Posted on 17 February 2012.
A harmful enemy has set up camp in your backyard.
Just 30 miles west of Atlanta in the town of Villa Rica, the largest conversion therapy conference in the Southeast will take place Saturday as Exodus International brings its anti-gay message to Georgia.
According to the Exodus web site, the organization “cites homosexual tendencies as one of many conditions that beset fallen humanity,” and it believes homosexuality is a multi-causal, developmental disorder that can be overcome with the help of professional counselors. That “counseling” refers to the practice of reparative therapy, which Exodus describes as a “specialized counseling approach that focuses on resolving relational deficits and/or trauma believed to be a contributing factor in the development of same-sex attraction.”
Today the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Truth Wins Out (TWO) and other advocacy groups gathered to expose the dangers of conversion therapy during a news conference at the Phillip Rush Center.
The groups outlined the dangers of conversion therapy—sometimes known as ex-gay, reparative or sexual reorientation therapy. Despite its claims of literally “converting” people from gay to straight, the practice has been discredited or highly criticized by all major American medical, psychiatric, psychological and professional counseling organizations. According to SPLC, people who have undergone conversion therapy have reported increased anxiety, depression, and in some cases, suicidal ideation.
“This therapy devastates the lives of many who have endured it and can result in lasting psychological harm,” said Sam Wolfe, an attorney for the SPLC. “It inaccurately assumes that LGBT people are broken and fraudulently claims to fix who they are. We want LGBT people and their allies to be aware of the disastrous effects this therapy can cause and encourage survivors to speak out against it.”
Events such as Exodus International’s ex-gay conference can lead young LGBT adults to believe they are broken and can be “cured” by this therapy. These events also lend an air of legitimacy to this dangerous practice that it does not deserve. In 2006, the American Psychological Association stated unequivocally: “There is simply no sufficiently scientifically sound evidence that sexual orientation can be changed.”
The groups launched a campaign last fall in conjunction with National Coming Out Day to encourage conversion therapy survivors to share their own stories. Survivors can share their stories at HYPERLINK “http://www.splcenter.org/conversion-therapy” \n _blankwww.splcenter.org/conversion-therapy. The campaign also encourages community advocates and elected leaders to scrutinize local conversion therapy programs.
One conversion therapy survivor, Chaim Levin, shared his experience. Levin grew up in an orthodox Jewish community. After grappling with being gay in his community, he approached an organization practicing conversion therapy, Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality (JONAH) when he was 18 years old.
“I was made to believe that there was something wrong with me and I needed to change,” he said. “I was hopeless and was looking for a way to ‘cure’ being gay, but the therapy didn’t work. It left me feeling even more depressed since they made me believe I failed. I finally accepted that there is nothing wrong with me and I don’t need to change.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Alabama with offices in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi, is a nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society.
For more information about SPLC, visit www.splcenter.org.
Have you been through this type of conversion therapy? Want to share your story? We want to hear from you. Email us at [email protected] and help us bring awareness to this disastrous program.