October 1, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 19  

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Gays can straighten out: group

By Laura Katsirdakis
Gazette Staff

When Focus on the Family decided to have an "ex-gay" conference in Toronto two weeks ago, they may not have expected to have protesters rallying outside the event.

The conference was entitled "Love Won Out" and promoted the idea homosexual men and women can switch back to being heterosexual, said Mike Haley, manager of the gender issues department at Focus on the Family, which is based in Colorado.

"The goal of the conference is to educate the Christian community in regards to homosexuality and to clarify what is truth and what is myth," Haley explained. "The belief that 10 per cent of the population is genetically homosexual is completely inaccurate."

The conference in Toronto sold out, Haley said. "We don't go into gay bars and solicit people; [the conference] is optional."

Haley noted he was homosexual for over 10 years before switching back. Citing a lack of a bond between himself and his father as a child, Haley said he switched when he realized homosexuality was not genetically determined. "The option [of switching back] should be available, but the gay community does not want this message out there," he said.

Paul Bowser organized the rally of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered students of the University of Toronto. "It wasn't really a protest, we intended to hold a rally to make people aware of what was going on in there," he said.

"Focus on the Family is using the 'ex-gay' idea to deny gay rights," Bowser said. "The ex-gay movement is damaging - people who are growing up with these ideas go through their lives being told that they should suppress themselves.

"[The ex-gay idea] can cause a lot of [psychological] damage; it's not viable to change who you are," Bowser explained.

"The Americans are scared to death of [Canada's] progress with respect to gay marriage legislation," Bowser said, regarding the reason for Focus on the Family's expansion to Canada.

"I think it is ridiculous that groups like this still exist in today's society," said Catherine Clune-Taylor, president of Queer Western Organization. "It is not possible to convert homosexuals into heterosexuals - they're trying to promote an idea of gender or sexual plasticity, when in reality they're just repackaging homophobia."



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