Today was the second day of the anti-gay conference currently taking place in Uganda. The workshop started at 9:00 a.m. but with fewer participants than yesterday (about 43). The facilitators for the first half of the day were still members of the Ugandan organization Family Life Network, together with Don Schmierer, a member of the board of the American “ex-gay” organization, Exodus International.
The workshop started with a recap of the first day of the conference. Participants were asked to share what they had learned or what captured their attention. Kasha Jacqueline told me that the first participant had nothing else to say except, "Homosexuals are sick and dangerous." In response, she raised her hand and asked, "What disease was discovered yesterday that you claim they are suffering from?"
After someone claimed that homosexuality is unnatural, Kasha asked, "Who decides what is natural?" Schmierer responded directly to the second question saying that his role at the workshop involves teaching about family values; other facilitators would answer questions about homosexuality being unnatural later in the conference. For the rest of the morning, Schmierer continued with his teachings on family values and how to manage children in the family.
An ally and friend of the LGBTI community at the workshop told me, "The presenters want the participants to be vigilant about anything to do with homosexuality. The pastors and spiritual counselors refer to homosexuality as a ‘spiritual diversion.’ According to them, homosexuals are sinners in the community and should be embraced as such. They are sinners who need to repent. The counselors are willing to help homosexuals through confession and repentance."
A film was shown during the session before lunch featuring "ex-gay" Americans testifying about how they were "cured" of homosexuality. All described abuse and violence in their families during childhood and poor relationships with one of their parents. All were "born again Christians" who had "healed" from homosexuality.
Participants were shocked to hear such testimonies for the first time. They asked questions like, "How long does it take for one to heal from homosexuality?” and “Does it hurt?" One of the "ex-homosexuals" on the film testified that he had a poor relationship with his father. This led him to wanting to be with men looking for a father's love. After the film one participant asked, "If he was looking for a father's love from men, how did those relationships turn sexual? Would he have become sexual with his own father had they had a good relationship?"
Kasha was given the opportunity to ask the concluding question of the session. "All the people you show in the film are either ‘born agains’ or from abusive families,” she said. “Don't you have people from other religions or those that are not religious and from non-abusive families? My conclusion is that you are showing us what you want us to hear and not facts." With that, the conference broke off for lunch.
The afternoon took the conference to another level; the theme was “healing” from homosexuality. Caleb Lee Brundidge finally took the stand. Caleb testified that he himself is an "ex-homosexual." He shared the story of his “healing.” He did not have a very good relationship with his father and his “healing” came from inside himself. He realized that he was different from other men and decided that he wanted to be like others.
An LGBTI activist told me that Caleb was contradicting himself. "First he testified that he didn't have a good relationship with his father. Later, when a participant noted that there are a lot of homosexuals that she knows that come from great families and have good relationships with their parents, Caleb interjected and said that he had a great relationship with his father. That was contradictory!"
During the question and answer time after Caleb's story, LGBTI activists were not picked to speak. Denis, an LGBTI activist from Ice Breakers Uganda said, "It looks like they have identified the homosexuals in the workshop. We raised our hands but they did not pick us again. Kasha was openly asked to 'give other people a chance to participate.' That was strange because some of the people that were being picked to pose questions or comment had been picked many more times than Kasha or the rest of us had been picked. I feel annoyed because I had a lot to say that was based on facts and not lies."
Bishop Dr. Christopher Ssenyonjo shared the same sentiments. He said to me, "These people do not want to hear that there are other causes of homosexuality beyond ‘poor family values.’ They don't want to hear about genetic causes of homosexuality. I feel that they are destroying the family further as there is going to be more misery for a homosexual child in a family because their teaching refers to it as a disease, a sin and a loss of morals. As a student of human sexuality, I cannot throw away the genetic factor. I walked up to one of them and asked them about genetic causes of homosexuality. He told me that ‘studies are not conclusive.’ Especially if they are not conclusive, then there is another side."
Kasha concluded that, "People were really brainwashed today. At the end of the workshop, most participants had a sense of gain. They smiled, hugged each other in what seemed like victory."
Tomorrow Scott Lively continues with the anti-gay propaganda.
We commend the great job that SMUG and their LGBTI partner organizations are doing and we send them encouragement and strength for tomorrow.
Published on March 6, 2009 | OutRight Action International an LGBT human rights organization