Activists Protest Ga. "Ex-Gay" Conference

by Jason St. Amand

National News Editor

Saturday February 18, 2012

Several advocacy groups will meet in Atlanta this weekend to highlight what they describe as the dangers of so-called "ex-gay" therapy on LGBT young people.

Among the groups that will meet are the Southern Poverty Law Center and Truth Wins Out. The organizations will point out the dangers of the controversial therapy that stresses people can actually become heterosexual, according to a statement by the SPLC.

"This therapy devastates the lives of many who have endured it and can result in lasting psychological harm," said SPLC attorney Sam Wolfe. "It inaccurately assumes that LGBT people are broken and fraudulently claims to fix who they are. We want LGBT people and their allies to be aware of the disastrous effects this therapy can cause and encourage survivors to speak out against it."

The statement further points out that all major American medical, psychiatric, psychological and professional counseling organizations have "discredited or highly criticized" conversion therapy.

"There is simply no sufficiently scientifically sound evidence that sexual orientation can be changed," said the American Psychological Association in 2006.

Nevertheless, Exodus International will hold one of the largest "ex-gay" conferences in the Southeast this weekend. The event, which targets LGBT youth, will take in Villa Rica, Ga.

Exodus International claims that gay men and women are "broken" and can be "cured" by conversion therapy.

The groups opposing Exodus started a campaign that urges those who survived "ex-gay" therapy to share their stories. The event takes place on National Coming Out Day.

Chaim Levin struggled with his sexual orientation as he grew up in an orthodox Jewish community. He joined the Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality when he was only 18-years-old.

"I was made to believe that there was something wrong with me and I needed to change," said Levin at a press conference during the National Coming Out Day event. "I was hopeless and was looking for a way to 'cure' being gay, but the therapy didn't work. It left me feeling even more depressed since they made me believe I failed. I finally accepted that there is nothing wrong with me and I don't need to change."