Monday, November 28, 2005
7 News Features: Straight Talk
It is a secret thousands of men and women live with everyday. Some choose to come out of the closet, but for many others, the struggle with their sexual orientation is a battle for life. Now, some controversial programs claim to help those struggling with being gay go straight. Lynn Martinez explains in her special assignment report -- straight talk.
WSVN--Their stories are similar.
Paul Osterman: "I was back and forth for 17 years, I was back and forth."
Jerry Stephenson: "Next thing you know I'd be out there again and going to another gay bar, and another encounter.
Their struggle, they say, being at odds the Bible.
Jerry Stephenson: "There was that constant, the guilt, the shame, the condemnation."
Paul Osterman: "I would fall back into homosexuality and I would realize that it was wrong and I would try to come back out, but I could not stop these feelings of homosexuality."
For years, Jerry Stephenson and paul osterman tried to fight being gay. Both south floridians - so desperate, they turned to religious based programs where they were taught to resist homosexual impulses. But the programs aren't just for adults. Paul and Kelly Rainville say they were surprised to find out their teenage daughter was a lesbian... Even after raising her with traditional christian values.
Paul & Kelly Rainville: "She was desperately pleading us for help."
The Rainevilles sent their daughter to a camp in Tennessee called Love in Action. Here, group leaders claim they can convert 60 to 70 percent of the teeangers who attend by talking openly about their sexuality.
Rev. John Smid: 'I recognize that we offer them the option and the opportunity to pursue what it might look like, to walk away from homosexuality."
Gerard Wilman: "We don't change people's attractions. My attractions has not changed. What we're trying to do is change people's behavior."
But the American Psychiatric Association warns these camps can be dangerous. It reports any program that attempts to alter a person's sexuality not only doesn't work, but can lead to depression and suicide.
Stratton Pollitzer: "And what these camps do is teach them to reject themselves and reinforce all the prejudices that they're already being fed on a daily basis."
Stratton Pollitzer of the Gay Rights Group Equality Florida also argues these camps fail because teens are forced to go there. She believes the only straight talk should have a very simple message.
Stratton Pollitzer: "The message is you are perfect the way you are. Love yourself."
Jerry agrees. His experience in one of these programs nearly lead him to commit suicide.
Jerry Stephenson: "You would walk away depressed, you would think, gee they can do it but I cannot. You can imagine the emotional, psychological and even spiritual pain."
These days, he's counseling men and women who are now facing the same fears and frustrations he did.
Jerry Stephenson: "That is what I want to share with people is that you can say yes, you can be homosexual and you can be a Christian."
Oddly enough, Paul is almost doing the same thing but with a slightly different theme.
Paul Osterman: "We offer hope to those who really want to come out of homosexuality."
Today, Paul no longer considers himself gay. But to help others, he publicly shares his story about coming to terms with his sexuality.
Paul Osterman: "I can say that yes, I am still tempted, homosexually, but it's like it has absolutely no power, it doesn't identify me anymore."
For these two strangers, one shared secret has resulted in two different outcomes. After going through the camp, the Rainville's admit their daughter is still a lesbian. Love in Action recently came under fire by the Tennessee Department of Mental Health for running a mental health facility without a license. Love in Action filed suit against the state.
For More Information:
American Psychiatric Association