Symposium location, speakers, and more!

Soulforce is pleased to announce our primary location, keynote speakers, and other participants for our upcoming symposium to be held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania!

Exterior evening photograph of the Marriott Hotel in downtown PhiladelphiaOn Saturday, November 6th the symposium will take place at the Historic Downtown Courtyard by Marriott. The hotel is adjacent to City Hall and offers some of the best views of the city. Participants of the Symposium may book rooms at the hotel for the rate of $99 per night, which is a nearly 70% discount! To book a room you may either call the hotel directly, at 215-496-3200, or call central reservations at 1-888-236-2427. Be sure to mention our code: SOULFORCE in order to receive the discounted room rental rate. Rooms with a king bed, or two queen beds are available.

 

 We are pleased to welcome Jay Bakker and Daniel Helminiak as our key note speakers for the symposium.

Jay BakkerJay Bakker is a pastor who grew up witnessing both the good and bad of the church. His parents are Jim and Tammy Faye, ministers-turned-TV-hosts, who helped start both the Trinity Broadcasting Network and the 700 Club in the 1970’s, and later founded the PTL (Praise The Lord) Club. At the height of their popularity, they pastored the largest church in the country – until their lives were changed by one of the biggest scandals in American history. For the first time, Jay was exposed to the dark underbelly of religion; an experience that would stay with him to this day. In 1994, Jay, along with Kelli Miller and Mike Walls, started Revolution Church in Phoenix, AZ, to minister to those being ignored and rejected by the Christian church. He started a Revolution Church in Los Angeles, CA, and Atlanta, GA, before moving to New York and starting a church there in 2005. Jay has been an ally and friend to the LGBTQ community.

 

Daniel HelminiakDaniel Helminiak teaches psychology and spirituality as Professor at the University of West Georgia. He is also a psychotherapist, Catholic priest and theologian, author, and lecturer. He holds a PhD in psychology from The University of Texas at Austin and a PhD in theology from Andover Newton Theological School and Boston College, where he was teaching assistant to Prof. Bernard Lonergan, whom Newsweek magazine called the Thomas Aquinas of the 20th Century. He is certified as a Fellow of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors and is licensed as a Professional Counselor in the state of Georgia. His book, What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality (Alamo Square Press, 1994, 2000), is an international best-seller.

 

Our other presenters and participants include, but are not limited to:

Peterson Toscano
Christine Bakke
Christine Robinson
Darlene Bogle

More information: Bios & photographs of speakers and presenters | Register for the symposium

Even if you are unable to attend our symposium, you can still help Soulforce with this event, and the ability to hold future events: Donate here!

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.

2009 Anti-Heterosexism Conference Videos

Anti-Heterosexism Conference

2009 Anti-Heterosexism Conference Videos


The 2009 ANTI-HETEROSEXISM CONFERENCE took place November 20-22, 2009 in West Palm Beach, FL and featured some of the most brilliant teachers and thinkers on the subject of psychology and human sexuality and spirituality from the United States, Canada, Australia and Spain.

The opening session features a number of people who are leading the work to end so-called "reparative therapy." Featured speakers are Jeff Lutes, then Executive Director of Soulforce with welcoming and opening remarks; Christine Bakke of Beyond Ex-Gay; Jacob Wilson, Iowa State; Daniel Gonzales, architect and former patient of Dr. Joseph Nicolosi; Darlene Bogle, author and former leader in Exodus International; Anthony Venn Brown, author, life coach, founder of Freedom2Be Ministries and one of the 25 most influential gays and lesbians in Australia; Marc Orozko and Angel Llorent i Pares, activists and ex-gay survivors from Barcelonia, Catalonia, Spain; and Dr. Jallen Rix, author and ex-gay survivor.

Reflections from Survivors of Ex-Gay Ministries and Reparative Therapy (Video runs approximately 50 minutes)

Soulforce Logo

The opening keynote on Saturday morning was provided by Sylvia Rhue, Ph.D. in Human Sexuality. Dr. Rhue serves as Director of Religious Affairs with the National Black Justice Coalition and is a scholar, writer, educator and sought after public speaker. The title of her presentation is "STRAIGHT" Rackets: Why the Religious Right Needs Reparative Therapy.

Sylvia Rhue, Ph.D. (Video runs approximately 58 minutes)

Soulforce Logo

Dr. Jack Drescher, M.D., psychiatrist and psychologist in private practice in New York City presented the second keynote address on Saturday afternoon. He has written and edited over 20 books regarding homosexuality and gender identity. His keynote, "STRAIGHT" Jackets: A Psychiatrist Deconstructs Sexual Conversion Therapies, speaks in great detail about the psychology and psychiatry of homosexuality and the ineffectiveness of so-called "conversion therapies."

Dr Jack Drescher (Video runs approximately 48 minutes)

Soulforce Logo

The closing keynote on Sunday morning was brilliantly provided by the Rev. Deborah Johnson, founder and pastor of Inner Light Ministries and successful author, trainer, activist and more! Her presentation is titled "It Just Ain’t So": Debunking the Myth of Gender Polarity and it provides a clear vision for the future and a call to action for the LGBTQ liberation movement. See more about Rev. Johnson here.

Rev Deborah Johnson (Video runs approximately 46 minutes)

Soulforce Logo

Mean Church People, an original song performed at the Anti-Heterosexism Conference on Sunday morning by Jackie and Resa. (Video runs approximately 3.5 minutes)

 

SPONSORS of the 2009 Anti-Heterosexism Conference are: SOULFORCE, Truth Wins Out, National Black Justice Coalition, Box Turtle Bulletin, Beyond Ex-Gay and Equality Florida.

Anti-Heterosexism Conference Speaker Abstracts

Anti-Heterosexism Conference

The 2009 Anti-Heterosexism Conference
Building Community to End the Harm Caused By Heterosexism & Reparative Therapy


Presentation Abstracts (Session 1-4)

The Effects of Homophobic Stress in Childhood and Adolescence on Later Adult Psychological Functioning in Gay Men: A Model for Treatment

Dominic Carbone, Ph.D.
Chronic psychological stressors experienced in childhood and adolescence can result in pronounced disturbances in adulthood functioning. Through the use of case presentations this workshop will explore how chronic homophobia is experienced by gay male youth and why homophobia is particularly stressful for this group. Coping responses to homophobia will be discussed, including how some responses can result in self-destructive outcomes and psychological disturbances in adulthood. The workshop will explore a psychotherapeutic treatment model designed specifically to address the needs of the gay male client and will conclude with prevention strategies for future generations of gay youth.

Getting It Straight: Ex-Gay Survivors and Their Therapeutic Needs

Christine Bakke & Jallen Rix, Ed.D.
Ex-gay survivors Christine Bakke and Jallen Rix, Ed.D., recognize firsthand the complications and complexities of receiving therapeutic help after enduring the ex-gay process. Ex-gay survivors often resist or even avoid treatment from LGBT-affirming therapists. Designed for all types of mental health workers, this workshop will provide essential background information to help clinicians create a safe and understanding environment that will lead ex-gay survivors to regain trust in a therapeutic process.

Media Access: Getting Through the Noise

Gabriel Arana
Even with the rise of blogging, reaching people on a large scale requires access to major media organizations. This presentation will give you the tools to effectively maneuver the media world and gain access to the print and online publications, PR reps, and journalists that will help you broadcast your story and become a more effective advocate.

Microaggressions and the LGBT Community: Advocating for Social Justice on Individual, Institutional, and Societal Levels

Kevin Nadal, Ph.D.; David Rivera, M.S.; Melissa Corpus, M.A.; Lauren Fisher, M.A.
Sexual orientation and transgender microaggressions are brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, and environmental indignities (whether intentional or unintentional) that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative heterosexist and transphobic slights and insults toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals. Microaggressions have been found to have negative impacts on individuals’ mental health and well-being. This interactive workshop will encourage discussions on personal experiences with microaggressions while providing recommendations for preventing microaggressions on individual, institutional, and societal levels.

Heterosexual Interrupted: What the Ex-Gay Movement Really Means By "Change"

Jim Burroway
The Ex-Gay movement claims that there are no homosexuals, just heterosexuals with a homosexual problem. This "Ex-Gay 101" workshop explores the heteronormative narrative which our culture expects young people to follow as they date, marry, and have families. When that narrative is interrupted, the ex-gay movement is there to explain what went wrong and how to fix it. But for many ex-gays and their families, the fix is not what they hoped for.

Heterosexism and Transgender Oppression
Virginia Stephenson and Jordon Johnson
Many cultural assumptions exist and force transgender people into undesired identities. These assumptions may prevent transgender people from exploring their preferred relationship with gender and their bodies. In looking at cultural assumptions, it is vital to discuss how racism and sexism operate in relation to transgender people. This presentation offers both male to female and female to male perspectives, as well as ways to support transgender people to end heterosexist oppression.

Genocidal Intentions: Public Policy and the Ex-Gay Movement
Christine Robinson, Ph.D.
When considering harm and the ex-gay movement, attention has largely been devoted to the harm posed to individuals who pursue various forms of "change" promised by "ex-gay" ministries and "reparative" therapists. This presentation addresses the potential for extreme harm posed to LGBT people world-wide, by examining the rhetoric and public policy positions of prominent ex-gay organizations and representatives. This presentation seriously considers the genocidal intentions and implications of the movement’s rhetoric and policy agenda.

Body & Soul: Integrating Sexuality & Spirituality
Timothy Palmer, M.Div.
Early in Christian history, the body became disconnected from the soul and physicality began to carry the taint of sin and shame. Today, growing numbers of theologians, clergy and people of faith recognize sexuality — in all its diversity — as a sacred part of creation. This workshop will explore the dimensions of sexuality, with attention to the current science on sexual orientation and gender. Participants will contemplate how spirituality infuses each dimension of our sexuality.

Pray Away the Gay?

Wayne Besen
This session is an overview of the history of the ex-gay myth. It explores the main players, the harmful treatments, the bizarre techniques and the political players behind these programs.

Media 101: How to Build and Deliver an Effective Message

Brian Winfield
Over the past eight years, Brian Winfield has trained hundreds of people how to make the media work for them. While the world of news delivery is rapidly changing around us, the fundamentals of successfully working with the media remain the same. This interactive course will teach participants the skills to build a strong values-based message, frame it for the broadest audience, pick the right messenger, and consistently stay on message no matter what.

Spiritual Self-Defense for LGBT Christians

Rev. Candace Chellew
LGBT people and their allies don’t have to be at the mercy of those who preach condemnation. We can empower ourselves and recapture our connection to God. In this workshop, pastor and author Candace Chellew teaches participants how to answer hatred or condemnation, how to avoid pointless religious debates, how to see opponents as God’s gifts, and how to use spiritual practices to reclaim an authentic self.

Queering Youth/Young Adult Activism

Andi Gentile and Asher Kolieboi
Starting with an historic lens, we will discuss the power and potential in youth/young adult-led social movements, specifically queer and anti-racist movements. We will shine light on innovative ways young people can organize and network, using new technology, the university system, and youth led grassroots organization structures. We will emphasize the role of intersectional coalition building within social movements. This workshop will include an outline of youth empowerment models and models of successful youth organizing using specific examples. We will draw on resources from pioneering radical organizing thinking to present inventive ways youth and young adults are mobilizing to create change.

 

 

Main Page Register

 

Anti-Heterosexism Conference Hotel

Anti-Heterosexism Conference

The 2009 Anti-Heterosexism Conference
Building Community to End the Harm Caused By Heterosexism & Reparative Therapy


HOTEL INFORMATION:

Crowne Plaza Hotel, The Place to Meet!
1601 Belvedere Rd
West Palm Beach, FL 33406
Tel: 888 689 6892
Fax: 561 683 7150
www.cpwestpalmbeach.com

Complimentary high speed wireless internet in guest rooms, complimentary self parking, and complimentary airport shuttle to and from PBI. Hot Breakfast Buffet $10 (regularly $19) and Continental Breakfast Buffet $5 (regularly $16)

Guest Rooms (King or Double): $79 + 11.5% tax = $88.09/night
Suite (King Only): $89 + 11.5% tax = $99.24/night
These rates available 11/18/09 thru 11/23/09
To make reservations: Call 877-701-9250 with group name SOULFORCE

 

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2009 Conference Schedule

Anti-Heterosexism Conference

The 2009 Anti-Heterosexism Conference
Building Community to End the Harm Caused By Heterosexism & Reparative Therapy


Sponsored by
Soulforce, Truth Wins Out, the National Black Justice Coalition, Beyond Ex-Gay, Box Turtle Bulletin, and Equality Florida

November 20-22, 2009
West Palm Beach, Florida

FEATURING
Dr. Sylvia Rhue, Dr. Jack Drescher, and Rev. Deborah Johnson

Dr. Sylvia RhueDr. Jack DrescherRev. Deborah Johnson
Early Registration begins August 20 and ends November 5, 2009


SCHEDULE (subject to change):

Friday, November 20, 2009

9:00AM-5:00PM: Pre-conference Institute: A Gathering for "Ex-Gay" Survivors
4:00PM Conference Registration and Check-In
7:30PM Opening Remarks: Jeff Lutes, M.S., L.P.C.
7:45PM Reflections from Survivors of Ex-Gay Ministries & Reparative Therapy
8:30PM Reception by the pool, cash bar open.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

8:00AM Registration/Check-In
9:00AM Welcome: Marsha McDonough, Ph.D. and Paul W. Dodd, D.Min., L.P.C.
9:15AM Keynote Address:

  • "STRAIGHT" Rackets: Why the Religious Right Needs Reparative Therapy
    Sylvia Rhue, Ph.D.

10:15AM Break
10:30AM-12:00PM Concurrent Workshops (Session 1)

  1. The Effects of Homophobic Stress in Childhood and Adolescence on Later Adult Psychological Functioning in Gay Men: A Model for Treatment
    Dominic Carbone, Ph.D.
  2. Getting It Straight: Ex-Gay Survivors and Their Therapeutic Needs
    Christine Bakke and Jallen Rix, Ed.D.
  3. Media Access: Getting Through the Noise
    Gabriel Arana

12:00PM – 1:30PM Lunch
1:30PM – 3:00PM Concurrent Workshops (Session 2)

  1. Microaggressions and the LGBT Community: Advocating for Social Justice on Individual, Institutional, and Societal Levels
    Kevin Nadal, Ph.D.; David Rivera, M.S.; Melissa Corpus, M.A.; Lauren Fisher, M.A.
  2. Heterosexual Interrupted: What the Ex-Gay Movement Really Means By "Change"
    Jim Burroway
  3. Heterosexism and Transgender Oppression
    Virginia Stephenson & Jordan Johnson

3:00PM-3:15PM Break
3:15PM-4:45PM Concurrent Workshops (Session 3)

  1. Genocidal Intentions: Public Policy and the Ex-Gay Movement
    Christine Robinson, Ph.D.
  2. Body & Soul: Integrating Sexuality & Spirituality
    Timothy Palmer, M. Div.
  3. Pray Away the Gay?
    Wayne Besen

4:45PM – 5:00PM Break
5:00PM – 6:00PM Keynote Address:

  • "STRAIGHT" Jackets: A Psychiatrist Deconstructs Sexual Conversion Therapies
    Jack Drescher, M.D.

6:00PM Dinner
7:30PM-9:00PM: M.U.D. (Men Under Dirt) – A Special Evening Performance by Ollom Movement Art
(Champagne and chocolate served)


Sunday, November 22, 2009

9:00 – 10:00AM Keynote Address:

  • "It Just Ain’t So": Debunking the Myth of Gender Polarity
    Rev. Deborah L. Johnson

10:00-10:15AM Break

10:15 – 11:45 Concurrent Workshops (Session 4)

  1. Media 101: How to Build and Deliver an Effective Message
    Brian Winfield
  2. Spiritual Self-Defense for LGBT Christians
    Rev. Candace Chellew
  3. Queering Youth/Young Adult Activism
    Andi Gentile and Asher Kolieboi

12:00-1:00PM Lessons Learned This Weekend: A Conversation About Implementing Effective Strategies In Our Communities
Marsha McDonough, Ph.D.; Paul W. Dodd, D.Min., L.P.C.

1:00 PM Adjourn

 

Anti-Heterosexism Conference Fees

Anti-Heterosexism Conference

The 2009 Anti-Heterosexism Conference
Building Community to End the Harm Caused By Heterosexism & Reparative Therapy


CONFERENCE FEES:

Pre-Conference Institute for Ex-Gay Survivors $50
Friday, Nov. 20, 2009, 9AM – 4PM

Early Registration (begins Aug. 20, ends Nov. 5, 2009)
Full Conference (Nov. 20, 7:30PM – Nov. 22, Noon) $145
Student (school I.D. required) & Ex-Gay Survivors $95

Regular Registration (Nov. 6 – Nov. 20, 2009)
Full Conference (Nov. 20, 7:30PM – Nov. 22, Noon) $195
Students & Ex-Gay Survivors $120

One Day Only : Saturday, Nov. 21, 9AM-10PM $100
One Day Only (Sat): Students & Ex-Gay Survivors $80

Continuing Education Certificate $20

Exhibit Tables: For-Profit (per 6-foot table) $200
Exhibit Tables: Non-Profit/Authors/etc (per 6-foot table) $100
Electricity for Booth $30

Corporate Sponsors (program listing + admission for one) $600
Individual Sponsors (program listing + admission for one) $300

Conference Scholarships (a limited number available for
those who cannot otherwise afford to attend) $25

 

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Update from the 2009 Anti-Heterosexism Conference

Anti-Heterosexism Conference

Click here to see photos from the conference!

Click here to view videos from the conference!

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 by those in attendance at the conference. Bloggers, activists and mental health professionals from across the United States, as well as Australia, Canada and Catalonia came together on November 20-22, 2009 in West Palm Beach, FL to learn more about the powerful impact that heterosexism, the belief that every human being is heterosexual…or that they should be! Ex-gay survivors, painfully impacted by heterosexism shared their stories and discussed ways in which they could continue to warn others about the harm caused by heterosexism, reparative therapy and ex-gay ministries. And, psychologists and other mental health professionals shared current research and understanding about heterosexism and how it creates a dangerous and unwelcoming climate for LGBTQ people. A press conference facilitated by Jeff Lutes on Friday was covered by a local television network affiliate with the report ending with survivor Daniel Gonzales warning viewers about the depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems related to sexual orientation change efforts.

Ex-Gay Survivor Daniel Gonzales shares his story with a reporter.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 harmful reparative therapies. 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.Rev.-Deborah-Johnson,-Dr.-Sylvia-Rhue,-Valerie-Joi,-and-friends.

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.

Why in the world would we put "ANTI" in the title of our conference?

Anti-Heterosexism Conference

The 2009 Anti-Heterosexism Conference
Building Community to End the Harm Caused By Heterosexism & Reparative Therapy


Why in the world would we put "ANTI" in the title of our conference?

 

Jeff Lutes

A special note from the Executive Director

Let’s All Be "Anti" So No One Else Ever Has To Be "Ex"

On August 5, 2009, a task force from the American Psychological Association released a ground breaking report after a two year analysis of the research on sexual orientation change efforts. Based on a rigorous review of 83 studies conducted between 1960 and 2007, the APA advised psychologists to avoid telling their clients that therapy or other treatments can change them from gay to straight.

Not surprisingly, NARTH (National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality), Exodus International, and a slew of other religious groups immediately denounced the APA report. They claimed, as they so often do, that any research affirming the goodness and wholeness of queer people is bogus and only their twisted belief that we are sick, sinful, and second-class (and therefore in need of "change") has any credibility.

In my view, the conversation about whether gays can change is a distraction from the much more important question; which is "Why do those in power encourage change in the first place?" The answer, of course, is the rampant heterosexism that infuses nearly every aspect of our culture.

Heterosexism is a system of attitudes, behaviors, and practices that subordinate queer people on the basis of their sexual orientation. In the same way that racism keeps whites in power over people of color and sexism keeps women subordinate to men, heterosexism keeps those who are straight dominant over those who are not. Heterosexism is the prejudice that only heterosexuality is normative, combined with the power to enforce that privilege across every spectrum of society. Heterosexism is advanced by nearly every tune on the radio, sitcom and commercial on television, print ad in the newspaper, film at the box office, and institutional policy within our government and work place. In innumerable ways each day, our society idealizes straightness and ignores or devalues the existence of any person or family who identifies otherwise.

When was the last time you heard a debate about whether therapy and prayer can change a straight person to gay?

I believe "change", "repair", and "conversion" are indeed possible. Millions of people have changed their minds and now believe that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender citizens deserve full equality under the law. A growing number of churches have repaired their previously broken theology and now welcome and affirm everyone in their congregations. Slowly, the religious denominations that create and enforce church doctrine are undergoing a conversion in their understanding of LGBTQ people.

But the only way things change is if you and I are willing to be "anti" so that no one ever again has to be "ex." Focusing on the work of anti-heterosexism (undoing the notion that straightness is superior and preferable) undermines the toxic belief system that encourages so many to waste thousands of dollars and precious years trying to become "ex-gay" in therapies and programs that end up doing more harm than good.

So, I’m proud of Soulforce, Box Turtle Bulletin, Beyond Ex-Gay, Truth Wins Out, Equality Florida, and the National Black Justice Coalition for coming together to sponsor the 2009 Anti-Heterosexism Conference in West Palm Beach, Florida (November 20-22, 2009) during the same weekend and in the same city where NARTH will hold its annual conference. Early registration begins August 20 and continues through November 5.

It’s our moral obligation to be "anti" and resist, oppose, and prevent the systems of power that oppress and discriminate. Join us this November in West Palm Beach as together we learn effective tools for undoing heterosexism in communities across the globe.

Warning: At this conference, you will most likely change . . . into your bathing suit!

– Jeff Lutes, MS, LPC
P.S. For a little pre-conference reading, please click here, then click on our special Amazon.com link, and search for Heterosexism in Contemporary World Religion: Problem and Prospect, by Marvin M. Ellison and Judith Plaskow. By following this link, Soulforce will earn Soulforce 4-8% of the total amount of your purchase. Thanks and see you at the conference!

 

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Soulforce and Beyond Ex-Gay Welcome Change at Exodus

******************************************
SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: March 6, 2008
For Immediate Release

Contact: Paige Schilt, 
Media Director
Cell: 512-659-1771
paige@soulforce.org
******************************************

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.