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.


For Immediate Release
Contact: Carlos Perez de Alejo, Soulforce Media Director, 321-948-3423
Jeff Lutes, Soulforce Executive Director, 512-419-0600

(AUSTIN, TX) From November 20-22, advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) equality will join clergy, educators, mental health professionals and allies at the 2009 Anti-Heterosexism Conference in West Palm Beach, Florida.  The conference offers a range of in-depth workshops and is open to everyone who seeks to challenge the harmful affects of heterosexism, reparative therapy, ex-gay ministries and other efforts to change people’s sexual orientation.

“First off, it’s important to be clear that the title of the conference is the Anti-Heterosexism Conference, not anti-heterosexual,” says Jeff Lutes, Executive Director of Soulforce and one of the organizers of the conference.  “Heterosexism is the widespread assumption that heterosexual relationships are somehow superior to same-sex relationships, which leads to all kinds of abuse and discrimination against LGBT people. We want to highlight where heterosexism seeps into the social, cultural, religious and political fabric of society, and how we can begin to unravel its damaging consequences.”

Through a weekend-long series of workshops and keynote speakers, conference attendees will learn to challenge heterosexist attitudes and practices, speak out against the dangers of reparative therapy and other conversion efforts, and become strong advocates for LGBT equality.  

Keynote speakers for the conference include Dr. Sylvia Rue, Interim Executive Director of the National Black Justice Coalition, Rev. Deborah L. Johnson of Inner Light Ministries, and Dr. Jack Drescher, Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.  Joining Soulforce as co-sponsors of the conference are Truth Wins Out, the National Black Justice Coalition, Beyond Ex-Gay, Box Turtle Bulletin and Equality Florida.

The Anti-Heterosexism Conference also serves as a counterweight to the anti-gay think tank, NARTH (National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality), which will be hosting its annual conference on the same weekend in West Palm Beach.  For years NARTH has promoted reparative or “sexual orientation conversion” therapy, claiming that LGBT people can and should change their sexual orientation. 

However, after a thorough review of the literature on conversion therapy, the American Psychological Association (APA) concluded that sexual orientation is unlikely to change through therapy and adopted a resolution in August 2009 calling on mental health professionals to avoid telling clients they can change from gay to straight through “therapeutic” efforts or other treatments.  The resolution builds on an APA report from 1998, which warned that reparative therapy can lead patients to “depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior,” because “therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient.” 

In November, individuals and organizations from across the country will come together for the Anti-Heterosexism Conference to work through the process of moving beyond the dangers of heterosexism to a more just and equitable environment for LGBT people.  “It’s time we named the problem,” says Lutes, “and begin walking together through the solution.”

For more information on the conference, visit: https://soulforceactionarchives.org/anti-heterosexism-conference

Soulforce is a national civil rights and social justice organization dedicated to freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance.