Pray Away w/ Randy Thomas
PRIDE
PRIDE

Episode · 1 year ago

Pray Away w/ Randy Thomas

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

So today, we’re doing something a little different on the Pride podcast. I connect with Anne Heche and Heather Duffy, hosts of the Better Together podcast, who introduce me to Randy Thomas. Randy, one of the subjects of Netflix's "Pray Away", was the former vice-president of Exodus International. Exodus was a nonprofit group under the Christian umbrella that practiced conversion therapy in attempt to change an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity, using psychological or spiritual interventions. Anne also divulges her own Christian-cult family history, with an appearance from her mother, Nancy Heche, herself.

Resources:

PrayAwayFilm,com

WannaTalkAboutIt.com

Be sure to watch Pray Away on Netflix! Your host is Levi Chambers, co-founder of Gayety. Follow the show and keep up with the conversation @Pride. Want more great shows from Straw Hut Media? Check out or website at strawhutmedia.com. Your producers are Levi Chambers, Maggie Boles, Ryan Tillotson and Edited by Sebastian Alcala Have an interesting LGBTQ+ story to share? We might feature U! Email us at lgbtq@strawhutmedia.com. *This podcast is not affiliated with Pride Media. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Straw media. I leave. Hello, is so cool to be back on your show. It is you, it is it is a momentous occasion for a heather and me, because you are our first second podcast, our first second appearance on for second appearance, and that's because we love you so much. So today we're going to do something a little different. On the pride podcast, I connected with Ann Haiti and Heather Duffy, the host of better. Together with Ann and heather the PODCAST, and through them I was introduced to Randy and today, I think we are all so happy to be here talking about a man story that deserves to be heard, a man story that is going out into the world right now. He is a life changer and and it then is site is said and it leader in the movement of making sure that you understand that your life is your own privilege and that you deserved to be loved for the you are. and His name is Mr Randy Thomas. So today we bring you the story of Randy Thomas. Randy was the former vice president of Exodus International. Exodus was a nonprofit group under the Christian umbrella that practiced conversion therapy, and conversion therapy is the attempt to change an individual sexual orientation gender identity using psychological or spiritual interventions. And, incidentally, all medical professionals have denounced this practice as harmful and it is illegal in twenty states. I want to stay two for everybody and for you leave, I because we are going to be talking about this. I have a very interesting connection to the story because my mother has been a part of conversion therapy herself. So we want to further the story by also including, as we get through this story, about Randy's connection with my mother, what is going on with exodus, as exodus has exited the planet and is no longer legal. So we want to talk about Randy's beginning in his life, why he started and began to understand that he wanted to be a part of a movement that would be conversion therapy, and how he got on the other side. I'm leave by chambers, and this is pride. Well, a little bit about my story. I you know, I'm fifty three years old and I grew up the sensitive kid. You know, while the other kids were knocking each other around on the football field, I was arranging fall leagues by color, which one one should do. I saw I was a different kind of kid. I was called all kinds of names. I wondered what Sissy was when I was ten years old. I definitely knew I was gay when I realized I wanted to marry both oohen Luke Duke. It took me a couple of seasons to figure out daisy. WHAT'S A cousin? There's some about those Dick Boys. But anyway, I wasn't raised in the church. We were nominal Christians because my grandmother was one, basically, but my mother or had been in the church when she was a younger person or a little girl, and she had instilled in her a very toxic theology about lgbtq pus people. So, at the age of eighteen, when she found an invitation to a gay Valentine State party addressed to my boyfriend and I, the first time I came out I got thrown out of the house. Well, I mean I I worked at the Game Lesbian Center. Now this is years ago, and the amount of stories that we heard about how prominent and dominant this is is a reaction the parents have to their children telling them the truth about their sexual well identity. Did you find yourself in that place Levi, are you? Are you familiar with this story among people that you the you know? Yeah, I actually had a friend, Graham, because I grew up in Arizona, and I don't know that you call him a friend, but he was in like the circle that I ran in and he was the subject of a documentary, and I won't say what it was so that you know he's not like...

...drawn more attention to it, but he was the subject of a documentary about conversion therapy, and so it's always been something that I've been aware of. I think I became more aware of it as I became more like in trench in the lgbtq plus community, specifically more intrenched in lgbtq plus media, because it's such a huge topic of conversation, especially today, as states like you mentioned are making it illegal while it's still going on, or it's kind of like going on under the radar. Are and I feel like it's one of those things that everyone's ready for it to be like something way in the past that you just like kind of remember, or some people barely remember and it's a figment of our imagination at some point, while it's still obviously going on in a lot of people are being subjected to all of the horrendous treatments that are considered therapy in that setting. Well, I think that is a I mean it is that's the goal and I think the way that we will achieve that goal is to more and more people who come into our lives that angels, that save us from the place where we think, because obviously we look at what happens to these young Lgbtq communities and, as heathers talked about a lot, we are looking at a survival situation where we want to encourage a more love and compassion for them because there is a very high rate of suicide. or well, it's evening that they did of national survey and found that lgbt q youth who experience conversion therapy were twice as likely to attempt suicide. So we would get you. It's huge, huge, which means voice is need to be heard more because when we talk about the stories and help, people are saved from that feeling of wanting to destroy themselves. He comes in many different packages and it came in a very unique one for our friend Randy with WHO saved him. Yeah, went down pretty terribly and she did come to me the next day, asked me to sit on the foot of her bed and she said argue a homosexual. And I always told my friends that if she asked me, I would tell the truth. If my Stepdad asked I would lie, but with her I was like yes, and she said you're dating and it's like, I have a boyfriend, and she lost it. She absolutely lost her mind and and she was the pillar of my existence. I'd never seen her act like that before. She told me I was dismissed, just inherited, get out the house, don't talk to your brother. You have an hour to get to pack up whatever you can and get out. And so I lived out of my car for three weeks and drag queen eventually took me in. We won't go down that rabbit trail, but that I call her my drag mom, now, my drag Guardian Angel. May she rest in peace, Mella, and I really see her as saving my life. So that's a tragic way of coming out the first time. And when I came out I was not a healthy person. I found I found the very dark side of the party seem really quick and developed even more. I mean my household had been abusive growing up in those types of things. So I got involved in abusive relationships, I abused drugs, I was not a good person myself, and so that all drove me to the bottom really quick and in one thousand nine hundred and ninety two I became I was searching for answers. I went to a twelve step program for a little while and eventually became a Christian, and unfortunately that led to a a I won't say the name of the Church, but a particular church that seems really groovy and hip and all this good stuff. But they had a special program for the gates and it happened to be an exodus or for a program, and I went into the meeting very skeptical, but because they were addressing issues that...

...weren't really even about sexuality, but like codependency and things like that, I was hooked. And so the hook was the legitimate issues, but they tied it back to this whole toxic view of lgbtq plus that you're that you're codependent because you're gay, you're a sex addict because you're gay. You know, it wasn't just you're just a human right with issues just like other humans. It always got tied back to being gay. So the Church and the church group become in kind of instant addiction because you're being seen, in, in in you are feeling, even though people are telling you you're not normal, you're surrounded by people who are like you, so it feels more normal than where you've been before. Well, I couldn't help but think they had all of these kids assembled. If only they had had them all together, because all of a sudden you recognize, like you said, you recognize yourself and others. But if they've only assembled them for good and support and which is what they really are, can you imagine the impact that would have had? Was this the first time you were able to kind of openly talk about your sexuality? Yes, and that's a very good observation because that was one of the the other hooks. So the first time I felt safe to really communicate my heart. Absolutely, I think one of the saddest things about what we just heard is that very common path of coming out to family and thinking like maybe this is going to be okay, this is my mom's going to react to a certain way, even though maybe she has some sort of, you know, beliefs that I know about. I think she's going to react okay, because she loves me. Yes, and not getting kicked out. Then you live in your car and then someone adopts you in some capacity and tries to help and kind of nurture you along and then, in his story in particular, is falling into like a partying scene. But I feel like that's a very common story that you hear from people who maybe not experience conversion therapy, but that negative coming out story. It's why when really young people reach out, like to the podcast on instagram or, you know, send an email and say like hey, I'm fifteen, I really want to come out, my family is going to freak out and I don't know if they're going to kick me out, there is some level of giving people advice like, unless you have a really great game plan for how you're going to handle that, if you're under eighteen, that can be so scared. Verry, I mean, I suppose he was lucky enough that he had a car to live in, as you know, as scary as that is, but so many people don't and then they end up living on the streets, experiencing homelessness at a really young age and of course, that turns into all sorts of things, ways to make money that they may not have, you know, thought about themselves doing before finding themselves in that position. But it is such a common story and so sad. Right. But it's not easy also to go into eave, a place, of course, where you're hurting, and this is, of course, where the churches open their doors to these kids who are not do not have the safety, and they think we can listen a little bit more to Randy and the truth of what happens once you are in a system that opens their doors to you and it feels like love, but it sure ain't. And this might be called the word manipulation. Yeah, the group that I was involved in really disarmed me because I was expecting the Bible thumping, Blue Hair, you're going to hal kind of manipulation and they didn't do any of that. The way they hooked and manipulated me into the group was the very first night I went they they didn't even talk about homosexuality. They talked about emotional dependency, and that topic just nailed me, I mean right here, because that was my core, that was my that was how I related to people. So it hit me where I was living and I'd never heard that and it really did help me as far as the emotional dependency is concerned. But the problem is is that they were infusing that stigma...

...and then in toxic theology within all of it. So while I was getting these morsels of life giving insight on emotional dependency, I was being taught to kill myself metaphorically and because I was gay and and so it was a weird mix, a weird mix, that is. That, that is certain. Is it is that good dichotomy, isn't it? Do you did something come to do ring true to you leave by in any way where you start to hear about these theologies that are going over in and it rings to the word? Does the word cult come to mind, or or hypnotism, or what? What comes to you, because your many generations younger than me? What well do you absorb that information from Randy? Yeah, I mean I definitely think that. Again, like we're talking about these like commonalities and people stories that have experienced conversion therapy, specifically with Randy, where in a way not that he sought it out but that he sort of fell into it as an adult person, right where a lot of kids, I grew up with that experience conversion therapy. Some of them were like their parents woke them up in the middle of the night and said, Hey, you're going somewhere, and they were driven to the middle of the country in the Midwest and left there at a camp essentially. So it with his story. It's unique that on it's not unique, but it's interesting that he kind of found himself in a room with these people and kind of have the option in the beginning to gravitate away from it. But it's this like illusion that they're creating of like, look, we're all the same and there is this exodus that you can experience to you just have to believe in all of these things we believe in and and we're going to tell you where they're right. That is the manipulation part right, as he said, like there was no bible thumbing, there was none of that. No, because it's like an indoctrination right kind of into a cult like mentality. When you were on the podcast the first time, you talked about your own upbringing being kind of culty. Right, it's only kind of called ty. I was born into a cult and it was a sex called and it was called First Baptist, which I really thought bease. Everybody asked me what it is and I noticed on some of the churches called First Baptist, because people ask, well, what's the name of your cult? Well, just this little thing outside of a you know, Auroralis or whatever. It was, a sex called we lived on the same you know, the same property and they raped us like what else was it? But in the name of God it was called First Baptist. Now, what the heck does that mean? Talk about confusing, and that's why my passion for this is so important. When I think it destroys people mentally, physically and emotionally for themselves. What what I is worse is that it furthers it on to their friends, their families and everybody else around him. It's the same contaminated disease. I think we're going to hear about this. Yes, this is exactly why I am even more, even even more bash and than maybe could be explained. I was. I was there, folks, you know, when I first came out the second time, I don't recommend coming out twice, just do it once. When I came up the second time, I don't know that I would have thought that but I watched the scientology docu series with lea remedy and I saw the Nexium Docu series and it hit me like every episode I'm like, okay, the circumstances were completely different, but the emotional manipulation, the language redefinition, the system of rewards and punishments, it was all the same. And so now I don't have a problem saying that I was involved in a cult because how it operated, in its dynamics and and everything just is a very good parallel. The circumstances were different, of course, but I would consider it a cult. It's definitely mind game and it's religious abuse and seven Hundred Tho people have been victimized by this conversion...

...therapy in some way, shape or form, and that's at the time that they were doing the research during the prey way of film. There's conversion therapy happening right now. HMM, seven hundred thousand. I just hadn't heard that term before, religious abuse, and I felt like it was a very bold thing for him to say. Now maybe I'm not even this is a phrase that gets bounced around a lot, but I had heard it and it makes so much sense to me. That's what it is. You're taking God and you're replacing this God with whatever you want to say to these kids who are vulnerable, and basically decoding the truth out of them and presenting them with a lie that they're not who they are and they don't deserve to be in they're not loved for it. Yeah, no, I don't know that I had heard that term before, but I immediately knew what it meant. Yeah, I mean like, yeah, one of those one of those phrases that you're like, Oh, I get this, I know what I'm exactly what you might know. So at this point in the conversation, Heather and Anne introduced another voice to the pride podcast as Mother Nancy. Heyes and hinted earlier that Randy and Nancy knew each other, and now you're going to find out why. A little history for the listeners about aunt's family, and we touched on it a little bit, but ann grew up in a very religious culty family and her father lived a double life. He was a gay man and kept that from the family and when he died of AIDS, his secret was brought to the surface. As a matter of fact, the day after he died of AIDS. The cover of the New York Times listed, you know, right there on the cover said called AIDS the gay disease. And so Anne's family, because they were involved in the church, was shunned and had to leave and move and complete life up people because of that. And Mom's answer to that was to dedicate her life to this movement that we're talking about. She has written books, she gives therapy to clients, she tours the country speaking on conversion therapy through religion basically, and the interesting part of this is that randy new ants mom. They were together in green rooms and you know, they were basically both working together towards the saying they were part of the leader cause. In put that in quotes what we had experienced and gone through, with my husband abandoning the family, deserting us, living a secret life, life of Deception and unconfess sin and addiction, that that our family would never have anything to do with homosexuality again. That seems like a perfectly reasonable assumption. I wouldn't even say the word homosexual and the second part of so. So I was angry with Anne about betraying that unspoken vow and I also was angry and and hurt that this seemed to be walking away from a commitment that she had made to follow the Lord in her younger life, and so it was a betrayal of a family promise and a betrayal of her commitment to the Lord. For anyone who doesn't know, and fell in love with Ellen degeneress in one thousand nine hundred and ninety seven, and the couple dated for more than three years. As you can tell, Ann's Mother did not take the news well. She thinks that it's the homosexuality that annihilated their family.

What annihilated the family was the lie, and therefore Anne is actually doing the complete opposite and living in truth. So I call most things that I was raised with the side you. You know, things are labeled a lot. The the thing that is the lie is buried in the things that are labeled are such bullshit you can't even believe. What I found funny about listening to that just then was and betrayed an unspoken truth. But that is an oxymoron, folks. You do not, you cannot. This is one of the things that's so important to me about defining there are no assumptions, especially within a family, especially within trauma and drama and lies adverse truth. You must be able to come to an agreement of understanding what it is. That's the agreement before you can betray it. That's just step one in communication. And it's interesting. You know your mother is very educated in the Bible and no is all the words that are written in it. Yep, and one of the things that I find with religion is that you can you can read something and twist it to any way. And this, you know, my mother bespoke with Faull. Well, this lie, that it permeates in and destroys what it is that is the truth, is the disease that I believe this is what we're trying to eradicate right now in our culture, if we can. But that's the first time I ever heard or, by the way, that's first time I ever heard that folt clip. The sexual sins that are in a family are really hard to exorcise. I'm called as a parent to be like the father and the story of the Prodigal Son that I'm I'm called to be all loving, all giving, all forgiving everything I have is yours kind of person, and not to measure out my love according to how somebody acts or what they believe. So I have I have the the truth and the Holy Spirit. I teach it all the time. So it's in me. And can I practice it in the moment? It's very hard and I don't have to live it right now. And so I'm aware that when I talked to parents or spouses or siblings or children who have just heard the news, that I have no unrealistic expectation that they can say, Oh, I'm all loving, all, giving, all, forgiving. Everything I have is yours. Another thing I teach is from sank and Corinthians that the verse Thunkn Corinthians Nineteen, that God is in the world reconciling the world of God is reconciling the World To himself in Christ, not counting people's sins against them, and he is given to us the Ministry of Reconciliation. So can I jump right into okay, I'm not going to hold that sin against you. No, I couldn't do that right away, I know, I just know I couldn't. And the third thing I teach is about the blessing, and I teach, I teach a lot about the blessing. People have heard that I write about that in my book. What I learned about the blessing is that the blessing means to ask God to interfere, not me, but ask God to interfere and take action in one's life to bring them into the right relationship with himself, because the blessing releases God's power to change the character and destiny of the one being blessed. This is going on right now. Leave. We haven't spoken since she did us, since she started this, I guess, seeking for God to interfere because she doesn't understand what love is. So does she still teach? This is still what she does? Yes, she still does it. Yes, this is what she does. This is her minisus three. So, unlike randy, she did not no, no,...

...she's not do she is not converted. She did not excit exodus. Yes, despite it being an illegal despite it being illegal, she's doing it. We did. She's grown up from beginning to end. Actually makes a lot of money from it and, by the way, she and my sister live in multi million dollar properties that have gained their wealth from preaching this lie. There is not one thing that I find more or more repulsive. Can you tell yeah, absolutely, because there's some there's some level of like, like you talked about religious abuse, right, there's some level of like believing something so much that you genuinely want to help people. Then there's another from exploiting it for that's a financial gain or whatever. Yep, and that's what it becomes. Right when, yes, you live in a very fancy house. Couldn't you change a lot of lives for the better? I'm talking Fancy House, I'm talking, I'm not only talking fancy the house, I'm talking he's six million dollar property in Michigan, as six million dollar property in Florida, and it's six million dollar property in Chicago, plus maybe more that they've made off their ministry. And, by the way, it's time to tell the truth, because you know what the truth does, ripple and triple and make people feel better because they understand that what they see is what it is. I want a little bit from Heather, because your friends with Anna's more than not better together than other. None of that, but your friends. Right. So you see the, I guess you should say the repercussions of people behaving that way or using religion and faith as this weapon, right, because you see it directly with your friend. Well, I first of all forget everything as a mother, as a mother, when I see what Anne's mom has done to her, when I see how Randy's mom reacted to him, it it. It breaks my heart and I don't understand on any level how a mother could turn her back on on her child. And for me, that that, that is just the paramount thing, that that if all of these parents had supported their children in a different way, the world would be a better place. I think that oftentimes you wonder what is the most important thing you can do to contribute to the world, if you are a parent or even a friend, or if you can show love and give love and give acceptance, and if everybody felt that, that would ripple and triple and affect the world. That's right. So is parents. It is such a responsibility to accept your kids. They they were born and made exactly as God intended them to. Takes correct. So if you're a Bible belter and you believe in all of that, then believe in that thing. God doesn't make mistakes, that's made people exactly the way he wanted them to. That's really how out how I feel about it, and I feel incredibly protective of Anne and I have a huge bone to pick with with her mother and it's just it's a sad story, but I like sharing these stories of people who have come out of it okay and is better for it. Randy is better for it, and I want people listening to remember and take notice of that when we come back the fall of Exodus International. Welcome back. In today's episode we're hearing from an Haitian, Heather Duffy, the host of the podcast better. Together with Anne and heather before the break, they introduced us to Randy Thomas, a gay man who went to great links to try and change his...

...sexual orientation. He became a leader of Exodus International, the largest conversion therapy organization in the world. But how did he get to be such an important member of the organization and why did he stick around? Let's dive back in and find out. Well, I started out as a participant, of course, and after about a year or two I've I found my voice, which is going to sound weird. Like when I grew up, I was never allowed to talk in the house. Well, after I got out in the bars and was doing the drugs and whatever, that's when I would talk. But when I was involved in the support group or the conversion therapy group. I found my voice and they gave me opportunity to share my story. And of course I'm in the I changed it to fit what would bring me the applause, because I was desperate for attention and apparently I can tell a good story, and so they would put me in front of different groups to share my story of overcoming and Freedom From and I eventually started teaching at the at the group, I started teaching at regional conferences and national conferences, and then the exodus office started asking me to do like local interviews with media outlets and things like that, and so I started to get a name within that circle. It's not something I'm product. It's very much I like a drug. I you know when people, when congregations, entire congregations, would stand up and class. That's numbing, it's addicting and it was something that I had never had in my life before. I've not had affirmation like that before. Eventually, like, I was always a true believer. I never had a moment where I was standing on a stage going I don't believe this, but I was always a true believer and I think that conviction and the ability to tell a good story is what propelled me into the regional conferences and then the national conferences and eventually joining the staff here in Orlando. That's why I moved here to join the exodus staff here, and so it was very much and numbing effect, of very addicting effect, but it was also killing me slowly. When I first moved to down here and join the exodus staff, I think I made like twenty four thousand a year and and which was very low at the time. But as I got promotions and things like that, I made a decent salary and I don't mind my saying because people ask all the time, the most I ever made there was sixty two and that's a really good living. I wish I made that now, but but it was never, I can honestly say it was never for the money. I mean getting the paycheck was cool, but I really thought I was called to it. So even if I didn't get the PAYCHECK, which I didn't for years, every all the leadership that I did at exodus, or I mean at the local ministry before joining Exodus, I didn't make any money and I had a second job, paid the bills job and then I would spend thirty, forty more hours a week doing the local ministry stuff. One of the questions that was running through my mind as we were doing this interview with him and ends up I was watching the documentary, is do they think is there at home at night and they put their head on the pillow? Do you think I'm gay still, you know, or is this, is this crap working or like, what is the thinking behind that? Well, I would always share about how I was in the process of changing. I never felt comfortable saying I was a full on raging heterosexual. I mean, look at me, all of this thing. Well, I'm working on being straight right. And...

...this is where they up and a lot of people get stuck. You know, when you would have struggles, like when I developed a crush on a personal trainer one time, you would have to confess, and so the the act of confession put all the power into the person you're confessing to, and so that that helped condition the brain to say, okay, I don't want to have to go to that person again, so I'm not going to think about it, I'm not going to do this. There would be all we love you, we're so sad that you developed a sinful attraction towards your personal trainer and it was like, you know, you grieve the heart of God, so let's pray that you for forgiveness for committing adultery against your God. That's really the nuts and bolts of him describing how this is supposed to work. is by just camping down and thought Dedi Long River. So It's child denial, denial, but it doesn't work. Well, it's been proven not to work. Actually, not only is it proven not to work for the people who are trying to do it, but the teachers who are teaching it it's not working for them either. This goes back to you know, Randy say. You know, you say the thing over and over and all of a sudden you try to start to believe it. Here's how it rolls, folks. Once you start lying, the lie becomes a lie. That's a bigger lie, bigger lie, big light. You can't damp in it down. You cannot deny it. Did you. This the only thing that you can that is ever going to redeem you. Between you and me, there wasn't a lot of honest truth going on at exodus at all. Period. Randy said, he started working there in two thousand and two and one of his first jobs for the organization was a bit unconventional. He was in charge of dealing with scandals because the staff at exodus developed a really bad habit of sleeping with their clients. Yeah, it's pretty gross. It got so bad randy started calling himself the chief fire put her outer. I had to report therapists all the time. I had to call the police quite a few times and there were even some therapists that I threw out at the networks. Now I'm conservative at this point. I'm a religious right I will call myself and that job because that's what I was. And even I am throwing out therapists from exodus because they're using their clients as guinea pigs. And even right now there breaks my heart some of the memories that I have a bet, but I would have to call the licensing boards and even local authorities and say we've gotten this report, blah, Blah Blah. And I was also in charge of making sure that if anything got out publicly, that we kindled it. Like this one person. He was caught going into a bath house and he was caught on tape, and so there was an activist threatening to release the tape publicly and this guy was freaking out, and so I did crisis management. I basically guided him through do not say anything, do not do this, blah, Blah Blah, and I talked to the activists and convinced that person to not release it. So I was the fixer in some ways and and it's a it's a regret that I have. I and that, but that was at the same time knit. Every single time it was just chipping away at that denial wall. You see what I mean? There was a lot that was wrong about exodus, even beyond the extremely harmful act that is conversion therapy. And after nearly forty years, the reign of exodus international finally came to an end. I helped close exodus in two thousand and thirteen. Another important pivot point was the two thousand and eight election, because the night...

...that Obama was elected the first time. At the time I wasn't happy about it, but I was very happy that probate had been struck down. Anti gay marriage amendments had passed all over the country. So I was talking a good game on social media about having one all these things, because we had traveled all around the country sharing our stories and I think it was that night, and I still get much not thinking about it, the Lgbtq plus community all over California just poured out into the streets. I had never seen anything like it before and they were showing scenes on the on the TV and I would see these couples just mourning and wailing and grieving and the anger and that still small voice. I'm still a spiritual person. There was a small voice inside of me as I watched and I got goosebumps everywhere and I said, how could we, could I have done that to my own people? And it was the first time I'd ever had the thought of these are this is my community. It was the first time I'd had that thought in years and it broke my heart and I just cried and cried for the rest of the night. And it speaks to the power of when you humanize an issue, are defeats stigma, when you get out there and you speak your truth and you show the truth and you stand up for the truth bravely, which every person who went into the streets that night did. It, that is the power to change hearts and minds. That's really tough to listen to, and I mean just so intense. Right. Yes, and I feel like it's something that, without other than documentaries, no one really has like a thought of like, Oh, this is what conversion therapy looks like, right. It's one of those things that you're kind of you don't really see it. It's not like to have websites where the like here's all the things we do. I mean they made, but you know, it's so firsthand to know what it's like. Why do you share your story? You share your story because the power of truth can change lives. It's as simple as that. Like you and in truth is more powerful because it's an addition and negativity is in negative. That's why I've always talked about positives and negative if you add to the truth, you can change people's lives, and that's what you're doing, Levi, and, as much as humanly possible, is what Randy is doing, and what I want to also just take a moment to understand the risk that it takes for these people to be coming out and talking and speaking out. I mean we've heard people do it with scientology. This is now being done on pray away the voices like Randy Thomas has who are saying I was the head of the industry. I was the head of telling people to lie to themselves and others about who they are. That takes strength and that is the strength of love and the importance of love is raining down through what exactly what you're talking about, the people who made the documentary, the commitment to making the documentary, Oh and the voices who are able to say, I used to do this, but I have changed my heart. So he talked a lot about how it started and kind of the motivations that drove him to being part of Exodus. But how did he plan and Exodus from exodus, or an exit from from that situation? He gets to a place where he just feels like his blinders have been removed and he sees things for what they are, and I think this is the best part of the whole story. Leading up to two thousand and thirteen, my boss, Allen Chambers,...

...had done three interviews with Lisa Ling and then those interviews he was confronted and asked really important questions and he confessed that he believed that if a gay person said that they believed in Jesus, that they would be in heaven with us and by the third show he was put in a group of survivors and they just lit into him and it really broke his heart. But because he had participated in those programs and he had softened his stance as far as you can be gay and Christian, it caused a civil war within exodus. We had we had over two hundred agencies and if you've ever heard of really terrible denominational splits, this was the nonprofit version of that. It was it was one of the most excruciating things I've ever been through, watching people that I had loved and respected turn on a dime. And so in two thousand and twelve I was tasked with because we were losing supporters, we were losing member agencies, we didn't really know what our messaging was anymore because we had determined that people weren't really changing and people didn't want to give to an organization that didn't know what it was doing. And so, as of vice president the time, I was already determining whether we should close or rebrand or what. But unfortunately, on January twenty eight I got a phone call that my friend Michael, who I had known since Nineteen Ninety two, actually nineteen ninety, had committed suicide and he and the reason why he did is because he thought that God was punishing him for being in a gay relationship. Some terrible things that happened in that relationship that was very unhealthy and wrong. But because of the ideology that we both ascribe to, that I was promoting, he felt like God was punishing him and and that ideology, that conversion therapy ideology, led my friend, who was a mensum member, who was one of the most funny, smart, beautiful men I've ever met, it by l led him to think that he had to commit suicide because God was punishing him. And so when I got that call, if you can imagine, blinders gone and I was just like this was Michael. You know, I wish I'd listened to the stories that had come to me before, you know, where people had told me similar stories, but I didn't. It took Michael. I could not excuse it away, I could not go into denial, I could not numb it, I could not comfort myself out of it. It forced me to take the most fearless moral inventory I've ever taken in my life and it crushed me and I realized that I'm going to do this report for exodus because it's already a decision on whether to close it or not. And when Michael did this, I was like I told my boss, I said Exodus has failed its mission, nobody's changing, and not only that, it is a tool of death and destrunction and it murdered my friend. So, whether the board takes this report and chooses to close exodus or not, I'm leaving. And he said, I've already come to the same conclusions. I want you in that meeting, and so we presented I he approved the report, we went into the board meeting and on June nineteen of two thousand and thirteen, the board unanimously decided to close exodus, not give it to somebody else to run, to continue the abuse, but to close it. And that...

...is a day I celebrate every year and it's the first day, it's the first day that I actually showed true leadership in supporting that decision and helping to shut down exodus. I fully believe that there will be young people, teenagers, young adults, parents, I know that they're going to watch this and I know that you're watching me right now. And what I would say is is that I know in your heart of hearts, you want to have permission to love your LGBT couplus child in a way that's life giving. Ex Gay ministries and conversion therapies do not give life. In fact, there are very small bubbles and what will happen is they will hook you in, as a shared earlier in the in the in the video, and they will redefine reality. But the truth is that's there. We live in a day and age where there is a huge Lgbtq plus person are community. There are pro gay affirming resources in the Church and culture and educational institutions. The Gay community has risen up. We're still rising up. We still got work to do, but we're here to help you. That's where we all started. We all needed each other to come out of that closet. And you are a beautiful person. Don't think for a moment that God doesn't love his lgbtq plus people. Those are all cultural driven redefinitions of God's heart. God's heart is for you to be exactly how you were created to be. You are created to bring relational beauty into this world with the identity that you know you have and with your sexual orientation. That's how you were created to bring beauty into this world. Don't let anybody steal your beauty, don't let anybody still your power, and there are resources everywhere. In the gay community, there are lots and lots of loving lgbtq plus men, women, Non Binary Trans were all here, just waiting for the gift of you to join us in our community. Adna, Amen, Amen. I loved that. I'm honestly so grateful that we had this time together to kind of go through the story one because I can get brought in more perspectives than me and just watching the documentary, which I am going to do, but also having that element of your own life experiences and has being so direct in correlation to his story to kind of help me see it even more and see it even more clearly. And even that moment where were we discussed your mom, Nancy, and the things that she still does, and your sister and and they're, I guess you'd say, connections to conversion therapy, really it, or adjacent elements of religion. Having that added insight is so invaluable and really eye opening. And and Heather, having your perspective was equally valuable because you're coming at it from perspective of a mom, which there are a lot of listeners who are moms. Well, we can't think you and never having a son. I think one of the things that we've dedicated ourselves to say let's be a part of a community for a healing love and living in kindness and yeah, we keep growing in our tribe and in together we are better. There's two links that have a lot of resources, the prey away filmcom and wanna wa NNA talk about itcom...

...pride is a production of Straw hunt media. If you like the show, leave us a rating and a review on Apple, podcast, spotify or wherever you listen to podcast. Be Sure to follow us on Instagram, facebook and twitter at pride and tune in weekly for new episodes featuring great stories from amazing queer people. If you'd like to connect with me, you can follow me everywhere at me by chambers. Pride is produced by me LEA by chambers, Maggie Bowls, Bryan Tillotson and Katon mcdaniel, edited by Silvana I'll Calla and Daniel Ferreira. Sound mixing by Slavana. I'll calla sorry mom, you're wrong. Get Out of my way, bitch,.

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