Review by Chris Geidner
Rating: (4 out of 5)
Wednesday, 10/19/2011, 5:00 PM
Feature presentation, $5 at West End Cinema
FOR THOSE WHO have been out and online for a while now, This Is What Love In Action Looks Like is a trip down recent-memory lane. For everyone else, however, it is a powerful if limited-in-scope documentary about how one group of activists dealt with the news that a residential, ex-gay ”therapy” house was located in their hometown.
In the summer of 2005, ”Zach” became a name known to everyone as bloggers and others found and began to write about the Tennessee teenager’s MySpace blog posts detailing his parents’ decision to enroll him in Love In Action – the residential ”ex-gay” program.
As local LGBT activists began to protest at the site of Love In Action – and as the news of the program began to be picked up by mainstream media – one of the protesters, Morgan Fox, was there with his own camera. Now, with This Is What Love In Action Looks Like, filmgoers will have the rare opportunity to see the way the crisis of a teenager inspired a community of LGBT activists – and, eventually, led to the end of Love In Action’s inpatient program.
Fox talks with Zach Stark, other former enrollees in Love In Action’s program, the activists who protested at the site in 2005 and John Smid – the man who ran the Love In Action program through 2008 – in the film, painting a picture of the program likely to shock those unfamiliar with such programs’ methods.
In one striking – yet not unusual – moment, Lance Carroll, a former enrollee of the program, talks about how, when a session leader decided that Carroll was wearing ”inappropriate” clothing, the leader encouraged him to change by telling the entire group, ”All of the men need to do a femininity check.”
Although the movie focuses only on the success of the protest of the Tennessee program and thus misses the context that could be provided by further examination of ongoing efforts in the ”ex-gay” movement, Fox succeeds at his more modest task. He presents a poignant picture of the love in a community and the action that activists took to support a teenager who they saw was in need.