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Zach is Back

ZachblogFor the first time since his release on Friday from the Love in Action camp for gay reparative therapy, Zach has posted to his blog and while it is reassuring to see that at least he is being allowed to communicate with the rest of the world, it's hard to not be concerned about the kind of experience he has been through:

"Love In Action has been misrepresented and what I have posted in my blogs has been taken out of perspective and context. I don't take back the things I've said, nor am I going to pretend like it never happened. It did. I refuse to deal with people who are only focused on their one-sided (biased) agendas. It isn't fair to anyone. I'm very frustrated with the things going on in my life now, but everyone has their issues. Homosexuality is still a factor in my life--- it's not who I am, it never has been. Those of you who really know me, know that homosexuality was always there but it didn't run my life, and it will not now."

Without knowing the specifics of what Zach has gone through at Love in Action, or the talks he has had with his parents, or what he has seen of the media response (not all of it, he says) it's the kind of inscrutable blog post one could argue on about for hours.

Are those with "one-sided agendas" the people arguing that an adolescent should have the right to his own free will, or are they the Love in Action counselors who have imposed their beliefs upon this sixteen-year-old? There are too many unknowns in this equation for anyone to solve it. I just hope that Zach eventually has the wherewithal to eventually make up his own mind about who he is once this event is all sorted out.

Meanwhile, A letter written by John Evans, co-founder of the Love in Action program, was released over the weekend. It was sent to the program's current director, John Smid. Evans slams the program, claiming that it causes great disturbance in the emotional lives of those who have been through it:

"In the past 30 years since leaving the 'ex-gay' ministry I have seen nothing but shattered lives, depression and even suicide among those connected with the 'ex-gay' movement. I challenge Christians to investigate all sides of the issue of being gay and Christian. The Church has been wrong in the past regarding moral issues and I'm sure there will be more before Christ returns."

Zach's Release from Love in Action Imminent [tr]
Zach's Father Speaks Out [tr]
"Love in Action" [tr]

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  1. That's a beautiful letter and I hope it makes the would be a great subject for a sermon.

    Posted by: Wayne | Aug 2, 2005 9:08:31 AM

  2. While I can completely understand how Zach must be feeling frustrated and pulled in different directions, it's also unfair that he blames others. He is the one who posted his struggles on a blog that anybody could see. He is the person who ignited the firestorm in the first place, so it's his now to deal with. Sorry if it sounds harsh, but he's now playing the victim more than ever and it's tiresome.

    Posted by: Ed | Aug 2, 2005 9:21:22 AM

  3. Reading the first posting, there seemed to be a lot of anger, but like you said it could be argued about forever, but reading Zach's own comments and you start to see the brainwashing come through.

    "Homosexuality does run people's lives and it's not a place I want to go. I don't want to go around and everyone sees m as "Zach the Homosexual" and if the program enforced anything it was telling the truth."

    And a little while later this was part of another comment he posted.

    "The only thing I would like to say is that, in my personal experience in LIA, everything had it's purpose. The rules and procedures - looking from the outside in, looks horrible. Once you're inside, you're mixed with people who want to be there as well. We spent most of our time together. I don't think it would be fair to the other clients, if, because I didn't want to be there, the environment should be less strict and less safe for those clients who do, really, need to be there."

    I'm taking them out of context, and there is still the greater context of his life we don't know anything about, but this sounds very troubling to me.

    Posted by: Jamison | Aug 2, 2005 9:35:14 AM

  4. We don't even know if it is indeed Zach posting this willingly, or under duress or if it's even Zach at all. It's all very Stepford.

    Posted by: Ed | Aug 2, 2005 9:41:11 AM

  5. Lets all remember that he is 16! Remember your own emotions and feelings at that age before making statements like he is "playing the victim". He is a teenager, confused about his sexuality, getting mixed messages from all around, all we can do is support him and hope for the best. He sounds like a bright kid.

    Posted by: matt-chicago | Aug 2, 2005 9:45:03 AM

  6. Yes, he is only 16. There is not much we can do to help these kids from afar. In large part they really have to work this through for themselves.

    Posted by: Bill | Aug 2, 2005 10:00:03 AM

  7. To be honest, the whole blog swarm about this has given me the creeps. As horrifying as I find the whole thinking behind LIA, not to mention what they do, in the end this is a 16 year old kid dealing with a lot of stuff. He's been made a poster child for anti-ex-gay stuff, and while I agree with those same people, I think that this kid is being used. He never asked for his story to be the subject of so much attention. It doesn't surprise me that he has problems with that. Was everyone expecting him to thank them for that?

    Posted by: John | Aug 2, 2005 10:23:05 AM

  8. While I doubt he ever wanted to become the poster child for anything, especially now that he seems to believe homosexuality is wrong, he was asking for attention. He asked for the attention as soon as went from telling his friends about this to posting it on a public blog.

    Posting inflammatory material to a public web site isn't how you keep stuff private (and wasn't one of the LIA instructions he posted to not discuss the program?) though he's sixteen and this is the internet, so in a few days he'll just be one more meme we've all forgotten about, except for the "Free Zach" tee shirts that I'm sure someone out there must have created.

    Posted by: Jamison | Aug 2, 2005 10:53:31 AM

  9. Seems like the real aim of this treatment is to increase internalized homophobia to the point that it modifies behavior - makes you avoid acting gay, gay people and then, hopefully (for them) gay sex. Sad and abusive - ESPECIALLY because he's only 16.

    Posted by: ryan | Aug 2, 2005 11:05:26 AM

  10. "Well too bad, you blogged about it." My, have we already reached the point where the sympathy evaporates if (as sounds quite possible) Zach has decided to become an "ex-gay"?

    I get the impression nobody really cared about Zach in all of this. It's sad.

    Posted by: John | Aug 2, 2005 11:23:37 AM

  11. Yep, it's all Zach's fault...let's bind him to a fence and kick the shit out of him.

    You people are simply amazing.

    Posted by: Wayne | Aug 2, 2005 11:25:08 AM

  12. I think Zach needs some space to breathe, but the debate about the "ex-gay" movement should go on apace. The movement starts from the presupposition that there is something wrong with homosexuality in the first place, a notion that is offensive as it is wrong.

    Posted by: Malcontent | Aug 2, 2005 11:31:06 AM

  13. I don't think it's Zach at all. Convenient that he started a new blog (with new password, etc) and deleted all the old email messages he got. My 2 cents.

    Posted by: Drew | Aug 2, 2005 11:59:24 AM

  14. Not saying Zach's at fault, but he did invote the attention therefore, it's no wodner he's getting so many responses on his blog. No, it is not his fault that he was put in the camp by his parents, it's not his fault he is gay, it's not his fault that he has suffered whatever he has suffered. But it is his fault that everybody has been so concerned about him, and now he's suddenly changed his mind and seems downright ungrateful to those who wanted to help him.

    Putting his plight on a blog was a definite plea for help. Now, he (if it is him) is pretty much shunning the help he invited.

    Posted by: Ed | Aug 2, 2005 12:13:57 PM

  15. How dare he? It's not like he's been sent off to a camp where they are teaching him that he is bad and sinful and will be dead by 30, and he's been sent there by people he trusted. I mean, if he had gone through emotional trauma maybe we could understand his reaction, right?

    (sarcasm off)

    The blog appeared to be something he used to chat with his friends. Someone noticed it and talked about it, and it took off from there. I rather doubt this is what he had in mind.

    I'm a little stunned (but sadly, not surprised) at how fast some are willing to turn on him. And depressed to think that some right-wing "counselor" will point to these reactions and say, "See, they never really cared about you." And be right.

    Posted by: John | Aug 2, 2005 12:36:39 PM

  16. I think Ed hit the nail on the head. I'm guessing, and being sixteen, just out of the closet with his parents sending him to be converted, it seems a pretty safe bet that Zach publicly blogged about LIA because he needed some support and wanted to hear someone tell him he's ok, that he is normal and LIA was wrong.

    From his entries before going into the program I thought he seemed rather intelligent with a good head on his shoulders. At that age I think my entries would have been more along the lines of "My parents hate me, this is the end of the world!"

    I think Ryan might be right that he is internalizing his homophobia and might be trying to alienate himself from gay people so he can pigeonhole us all in such a way that it helps him repress it further.

    This most recent entry and his behavior deleting the old posts and email have me worried more for him than I was before, and I wish I could do something for him, but I just don't know how I can.

    Posted by: Jamison | Aug 2, 2005 12:49:23 PM

  17. I don't think we can apply adult standards of behavior to an obviously traumatized 16-year-old boy. god, i think about how confused i was about life all through my twenties. Zach has gone through a family crisis (few things more stressful than that) and survived a media circus, and now should be given our compassion, patience, and unconditional support. I, for one, don't expect him to become the new spokesman for our community.

    Posted by: Joe | Aug 2, 2005 1:22:30 PM

  18. When he says, "Love In Action has been misrepresented and what I have posted in my blogs has been taken out of perspective and context," perhaps we need to give him a solid hearing. no doubt nothing good can come out from a program like LIA but we must not demonize something just because it attacks our worldview. there is a point in looking out for how they intend to overturn people's sexuality, as undesirable as that may be. it may give us pointers to what exactly irks the right-wingers, and what could they possibly have told Zach to turn him against his orientation. i also think they need to be given a hearing because they are not being violent about their homophobia, which is the stock reaction of most homophobes.

    Posted by: Nik | Aug 2, 2005 1:50:38 PM

  19. Nik, I'm really not willing to give LIA the benefit of the doubt. Their purpose is to have people suppress their homosexuality -- something that can be very psychologically damaging in the long run.

    Just because LIA doesn't resort to violence doesn't mean they are any less heinous. If people have been known to attempt or commit suicide due to programs like this, that's violence.

    There's a time to be understanding, but there's also a time to wake up, get angry and not be so nice. I think this calls for the latter.

    Posted by: Ed | Aug 2, 2005 2:26:43 PM

  20. Angry at who? That ungrateful kid who's "shunning" the help you think he asked for?

    Posted by: John | Aug 2, 2005 2:31:21 PM

  21. Ed, i am not asking for them to be given the benefit of the doubt. certainly not. what they are doing is the most unethical thing possible. what i am saying is that we need to discuss the kind of "training" such programs issue for people like Zach to flip 180 degress within a matter of months. it's good to know the depth of the arsenal the enemy holds.

    Posted by: Nik | Aug 2, 2005 2:34:36 PM

  22. No John, I'm not assigning anger at Zach. I'm assigning anger to groups like LIA which act as if they're doing beneficial work when in reality, they're as nasty as homophobic thugs.

    Posted by: Ed | Aug 2, 2005 2:41:12 PM

  23. In this comments thread, John has said almost all of how I would have replied and exactly as I viewed it, so rather than reiterate those points (particularly the one about how 'He asked for it' because he *obviously posted the original entries in question on a blog in a site primarily meant to communicate with friends and and not the national media) I would just like to address the issue of "Zach's Conversion Into a Self-Hating Homophobe."
    Homosexuality is still a factor in my life--- it's not who I am, it never has been. Those of you who really know me, know that homosexuality was always there but it didn't run my life, and it will not now."

    "Homosexuality does run people's lives and it's not a place I want to go. I don't want to go around and everyone sees m as "Zach the Homosexual" and if the program enforced anything it was telling the truth."

    These statements are neither completely untrue nor necessarily of having been "brainwashed." Frankly, their just opinions that any normal person could have. To be honest, many people do let their sexuality run their lives. These are people who seclude themselves to only "gay-friendly" locales and only associate with homosexuals. People whose first word out of their mouth when expressing any opinion is "As a gay man."
    All the guy is saying is maybe he would rather be recognized as an average human being, regardless of his sexuality, and not just be "That Gay Guy."

    Is it really so wrong and so shameful to want to be identified as who you are rather than what you are? I thought that was the whole point of equality and respect.

    Posted by: jasiri | Aug 2, 2005 3:01:46 PM

  24. Come on. He's just a kid who had a blog! What the hell. He didn't expect national celebrity or to be made the gay teenager poster child.

    Jeez, why don't we just let the kid be a kid! Expecting a child to make grown up decisions, etc. is ridiculous. How many people didn't come out until they were in college or later in life?

    It's one thing to be concerned about his welfare, but it's a whole lot of bull to expect him to carry the burden of gay rights. What, like he doesn't have enough pressure just being an American teenager confused about his sexuality, dealing with the angst, and crap that is highschool when some people want him to be their martyr.

    Leave the kid alone to figure out who he is.

    There are a lot of other kids who are more confident about themselves and are out who need and want support. Focus on them.

    Being angry, disappointed, or frustrated at the words and actions of 16 year old going through a tough situation in the public eye is pretty damn sad. People shouldn't project their hopes and dreams on the kid. It's not fair to him.

    Posted by: Jake | Aug 2, 2005 3:11:45 PM

  25. Assuming he composed it all himself, which seems possible, my guess is that his latest postings fall somewhere between Stockholm syndrome and the confusions of being 16 and simply realizing that he has to play his parent's game until he's able to support himself. He certainly deserves the benefit of the doubt for now. UNLIKE Dianne Sawyer and Paula Zahn. Since my earlier flame of Sawyer and "Good Morning America," I discovered all the dirt on "Love In Action" they failed to, apparently, even bother to uncover, let alone reveal. And, not just the suicide of cofounder John Evans' friend that helped drive him away, but that cofounder Philpott was sued by people, including Evans, he falsely claimed in a book had been converted, and was forced to take the book off the market. And that their one time Major "Success" Story/Poster Boy(Oprah-"60 Mins"-"Nightline"/"Newsweek" Cover Boy John Paulk was caught by Wayne Besen, source of this piece by Evans, in a gay bar in DC. Exodus International is still pimping Paulk's phony conversion (indirectly, through a reprint of an old testimony by his wife, who claimed to be a converted lesbian though there was little evidence that she was gay to start with). Ironically, according to Wikipedia, "Good Morning America" wanted to do a story at the time about Mr. P being caught in Mr. P's. All of this was just a few Google clicks away. Is there no continuity at ABC? Have they never heard of Google? Can I at least claim .001% of Sawyer's and Zahn's salaries. I'd happily share it with all Towleroadians.

    Posted by: Leland | Aug 2, 2005 7:23:52 PM

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