In an earlier post, I mention the possibility of a Northside church hosting an ex-gay ministry. It caught my attention for two reasons.
First, these ministries are horrificly damaging, condemned by the American Psychological Association and prey upon very vulnerable people who need support sorting out their identy, not coercion. Pam's House Blend has a timely story about a 16 year old child who was “exorcised” of his homosexuality and recently appeared on The Tyra Banks Show to discuss it. Watch the video and question the ongoing damage every minute of the show wreaks on this kid. Question also parents who allow their child to be exorcised and appear on national television to lie about it. Sheesh.
Even Tyra believes this poor young man is deluded. So sad.
This is the logo for the national ex-gay movement, Exodus International. Click on the photo to visit their website.
Freedom from being gay. Nice.
Second, ACAC is much renowned on the Northside for being a catalyst for so much social justice outreach. Friends who belong love it. I'm pretty suspicious of anything faith based, but I try to keep an open-mind. Emphasis on try. It is really hard to do so when you are welcomed with half-opened arms and very rigid hearts.
Anyway, ACAC has been closely tied with for-profit ventures, creating an sense that supporting these businesses will support the church ministries. That's fine if they are feeding the hungry and providing afterschool activities, but if they are healing gay kids — we gotta draw a line. So I started urging local LGBTQ persons and allies to reconsider their spending.
ACAC has not confirmed or denied such a ministry. Members/former-members have told me various stories, but I notice that people are very careful to say “I'm not aware of any such ministry, but i focus on XYZ unrelated issue” which is not the same thing as “no.” Clearly, it will take some real digging to get to the truth. I've also been informed their are other “discreet” ex-gay ministries affiliated with some pretty large congregations in Pittsburgh
Some of that digging brought up another interesting thread — a local business which has been very closely tied to ACAC in media interviews and the ACAC website, Bistro to Go, says there is no formal affiliation or partnership and that she is very gay-friendly. Bistro to Go Owner, Nikki, has repeatedly tried to get ACAC to remove the links from the website because of the inaccuate suggestion that they are community partners. ACAC has thus far refused her requests. Do you think my post might move that along? I've saved the screen shots just in case.
This is a little troubling as ACAC is becoming an economic force to be reckoned with here on the Northside … they have a check cashing business, helped launch a for-profit Christian daycare, and are in the process of buying a local bar on East Ohio Street to turn a nuisance into a more appropriate business. Existing businesses in the Northside are named and those potential connections are troubling if the church is appealing to local gay money to support ex-gay ministries, as well as if they are not being truthful about their real relationships with the businesses a la Bistro to Go.
I've wandered into a minefield. Clearly, most gay folks won't want to spend their money to support reprogramming efforts. But this blurring of for-profit with the coffers of the churches is very tough to tease out into a simple “Don't shop at X, Y or Z business.”
There's also the underground element of the ex-gay ministries themselves. Do they exist in Pittsburgh? Yes, I believe they do if for no other reason than the “deer in the headlights” looks I'm getting when I ask people who attend some of the megachurches. Can I prove it? Probably not without going undercover which is what the national folks working on these issues do. I don't think I can pull it off. Rest assured, I have no ethical qualms — people use undercover agents all the time to ferret out discrimination a la fair housing testing. If it would help save someone from the damage of being “healed” and “freed,” I'd do it in a heartbeat. Do some googling and you'll see what I mean — lots of inferred connections, but very little “We want to heal the gays” listings.
How we pick the businesses we support is fraught with contradiction, hypocrisy and simple lack of information. As the G-20 teaches us, we are all hypocrites trying to varying degrees to do better.
I think businesses affiliating with ex-gay ministries can do better. I also think well-intentioned church members who put money in the coffers of said ministries and then go out to dinner with their gay friends … well, like I said, a minefield.
I'd like to see more information come to light so maybe we have to rattle the trees a bit?