A group of men and women who claim they were formerly gay held a sparsely attended rally in the front of the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C. over the weekend.
The Changed Movement group organized the "Freedom to March" event, which they used to advocate for (what they call) ex-gay rights, against the Equality Act, and in support of what the religiously aligned group said was their right to the counseling of their own choosing, an apparent reference to conversion therapy.
"CHANGED has come to DC to appeal to Congress to focus on human dignity, not identity politics," Elizabeth Woning, co-founder of the Changed Movement, said in a statement on their website. "We are Christians with LGBTQ in our past. Many, like us, have changed. We left LGBTQ because we wanted to."
According to its website, the Freedom March gathered a "diverse group of Jesus followers who have been delivered from LGBTQ identities" for their march on the nation’s capital. Once there, members shared their testimonials, where they claimed they prayed the gay away or had left behind their LGBTQ+ identities for a straight lifestyle.
Video of the event showed an elevated stage blasting music while a few followers and passersby danced. While some wore masks at the event, many did not, but the lack of people in attendance meant that social distancing was practiced throughout the festivities.
One of the more controversial aspects of the group is its apparent support for the practice of conversion therapy. Conversion therapy is any set of methods or practices that seek to alter a person's gender identity and/or sexuality. They range from "praying the gay away" to torture. Evidence shows that these practices are not only ineffective, but result in depression, and even suicide attempts. The practice is opposed by a wide range of groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association, and American Psychological Association, as well as the Human Rights Campaign, Born Perfect, and The Trevor Project.
While the group does not explicitly support conversion therapy, on its website, the group claims "LGBTQ identity is subjective" and demanded their "right to counseling of one’s choosing" and saying current proposed legislation restricts "counseling for people with unwanted same sex attraction or gender confusion." The group also advocates for the "right to shape one’s own sexual identity without political indoctrination" as well as the right to express their contrarian opinions without being labeled a hate group.
If Saturday’s event was any indication, few seemed to take notice of the group’s advocacy. Most of those in attendance appeared to be just passersby stopping a moment to watch the mostly single individuals dancing around the near-empty area in front of the stage.
Video of the event posted to social was the subject of much derision, and caused one viewer to question the group members' LGBTQ+ bona fides.