Zach Comes Out

sun through trees
Originally uploaded by p2son.

On Friday Zach Stark came out of Love in Action’s Refuge “ex-gay” program. He may be out, but chances are he will not be free.

After weeks of enduring nothing but an alternative view, and sporting the Biblically-crafted lenses his parents and the program fashioned for him, it is uncertain how he will view himself and the world.

I don’t know if we will find out for some time what Zach really thinks and feels about his ordeal–even with his recent blog posts. He still lives under the financial control of his parents. Like many LGBTQ youth, he may face homelessness if he asserts himself and his queerness.

At a retreat in Northern Michigan, hearing firsthand the stories of the Point Scholars and the harrowing experiences many shared, moved most of us in the audience to tears. Parents shove kids out on the streets to fend for themselves or deny their own children money for college if their children persist in the awful gay lifestyle.

Zach may have to shut up and put up for the next two years and maybe even more. And with his father exposing the family’s identity to the world, the media circus surrounding Zach may serve only to increase the bunker mentality in the Stark home.

When I was 17, I first received gay reparative therapy. Although my parents did not force me, I felt compelled by the anti-gay messages I heard around me. Growing up during the start of the AIDS epidemic, the churches and the media capaitalized on the tragedy to frighten the shit out of many gay teens.

At 17 I began an “ex-gay” process. Looking back, it feels like I was placed in a time capsule. Sealed off from the world and even my own reason, I floated, suspended in a thick solution of shame, fear and self-doubt. The authorities in my life constantly reminded me that I was wrong, bad, sinful, deceived, corrupt, and I believed them.

How that container that kept me locked away finally broke open is somewhat of a mystery to me. I was lost, now I am found. I was blind, now I see.

Zach is out, but we may not hear his heart and mind for some time. Really, we should all just let him be to survive what he must survive the next few years.

But more importantly, Zach’s story is out, and it is the story of many queer and questioning teens in the US today. It is the story of many adult survivors of the “ex-gay” movement. It is a story that needs to be told and more importantly that needs to be heard.

This post has 6 Comments

  1. cml on July 29, 2005 at 1:32 pm

    hey, you–

    still checking in from here in MI. rest assured that you are telling zach’s story through your story, and that it is the story of so many youth and adults that needs to be seen and heard. with or without GMA, through your own re-storying of your life, you are offering an alternative beginning, middle, and outcome to anyone who even comes near you. you are powerful and compassionate–an awesome combination, and a beautiful one, too.

    miss you and love you.


  2. Ryan on July 30, 2005 at 12:45 pm

    Yeah…every since high school I’ve had a handful of gay guys for friends. Naturally, this would cause people to gossip, but I’ve always been headstrong enough to not give a damn. The guys appreciated me because I was the one person on the face of the planet that they sencirely knew I was not judging them with one fiber in my body. I would be on their side to the end.

    With all the stuff that is going on with my parents, knowing that the feeling was mutual was what was in it for me.

    EVERYBODY needs a little support.

  3. abbyladybug on July 31, 2005 at 4:43 am

    You are so right. It’s going to be a couple of LONG years for him. And I do find it so irresponsible that his dad came out with their last name. Very bad form.

  4. mudd on August 1, 2005 at 4:31 am

    Since I have not been ‘blessed’ to attend LIA, maybe someone can answer this:

    I wonder what effect the protests made on the LIA therapy plan. I got the impression that they tailor the treatment to the individual. What changes would LIA make to overcome our ‘unwanted’ influence? In what ways would LIA poison Zach and the others about us? The fact that LIA has been on the defensive for the past eight weeks would lead me to believe that their reprogramming might not be working as well as before. The residential participants (Source) probably did not see us, but the outpatient (Refuge) ones might have. How would that been handled by LIA? How would they try to manipulate the situation toward their ends?

    To me, these questions would shed light into how long (how bad) Zach and others might be affected.

  5. Slurpie on August 1, 2005 at 10:54 am

    If anybody is thinking that Zach’s LIA/R torture is finished think again.

    This is an extract copied from the Refuge Application Form.

    Refuge 2 week program $2000. Non-Refundable Deposit $300.

    Six-Week Extension period at a cost of $4500

    After Graduating from the program, Refuge offers Weekly Follow-Up programs. During this segment, the client remains connected with Refuge staff and continues to participate in one or more counseling and/or group sessions weekly, as advised by staff. The session fees can be paid at the beginning of each week or monthly in advance, whereby the client will receive a discount.

    I will be utilizing Weekly Follow-Up programs and will pay $100 per week.
    I will be utilizing Weekly Follow-Up sessions and will pay in advance $350 for four weeks.
    I have not yet made a decision about utilizing the Weekly Follow-Up sessions.

  6. A-Dub on August 3, 2005 at 4:00 am

    Hey Peterson,

    It’s good to hear that Zach is out, and thanks for helping to share his story and keep all of us updated!

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