CommunityPam's House Blend

'Love Embraces All' event counters 'ex-gay' conference in Birmingham

House Blender Kathy sends in a report on a conference on “reparative” therapy, “Love Embraces All” held earlier this month, at Pilgrim Congregational Church (UCC) in Birmingham, AL. It took place on the same day as James Dobson’s “ex-gay” road show Love Won Out.

Faces of LWO in their own words: “Ex-gay” Mike Haley is director of the Homosexuality and Gender department for Focus on the Family’s Public Policy division; fastidious Alan Chambers “left homosexuality” in 1991 and is now the President of Exodus International.

Below are pictures of the “Love Embraces All” event, which was sponsored by Equality Alabama, Communities of Faith for Full Inclusion, and several local churches and organizations. Kathy’s report on the conference:

We had about 50 people in attendance with a very short lead time and little publicity. We also had a film crew from the United Kingdom that came in at the end to get some footage for a documentary on reparative therapy. They had attended the “Love Won Out” conference that morning and told us there were only about 400 people there. I understand the Dobson folks typically bus in people from out of state to inflate their numbers. I’d say we won that contest. I don’t have any pics from their conference; the local news didn’t cover either event, and none of our people wanted to register and pay $50 to listen to drivel.

I was struck by our attendees’ need to talk. We only met from 9 am to 2:30 pm, but I believe we could have gone on for an entire weekend. What came out of our discussions was the need for safe spaces, particularly for youth, to be able to tell stories and be affirmed. I think we’ll do this, or something similar, again soon.

Therapist panel, listening to the stories of those that had been through “ex-gay” programs.

Kathy: “Two men told their stories of experiencing reparative therapy. Zach, on the left, is our adopted nephew. He’s only 22, but his parents put him through all manner of hell — therapy, religious counseling, laying on hands to drive out the demon, then disowning him) while he was still a teenager. The other gentleman, Patrick, is a good bit older and put himself in for treatment back when psychiatrists routinely gave shock treatment to “cure” gayness. He says the doctors thought he would forget he was gay, but mostly he just forgot big chunks of his life.”

Kathy said that this is an empty chair representing several people who were asked to share their stories but were afraid of the repercussions.

The panel of clergy and lay people discussing their experiences ministering to the LGBT community and advocating for more inclusive faith communities.

All involved in this conference deserve a huge pat on the back for countering the brainwashing of the Dobson crowd and creating an open and safe space for those willing to come forward. One can only hope that news about this success can spur on more events to help people come out from the shame and blame. Thanks, Kathy.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding