Conservative Christians and Jews have teamed up with men and women who call themselves “ex-gay” to lobby — and even sue — for the right to tell teenagers that they can “heal” themselves of unwanted same-sex attractions. – Los Angeles Times; May 28, 2006

In recent years, the ex-gay industry has turned its focus towards youth. It has opened several high-profile youth ministries, produced slick marketing materials, opened summer camps, hosted conferences and designed products that specifically target this vulnerable demographic. There are three primary reasons that the ex-gay industry is strategically pursuing young people.

Ex-Gay Therapy Stunted My Creative Growth
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1) The Ex-Gay Industry Is Losing: Just a couple of decades ago, the coming out of GLBT youth was almost unheard of. It was a scary time when living honestly and openly could mean harassment and psychical abuse at the hands of classmates. Often, the authority figures — principals, teachers and clergy — encouraged or were indifferent to such ridicule and hostility, believing it would help get these youths on the “straight path.”

Today, such ignorance and cruelty still occur in far too many places. However, there has been a seismic shift in attitudes and in many school districts, coming out is hardly an issue. With more than 3,000 Gay-Straight Alliances, GLBT students can often find support, acceptance and an environment that fosters the best opportunity for social growth and academic achievement.

Poll numbers show today’ young people are the most supportive age bracket on GLBT issues, such as marriage equality. For example, a Jan. 5, 2006 Zogby International poll showed that three-quarters of high school seniors favor legal recognition of same-sex relationships, either as marriage or civil unions. If the current trend continues, anti-gay organizations will lose significant support over the coming decades. Their embrace of the ex-gay myth is a desperate attempt to regain lost ground.

2. Financial Opportunities: It is alarming, but ex-gay therapists take “patients” as young as three years old if they display gender atypical behavior.

“The parents bring me kids who are unhappy. It’s my job to increase the possibility of a heterosexual future for these effeminate boys,” The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality’ co-founder, Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, told the Advocate Magazine in a Nov. 11, 1997 interview.

There is absolutely no evidence that homosexuality can be prevented or treated, but that has not stopped some unethical therapists from profiting off of fearful and confused parents. Targeting GLBT youth is appealing to ex-gay therapists for two reasons:

a. These young clients are often forced to attend sessions against their will. This creates an optimum situation where a therapist has created a profitable long-term patient that will never get better and can’t choose to leave.
b. Parents will spend almost any sum of money if they believe it is for the good of their son or daughter. This situation makes it particularly easy for an avaricious therapist to take advantage of desperate and vulnerable parents.

3. Indoctrination: – The only way anti-gay groups can achieve their goals is to turn back the clock and recreate a time when GLBT students were tormented. Indeed, these right wing political and legal organizations have teamed up with so-called former homosexuals to get the ex-gay agenda into schools. The strategy is to confuse students with disinformation and to create a hostile atmosphere of intolerance that makes coming out more difficult. Increasingly, the preferred pressure tactics employed by these organizations are legal threats or lawsuits under the specious guise of “equal access.”

Although times are changing, we have a long road to travel before a genuinely safe world for GLBT youth is a reality. It is important to remind ourselves that gay and lesbian youth are two to three times more likely to commit suicide than other youths and 30-percent of all completed youth suicides are related to the issue of sexual identity. The ex-gay message only adds to the turmoil and stigma faced by young people who choose to live openly and honestly.

As a society, we must safeguard our youth and ensure they can come out and grow up in nurturing environments that are free of hate and discrimination. Only through our steadfast commitment to creating such a caring climate of love and acceptance can GLBT youth thrive, flourish and become great contributors to American society.