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Meet Zach - 16 Years Old, Gay and Trapped

Reported by Marie Therese - June 23, 2005

Newshound Editorial

San Francisco Pride 2005 will sweep through the City by the Bay this weekend, a few miles down the road from where I'm typing this. It is a big event in this neck of the woods, a splashy explosion of sight, color, sound and spirit that gets all-day coverage by local media. But, in another part of this country being gay and a minor gets you thrown into a prison that masquerades as a loving "refuge" where young adults are subjected to coerced intensive behavior modification techniques aimed at changing their sexual identity. One such young person is Zach. 16 years old. No last name. Just Zach. From Bartlett, Tennessee.

I think it's best to let Zach speak for himself. I don't think he will mind. No one has heard from Zach personally online since June 3rd, the last time he managed to get to a computer and post something. He's in lockdown at The Refuge, enrolled there by his parents who believe that he is damned to hell. But enough of my words. Let's hear what Zach has to say.

May 29, 2005

The World Coming To An Abrupt - Stop.
Current mood: depressed

Somewhat recently, as many of you know, I told my parents I was gay. This didn't go over very well, and it ended with my dad crying, my mom tearing, and me not knowing what I'd done - or what to do. It kind of.. went away for about a week or two I think. They claim it's because they didn't want to interfere with my last week or two of school.

Yesterday they told me that I couldn't go anywhere until I got a job. Out of the blue. Because I'm the most irresponsible child my dad knows - as he told me - mainly because I forget to unload the dishwasher sometimes... it doesn't matter that I have to clean up after my sisters and myself everyday. It just doesn't.

Well today, my mother, father, and I had a very long "talk" in my room where they let me know I am to apply for a fundamentalist christian program for gays. They tell me that there is something psychologically wrong with me, and they "raised me wrong." I'm a big screw up to them, who isn't on the path God wants me to be on. So I'm sitting here in tears, joing the rest of those kids who complain about their parents on blogs - and I can't help it.

I wish I had never told them. I wish I just fought the urge two more years... I had done it for three before then, right? If I could take it all back.. I would, to where I never told my parents things and they always were mad at me-- It's better than them crying and depressed cause they will have no granchildren from me. It's better than them telling me that there's something wrong with me. It's better than them explaining to me that they "raised me wrong."

Currently listening:
Hot Fuss
By The Killers
Release date: By 15 June, 2004

Monday, May 30, 2005

After The World Stopped, It Gave Me A Lot Of Rules.
Current mood: worried

Yeah, I was upset yesterday.. however I found an email about the rules and regulations of the program. My parents lied to me.. they told me (29th of May) that they didn't know what the rules were exactly, however, this email wasnt sent on the 26th of May. I see now why they "didn't know what the rules were." It's horrible.. they're posted below.. and I so worried. It's like boot camp... but worse. I obviously was not supposed to see this.. Seeing the bottom say "Parental Rules (not to be given to client)"

What is with these people...? Honestly.. how could you support a program like this? If I do come out straight I'll be so mentally unstable and depressed it wont matter.. I'll be back in therapy again. This is not good--

Currently listening:
Breakaway
By Kelly Clarkson
Release date: By 30 November, 2004

[COMMENT: The list of rules the Zach posted is staggering and reprinted on his web page. Click on the blog entry entitled "The World It Gave Me a Lot of Rules"]

Friday, June 03, 2005

Thanks.. by the way.
Current mood: numb

Thanks. Thank you for all of the comments and messages, they mean a lot. really. I was shocked to see all of this... of course I haven't been on a computer, phone, nor have I seen any friends in a week almost-- Soon. Soon, this will be all over. My mother has said the worst things to me for three days straight... three days. I went numb. That's the only way I can get through this. I agree, if you're thinking that these posts might be dramatized.. but the proof of the programs ideas are sitting in the rules. I pray this blows over. I can't take this... noone can... not really, this kind of thing tears you apart emotionally. To introduce THIS subject... I'm not a suicidal person... really I'm not.. I think it's stupid - really. But.. I can't help it, no im not going to commit suicide, all I can think about is killing my mother and myself. It's so horrible. This is what it's doing to me... I have this horrible feeling all of the time... I wish this on no person... I'm so satisfied--happy's too strong of a word the state I'm in-- that everyone's taking the time to email and write letters in complaint to these people. I dont know if it will do anything, but if something did happen it would be -- awesome.

It's been a week of torture - anger, and crying.
Current mood: worried

Hi. I'm not sure if I'm even supposed to be on. I ran away for a short while. I came back and they took everything from me, they don't want me to have outside influences-- i dont know how long im going to be on, because if tehy wake up, im screwed. The program starts June 6 and is until either teh 17th or the 20th. I'm sorry I don't have time to write back o all of the comments and messages. I'm just here to let everyone know I am still alive, I'm sure you've left messages on my cellphone, they took that.. and my keys... and the computer.. and I've been homebound. -=sigh=- I just need this to be over. Don't worry. I'll get through this. They've promised me things will get better whether this program does anything or not. Let's hope they aren't lying. I've been through hell. I've been emotionally torn apart for three days... I can't remember which days they were.. time's not what it used to be.

COMMENT

Zach has received thousands of comments, mostly from other kids, offering words of encouragement. There have been local protests in Memphis and his story is now working its way through the internet.

Love In Action's leader, John Smid, reiterated that organization's position: "I would rather you commit suicide than have you leave Love In Action wanting to return to the gay lifestyle. In a physical death you could still have a spiritual resurrection; whereas, returning to homosexuality you are yielding yourself to a spiritual death from which there is no recovery."

How can people like these say they represent the CULTURE OF LIFE?

Zach is at risk. Study after study has shown that the suicide rate for gay teens is substantially higher than that of heterosexual teens.

Guess you don't have to be a Gitmo detainee to be incarcerated and subjected to "coercive" techniques. You just need to be a gay teenager in Sen. Bill Frist's backyard!

To read more, go to Free Zach!, a site set up with information about people to contact and things you can do.

Acknowledgment
I want to thank our regular reader Kim Pb.D. for letting me know about Zach's plight.

Comments
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