Dear Mr. Pichai and Bezos:
I want to begin by thanking Amazon and Google on behalf of the LGBT community for their ongoing support. In a country where it is still perfectly legal to fire people in 28 states based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, your dedication to diversity and inclusion is notable. We appreciate your willingness to hire the best and the brightest regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity and for creating workplaces where LGBT people can flourish and thrive.
Given your commitment to fairness and inclusion, it is with great surprise, disappointment and regret that you have not swiftly moved to ban the sale of an app that demeans and dehumanizes LGBT people. The app, by Texas-based Living Hope Ministries, targets LGBT youth with destructive messages and misleads vulnerable and desperate people into believing that they can “pray away the gay.”
Every respected medical and mental health organization in the world considers attempts to change sexual orientation potentially dangerous. The American Psychiatric Association says that sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) can lead to “anxiety, depression, and self-destructive behavior”, including suicide. The American Psychological Association says, “There is simply no sufficiently scientifically sound evidence that sexual orientation can be changed.” Such “therapy” is considered so detrimental that fourteen states and the District of Colombia ban practicing it on minors.
Given these documented, verifiable risks, why are Google and Amazon still providing platforms for such an unsafe and misleading product? Indeed, there are real consequences when kids are told that their sexuality or gender identity is wrong and that they are broken. According Dr. Caitlin Ryan’s study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics:
“LGBT teens who were highly rejected by their families were 8 times more likely to have attempted suicide, 6 times as vulnerable to severe depression, and 3 times more likely to use drugs.” (Caitlin Ryan, San Francisco State University, June 2009).
A new study by Dr. Ryan, who also directs the Family Acceptance Project, reports:
“Parent-initiated attempts to change participant’s sexual orientation during adolescence were associated with more negative mental health problems for young adults.”(Journal of Homosexuality, Nov. 2018)
In addition to the self-harm that results from such noxious “ex-gay” organizations, the message that they impart to society can also have consequences. In 2017, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs recorded reports of 52 hate violence related homicides of LGBTQ people, the highest single incident number ever recorded by NCAVP. This number represents an 86% increase in single incident reports from 2016.
Given these sobering statistics, why are Google and Amazon allowing their platforms to become vehicles for obvious disinformation campaigns that will inevitably lead to discrimination, or worse? The app that you offer from Living Hope does not simply represent honest differences of opinion. The sole mission of the app is stigmatizing LGBT people. If one clicks the app, it is an echo chamber of repetitive, negative messages that portray gay people as less-than and inferior.
The app dismisses the opinion of mental health experts by comparing homosexuality to an addiction causedby“deep-seated wounds.” It casually trashes the rich and fulfilling lives of most LGBT people by claiming it “can help homosexuals leave their destructive lifestyles.” Living Hope repeatedly belittles transgender people by saying they suffer from “gender confusion.” The group refers to gay men as “sexually broken guys” who can “walk out of false identities” and claims, without evidence, that the “gay lifestyle” is “spiritually and physically harmful.”
The app also disrespects gay Christians by proclaiming that they “teach a false gospel” and that homosexuality “falls short of God’s best for humanity.” The group promises to walk “individuals toward God and away from bondage.”
In one video, featured on Living Hope’s website, the organization seems to suggest that being gay is the work of Satan, with the Men’s Ministry Director saying, “God blessed us with three incredible children, whom the devil intended none of them would be here.” In another video, a mother talks about how she rejected her son, “The enemy of our soul was already working on convincing my husband and I of the lie that our son was gay and born that way, and that it was our entire fault.”
Even more disconcerting is the pseudoscientific advice promulgated by Living Hope, which its staff is wholly unqualified to offer. The organization incorrectly tells clients that gay people “experience detachment from their own biblical gender” and that “many who struggle with SSA (Same Sex Attraction) have issues with abandonment.” Living Hope markets products to kids such as, “Why? Understanding the Roots of Male Homosexuality and Gender Identity”, as if their untrained, ill-equipped staff is certified in dispensing medical or mental health advice to young clients.
Finally, I submit that Living Hope is grossly misleading clients by not revealing its complete history. For years, the organization was part of the “ex-gay” umbrella group Exodus International, which had its app taken out of the Apple store in 2011 after Truth Wins Out launched a petition that gathered nearly 150,000 signatures. Two years after the app was removed, Exodus closed its doors after acknowledging that their program did not successfully transform people from gay to straight. Living Hope’s affiliation with the now-defunct ministry is not reflected in the group’s app or website, giving the false impression that this ministry has a history of success, when it has one of notable failure.
In conclusion, Truth Wins Out would like Google and Amazon to stop procrastinating and remove Living Hope’s hateful app that deliberately targets LGBT people for stigmatization, discrimination and ridicule. We ask that you follow Apple’s lead and live up to your creed of openness and inclusion by removing a misleading and scientifically bankrupt app that has no redeemable value or purpose.
I’d be happy to further discuss this matter, as well as your intended course of action. We can also introduce you to survivors of “ex-gay” programs who were psychologically harmed by such barbaric work. Every moment that this app remains at your stores, vulnerable LGBT teenagers can download it, so time is of the essence
History suggests you are better than this and will protect LGBT youth from a predatory organization that deliberately maligns and misinforms. It is time to do what is right and just by eliminating an app that has the potential to cause significant harm.
Truth Wins Out