On-the-scene report from Love Won Out counter-vigil in St. Louis
Blender NancyP has turned in a great first-hand report on Exodus/Daddy Dobson’s ex-gay roadshow, Love Won Out, which was held in St. Louis over the weekend (my post here). Her account follows this report on what went on inside.
The First Evangelical Free Church was the location of the “ex-gay” event, with about 1500 people paying $50 for the pleasure of being told that homosexuality is choice that can be cured, according to 365gay.com‘s coverage. Also, at no time was the audience told that the statistics spouted about have long been discredited by the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association.
Professional heterosexual Melissa Fryrear, Gender Issues Analyst for Focus on the Family.
One of the speakers, Melissa Fryrear, said she had been “saved” from her lesbianism. She said that often homosexuality is the result of a fractured parent child relationship or sexual abuse. “Ever wonder why some lesbians look mannish?” she asked the audience. “It’s a vulnerability to be a woman. That suit of armor to keep you from being hurt.”
Speakers also promoted books and other material on sale at the conference, including a $50 boxed set called “Male Homosexuality Package,” that included books called “Coming out of Homosexuality” and “You Don’t Have to Be Gay.”
Nancy and hundreds of others braved the freezing elements to peacefully show that “Love Needs No Cure.”
St. Louis responds to LWO: A billboard promoting the conference was modified into a positive message, affirming and celebrating gay identity. This happened sometime just before the day of the conference. Photo: St. Louis Independent Media Center
This event was like Pride with a wind chill of 5 above zero. People were incredibly cheerful, despite the 30 degree weather with winds up to 30 mph. Also the hour – we wanted big turnout when people were coming and going from the conference. Consequently, some 500 people showed up at the 6:30 AM rally on a Saturday morning on Mardi Gras weekend, a fine turnout. The afternoon (4:00PM) session was less well attended, with perhaps 150 at the peak, and weather was still tough. We were jumping up and down to stay warm, and constantly repairing the flimsier signs that were blowing to pieces. I was trying to hang onto my pole of the 2-person 8′ lgbt physicians’ group banner, and making jokes about going sailing in the Midwest cornfields.
I think it must have been obvious that we were having a good time, waving at passersby and conference attendees. At least two teens in the conference managed to take “long bathroom breaks” or some such, and snuck outside and talked with the teen and college student contingent we had, and I saw a number of teens, in back seats of cars driven by parents, who gave us the thumbs up when entering or leaving the conference. There were also the confused or polite attendees who waved back when we waved at them, the attendees who scowled and hurriedly rolled up their windows or accelerated onto the road when we waved and smiled, and the stony-faced.
The cops were pretty happy with us – we set up liaison people well in advance, provided our own foot-traffic control/security folks, and cleaned up after ourselves, obeyed the rules, and tried to keep the noise down – and the event provided them extra overtime time-and-a-half that is probably hard to get in the glossy and dull suburb. Perhaps one of the most unusual moments was when one of the homeowners across the street pulled out some extra gloves and coats and loaned them to us for the day. I later found out their names, and it turns out that I know and work with them, one is a medical lab. tech. in my hospital department, the other is a professor at the medical school.
I feel proud of our community for pulling together this peaceful, cheerful event in the course of 10 days, yes, TEN DAYS, dropping everything and squeezing a few more hours into the days to get the preparatory work done. I was “sign queen”, and we had several dozen people stop by one of the three sign-making sessions, contributing their creativity and generally having a good time. People opened their facilities to us – the local lgbt coffeehouse owner, a UCC with a lesbian pastor, Eden Seminary (UCC). The security people trained. The parking people lined up local churches willing to let us use their lots for the day, attendants for the lots, and shuttle busses. The liason person talked to all the pertinent police and city officials beforehand. The media folks lined up experts and interviews with local media, and our own pediatrician-of-the-air, whose usual on-air topic is something on the order of “what to do when your child has diarrhea”, put on his activist hat and gave several radio, tv, and newspaper interviews, as did several ministers. Everybody did publicity within the community, to get turnout.
This was a movement-building event, engaging not only the usual suspects (political mavens), but community members who never participated in such an action before. In my opinion, FOTF/Exodus did us a favor. And I hope they have an opposition-research person reading this blog, to find out this.
Nancy added that she had her two seconds of fame as a signholder in a long shot on one of the local TV news programs, she noted it was a local FOX affiliate to boot — they actually gave the story more airtime and more positive focus than other area TV stations.
Here are some other links:
* Gay Spirituality & Culture‘s take on the vigil
* Mike Airhart’s report, ‘Love Won Out’ to Parents: Discriminate With A Smile, at Ex-Gay Watch.
* Students from Washington University in St. Louis and the vigil