‘Ex-gay’ conferences on the wane

It seems that Exodus International has canceled an upcoming conference due to lack of interest. The “ex-gay” ministry has had a difficult time recovering from the latest wave of relapses and public admissions that it doesn’t actually work.

Exodus International has decided there were not enough people interested in attending their Love Won Out conference scheduled for later this month to justify the expense. Conference attendance has been trending downward, with their last conference bringing in barely 400 people. This is down from nearly 1000 in Exodus’ headier days.

In November, XGW reported on a secret meeting held by Exodus president Alan Chambers to come up with ways to rebrand the organization in the wake of social and financial collapse. Since then events have occurred which seem to validate that scenario. The cancellation of this conference, the first time we know of since either Exodus or Focus on the Family held the event, appears to provide more evidence of their decline.

I first learned of Exodus and its “ex-gay” agenda more than 20 years ago at my evangelical college. I was living on campus one summer, working in the cafeteria and helping to feed the small group of summer residents and the dozens of conferences scheduled there — including a major conference for Exodus International.

The conference was billed as a gathering of hundreds of ex-gay men celebrating their new, heterosexual life in Christ. In reality, it seemed much more like a gathering of hundreds of gay men enjoying their time together as a respite from the repression of their lives back home. They seemed like a nice bunch of guys, but not terribly ex-.

Really, really not ex-, actually — and aggressively making the most of their week there among so many other not ex- guys. I don’t remember if they used the “Love Won Out” slogan for that conference, but love was winning out all over campus that week.

I hadn’t ever heard of Exodus International before they showed up that summer for their conference. After helping to feed them for that week, though, I couldn’t trust any of the group’s claims about religious “reparative” therapy. I’d seen their supposed success stories.

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  • These sort of conerences cannot be too scarce!

  • Emcee, cubed

    My understanding from what BTB has reported (I’d find an exact link, but it’s late, and I’m lazy), Love Won Out is directed more toward “family and friends” rather than actual ex-gays. There is a different slogan for the “ex-gay” gatherings.

  • Turcano

    I remember the religious right throwing a shitfit back in the day over an episode of “Will and Grace” that depicted “ex-gay” ministries as a singles group; I guess it hit a little too close for comfort.

  • A bit like an Alcholics Anonymous chapter choosing a private room in the swankiest bar in town for their meetings

  • rizzo

    Ah hah so it was an ‘ex gay’ conference where the guys went for a bunch of gay sex?  That’s both hilarious and sad at the same time…

  • Loki100

    Oh yeah, if you listen to anyone who has come out of the ex-gay ministries, they normally talk about just how much sex would go on. From what I’ve heard, they would call up someone on the phone and say, “I’m struggling with temptation.” Then they’d come over and they’d have a prayer session. And then, after spending the appropriate time in prayer foreplay (yes, prayer was an act of foreplay), they’d be all hot and bothered which is when the sex would occur. Afterwords it would be ignored or treated as just a relapse.

    I’ve actually heard several people say that being involved in ex-gay ministries got them more gay sex than being an openly gay person.

  • Tonio

    What if what Fred describes is really somewhat of an open secret in the evangelical community? The organizers could be unaware of the real reason most attendees are there, or they could know and choose not to acknowledge it. Or better yet (?),  it was their idea in the first place and they’re perpetuating a massive scam on the homophobic groups that fund such conferences.

  • Here’s how it was described to me:

    On the first day of Love Won Out you pray for a prayer partner.
    On the second day of Love Won Out you pray with your prayer partner.
    On the third day of Love Won Out your prayers are answered.

  • This is the awesomest thing I’ve ever heard.

  • Ken

    Between this and the failure of abstinence-only sex education, I’m beginning to think conservatives don’t really know much about human sexuality.  Or rather, their ideas about it don’t agree with reality (which as we know has a liberal bias).

  • EllieMurasaki

     Between this and the failure of abstinence-only sex education, I’m
    beginning to think conservatives don’t really know much about human

    Oh, no, no, no, there are studies that prove abstinence-only sex ed works. They’ve just been downplayed by liberal scientists to the point that my mother can’t name a single one.

  • Charityb

     Nah, they’re just into really, really convoluted foreplay. I mean, most people don’t think of starting a pseudo-psychiatric religious movement or renting out an entire convention hall to party. I mean, the logistics alone for these one-night stands must take months of preparation, and — just to make it more challenging — you can’t even openly acknowledge what you’re doing while you’re planning it.

    Imagine working in concert with 1,000 other people to organize a wedding, except you’re not allowed to mention any of the details of the wedding to any of the other people and you have to pretend that it’s all about something else.  Yikes.

  • Matt

     You’re just BEGINNING to think that? :)

  • AndrewSshi

     More than that, you don’t just have to lie to everyone around you about why you’re going there, you have to lie to yourself as well…

  • TheBrett

    That’s not even remotely surprising, Fred. Didn’t the chief honcho for Exodus get caught in a gay bar, a couple of years back? 

  • There is an element of Poe to it as well.

    I am beginning to think that nobody could be this willfully stupid about human sexuality for this long, this publicly, without someone correcting them.  At some level they have to know.  But they none the less subscribe to an elaborate structure in which they must strongly deny the evidence in front of them.  
    The only explanation that I can think of for this kind of thing is that it is used as a tribal marker.  Pretend that you do not know enough about sexuality, make the proper assertions based on that supposed lack of knowledge, get accepted as part of the tribe, and in turn get the community help that you might need supporting that baby you were not expecting because back then you really did not know enough about sex, possibly because you were raised in an environment that did its best to avoid giving you accurate information about sex.  

    And the cycle of life is complete.  

  • I’m beginning to think conservatives don’t really know much about human sexuality. 

    There’s really only three things you need to know about the social-conservative approach to human sexuality:

    1.) Violating the social rules for sexuality (gay, pre-marital, whatever) should be met with intense shaming and social isolation. This use of power is how the social order is maintained.
    Abstinence-only programs often emphasize “purity” and talk about how sexual experience “blemishes” a person, making them “less desirable”.
    Do I really need to give examples of the efforts made to isolate openly-gay individuals?

    2.) Any attempt to remove the shame from a sexual activity is thus a threat to power.
    To a social conservative, things like STI’s and unwanted pregnancies are also desirable consequences from sexual activity outside of their sanctioned boundaries. Perversely, social conservatives want people to get STIs, and they want unplanned pregnancies, enough of each to serve as “examples”, enough to keep others in line through fear.

    3.) Rules are for how we act in publics. Laws are for little people. Everyone else is not to be trusted, but we elites may live how we please.
    Joan Rivers had a bit about back before abortion was legal in the U.S.
    She said that if an actress became pregnant and needed an abortion, the studio would fly her to Cuba “to have her appendix removed”.  The punchline being a particular starlet had clearly been born with a dozen appendices.
    Being gay and closeted is fine to Social Conservatives. They still have all the tools to keep you in line.
    Want to have a big, gay Prayer conference? As long as everything is being done in secret, as long as everyone is sneaking back to their own rooms before sunrise, as long as there’s still shame and fear and secrecy, that’s fine!

  • SergeantHeretic

    Christ DOggett, you have said it. you have summed up perfectly the rules of sex in Social Conservativism.