beyond Ex-Gay (bXg).

As with the recent press conference in front of New Life Church, this one serves as a witness and a warning. It is not simply about dialog. I write some about the Ex-Gay Survivor movement here and what it is all about.

The vast majority of people who attend programs like Love in Action do not go on to live ex-gay lives. This is a fact shared even by Exodus president Alan Chambers. Also, many of us experienced harm because of the ways we tried to change and suppress our sexuality. Love in Action enabled us in that unhealthy pursuit. People who apply for Love in Action’s programs do not hear this critical information during the intake procedure. (Although they are required to sign a full waiver that says they will not sue the program for any harm that may occur.) These stories need to be heard in hopes that places like Love in Action will consider the harm of ex-gay conversion therapy, but also as a warning to people considering such programs for themselves or a loved one.

Perhaps Love in Action’s staff members believe they put people before politics and that they are genuinely interested in pastoral care. But will they hear David Christie’s story?

While still in my teens, I began seeking help for what I had been led to believe was an abnormal and sinful condition. From ages 15 to 28 – that is, for thirteen years – I was almost constantly involved in some form of counseling or therapy designed to thwart my homosexual orientation. Never accepting that a homosexual identity was an option, and believing I would eventually be able to manage or even overcome my homosexual desires, I got married at the age of 21. When that fell apart two and a half years later because of my sexual indiscretions, I became profoundly committed to ridding myself of homosexuality. So much so, that I remained celibate for the next 4 years, while in my mid-20s.

While still married, I had discovered Exodus, whose like-minded associates and organized programming gave me hope. For 5 years, I attended weekly support-group meetings in one of their affiliated programs through a local church. I attended 4 annual Exodus conferences in various locations across the country, and even lived for one year within an ex-gay residential program known as Love in Action.

All of this required a drastically altered lifestyle. I had to move. I had to change churches. I had to change friends. I dropped out of a promising graduate school career and took on a dead-end office job in order to minimize conflicts with my ceaseless schedule of therapy, support groups, and related events. Hoping to truly purge myself of homosexuality, I threw out old letters and photographs, books, and music, – things I loved, but which I had come to believe were negative influences.

Throughout all of this, I constantly battled feelings of worthlessness, self-hatred, and guilt. The doctrine of God’s unconditional love was useless to repair the damage done by the doctrine of homosexual sin. This led to a chronic depression for which I had to take costly medications from my late teens until I finally came out, at the age of 28. On a few occasions, in panicked despair, I seriously contemplated suicide.

David goes on to tell about his time in Love in Action, including an incident when he was physically assaulted by a staff member. He has found a place of healing and wholeness, but with the gut-level honesty that I have always known David to display, he confessess,

But I am scarred, and every day I feel the burdens of regret and grief. I grieve for my own years of anguish, but also for the confusion and pain I caused my wife, my family, and my friends. And sure, I spent a lot of money in this process, but what I want back more than anything is the time and energy I put into it.

At school, my peers are a decade younger than me, and hardly a day goes by that I don’t wonder: where would I be now if not for my ex-gay detour? where would I be professionally? how much more financially stable would I be? how much more confident? how much closer to self-actualization?

I realize such questions could poison my progress, but nonetheless, they arise naturally, and I must wrestle with them all the time. I even credit my ex-gay experience with contributing to the self-reflection that lead to where I am today, but I maintain that no one should ever have to go through such hell to get to such a place.

Later this week I want to focus on Brandon’s story and his Christian faith, which is still a major part of his life.

Brandon and David, thank you so much for stepping up and sharing your stories.

Photo credit to BJ Moore.

Weekend in the Mountains

Ah, I had a lovely weekend in the Catskill Mountains (New York State) visiting my dad. Steve Boese joined me for the excursion which included meandering meals, lots of lively conversation and little road trips on country roads.

Steve even looked in at the cottage that I own which sits right by my Dad’s house. (photo is of me in front of it when I was age seven) The cottage now needs some work after the former tenants let it go, but I have such a clear vision for the place–simple, rustic, comfortable and designed for hospitality.

I envision a table filled with food and surrounded by interesting, creative, thoughtful people enjoying each other’s company (folks like YOU). On the two acres of land I also have plans to plant an orchard and loads of wild flowers and let some of the field go back to a natural state to provide a habitat for the local animals that find themselves getting edged off the land by developers.

All in all a relaxing weekend which was still wonderfully productive. I am reading a book I cannot put down–Misquoting Jesus by Bart Ehrman. (Thanks Tom D for the book! Hope you had a GREAT 40th birthday) Ehrman raises the all important questions that I had been terrified to ask for years, How did we get our Bible and just how accurate is it?

Over at bXg (Beyond Ex-Gay), Christine and I have updated some new pages. See new narratives–Barbara Leavitt, Lester Leavitt, Eric Leocadio. And read the updated question of the month (ok so it is more like a quarterly feature). Christine also posted the next question, so check it out and tell us what you think. Later this week Steve will have our Collages page up.

Tomorrow some ex-gay survivors will present their collages to the Love in Action staff after sharing their stories outside of the LIA building. David Christie is one of these brave folkks. This is the first time he has told his story in such a public way. Please pray, send warm thoughts and comfort to these guys as they tell their stories. It is not easy work. Also pray that John Smid, the head of LIA and his staff have ears to hear what these survivors have to say. The purpose of the event is not to bash LIA but to talk about the harm that can and does come because of ex-gay conversion therapy in its many forms.

It is too soon to announce anything yet, but be on the lookout–I will have a big announcement in August. (No I am not pregnant, but feel free to speculate–you always come up with the most unlikely and delightful ideas.)

Oh, and here is silly video of Jose Luis and me in Madrid in May. (I have no idea why I lower my voice so much when I speak Spanish–raro)

Ex-Gay Survivor Initiative Heads to Memphis

What: Gay men visit Love in Action to tell of the psychological and spiritual harm that they experienced there and in other “ex-gay” ministries. Three survivors of the controversial residential program will present Love in Action with personal artwork depicting the damage caused by the message that gays and lesbians can and should change their sexual orientation.

When: Tuesday, July 17, at 10:30 a.m.

Where: Love in Action, 4780 Yale Road, Memphis, Tennessee

Who: David Christie is a former Love in Action client who spent 13 years in ex-gay therapy before accepting himself as a gay man at the age of 28.
Brandon Tidwell completed Love in Action’s adult residential program in 2002, but ultimately rejected the organization’s theology and reconciled his sexual orientation with his Christian faith.

Other participants: Jeffrey Harwood, Lance Carroll

Why: Love in Action (LIA) is a Christian residential program that claims to help clients “break out” of “homosexual attraction and behavior” at a cost of $7000 for 3 months. In 2005, the facility was under investigation by the state of Tennessee for operating a mental health facility without a license. LIA has since changed its operating procedures to avoid state regulation. Most recently, LIA closed its controversial Refuge program for teenagers and replaced it with “Family Freedom Intensives,” a 4-day, $600 per person. The program is for parents of gay or questioning teenagers.

Love in Action is part of a larger “ex-gay” movement, which continues to thrive in spite of Americans’ growing conviction that sexual orientation is not subject to change and despite a growing willingness on the part of faith communities to accept gays and lesbians as whole and valuable members.

This event is part of the Survivor’s Initiative, a national campaign to share the stories of “Ex-gay Survivors”-men and women who feel that ex-gay messages and programs did them more harm than good.

If you are in or near Memphis, come and show your solidarity. Also, spread the word. It’s been two years since the summer protests sparked by Zach Stark’s blog entries. No matter how LIA words it, Refuge is no more. Even so, the voices of their former LIA clients need to be heard as a witness and a warning.

More Collages of Ex-Gay Survivors

Yesterday I wrote about Barbara and Lester Leavitt and their press conference outside of the Latter Day Saint’s program Evergreen ex-gay program. In addition to telling their stories, the Leavitt showed up to give the Evergreen leadership specially designed collages of the Leavitt’s ex-gay survivor narratives.

Christine Bakke has spent hours creating beautiful and expressive collages about our lives as survivors. We each provide Christine with photos, journal entries, poems, scripture, etc and see soaks it all in then creates the piece. (You can see mine here) It takes her four to six hours to design, sometimes longer. As she builds the piece, she absorbs the hopes, the pain, the disappointments of the survivors. Much like our Chalk Talk at the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference, the creation of the collages is a meditation on the ex-gay experience–the good and the harm.

For Barbara and Lester, Christine created two collages that dramatically demonstrate the breaking apart of two lives and the creation of new individuality. So often the plight of the straight spouses in mixed orientation marriages go unheard. Lester and Barbara have wonderfully supported each other, but Barbara has found that while she accepts her husband as gay as he begins his new life, her church rejects her. If she denounces her husband, she is accepted with open arms.

On this blog we have looked at some of the lives of straight spouses, particularly wives. (See Gay Husbands and Sweet Potato Fries) In the pursuit of the American dream and of reaching for the heterosexual standard in many of our churches, gay men and lesbian woman have pursued a cure to their same-sex attractions and then marriage. Too often these marriages end in disaster. Barbara and Lester’s ended too, but their love for each other remains, and although it must be harder than I can imagine, they move on to support and affirm each other.
(click on images for larger views)
We will hear from more survivors next week in Memphis when Ex-Gay Survivors will visit Love in Action to tell their stories and give framed collages to John Smid, the head of that program.

More Video from the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference

Christine Bakke posted a blog entry today about some of the events that took place on Sunday during the optional activities for the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference. The big question we had was, What do we do with the Chalk Talk??? We created such a powerful group statement that we couldn’t just throw away. Having documented it through the pictures and videos we took, Christine and Pat Walsh and others came up with a beautiful idea of what to do with it. See for yourself.

Daniel Gonzales took loads of video during the conference and asked people to talk about change. Did they feel they did change while they were ex-gay? What was that like? He has these posted over at Box Turtle Bulletin. Here is video of my friend Scott who also attended Love in Action.
And here is video of Ron, who used to be a Love in Action house leader. You can see more here.
And earlier in the week Daniel asked a few of us the same question.

The Cost of Misery

Love in Action quietly closed the Refuge program. This was a nearly two-month long intensive ex-gay program for young people under the age of 18. Many of these young people attended against their will, forced by their parents who wanted to straighten out their kids.

This program is closed. But Love in Action is still in business.

In early May I wrote about my parents and the painful experiences they had when they attended Love in Action’s Family and Friends weekend. In the post, What About the Parents? I also mentioned how Love in Action recently announced the launch of a new program–The Family Freedom Intensive.

This four day seminar targets parents of lesbian, gay and questioning youth. The Family Freedom Intensive is a concentrated four-day course designed for parents with teens struggling with same-sex attraction, pornography, and/or promiscuity. Lecture, workshops, and break-out discussion groups give parents the information and tools to defend righteousness in their homes while interacting with their family in healthy respect.

Four days to deconstruct the family, to look at “root” causes, to unearth family dysfunction, to assert the father’s authority over wife and children in the family and to infect the parents with blame and shame. At least that is what my parents got when they went to Love in Action. Of the experience my father recently told me,

They made me feel that I failed you. That’s how I felt after they got through with me. That’s how they made all the parents feel.

I recently spoke by phone with recent participant of Love in Action about his family’s experience. He couldn’t speak about the experience without breaking down. He expressed heartache and anger. The relationship he had with his family fell apart as a direct result of the intervention they endured by Love in Action’s untrained staff. He sees no easy way to repair it.

I try hard to see the humanity and good intentions of ex-gay leaders like John Smid, whose programs have caused most of us more harm than good. I try to tell myself and others that they mean well, thathey really believe they have something good to offer and that they are doing it out of their sense of calling to God and others.

But with the Family Freedom Intensive, I find it much harder to extend this same consideration. Sure, unlike Refuge it is for parents who elect to be there and apparently youth can only attend the four days if they are willing to do so, but what are the costs?

Well, we spent time this past weekend looking at the emotionally, psychological and spiritual damage many of us experienced after we submitted ourselves to the care of ex-gay therapists and ministers. We know firsthand how our relationships have been impacted even today. And yes, we know of the financial costs.

I spent over $30,000 pursuing ways to change or suppress (or at least manage) my same-sex attractions. Much of that was spent at Love in Action, which at that time cost $950 each month. Altogether I attended for a little over two years. Before LIA, there was the specialized counseling in Colorado Springs that my then wife and I paid several thousand dollars to receive. Then there were the books, the conferences, the seminars, and the tapes I paid for. This stuff is expensive.

In keeping with that tradition, Love in Action charges for their Freedom Family Intensive. I was FLOORED when I saw the cost of the four(4) day seminar. Four days–take a guess at how much that would cost? $400? Gosh that would be $100 per day. Nope, it costs more than that. $1000? Nope. Guess again.

According to Love in Action’s web site (check while you can, they have had a habit of rewriting their site once folks blog about it), the cost of these four days under the supervision, care and ministry of the untrained Love in Action staff costs $2000 for parents. Should you bring your queer child along it costs $3000!

Good news! If you can’t afford the fee, (and who can???), you can encourage your family and friends to give tax-deductible donation. Love in Action is a ministry after all.

I feel thrilled that John Smid chose to finally close the Refuge program. I am not sure all of his reasons, and he will most likely release something about this some time. Perhaps he realized that having youth and adults in session caused them more harm than good, that forcing young people to attend and sit in sessions without any contact with the outside world actually caused some of them to be despondent and dishonest as they faked it until they were able to make it out of their houses or through college.

John, I ask you to consider the weighty burden you place on parents’ backs when you infer that they mess up their children. I know you don’t use those words, but for many of these parents, that is what they hear. Just like many of the youth and adults in your program walked away hearing the inferred messages that we are messed up and sinful simply because of the desires they feel and our inability or unwillingness to suppress them.

John, you want to see change in these families. As for my own, my parents were never the same after they passed through your ministry. They felt depressed and guilty. They felt blamed. You wounded them even though you intended to help them and me. No one can afford that sort of misery, particularly at the prices you charge.

What About the Parents?

When someone chooses to enter an ex-gay program like Love in Action (LIA), if they mean to or not, they often bring other people along with them–partners, friends, and in many cases, parents.

Ex-gay leaders have typically pointed to the parents as the probable cause for a homosexual child. How many of us have heard things like, “You’re mother was overbearing and your father was emotionally distant.”

The program leaders and ex-gay spokespeople pieced together the profile of what made us homosexual. They provided us with a template that insisted that serious dysfunction must have occurred in the home, and even when we insisted that things were fine at home, they questioned us further and suggested that we were in denial.

I have heard horror stories from lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people who have told me how program leaders targeted their parents, and in so doing, drove a wedge between parent and child. (see Jeff’s story in a previous post) In some cases the leaders misused their power and even coerced participants to confront parents about past events sometimes even hinting at unspoken abuses.

No one has perfect parents, and parents and their adult children need to talk about past hurts and family issues, but often without any trained counselors, after only a few days of group therapy, ex-gay program leaders have pushed parents and their sons and daughters into conflict and crisis. The “therapy” sessions have caused a deep rift in the relationships and have wounded the parents. The parents left feeling confused, condemned and brokenhearted.

On their web site Love in Action announces one of their newest programs,

We are excited to present a concentrated four-day course designed for parents with teens struggling with same-sex attraction, pornography, and/or promiscuity.

On a recent road trip with my dad I asked him what it was like when he and my mom came to Memphis for the Family and Friends Weekend at LIA, a concentrated family encounter. Here is some of what he said.

We went to the meeting and had no idea of what we were going into. We met a lot of parents in the same category. Lots of kids had no parents there.

Everything seemed to be on the up and up at first. Yeah, but we found out these things aren’t so. I said to them, “You can’t change a zebra’s stripes.” They didn’t go along with me, and they were very aggravated with me for saying so. Some people go through two colleges and they don’t have common sense. I hate when people keep things locked up.

They made me feel that I failed you. That’s how I felt after they got through with me. That’s how they made all the parents feel.

Years after I left LIA and I began to write my play, I interviewed my younger sister, Maria, about that time. What she told me broke my heart. She said that when our parents returned home from the Family and Friends Weekend, they were devastated. They didn’t eat right or look right. They acted sad and depressed. This went on for weeks. My sister felt so concerned that she actually called Love in Action and asked, “What did you do to my parents?!” She felt frustrated by the lack of concern or comprehension she encountered from the staff.

Before my mother died this past September, I apologized to her for my part in dragging her and my dad through the horror of that weekend at LIA and the subsequent ones. She appreciated hearing that, but even in her last letter to me, she still questioned herself as a parent, questions that I know arose in large part because of her time spent at LIA.

(photos of my parents, Pete and Anita Toscano and my sister, Nardina, I was in my mom’s belly in that photo)

After an e-mail from Jim Burroway, who will present at The Ex-Gay Survivor Conference, and his experience at the Focus on the Family Love Won Out Conference, I thought I would provide a link for parents to my post, Can My Gay Child Change?