That’s the appeal a group that operates conversion therapy for gays and lesbians is using to entice people to participate in a sports-themed weekend this month in the Philadelphia area — which local LGBTs and allies will meet with their own challenge.
Courage International, which offers services it says can help people overcome attraction to the same sex, will host its 13th annual Sports Camp May 24-27 at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood.
“For many men with same-sex attractions, childhood memories of sports competition can be sparse or worse, filled with shame and trauma,” Courage International’s website describes, terming those feelings the “Sports Wound.”
The weekend will offer sports such as softball, football, basketball and soccer for an “exhilarating, experiential weekend for men desiring to learn how to play team sports with encouragement, coaching and an abundance of Christian fellowship,” allowing participants to ”physically compete on the field while enriching their souls through a daily regimen of prayer, confessions, Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours.”
Activists from Peace Advocacy Network, however, are crying foul.
“The American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association and many other professional mental-health organizations have said not only that conversion therapy doesn’t work but that it can be psychologically damaging,” said Ed Coffin, PAN campaign director. “When you’re trying to convert something that can’t be converted, it’s going to have consequences. They’re working to make people feel shameful about what they call a ‘gay lifestyle’ and it’s something that we know can’t be changed.”
PAN issued an open letter to Courage last week, referencing statistics on the effects of conversion therapy and the misinformation disseminated on the organization’s website — such as assertions that same-sex sexual encounters can lead to “fatal” injuries and decades-old data on HIV/AIDS. The agency had not responded to the letter as of presstime.
PAN, a Philadelphia-based agency that promotes peace through advocacy on a variety of issues, including LGBT rights, pledged in its letter to Courage executive director Rev. Paul Check, to have its own presence at the Sports Camp.
Protestors will be on hand from 4-6 p.m. May 24 at the corner of Wynnewood and City avenues.
While Coffin said he doesn’t expect the demonstration to change the direction of Courage International, he hopes it can enhance the pushback from LGBTs and allies against conversion-therapy efforts.
“We want to make ourselves really visible,” he said. “It’s the Thursday before Memorial Day at rush hour at a really big intersection, so at the very least we’ll have thousands of people driving by who’ll see what we’re protesting and realize that something wrong is going on here. Overall we want people to see that this isn’t something that just happens in the South or the Midwest, but that it’s going on right here in Philadelphia.”
For more information or to participate in the protest, email firstname.lastname@example.org
or visit www.tinyurl.com/couragesucks
for more information.