‘Ex-gay’ confab in N.C. a sad sight- From Sovo.com

From Sovo.com,

Reporter Eartha Melzer returned this week from a stint in North Carolina, where she covered last week’s Exodus International conference for gays and lesbians seeking to change their sexual orientation.

For those who live in predominantly gay neighborhoods in the Northeast between Washington, D.C., and Boston it is tempting to dismiss the “ex-gay” crowd as fringe crazies bent on derailing the gay rights movement.

But a very different picture emerged from last week’s conference.

The crowd, about 1,000 people, mostly men, came to attend panel discussions on resisting masturbation and creating a sexual relationship with a member of the opposite sex, among others. They attended prayer sessions and were addressed by Jerry Falwell, longtime enemy of gay rights advocates.

But there was a noticeable absence of anti-gay malice among the ranks of attendees. Most of these people are desperate to repress and deny their homosexuality because they don’t understand it and long to be accepted by their communities. They’ve long been subjected to anti-gay rhetoric from their families, friends and church leaders. They fear being ostracized for being different and many of them no doubt live in fear of physical violence. Being gay in a rural area can be a frightening prospect, as evidenced by this week’s arson attack on a gay couple’s home in Florida.

The ex-gay ministries are cruelly preying upon the Exodus conference attendees, feeding them false hopes of living a “normal life” with a member of the opposite sex. These people are largely from rural areas; they are isolated from other gays and the resources that many urban gays take for granted. They may be poor — one attendee told of saving money from multiple jobs to make the journey to the ex-gay conference — or uneducated.

And those factors make them prime targets for the fundamentalist Christians, who know something about exploiting the vulnerable. Whether it’s preying on the elderly for donations to shifty televangelists, indoctrinating alcoholics with fundamentalist dogma or convincing gays they can choose to be straight, fundamentalist Christians know how to manipulate and take advantage of vulnerable people.

Reports from the conference make it clear that the ex-gay business is booming. Their message — that prayer coupled with avoiding pornography and masturbation can help change a person from gay to straight — is silly, simplistic and not grounded in anything approaching science or even reason. But it’s wrapped in a slick package, complete with rock music, light shows and promises of salvation. Sadly, many rural gays are being taken in and they’re buying it.

See Earlier Posts on the MattHillNC.com Blog:

‘Two tid-bits: Falwell at ex-gay conference”

“Gay teen to be released soon from ex-gay camp”

“Western NC Mountains become hotbed of debate concerning gays and religion”

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