[tweet_dis]Nine former ex-gay leaders, from organisations like Exodus International and Love in Action, have signed onto a letter in partnership with the National Centre for Lesbian Rights[/tweet_dis] calling for a ban on gay conversion therapy and saying that LGBT people should be celebrated and embraced for who they are.
The former ex-gay leaders now say they ‘know better now’, and many involved in gay conversion therapy have shuttered or rebranded, like Exodus International, which very publicly announced it would shut down last summer.
Many of the signatories on the letter have previously spoken out against or apologised for supporting and advocating for gay conversion therapy. However, for some it’s the most public statement they’ve made since renouncing the practice.
“We all got together and said it’s time to produce a statement that is not a statement of apology, but a statement on our beliefs on how conversion therapy harms people. We felt like we needed to make that statement.”
John Smid, Exodus International
Smid said he experienced the harms of gay conversion or reparative therapy firsthand. Leading medical and psychological associations, such as the American Psychological Association, have discredited and criticised gay conversion therapy.
“In my own life, that message kept me trapped in a cycle of believing that I was emotionally ill and incapable of having a healthy life until those things are fixed. For over two decades, I lived in that mind-set. That’s why reparative therapy is so damaging. That was the message that I received and that I taught in my involvement with Exodus and Love in Action.”
John Smid, Exodus International
Advocates and other critics of gay conversion therapy, hope to expand the debate over the practice coast to coast. The letter from the former leaders comes as part of NCLR ramping up its #BornPerfect campaign, which it launched last month.
“We are committed to protecting LGBT children and their families from the severe harms caused by these dangerous practices. These practices have been thoroughly discredited by every major mental health organisation, and yet, every day, young lives are wrecked. We intend to stop the practices once and for all.”
Kate Kendell, NCLR Executive Director
Read the full letter:
Former Ex-Gay Leaders Unite in Opposition to Conversion Therapy
Conversion therapy, also known as “reparative therapy”, “ex-gay therapy,” or “sexual orientation change efforts” (SOCE), professes to help lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people to change or overcome their sexual orientation or gender identity. The majority of those who practice this “therapy” often do so with little or no formal psychological training, operating instead from a strict religious perspective, believing homosexuality to be a “sin.”
At one time, we were not only deeply involved in these “ex-gay” programs, we were the founders, the leaders, and the promoters. Together we represent more than half a century of experience, so few people are more knowledgeable about the ineffectiveness and harm of conversion therapy. We know first-hand the terrible emotional and spiritual damage it can cause, especially for LGBT youth.
We once believed that there was something morally wrong and psychologically “broken” about being LGBT. We know better now. We once believed that sexual orientation or gender identity were somehow chosen or could be changed. We know better now. We once thought it was impossible to embrace our sexual orientation or sexual identity as an intrinsic, healthy part of who we are and who we were created to be. We know better now.
Looking back, we were just believing (and sometimes teaching) what we had been taught— that our identity needed mending. We grew up being told that being LGBT was disordered, sick, mentally ill, sinful, and displeasing to God. We grew up being told that loving, same-sex relationships were shallow, lust-driven, deceived, disordered, and impossible.
We grew up with the repetitive message that LGBT people were not enough — not straight enough, not Christian enough, not manly or womanly enough, not faithful enough, not praying enough. Never, ever enough. “Toxic” probably sums it up best. That message is poison to the soul. Especially a child’s soul.
It can take a lifetime to get rid of that old programming and replace it with healthy, non-toxic views of yourself. Recovery from conversion therapy is difficult at best. Some remain forever scarred, emotionally and spiritually. Conversion therapy reinforces internalized homophobia, anxiety, guilt and depression. It leads to self-loathing and emotional and psychological harm when change doesn’t happen. Regrettably, too many will choose suicide as a result of their sense of failure.
In light of this, we now stand united in our conviction that conversion therapy is not “therapy,” but is instead both ineffective and harmful. We align ourselves with every major mainstream professional medical and mental health organization in denouncing attempts to change sexual orientation or gender identity. We admonish parents to love and accept your LGBT children as they are. We beseech the church to accept, embrace, and affirm LGBT persons with full equality and inclusion.
As former “ex-gay” leaders, having witnessed the incredible harm done to those who attempted to change their sexual orientation or gender identity, we join together in calling for a ban on conversion therapy. It is our firm belief that it is much more productive to support, counsel, and mentor LGBT individuals to embrace who they are in order to live happy, well- adjusted lives. We fully support the aim of #BornPerfect to bring an end to conversion therapy.