Anybody ever heard of the Evergreen Program? I never had, until after leaving the church. Apparently, it's a program that the church has set up to help those with same-sex attraction...stop being gay.
This is assuredly not as close to my heart as it is to some other ex-mo bloggers out there (Dad's Primal Scream and We Were Going to Be Queens are some notable examples) because I'm not gay. I've never struggled with same-sex attraction. The closest I've ever come to being gay is seeing an actor on TV and thinking, "man, I wish I looked like him...I bet he can pick up a woman with a wink and a smile."
However, I was raised in the LDS church, and as a result I grew up pretty homophobic. And even though I don't really get why a guy would want to have sex with another guy, seeing the kind of closed-mindedness that I grew up with still at large in society makes me kind of angry. I mean, when I cut my fingernails, I tend to chew on the clippings for a while. Many people would find that disgusting. But is it anyone's right to tell me I'm wrong to do it, especially when it's done in the privacy of my own home and hurts no one? When I go to work, would it be right for people to label me as a fingernail-clipping-chewer first and a good worker second? If I went to church, would it be right for someone to tell me that I need to stop chewing my fingernail clippings in order to be considered a member "in good standing?"
So now on to the Evergreen Program. I imagine that, if I had been a gay Mormon, this would have been one of the most insulting things I'd ever encountered. For this guy, it certainly seems that way:
"We all wish there could be a quick fix for homosexuality," the website states with condescending sympathy. Instead of a quick fix, Evergreen has broken the solution down into three "levels of growth." These levels, though explained in very detailed, carefully uninformative jargon, boil down to:
1. Understand the Problem
2. Make Changes
3. Attend Therapy
Truly an inspired program. The first level seems to mostly involve attending conferences and workshops (some of which cost over $100) and talking to other people who have dealt with the same..."challenges." Level two involves looking at your own behaviors and feelings and working to change them (including attending seminars). Level three is going to therapy with a psychiatrist who apparently specializes in changing people's sexual orientations--a profession that really shouldn't exist.
So, the bottom line is, if you want to stop being a horrible homosexual sinner...you need to pay through the nose to attend workshops and seminars and then pay even more to have a professional psychiatrist guide you through the lengthy, (expensive), continual process of "diminishing" your same-sex attraction.
If the church really cared about these people, they'd provide these services for free instead of building a multi-billion dollar shopping mall.
It seems to me that people must be driven to this program by desperation (you know, fears concerning the eternal fates of their souls) than anything else. I can't really find much on the website that can explain how the program claims to be able to assist these people. It's packed with a lot of professional-sounding, important-sounding mumbo-jumbo that actually means very little. If I were gay, and I were examining the website to figure out my options for overcoming my "challenge," I'd be pounding the desk with both fists and screaming, "BUT HOWWWWWW?!" I feel pretty bad for the people in these programs. I imagine they figure they don't have another choice and maybe they haven't yet considered leaving the church that's teaching them to despise the things about themselves that they can't control.
I'd be willing to bet that the Evergreen Program and its sister organizations do way more harm than good. And that doesn't seem right to me.