Edge Boston reporter, Peter Cassels, wrote an excellent story today detailing the rise of “ex-gay” clinics in South America. According to his thorough and informative report:
A government investigation of so-called “reparative therapy” clinics in Ecuador after allegations of kidnap and torture is placing a spotlight on the ex-gay movement in Latin America.
In early February, gay rights groups filed a complaint with the government’s health ministry after a lesbian reported that she was held against her will in a center near Quito, the country’s capital, for 18 months. During that time, Paola Concha claims she was handcuffed, not fed for several days at a time, forced to dress as a man and repeatedly raped. The story made headlines after Change.org posted a petition asking Ecuador to shut down the clinics.
The movement appeals to both evangelical Christians and Catholics, who together wield enormous clout in the region. “The market in Western Europe and the U.S. is drying up,” Wayne Besen told EDGE. “As Pentecostals gain market share in Latin America, you’re going to see more and more ex-gay outfits.” (It was Besen, executive director of Truth Wins Out, a strong critic of ex-gays, who, acting on a tip, tracked Paulk and photographed him at the Washington gay bar.)
As it is elsewhere, the Internet is pervasive in Latin America. It can function not only as a major tool to communicate but to fuel misinformation, Besen pointed out. “You don’t have to have an official ex-gay ministry to use the paradigm they have created. The right-wing religious communities’ use of misinformation is much greater there and has a lot of breadth.” Rights groups in the region don’t have the resources to strongly respond to reparative therapy advocates, he added.
As we saw in Atlanta this weekend, Exodus International is not drawing the numbers that it once did, as more people come out at younger ages and the failed leaders and bizarre techniques continue to discredit “ex-gay” programs. Yet, we can never forget that “ex-gay” groups can be big business for opportunistic entrepreneurs who who have no qualms exploiting desperate and vulnerable people for a quick buck. These failed groups also present a way for religious zealots to justify discrimination and rationalize the enormous pain and suffering they readily inflict on innocent LGBT people.
So long as prejudice and discrimination exist, there will be a market for “ex-gay” programs — and right now the market is shrinking in the West and growing in Africa, Asia, and South America. Clearly, we will have to organize and fight this poison throughout the world — and I guarantee that Truth Wins Out and others will defeat these evil opportunists as we are getting close to achieving at home.
Truth Wins Out may have to create international chapters in the future, so people can monitor these hate groups, dispel myths, and counter “ex-gay” fiction with facts.