Do you think that you can live as a devout Christian/Catholic and be gay? No. You can’t be, it’s incompatible. You cannot be Christian and gay You can’t You can be a homosexual and Christian but you can’t be gay and Christian. There is no question anymore, of course you can be gay and you can be a Christian. Of course and if anybody really thinks through what their theology is about their faith. That answer is easy to come to I’m John Smid, and I worked for 22 years on staff at Love In Action International I was the executive director from 1990 through 2008 Love In Action was a ministry that was motivated to help people leave behind their homosexual behavior. We attempted all through the years to help people find that freedom in their life. Today, I am very offended at the concept of “change therapies” for homosexuality because the message that someone who is gay has something intrinsically wrong with them is a shame-producing negative message that hits at the core of a human life And I’m offended that that message is still in any way communicated. I don’t feel guilt for having been a part of reparative therapy and the reason for that is not because I don’t feel bad about the message that we put out, but we were on a journey and you have to put it in the cultural context at the time. There was a huge cultural war between the church and the LGBT community and we were caught in that just like everybody else, so being involved in the church community the way that is was we thought that this was the right thing to do. We were wrong. I am a religious man. I’m a Christian man and so that’ll certainly inform some of my lifestyle choices. and values. I don’t knwo if all of the men who come to us are religious. Then at the sound of the drum beat take one step to your left Look at the outside of this man. Look at his physical appearance. Look into this man’s heart. Look into his soul. Now look more deeply. -I know that I didn’t choose to have the feelings that I had but i think that how I react to that or how I respond to that is still… you know, that’s where I can make a choice about that and so, sexual acting out and things like that wasn’t really compatible with my values. It kind of came to the point where I just wanted to see what other alternatives there were. I started to come back into my Catholic faith as well, about that time. After coming into this and finding a lot of healing and I think this weekend even though it’s not a religious weekend. There’s a real emphasis on surrendering to a higher power, that starting leading me, in my life, back to to the church, back to what I found, where I found the most peace. So groups like Journey Into Manhood or Love in Action or any kind of group that tries to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of people from what’s natural for them. I find to be very damaging. Do you now believe that it’s possible to change your sexual orientation? No, I don’t There’s a lot of history of people coming out after they’ve, you know created these organizations these ex-gay organizations or reparative therapy movements, to say that, in fact, it wasn’t helpful. Exodus International was the largest ex-gay organization for over 30 years and their leader of over 10 years finally at the end of it came out to say that 99 plus percent of people that he knew, including himself never actually changed their internal-felt sense of their attractions towards other people. I know that there are people who have taken their life because they felt so ashamed of who they are felt like God couldn’t love them as they are and that’s something that will haunt me until the day I die. It wasn’t until I left the ex-gay movement that I actually heard the damage and I am grieved that I didn’t hear it before. The collateral damage I think is something we’ve not been willing to listen to We’re here today to talk about conversion therapy. There’s a lot of different names for this topic There’s a lot of different perspectives on this topic. -It is really hard for me to be in the same room sometimes with people who led the programs currently or in the past because i know that my friends lost their lives because of the the pain that they endured at the hands of these men. I am a recent graduate of MIT Just did two graduate degrees in nuclear engineering and technology policy. I now work a few different think-tanks there in Washington, DC Third Way and the Bipartisan Policy Center, working on educating Congress on advanced nuclear reactor physics which is pretty much awesome. It’s a great job. I also serve as the co-chair for the Born Perfect campaign to end conversion therapy so this is my, this is my outlet to make the world a little bit better place in the non-nuclear realm, I guess is the best way of putting it. -I’m gonna give you some facts, that’s what I do. I’m a lawyer, I work in facts. -What we are doing is we are going around the country trying to pass laws that protect kids under 18 from having conversion therapy practiced on them by licensed mental health professionals. -Good afternoon I’m here to request your help in ending conversion therapy. -So we recently went to Geneva, Switzerland to talk to the United Nations Committee Against Torture about the practice of conversion therapy in the United States and Sam Brinton one of our incredible survivors we work with a lot, testified before that committee. Now these are folks who have spent their lives talking about torture and by the end of his testimony there were very few dry eyes in that house. -Then the physical abuse began he tied down my hands and placed ice on them while showing me erotic pictures of men. He wrapped my hands in hot coils stuck needles in my fingers and shocked me with electricity. Through all of this I remained gay but became suicidal. I found that forgiveness for me is something really really important it’s a way for me to get past all that pain. I shed that love back toward those Nick Calosi’s and Allen Chamber’s, hoping that they were doing it out of love. And I just need to make my message and my voice loud enough to help them understand that it is not helping. -I learned to lie and through that survived but many aren’t so lucky.