The so-called “ex-gay” movement is often seen as a fringe, extreme punchline by the gay community. Unfortunately, the out & proud gays are not their target demographic. Like it or not, the fact is that ex-gay ministries are a force to be reckoned with. They are masters in the arts of persuasion and brainwashing. They are smart, politically savvy, and they have a stranglehold on the evangelical voting bloc. I came to these realizations after infiltrating the definitive ex-gay conference: "Love Won Out."
I’ve had very strong feelings against ex-gay evangelism for a long time, but a few years ago, I decided it was unfair to fervently condemn something I had never actually experienced. I picked up the phone and dialed the number for Focus on the Family. If I was going to do this, I knew I needed to play the part, blend in and really immerse myself in the experience. I told the woman on the phone that I was struggling with homosexuality and that I wanted to register for Love Won Out. She responded by asking if it would be alright for her to pray for me. Caught off guard, I curiously replied, “uh… ok?”
In the three minutes that she spoke to God about me, something did truly change within me … no, I wasn’t suddenly attracted to women, but my thoughts were changed about this woman. She devoutly thought she was doing God’s work and that helping to pull me away from homosexuality was the most righteous task she could perform. She was a product of everything she has ever heard on the subject. I wanted to end the charade and invite her over for dinner so she could meet my husband and see that our lives are not deviant, our souls are not in danger and that our ability to exist as a happy couple is nothing to be afraid of.
A few weeks later, I woke up early on a Saturday morning and drove a couple of hours into another galaxy. I tend to surround myself with people who don’t dedicate significant amounts of time and energy fixating on my hell-worthy trespasses, so it’s an understatement to say I was out of my comfort zone walking into a Megachurch to spend the day being told that everything I know to be true, is actually false.
As I parked, I looked across the street at the gay rights advocates who had gathered to protest the conference. It felt so painful to be on the other side, I wanted so much to cross the road and join them.
I entered and approached the registration table. The volunteers all looked like stand-ins for The Real Housewives of Orange County, which oddly put me at ease. They guided me into the monstrous Church and I sat down with the reportedly 1200 other registrants.
I gazed around me to decipher what brought everyone there. It seemed as though most were just curious members of the Church, but there were also a lot of parents who were trying to de-gay their teenagers and there were definitely many people there actively trying to eliminate same-sex attraction. I felt as though we failed these people. I wanted to run over and shake them and tell them to be happy with the way that God made them.
The first speaker walked up to the stage and I took a deep breath. My day in the heart of enemy territory was just beginning.
This is Part 1 in a three-part series detailing Adam’s experiences at the Focus on the Family “Love Won Out” conference. Stay tuned for Part 2 coming soon.
Photo credit: Daniel Green