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.