Updated to reflect the location of WeAreThinking PAC.
There has never been just one civil rights movement; there have been numerous movements: for Jews and other religious minorities, for blacks, for women, for Japanese-Americans after World War II, and for gays since approximately the 1950s.
Nevertheless, it has become a mantra among the religious right that certain groups are “hijacking” the one solitary civil rights movement. Meanwhile, in the small universe of web sites that advertise the existence of “former homosexuals,” there are many exgay sites that join the religious right in opposing promoting antigay discrimination — but few sites that offer sound, clinically proven advice to people who strive to overcome or moderate unwanted sexual attractions and behaviors.
The year-old exgay web site WeAreThinking.com is marketed via Wikipedia as “Ex Gay Political PAC, Focused on Ex Gay Civil Rights.” But WeAreThinking PAC has no declared owners, operators, or sponsors, no specific entity to accept responsibilty for its online content. In short, the public is not intended to know the identity of “We” in the site name “We Are Thinking.”
Here’s another irony: The site does not support exgay civil rights; it undermines existing civil-rights movements.
The site’s linked articles target existing religious, ethnic, and gender-based civil rights movements, turning each movement’s members against one another by inflaming some members’ off-topic antigay sentiments. Let’s briefly examine how WeAreThinking does this.
The front page loads an animation featuring dramatic music and a threatening voice that sets African-Americans against gay Americans:
“Today in America, civil rights are being hijacked. Civil rights are being hijacked. Think about it.”
A closer examination of the site’s interior uncovers a series of rhetorical ploys and evasions by people who appear not to be the blacks, feminists and Democrats that they suggest themselves to be. Furthermore, the site is designed using Adobe Flash in a manner that not only precludes external links to its internal pages, but also prevents search engines and web archives from properly recording and promoting its content. A question arises: If the PAC web site is not designed to be found via search engines, then Is the site intended for public consumption, or is publicity for the site being directed to specific volatile interest groups or potential donors?
As questions begin accumulate, it would be nice to know whom to consult for answers.
But unlike most sites’ About pages, this site’s About page does not identify the organization’s leaders. The About page instead profiles two young writers — proxy “representatives.” One writer, Ashley Perryman, claims to be a “women’s rights activist” and yet asserts that “the gay agenda” harms women by allegedly blurring gender identity. This is a common argument of gender conformists and religious rightists, not liberty-affirming women. The other writer, Shaun Kurian, claims that “gay rights” (his quotes) harm the Democratic Party. A Google search of Kurian turns up nothing to suggest Democratic political affiliation or even past writing samples.
The Facts page of WeAreThinking consists of a series of opinion pieces that:
- encourage schism among Jewish congregations and moderate churches that have sought to balance spiritual tradition, sexual realism, fidelity, compassion and justice;
- accuse unspecified media of overlooking a 2004 Atlanta antigay black protest (a linked article fails to substantiate the charge); and
- steer black Democrats toward the GOP.
An Exgay topical page opens not to a constructive profile or knowledge base for exgays, but rather to a four-year-old assertion by religious rightists that a Chicago woman, Mary Stachowicz, was murdered because of her supposedly exgay Catholic identity. The Illinois Family Institute and other religious rightists equated Stachowicz’s death with that of Matthew Shepard of Wyoming, who was killed in 1998, allegedly because he was homosexual.
Whatever one’s views might be toward hate-crime laws, the facts did not support the religious-rightists’ accusation that Stachowicz was killed for being Catholic or exgay. The crime was reported locally and in gay and antigay media in 2002: Stachowicz was attacked after she preached the sinfulness of homosexuality at the office janitor, who then reacted violently to memories of his mother’s condemnations of homosexuality. Stachowicz was not killed because she was Catholic or exgay, she was killed because she reminded a deranged individual of his mother. Furthermore, it seems unlikely that Stachowicz even identified as exgay. Same-sex-attracted conservative Catholics — in particular, those affiliated with Courage, an antigay support group for same-sex-attracted Catholics — generally do not identify as exgay. Disliking the misleading political and sexual connotations of “exgay” that have been fostered by Protestant evangelicals, they identify instead as “chaste” or as celibate gay or lesbian.
Other articles that are linked from WeAreThinking’s Exgay page accuse generic “gay activists” of menacing, attacking, and stifling generic exgays. But details are left sketchy, some supporting links have broken, and the site’s news section is more than two months out of date, suggesting either a financial crunch or an apathy toward the notion of supporting documentation.
Oddly enough, for all the ill-documented talk of censorship, the allegedly suppressed message of exgays is not conveyed by this pro-exgay site, either. A question naturally arises: Are exgay activists suppressed, or are they devoting so many resources to antigay discrimination and to religious-right efforts to deter civil rights for others, that a positive message about exgays never emerges? Are exgays really suppressing themselves?
The website’s Exgay page links to the following exgay organizations: the reparative-therapy advocacy group NARTH, the antigay Catholic group Courage, the pseudo-Jewish/evangelical group JONAH, exgay activist D.L. Foster’s “Powerful Change” nameplate, the nonreligious People Can Change, and the exgay network Exodus International. More questions arise: Did these organizations assent to an affiliation with the WeAreThinking PAC, is WeAreThinking truly a political action committee or affiliated with a PAC, do the exgay groups know the identity of the site’s operators, and why would they wish to be associated with a site that seeks to splinter other civil rights movements?
These unanswered questions draw us full circle, back to the identity of those working behind the scenes at WeAreThinking.
The WeAreThinking PAC web site’s Contact page lists as its address 2020 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Suite 816, Washington. But there is no suite 816. In fact there are no suites at all at 2020. That location is a UPS Store located in the lobby of a prestigious D.C. office building, in a neighborhood that hosts some of the city’s leading lobbyists. Like the About page, the Contact page offers no phone number and no names of officials or employees. A UPS Store employee declined to disclose the boxholder’s identity to Ex-Gay Watch.
An examination of the website’s domain name registration turns up no useful information, either — just a proxy name, e-mail address, and false street address in the Northern Marianas Islands of the western Pacific Ocean. The name, phone number and e-mail address each turn up zero results via Google.
If there are some actual antigay same-sex-attracted persons in existence who really hope to form a genuine and constructive civil rights organization for themselves, then this site poses a threat to that hope. Veteran civil rights activists know that:
- A group that fails to promote a positive message and identity for itself does not win many friends,
- A group that undermines the rights of others will lose support among civil-rights allies, and
- A group so surreptitious that it cannot identify its principals, lacks the visible constituency that is necessary to grant it legitimacy.
Wikipedia summarizes the Mary Stachowicz case. Jody Wheeler and Good As You discuss the exploitation of Mary Stachowicz and similar cases by the religious right. The pro-tolerance religious group Soulforce reacted to the murder by saying that if Stachowicz was murdered in an attempt to intimidate all Christians, then the case should qualify as a hate crime.