Every summer for the past four years, the National Organization for Marriage’s (NOM) Ruth Institute has invited college students from across the country to participate in its weekend-long “It Takes A Family To Raise A Village” (ITAF) conference in San Diego, CA. According to NOM, the conference is meant to prepare college students to defend “natural marriage” on their campuses by introducing them to a number of prominent anti-gay speakers and activists.
This year, NOM expanded its ITAF conference to include recent college graduates in their early twenties. Being a 24-year-old gay blogger who has spent the better part of the past two years tracking NOM’s anti-gay extremism, I wasn’t expecting much when I applied to ITAF’s “Emerging Leaders” program in mid-June. I’d spent most of the month publishing blog post after blog post about ITAF’s anti-gay “suggested reading” list, its roster of extreme anti-gay speakers, and its ties to a megachurch linked to the “ex-gay” movement. The application didn’t require me to disclose my place of employment, but a quick Google search of my name would plainly reveal that I was no friend of NOM. Jennifer Morse, the president of NOM’s Ruth Institute, had even specifically responded to a post I’d published about her. I saw my application as more of a joke than anything else.
So when I got a “Congratulations” email at the end of July informing me that I’d been accepted into ITAF, I wasn’t sure how to react.
Honestly, part of me was terrified at the idea of having to spend a whole weekend stuck at a NOM event with a group of anti-gay student activists. What if I was discovered? What if someone from NOM recognized me? If I attended, I ran the risk of being exposed – all alone – as an undercover “homosexualist” in a room full of the very people I’d been writing about for months