The ‘Ex-Gay’ Movement Magnified in Latin America

Latin America Gay CultureExodus International, the U.S. network of Christian ministries prominent in the “ex-gay” movement, dramatically changed its position in January 2012 when Executive Director Alan Chambers announced that he no longer believed there was a “cure” to homosexuality. This allegedly put an end to the organization’s 35-year effort to “convert…LGBTQ people to heterosexuality through ‘submission to Jesus Christ.’”

However, a new report by the social justice think tank Political Research Associates,The “Ex-Gay” Movement in Latin America: Therapy and Ministry in the Exodus Network, finds that the global network remains divided in its stance on harmful “conversion therapy” for LGBTQ individuals, particularly in Latin America.

Authors Jandira Queiroz, Fernando D’Elio, and David Maas detail that Exodus affiliates in Latin America publicly distance themselves from active promotion of “reparative” and other forms of “conversion” therapy while supporting ex-gay ministries that embrace the therapy’s pseudoscientific premise that homosexuality stems from familial dysfunction. “Exodus Latin America’s manifestly misleading claim rejecting reparative therapy might relate,” they write, “to the increasing need of the Latin American ex-gay psychology movement to operate under the radar.”

Among the report’s findings:

  • The two Latin American affiliates of the Exodus Global Alliance espouse contradictory views on how to “treat” same-sex attraction. The leader of Exodus Brazil, for example, considers salvation through Jesus the only way to repress homosexuality, while Exodus Latin America still heavily supports discredited ex-gay psychology.
  • Living Waters/Aguas Vivas, an ex-gay ministry that still advocates a cure, is actively involved with Exodus Latin America. Ministries such as Living Waters/Agua Vivas may continue propagating harmful anti-LGBTQ practices inspired by pseudopsychology even as regulators take action against homophobic psychological counseling.
  • Some Latin American governments are unsympathetic to the ex-gay movement and have targeted both ex-gay psychologists and ministries under antidiscrimination laws. But not all share this perspective. Religious conservatives in the Brazilian legislature are pushing to reverse a psychological association regulation that restricts conversion therapy and argue against undue restrictions on their “religious liberty.”

As recently as 2010, leaders from Exodus appeared at history’s largest international gathering of evangelicals. In the preface, Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma writes that the “Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization,” the largest gathering of evangelicals in world history whose sanction provides mainstream approval, featured speakers from Exodus International and Exodus Brazil. The convention’s website still features Exodus Global Alliance ex-gay therapy materials.

Read the full report here.

In other Latin America LGBT news:

The Uruguayan Senate passed freedom to marry legislation Tuesday allowing same-sex couples to marry, making Uruguay nearly certain to be the 15th nation in the world – and the fourth in Latin America – where gay and lesbian couples can share in the freedom to marry. The bill passed Tuesday had been modified slightly since passage by the Chamber of Deputies in December, but those changes are expected to be easily approved by the deputies. President José Mujica has said he intends to sign the bill.

Evan Wolfson, president and founder of Freedom to Marry, released the following statement:

“Freedom to Marry applauds the people of Uruguay and their government for moving forward into a future in which all loving and committed couples can share in the freedom to marry and the meaning and protections marriage brings to families. Uruguay’s vote today to move past civil union to marriage itself, Argentina’s enactment of the freedom to marry in 2010 and the Mexico Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling last month in favor of the freedom to marry — citing the U.S Supreme Court cases of Brown v. Board of Education and Loving v. Virginia — all are inspirations and examples decision-makers here in the United States, including our Supreme Court justices, should swiftly follow to get the U.S. where it needs to be.”

When marriages between same-sex couples begin this summer, Uruguay will join 11 countries that have the freedom to marry for same-sex couples nationwide: The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland, Argentina, and Denmark. Three others have taken judicial and regional steps to allow same-sex couples to share in the freedom to marry in parts of the country: Brazil, Mexico and the United States.

Political Research Associates (PRA) is a social justice think tank devoted to supporting progressive movements by providing investigative research and expert analysis on the U.S right-wing. They expose movements, institutions, and ideologies that undermine human and civil rights, focusing on issues including reproductive justice, LGBTQ rights, immigrant and racial justice, economic justice, and civil liberties.

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