Our kids don’t need changing: Anchorage gays and allies send message of LGBT acceptance outside ex-gay conference
Anchorage, Alaska – A dozen people gather at dawn in front of Abbott Loop Church on Saturday, the headlights of passing cars illuminating the rainbow flags and signs: “God Loves My Gay Son And So Do I!”, “First, Do No Harm”, “Be Yourself – We Love You!”
Behind the church, people struggling with homosexual feelings, or the homosexuality of a friend or family member, park in the back lot and enter the side door of the grey building. The front doors are locked.
The church is hosting the Love Won Out conference, with speakers preaching that homosexuality is a sin and a choice, and that gays must change or suppress their same-sex attractions.
The conference is sponsored by the Colorado-based right wing organization Focus on the Family, a group that also sponsors anti-gay legislation.
Along the street, PFLAG Anchorage and their supporters spread a message of love and acceptance to all who drive by the church.
“Our gay kids are not sick, they’re not evil, and they don’t need changing,” said Jane Schlittler, chair of PFLAG Anchorage. “We’re here so that truth wins out.”
Kirt and Roger stand together near the church parking lot. They were married in Canada, the first gay couple from Alaska to be legally wed.
“I’m here for people like Stuart Matis,” said Roger, “a young gay man in California who thought it better to put a bullet in his head rather than live with the shame that these people in the church create.”
“I grew up in a very religious background,” said Kirt. “I know about these types of programs that profess that you can change and that it’s some kind of choice to be gay. It absolutely isn’t. I’m proud to be a gay man, and proud to be married to my husband, and I’ll be proud to die that way.”
The Second Wave
As the PFLAGers move on to other commitments, a new group gathers at the intersection of Lake Otis and Abbott Road. Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered young adults and their friends brought poster board, colored markers, musical instruments, food and water for an afternoon outside the ex-gay conference.
“I called all my friends to come here and protest,” said Mike, who contributed several large pizzas and a conga drum. “We’re going to tell them you can’t pray the gay away.”
Slade makes a sign saying “Honk If You (Heart) Gay People” and waves to the many honking drivers. “I’m here to protest the anti-gay ‘pray away the gay’ thing because you can’t change who you are,” he said. “You have to accept that and move on.”
Sean and Ted arrive with Ted’s mother. “We found out about Focus on the Family through watching the documentary For The Bible Tells Me So,” said Sean, a social work student at UAA. “‘Reparative therapies’ and ‘conversion therapies’ are not only ineffective but harmful. These programs are misleading the public, misleading people who are struggling with their sexual orientation, causing emotional harm and in some cases it’s devastating. I can’t sit idly by and allow the general public to accept this ignorance.”
“What they are teaching in that church is not about acceptance, it’s not about love,” said Mary, “it’s about self-loathing and fear.” Her signs say, “True Love is Unconditional” and “God Loves You Just As You Are.”
“Their hatred of homosexuals and pushing an anti-gay agenda is just not accepted here,” said Mike. “They can go back where they came from.”
Tags: Focus on the Family, Love Won Out [ex-gay conference], PFLAG, reparative therapy