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‘Ex gays’ hold rally on Washington Monument grounds

Speakers claim faith in Jesus helped them leave ‘LGBTQ identities’

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About 200 people gathered on June 5 for a rally to promote the misguided, debunked theory that gays can change their sexual orientation. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

About 200 people gathered at the outdoor Sylvan Theater on the grounds of the Washington Monument on June 5, for a rally and march to promote the debunked belief that people can change their sexual orientation from gay to straight through faith in Jesus Christ.

The event, which organizers called Freedom March, was led by an organization called CHANGED, which says on its website that it provides support for men and women who are sexually attracted to the same sex or who are “uncertain of their gender” who seek a transformation away from those characteristics.

More than a dozen people who self-identified as having changed their sexual orientation or gender identity spoke on the Sylvan Theater stage with a four-member band playing background music. A male vocalist sang religious hymns, creating an atmosphere of an Evangelical Christian church service.
“It is not about going from gay to straight,” said a man who identified himself as a minister named Joshua. “It is about going from lost to saved.”

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Among the speakers were Ken Williams and Elizabeth Woning, who were identified as co-founders of CHANGED or the “Changed movement.”

“I’m a father of four and I’m a former LGBTQ identified person,” Williams told the gathering.

Like many of the speakers, Williams offered a prayer in which he said Jesus Christ saved him and many others by guiding them away from “temptations” leading them to same-sex attractions they do not want.

“I pray Father that you would wake up the people that are supposed to be crossing this path this afternoon,” he said. “I pray that those that are trapped, those that are sad, those that are depressed, those that don’t know you personally, that you would have them get up from whatever they’re doing and come through here this afternoon.”

Williams added, “Would you offer a brand-new life to every person who’s confused about their identity, who’s confused about their sexuality, who feels that there are labels placed upon them that they can’t remove but don’t want?”

Organizers announced plans upon the conclusion of the speakers to walk from the Sylvan Theater around the Washington Monument grounds to the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool and back to the theater, where the event would end.

Among those attending the event as observers were Wayne Besen, executive director of the LGBTQ advocacy group Truth Wins Out, which since 2006 has waged public awareness campaigns opposing the “ex-gay” movement; and Jared Dixon, an official with Conversion Therapy Survivors, a group that provides support for people who have experienced what the group says were harmful effects of conversion therapy.

Dixon, who describes himself as a gay man in a fulfilling relationship with another gay man for the past nine years, said he entered conversion therapy back in 2011 as a 21-year-old college student at the urging of his parents, who raised him in a religious setting. He said the conversion therapy caused him to suffer depression that led to a suicide attempt.

He said he joined and became a member of the leadership team of Conversion Therapy Survivors, known as CT Survivors, after several years of therapy with LGBTQ supportive therapists who helped him fully accept himself “for who I am.”

Besen said he believes his group has been successful in debunking what he and other LGBTQ advocacy organizations have long pointed out – that attempts to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity through so-called conversion therapy or “reparative” therapy are strongly opposed as being harmful by all of the nation’s major medical and mental health professional associations, including the American Psychiatric Association and the American Medical Association.

Besen said widespread reports of how conversion therapy, including religious oriented “counseling” programs seeking to change people’s same-sex attractions have led to serious mental health problems, including suicide, led to the disbanding of several prominent “ex-gay” organizations, including Exodus International about five years ago.

But Besen said CHANGED, the group that organized the June 5 event on the Washington Monument grounds, reflects what he believes is an effort to revive the “ex-gay” movement through the use of sophisticated social media campaigns that he says will put many vulnerable people, especially young LGBTQ people, at risk.

“What we’re witnessing here is disturbing to me,” Besen said. “What we’re looking at is a slick rebranding and rebooting of the same toxic message,” he told the Washington Blade. “And they’re getting better at it.”

Besen noted that ex-gay organizers appear to have abandoned the “fire and brimstone” approach of denouncing homosexuality and LGBTQ people who don’t want to change and instead are expressing an outward “love” and “support” for LGBTQ people with the aim of leading them to become “free” from same-sex attractions if they choose to do so.

Many of the speakers at the June 5 Freedom March wore white T-shirts with a rainbow-colored design above the slogan, “Rainbow Revival.”

“So, we’re seeing a new and improved ex-gay industry right now,” Besen said. “And that’s why we’re upping our game too, in fighting them with our new campaigns.”

Besen was referring to Truth Win’s Out’s newly launched social media campaign to challenge what it calls a resurgent “ex-gay” industry.

“You can’t ‘pray away the gay’ and efforts to do so inevitably lead to denial, depression and despair,” Besen says in a statement released by his group. “Our videos will debunk the lies peddled by the Freedom March and other ‘ex-gay’ programs in an effort to educate and save lives,” he said.

Wayne Besen (right). (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)
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Comings & Goings

Umana named associate with Gustafson Guthrie Nichol

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Wolfgang Umana (Photo courtesy of Umana)

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected]

Congratulations to Wolfgang Umana on being named an associate with Gustafson Guthrie Nichol (GGN). He has been with them for more than five years and is currently its D.C. studio’s office manager. 

“I am honored to become GGN’s newest Associate,” Umana said.I have the glorious privilege of supporting GGN’s continuing dedication to progress, inclusion, social justice, sustainability, and beautification of the world we live in.”

Umana also works with NBR Computer Consulting as an LLC Computer Technician consultant. He has experience in social media, communications, outreach, and technical services, and provides a dynamic approach to the fast-changing world of technology. NBR Computer Consulting, LLC is a gay-owned business. 

Umana has also served as D.C. Army National Guard Director of Environmental Affairs and with EMS Consultation Services. 

He has his bachelor’s in Environmental Science & Public Policy, Human and Ecosystem Response to Climate Change, from George Mason University. 

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Capital Pride bids for D.C. to host World Pride 2025

International event draws thousands of visitors

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Confetti rained down in New York’s Times Square at Stonewall 50 WorldPride New York’s closing ceremony two years ago. D.C. organizers hope to host the event in 2025. (Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

The Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes D.C.’s annual LGBTQ Pride events, announced on Sept. 21 that it has submitted a bid to host 2025 World Pride, the international Pride event that draws thousands of participants from throughout the world to the host city.

The announcement by Capital Pride says its bid to host the event in D.C. notes that the event, among other things, would commemorate the 50th anniversary of D.C.’s first LGBTQ Pride event in 1975, which began as a block party near Dupont Circle.

World Pride is licensed and administered by the international LGBTQ organization InterPride. The World Pride events themselves, which usually take place every other year, are organized by InterPride’s member organizations such as Capital Pride Alliance.

The Capital Pride announcement notes that World Pride “promotes visibility and awareness of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ+) issues on a global level.” The announcement adds, “World Pride events include parades, marches, festivals and other cultural activities often enjoyed at Pride celebrations, along with other components such as a human rights conference and large-scale opening and closing ceremonies.”

The InterPride website says the deadline for submitting a bid for the 2025 World Pride has passed. It says D.C.’s Capital Pride and Kaohsiung Pride, located in the large Taiwan port city of Kaohsiung, are the only two remaining cities in competition for hosting the 2025 World Pride.

Ryan Bos, Capital Pride’s executive director, said InterPride was expected to make its decision on which of the two cities to select sometime in November of this year.

“A recent study conducted by Booz Allen Hamilton revealed that the annual Capital Pride Celebrations, during normal years, result in approximately $371 million in positive economic impacts to the region, a number that may be doubled if the organization is awarded the prestigious event,” the Capital Pride statement says.

The 2021 World Pride took place earlier this year in Copenhagen, Denmark. The 2019 World Pride was held in New York City to commemorate the 50th anniversary of New York’s Stonewall riots, which many activists consider the start of the modern LGBTQ rights movement.

InterPride says the 2023 World Pride will take place in Sydney, Australia.

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Va. county supervisors back resolution against ‘required’ pronoun questions

Unanimous vote in Stafford County allows school defunding

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What's Your Pronoun? review, gay news, Washington Blade
(Image courtesy of Liveright Publishing)

The Stafford County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution that gives it the authority to deny funds to schools that require students to give their pronouns and teach the 1619 Project and critical race theory.

The resolution denounces “the teaching of the 1619 Project and critical race theory (CRT) and related principles in Stafford County Public Schools,” and states the board does not support Stafford County Public School students “being required to identify their chosen pronouns.”

The approved document had been updated to change “requested” to give pronouns to “required.”

Republican Supervisor Gary Snellings told the board he brought the resolution forward, which passed by a 6-0 vote margin, in response to communication from parents. One supervisor was not present.

Snellings called critical race theory “racism.” He also called the New York Times’ 1619 Project published on the 400th anniversary of the arrival of enslaved Africans to the Virginia colony a “theory.”

Critical race theory is not taught in Virginia public schools, but a state law passed in 2020 requires local school boards to adopt policies that are more inclusive for transgender and non-binary students that follow, or exceed, guidelines from the state’s Department of Education.

Snellings said the problem with preferred pronouns was in requiring students to give them. He said that was not in the governing Virginia law.

“This (resolution) does not eliminate anything. It just follows state law,” Snellings said.

A Virginia court in July dismissed a lawsuit that challenged the Department of Education’s guidelines for trans and non-binary students. Equality Virginia and the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia were parties to the amicus brief in support of the protections.

“We are deeply disappointed that these adults made such a hateful decision for kids in the community,” tweeted the ACLU of Virginia in response to the board’s vote.

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