Sheehan Tells Her Powerful Story a Day Before Cynical ‘Ex-Gay’ Freedom Hate March in Orlando

PHILADELPHIA – On the eve of Saturday’s “ex-gay” Freedom March in Orlando, Truth Wins Out today released a new video where Orlando City Commissioner Patty Sheehan discusses her disastrous experience in “ex-gay” conversion therapy. Sheehan, the first openly gay elected official in central Florida, discussed the absurd efforts to have her “pray away the gay”, which included setting her up on dates with gay men and an exorcism where she was told the demon of homosexuality would leave her body in an orange mucus.

At age 18, Sheehan entered Orlando’s conversion ministry Eleutheros, which was part of the now defunct Orlando-based Exodus International, the world’s largest “ex-gay” umbrella group until it closed in 2013 after its Executive Director, Alan Chambers, and Vice President, Randy Thomas, said the ministry was harmful and ineffective at changing people from gay-to-straight. In the new video, Sheehan says, “I guess I’m Eleutheros’ and Exodus’ greatest failure and I’m proud of that.”

In TWO’s video, Sheehan detailed the ramifications “ex-gay” conversion therapy had on her life, while warning young people to steer clear of these sham programs.

“It took me a long time to be able to heal from the, I would say abusive things I was told about who I could be as a woman and how I could…positively express my sexuality,” Commissioner Sheehan told Truth Wins Out. “Do not as a young person do what I did. It took me years, a lot of substance and alcohol abuse and personal suffering and bad relationships for me to be able to self-accept. A lot of it because what I was told was wrong with me when I was around these religious people.”

“Programs with a foundation of hate can lead to nothing but harm,” said Truth Wins Out’s Executive Director Wayne Besen. “Patty Sheehan’s powerful survivor story reflects the negative experiences of those who have suffered though the psychological abuse of ‘ex-gay’ conversion ministries. These programs tear apart families, destroy lives and are rejected by every respected medical and mental health association in America.”

Twenty-one years after launching a disastrous million-dollar “ex-gay” ad campaign in 1998, where virtually every leader featured has since come out of the closet, a pathetic new effort to rebrand these failed “pray away the gay” programs has been unveiled. The new glitzy campaign to recycle these abusive ministries is called the Changed Movement, with the deceitful hash tag #OnceGay.

The Freedom March in Orlando is a publicity stunt that is part of this dishonest new effort, which cynically depends on people having amnesia about the “ex-gay” industry’s notorious past of folly and failure.

“Freedom March organizers are concealing that they are simply fresh faces in an historically unsuccessful movement,” said TWO’s Wayne Besen. “These opportunistic spokespeople are replacements for leaders who have stepped down because ‘ex-gay’ programs don’t work. These former leaders have profusely apologized for the harm they caused LGBT people and now working to end the dangerous practice of ‘ex-gay’ conversion therapy.”

The American Psychiatric Association says that sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) can lead to “anxiety, depression, and self-destructive behavior”, including suicide. The American Psychological Association says, “There is simply no sufficiently scientifically sound evidence that sexual orientation can be changed.” Such “therapy” is considered so detrimental that eighteen states and the District of Colombia ban practicing it on minors.

According Dr. Caitlin Ryan’s study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics: “LGBT teens who were highly rejected by their families were 8 times more likely to have attempted suicide, 6 times as vulnerable to severe depression, and 3 times more likely to use drugs.” (Caitlin Ryan, San Francisco State University, June 2009).

A new study by Dr. Ryan, who also directs the Family Acceptance Project, reports:

“Parent-initiated attempts to change participant’s sexual orientation during adolescence were associated with more negative mental health problems for young adults.”(Journal of Homosexuality, Nov. 2018)

Patty Sheehan ends her video with some sage advice: “

Founded in 2006, Truth Wins Out is a nonprofit think tank and advocacy organization that fights against right wing extremism, the “ex-gay” myth and anti-LGBT prejudice and discrimination.