“Ex-gay” speaker Chad Thompson’s lecture at Corwin Pavilion last night was advertised as a way to break down walls between Christians and homosexuals. Several queer students, however, had different thoughts.
Thompson, an evangelical Christian, said that as a teenager he discovered he was gay. During his roughly two hour presentation, he described the process of his overcoming his homosexual desires through the help of a counselor, his faith and other members of the ex-gay community – a claim which angered pro-queer rights activists outside and within the pavilion.
“If you are ex-gay because you think being gay is wrong and you have to be straight, then you are homophobic,” Jenny Beeson, co-chair of the Queer Commission, said while waiting outside the lecture.
Beeson, along with a few other members of the Queer Student Union and the Associated Students Queer Commission, handed out flyers criticizing Thompson’s views before the presentation, which was sponsored by campus Christian organization Real Life.
“I think tonight was the beginning of much-needed dialogue between the Queer community and Christian students,” Real Life Director Chris Comstock said.
Thompson talked about his life as an ex-gay and how it affected his perception of the queer community as well as the hate speech some Christians use to disparage homosexuals. He also discussed how his family situation as a child contributed to his sexual orientation, the way religion has helped him through life and his opinion on the possible existence of a “gay gene.”
“I think it would be cool if a gay gene were discovered because then God would get more glory when people are changed” Thompson said.
Thompson, who is in his late 20s, is the author of the book Loving Homosexuals as Jesus Would, the theme of his lecture. He runs a website, www.inqueery.com, and travels throughout the U.S. to give speeches on homosexuality and Christianity.
While Thompson said he believes homosexual actions are sinful, he expressed the need for love and respect of homosexual individuals, and discouraged Christians from using derogatory terms against queers.
“It is about unconditional love,” Thompson said. “We must acknowledge the social and political struggles of gays.”
Thompson said Christians have done an inadequate job of showing their love for queers. For instance, when he worked for the Iowa Family Policy Center he attempted to organize events focusing on love and concern for queers, to which maybe two people would attend. However, when he planned events in opposition to queer activists’ political goals, he would see one hundred show up.
Thompson also pointed out inaccurate media depictions of both Christians and gays, which reinforces distrust between the groups.
“Christian media shows homosexuals as demons … gay media shows Christians as [hateful] people, and both of these lies create tension between the two sides,” Thompson said.
While the presentation itself stuck mostly to Thompson’s personal beliefs, the question-and-answer session after the presentation had queer students asking for Thompson’s opinions on psychological explanations of homosexuality as well as on gay marriage.
“Anything that is done to add to the ambiguity of the traditional family has contributed to increased rates of delinquency, teen pregnancy and other problems in children,” Thompson said.
Thompson later said that this harm is not certain and may not occur in all homosexual families. He also said that he favors protections for ex-gays included in non-discrimination policies along with protection for gays.
“Chad didn’t say anything I hadn’t heard before,” said Chris Eberz, a member of the Queer Student Union. “In fact, he was probably more conservative than most of the audience.”
Ken Virzi, event organizer for Real Life, said Thompson addressed controversial questions fairly and respectfully.
“There’s always a possibility you might upset everyone, but I’m pleased that this talk wasn’t one-sided.” Virzi said.