It is my pleasure to announce to you an educational symposium the will be held in Philadelphia, PA on November 5-7th, 2010.
I am Jason Conner, Director of Programs for Soulforce and 2010 Equality Rider. This Symposium holds a very special place in my understanding as a gay person. I grew up in a very conservative Christian home. I was raised Mormon, and I served a two year mission for the church where I preached ‘the gospel’. I share an all too common story. I was raised in an environment where people in the LGBTQ community were referred to as freaks, deviants, and sinners. Simply put, I was taught to fear LGBTQ people. I absorbed these lessons, all while realizing I was one of these ‘wicked’ people who was considered so despicable. My inner turmoil escalated to a turning point while serving my mission. I was trying to serve God to the best of my ability, and yet these seemingly ”perverse” thoughts and feeling just wouldn’t go away. I confessed my feelings to my mission president, someone I considered to be a man of God, and one of the best individuals I had ever met. I explained to him that I was so conflicted and grief-filled that I had contemplated suicide. I felt so hopeless and alone. He responded by reading me a scripture, Romans 7:24, which reads:
O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
Here I was, more vulnerable and broken than I had ever felt, looking for Christian love and support from this man that I so admired, and I was greeted with confirmation of my worst fears, that I was undesirable in the eyes of God. Immediately after reading me this scripture and telling me that I could overcome these “same sex attraction” afflictions, I was ushered into therapy. I had never heard the words “ex-gay” or “reparative” therapy. All I knew was that if I didn’t comply with this therapy program, I would be sent home from my mission, to face the shame and disgrace of my family, church, and friends. I spent nearly a year being told that no one in the “homosexual lifestyle” could ever be truly happy, and that “those people” were incapable of healthy relationships with others. After leaving the mission I found a young woman to whom I was eventually engaged, but by the grace of God, I was able to see the tragedy that heterosexual marriage would mean to me. I ended this engagement, and through participating in the Soulforce 2010 Equality Ride, I come out of the closet and accepted myself as the beautiful creature God has created me to be.
I share my story with you to illustrate several important things. I am not angry with the mission president who read me that scripture. I’m also not angry with the therapist employed by the church to “fix” me. These individuals were victims of misinformation, perpetuated by large and well funded organizations. Most of us are familiar with organizations like Focus on the Family, NARTH, and Exodus Ministries. These organizations teach a message that is clearly harmful to LGBTQ people and pose a great danger to our society. They promote views that LGBTQ individuals are sick and should and can be fixed or changed. They cite false science and statistics that they themselves fund and compile. What are we to do with all of this false information flooding the media, the pulpit, and even the floors of the Senate and House? Thankfully, we have Soulforce, an organization that continues to “stand in the gap” for oppressed people. We are delighted to offer this newest educational symposium which we believe will dispel untruths about LGBTQ identities and reparative therapy:
A Soulforce Symposium
Philadelphia, PA November 5-7, 2010
The Truth about Faith, Science, Love and Reparative Therapy
We are bringing together some of the most knowledgeable individuals from around the globe to teach us how to confront the false science and news out there about LGBTQ individuals. We will also look closer at reparative therapy, and how to cope as a survivor. This symposium is perfect for all LGBTQ individuals and allies. Preregister now and be the first to receive updates about presenters, locations, and special hotel deals. Click here to preregister!
Even if you can not attend, please donate to Soulforce so that we can continue fighting spiritual and political violence against LGBTQ individuals. Click here to donate now!
I look forward to seeing you in Philadelphia this November. Great change comes from great action. Great action is perpetuated by knowledge. It is my hope that the knowledge we gain at this symposium will lead us to stand up against corrupt individuals and organizations, letting them know that we are people who are whole, and just as deserving of love and equality as anyone else. See you soon!