On July 10th, 2010, the Charlottesville (VA) Daily Progress reports on a local member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who operates a "gay-to-straight" camp in the local area which specializes in homosexual reparative therapy. Many participants report benefits, but there's been mixed reaction.
Rich Wyler (pictured above left) has spent eight years organizing private weekend camps throughout the country in order to help gay men manage and suppress same-sex attraction in order to return to the straight life. Wyler, the founder of the nonprofit People Can Change, has hosted camps throughout the United States and in England, including several in the Charlottesville area. More than 1,300 men have attended and participated in their the Journey Into Manhood camps. The program itself is not connected with the LDS Church; most of the volunteer camp guides are men from a multitude of belief systems who have fought same-sex attraction, unlike many other programs in the U.S. that are operated by religious leaders or professional therapists. Wyler himself not only has had experience with this problem, but was excommunicated from the LDS Church for a short period of time, then returned (the circumstances of his excommunication are not disclosed).
At present, participants pay $650 for the weekend, which includes everything except transportation costs. Of the approximately 45 Journey Into Manhood weekends, four have been held in the Charlottesville area. There’s a volunteer staff of about 20 and as many as 32 participants at each camp.
They specifically reach out to gays who want to change. Many participants attribute their same-sex attractions to childhood experiences; some were molested, while others felt shunned by male adults or peers. The program managers intend no disrespect to those who identify as gay and choose to live a gay life, considering them just as deserving of respect, and acknowledging that their path may be right for them. But Wyden founded the organization because the gay rights movement is too biased in favor of embracing the gay lifestyle as the only acceptable solution for those with a same-sex attraction. “Most of the gay world would say the only solution is to embrace it, accept it and live it,” Wyler said. “And if you’re married — you know — divorce your wife, leave your kids and go with this life.” Wyler also states that there’s a pro-gay bias by the American Psychological Association and other national organizations that have become leading voices in discussions about sexual orientation.
Sure enough, reaction by Dr. Jack Drescher of the American Psychiatric Association reinforced the notion of a pro-gay bias. Drescher said setting out to change others’ sexual orientation can be dangerous. When conversion camp participants fail to eliminate gay attraction, participants can conclude they are failures, or that God doesn’t love them enough, which could cause more emotional distress or suicidal thoughts, Drescher contends. “In a way, they are screwing with people’s heads,” Drescher said. “You have to be more careful, when you’re screwing around with people’s heads or their sex lives.”
But isn't psychiatry itself all about "screwing around with people's heads"?
One participant posted the following comment to the story (re-posted in part below):
Posted by SteveT on July 12, 2010 at 11:51 am
...I attended this weekend five years ago and it helped me tremendously. Some people here seem to think that if anyone has some degree of unwanted attraction to the same gender that they are “gay” by default and should immediately proclaim their homosexuality and buy rainbow stickers. That’s what the gay community longs for because it affirms their choice for having done so themselves. I have spoken with many people who proclaim to be gay and they have told me that they would not wish “being gay” on their worst enemy, and that if there was a pill to take that would change them they would take it. I have never heard a heterosexual person tell me the same.
The fact is that many people who consider themselves gay ALSO struggled with their unwanted feelings too, but ultimately gave up hope and came to the conclusion that there wasn’t any to be found – concluding they were “born that way”. So someone please tell me, why is it ok for some to attempt change but not succeed, but its not ok for others to attempt to change and ultimately accomplish their goal, at least by moving some degree in their chosen direction? My own personal thought about that is that people who succeed in pursuing their personal goals in this area are threatened and intimidated by those who have not succeeded, but rather gave up searching for hope. If you are one of those people, let me assure you that hope is there for you, you only have to have the desire to find it...
Other primary venues catering to gay Mormons:
-- Affirmation. Not formally affiliated with the LDS Church. Their mission is primarily to provide a forum for gay Mormons to associate with their peers. They include active LDS members, former members, and non-members. They do not promote a preferred method of dealing with homosexuality.
-- Evergreen. While not formally affiliated with the LDS Church, they sustain the doctrines and standards of the Church without reservation or exception. They offer help to people who want to diminish their attractions and overcome homosexual behavior. It is also a resource to their loved ones, professional counselors, religious leaders, and friends. This resource is likely to appeal primarily to gay Mormons who want to overcome same-sex attraction.
-- LDS Reconciliation. Also not formally affiliated with the LDS Church. Occupies the middle ground between Affirmation and Evergreen. Like Evergreen, it proclaims fidelity to LDS doctrine. But like Affirmation, its mission is not to promote change as the only option. LDS Reconciliation affirms the spirituality of gays and seeks to provide a safe haven for individuals with a Latter-day Saint background to discuss the gospel of Jesus Christ.