Bil Browning

Love Tells the Truth

Filed By Bil Browning | November 13, 2007 6:45 PM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch
Tags: Christian beliefs, ex-gay, fact checking, gender identity, Love Won Out, science, sexual orientation, suppression

Since I blogged yesterday about the positive thing I saw at the Love Won Out conference, today I’ll focus a little more on what I noticed that was, well, just f--ked up. Tomorrow I'll have an interview with ex-gay leader Mike Haley and Jim Burroway of BoxTurtleBulletin will be guest posting on Thursday.

Love Won Out and evangelicals got their praise yesterday. Not today.

I was only able to attend the conference for the first half of the day. I truly wish I’d have been able to spend more time observing and interviewing some of the attendees and staff. It was completely fascinating.

The event was held in a local mega-church. I’d estimate about 700 people showed up for the event, but the auditorium sanctuary wasn’t full by any means. By the time I checked out the vendor booths and greeted the Indiana Family Institute’s Director of Public Policy Ryan McCann, his girlfriend and his mother, the program had already started.

Let me say from the start that my first immediate thought upon entering the church was a memory from high school of my older sister. She is ten years older than I am and used to be heavily into Amway. She and her husband took me to an Amway convention once where motivational speakers would share “secrets” on how to increase their business sales or recruitment efforts. All through the stadium (this thing was huge!) were these little booths offering tapes of the speeches, books, doo-dads and just about anything possible to make a buck. The Love Won Out conference also had a ton of books and CDs claiming to cure you of your sexuality through "secrets" the "radical gay agenda" doesn't want you to know!

speaker-joedallas.jpgJoe Dallas was at the podium railing about the dangers of male homosexuals as I took my seat with Ryan’s family. He was by far and away the most dangerous speaker that I heard. His message was completely warped psychobabble but his public speaking abilities were masterful. It took me a couple days to remember who he reminded me of. Ryan mocks me for this idea on the IFI blog, but he reminded me of Derren Brown, the British mentalist. (If you have no idea who I’m talking about look him up on YouTube. His segment “The Heist” on a seminar he leads that implants the suggestion to steal is a fascinating clip to watch.)

Joe’s voice was preacher perfect. His pitch moderated between the dramatic and the monotonous. He’d speak for a few minutes perfectly rationally and I’d find myself agreeing with him on a few points. Then he’d say something patently ridiculous and I’d find myself nodding along until a couple of seconds later when it would hit me what he’d just said and I’d realize what I had just nodded assent to. Between the hand movements and the voice pitch and inflection, I knew I'd have to keep an eye on him to avoid falling under his spell.

The speaker gave out the usual ex-gay talking points:

  • “Inborn doesn’t necessarily mean normal.”
  • “We are all born imperfect.”
  • “Inborn doesn’t mean God ordained.”
  • “We’re not compelled to act on our feelings”

Traits of a gay man include:

  • Compliant
  • Artistic/intellectual over athletic
  • Sensitive
  • Creative

His purpose was to lay down the gauntlet to the attendees. Their children’s sexuality was laid directly at the feet of the parents. While admitting that sexuality’s origins may be genetic, he pointed specifically to the parental bond as the number one factor. It even rates talking points in the official Love Won Out handbook. Unfortunately, the handbook and speaker seemed to interchange “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” incorrectly quite often. One example comes directly from this section. This is how it looks in their take-home reminder:

Father/Son Bonding (primary family influence)
Mother/Son Bonding (secondary family influence)
Gender identity influenced largely by family dynamics

Mr. Dallas spewed several nonsensical tidbits into the audience like “The Father is the ambassador to gender identity” while trying to pinpoint how sexual identity develops and my personal favorite, “How a dad acts is how other men will react.” Huh? What the hell does that even mean? It sure sounded ominous!

While the next speaker, ex-gay Mike Haley, gave his testimony I listened intently. I’ll have a post up tomorrow all about him and his testimony and my interview with him.

While I interviewed Mr. Haley, the seminar on “The Condition of Female Homosexuality” started. This section was run by Melissa Fryrear, an ex-lesbian who’s also a Focus on the Family wonk. I have to say, I wish she’d been the speaker all day long. She was horrible. While I’m sure quite a bit of the audience was drawn into her story (she testified for the rest of the time after her presentation), she wasn’t nearly as convincing as Joe Dallas. She made outrageous claims using “scientific facts” to back herself up. She actually claimed that all lesbians were abused. Seriously! Apparently she has a history of making these sorts of claims.

speaker-melissafryrear.jpgMs. Fryrear was also quite sexist. Her constant pleas for a husband quickly grew old, but some of the things she said just blew me away. At one point she showed a picture of herself looking particularly dyke-y – short hair, baggy sweatshirt, the whole shebang. As she stood in front of the audience in her demure blouse and skirt with matching heels she proudly proclaimed, “That I show up at Focus on the Family in a skirt, pantyhose and high heels is a miracle itself,” as if God’s wondrous mysteries revolved around her choice of footware. Blasphemy anyone? Anyone?

She followed that one up with “I had no idea how expensive it is to be a woman” and a personal story about a heated eyelash curler. Can you hear the giggle in her voice? One of the other ear curdling moments was when she was praising herself for looking more feminine. “What does it mean to look like a woman on the inside?” she asked. “Now that I’m out of that lifestyle my inner beauty matches my outer beauty.” Because, you know, lesbians are ugly and never feminine at all.

But the best quip of the day came from Melissa. I kid you not, this is a direct quote: “The best part about being straight is that they [men] pay for your meals! You can save your money for manicures!” Oh yeah, because denying your sexuality means no more dishwater hands or hangnails.

Sadly, Alan Chambers wasn’t there for the “Hope for Those Who Struggle” breakout session. I really wanted to interview him. Instead I got a welcome surprise! Melissa would be taking the reins. (How manly of her. I hope she checked her lipstick and blush first!)

I was excited about this session, honestly. I wanted to see what sort of “tips” they’d be offering the roomful of young adults and teens. Here they are (in order) so you can save yourself the entry fee.

  • Attend Love Won Out conferences (perhaps they’re looking for ex-gay groupies to follow them from town to town like Deadheads)
  • Buy their books (conveniently enough they were on sale right outside, but there were also advertising inserts in the handbook and other materials)
  • Visit their website and Exodus International’s site (“I can’t talk highly enough about Exodus!” I can.)
  • Join a church that doesn’t condone homosexuality (perhaps Fred Phelps has a pew open!)
  • “Get support from other people who haven’t had this struggle”

Apparently, I just need to become a Baptist and I’ll marry the next woman I see. After all, I went to the conference, I came home with two books, I went to the websites and most of my friends are straight. I’m one river baptism from the American dream!

While I could go on and on with the details of what happened, I think you’ve gotten the general gist by now. As I said earlier, I had to leave early so the IFI has generously offered to purchase the CDs of the seminars for me. I stuck around for lunch with Ryan and his lovely (truly!) girlfriend. We sat with a 16-year-old kid whose mother had driven him to Indianapolis from Chicago. Curt Smith, the President of IFI, joined us as did State Representative Cindy Noe. Rep. Noe’s lip curled when we were introduced. “Oh.” She whined. “You’re the people who write about me all the time.”

Since she wasn’t introduced to me as a state legislator, I had no idea who she was. The name rang distant bells, but that was about it. When I was told she was a state Representative I really searched my brain for any posts I’d done about her. I couldn’t come up with any. I mentioned that to her as I left but she dripped acidly, “Yes. You have. One of your people had a problem with my coarseness question or something.” I still doubted we’d talked much about her or I’d have recognized her name; obviously she wasn’t politically powerful enough for me to know her by sight. But the Representative was correct. We have talked about her – 16 times by name - although mostly in the comments section. The post she referenced was Annette Gross’s short post from September 2006 about one of Noe’s online surveys. By any standards, it was one of the least offensive posts that have run on the site. Representative Noe apparently has a thin skin.

As I walked to the car I reflected on how not so long ago I would have been another brainwashed sheep thinking an Amway success shop-a-thon would help me to suppress my sexuality. I’m very lucky. Hopefully some of the attendees saw the message of love the PFLAG contingent sent their way as they stood vigil beside the entrance to the mega-church.

Because love tells the truth.

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I've both watched derren brown, and experienced a sister in the amway (actually, amway 2.0 aka quikstar) biz. I'd not thought of it, but both comparisons do fit.

I'm curious. Was your acceptance of Ryan's challenge to attend because he had accepted a similar challenge of yours? If not, is there a future challenge in Ryan's future?

Thanks for the report, Bil, I look forward to tomorrow's installment.

I have been trying to wrap my head around this Love Won Out event. I was one of those mothers outside of Traders Point Christian Church, holding a sign that pronounced that I love my gay son the way he is and that he doesn’t have to change.

I have been trying to understand the aim of Love Won Out. This is a Christian fundamentalist group who claims they love their gay children. They claim they love and accept them unconditionally, just as we love and accept our children unconditionally. But deep down there, there is the BUT. They accept their children, as long as their children follow the premise that they can change their “homosexual” behavior. All they have to do is pray harder, believe harder, and they will overcome their homosexual tendencies.

I take issue with this premise. First, I believe that religion needs to be taken out of this equation. It took me a while to figure this out. As a mother, I love my son unconditionally. I don’t need outside affirmation of this. I am a spiritual person, but I don’t need organized religion to tell me how to love my son. I feel mother-love is an innate response to the child G-d has given us. My hormones kicked in the minute he was first placed in my arms. Of course there are many things I would disapprove of my son doing, but being born gay is not one of them. I am here to love my son, to support him and help him make the right decisions. It doesn’t matter whether you believe if being gay is genetic or not. This is the way it is. My job as a mother is to support my child and help him to become the best possible person he can be, with what he was given in life. Instead of asking him to change I need to encourage him in his life choices, help him to grow and use his talents and abilities in life. To be there to help him make decisions.

Being a parent is a very personal thing. You forge a special bond with your child. When you tell your child that there is something fundamentally wrong with him or her, when you say “I love you BUT” you are not being honest with them. Their being gay is not going to change. The sexual act has nothing to do with this. It has to do with trust and going to the core of what loving your child really means. How many children hear their parents say “I love you” and then hear their parent’s disapproval over career choices, partner choices, even the way they dress. They are casting judgments over who that child fundamentally is.

I struggle with this every day. Sure, there are things I might want to change about my child. But the color of a sweater is certainly different than telling my child that he is flawed because of who he is. Children want their parent’s unconditional love. So when they are forced to go to a program like Love Won Out, they are doing so out of the belief that maybe they can indeed qualify for their parent’s unconditional love. They may know deep down that they can’t change who they are, but the power of parental love is very strong. And Love Won Out knows this, and is playing right into these poor children’s deepest desires. As a mother, I would like to let them know that the best thing they can do for themselves is to be true to themselves and use their faith to gather courage and strength, and hope their parents accept them for who they really are.

As a PFLAG member, we are here to help these youngsters find a better way to learn who they really are and who they ultimately can be.

My question to these people has always been - if you are attempting to do all this "good" in the name of Christ why do you charge for it? Did Jesus charge people for his sermons and advice?

It's obvious that it's a fundraising tool for separating the fool from his money. Sometimes I wonder whether the people who are influenced by this don't actually deserve the misery for their stupidy.

Then I wake up and realize that doing this to kids isn't classified as child abuse yet.

Beergoggles, the people who are influenced by this may or may not deserve this, but their children definitely do not. They're the ones who we need to reach out to and show that there is another way.


I agree with you about the kids.

Unfortunately, religious mumbo jumbo is too big a sacred cow in the US for anything to be done to spare kids from this fate. The American view is that torturing and abusing children is ok as long as its done in the name of religion. I doubt it'll change in my lifetime or your's for that matter.


I'm curious. Was your acceptance of Ryan's challenge to attend because he had accepted a similar challenge of yours? If not, is there a future challenge in Ryan's future?

Ryan challenged me to attend Love Won Out. I asked him to attend a screening of Inlaws & Outlaws with me.

before I get started, is it just a firefox thing that says i am logged in (because I checked remember me on this computer), even says thanks for signing in above the comment box, and then eats my comment when i click submit? fortunately, I can hit the back button and cut and paste. This is like the 3rd time it's happened.

Interesting. Summer had gotten the most of my time and I'd not read or posted on any blogs for most of that time, so I missed the original challenges.

I understand the angle both of you are coming from. Admittedly, I identify more with the gay angle, but I can still see how someone who interprets the bible in a particular way can have the reactions that they do as well.

What I don't understand is why they continue to seek public policy to match their interpretation? I suppose they could say it is in response to our attempts to do the same. Except where is their harm if I can have a civil union / marriage / contract? See, I don't really care what it is called since I equate marriage with the spiritual and union with the governmental side. I am already married, regardless of what the USA, Indiana, IFI, Fred Phelps or anyone else says.

Unlike you, Bil, I've never met, nor do I expect to meet Ryan. Why does it matter to him that I want to have a framework that allows myself and my partner of 23 years to care for each other in times of great distress (health, death, i'd say divorce, but really can't imagine that ever happening)?

Don't tell me I can do the same thing with legal paperwork. I've already done so, with the full intention of creating the 'legal incidents thereof'. It cost me over $2,000 to get everything drawn up we could (except for a trust), and I STILL do not have the same framework that Britney Spears got for her $30 weekend marriage in Vegas.

How well do you think any of that would stand up in court if SJR-7 goes through?

You are a brave soul Bil. I have been able to carry on a somewhat respectful conversation with my state representative on this topic, but the entire time my brain wanted to shout and call him an idiot. I was able to hide it since it was a phone conversation. It doesn't sound like you have that difficulty. I admire you for that since this is exactly the kind of thing that needs to happen to come to a place of peaceful coexistence.

Paula: No, it's not Firefox. You're running into one of the SPAM prevention guards.

The system will keep you logged in for 2 hours. After that, you have to sign in again. We've had a problem with spammers signing up for accounts, staying logged in and just posting hundreds of spam comments. I apologize for any inconvenience, but it was a necessary step after we were the target of a take-down attack.

Did Jesus charge people for his sermons and advice?

Salvation is free, but hatred always has a price.

You met Cindy Noe! She was my rep back when I lived in Carmel! OMG! Did you get her autograph? She's the like the wackiest rep in the gen assembly, and she's from one of the the richest and whitest districts in the state: Western Carmel, DT Zionsville, and Meridian Heights.

Hmmmmm.... It's almost like that stereotype that rich white folk are the least homophobic isn't true at all....

And I've left comments about her never answering my letters. And I lived in her district. I'm totally that crazy guy who'd write her a letter because of something I read on a blog. But that doesn't mean that she can't answer me!!! Funny how when I got into a relationship I suddenly didn't feel like writing her anymore. Oh, Cindy, what happened to the good times when I'd write you and you'd circular file my letters because you don't associate with the help voters?

And gay men are "compliant"? That's what he said! Hahahaha, that joke never gets old.

And with that in mind, I'm going to "submit"....

Alex, I met Cindy Noe at the JCC a few years ago when she was in a panel discussion. We were talking afterwards about "gay marriage." So she said "well, if gay people can get married then that means I will be allowed to have sex with my mother!" I blurted out "You've got to be kidding!" I was stunned! This is an elected official! (of course in retrospect, why should I be stunned?) She totally blew me away. So I don't have much positive to say about her. Unfortunately, I think she's in my district too. I forgot about that incident until Bil just brought it up.