A scene from Shawn O’Donnell’s video from Truth Wins Out.
The organization Truth Wins Out (TWO) launched its “Talking Truth” internet video campaign May 24, so Americans can finally learn from the victims of “ex-gay” ministries how these misleading groups are ineffective and ruin lives.
The video testimonies paint an accurate portrait of “ex-gay” groups that teach client’s denial, while offering false promises about changing from gay to straight. The “Talking Truth” campaign also gives hope to those who are still ensnared in the “ex-gay” trap and lets them know that they can remain both spiritual and openly gay.
“We hope our videos will save lives and make it more difficult for Exodus to seduce young people with its fictions and fabrications.” said Wayne Besen, executive director of Truth Wins Out. “In our campaign, people will hear directly from the victims and see that these programs simply don’t work and can be a drain on time, money and self-esteem. We urge all former ‘ex-gays’ to immediately contact Truth Wins Out and tell us your compelling story on video, so we can continue to rescue people harmed by ‘ex-gay’ programs.”
For 30 years, Exodus International, an umbrella group for “ex-gay” ministries, has used fear tactics and propaganda to recruit victims. The organization usually relies on the testimonies of paid staff or political lobbyists to deceive Americans into believing the gay can be prayed away. The “Talking Truth” campaign will finally let people hear from the vast majority of clients — not those on a right-wing group’s payroll — who found that Exodus and other “ex-gay” organizations offer false hope.
“We are airing these stories on the internet, because this is where most vulnerable gay people will search for information about homosexuality,” said TWO Board member and Exodus victim, Rev. Jerry Stephenson, who appeared in a “Talking Truth” video.
In the first video — which is in the format of a public service announcement — Shawn O’Donnell, a victim of New Hope, an Exodus affiliate in California, warns those thinking of entering “ex-gay” programs that he wasted 10 years of his life and $45,000 trying to change. In a second video, O’Donnell discusses how members of his “ex-gay” group used to cruise the mall for men each Sunday, highlighting the ineffectiveness of Exodus.
In a third, similarly formatted video, Rev. Jerry Stephenson, formerly a Southern Baptist minister who now counsels “ex-gay” victims, urges others not to follow in his footsteps in dedicating years of their lives pursuing a cruel, mentally abusive hoax.
In a final video — edited in a longer format — Victoria Lavin discusses how she wasted 30 years trying to go from gay to straight. Her long journey included prayer, dating men, substance abuse and finally the realization while in recovery that she was fine just the way she was.
Truth Wins Out will add new video testimonies to its collection throughout the year. This ongoing educational campaign will look at this issue from many different angles and allow victims to help expose the “ex-gay” myth for the sham it truly is.