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"OK, time to get into the hot seat!" the leader of the Fellow Warrior support group announces. I'm herded over to the coffee table in the center of a small back room in a crappy two-story office complex. I sit down and bow my head. Suddenly, 12 Fellow Warriors -- or "ex-gays," as their propaganda calls them -- put their hands on my body, most particularly the shoulders and upper torso, and the praying begins. Like freestyle rappers coming to the mike, each takes a turn praying that my sinful soul stays on the right path. I'm going by the pseudonym Monty today, and the Fellow Warriors are praying that the Lord will watch over me and prevent me from falling back into the gay lifestyle.
"Yes, Jesus. Yes!"
"Monty has a scary journey ahead of him ..."
"Evil days! Evil days!" someone cries.
"... please watch over Monty, oh Lord!"
"Amen! Amen!" someone else cries.
"The righteous man falls several times. Look after Monty and guide him!"
"Yes, Jesus! Yes!"
This goes on way longer than I feel comfortable with. When the praying finally ends, a box of Kleenex is handed to me; apparently, I'm expected to be in tears.
"Wow!" I remark, moving my hands to emulate some sort of energy field. "Yeah, that was really great. I really felt something there. Yeah, it was like feeling a force or something like that. Yeah, that's it: a force!"
I pause. I can't think of anything else to say except, "Wow!"
Many would think this type of fire-and-brimstone, repent-for-homosexuals-for-they-are-sinners antics would take place only in the Midwest or the heart of the South. Uh-uh. Such religious zealots congregate right outside the gates of the city of sin itself, San Francisco. You can take the BART to them.
According to extreme Christian ministries, homosexuality, like poison ivy or frostbite, can be prevented -- if you look for the signs. Pick up a copy of Preventing Homosexuality: A Parent's Guide; the Christian world provides guidelines for concerned parents who want to keep their children from entering the World of Gay:
Masculinity is an achievement. Growing up straight isn't something that happens. It requires good parenting. It requires societal support. And it takes time.
Dad is more important than Mom. Mothers make boys. Fathers make men.
Recognize that most homosexuals were not explicitly so when they were children. More often, they displayed nonmasculinity that set them painfully apart from other boys: unathletic, somewhat passive, unaggressive, and uninterested in rough-and-tumble play.
A boy needs to see his father as confident, self-assured, and decisive. Mothers need to back off a bit. What I mean is, don't smother him. Tip: Single mothers may need to recruit a trustworthy male role model.
Be concerned if you see gender confusion or doubt in your child from ages 5 to 11. There is a high correlation between feminine behavior in boyhood and adult homosexuality.
Personae:Carl and Isabella, concerned Christian parents. Which fictional last name do they go by? Why, the Gaymores, of course.
Disguises:Isabella is caked with way too much makeup: bright pink lipstick, an overabundance of eye shadow, and smears of blush. Her hair is a mess that reflects her frazzled state. I adopt the standard Christian male uniform: Dockers pants, blue sport coat, white shirt, and red tie.
Back story:The Gaymores are experiencing culture shock; they've just moved to San Francisco from a small town in Minnesota.
The Gaymores' problem: This young Christian couple have become frightfully concerned about their son. The little rascal falls within the guidelines of homosexual characteristics on the Web site for the Back to Hope support group. It doesn't help matters that they decided to name him Tobias.
My overused catchphrase:"What do you tell the kids?!"
Approximate distance from San Francisco:55 minutes.
The Exodus ministry runs a Christian-based support group for parents who are concerned and want to take action in regard to sons or daughters who are, as the ministry puts it, in the gay lifestyle. What separates this support group from others is the firm belief that children who are gay will go straight to hell unless they change their ways and embrace the Lord. Why is it those who scream "sinner" are, almost always, the people concealing the deepest, darkest sins?
With the assistance of an actress friend named Johanna, who poses as my fake wife, we enter a classroom that has a large "Jesus Loves You" banner on the wall; it is inside a community church center in Fremont. We wear funereal expressions.
"We're a limited, cozy group this evening," professes Debbie, a woman who exhibits the bobble-headed enthusiasm of an Orange County cruise-ship social director. "We are officially ending our first year as a group."
I take a seat in one of the schoolchild-size chairs in the semicircle, next to Debbie, Carol, and a large woman, also a first-timer, who has a box of Kleenex, and who appears to have been crying long before we got there. I stare straight ahead, as if I'm harboring a horrible secret.
"Do you have a loved one that's in the gay lifestyle?" asks concerned Carol, a chunky woman who resembles a high school women's softball coach.