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When Zach Gets Back

(Update: all links to Zach's blog removed so as not to contribute to more haters finding the place.)

The other day I talked about ol' Zach, the 16 year old gay boy whose parents have shipped him off to an Indoctrination Camp so that he may be "cured".

As I write this, the comment section of his blog [link removed] shows over 620 posts, the vast majority of them wishing the guy strength, pulling for him, sending him their love and support, etc. I've been skimming the posts, and at the moment I can recall only one that pretty much expresses the notion that Zach's parents did the right thing in handing him over to Brainwashing In Action.

It's a remarkable document -- one that I hope and believe will help Zach both emotionally and psychologically once he regains the freedom to which he is entitled. But, as I understand it, Zach will be getting out of his hell hole in a few more days and so I want to inject one note of caution here. It's true I'm probably just a worry wart -- always have been -- but I want to say something as a kind of reminder to all of us who have participated in the creation of this remarkable expression of love and support for ol' Zach.

I hope and truly believe that the result at the end of all this will be Zach emerging into the light of day, smiling kind of sourly and saying: "They never laid a glove on me." That would be truly great. But remember that Brainwashing In Action intends to make all of their victims into something that is somehow more "acceptable" to the parents of their victims.

We shouldn't kid ourselves. Just look at the rules that Zach posted for everybody to see. Brainwashing In Action knows how to do this stuff. First they take a kid who is already way scared, and angry, and vulnerable, and they try to strip away everything that makes him who he is, all the way down to the core. They want a blank slate upon which they can write their twisted messages, and they know how to get what they want.

My point is this... I don't believe it will happen, but if it does happen that Zach comes out of this thing "changed"... all of us who have participated in the creation of this remarkable document need to think what our responses are going to be.

Quite understandably -- many of us have said it outright -- there are people who have a genuine emotional investment in what happens to Zach. It's possible -- I'm not saying it's likely, but it's possible -- that some people will feel betrayed by Zach himself if he comes out of this thing "changed".

I'll say it again: I don't think it will happen that way, but if it does we need to think carefully, beforehand, about our personal responses to it. The last thing any of us should do is turn any anger or any sense of betrayal we might feel against Zach himself, for his having "changed".

This remarkable document of over 620 messages of support is about a single human being: Zach. It's about all (or the overwhelming majority) of us telling him he is all right the way he is. It is not about us or our feelings except insofar as we feel anger and outrage at this thing being done to Zach.

Whatever happens, we need to remember that we are dealing with one single human being who has been through the equivalent of a car wreck. At the moment, we are all more or less in the position of having gotten the phone call from the police telling us Zach has been in an accident and we are all racing to the hospital to find out his condition.

When we get there, we may find out he is perfectly fine, not a scratch on him. As I say, I hope and believe that will be the case.

But there is the chance that we will get there and find he has been injured terribly. If any of us were in that situation in real life, we wouldn't start in on him, there in the hospital, with how much he has disappointed us, or how angry we are with him, or how we feel he has betrayed us, or anything else like that. We would stand beside his bed and do what we could to help nurse him back to health.

I honestly believe he is going to be fine. But even if things don't turn out that way, I believe this document will stand as a powerful argument -- one that he can return to later on, maybe at a time when he is full of pain and doubts about himself, at a time when the brainwashing has begun to fade. This document will stand as a single powerful statement -- to a Zach either changed or unchanged -- that there are plenty of people in this world who will accept him -- who want to accept him -- just the way he is. If and when he ever truly needs this document, it will do everything it was intended to do for him. It will help him heal. It will help him be himself in defiance (if necessary) of the cruel and indifferent demands of others.

We have all created something that in the minds of some people is a very dangerous thing -- a testament to Zach's humanity and to ours. But we should never forget that there are people out there who think all evidence of our humanity -- not just of gay people but of everybody -- needs to be destroyed. That is why I have been re-saving all our words to a text file, every day, and am in communication with one of Zach's friends who can tell him how to recover them should somebody decide Zach should never see this document and so take steps to destroy it.

This thing will survive, and be available for as long as Zach might need it.

But remember: this isn't about us. It's about Zach and our support for him, just the way he is. If the immediate result turns out to be bad, we must remember to reserve our anger and any sense of betrayal we might feel for those who actually deserve our ire. Whoever that might be, it ain't Zach. It could never be Zach. Ever. He's the victim here in this particular place and time, not any of us.

If worse comes to worse (which it won't!), just make sure you direct your fury where it truly belongs.

Update: Please also see this.


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he'll just think he's changed tho. he'll think he's bad for being gay and that it's wrong.

then one day, he'll meet someone and that will overcome the shit they told him, i hope. Or he'll read something (one of the many comments?) and a lightbulb will click back on.

(i think he's tougher than that tho, and is not buying whatever they're telling him)

I hope it's as you say. He's under a tremendous amount of pressure though. I think this news conference Brainwashers In Action is going to hold is evidence of that.

The best thing would be if he has, more than strength, a tremendous sense of humor. If he can walk out of that place laughing at those people, he'll be fine.

And, yeah, I know a tremendous sense of humor is a power and strength all its own.

You are so right. I think it is something people should be prepared for. Although actually, I think it is more likely he'll come out mad than convinced. I had a boy friend in high school who was put in a drug rehab program that was a lot like this (for smoking pot, at the time he did nothing worse than that - he died of a heroin overdose at age 32 two years ago last week), in terms of being really into the brainwashing (but not religious) and he was not swayed by them at all. He came out angry by what they were trying to do. I don't know what to say about poor Zach. The blog he wrote made me cry and I went home and told my own teenage boys about it. Parents can really do some horrible things to kids.

Well, certainly any guy who comes out to his parents at 16, especially when he can't be certain of a supportive reaction, has got some grit. I hope he does come out of that place mad. What this democracy needs is a hell of a lot more really pissed off gay people.

He's already a tough, strong kid with tons of nerve--i wouldn't have had the strength or courage to come out at 16--and this whole thing makes me think that kids should wait til 18, for their own safety--they're owned entirely by their parents til then, and things like this whole thing can easily happen to them. I feel bad for thinking that way tho.

I don't think you should feel bad for thinking that. I think it's a legitimate point that, these days, needs to be considered. I have to say I've thought the same thing -- at least with regard to coming out to one's parents.

I think, and here's the part I feel bad about, in the future any kid still within the legal power of his parents should think very, very, very, very carefully about coming out to them. I think that's a damn shame. I know there are plenty of people who turn out to be gay who simply feel confused at 16, but there are also plenty of gay people who know at 16 just exactly what their particular score is. They could really use the help of supportive parents at that point, but now they really have to consider what sort of crap they are going to be letting themselves in for if they ask for it. That's what I feel bad about.

I think the default position now should be don't tell your parents until you are legally free of them (i.e., 18 or older) unless you are absolutely certain they will not make you pay dearly for being truthful with them.

The real shame is that I think the ultimate goal of all these brainwashing camps is to drive people back into the closet. And so it seems like giving in to them to advise kids to stay in the closet, at least to their parents, until they are 18... unless they can be absolutely certain of the support of their parents. But until such time as there is a widely available gay youth advocacy system in place -- something that lets these kids feel like they have a protective option to fall back on if coming out to their parents "doesn't go too well", I think you have to think about the emotional and psychological safety of the individual kid first, and under those circumstances probably the best advice really is for them to keep their mouths shut about it to their parents until they are free of them.

The kid should be able to think: "Hmm... if I tell them and they support me, that's good. But if they don't support me, they may tell me to go get brainwashed or get out of the house. If I don't want to get brainwashed, these other people over here will help me to stop it from happening."

But the time when something like that becomes possible, I'm sad to say, could be a very long way off. Parental rights are very powerful in this country, and can only be resisted under what amounts to criminally abusive behavior on the part of the parents. I'm afraid it's going to be a long time before sending your kid to brainwashing camp for gays is considered criminally abusive behavior in large sections of this country.

But, hey, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the ACLU or some similar outfit has a "team standing by" to help a kid defend himself from such behavior by his parents. I'd be surprised if they did since it seems we would have heard howls of outrage from the radical right about it by now. But maybe I'm wrong. I hope so.

This group sounds horrible, I am so grateful that I havent heard anything like this in Australia. In australia our politicians are bigots but a parent wouldnt dare do anything like this to their child (not in the big cities and 80% of the country at least anyway). I am 30 and I dont think I have heard a homophobic remark since highschool, a person making a comment like that would be shunned in melbourne, it would be like abusing a disabled person; it just wouldnt happen. Good luck people and come over here!

print out copies of his stories, now and when he comes out angry confused and damaged and post these everywhere. Let this be a lesson to all parents in the future.
Concentration camps warp and damage people, they dont cure them of being who they are.

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