Ex-Gay Survivor Caucus at Creating Change

My name is Philip Lowe, Jr.  I am an ex-gay survivor of the Catholic church’s ex-gay group Courage.  I am involved with Beyond Ex-Gay as well.

I want to inform you and ask you to help spread the word about the Ex-Gay Survivor’s Caucus meeting that will be held at Creating Change 2011 in Minneapolis, Feb 2-6th.   The Caucus meeting will be on Friday, February 4th at 6:30pm in Board Room 2.

At this meeting we are going to talk about how we use our Ex-Gay Survivor experiences to help create change toward LGBT equality in all aspects.  Our stories are very powerful and moving.  At the Caucus meeting we will be talking about how to use our stories and experiences to build movements towards change.

Philip Lowe, Jr.

Inside the ex-gay movement

From the Ex-Gay Survivor Conferences to the 2009 Anti-Heterosexism Conference, Soulforce has played an active role in exposing the dangers of repartive therapy, challenging organizations like the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) through dialogue and direct action. In a recent expose for The Independent of London, investigative reporter Patrick Strudwick goes undercover to explore the harmful impact of repartive therapy in a piece entitled "The ex-gay files: The bizarre world of gay-to-straight conversion."

                                                                        

2009 Anti-Heterosexism Conference Deemed Ground-Breaking

The 2009 Anti-Heterosexism Conference, held November 20-22, 2009 in West Palm Beach, Florida, was deemed a huge success according to the evaluations of those in attendance. On November 22, 2009, Ex-Gay Survivors from all over the world came together to share their stories and discuss ways in which they can continue to warn others about the harm caused by heterosexism, reparative therapy and ex-gay ministries. A press conference facilitated by Jeff Lutes on Friday was covered by a local television channel and the report ended with survivor Daniel Gonzales warning viewers about the depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems related to sexual orientation change efforts.

That evening, Ex-Gay Survivors Christine Bakke, Jallen Rix, Anthony Venn-Brown (Australia), Darlene Bogle, Mark Orozko (Barcelona) Daniel Gonzales, and Jacob Wilson told their stories to the conference participants – demonstrating great courage and strength in the process. They shared the many ways in which heterosexism encourages reparative therapy. After a brief welcoming reception, conference goers attended a special Transgender Day of Remembrance event by viewing two films and the names of the more than one hundred transgender people who have been murdered in the past year. Friday night was a sobering reminder of the damage and destruction caused by heterosexism, religion-based bigotry, and societal prejudice. Conference participants went to bed eager to begin collaborating over the next two days on ways they can make the world a safer place for LGBTQ people.

Saturday morning began with a keynote from Dr. Sylvia Rhue of the National Black Justice Coalition. Mixing facts and humor, Dr. Rhue set the tone for the day and whet appetites for more learning. Workshops throughout the day covered detailed information about sexual orientation change efforts, public policy and the ex-gay movement, media training, youth activism, and the psychological impact of childhood homophobia on adult development. Dr. Jack Drescher closed the afternoon with a history lesson on how homosexuality was removed from the DSM list of mental disorders in 1973 and the evolution of reparative therapy and ex-gay movements. His academic presentation was well received by all those in attendance. After dinner, the day closed with a powerful and moving dance performance by Ollum Movement Art which symbolically expressed the journey from self-hatred to self-acceptance and love.

Sunday morning was a treat. The Rev. Deborah Johnson talked about the importance of developing a vision within the LGBTQ movement and carefully unpacked the complexities of gender in our culture as she called on the crowd to demand equality in bold and unapologetic ways. After a series of workshops on faith, gender, and sexual orientation, Dr. Marsha McDonough and Dr. Paul Dodd led participants in an analysis of the weekend and helped everyone think about ways they could continue to affect change within the communities where they live, work, go to school, and worship.

Throughout this dynamic weekend, conference participants wrote thoughts, feelings, and ideas on a 40-foot piece of paper hung in the plenary room. Long after the end of the conference, participants were still writing on this paper – indicating their passion for the justice, their commitment to love, and their dedication to being agents of change in the world.

Click here to view conference photos.

Ex-gay conferences come to West Palm Beach

Soulforce and partnering organizations sponsor conference in West Palm Beach to challenge the harm caused by NARTH and reparative therapy:

http://www.floridablade.com/2009/11-12/news/localnews/6465.cfm?page=1

Soulforce and Beyond Ex-Gay Welcome Change at Exodus

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: March 6, 2008
For Immediate Release

Contact: Paige Schilt, 
Media Director
Cell: 512-659-1771
paige@soulforce.org
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In a March 4, 2008, interview with Ex-Gay Watch, Alan Chambers — President of Exodus International — confirmed that the world’s largest network of ex-gay ministries has refocused its priorities and will move away from political lobbying.

In spring 2007, Exodus hired a Director of Political Affairs, and Exodus representatives were vocal opponents of the Matthew Shepherd Act. However, Chambers indicated this week that the Political Affairs position no longer exists: "In August, 2007 after a lot of prayer, deliberation and listening to friends and critics alike –but mostly the Lord — we decided to back out of policy issues and our Director of Government Affairs took a position with another organization."

Chambers’ comments suggest that the change in priorities happened directly on the heels of the Ex-gay Survivor Conference in late June 2007 and the Soulforce Survivor’s Initiative in July 2007. Both projects utilized multiple formats, from press conferences to private conversations, to reach out to Exodus leadership with the stories of "ex-gay survivors" — men and women who believe that attempts to change their sexual orientation did more harm than good.

Christine Bakke, co-founder of Beyond Ex-Gay, was among a small group of ex-gay survivors who met with Exodus leaders over dinner during the Ex-gay Survivor Conference; she welcomed Chambers’ comments: "I feel deep satisfaction that Exodus leaders heard us when we met over dinner and through our more public statements, and I hope that they continue to listen to those of us who invested so much of our lives in the ex-gay experience and found another way," said Bakke.

Jeff Lutes, Soulforce Executive Director, also hailed the impact of survivor testimony. "Survivors of ex-gay programs have demonstrated remarkable courage by sharing their experiences in countless small acts of nonviolent witness. This decision from Exodus, and the acknowledgment that ex-gay survivors’ voices are being heard, is also courageous."

But Lutes added that there is still more work to be done. "We will continue to share the human stories of harm caused by ex-gay ministries and to find new ways to share the message that our sexual orientations and gender identities are gifts from God that can be lived with dignity and grace."

Bakke also gestured to the work ahead. "I welcome the news that Exodus has moved its focus from politics to people. Now, by listening to the people who have been negatively affected by their ministry and messages in the past, Exodus can deepen the discussion to consider their pastoral care needs and necessary next steps."

The Ex-gay Survivor Conference and the Soulforce Survivor’s Initiative were expressions of a growing ex-gay survivor community that includes writers, artists, researchers, and clergy. For more information about these events, and to learn about upcoming projects, visit www.soulforce.org and www.beyondexgay.com.

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Soulforce is a national civil rights and social justice organization. Our vision is freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance. For more information go to www.soulforce.org.

Beyond Ex-Gay is an on-line community and resource for those of us who have survived ex-gay experiences. For more information go to www.beyondexgay.com.

 

 

Former "Ex-Gay" Leaders in Australia Apologize, Claim That Ex-Gay Conversion Does More Harm Than Good

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: August 16, 2007
For Immediate Release
U.S. Contact: Paige Schilt, Director of Public Relations and Media
Cell: 512-659-1771
paige@soulforce.org
Australian Contact: Anthony Venn-Brown
Cell: +61 416 015 231
anthony@anthonyvennbrown.com
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(Austin, TX) — Former "ex-gay" leaders in Australia have added their voices to a public apology for "the isolation, shame, fear, and loss of faith" caused by the message that gays and lesbians must change or suppress their sexual orientation in order to be good Christians.

On June 27, 2007, Soulforce and beyondexgay.com brought together former ex-gay leaders from the U.S. and U.K. to issue a public apology for their prior involvement in providing and promoting ex-gay conversion therapy. As part of their apology, Darlene Bogle, Michael Bussee, and Jeremy Marks appealed to other former ex-gay leaders to join the healing and reconciliation process by adding their names to the apology.

Inspired by this historic statement, Vonnie Pitts, Wendy Lawson, and Kim Brett — all former leaders of Australian ex-gay ministries–have come forward to confirm with their American and British counterparts that ex-gay ministries cause more harm than good.

Pictures and complete text of the Australian leaders’ statements are available at www.soulforce.org/article/1295 and www.beyondexgay.com/article/apology2.

"There has been an increasing uneasiness in me since 2005 that what I was teaching was harmful to people," says Kim Brett, who founded an ex-gay program that was affiliated with Exodus and Living Waters, two U.S. ex-gay groups. "I became tired and ill at ease with always feeling that this part of my life and others attending the group were broken and in need of fixing."

Wendy Lawson, former leader of an ex-gay group in Melbourne, emphasized the personal psychological impact of the ex-gay message:

"I suffered torment and huge anxiety all muddied by confusion and constant failure during the Exodus years. For me the most traumatic outcome was my personal sense of failure as a Christian and not being accepted as a part of the church family I loved," says Lawson.

Vonnie Pitts was a heterosexual church leader who organized an ex-gay support group in the Sydney area. Although her group members were dedicated and determined, she did not witness the changes in orientation promised by the group’s curriculum, which was adopted from the Missouri-based Living Waters ministry.

"If I were to see any of the people that I took through the Living Waters program again, I would say ‘I’m sorry.’ My intentions were to help you through your struggle, but I acted in ignorance," says Pitts.

The Australian former ex-gay leaders were organized by Anthony Venn-Brown, who attended Australia’s first ex-gay program in 1972 and spent the next 22 years attempting to suppress and change his sexuality. During that time he married and became a national Christian leader in Australia through the Assemblies of God Church. Through his own experiences, Venn-Brown eventually came to realize that the ex-gay message created trauma rather than freedom. He narrates this journey in the recently published book, A Life of Unlearning — A Journey to Find the Truth (New Holland Publishers) and will share some of his story on 60 Minutes in Australia on Sunday August 19, 2007.


Soulforce is a national civil rights and social justice organization. Our vision is freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance. For more information go to www.soulforce.org.

Australia’s Former Ex-Gay Leaders Speak

Wendy Lawson

Former Exodus Leader – Melbourne

Wendy LawsonAs a mature adult and mother of four, my Christian experience was very important to me. Not only did I attend Sunday services, I taught Sunday school, lead the Wednesday evening Bible study series, and also went to Tuesday prayer meetings. Somehow keeping busy and trying to please my husband kept me from coming to terms with other evolving emotions that I hadn’t time to explore or understand. Eventually, however, I could no longer hide from them.

When it became obvious to me that my "natural desire" was not for my husband but was for a woman, I felt trapped and hopeless. I sought out any information that I could find that might be helpful. I came across an ex-gay ministry called Exodus. I joined Exodus as a Christian wanting to change her sexual orientation. I enjoyed meeting others who were battling with the same demons as myself. Somehow I didn’t feel quite so alone.

After about twelve months I was nominated as leader of this small group of about fifteen individuals. We met weekly for prayer, discussion and support. I travelled overseas to America to interview Elizabeth Moberley, a scholar and academic who suggested that legitimate same sex affection would provide a passage out of homosexuality. Over the next three years, I continued to teach, study and practice "legitimate, non-sexual same sex affection." However, it soon became clear to me that my homosexual drive was not decreasing and I was not getting any closer to becoming heterosexual.

After four years I decided that the truth for me was that I stop hiding and accept my homosexual self. Having assistant pastor status with my church, I knew I had to tell them my decision. They felt that I could no longer continue in ministry, and I was asked to step down.

Today, more than fifteen years after I stepped down from leadership of the ex-gay ministry, I have come to know that nearly every member of that group is now living their lives openly as a homosexual person (twenty people). I am only aware of one member who married and who would say that they are pleased not to be gay but to be living in a heterosexual relationship. They have been married for five years. It is also my understanding that they have not disclosed their former struggles with their partner.

Although I valued the support and friendship of the Exodus members (many are among my closest friends today) I suffered torment and huge anxiety all muddied by confusion and constant failure during the Exodus years. For me the most traumatic outcome was my personal sense of failure as a Christian and not being accepted as a part of the church family I loved.

On April 14, 2007, my long time partner and I were married at Colchester Registry Office in the UK. This wedding celebrated who we are and our love and commitment for each other. For the first time in my adult life I felt valued for being me and thrilled to at last find a legitimate home amongst my family and friends for my partner and myself.

I believe that my Heavenly Father is also pleased and relieved on our behalf. It is my sincere belief that Scripture points out that God is Love and God is Truth. The Truth shall set you free it says. Being true to my sexual orientation is freeing, and I no longer struggle with anxiety, depression, confusion and sexual dysphoria!

When one is at home with one’s sexual self and this causes no one any harm and is considerate and respectful, this is love.


Kim Brett

Former Exodus Associate and Former Leader Living Waters and Liberty Inc. – Brisbane

Kim BrettI was born-again at twenty which marked the beginning of my church teaching that same-sex relationships were wrong. I wrestled with the issue of sexuality and my faith, and the Church’s approach to people in my situation. I threw myself into Church life, looking for solutions and answers, just to find the attitude ‘Heterosexuality is what has to be’, without the practical help that brings healing to the person.

My now partner once commented how life as a gay Christian seeking re-orientation was like living in a cemetery waiting to die – this explained exactly how I felt. I had resigned myself to a life of chastity and obedience as re-orientation had never occurred for me and celibacy was my only option. My life had become shallow, small and empty.

My desire has been to support women who wish to live by their Christian convictions, not just aiming for validation by being ‘heterosexual’. In 2003 I co-founded an ex-gay group (YANA) for Christian women who were dealing with same-sex and relationship concerns. I have been involved with Living Waters, an ex-gay ministry (Liberty Inc) and Exodus. I was also on the leadership team of a street work ministry for 7 years.

There had been an increasing uneasiness in me since 2005 that what I was teaching was harmful to people. I had become tired and ill-at-ease with always feeling that this part of my life and others attending the group (same-sex orientated) is broken and in need of fixing. For a long time I had been witnessing peoples (and my own) growing frustration that no matter how repentant, prayerful and committed we all were to living a life as an ex-gay Christian, the changes we all sought and were taught possible never really materialised for most. Some people I knew were married and had married but most seemed to still be dealing with homosexual feelings.

Depression, anxiety, loneliness and inner turmoil were our constant companions because as seen through the eyes of many churches, our ‘failure’ to change equated with somehow not having enough faith, not being a ‘true’ Christian or having a demonic influence.

I do feel that there was benefit in attending some ex-gay groups in that as we journeyed together Christian maturity and personal growth was evident – I consider this is a consequence of any loving Christian group. The people I have journeyed with are the most dedicated and courageous people I have ever met. I pray God will lead us all to freedom and truth in Christ.

In summary, life has changed dramatically for me since being confronted so profoundly over the previous years. I have closed the women’s group. I have resigned from all involvement in ex-gay ministries. I have commenced a relationship with a wonderful Christian woman. I am allowing myself the time and space to investigate other thoughts relating to being gay and Christian. After nearly thirty years of torment I am finally learning to rest from fixing my sexuality and past. Above all, I am endeavouring to adopt a simple faith that I once held dear and that is Jesus’ words that say "Come follow me".

I would like to make it known that I respect and appreciate all the leaders and volunteers involved in the ex-gay ministries I have been associated with. They too are genuine and loving Christians living by their convictions. For me though, because of my own present journey I can no longer be involved with them out of respect for their ministries and their beliefs regarding homosexuality.


Vonnie Pitts (Veronica Canning)

Former Leader Living Waters and Former Pastor Christian City Church – Sydney

Veronica CanningI first heard of the Living Waters ex-gay program in early 1991. As a pastor on the leadership team of Christian City Church in Brookvale, I arranged to set up the program in our church to help those struggling with homosexuality. As heterosexuals, myself and two other pastors from the church spent four months going through the tapes and manual provided in order to be trained. We then took three lesbians and two gay men through the program over a six-month period. It was quite intense. I supported them in their struggles and as we worked through the teaching, we believed they had honestly tried very hard to come out the other end straight. When we reached the final week I asked the girls what they felt had been achieved. None of them felt the program had changed their sexual orientation. The guys who were working the program finished with similar results.

We looked at additional resources like Elijah House Counselling as a way of bringing more healing into the Living Waters Program. There were many at Christian City Church who heard about the program and wanted to join, but I was already beginning to have serious doubts about the program’s success. It became apparent that anyone who claimed to be "cured" had just gone into denial about his or her sexuality.

At this time, I began my own research into the causes of homosexuality and found there was mounting evidence that sexual orientation is determined in the womb. Now I have absolutely no doubt that homosexuals are born gay and don’t need to change. If I were to see any of the people that I took through the Living Waters program again, I would say I’m sorry. My intentions were to help you through your struggle, but I acted in ignorance.

Soulforce Survivor’s Initiative Visits Southern Baptists to Speak Out about the Dangers of "Ex-gay" Ministries: Video Online

Southern Baptists Recently Hired Strategist to Promote the Message that Gays Must Change

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: August 7, 2007
For Immediate Release
Contact: Paige Schilt, Director of Public Relations and Media
Cell: 512-659-1771
paige@soulforce.org
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(Nashville, TN) — Yesterday, two survivors of "ex-gay" ministries and counseling — Christine Bakke and Darlene Bogle — traveled to the Southern Baptist Convention offices to speak out about the emotional, financial, and spiritual harm caused by the message that lesbians and gays should change or suppress their sexual orientation. They told their stories in the shadow of a statue of Billy Graham and then walked to the church’s Lifeway publishing arm to present framed collages depicting their experiences.

To see video of this action, go to: www.soulforce.org/article/1291

Bakke and Bogle’s message was aimed at Bob Stith, the Texas pastor who was recently hired to serve as the Southern Baptists’ "national strategist for gender issues." The new position is designed to promote "ex-gay" ministries — programs that promise to help gays and lesbians change their sexual orientation — within Southern Baptist congregations.

Although ex-gay ministries teach that gays should change or suppress their sexual orientation in order to be acceptable to God, Stith has said that "we should reach out to them [gays and lesbians] with compassion." Given Stith’s compassion, Bakke and Bogle were hopeful that he would be moved by their stories about the psychological and spiritual damage caused by ex-gay ministries.

During the five years that she sought to change her sexual orientation through prayer, support groups, and counseling, Bakke sought Stith’s counsel via email, and the two maintained an on-going correspondence. In 2003, she realized that, while she had changed in many areas, her sexual orientation remained the same.

Then she had to deal with the emotional and spiritual damage caused by her attempts to change.

"I felt that I was worth less than other Christians, merely because they were straight," said Bakke. "I felt overwhelming shame and hopelessness because of being a failure."

"I felt betrayed by the knowledge that many of the people who had talked about change actually meant a change in their behavior but not in their orientation. They were still attracted to the same sex, but this was never mentioned in the advertising or testimonies."

Bogle, a former evangelical minister and ex-gay leader, was once featured in ex-gay advertising and touted as a "success" story–until 1990, when she met and fell in love with her future partner.

Yesterday, Bogle spoke of how the church’s stance on gays and lesbians ironically divides families. Before she died in 2005, Bogle’s partner lived in fear that her Southern Baptist family would reject her if they knew her sexual orientation.

Bakke and Bogle are speaking out as part of the Soulforce Survivor’s Initiative, a national campaign to share the stories of "Ex-gay Survivors" — men and women who feel that ex-gay messages and programs did them more harm than good. To date, similar actions have occurred in Los Angeles, Colorado Springs, Salt Lake City, and Memphis.

"Across the country, the voices of ex-gay survivors are having an impact," said Jeff Lutes, Soulforce Executive Director. "Their stories educate the public and help them understand the tremendous human costs of ex-gay ministries and therapies."


Soulforce is a national civil rights and social justice organization. Our vision is freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance. For more information go to www.soulforce.org.

Former Clients Return to Love in Action to Tell of Harm from Ex-gay Ministries

Memphis Action Is the Fifth in National Campaign to Share Stories of "Ex-gay Survivors"

Love in Action Recently Closed Controversial Youth Program

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: July 17, 2007
For Immediate Release
Contact: Paige Schilt, Director of Public Relations and Media
Cell: 512-659-1771
paige@soulforce.org
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(Memphis, TN) — This morning two former clients spoke out in front of Love in Action, a Memphis residential program that claims to help people "break out" of "homosexual attraction and behavior." Brandon Tidwell of Memphis and David Christie of New York told the assembled media and supporters that their experiences at Love in Action and other "ex-gay" ministries caused emotional, spiritual, and financial hardships. They then presented framed artwork depicting their stories to staff at the facility.

Tidwell and Christie are part of the Survivor’s Initiative, a national campaign to share the stories of "Ex-gay Survivors"–men and women who feel that ex-gay messages and programs did them more harm than good. To date, similar actions have occurred in Los Angeles, Colorado Springs, and Salt Lake City.

Christie, who spent thirteen years attempting to alter his sexual orientation in various forms of ex-gay conversion therapy, spoke eloquently of the mental anguish and spiritual turmoil that he experienced:

"Throughout all of this, I constantly battled feelings of worthlessness, self-hatred, and guilt," Christie testified. "This led to a chronic depression for which I had to take costly medications from my late teens until I finally came out, at the age of 28. On a few occasions, in panicked despair, I seriously contemplated suicide."

The American Psychiatric Association has identified "depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior" as possible risks associated with ex-gay conversion therapy. In fact, all of the major mental health associations have issued policy statements opposing such treatments.

In 2005, Love in Action (LIA) was investigated by the state of Tennessee for operating a mental health facility without a license. LIA has since changed its operating procedures to avoid state regulation. Most recently, LIA closed its controversial Refuge program for teenagers and replaced it with "Family Freedom Intensives," a 4-day program for parents of gay or questioning teenagers that costs $600 per person.

"I grieve for my own years of anguish, but also for the confusion and pain I caused my ex-wife, my family, and my friends. And sure, I spent a lot of money in the process, but what I want back more than anything is the time and energy I put into it," Christie continued.

At the recent Ex-gay Survivor Conference in Irvine, California, many ex-gay survivors told of finally accepting themselves as gay men and lesbians, only to find themselves in difficult financial straits after years of costly therapy and conferences. Love in Action charges $7000 for 3 months of residential treatment.

In his statement, Tidwell–who entered Love in Action in 2002–spoke about the process of accepting himself and reconciling his sexuality and his Christian faith:

"Today, I stand here as a gay man of Christian faith, a man with hopes, dreams and aspirations to live a life of authenticity and service to this world. Through Soulforce and other partner groups, I hope to be a voice among many who are calling for God’s love and acceptance to prevail in this struggle," Tidwell said.

Love in Action is part of a larger "ex-gay" movement, which continues to thrive in spite of Americans’ growing conviction that sexual orientation is not subject to change and despite a growing willingness on the part of faith communities to accept gays and lesbians as whole and valuable members.

"And to the people at Love In Action, I say to you that God loves you just as you are and that you can find hope and peace outside of the ex-gay life," Tidwell concluded.


The Survivor’s Initiative is organized by Soulforce, a national social justice organization. Our vision is freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance. For more information go to www.soulforce.org.

Video from the Press Conference Outside Love in Action

The Ex-Gay Survivor’s Conference took place June 29 – July 1 in Irvine, California.

Survivor’s Initiative – Love in Action – Part 1 of 2

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Survivor’s Initiative – Love in Action – Part 2 of 2

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"Survivor’s Initiative – Love in Action" video by BeyondExGay.com.