Organized by national LGBT group Truth Wins Out, the “Lift My Luggage” protest will run from noon-1:30 p.m. Nov. 6 at the hotel, 500 Stevens Drive near the Philadelphia International Airport.
NARTH, which advocates for “reparative” therapy for LGBT individuals, will be in town for its annual convention Nov. 5-7.
Wayne Besen, executive director of Truth Wins Out, said his agency has protested NARTH conferences in the past and often selects a unique demonstration theme — such as encouraging protesters to dress in duck costumes for a NARTH meeting in Orlando to impress that the agency is comprised of “quacks.”
Earlier this year, former NARTH board member George Rekers resigned after it was revealed that he hired a male escort to accompany him on a trip to Europe, although Rekers insists he hired the man only to “lift his luggage.”
“We wanted to highlight George Rekers because what he stands for and what happened is something that’s much larger and symbolic of NARTH,” Besen said. “These are some very disturbed therapists who don’t publish legitimate studies and who are disreputable doctors. The main thing is that these people shouldn’t be taken seriously. We want to get out the message that these are therapists on the fringe who are just promoting junk science.”
TWO is encouraging protesters to bring luggage to the events — preferably pink — and is suggesting decorating the luggage with signs such as “NARTH=Junk Science,” “Ex-gay? No way” or “Rent Boy Rekers.”
Besen said the protest has drawn considerable support from Philadelphia-area groups, with sponsors like the William Way LGBT Community Center, Equality Forum and Metropolitan Community Church of Philadelphia. LGBT bloggers Pam Spaulding, Joe Jervis, Jeremy Hooper and Zack Ford have also signed on to support the event.
“I’m really excited that there’s been such a good community response,” Besen said. “Everybody’s stepping up and playing their part to make sure from every angle people understand that NARTH is not a legitimate group and that what they’re putting out there is not in the mainstream but on the extreme.”
Besen said that while the protest is meant to communicate to the general public the fallacies put forth by NARTH, he hopes they’re also able to reach those at risk of buying into NARTH’s message.
“The most important people are those who are searching for information, those with family and friends who’ve come out and who go on the Internet and read the promises NARTH is making. I think our message defines NARTH and frames what the issue is about, what they stand for, who they are and speaks to their real lack of credibility. We want this protest to be a way to define who they are so they can’t keep defining themselves as scientific experts.”
Besen said organizers will run buses from Center City to the protest, and details will be posted at www.liftmyluggage.org.
Jen Colletta can be reached at email@example.com.