6 JUNE 24,2005
www.houstonvoice.com HOUSTON VOICE
Experts question non-licensed counselors at 'ex-gay7 camp
LOVE IN ACTION, continued from Page 1
blog since the first week in June and
sources contacted by the Voice would not
confirm Zach's full name. His parents also
could not be identified. Morgan Fox, 25,
who said he was a friend of Zach's, said he
believed Zach was in a two-week program.
Meanwhile, concerned citizens formed
a group called the Queer Action Coalition.
QAC began daily demonstrations in front
of Love in Action offices to raise awareness of the dangers of "ex-gay" therapy.
Homosexuality is not considered an illness by the medical community and no
major counseling or psychological organization supports therapy that aims to
change a person's sexual orientation.
The American Psychological
Association has said that it is unethical to
subject an adolescent to reparative therapy
According to Parents, Families &
Friends of Lesbians & Gays, "Several
major professional organizations, includ
ing the American Psychological
Association, the National Association of
Social Workers, and the American
Academy of Pediatrics, have all made statements against reparative therapy because
of concerns for the harm caused to
patients. The American Psychiatric
Association has already taken clear stands
against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation."
Peterson Toscano is a gay man who
spent two years in the Love in Action program as the last stop in a 17-year struggle
to suppress his sexual orientation.
He said that the program, which cost
$950 per month, was highly restrictive.
While he was in the program he was forbidden to go to most parts of Memphis, could
not touch other men and had to submit to
lengthy meetings where participants criticized each other over the ways that they
appeared to be gay. Clients at Love in Action
had to describe their sexual fantasies and
deviant behaviors in front of groups so that
they would be shamed, Toscano said.
Toscano, who gave up his efforts in
1999, has written a play about his time at
Love in Action called "Doing Time in the
Homo No Mo' Half Way House."
Toscano has been in contact with QAC
and the Memphis media and said he plans
to travel to Memphis to perform his play
for free this weekend.
Though his experience of Love in
Action was as a consenting adult, Toscano
expressed serious concern for adolescents
who are forced to participate in what he
characterized as an extremely damaging
and misguided program.
Although the program is live-in for
adults, teenagers are driven to the facility
each day by their parents who are
required to stay in a nearby hotel that is
approved by Love in Action.
Toscano said that Smid has taken the
12-step program designed for drug addic
tion and is trying to apply it to homosexuality.
The "ex-gay" operators of the camp are
themselves victims of a system that has
convinced them that the only way that
they can serve Jesus is to run an "ex-gay"
facility, Toscano said.
"If they really understood that what
they were doing was causing harm they
would be horrified."
Psychotherapist Joe Kort echoed those
"My own judgment about reparative
therapy is that it is a covert form of sexual abuse and assaultive to the sexuality of
those who participate," he said.
Kort is an adjunct professor teaching
gay and lesbian studies at Wayne State
University's School of Social Work.
Jeffry Ford is a licensed psychologist
who served as a leader in the "ex-gay"
movement for years but left and is now in
private practice in Minnesota.
Ford said that Love in Action resembles
a cult in that officials there monitor their
clients' behavior and clients are not allowed
to be alone with just one man or woman.
Obligation to 'mold a child'
According to Julie Neils, spokesperson
for Exodus International, an umbrella
group for "ex-gay" projects, Love in Action's
Refuge program is the only project they are
affiliated with that focuses on gay teens.
Love in Action has only offered services
to adolescents for two years. Administrator
Tommy Corman said that the program has
treated 23 adolescents and that there are
currently two teenage boys in the program,
both signed up for six-week programs.
Corman confirmed that teens are sometimes forced to participate in the programs,
but dismissed the idea that this is wrong.
"Youth camps, vacation bible school,
Sunday school, how many places do parents
put their children against their will,"
Corman has worked at Love in Action
for about a year and a half. He said that
though the program advertises treatment
for problems associated with drugs, alcohol
and pornography, it is homosexuality,
which the organization sees as a "deviant
sexual behavior," that is the main focus.
Danny Cobsy is the only staff member
listed on the Love in Action Web site who
is licensed by the state of Tennessee as a
Cosby is an alcohol and drug treatment
counselor and works directly with the
clients at Love in Action.
A source in the State Board of
Certification of Health Related Boards said
that the ethical requirements for drug and
alcohol counselors licensed in Tennessee
forbid counselors to discriminate based on
sexual orientation. The National
Association for Addiction Professionals
also requires that members not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.
Just because the state
does not recognize it.
Does not mean you can't.
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