Family & Friends Interviews Love In Action Director
Family & Friends magazine of Memphis, Tenn., published an excellent package of articles this month, following the controversy surrounding Love In Action, a regional exgay live-in ministry that permits parents to subject their same-sex-attracted children to less-than-voluntary and uncertified therapies. The main article offers a lengthy interview with LIA executive director John Smid.
Family & Friends was gracious enough to permit Ex-Gay Watch to reprint the articles in their entirety.
What I find interesting is the way Schmid redefines “success” to mean absolutely nothing at all. No wonder he can claim a 90% success rate!
Anita Moyt really did her homework on this one. Excellent perceptive questions. A few years ago, I interviewed a gay-change minister in South Florida. I sat in on a couple of sessions, and left feeling very sad for everyone involved.
I went back to the second session, because I couldn’t resist. It was being held in Kennedy’s Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, ground zero in Florida’s religious right wing. The imagery was too delicious to resist.
I came away respecting the motives of the guy running the program even if I didn’t respect the goals, and I had the suspicion that even he felt he was being used.
This church was big on literature. Big tables had tracts, often right wing political ones, strewn so that their worshipers would know how to act in the polls as well as the pews. The ex-gay folks had their own literature, and would set it out. They were, in their view, doing important work of the Lord.
But it wound up repeatedly being trashed; Coral Ridge doesn’t want anything gay, with the ex or without. And I left there with the view that the ex-gay ministries are “leading” the wrong people, and that the Coral Ridges will someday grow just as we see John Smid is growing. The ex-gay ministries in their midsts will be a big part of getting them there.
As a heterosexual making my own observations about ex gay ministry or therapy, and also personal conversations and email exchanges with those who support ex gay ideology I have come to several conclusions.
Some of which have been posted here by myself or others participating in this blog.
1. Their ideology has become an intellectual anesthesia. Numb to history, facts and the experience of others who weren’t so conditioned to feel guilty or angry at their gay orientation or the other gay people they were involved with.
2. They fail to admit that instead of change being possible, they’ve only proven that passing is possible.
for something you’re not to avoid detection, threat or other violation isn’t unique to gay people passing as heterosexual.
Rather than admit it’s the social conditions that require passing that’s the problem, ex gays and those who support it require validation of heterosexual privilege and religious faith.
3. We bear witness to religious arrogance daily. When challenged, those who engage in socially or politically excluding gay people from their god given self determination, feel that their faith affiliation is a sufficient license to do so.
They are fusing and CONFUSING what is a lifestyle choice, such as religious pursuit, with what’s required for gay people from society to live happily and freely as a gay person.
The simplistic conclusion that if gay people wanted to be happy, then it’s conditional on becoming Christian and heterosexual.
Nothing in ALL OF LIFE, reconciles with that stupidity.
Perhaps our confrontation with equally intractable and politically repressed Muslims will teach Christians that such rigid ideology cannot coexist with free people.
Gay or not.
Last night I just saw a documentary called “The Education of Shelby Knox”.
It was sponsored by GLSEN and the GSA network.
Ms. Knox, born and raised in Lubbock, TX sought to have more comprehensive sex education in her area high school network, in her capacity as an officer with the Youth Commission of her schools.
She sought more than just the ‘abstinence only’ programs that obviously had already failed. TX leads the nation in unplanned and unwed pregnancy and STD’s and abortions.
Over and over again, she was stonewalled by the faith influenced school board and local political network as an agitator and it was interesting to note that in strict religious teaching, the first thing to be attacked or excluded, is comprehensive education.
Or at the very least….reality based information.
This was a subtler form of educational repression, but no less dangerous in the real world.
Smid wasn’t educated on sexuality when it mattered when he was young and suffered intense guilt for trying to explore it on his own. Confusion and dishonesty forms a vacuum among young people.
It’s the agenda of faith based education to do just that and it is an evil way to insinuate power over people in a freer populace in America.
Where does he get these “statistics” from, either those who are cured or even those who continue to seek Christ.
He just makes them up!
This is the outcome of living within a worldvieww that has only minimal contact with reality.
He created us with heterosexual bodies. He created a plan for man and woman to be suitable helpmates. He created a family with a mother and a father, and that’s the created model all the way through scripture.
He also goes on to state that we are all male or female.
I have said it before, and will say it again, that is demonstrably false. Although MOST people are born one gender or the other, there are the intersexed, and they fall between the genders. More importantly, there are plenty of people born without “heterosexual bodies,” e.g., people born unable to reproduce. Yet these people (intersexed and infertile) are human beings and should not only be treated with respect, but accepted with their “flaws” and all.
The belief that heterosexuality, and reproduction, are the norm, and therefore the only correct way of being, requires the belief that the human race is clearly and evenly divided into “opposite” sexes. Yet even among those who are heterosexual, the amount of masculinity or femininity varies by the person. Human beings are not all created the exact same, and that is why I don’t believe we should be expected to live the exact same lives as everyone else.
It is also interesting that Smid offers only two options – married and faithful or single and celibate (he uses “sober”). He completely skips over the idea of two committed, monogamous, gay or lesbian people forming a relationship. Again that makes his arguments more compelling (at least to him), but denies the reality that is so many gay lives.
To all,John Smid denies saying it:
Tom Ottosen says Love in Action executive director John Smid suggested that he commit suicide rather than return to the “gay lifestyle.” (Smid, reached by phone, says he might have mentioned the high risk of death by AIDS or stress in the gay “lifestyle,” but never suicide.)John Smid denies saying it:Smid responds that Ottosen’s specific reference that he recommended suicide is “totally untrue,” John Smid denies saying it:According to Ottosen, Smid said, “in a physical death you could still have a spiritual resurrection, whereas returning to homosexuality, you are yielding yourself to a spiritual death from which there is no recovery.” Smid denies he told this to Ottosen.(…ad nauseum for 11 years… move forward to today)John Smid, July 2005I remember the context of what I said was, “It would almost be better if you weren’t alive than to return back to the life you that you have struggled so much to leave.”Now, the spirit of what I said, I have to be honest about, was manipulative. I know that I was really trying to rescue him. And in my trying to rescue him, in my heart, I was doing more work to save him than he was doing to save himself. And, that was an error on my part. That was error of judgement. I should have been less manipulative and less co-dependent.[emphasis mine]I feel ExGayWatch has been very”>http://www.exgaywatch.com/blog/archives/2005/06/love_in_action_1.html#comments“>very generous with Smid on this matter — but now it’s time to put the doubts to rest.John Smid did tell a client that they would be better off dead. For all these years he has denied doing so, and now he admits to it.After seeing the responses here — and hearing from Tom Ottosen and Lea Brown — I thought that Smid was lying. Now we have the evidence.
They fail to admit that instead of change being possible, they’ve only proven that passing is possible.
Actually, Regan, I believe Mr. Smid, at the least, recognizes that it’s not possible to change orientation, but only actions. PlanetOut quotes him as saying:
“We understand people don’t have control over what they feel, but we teach them they are able to control what they do…. We don’t have to act on those desires, even if we feel them.”
One seriously wonders whether these “live in” operations aren’t little more than the equivalent of dating agencies.
The operative word there Skemono, is ‘CONTROL’.
Despite all the logical proof and empirical truths available that a gay person isn’t obligated to control their sexual activity-a person like Smid or Chambers believes it’s their obligation to make heterosexuals and gay people believe it.
There are universal sexual behaviors, regardless of orientation that can be pointed to as negative for everyone and societally impactful.
Being gay is unique to gay people.
Indeed, physical gender can be fused. Behavioral issues around gender is fluid.
This is natural and has never been rigid.
The ex gay ministry is looking for gender to be a qualifier on orientation and they continually place women in the submissive framework.
Obviously, they think gay men weak, and expect women to be.
Weakness in their perceived aspect of orientation means that gay men and women deserve censure at the exlcusion of all else basic to survival and security.
We can qualify what gay kids do in a supportive and accepting environment.
We can qualify what gay people will do in a threatening and coercive one.
As much as the ex gay business asserts that they have stats and scientific proof of their results, without the substance….how strange that it doesn’t take rocket science-only logic to make the conclusions I just mentioned.
Logic doesn’t require leaps…especially of faith.
Just looking around and listening to gay people, instead of denying gay people is all anyone has to do.
1. I think all people are ethically obligated to place reasonable controls on their own sexual activity.
2. I don’t know what you mean when you say “physical gender can be fused. Behavioral issues around gender is fluid. This is natural and has never been rigid.” Do you have any documentation?
3. I agree that exgay activists should stop trying to simultaneously silence — and speak on behalf of — same-sex-attracted people. But I disagree that anyone, gay or otherwise, should be simply taken at their word, without verification against measurable fact and logic. Some people do misunderstand themselves — and other people.
“Zach” is real. His name is “Zach Stark and his father, Joe Stark, defends sending Zach to ex-gay boot camp:
“We felt very good about Zach coming here because… to let him see for himself the destructive lifestyle, what he has to face in the future, and to give him some options that society doesn’t give him today,” Stark said. “Knowing that your son… statistics say that by the age of 30 he could either have AIDS or be dead.”
“…almost be better if you weren’t alive…”
Hmmmm. I’ve never heard anyone ever use this phrase before in my life. I have heard “…better off dead…” and “…I’d kill myself before…”.
I think Smid is have difficulty with defining things again. As long as he SAYS he’s truthful then he can BELIEVE he’s truthful, regardless of what spin comes out of his mouth. He doesn’t have to define “truthful” the same way we do, ya know.
Just like “gay”. Notice how he never was “gay” because that doesn’t exist.
Sorry, Smid, but if you spent years pursuing with gusto the connection of your body parts with another guy’s body parts then you were/are gay. Simply redefining the language so you can say one thing and mean another is deceiptful and dishonest (and by “deceiptful” and “dishonest” I mean the description that you’d find in Webster’s, not some words that mean the opposite).
From the CBN article linked by Norm, ““We felt very good about Zach coming here because… to let him see for himself the destructive lifestyle, what he has to face in the future, and to give him some options that society doesn’t give him today,” Stark said. “Knowing that your son… statistics say that by the age of 30 he could either have AIDS or be dead.””
For all of Mr. Smid’s “niceties” and pleasantry in the interview, this quote reveals a lot to me. It is not that Zack’s parents took him to LIA to learn that being gay was a sin or even to learn how to not be gay. They took him there to learn about how terrible it was to be gay.
I still wonder if Exodus and it’s member ministries will ever acknowledge that some people can be healthy and gay, and that being gay isn’t this “destructive” lifestyle they make up.
Yet again the good Christians feel compelled to deceive.
Here’s what Zach wrote in his blog:
“… Well today, my mother, father and I had a very long ‘talk’ in my room where they let me know I am to apply for a fundamentalist Christian program for gays. They tell me that there is something psychologically wrong with me, and they ‘raised me wrong.’ I’m a big screw up to them, who isn’t on the path God wants me to be on. So I’m sitting here in tears…”
Here’s how CBN wrote it.
“My mother, father, and I had a very long ‘talk'” he wrote, “…where they let me know I am to apply for a fundamentalist Christian program for gays… I’m a big screw up to them, who isn’t on the path God wants me to be on. So I’m sitting here in tears.”
You notice the center part has magically gone away. And by that omission, the CBN deliberately changed Zach’s meaning.
If you read CBN’s version, Zach was sitting there in tears because he isn’t on the path God wants him to be on and is feeling remorse because he’s a screw up.
If you read Zach’s post, he’s sitting there in tears because his parents TOLD HIM that he’s psychologically wrong, raised wrong, a big screw up, etc.
But honesty isn’t real important to CBN.
Good point, Timothy.
Obviously CBN slanted the story in favor of Love In Action and Joe Stark. CBN tried to make the story seem ‘fair and balance’ by including opposing viewpoints including former LIA participant Brandon Tidwell.
In the CBN article, Smid claims Tidwell grew “closer to their parents as a result of the program”. While a Commercial Appeal article last month provides a slightly more descriptive account of his parents’ thoughts on the LIA program:
“The most traumatic experience was the ‘moral inventory’ they had to give on friends and family weekend, when the clients had to share ‘their most embarrassing or shaming experiences in front of your family,’ Tidwell remembers.
“‘It forced people to look at themselves as perverts or people who were wrong, who had done something really, really bad and be ashamed of it, rather than be accepting of it,’ he says.
“His parents were told by the counselors to express their anger and frustration with Tidwell, although, in hindsight, his parents ‘wondered why this was a part of treatment.'”
From the CBN article, by a local radio host:“And I frankly think that the bottom line of this is that homosexuals are afraid that this does work, and they have set out to destroy “Love in Action.” I don’t think there can be any doubt about that.”Who told him that? He’s so certain, yet so plainly ignorant.If he had bothered to ask those who this is directed at he would have heard something more like:”I don’t think it does work — where’s the evidence? All their assumptions don’t match my background, and the “lifestyle” they describe doesn’t bear any resemmblance to my life. What I am afraid of is being forced to undergo this type of fraudulent treatment. What I’m afraid of is having public opinion, and criminal and civil law, reflect their false assumptions and their anti-gay attitudes.”
Am I the only one noticeing the fact that when ever these ex-gay people stand up, they blame their sexuality for their irresponsible behaviour? when they take drugs, have unprotected promiscuous sex and drink heavily, they all of a sudden start blaming their sexuality.
Could someone please inform me, why don’t they take responsibility for the choices they make? why blame the sexuality when clearly it was them making the decisions and not the sexual orientation.
kaiwai, I had the same observation when I sat through many testimonies during my ex-gay experience. I often thought to myself that homosexuality was the *least* of many of these people’s ‘problems’ (myself included).
I think there is an attraction to spiritualizing personal problems — especially in conservative Christian cultures. Christian fundamentalism is based, in part, on having simplistic answers (Bible=all answers). Self esteem, body image, sex addiction, eating disorders, drug addiction, etc., are all easier to deal with if you can find one cause (homosexuality) and a simplistic solution (ex-gay).
That’s the beauty of ex-gay programs: one solution to all problems. Therefore, there must be one cause to all problems: homosexuality (and/or the devil). Of course, there’s also the opposite tendency of blaming all our problems on ex-gay theology and fundamentalism. That’s a tough struggle too.
hmm, well, for 4 years, from 18 to around 22, I was in a state of depression; eventually I hammered down my problems to one simple fact, I’m gay, and I’ll eventually have to accept that fact. When I eventually accepted myself, a burden lifted off my sholders; I no longer had to hide myself, I lost alot of the problems that were making me depressed.
The thing is, however, I didn’t see my homosexuality as the *CAUSE* of the problem, what I saw as the cause was my denial – the problem with these people, they see their homosexuality as the *cause* of what ever problem they might have, when in reality, the cause can be something completely different – the alcohol dependence, for example, could be the result of poor self esteme, which is derived from the fact that he/she can’t fully accept who they are as a gay or lesbian person.
If these Christians truely cared for these individuals, they would be trying to track the *REAL* causes of these symptoms, rather than lumping everything into the ’caused by homosexuality’ basket, as they do.
The ethics you mentioned in sexuality, is what I meant by what’s universally and negatively impactful.
Such as promiscuity, lack of relationship cohesion or trust.
Betrayal of monogamy, or disclosure of disease, these are issues that effect everyone gay or straight.
Except the risk of pregnancy, which is why MORE consideration is required between hetero couples.
Anyway, I was making a general statement about the fluidity of gender behavior.
I didn’t think I’d need to refer to an article, most of us are experienced with that in our day to day with other people.
Am I the only one noticeing the fact that when ever these ex-gay people stand up, they blame their sexuality for their irresponsible behaviour?
Um, no, you’re not the only one. This was noticed in an article over at IndeGayForum.org a number of years ago. The Ex Files: Not Your Usual Gays By Mark E. Pietrzyk http://www.indegayforum.org/authors/pietrzyk/pietrzyk1.html
If these Christians truely cared for these individuals…
You need to understand the dynamics of conservative christianity. It has taken me a while to figure this out, but in conservative christianity, the individual’s body is relatively unimportant. It is the supposed immortal soul and its disposition that is important. And, they believe that, if you engage in homosex, your soul will rot in hell.
That’s the long and the short of it. Of course, they’re nuts, but that’s another issue.
Repression rots a lot of other things. Religion rots critical thinking and secular coexistence.
I’m all about saving the tangible over the intangible.
Too much faith deposited among prophets rather than in indivdual self determination undermines democracy and trust in one another.
I’m all for worship, in one’s personal day to day, that doesn’t require political action for one’s own.
But in this ex gay business, it’s less worship of uniqueness and intellectual and natural realizations and reality-but about worship of an unrealistic ideal and selectively stigmatizing the wrong things and people.
Hello, I’m the publisher of Family & Friends Magazine, the magazine that produced this series of articles regarding Love In Action, the protest of LIA’s Refuge Program and the interview with Smid (actually, I asked most of the questions during the interview). Glad to see it has been of some interest to you all.
Many thanks to you and Anita for allowing Ex-Gay Watch to reprint the articles.
I’m working on a site redesign to give greater, more permanent prominence to articles such as these.