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Local Groups Plan Conference to challenge Ex-Gay Gathering

IRVINE, CA – Minerva Figueroa couldn’t disagree more with the teachings and assumptions behind the so-called ex-gay movement.  “As the mother of an LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) child, it deeply saddens me people would seek to ‘cure’ or ‘heal’ homosexuals.  I’ve always loved and supported her just the way she is,” said Figueroa.  So when Exodus International, an organization dedicated to combating homosexuality through controversial ex-gay therapy, announced it would be holding its annual conference in Irvine, it evoked a strong emotional response from Figueroa.  “I was upset and I was angry.  But as a mother, the first thing I thought about was the gay and lesbian attendees of the conference.  What could we do to help them?” 

Figueroa is a board member of the Orange County Equality Coalition (OCEC), a local grassroots organization that works for LGBT equality in Orange County.  She brought her concerns to the leadership of OCEC.  What emerged was a plan to organize a conference to challenge the Exodus conference.  “After careful consideration, we determined that, rather than try to distract or disrupt the ex-gay conference, it was more consistent with our vision to offer a constructive alternative to the harmful ex-gay ideology,” said Cas Gregory, Chair of OCEC.           

The conference, titled “it’s not a chOiCe – Challenging The Lies of The Ex-Gay Movement,” will be held Saturday, June 19, at Irvine United Congregational Church (IUCC).  The program will feature Michael Bussee, a co-founder of Exodus International and now outspoken critic of the organization.  In addition to highlighting the damage that ex-gay therapy can do, there will be speakers which present viewpoints of homosexuality from faith, family, and scientific perspectives.

“It’s important to show that there are legitimate religious perspectives which are supportive of homosexuality.  That is why we are happy to host this event,” said IUCC Senior Pastor Paul Tellstrom.  The event is sponsored by IUCC, OCEC, Equality California, The Progressive Interfaith Alliance, Team Courage OC, Integrity USA, Unison Interfaith Choir, California Faith for Equality, and Therapists for Equality.

A complete listing of speakers and topics is below.  For more information on the conference or to register, please visit http://notachoicecounterconference.eventbrite.com/ or send an e-mail to notachoicecounterconference@gmail.com. 

Topic and Speaker’s List

 Keynote Speaker: Dr. Daniel Helminiak:

Only One Choice Matters: “Come, Follow me”—But Which Jesus?

Recent awareness of sexuality has revealed its God-given richness. Religious forces insist the only option is traditionally understood heterosexual marriage—rejecting all the evidence.  Reverend Dr. Daniel Helminiak is an author, lecturer, Catholic priest and theologian, and professor in the department of humanistic and transpersonal psychology at the University of West Georgia, near Atlanta.

Sexuality isn’t a Choice

Dr. Lawrence E. Hedges will survey a series of perspectives that illustrate how human sexuality is not a choice but a given of personal experience. We can choose to suppress our sexual interests and practices but at the cost of limiting our identities, our spontaneity, and our relational possibilities.

 Science Is On Our Side: The Evidence Behind Sexual and Gender Identity

Cristina Cuevas is a senior medical student at University of California, San Francisco. While in medical school she has served as the LGBT representative for the Dean’s admissions advisory cabinet, planned and carried out the LGBT Health Issues course, and coordinated the school’s annual Student AIDS Forum. She plans to enter family practice and is committed to underserved patient populations.

The Pivotal Issue of Choice and the International Ex-Gay Movement

Michael Bussee, after co-founding in 1979 Exodus International, he left the group and became and outspoken critic of the organization. Today Michael is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, a father, an evangelical Christian, and a proud gay man. 

Tactics of Exodus International, the Ex-Gay Movement in the USA and Uganda

Wayne Besen, Founder of Truth Wins Out an organization which defends LGBT community against anti-gay misinformation; countering, the “ex-gay” industry and educating America about the lives of LGBT people. 

 A Personal Testimony: Joshua’s Story

Joshua Romero was raised in a Christian home by a loving family who taught him the value of his faith. A graduate of Point Loma Nazarene University, the loss of one of his friends to suicide inspired him to found Solace, a peer support ministry for Christians in the coming out process. 

A Ugandan Case Study: The International Reach of the Ex-Gay Movement

Jim Burroway, he was the first to sound the alarm on the intensifying anti-LGBT climate in Uganda that has led to the bill before the Ugandan Parliament that has sparked international outrage.

Crisis of Faith: When a Spouse Comes Out as Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, or Transgender

Dr. Amity Pierce Buxton, author of The Other Side of the Closet: The Coming-Out Crisis for Straight Spouses and Families; founded the Straight Spouse Network to support straight spouses whose partners came out as LGBT.