The FIrst thing that shocks me about "Love Won Out"—the "dynamic, one-day conference addressing, understanding, and preventing homosexuality," organized by It-bigot James Dobson's Focus on the Family and housed by Bothell's Northshore Baptist Church—is its evergreen power to infuriate. After submerging myself in the conversion-therapy world in the late '90s—when the Religious Right bankrolled a "gays can change!" media blitz, and I wrote and started touring my conversion-obsessed show Straight—I imagined myself to have achieved a degree of emotional equilibrium regarding the topic. But a quick tour of the Conference Guide—hyping such sessions as "Responding to Pro-Gay Theology" and "Prevention of Male Homosexuality"—jolts me back to reality.
What's shocking is how little the conversion movement has changed, much less progressed. The Northshore ex-gay expo reveals the same "medical experts" hyping the same old promises: Through Christian prayer and therapy, those afflicted with the homosexual disease can achieve freedom. Never mind that this "freedom" is indistinguishable from life in the closet; for those gathered here—believers searching for a "Christian" way to reject their gay kids, friends, or selves—intoxicating promises are the name of the game. And considering the burgeoning panic instilled by such contemporary social trends as same-sex marriage, out gay Christians, and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, maybe the conversionists' stagnant rationale is primed to find a revitalized new audience.
Inside Northshore's plus-sized Worship Center, on Saturday, June 25, I sit among the hundreds gathered for the afternoon's key speakers. First is Dick Carpenter, a spry, fortysomething professor who warns of the dangerous pro-gay activism running rampant in American schools. (Never mind the recent booting of gay-inclusive groups from high schools in Georgia and Maryland, and whatever the hell continues to transpire in the gym of Lake Washington High). Then comes Nancy Heche, mother of Anne Heche, who shares how she rescued her daughter from lesbianism by praying for her soul behind her back.
Such specious triumphs are the lifeblood of the conversion movement, the proof that what they're selling is legit. And it's true: For homosexuals willing to spend the rest of their lives beating down their urges with the born-again vision of Jesus, conversion therapy is indeed a way out.
But isn't it easier to just grow up? ■