The former leader of a religious-oriented ‘conversion therapy’ ministry called Love In Action that sought to change its clients from gay to straight has donated the ministry’s voluminous archives to the Mattachine Society of Washington.
Mattachine President Charles Francis, whose group specializes in collecting and preserving documents related to the persecution of LGBT people in the U.S., said the Love in Action archives provides a frightening glimpse into an organization that epitomized the now widely discredited “ex-gay” movement.
Love in Action was founded by Rev. John Smid in the early 1980s after he claimed to have changed his own sexual orientation from gay to straight. Under Smid’s leadership, the ministry moved from San Francisco to Memphis, Tenn., where it grew dramatically to become the nation’s largest Christian conversion therapy operation.
Smid resigned from the ministry in 2012 after undergoing a change in his own beliefs about the “ex-gay” movement and a reassessment of his own sexual orientation. By 2014 he had renounced much of the ministry’s fundamentalist principals and conversion therapy itself. Later that year Smid disclosed he had accepted himself as gay, becoming an ‘ex-ex gay,” and announced he had married his male partner.
“Smid’s archive documents a controversial, often traumatic, story that touched thousands of lives,” Francis said in a statement. “For more than 20 years, Smid worked for and operated the oldest and largest residential gay and lesbian religious conversation therapy ministry in the United States,” Francis said.
“Now defunct, Love in Action’s history could easily have been lost or destroyed. We are grateful John Smid wanted these materials to be preserved by our LGBT historical society for future researchers and historians,” Francis said.
Francis noted that a Hollywood film company just announced it will begin production this fall of a movie based on the book “Boy Erased: A Memoir of Identity, Faith, and Family” written by gay author Garrard Conley, whose parents forced him as a teenager to undergo conversion therapy at Love in Action in Memphis.
Actors Russell Crowe, Nicole Kidman, Joel Edgerton, and Lucas Hedges will play leading roles in the film, according to a recent announcement.