Sunday, 8 January 2012

Love In Action!!

This is a story about what happened a couple of years ago (2005). Every time I saw the prayers and  of George Michael's fans and and the many, many 'please get well George' comments in the comments section of the UK tabloids (yay!), the moving story of this American boy popped into my mind. What do these two people, a typical American teenager, and a British popstar almost thirty years his senior have in common? Being loved! Being loved by someone who has never met you, but who still wants to help in some small way. Because sometimes you just can't stay silent. Love is God. 

What do you think of when you hear the words 'Love in Action'? I'll bet you didn't think of young kids being locked away somewhere against their will, being robbed both of their freedom and the right to be who they are. And yet this is exactly what a 'Christian' organisation called Love In Action used to do. They changed a bit, they no longer hold teenage kids against their will, sadly the other part is still more or less true.

You see Love In Action was - and still is - one of those 'let's cure the gays' groups. All mainstream psychiatrist and psychologists agree that changing a person's sexual orientation is near to impossible. What you can do however is pressure or bully someone into changing their sexual behaviour (i.e. become celibate) and claim they have now left the 'sinful gay lifestyle'. Of course many of these 'cured' men and women become quite unhappy and self-loathing. What they certainly don't become is straight!

Love In Action thinks otherwise, they're honestly convinced they are turning LGBT kids into 'normal' straight people. And if you think this can only happen among the religious right in the old US of A, think again. Even here in the Netherlands there is an organisation who wants to counsel gays and lesbians who are "struggling with same-sex attraction". A colleague of mine was advised as a teenager to go for a consultation. She felt so bad she seriously considered going, even made an appointment. Fortunately she came to her senses just in time and refused to go.

Zach Stark, a 16 year old kid from Memphis (USA), wasn't so lucky in 2005. Unlike my colleague he had no choice, his parents forced him to go. The tragic thing here is his parents probably did this horrible thing out of love for their son. If you've been told all your life by your church that your kid being gay is literally the worst thing that could happen to them and that an eternity in hell awaits them, you do whatever you can to prevent that from happening. And so they brought their boy to the Refuge program for teenagers of Love In Action, even though he begged them not to. Before they left, Zach sent out an SOS on MySpace (remember it was 2005!) where people in their thousands saw it and reacted. The gay community, so often divided, sprang into action, together with many straight people.

What happened next you have to see for yourself, words cannot accurately describe it. Watching this video always makes me cry. Here is Love In Action - the real thing!

I couldn't find out much on the internet about how Zach Starck is doing today , and no wonder. If I'd been such a cause celebre in my youth I'd also keep a very low internet profile in my later years. Some sources say he's now out as a gay man. Maybe he is and maybe he isn't, it doesn't really matter. Wherever he is, and whoever he is with, I hope he is content with himself - and free to find love with a man or a woman. That's all any of us can ask for really, the freedom to be who you are.


  1. Great blog and a very moving film! Thanks for that. At the end I feel this all is not about the struggle of Zack or those other Gay men and women. I feel the real struggle is inside Zack's parents and the "Love in Action" officials. It should be our goal not to only support people like Zack, but help the real strugglers to overcome their fear.

  2. Thanks Takje:) For me the goal is to do both! It takes a lot of courage to be part of the group op Zacks of this world, and I take my hat off to them. Compared to them we have it so very easy in the Netherlands. So I feel they should be supported all the way.

    I also completely agree that it's mostly about fear with people like Zack's parents. When you hear that man talk about the false statistics his church has been feeding him, you want to comfort him and tell him it's going to be OK, really it is.
    What works is show, don't tell! Sometimes showing positive stuff, like showing that our lives are about love and happiness and not hurting anybody, same as theirs. And sometimes what works is showing them the bad stuff. Some parents only come to their senses when their kids attempts or completes suicide. Sad, but true.

    People who work for Love In Action and suchlike organisations are a bit more complex when it comes to their motivations. To be honest I'm not sure fear features quite so much. For some of them (not for all!) it's definitely a power-trip, for instance. I'll write about what makes someone in those organisations see the light at a later date. It's quite interesting what goes on in those organisations:)