Straight Camp Teen Released

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According to reports from the Washington Blade, Zach Stark, the Tennessee teen who made headlines earlier this year by writing weblogs about his parents’ negative reaction to his coming out, is due for release from Love in Action, the religious facility that has been working to change his sexual orientation since the beginning of June.

Early last month, a Love in Action administrator said that two male teens in the program were both enrolled for six-week stints in the “ex-gay” camp, and last week in an interview broadcast on the Christian Broadcasting Network, Zach’s father, Joe Stark confirmed his son’s identity as one of Love in Action’s clients.

“We felt good about Zach coming here… to let him see for himself the destructive lifestyle, what he has to face in the future, and to give him some options that society doesn’t give him today,” Stark said. “Until he turns 18 and he’s an adult in the state of Tennessee, I’m responsible for him, and I’m going to see to it that he has all options available to him.”

Seeking comments, the Washington Blade spoke with a Los Angeles based psychiatrist who took serious issue with Mr. Stark’s intentions.

“It appears that both Mr. Stark and the LIA director’s public comments are highly defensive and indicate that their concern is less for the child’s well-being and more for their own purposes,” Paul Chimubulo said via e-mail. “The sort of homophobia they espouse has been shown to be rooted in anxiety and a feeling of threat. With the publicity this has gathered, the father’s internal anxiety and feelings of threat over his son’s gay identity must really be ratcheted up.”

Zach’s story has triggered global media coverage about efforts to change sexual orientation, about the “ex-gay” movement that supports these efforts, and about the conflicts that arise when parents have strong negative reactions to news that their child is gay.

Zach’s story has received national news coverage from ABC News and The New York Times and gay press and weblogs around the world.

As a consequence of the publicity around Love in Action, the Tennessee Department of Health began an investigation and notified the unlicensed group that it appeared to be functioning illegally and could potentially be referred to the county district attorney for prosecution.

According to a report in the Memphis Commercial Appeal, Love in Action executive director John Smid said that Love in Action would change its program to remain unregulated by the state.

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