In response to a recent Dan Savage column, ex-gay Randy Thomas, an official with Exodus International, wrote (h/t Ex-Gay Watch):
For the most part, we are intelligent, balanced, stable, tolerant of what we may not personally accept and loving. We looked at what identifying as gay and all of the predetermined relational options of what that means and said, “no thanks.” Some of us have experienced orientation shift and others haven’t … and we are all living out our faith and life as we see fit. I and everyone I know, have no desire to force others into our line of thinking.
Except that last line is a lie. Time and time again, ex-gay ministries or their supporters have forced gay teenagers at ages 16 or 17 into residential treatment centers.
Back in Summer 2005, teenager Zach Stark was forced into an Exodus International-affiliated treatment center. The late Jerry Falwell, an Exodus supporter, “dismissed psychologists’ claims that consent is fundamental to a healthy counseling relationship and that parents should not force their gay kids into therapy.”
And we can’t forget about Lance Carroll, who was forced to attend the same residential treatment center as Stark. He says the “therapy” included isolation and group shaming sessions where one participant would be singled out and shamed for the personal occurrences in their life.
There’s also this gem, the story of Jeff Williamson, a young man whose parents made an appointment for him to go to an ex-gay therapist referred by Focus on the Family, an Exodus supporter. He says he wasn’t “exactly forced,” but felt “an intense pressure” from his parents. What else is a teenager supposed to do?
It’s situations like Williamson’s that might just be the most dangerous. Teenagers and other young people who feel so pressured to go into these therapies that they keep all of their emotion, grief or anger bottled up inside. For LGBT youth, who are already more susceptible to suicide, these factors are all a dangerous combination.