Queer Action Coalition

Thursday, June 01, 2006

FORMER REFUGE CLIENT RETURNS TO MEMPHIS A YEAR LATER...


The summer of 2005, for those aware of the ex-gay world, the name Zach will probably never be forgotten. What most people don't know is that Zach, still a year from being 18, wasn't the only kid forced into the REFUGE program during those two months of protests, and world-wide media coverage. Another teenage boy, Lance Carroll, now 18, entered the program the same day as Zach did...and remained in the program for two months....just as zach did...

In January of 2005, I came out to my parents as being gay. After an initial positive and supporting reaction they began to change their minds. They had me see three separate counselors, the last of which was a Christian counselor in St. Louis who worked for a fundamentalist, evangelical church. He told me that I wasn’t really gay, in fact no one was “really” gay. He tried to convince me that the whole idea of homosexual orientation is a lie, and that I felt the way I did because of some sort of early emotional/psychological deficiency. This counselor recommended Love in Action to my parents.
On June 6, 2005 I left Jackson, Missouri at five o’clock in the morning to make the long trip to Memphis, Tennessee. The first things I saw at the Love in Action campus were the protesters. That morning began my summer as a participant in the Love in Action Refuge program.


So, as this Monday, June 5th marks the one year anniversary of a very different and unforgettable kind of summer in Memphis, Tn...for the most of us who stood outside and watched both Zach, and Lance walk into LIA everyday, we got to then walk away...But in a dramatically different way, this "one year later" protest brings things full circle for Lance, who will now stand outside Love In Action and demonstrate in hopes of helping those kids who may be coerced into this summers REFUGE program.


I am attending the protest in reaction to my own horrendous experience last summer, and as an opportunity to voice my personal opinions concerning the Love in Action Refuge program...while I was there, it just seemed to make people more depressed and self-loathing than they already were. I, myself, went through several of these depressive periods.


It's a beautiful, full circle situation for those who followed the protest last year, and for those who are at all concerned about the well being of these kids. To know that this time Lance returns to Memphis, he won't be silenced, forced into isolation, or told he should be ashamed for who he is. Lance is taking his experiences and making something positive out of them, as so many former LIA clients have done.

More soon.

16 Comments:

  • This is a lovely full circle. There is power in sharing the narratives of ex-gay survivors. In the face of all the claims, the myths and the fear-filled rhetoric, stories of survivors by survivors speak volumes.

    I will be thinking of all of you as you gather in Memphis.

    By Blogger Peterson Toscano, at 2:23 PM  

  • I have a few comments about what’s being said on this blog. I have a hard time believing that there were no positive experiences and no good times at LIA. I should know, considering I was there. I don’t appreciate being spoken for. I was neither depressed nor unhappy while here. I did hate myself before I came here...I learned to love myself while here. This is not some “God hates fags” kind of ministry. We are not homophobic. I mean come on! Most of us have lived in the homosexual lifestyle. How many times have you seen me in front of your house with signs talking about how wrong I think you are? None. I believe in the freedom of speech and the freedom to express your opinions. I do not believe in slander. I do not believe in telling lies. I do not think anyone should speak for those who come through LIA. If Lance or anyone had a bad experience and they feel the need to speak out about what they learned that’s fine, but don’t try to make it sound like we all had the same experience. Keep it on yourself...if you all remember what that means.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:35 PM  

  • Lance was neither depressed nor self-loathing when he got here, nor while he was here. I went through the LIA program that ran alongside Lance's Refuge program, and watched as he enjoyed the outings we took, participated and engaged in groups, offered constructive and encouraging feedback to the other clients, attempted to express interest in his father by cooking cobblers outside with him and talking with him, admitted hurt and pain associated with his homosexual behavior and choices, and became a fast friend to every person in the group. I enjoyed being around him so much.

    Lance is an extremely talented, fun, exciting guy. No, he was not interested in changing his sexual choices. But, he was never forced to choose differently than homosexuality. While he was challenged to "try God--even for a month! See what you think" as one staff member suggested, no one at Love In Action ever told him he was going to go to hell or be judged or condemned for choosing homosexuality. If anything, Lance was encouraged, affirmed for his abilities and gifts, challenged in building healthy relationships with good communication, postured to interact intimately with his parents, and given non-forceful guidance about what the Bible says regarding not just homosexuality, but a whole array of life issues.

    I am convinced that those who post negative comments toward Love In Action on this blog exalt homosexuality and physical freedom over a Holy God, and lacked a commitment in their own journey to leave homosexuality, and could only settle for old behaviors. For this, I am sorry and encourage you each to get back in the race, especially you, Lance. You all contain the potential to fight, to be men, to proudly and honorably take responsibility for your lives, and reflect a loving God to others in selfless relationships. This is contrary to all homosexual relationships I have been involved in and seen firsthand, and is truly evidence that God blesses obedient living. I love you all and pray for your health and well-being!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:42 PM  

  • Le Dance Pathetique...as choreographed by Anonymous...

    Un...

    Lance is an extremely talented, fun, exciting guy.

    Deux...

    ...he was never forced to choose differently than homosexuality.

    Trois...

    ...no one at Love In Action ever told him he was going to go to hell or be judged or condemned for choosing homosexuality.

    Quatre...

    If anything, Lance was encouraged, affirmed for his abilities and gifts...

    Cinq...

    ...and given non-forceful guidance about what the Bible says regarding not just homosexuality, but a whole array of life issues.

    Six...

    I am convinced that those who post negative comments toward Love In Action on this blog exalt homosexuality and physical freedom over a Holy God...

    Curtain. Applause a voux...

    By Blogger Bruce Garrett, at 3:56 PM  

  • Anonymous has obviously drunk the Kool-aid.

    He says, "I do not think anyone should speak for those who come through LIA. If Lance or anyone had a bad experience and they feel the need to speak out about what they learned that’s fine, but don’t try to make it sound like we all had the same experience. Keep it on yourself...if you all remember what that means."

    And then seven minutes later says of anyone who has a negative opinion of LIA must "exalt homosexuality and physical freedom over a Holy God, and [lack] a commitment in their own journey to leave homosexuality, and could only settle for old behaviors," and that all homosexual relationships he has "been involved with" (not been in apparently) lack "the potential to fight, to be men, to proudly and honorably take responsibility for your lives, and reflect a loving God to others in selfless relationships."

    So it's not OK for anyone to say something negative about LIA at all, or even comment on LIA unless he is only speaking for himself. But it is perfectly OK for Anonymous to make sweeping generalizations about millions of people, as well as to share information about another individual in a supposedly confidential therapy program.

    Kool-aid anyone?

    By Anonymous Michael Ditto, at 4:00 PM  

  • It is entirely possible that "anonymous" is one of the owners or leaders of LIA who is writing in the persona of an attendee.

    This is why anonymous posts are often distrusted.

    NancyP

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:21 PM  

  • I think what is pathetic here is that someone who is "anonymous" is so bent out of shape because one young man is courageous enough to speak out about his experiences. Apparently anonymous, who seems so certain about his own contradictory story, isn't so courageous. . .despite all the power of "christianity" Love In Action claims to instill in others.

    Maybe I'm wrong here, but don't you think that LIA is a rather expensive proposition if young people are joyously affirmed for their sexual orientation, even if it is gay? And why would someone of a different denominational persuasion be forced to listen to the interpretations of homosexuality as constructed by some fundamentalist-supported organization? After all, they don't have any more license to God's Truth than anyone else in this country, and it seems rather arrogant to assume they should impose a religious interpretation on minors.

    It also doesn't make much sense that LIA would be so affirming of homosexuality if Lance's recommendation for attendance at LIA was issued by some fundamentalist nutcase in St. Louis who told him that no one was gay in the first place.

    One wonders if "anonymous" is actually someone associated with the ex-gay-for-pay industry. After all, it certainly wouldn't be the first time a "christian" practiced deception.

    By Anonymous Kevin, at 8:26 PM  

  • It would be extremely helpful, I think, if Lance's parents would say publicly what it was they expected from Love In Action when they sent Lance there. Was it:

    a) "Lance will still desire the same sex as much as before, but may learn useful ways to help remain celibate",

    b) Lance will change from desiring the same to desiring the opposite sex by the application of proven clinical methodologies irrespective of religion", or

    c) Lance will change from desiring the same to desiring the opposite sex by the miraculous operation of the Holy Spirit".

    Why would it be helpful to know what the expectations of the parents were? Well, because it would, I think, illuminate and illustrate what parents' general perception of the place is, and this in turn might illuminate the marketing strategy of Love In Action.

    By Anonymous Phil, at 9:42 AM  

  • Coming from my childhood in the Assembly of God church and discerning my lesbian sexual orientation in my late teens and twenties, I felt tremendous pressure to "change" my orientation. My religious background clearly taught me that unrepentant homosexuals were going to hell. Even homosexuals who did not engage in physical acts of sexuality were sinning, simply by being attracted to and feeling desires for members of their own gender.

    I repeatedly fell in love with other girls, each time being rejected (because they were straight!), and each time hating myself and wanting to die because I "knew" how awful and filthy and sinful and disgusting I was for feeling the things that I felt.

    Eventually, though, I came to understand that God created me as the person that I am. I am innately drawn to members of my own gender for love and intimacy. My relationships with others are a sacred, as holy, and as reflective of God's love and covenant with humans as those of hetersexual people. God did not create me as a lesbian person only to then turn and laugh in my face and tell me it was all some big, sick practical joke and that I must suffer for the rest of my life, never experiencing true love and intimacy in relationship to a partner with whom I share my life. God loves me and desires that I be fulfilled and joyous, and that I be responsible and loving within the context of my God-given sexual orientation.

    I have studied the scriptures in detail with regards to passages relating to same-gender sexual behavior. It is extremely clear, once one has studied the scriptures in their original language and within the historical and literary context, that these passages do not speak to the issue of committed relationships between homosexually-oriented people. They refer to such practices as pagan temple prostitution, battlefield rape of defeated enemies, pagan sexual orgies, buying and selling of male sex-slaves, etc. In other words, they refer, not to homosexuals behaving responsibly in loving relationships, but to heterosexuals behaving very badly.

    God loves me as I am. I have a loving, committed and wonderful same-gendered partner of 15 years. We have two marvelous, beautiful, happy little girls together.

    I wish that all fundamentalists and others struggling with accepting and understanding their sexual orientation could come to know God's love and acceptance of them as I have. God is not the "monster" many of us were taught to believe in as children. God is not a testy creature who claims to love us one moment while holding a thunderbolt behind his back to "zap" us the next moment if we think the "wrong thought" or love the "wrong person." God has reasons for creating us the way we are. Just because we don't understand those reasons is not a good excuse for assuming God made a mistake.

    Blessings,

    Lorian

    By Anonymous Lorian, at 12:10 PM  

  • Just a few passing comments, hopefully brief. (1)There are no proven clinical strategies or methods which independent, methodologically best practice standards, and peer reviewed data have shown that anybody very much changes their sexual orientation. Changes from gay to straight, and straight to gay are probably still quite rare (statistically speaking) and of dubious origins. The most reasonable notion for now, until we have much more and much better empirical data on these change claims, is that people in the middle ranges of the Kinsey Scale spectrums - tagged bisexual for convenience - do get to choose (and it would appear, fairly often) whether they will pursue relationships with a man or a woman who is attractive to them.

    So far as the weak sister claims - that gay people are too much in love with physical pleasure to be capable of self-giving love? Or that gay people lack the manliness (what about lesbians?) and courage to Come Out of Homosexuality? These are simply instances of clearly bearing false witness against LGBTQ neighbors. That is listed in the Ten Commandments, and don't expect certain believers to stop bearing false witness any time soon. I spent about ten serious youthful years, involved in every religious and secular activity that was supposed to change my sexual orientation. Nothing worked, except that as I fasted, I lost enough body weight that it interfered with my metabolism (and thus seemed to be disrupting my youthful eros, hallelujah). Who knows? Some of the chronic health issues I now face may have partial roots in that period. In any event, it is when the certainties or change/reparative tx, or of religious miracle cures, fail - that individuals (often youth) and families (often extended across several generations) - become embroiled in bitter acrimony over who is letting God down. The idea that the change tx models are defective is so difficult, because normative ideas of universal heterosexuality misrepresent the pied beauty of human nature in sexuality. Then tie all that to God, whew, what a terrible ordeal. Some of my extended family to this day have tons of unfinished business over the failures of both the clinical and the religious methods that were said to be guaranteed to change a willing youthful man or woman. Loving self, loving family, and loving God/Jesus just wasn't what it was so rigidly framed to be. Alas. Lord have mercy. The good, good, good news is that there is - indeed - life after reparative tx or religious change tx. A real hallelujah, yes.

    By Blogger drdanfee, at 2:21 PM  

  • I just want to respond to the person who said that "After all, it certainly wouldn't be the first time a "christian" practiced deception." Not all Christians are anti-gay. Some of us are 100% pro-gay and believe that the morality of a relationship should be determined by the depth of love and commitment of the two persons toward each other, NOT on the shape of their genitals. I am very sad and disgusted by the large number of fundamentalist Christians who, in my opinion, completely misrepresent Christ and Christianity. But I am happy that many denominations fully affirm lgbt Christians (my own included) and many congregations and individuals in many other denominations do likewise, even if their co-religionists aren't ready to -- so don't judge all of us by the pathetic standards of Pat Robertson et al! And let me strongly affirm the courage of Lance and others who have left the "ex-gay" movement -- you are doing the work of God!

    By Blogger Tim Cravens, at 11:20 PM  

  • Anonymous, you say:

    "I am convinced that those who post negative comments toward Love In Action on this blog exalt homosexuality and physical freedom over a Holy God, and lacked a commitment in their own journey to leave homosexuality, and could only settle for old behaviors".

    You are very wrong in that conviction! A person can certainly live a celibate life and believe that no sex outside of faithful heterosexual marriage is pleasing to God. But that person can also believe that it is morally wrong, and displeasing to God, to sell quack medical treatments that don't work.

    That is the issue here - are Love in Action selling a treatment that actually works, or one that does not? What customers THINK they are buying, is CHANGE OF ORIENTATION, not just a programme to make them feel better. And they don't actually receive what they think they are buying. (That is because in fact there is no such product).

    By Anonymous Phil, at 6:01 AM  

  • But it is perfectly OK for Anonymous to make sweeping generalizations about millions of people, as well as to share information about another individual in a supposedly confidential therapy program.

    Thank you for pointing that out! It had completely passed me by. Yes...nice respect for privacy and confidentiality there, wasn't it?

    But then, considering what kids are forced to undergo at LIA...spilling their guts about their deepest sexual thoughts and feelings to complete strangers, not just the LIA staff, but also all the other people there in the group sessions, including adults some of whom have engaged in extremely dysfunctional sexual behavior, that whole idea that LIA respects their privacy is a grotesque joke.

    Those kids have no privacy. They are not allowed to have privacy. Hell...they're not even allowed to have their own thoughts in a journal.

    By Blogger Bruce Garrett, at 10:40 AM  

  • Perhaps “anonymous” are 2 different people...Did you even think about that possibility?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:03 AM  

  • It's somewhat frightening that someone from LIA ("here")is now so quick to reveal what Lance said and did in the program after "client confidentiality" being used as an excuse to dodge the tough questions in the past. I think the other anonymous posts reveal something of the shaming young people have to face when they are sent to Refuge, forced or otherwise.

    Tiga.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:35 PM  

  • This is what the Bible says, regardless of the version you read:
    Romans 1:26-28 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

    26 This is why God delivered them over to degrading passions. For even their females exchanged natural sexual intercourse for what is unnatural.

    27 The males in the same way also left natural sexual intercourse with females and were inflamed in their lust for one another. Males committed shameless acts with males and received in their own persons the appropriate penalty for their perversion.

    28 And because they did not think it worthwhile to have God in their knowledge, God delivered them over to a worthless mind to do what is morally wrong.

    God does not make us to do what is against nature or to sin period. We just do. We need His forgiveness and daily help in trying to overcome the sin that so easily is given into.

    The "anonymous" preacher

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:16 PM  

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