Focus on the Family denies the existence of former ex-gays ‚Äî a growing movement of hundreds of people who have discovered through personal experience that ex-gay activists’ claims are not only false, but toxic to families and communities.
Former ex-gays gathered this weekend in Memphis, Tenn., at the same time as Focus’ ex-gay roadshow, Love Won Out, which appeals to antigay pastors and parents of gay persons with sales pitches for ex-gay propaganda and political appeals to deny equality to gay couples.
According to Peterson Toscano, a survivor of Exodus International’s flagship live-in program Love In Action: “They [Focus on the Family] basically tell parents of lesbian and gay kids that it’s bad to be gay, and they give testimonies about how awful people’s lives were while they were gay. They say they can change and save you.”
In promoting its roadshow, Focus on the Family on Feb. 20 described former ex-gays (who were to come from as far away as California and Connecticut) as “local activists” who advocate “a revisionist view of the Bible.” Focus concealed the central fact that the “activists” included former ex-gays.
Love In Action has similarly shielded its participants from survivors and allies who have held vigils nearby. Jacob Wilson, now 22, was an ex-gay participant in LIA in 2005. According to the Memphis Commercial-Appeal:
After Wilson left LIA, he found out what the protesters had wanted him to know.
“These people weren’t doing it to be activists, they were doing it to show that we weren’t alone, that we were loved … It crushes me that that message was cut from us.”
In its press release, Focus on the Family claims to defend religious orthodoxy, but a gay Orthodox Christian has meticulously documented, point-by-point, how the ex-gay movement’ statements of belief distort the Bible and corrupt Christian values.
Beyond its religious posturing, Focus on the Family’ press release also distorts a 2007 study by pro-exgay advocates Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse. The study, titled “Ex-gays?: A Longitudinal Study of Religiously Mediated Change in Sexual Orientation,” was designed to conform to its intended outcome: It purposely excluded former ex-gays from the sample data; relied upon vague, subjective claims rather than objective measurements of participants’ sexual orientation; and admitted that ex-gays who claim successful “change” have merely resorted to celibacy and relabeled their homosexual attraction with this euphemism: “not-uncomplicated heterosexual adjustment.” Independent analysis has found the Jones-Yarhouse study to be seriously — perhaps deliberately — flawed.
Exodus and Focus on the Family damage individuals and families, and do nothing to redeem the suffering they cause. Former ex-gays gather to support one another and warn others.
“There’s a lot of psychological, emotional, and spiritual damage [in ex-gay survivors], and there’s a need to unpack what we’ve done to ourselves and let other people do to us,” Toscano told the Memphis Flyer. “Those people speaking at ‘Love Won Out,’ who say they are happy, healthy, and successful as ex-gay, are the very rare exceptions.”