An Open Letter to the City of Orlando

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UPDATE: Q Christian disseminated this letter directly to the office of Orlando’s city government, and after following up with local officials, District Commissioner Patty Sheehan corresponded with us. Having looked into the Freedom March, she stated that they booked the park’s bandshell with the intent to march to Pulse. They did not, however, submit their permits on time to perform the march. A gathering is still planned.

Mayor Buddy Dwyer’s Diversity & Equity Senior Specialist, Felipe Sousa Matos Rodriguez, responded to our letter reasserting the city’s commitment to inclusion and their partnerships with One Orlando Alliance and the Zebra Coalition.

In a statement on social media, the Mental Health Association of Central Florida endorsed Q Christian’s intentions in alerting the City of Orlando to the Freedom March: “Mental Health Association of Central Florida, as a member of The One Orlando Alliance, stands with Q Christian Fellowship to inform the public and City of Orlando - Government about September 14th's "Freedom March Orlando." This march is promoting conversion therapy for individuals in the LGBTQ+ community. Conversion therapy, especially for LGBTQ+ youth, has been heavily researched, and shown to create poor mental health outcomes for those who have gone through it.”

To the Orlando city government and elected officials,

We are Q Christian Fellowship, a national organization dedicated to cultivating radical belonging for LGBTQ+ Christians and allies.

Orlando prides itself on being a “city for everyone”. You have enacted local ordinances and legislation designed to protect the rights of your LGBTQ+ community, cultivating a safe and inclusive space for them to live, especially after the horrors of the Pulse Nightclub attack in 2016. We wish more cities around the country protected their sexual and gender minorities with the same level of concern and transparency.

We are writing to you to express our concerns about the “Freedom March Orlando” that is planned for September 14th at 1:00PM EST, to be held at the Walt Disney Amphitheater at Lake Eloa Park in Orlando.

The Freedom March describes their movement as “former homosexuals and transgenders sharing our testimonies and celebrating our freedom”. At Q Christian Fellowship, our members have far too much experience with the damage that can be done by organizations promoting “ex-gay” ideologies and conversion therapies premised on the false and dangerous claim that people must be “delivered from LGBTQ+ lifestyles”. 

You should be aware that The Freedom March possesses significant organizational overlap with anti-LGBTQ+ groups such as Equipped to Love, the Changed Movement, and Moral Revolution, which describes itself as “a company of radicals helping to define a healthy sexuality” in a “generation overwhelmed by conflicting messages about love, lust, and relationships”.

Each of these entities can be traced back to Bethel Church in Redding, California, a massively influential organization in Protestant Evangelicalism whose reach numbers in the millions. As recently as August 13th, Bethel Church shared story of a Changed Movement member claiming to have had her sexuality “changed” to its 443,000 Facebook followers and 676,000 Instagram followers. Kris Vallotton, the Senior Associate Leader for Bethel Church, tweeted on August 14th with the claim that “these former gay people are gathering by the thousands all over America to dispel the lie that you can never change.”

The message promoted by “Freedom March Orlando” represents a serious threat to LGBTQ people in your city, particularly youth. The Trevor Project, an organization dedicated to providing suicide prevention services to LGBTQ+ youth in crisis, recently released a national study on LGBTQ+ youth mental health. They found that:

  • 2 in 3 youth reported that someone tried to convince them to change their sexual orientation or gender identity. 

    • Youth who had been pressured to change who they are reported vastly higher rates of suicide attempt (23% vs 8%).

  • 5% of youth actually reported undergoing conversion or reparative therapy.

    • 42% of youth who were subjected to conversion therapy reported a suicide attempt in the last year (compared to 17%)

    • 57% of transgender and non-binary youth who have undergone conversion therapy report a suicide attempt in the last year

We have a responsibility to work for the liberation and equity of LGBTQ+ people, particularly vulnerable youth. The Freedom March tells the parents of LGBTQ+ youth that LGBTQ+ identities and relationships are fundamentally flawed and immoral, and encourages parents (and vulnerable LGBTQ+ adults) to consider undergoing practices which we know to be ineffective and harmful as the price of maintaining their place in their faith communities. 

Given the stakes, we are asking you to stand with your LGBTQ+ community by publicly disavowing Freedom March and their stated mission. While we recognize that the City cannot stop this organization from marching, you do have the power to speak out against conversion therapy, to pass ordinances or resolutions against this dangerous practice, or simply to again affirm your support for your LGBTQ+ residents exactly as God made them to be.

We recognize the significance of such a request, and should you have further questions, we encourage you to contact us at office@qchristian.org. We are happy to provide you with resources, information on Freedom March and their affiliated groups, and we invite you to consider partnering with Q Christian at our annual Conference for LGBTQ+ Christians and allies being hosted January 2nd through 5th in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

You can also read the stories of LGBTQ+ Christians who have found liberation, belonging, and the courage to speak up against repression and conversion therapy through our response to these organizations: the Unchanged Movement.

Thank you,

Nathanial Green
on behalf of Q Christian Fellowship

With the consultation including
Ralph Jones, Jr. (Public Information Officer for the City of Atlanta)

An Open Letter to the Members of CHANGED

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I’ve learned a lot from you in the past month. I’ve read your stories, heard your fears and struggles, hopes and dreams. I have been reminded over and over again what it was like to desperately desire God’s approval and to will every fiber of my being to fit the mold that was so seemingly easy for everyone else but me. To cling to the Word when it felt like I was barely tethered to the Earth, seconds from unraveling and never far from my own self-harm.

I remember what it was like to feel paralyzed by the prospect of losing the people I loved the most to pursue a life that I was told would ultimately lead to destruction.

I remember the demon of my same-sex attraction waking me up in the middle of the night, demanding my repentance and smothering me with shame. 

I remember being prayed over by friends and hearing them wage war against Satan and his armies, celebrating the victory of overcoming my same-sex attraction, but only to find myself struggling again.

I’ve heard your stories and I see myself in each and every one of you. You love Jesus and you want to live a life that is good and righteous. I wholeheartedly believe it.

When we first started talking about launching UNCHANGED, we decided that we would not shy away from confronting the institutions propagating ex-gay theology, but we all agreed that it was important to protect the individuals seeking shelter in the movement. Not so deep down we are actually the same.

We are the ones who have been called to be different. We didn’t ask for it and many of us pleaded with God to take it back. We find that the stories of our beloved heroes in the Bible often begin with an appeal to take away what God has set before them.

The courage it takes to tell your community about your same-sex attraction, knowing that they will ask for change in exchange for acceptance, is astronomical. You did it once and I believe you can do it again. This time however, you don’t need to change your LGBTQ+ calling to find love.

In the words of Amanda Cook;

“Allow Me to introduce Myself again
I'm the Love you used to think could not exist
I'm as sure as where you're standing and as free as the wind
You don't have to reach for Me, because this is where I am.”

If you choose to take the next step towards self-acceptance, we are here for you. We understand the sacrifice and risk it takes to come out a second time and if you’re not ready, that’s okay. We love you and we see you. UNCHANGED will continue to grow and expand its resources for LGBTQ+ Christians in the months to come. When you’re ready, you can come home. 

With love,