Commentary

Letters to the Editor

Page 5 of 5

I know these things are true, because I am the girl whose story inspired Jamie Babbit's movie. I haven't seen the movie yet, so I can't comment on the idea of one of the most devastating experiences of my life being portrayed as a campy gay comedy. But I can comment on David Ehrenstein's review. Contrary to his reporting, treatment programs such as Rivendell are not, and never have been, associated with Exodus International (a Christian organization that has ministries for people who want to change their sexual orientation). Rivendell was not a Christian program, my doctors there were not Christians, I was not a Christian, and my mother was not a Christian.

By using what is essentially my story (and the story of hundreds of other young people like me) as just another opportunity to bash evangelical Christians, David Ehrenstein takes the legitimacy away from our demand that programs like Rivendell refrain from coercing/forcing people into therapy and using abusive and unethical methods of treating patients. This is not an issue of "churches versus the rest of the world"; this is an issue of young people being treated abusively by profit-motivated medical establishments that use damaging methods of therapy.

Can gays change? Absolutely. On a talk show a number of years ago, I was pitted against John Paulk, the current chairperson of the board of Exodus. He was absolutely gay before, and he's absolutely heterosexual now. I don't understand why David Ehrenstein did not take the risky and scary step of actually addressing this question. Instead, he just used his review as an opportunity to preach to the choir -- while flinging mud and propaganda. And to top it off, he made a number of factual errors, including his statement that two founders of Exodus "fell in love and abandoned the organization they helped found in order to fight it." This is simply not true. If you're going to bash people, at least get your facts right.

David Ehrenstein's knee-jerk response to this movie is an unacceptable excuse for journalism and does a real disservice to young people who are fighting for their right to self-determination.

Lyn Duff
San Francisco, CA

David Ehrenstein replies: Rivendell Psychiatric Hospital was not discussed in my review, as it was not mentioned in the film by name. Consequently, my remarks did not specifically relate Rivendell to Exodus, which is the flagship of Reparative Therapy ministries. The record on so-called reparative therapy, whether it specifically calls itself Christian or not, is well-known and has been covered extensively. Suffice it to say that Ms. Duff's declaration "Can gays change? Absolutely" is a lie, and that electroshock and other forms of "brainwashing" are extensively used by all of them. Two of the founders of Exodus International did indeed fall in love and come out as gay; their story is recounted in the 1993 documentary One Nation Under God, by Teodoro Maniaci and Francine Rzeznik.

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