October Is GLBT History Month

Modeled after Black and Women's History Month, GLBT History Month highlights annually the achievements of 31 gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender Icons—one each day—with a free video, bio, bibliography, images and other resources. Take the weekly Trivia Challenge each Friday, starting October 10, and the Rainbow Challenge at the end of the month. 

Gay Men and Salmon Sex: Bob Smith Reads from Selfish and Perverse

Comedian Bob Smith wrote the novel Selfish and Perverse, about three gay men and a lesbian in Alaska and Los Angeles.

In the clip below, Smith reads a few Alaskan scenes from the book, and talks about the GLBT people he met here. The last scene is a great piece about salmon sex.

This isn't a new video, but the novel is about GLBT characters in Alaska and is funny. I'm posting it now in honor of the summer's low salmon runs.

The reading was taped at the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists' Association Annual Convention.

Court Crowns Emperor and Empress, Gives Awards and Scholarships at Coronation

Mike Bartels of Fairbanks and Paula Butner of Anchorage were crowned at Coronation 2008 as the new Emperor and Empress of the Imperial Court of All Alaska (ICOAA). The Court also announced the winners of five annual awards, and the recipients of the scholarship program.

A total of $60,000 was granted to the 25 scholarship recipients for 2008.

The Scholarship Awards are based on economic need, scholastic achievement, leadership ability and contributions to the Lesbian/Gay community, with preference given to members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and allied (GLBTA) community.

The Imperial Court's five annual community service awards are given to individuals and businesses in Alaska's GLBTA community.

Chosen by the College of Emperors and Empresses:

The Raymond Jorgenson Community Service Award to a group/business went to Bent Alaska

Raymond Jorgenson worked tirelessly for many years on behalf of the GLBTA community of Alaska and the Imperial Court.  He was a founding member of every GLBT organization that existed during his day and espoused that it was only through our combined efforts that Alaska's community could grow stronger.  In his honor, the College chooses an organization, group, or business award each year to recognize their outstanding works on behalf of our community.

The C Wayne Hussey Community Service Award to an Individual went to Mr. Gay Alaska Kevin Holtz

C Wayne Hussey was the first Elected Empress of All Alaska and a founder of the Imperial Court of All Alaska.  This award is presented annually by the College in recognition of an individual's outstanding contributions to the community.


Elected by the Fairbanks Community:

The Rochelle DeLite Fairbanks Community Service Award went to College Floral owned by Michael Bartels

Rochelle DeLite served the Fairbanks Community and Imperial Court throughout the 1980's and 1990's as a driving force to keep both the Duchy of Fairbanks and the community together.  In her memory, the GLBTA community of Fairbanks elects a recipient each year for their outstanding contributions to the Fairbanks Community.


Elected by Alaska's LGBT Community during voting for Emperor and Empress:

The Peter Dispirito Award for Community Service went to Allie Hernandez

An outspoken member of the community, Peter was very active in all GLBTA Community affairs.  He was instrumental in opening the first gay bar in Alaska, was one of the founding members of the Imperial Court of All Alaska, one of the foremost members of the gay social scene and was loved by all who knew him.  He was murdered in 1973.  His murderer was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to a mere 2 ½ years in prison.  After serving only several months, he was released on parole.  The murder and subsequent light treatment of the murderer only served to unite the Gay community and sparked the first real Gay Community activism in Alaska.  To honor his memory past recipients, the board of directors of the ICOAA, and the College all place nominations on the ballot at the time of voting for Emperor and Empress… the community then elects the recipient of the award for their contributions to the advancement of the GLBTA Community in Alaska.

Chosen by the reigning Emperor and Empress and given to persons under the age of 21:

The Shante' Youth Volunteer Service Award went to Paul O'Leary & Ashley Earll

This award is given in memory of Shante', for her outstanding contributions to the community. Our Hawaiian Princess wored closely and tirelessly with the GLBT youth of Anchorage to further acceptance among their peers and a more cohesive bond between them and the broader GLBT community. Also as a teacher of her Native dance to other young people, she brought them into our community as allies, helping foster new lasting friendships and understanding in the Anchorage community at large.

This Week in GLBT Alaska 9/26/08

Check out this week's events from Alaska GLBT News, the email newsletter. 
For full listings, news briefs, and up-coming events, subscribe to AGN.

Kenai Peninsula

"It Goes Without Saying" 9/26 & 9/27 at 8 p.m., 9/28 at 4 p.m. Bill Bowers performs at the Bunnell Street Gallery in Homer. $25 general/$22 gallery members, youth 8-18 pay half price.

Bac'untry Bruthers at the Seward Music Festival on Saturday 9/27 at 1 p.m. 


Party with the New Emperor and Empress 9/27, doors at 8 p.m. show at 9 p.m. Investitures of the 36th Reign, $15 at Mad Myrna's.

Last Sunday Brunch 9/28, 10:30 a.m. with The Last Frontier Men's Club

Where is the love in trying to make gays go straight?

COMPASS: Other points of view

Published: September 22nd, 2008 10:41 PM
Last Modified: September 22nd, 2008 10:41 PM

One of my earliest memories is being told by the principal of my Christian school that, along with Prince fans and devotees of the rock band Kiss, homosexuals were going to hell.

I was only 6 years old and had never heard of a homosexual, but my principal was happy to spell it out for his elementary school audience: "Homosexuals are men who have sex with men." By the end of the school day, I was in tears, convinced that my mother's love for Prince had doomed us both for eternity.

At the time, homosexuality had no relevance to my life, and because after this incident my mother promptly enrolled me in public school, I was spared any additional attempts to prevent me from growing up to be gay. But what about the children whose parents weren't aware of what their kids were being taught? Or whose parents' beliefs might have been more in line with that of the principal's? What about the slightly older child, already aware of his or her attraction to people of the same sex, forced to come of age weighed down by this message of condemnation?

For years, these children remained vulnerable to the harmful teachings of adults who used their authority and their religious standing to promote an anti-gay agenda under the guise of Christian righteousness. It is disheartening to know that some groups continue to promote a philosophy that endangers peoples' mental health and validates social intolerance.

Over time, the homophobic discourse of Christian fundamentalism has grown more benevolent in tone. Instead of threatening the gates of hell, for example, Focus on the Family's Love Won Out ministry claims to help people "overcome" their same- sex attractions with "compassion and grace." They claim to be able to "transform" people's lives with holistic therapies and counseling.

But just because the tone has changed doesn't mean that the consequences have disappeared. In a 1998 position statement the American Psychiatric Association cited the numerous potential risks of the "therapies" promoted by these ministries of so-called "transformation," including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior. The American Psychological Association, National Association of Social Workers, and the American Academy of Pediatrics have also expressed their concern about the harmful consequences of these ministries on the well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning people and their families.

For all their talk of love, the Love Won Out ministry blindly ignores the love and affection that exists between gay and lesbian couples. We are portrayed as emotionally stunted individuals with no interest in each other beyond the physical, thereby diminishing public respect for and recognition of our relationships and families.

If you look beneath the "self-help"-styled rhetoric, at the core of their philosophy is the belief that if you're gay or lesbian, there is something fundamentally wrong with you that needs to be changed. Not only is this belief medically incorrect — psychiatrists dismissed it almost 40 years ago — it also implicitly validates social prejudices that lead to acts of discrimination, harassment and violence. These acts cause far more mental harm to gays and lesbians — and do more harm to our democracy — than allowing law-abiding citizens to live their lives equally, honestly, and without fear — regardless of their sexual orientation.

I work for the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska, an organization that protects the right of every citizen to believe in and promote the religion of their choice. Focus on the Family has every right to bring its Love Won Out conference all the way to Anchorage and share its mission with whoever is willing to listen. But our Constitution also grants me the right to urge you — for the sake of your loved ones' mental well-being and happiness, for the sake of promoting a more democratic and compassionate community, and in the name of love — not to believe a word they say.

Tiffany McClain is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Public Policy Coordinator for ACLU of Alaska in Anchorage.

Second-Class Citizens: Gay Alaskans Report Legal and Social Discrimination

The ACLU of Alaska released the preliminary results of their 2008 LGBT Community Interest Survey today:

Discrimination a Persistent Problem for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Alaskans, says American Civil Liberties Union

ANCHORAGE, AK, September 24, 2008 - The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Alaska released a report today revealing that many of the state's lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) residents still live in fear of discrimination. The report shares the initial findings of an on-going survey of LGBT Alaskans. 

A majority of respondents agree that discrimination is the largest problem they have personally faced as LGBT people living in Alaska. Some report having been harassed on the job, even fired, because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. But unlike other minorities who have been historically discriminated against, there are no significant state or local laws to shield them from such prejudice. 

"The survey shows that LGBT people want the same thing as most other Americans. They want to be able to provide for themselves and their families without worrying about being refused or fired from a job because of who they share their lives with," said Tiffany McClain, the ACLU of Alaska's LGBT Public Policy Coordinator. "But in the state of Alaska they have no legal recourse if they suspect unfair treatment from an employer, landlord, or creditor." 

Responses to the survey have been collected via e-mail, online, and in person and include participants from Anchorage, Juneau, and Fairbanks. So far, 26% of respondents report having experienced discrimination or harassment in the workplace and an additional 18% have faced these obstacles outside of work. When the lack of legal recognition of their partnerships and families is counted as a form of discrimination, the proportion of LGBT people who have suffered the consequences of discrimination is even higher. 

"We know that Americans are fair and favor equal treatment and ending discrimination," said Jeffrey Mittman, Executive Director of the ACLU of Alaska.  "As Alaskans hear about the families of their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender friends, neighbors, colleagues and relatives, they will want to see an end to workplace discrimination, and will support the right to visit a sick loved one in the hospital, or to protect the needs of children in LGBT families."  The initial survey findings can be found at http://www.akclu.org/AKCLU_LGBTresults.pdf 

We would like to invite anyone who doesn't feel as if their voices are being adequately represented to complete a survey and encourage their friends to complete one as well.

This work is supported by generous grants from the Pride Foundation and the Tide Foundation's State Equality Fund, a philanthropic partnership that includes the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr Fund, the Gill Foundation, and other anonymous donors. 

- Tiffany McClain, LGBT Public Policy Coordinator
- Jeffrey Mittman, Executive Director

Palin's Hometown Paper Grapples with Gay Books and Library Censorship

Gay and lesbian Americans concerned with censorship at public libraries recently donated copies of the children's books "Heather Has Two Mommies" and "Daddy's Roommate" to the Wasilla, Alaska, public library, where then-Mayor Sarah Palin asked a librarian about banning books. 

The Frontiersman put the story on today's front page: Gay-lesbian titles donated to Wasilla Library. The Frontiersman is the daily newspaper in the Mat-Su Valley, covering Gov. Palin's hometown of Wasilla. 

Mike Petrelis ... said he was aghast to read reports of Palin's 1996 inquiry about banning certain books at Wasilla's library. "I said, 'I'm going to send copies of both books just to make sure they're on the shelves.'"

Ms. Palin, as a Wasilla city councilwoman in 1995, told colleagues that she noticed the book "Daddy's Roommate" on the library shelves and that it did not belong there, according to Laura Chase, Palin's campaign manager, and former Mayor John Stein, Palin's predecessor.

Ms. Chase read the book, which helps children understand homosexuality, and said it was inoffensive. She suggested that Ms. Palin read it, according to the NYTimes.com article.

"Sarah said she didn't need to read that stuff," Ms. Chase said. "It was disturbing that someone would be willing to remove a book from the library and she didn't even read it."

Mr. Petrelis' book donation was made in anticipation of Banned Books Week, which begins on September 27.

Tim Stallard, owner of Out in Alaska, a gay and lesbian guide service, said he thinks the effort is well-placed.

"I think it's a good statement," Stallard said. "I think in a free society like ours, openness and education and information are always important."

Library Director KJ Martin-Albright said she has received the books but, like any donation, they have to go through a process that determines what to do with them.

There are two options for donations. Either the library puts the book on the shelves or gives it to Friends of the Library to be sold.

The Frontiersman article is neutral, with only one mention of "books that explain gay lifestyle" (sic) showing the reporter's lack of knowledge about gay and lesbian topics. 

However, many of the comments are negative:

" I just heard there is a third book being sent to the Wasilla Library --------- Daddy's roommate has an STD. "

" I don't think those books should be in the library. I agree with what Tammy wrote, there should be more Biblical based stories. Lets all pull together as parents and promote that these books be banned from our public library. "

" Go ahead and put this trash on the shelves of the library. When you do, I personnally will check them out and you will never see them again. I'm sure they will burn just fine!! "

Some comments were supportive:

" I LOVE IT! Wish I had thought of it first. I understand that she didn't actually ban a book, but I think it was wildly inappropriate for her to test the waters. I think this is an excellent response to what was clearly a veiled attempt at censorship. "

" The public library is intended to serve the entire public, religious, non-religious, homosexual, heterosexual, and so on. If you don't want your kids reading certain books...do your job as their parent and don't let them read them! Of course, a better parenting technique would be to not shield your children from any knowledge but encourage them to think critically about it and come to their own conclusions. "

" For Heaven's sake, and for the sake of gay kids --like the one I was-- PLEASE don't hide information on this from the ones who desperately need it. PLEASE. "

And this commenter sounds confused:

" I dont think any kids need to be reading about any sexuality at the library. The library is about learning. "

Check out the full story in the Frontiersman.

Being Gay in Wasilla

What is it like to be gay in Wasilla, or anywhere in Alaska? The Advocate.com asked gays and lesbians who used to live in Alaska, or recently moved here, about their experiences being openly gay in Alaska. 

Their replies might surprise you:
"It's mostly lack of awareness, which could be chalked up to not being exposed to gayness," says the Manhattan-based writer [Ryan Quinn], who came out to family and friends in Wasilla after his freshman year away at college, and even brought a boyfriend to visit. "The reaction was overwhelmingly positive from the people I heard from, and certainly from the people who know me on a personal basis," he says. "I've never encountered homophobia in Alaska."
He didn't come out until he moved to New York. I wonder how his experience might have been different if he had stayed in Alaska as an adult, especially during these last eight years.

Here's another ex-Alaskan:
Stielstra, 29, was born in Anchorage and soon afterward his family moved to Wasilla, about 40 miles north, where he lived until he was 19. Despite the influential presence of Evangelical Christian churches, and the absence of any detectable gay community, he says he felt welcome when he came out at 18.
He left Alaska for Los Angeles, and currently lives in Chicago.

This quote seems more typical of the experience of being gay in Alaska, and she actually lives here:
"It's not the kind of place where I'd feel comfortable walking hand-in-hand with my partner," she [Christensen] says. "But you do see a decent number of rainbow stickers on cars."

Donated "Heather" and "Daddy's Roommate" Will Be Accepted or Sold by Wasilla Library

Two popular gay-themed children's books, "Heather Has Two Mommies" and "Daddy's Roommate," were donated to the Wasilla Public Library in Alaska, where Sarah Palin was mayor, by gay and lesbian Americans concerned with attempted censorship. 

I called the Wasilla Public Library when they opened today.

"We received the books," said KJ Martin-Albright, Library Administrator at the Wasilla Public Library, "and we sent a copy of our library donation policy and a receipt to Mr. Petrelis."

"Karen Davis, the youth services librarian, will decide if the books will be accepted and placed on the shelves, or be given to the Friends of the Library and sold at a book faire."

"Rest assured that we are not dodging him," said Ms. Martin-Albright. "He should be hearing from us soon."

Bent Alaska thanks Mr. Petrelis for this generous donation, and encourages Ms. Davis to accept these wonderful children's books. We look forward to seeing "Heather Has Two Mommies" and "Daddy's Roommate" on the shelves of the Wasilla Public Library.

Wasilla Library Gets Gay Children's Books


Gay Americans Donate Children's Books to Wasilla Library, On Eve of Banned Books Week

Gay and lesbian Americans concerned with attempted censorship at public libraries recently donated copies of "Heather Has Two Mommies" and "Daddy's Roommate" to the Wasilla, Alaska, public library. This show of support for diversity and First Amendment rights is a pro-active direct response to reports that former mayor and now GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin may have tried to remove the children's books from the shelves in the 1990s.

The two gay-themed books were given to the library to guarantee they were available for the Wasilla community to read and enjoy. The donation was made in anticipation of Banned Books Week, which begins on September 27.

Ultimately, the gay and lesbian citizens would like to place copies of "Daddy's Roommate" and another gay-themed children's book, "And Tango Makes Three," on the shelves of Alaska's one-hundred-and-one public libraries. ("Heather" is out of print, which is why "Tango" was chosen.)

San Francisco activist Michael Petrelis and his longtime partner Mike Merrigan gave the books not only to insure local kids would have access to them, but also to strengthen diversity in Alaska.

"When we first became aware of this story concerning Palin's possible call for literary censorship, it dismayed us," said Petrelis, who blogs at PetrelisFiles.com. "If Palin's attitude towards literary freedom, not to mention her respect for diversity, have not changed since the 1990s, then her qualifications for vice president are certainly to be called into question."

Local gay support for the donation came from E. Ross of BentAlaska.com, a gay news and activities service web site based in Anchorage.

"Giving gay books to the Wasilla public library is a wonderful, pro-active way to foster communication and encourage reading. Many libraries and schools have been pressured to ban 'Heather Has Two Mommies' and 'Daddy's Roommate' over the years, proving that citizens against diversity and tolerance pose a danger to education and unity everywhere. These two titles are prime examples of books that should have a secure place on many public and school library shelves," said Ross.

Ross will be contacting the Wasilla librarian after the donation, to confirm that the library will place the books on the shelves, and will write a follow-up report on BentAlaska.com.

The director of the Wasilla library, KJ Martin-Albright, last week posted a note to the Publisher's Weekly blog regarding these issues:

"At one point, 'Heather Has Two Mommies' was challenged at the Wasilla Public Library and it was decided to keep it on the shelf. So, why is it no longer there? Well, Wasilla out grew the size of its library about twenty years ago . . . Along with the fact that library collections are dynamic and not static, anything on the bookshelves has to earn its real estate. If it isn't circulating, it doesn't stay. I know this is not the ideal, but it is our reality. The library no longer has 'Heather', but we do our best to offer materials encompassing all different points of view and presenting every side to an argument."

For approximately $2,300, the gay activists, in collaboration with the Lambda Rising gay book store in Washington, DC, will purchase and ship two gay children's books to every one of the state's public libraries.

When Sarah Palin returns to being the full-time governor of Alaska on November 5, we'd like for her to find her public library system has welcomed these gay-themed children's book as a gesture of respect for equality and diversity, which is a true American value.

This Week in GLBT Alaska 9/18/08

This week's events from Alaska GLBT News, the email newsletter. 
For full listings, news briefs, and up-coming events, subscribe to AGN.

 It Goes Without Saying, 9/19 & 9/20 at 7 p.m., 9/21 at 4 p.m.
Bill Bowers performs It Goes Without Saying. A professional mime breaks his silence in this autobiographical tale about growing up gay and closeted in Montana, training with the great Marcel Marceau, and living through the AIDS crisis of the 1980's. $18.00 online; $20 at the door. ($1.25 per ticket online fee)  Out North 

 Ever Ready 9/19 & 9/20, 7-11 p.m.
Ever Ready is performing in Anchorage.

 Laugh Over Matter 9/20, 9 p.m. 
Jay Her returns with another night of hypnotic comedy: Laugh Over Matter. $10 at Mad Myrna's.

 Hump Day Happy Hour 9/24, 5-7 p.m.
Get over the workweek hump with The Last Frontier Men's Club! Join us at The Raven Bar for a cold beer after a hard day's work.

Resources on the Ex-Gay Movement

The gay community held an all-day vigil to counter the ex-gay conference in Anchorage last weekend, plus a seminar with gay-affirming clergy and mental health professionals, and presentations by Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out.

Parents, friends and family members who have questions about "reparative therapy" and the ex-gay movement are invited to join PFLAG's support meeting, Thursday Sept. 18 at 7 p.m.

Learn about "ex-gays" and the "ex-gay" movement from those who know it best:
  • Beyond Ex-Gay - an online community for those who have survived ex-gay experiences
  • Ex-Gay Watch - dedicated to monitoring the ex-gay movement
  • Truth Wins Out - fighting right wing lies and the "ex-gay" fraud
These civil rights groups have information on the ex-gay movement and tools to help local communities deal with the ex-gay events in their towns (links go to ex-gay pages):
  • PFLAG - Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians & Gays
  • GLAAD - Gay & Lesbian Alliance against Defamation
  • Soulforce - Freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious & political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance
  • Southern Poverty Law Center - Advocates for Justice and Equality
These LGBT blogs have vast archives on the ex-gays and Focus on the Family:

Anchorage Press Covers the Ex-Gay Conference

The cover story for this week's Anchorage Press shows the truth behind the ex-gay conference that recently came to town, and includes the gay-affirming events also held that weekend. From Straight Talk?:

And now the culture wars are raging in Anchorage, too, with Love Won Out descending on the town and the opposition it sparked evident both outside on the sidewalk and in a gay-friendly church that last week hosted speakers who were outraged by this promotion of ex-gay ministries.


"[The ex-gay movement] is just a smokescreen for political action, to elect right-wing politicians and to pass anti-gay laws. Nothing more, nothing less," says Besen [from Truth Wins Out].

Read the full story and thank the Anchorage Press for this great article.

Not Your Father’s Anti-Gay Crusade

The "ex-gay" conference came to Alaska last Saturday, and the LGBT community held gay-positive events to counter the 'pray away the gay' message. MCC hosted "God Loves You Just As You Are" with five clergy members and a presentation by Truth Wins Out. On Saturday, PFLAG Anchorage and many supportive individuals held an all-day vigil outside the conference. 

Meanwhile, Karen attended the ex-gay conference. This story was written by Karen for Bent Alaska:

I attended the Love Won Out conference in Anchorage last weekend, sponsored by Focus On the Family (FOTF), and it was interesting on many levels. I went with two straight women friends from my church in Palmer. 

Most of the attendees were people like the three of us. Of the 250-300 attendees and volunteer hosts/ushers, the great majority were middle-class white folks in our 30's, 40's and older. I saw people who looked just like my fellow church-goers and neighbors. There were also a few goatee'd guys with nose rings from the Christian youth groups. 

It was not the atmosphere of hate that I had been steeling myself to endure.

Admittedly, I've been out of the loop since the years I worked at gay newspapers in Minneapolis, but the message of conservative Christians has come a long way from the days of sign-wavers proclaiming God Hates Fags. There was a gentleness and kindness in what the speakers shared that was unexpected. The old commercial slogan, "This is not your father's Oldsmobile," kept going through my mind. They went to great lengths to make the environment current and pleasant, compared to anti-gay teachings or workshops even ten years ago which were more about guilt and shame.

In the first few sessions, I didn't find much that I actually disagreed with. Yes, many lesbian women suffer abuse in their family backgrounds. Yes, many gay men are creative and sensitive. No breaking news there, and they noted that stereotyping didn't serve anyone. Speaker Jeff Johnston, a self-identified ex-gay who is now married with children, quipped that no one was there to say boys shouldn't be creative or sensitive. "No one says, 'why can't you be more a jerk like your father?'" said Johnston.

They've learned to come across as more reasonable and caring. That could well be by design. Perhaps the gay community has prompted these changes over the years, pointing out the contradictions of un-Christ-like behavior on the part of groups like this one. Since the foaming-at-the-mouth venom and harsh Fire and Brimstone sermons were probably not persuasive with everyday folk who have everyday questions about their gay family members or friends, they do seem to have moderated their messages.

FOTF founder James Dobson's introduction in the program booklet does promote "freedom from homosexuality" and the conference schedule online seems oriented towards political action. But there was nary a call to arms in the sessions I attended (I had to leave in the afternoon for work) and no one mentioned what used to be a standard, assumed parallel between gayness and pedophilia.

To their credit, I found FOTF's theological break-out sessions more complete and thought-out than arguments I've heard at both LGBT-inclusive churches and my current non-affirming church. 

Another way this was "not your Father's anti-gay crusade" was the essential divide between how different Christian groups see Father God. The speakers acknowledged that the Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and one branch of the Lutheran church have become accepting and affirming of LGBT folk. But that is not FOTF's understanding of what God asks of us on our walk towards holiness. The position taken by FOTF hasn't changed: that engaging in homosexual relationships is outside of God's will for humankind.

It seems evident that the LGBT community members outside the conference hold a different view of the "Father" and what we're called to as His people. One of the friends attending with me said she saw it as discussions happening on two different planes, with no intersecting points on the crucial questions, between the protesters and folks with the FOTF point of view.

A moment of hope came for me during a session presented by Nancy Heche, mother of actress Anne Heche. She asked audience members to raise their hands if they were gay or knew a gay family member or friend. Almost every hand went up. The next question she posed was, "How many here want to see the voice of their church change in regard to homosexuality?" 

Given Alaska's very conservative base of churches, I interpreted that to mean striving for a kinder, more compassionate dialogue. Nearly a dozen or so hands went up. Perhaps this will further the conversation locally and more broadly, as Christians of all stripes seek to live out their Christianity.

Our Kids Don't Need Changing, Part 2: Local News Coverage

Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and straight allies gathered in Anchorage on Saturday to protest the ex-gay conference. Their message of LGBT equality was echoed by the many cars who honked in support. See the photos and story: Our Kids Don't Need Changing (part 1)

The local television news picked up the story:

Our Kids Don't Need Changing: Anchorage Gays and Allies Send Message of LGBT Acceptance Outside Ex-Gay Conference

Anchorage, Alaska - A dozen people gather at dawn in front of Abbott Loop Church on Saturday, the headlights of passing cars illuminating the rainbow flags and signs: "God Loves My Gay Son And So Do I!", "First, Do No Harm", "Be Yourself - We Love You!"

Behind the church, people struggling with homosexual feelings, or the homosexuality of a friend or family member, park in the back lot and enter the side door of the grey building. The front doors are locked.

The church is hosting the Love Won Out conference, with speakers preaching that homosexuality is a sin and a choice, and that gays must change or suppress their same-sex attractions. 

The conference is sponsored by the Colorado-based right wing organization Focus on the Family, a group that also sponsors anti-gay legislation.

Along the street, PFLAG Anchorage and their supporters spread a message of love and acceptance to all who drive by the church.

"Our gay kids are not sick, they're not evil, and they don't need changing," said Jane Schlittler, chair of PFLAG Anchorage. "We're here so that truth wins out."

Kirt and Roger stand together near the church parking lot. They were married in Canada, the first gay couple from Alaska to be legally wed.

"I'm here for people like Stuart Matis," said Roger, "a young gay man in California who thought it better to put a bullet in his head rather than live with the shame that these people in the church create."

"I grew up in a very religious background," said Kirt. "I know about these types of programs that profess that you can change and that it's some kind of choice to be gay. It absolutely isn't. I'm proud to be a gay man, and proud to be married to my husband, and I'll be proud to die that way."

The Second Wave

As the PFLAGers move on to other commitments, a new group gathers at the intersection of Lake Otis and Abbott Road. Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered young adults and their friends brought poster board, colored markers, musical instruments, food and water for an afternoon outside the ex-gay conference.

"I called all my friends to come here and protest," said Mike, who contributed several large pizzas and a conga drum. "We're going to tell them you can't pray the gay away."

Slade makes a sign saying "Honk If You (Heart) Gay People" and waves to the many honking drivers. "I'm here to protest the anti-gay 'pray away the gay' thing because you can't change who you are," he said. "You have to accept that and move on."

Sean and Ted arrive with Ted's mother. "We found out about Focus on the Family through watching the documentary For The Bible Tells Me So," said Sean, a social work student at UAA. "'Reparative therapies' and 'conversion therapies' are not only ineffective but harmful. These programs are misleading the public, misleading people who are struggling with their sexual orientation, causing emotional harm and in some cases it's devastating. I can't sit idly by and allow the general public to accept this ignorance."

"What they are teaching in that church is not about acceptance, it's not about love," said Mary, "it's about self-loathing and fear." Her signs say, "True Love is Unconditional" and "God Loves You Just As You Are."

"Their hatred of homosexuals and pushing an anti-gay agenda is just not accepted here," said Mike. "They can go back where they came from."

Jason: An Ex-Gay Survivor from Alaska Tells His Story

The ex-gay conference Love Won Out came to Alaska to promote "reparative" therapy. Jason describes their methods in his personal story. (See our gay-affirming vigil outside the conference: Our Kids Don't Need Changing)

"Jason" was a young adult Christian living in Alaska when his sexual attraction to men became too strong to ignore. He could not accept these desires as natural and instead sought help from several "recovery" programs and ministries. Here are excerpts from his story, focusing on his experiences in Pure Life Ministries and his time in Alaska. He is now "recovering from recovery," and identifies as Christian and Gay.

Living in Alaska most of my adult life, .. [I] formed a music business and worked as a teacher as well as doing ministry work around Alaska. During some painful times in my life going into 2001, I began to explore my curiosity with certain kinds of men. I was so ashamed and confused ... and for the next several years I sought help from many ministries. Although I did not admit I was gay, I had this daily obsession with big masculine looking and acting men...

After twelve months of being with a handful of men, I became so horrified with my life that I wanted to do something extreme. The only help I got was this recovery program that got more and more abusive. That's when one of the men in the program suggested Pure Life Ministries, which has a six to twelve month live in program that many confused gay men go looking for answers to their "struggles"...

My only choice at this time was to either kill myself, or to leave Alaska and get into a live-in program. I remember one cold night running outside in such an emotional state of turmoil that I cried out to God to die. I asked why I was this way. The pain was unbearable, however I did not attempt suicide until I finished the live-in program at Pure Life Ministries. I had a feeling like I was going into a strict program, kind of like admitting myself to a jail. Little did I know what I would go through in the next year. But then again, I didn't care just what I did because my personal life was so unbearable.

So I sold my business, which meant selling most of my musical instrument collection and many other prize possessions... When I got to PLM [Pure Life Ministries] March 5th of 2005, I was a complete mess. I graduated in October of 2005 a completeier mess (if there is such a word!)

One [PLM] method is what they call a "light session" which the purpose is to shed "light" on someone that is perhaps walking in darkness because of their issues, like how they treat others. The moderator of the session got all of the students (guys in the program) in the dimly lit chapel to sit in a circle then with one chair that was supposed to be "mercy" or something like that, sat a man that they were going to try and break. We were told to say like three things that we saw this person doing that we think is wrong and we were to all criticize this person. I guess they have had some guys break down after all of these accusations. Thank God I never sat in that seat. The time that I was forced to criticize this man (who was a year younger than me) he ended up treating others even worse and he destroyed property and would go into rages and things like that. I suppose that man needed something different then a light session. We were also told to turn people in who broke one of the dozens of rules, and not apply the principal in Matt 18 about a private rebuke. If someone made a mistake, or appeared to make some kind of mistake, it seemed to be an opportunity to break someone down by backbiting and slander.

In the counseling room is where you find a lot of things that you will not hear from the pulpit. Some of the tactics were quite destructive, and at the same time, when I had questions about how things were done, or what my councilor really believes, I was made sure that I did not challenge authority, or I simply would not get my questions answered. The worst counseling tactic was to tell a suicidal person that suicide is the "most selfish thing" that I could do. In a crisis, I personally believe that would be quite counter-productive (and "counter-productive" is indeed quite an under statement)...

One young gay man was told to change his voice and talk lower. I was told to associate with certain men who were known to be straight. I was told not to talk to men or women at the workplace, and was forced to work in warehouses and factories because office type work had too many "temptations". We were told not to touch any other students, not even a handshake. If I had feelings for another student, I would have been severely dealt with like I saw other students punished. My councilor told me how he sharply rebukes any man for acting gay ("queening" for instance) and I grew more and more afraid of him and other staff. One time I was on the phone with my Mom and got to chapel on time so I thought. The spoken rule says to be there fifteen minutes early, and because of that I had to work a Saturday at the pastor's chopping and stacking wood. These "special assignments" were often used as punishments for various reasons. One time I had to move heavy rocks in the cold mud and rain to another part of the ranch.

.. One time while I was in an emotional crisis toward the beginning of my stay there, I was commanded to get out of this man's office and was called a "w-i-m-p wimp". I was also falsely accused for something deceiving and selfish in front of the whole group of students and humiliated. During one nervous breakdown in my first few weeks in the program, one councilor told me that I was in the "wrong religion" and as I remember, that statement had to do with something with the way I was acting, and trying to get some kind of help. I was so afraid to seek help when I lost control emotionally, I just had to get alone, like one time I spent a few hours or so at the top of a stairway in the dark, paralyzed with fear and depression.

During and after I finished the program, I was given some advice that made my life an emotional and financial mess. Although grads and some students seem to be encouraged to be independent, there is a lot of subtle pressure on these folks to submit all of their life's decisions to their councilor (accountability partner, boss, mentor, etc...) connected to the program.

. . While I was living in Anchorage, Michael Johnston's hometown (Johnston is currently the director of donor relations for Pure Life Ministries and is one of the top six key speakers for the ministry), I was pretty familiar with his ministry and listened to his radio show in the mid-90's. I was able to meet him on several occasions while involved with PLM but he seemed very closed and did not seem to want to talk. I also got some counseling from his ministry before it folded back around 2002.

This narrative of mine has only focused on two groups that I was involved with that did a lot more harm than good... I also tried to date women, and even took two expensive airline trips to the Southwest in order to peruse a potential marriage (so I thought). But even though there was much emotional, mental, financial and even harm to my relationships to my family members; I can say there were some good that came out of these things. The first thing is that I did undergo these experiences and am recovering (and yes as ironic as it seems, recovering from recovery) with this story that can prevent others from making the same mistakes as I did...

What was hidden from me was the fact that I can be gay and holy. I can have a committed Christ centered relationship with someone of the same gender. I can come boldly to the Father without guilt or shame of being gay. I can walk in God's blessings and the Lord's victory for our lives and receive the wonderful unconditional love that is for all people. I just wish that churches, recovery organizations and any other spiritual leaders confronted with this issue would make this option available for those who are kept in the dark about a life walking with God as a gay person..

Read Jason's full story.

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