2 min

Rural homos riled

Church wants to cure gay boys

GROWING SUPPORT. Mike Ondrovcik was suprised how upset people got over the video series. Credit: Xtra files

An advertisement for a religious seminar on how to bring up boys – in particular, how to bring up straight boys – has mobilized gay and progressive people in sleepy Chatham-Kent.

This month activists have been picketing the church hosting the seminars, bringing out as many as 20 protesters in a community with only a handful of openly gay people. They’ve also held a response panel on gay and lesbian issues.

“It’s something we weren’t going to let go,” says Derry Mc-Keever of the Chatham-Kent Social Justice Coalition, which worked with the Chatham-Kent Gay Pride Association on the picket and the panel. “This may not be a popular issue, but it’s an issue that has to be dealt with.”

The activism was triggered by newspaper ads in the local weekly, The Ridgetown Independent, placed by the Grace Bible Church. The church is hosting a six-Sunday video series on how to bring up boys, produced by US rightwing psychologist James Dobson. One of the topics is, “How to recognize and prevent pre-homosexual behaviour.” Dobson is the man behind the fundamentalist Christian group Focus On The Family, a group which spends much of its time attacking homosexuality.

McKeever says the church has a right to say and do what it wants behind closed doors, but that the implications of preventing “pre-homosexual behaviour” creates a hostile climate in the community.

“When you go public about preventing behaviour that is in our view not a choice you are leading to other activities in the community that are not positive,” like gaybashing and an increased suicide rate among queer teens.

Mike Ondrovcik, president of the three-year-old gay pride association, says they’ve tried to talk to the church’s minister about the ads, with little success. So they hosted their own public forum with speakers from Parents, Family And Friends Of Lesbians And Gays (PFLAG), a law firm, the local AIDS office and the association. About 30 people attended in the middle of the snowstorm, rivalling the numbers who have been attending the Dobson seminars.

“If that’s the least that happens, it will have been a success,” he says. “The biggest thing is thatthe straight community understands that we won’t stand forany prejudice.”

Ondrovcik, 47, grew up in Chatham and says that most queer people from there leave for Toronto, London or Windsor where there is more of a community. But in the last three years, the group has hosted dances, seminars and Pride events. The home he shares with his partner is often called “gay central.”

Xtra couldn’t reach the Grace Bible Church for comment.