According to reports, about 1500 “ex-gays” and friends of such gathered at the “Love Won Out” conference in St. Louis to pat one another on the back, shout “Amen”, listen to speakers tell them they can be cured of homosexuality, and then sneak out to the gay bars later.
Rob Thurman offers a very vivid report from the proceedings:
When you’re sitting in an auditorium filled with a thousand true-believers who shout Amen! on cue, it’s not that hard to believe that someone will readily renounce homosexuality. It’s even more believable when armed deputies are patrolling the perimeter of the room. I counted eight throughout the course of the day.
Truly, Bible thumping might deter some manly pumping…but drama…well, it sure as shit ain’t cured by reading Leviticus. They might not be gay anymore, but some old-school-trained ex-queens were holding court yesterday.
I have never seen such a spectacle. There were sermons filled with tears, laughter was pealing from the pews, hands were outstretched in pious praise, folks were talking in tongues and there were all sorts of holy-rolling, hetero-extolling, homos-gotta-get-going testimonies and jubilatory messages of redemption and salvation.
Rob also comments on the billboard at the top of this post, which was altered by protestors of the conference, and I agree with him: “As much as I disagree with Focus on the Family – I do believe they have every right to assemble in public – and to assemble in peace. And I have every right to attend that trifling meeting and decide for myself if their reeducation process is religious expression or a crock of self-hating, white people bullshit.”
Pam at Pam’s House Blend has another report on the proceedings from a woman named Nancy who helped organize a protest of the event. She reports: “The 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.”
Additional photos of the protest can be found here.
Incidentally, James Dobson, leader of Focus on the Family and the organizer of Love Won Out, has come under fire from fellow Wingnuts recently for supporting Colorado legislation that would give same-sex couples limited legal protections like property transfers and hospital visits. Dobson’s beef, he says, is with the word “marriage” and he says he believes in equality under the law but doesn’t want to redefine that sacrosanct institution.