Inside the world of ‘ex-gay’ preachers trying to terrorize kids into being straight
Christian ministers are hosting ‘help my child is gay’ seminars
A cottage industry of "ex-gay" preachers is targeting LGBT kids and their parents with attempts to trying to shame and terrorize them into rejecting their sexuality. Christian pastors are getting paid to bully and pressure young people into being straight – pastors like Sophia Ruffin, a youth minister who charges $60 to "helping parents and leaders understand the culture of homosexuality by gaining wisdom, and strategies on how to dismantle the strongman while loving your child back into his or her true identity."
She is one of many viral Christians leaders who, with a smile, tells parents their children are "perverted" – but she can fix it, if you pay her. This was a flyer she promoted on her Instagram in the run up to a paid webinar called, "HELP MY CHILD IS GAY?"
Disturbingly, it's a key part of Sophia's shtick to say that she was once gay herself. In her autobiography, From Point Guard To Prophet, she writes about how she was "delivered from homosexuality" after being out as a lesbian in high school and college.
Sophia describes how she was "exposed to the demonic seeds of homosexuality" as a child. She writes that after being molested when young, and neglected by her parents, she became gay.
It was only when a friend took her to church, Sophia says, that she had a revelation and rejected being gay. "God has delivered me from homosexuality," Sophia is fond of telling her congregation online. She became a preacher and offers a prayer to the readers of her book: "Father in the name of Jesus I come against the spirit of rejection that has opened the door to perversion, sexual immorality, and homosexuality."
She has continued on her crusade against young gay people, lashing out at them in books, vlogs and livestreams. In one of her books, she even describes being gay as a form of genocide.
"I want to give you strategies and minister that child or family member back to the light," Sophia says in a recent video. "Take strategies from the word of God on how to walk that person through deliverance… We need to go to the root cause of where that spirit of perversion has come from."
So what are these strategies typically like? Babe interviewed Sarah – not her real name – a survivor of "troubled teen" wilderness camps. She's now in her mid-twenties, working as a graduate student in Massachusetts. But when she was a teenager, she says, her parents sent her away to a camp in Idaho because she was "'embarrassing' them by being gay."
There, Sarah was subjected to conversion therapy, which she said consisted of being bullied and broken down. "One reason why conversion therapy is so harmful to people is not just that they're trying to change your sexuality, but the way its down is coercive," Sarah said. "That means you break other things to fix this one part of a person, often at the expense of their self-esteem."
An tactic Sarah remembered "ex-gay" therapists using was getting a young person to admit they were ugly, and then saying that was the root cause of their homosexuality. She explained the therapist's thought process: "Some ugly people might not be attractive to the opposite sex, so they have to turn to the same sex."
Sarah remember other variations of this strategy – she heard that butch girls would be questioned about the clothes they wore and called "intimidating" and "dominant."
It took Sarah around 10 years after leaving the program to feel comfortable dating women again. Other students she knew struggled with drugs, alcohol and suicide – the latter, she said, is a "huge, huge problem."
Many struggled with their families. After being forced by parents into sessions attacking their personality and sexuality, she said, survivors typically feel gaping abandonment. "Every kid relies on their parents for a sense of safety. So they feel abandonment in a huge way – and it hurts their trust."