2009 Anti-Heterosexism Conference Deemed Ground-Breaking

The 2009 Anti-Heterosexism Conference, held November 20-22, 2009 in West Palm Beach, Florida, was deemed a huge success according to the evaluations of those in attendance. On November 22, 2009, Ex-Gay Survivors from all over the world came together to share their stories and discuss ways in which they can continue to warn others about the harm caused by heterosexism, reparative therapy and ex-gay ministries. A press conference facilitated by Jeff Lutes on Friday was covered by a local television channel and the report ended with survivor Daniel Gonzales warning viewers about the depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems related to sexual orientation change efforts.

That evening, Ex-Gay Survivors Christine Bakke, Jallen Rix, Anthony Venn-Brown (Australia), Darlene Bogle, Mark Orozko (Barcelona) Daniel Gonzales, and Jacob Wilson told their stories to the conference participants – demonstrating great courage and strength in the process. They shared the many ways in which heterosexism encourages reparative therapy. After a brief welcoming reception, conference goers attended a special Transgender Day of Remembrance event by viewing two films and the names of the more than one hundred transgender people who have been murdered in the past year. Friday night was a sobering reminder of the damage and destruction caused by heterosexism, religion-based bigotry, and societal prejudice. Conference participants went to bed eager to begin collaborating over the next two days on ways they can make the world a safer place for LGBTQ people.

Saturday morning began with a keynote from Dr. Sylvia Rhue of the National Black Justice Coalition. Mixing facts and humor, Dr. Rhue set the tone for the day and whet appetites for more learning. Workshops throughout the day covered detailed information about sexual orientation change efforts, public policy and the ex-gay movement, media training, youth activism, and the psychological impact of childhood homophobia on adult development. Dr. Jack Drescher closed the afternoon with a history lesson on how homosexuality was removed from the DSM list of mental disorders in 1973 and the evolution of reparative therapy and ex-gay movements. His academic presentation was well received by all those in attendance. After dinner, the day closed with a powerful and moving dance performance by Ollum Movement Art which symbolically expressed the journey from self-hatred to self-acceptance and love.

Sunday morning was a treat. The Rev. Deborah Johnson talked about the importance of developing a vision within the LGBTQ movement and carefully unpacked the complexities of gender in our culture as she called on the crowd to demand equality in bold and unapologetic ways. After a series of workshops on faith, gender, and sexual orientation, Dr. Marsha McDonough and Dr. Paul Dodd led participants in an analysis of the weekend and helped everyone think about ways they could continue to affect change within the communities where they live, work, go to school, and worship.

Throughout this dynamic weekend, conference participants wrote thoughts, feelings, and ideas on a 40-foot piece of paper hung in the plenary room. Long after the end of the conference, participants were still writing on this paper – indicating their passion for the justice, their commitment to love, and their dedication to being agents of change in the world.

Click here to view conference photos.

Jeff Lutes resigns as Soulforce Executive Director

Soulforce Regrets to Announce the Resignation of Our Executive Director

Brief Video of Jeff Lutes

A Message from Soulforce Co-Founder Mel White:
Soulforce regrets to announce the resignation of our Executive Director, Jeff Lutes, after nearly four years of dedicated service. Jeff has chosen at this time to return to his family counseling practice in Austin, Texas, and to spend more quality time with his husband, Gary Stein, and their three young children, Niko, Trei, and Jole’. You may stay in touch with Jeff at www.jefflutespsychotherapy.com.

The Soulforce board of directors has appointed Bill Carpenter, who has served as Director of National Actions for many years, as Interim Executive Director. Bill will work with Soulforce staff to continue operations of the organization, including the upcoming Equality Ride in early 2010. Bill has a long history of service to Soulforce, since our very first action in Lynchburg, Virginia in 1999, and I’m grateful to him for taking this role at an important time in Soulforce history. I believe he is uniquely qualified to serve as Interim Executive Director while we undertake a nationwide search for the next Executive Director of Soulforce.

In January 2006, Jeff succeeded me as Executive Director of Soulforce. We are grateful for all he has accomplished in his time as Soulforce Executive Director. Here are a few examples:

  • Organized nonviolent direct actions in 2005 and 2006 outside the world headquarters of Focus on the Family. Those protests clearly demonstrated the tragic consequences of James Dobson and his antigay rhetoric and are featured in the films For The Bible Tells Me So and SoleJourney, both distributed by First Run Features.
  • Originated the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference in 2007 which exposed the misinformation campaign of Exodus International and spoke clearly to the damage being done by its ex-gay ministries across the country. The conference brought 200 survivors of ex-gay ministries together from all around the world for healing and empowerment. This much needed event received coverage on NPR and media outlets across the country, including CNN’s Paula Zahn.
  • Created The American Family Outing in 2008 which took dozens of LGBT couples and their children to dialogue with mega-church leaders Rick Warren, Joel Osteen, Bill Hybels, Bishop T.D. Jakes, Bishop Harry Jackson, and Bishop Eddie Long.
  • Originated Seven Straight Nights for Equal Rights which created rallies and vigils in 2007 and 2008 by heterosexual allies in 38 cities in 28 different states across the country.
  • Wrote the popular Soulforce booklets What the Science Says – And Doesn’t Say – About Homosexuality, and A False Focus on My Family.
  • Produced Dear Dr. Dobson: An Open Letter Video , the DVD that challenges the antigay rhetoric of James Dobson and warns of its tragic consequences in the lives of LGBT people, their friends and families.
  • Managed Soulforce during the birth of our young adults program, Soulforce Q, and the first three Equality Rides.
  • Strengthened the reputation of Soulforce through countless print, radio and television interviews and by speaking at dozens of churches, universities and rallies around the country.

Jeff Lutes has led Soulforce through challenging times and we are grateful. Jeff will continue to write and speak powerfully about the role of relentless nonviolent resistance in our struggle against religion-based oppression. Again, we thank Jeff for his role in strengthening Soulforce and for modeling in his own life what it means to be a man of faith committed to doing justice on behalf of all those who suffer religion-based oppression.

- Mel White, Soulforce Co-Founder

                                                                                         

 

Maine Votes To Overturn Marriage Equality For LGBT People

Yesterday, voters in the state of Maine took away the right to marry from same-sex couples.  Soulforce Executive Director, Jeff Lutes, issued the following statement:

"Today our hearts go out to the LGBTQ people of Maine who have suffered a terrible set back.  We feel for them, for their children, and for family members, friends, and allies who are suffering with them.  In time, broken hearts will heal and the sadness will turn to focused outrage and a renewed passion for achieving full marriage equality in Maine, and in every state.  Justice has been delayed for now, but it will not be denied forever.  We must continue to educate people, resist the religion-based prejudice that leads directly to inequality, and hold our heads high.  Ultimately, we will be victorious."
To view a video created by Jeff last year after the Prop 8 decision, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gBQyJTXiOYs.  The video is set to the song "Don’t Tell Me Who To Love" by Ray Boltz.