The word conjures images of of the redwood forests of my home. It puts me in mind of the thousands of acres of green mountains in Oregon and Washington state, the smell of the cool forest floor after the first rain, and fresh cut Christmas greens. The last thing I would associate with such a lovely word is the ex-gay movement...
Recently a Youtube viewer sent me a link to this video: "The Story Of A Gay Mormon". It tells the story of Jayce, a young mormon from Montana and his experience with the Evergreen program, a Mormon ex-gay conversion program.
One of the things that society does that can piss me off the most is to use the natural spiritual inclination of another human being to oppress and torture them or...even worse to get them to torture themselves as Jayce did here. Electroshock therapy? Thats the stuff of nightmares...which is exactly why the ex-gay movement employs it. If the sheer terror of it doesn't get compliance then mayby being shocked into a vegetable state will.
jayces' story is not the first tale I've heard of ex-gay ministries Like Evergreen and others like Exodus. Nor is it the first only story to tell of their methods of conversion. I've recieved emails detailing abuse, intimidation, shock therapy, and suicide. Stories of teens literally being locked in and unable to leave the the building, in order to "facilitate their healing". They are yelled at...belittled, and intimidated. If they show any weekness, or unmanlyness, they are punished further. All in an effort to back up there skewed version of what it means to be a man...or a woman for that matter. None of this ever works and only serves to further confuse and damage the person in question...or drive them away from spirituallity altogether.
Recentlty in Queerty there was another article of relevance to Evergreen. It was about Justin Utley, a former Mormon very much like Jayce Cox...but, he alledges..his experience was a little different...
"Utley initially felt relieved to find help among others like himself — until he realized Evergreen was actually the perfect closeted Mormon cruising ground. Between their weekly group sessions, attendees would jerk-off together. The program treats homosexuality like a mental illness, and over time Utley’s program-appointed therapist convinced him that he’d been molested as a child (something Utley says never happened). Finally, after a year at Evergreen, he met his first boyfriend, Brent, and left Evergreen forever, en route to happily ever after..."
Um...o.k....kind of self defeating in an ex-gay movement if your actually functioning as a way for young gay kids to meet and have sex. I cannot confirm the truth of mr. Utley's story and this quote, taken out of context does not tell of Justin Utley's of peronall struggles with being cut off from the only life he'd ever known. But it is another view of what is a terribly destructive and disfunctional method of handling a young persons homosexuality. After all...isnt one of the religious rights main complaints about gays that we are too sexually promiscuous? Yet here they are encouraging young men to buy porn, attaching electrodes to genitals, and providing an environment for young gay men to hook up? That sounds more like the back ads of the local gay paper then a program to "heal" homosexuality.
Read the full article on Queerty here.
This was however, the only bright spot I could find about Evergreen. The story Jayce tells is considerably more heartbreaking... but... it also reveals something telling about the nature of all ex-gay ministries...
"...and I would sit there...and I would try to endure the electicity as long as I could. Every session the voltage would increase....I wasn't allowed to tell anybody of what was going on, I was supposed to lie at all cost..I couldn't tell my Bishop, my family, my best friend...I couldn't tell anyone...it was forbidden. It was secret."
Hmmmm...what does this remind me of...oh! I know!...the same things child abusers tell their victims!...."Don't tell Mommy and Daddy or they won't love you anymore..."
In addition to the damage done by places like Evergreen many gay kids also face the loss of there families and the only life they have ever known. Jayce not only lost his connection to his spiritual life and his friends, but he lost his family too. To be completly disowned by all you ever knew...What a devastating loss for one person to take. I'm sure many people would be destroyed by it. The look of longing in his eyes when he returned to the Mormon Temple was heartbreaking to watch.
Is our concern about a continuation into an afterlife worth losing our children too? Would you want to be in heaven if your children couldn't be there? Can you ever be truly happy in heaven if you know someone you love didn't make it? wouldn't that mar whats supposed to be a perfect experience? If we can feel this way...might it be possible that GOD feels this way also? It's not my place to speak for GOD ...these are just my thoughts.
The only thing more tragic in all this is that this man drove himself to these "meetings" once a week. Noone had to kidnap him or force him. He did this until the fear, the pain and the shame of it all became to much and he didn,t take that freeway turnoff... He just kept on driving...and saved his life. Mayby now he is saving someone elses life by telling the tale his abusers wouldn't allow him to.