Researcher/writer for conservative Americans for Truth attends LGBT media conference
SAN DIEGO Californian Allyson Smith may appear to be an unlikely foot soldier in the culture war pitting LGBT activists against conservative Christians, but her motherly friendliness masks a potent religious and political fervor.
The petite blond, who is a researcher and writer for Illinois-based Americans for Truth, was the lone conservative religious voice at the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association convention in San Diego Aug. 30 through Sept. 2. She made no bones about the reason for her presence at the convention, which attracted 500 LGBT journalists from across the country.
“The purpose I went in there for was to see what the current trends are as far as the homosexual influence in our mainstream media and the tactics and strategies that are being used to advance the gay agenda within the media,” Smith said in a telephone interview after the convention ended. “As far as that mission goes, I wasn’t disappointed. I took away quite a few comments as far as tactics and strategies go.”
Smith’s presence was noted on the first day of the convention at a seminar focusing on LGBT media coverage of Republican causes, policy views and candidates. The moderator of the seminar, gay activist and author Wayne Besen, alerted the other attendees a “friend” was present.
In response, Smith introduced herself.
“I’m from the right wing,” Smith said. “I’m the opposition researcher.”
The collective attitude of the audience seemed to be, “Oh, OK.”
And that’s how it went for the rest of the convention for Smith as she sat in on seminars, including one called, “It Comes Naturally: Sex Writing for Fun and Profit.” She also joined the other attendees at meals and receptions, participating in casual conversations or discussing her political views if asked.
“Everybody treated me kindly,” said Smith, who also writes for a Catholic publication and does technical writing. “If there was any animus toward my presence I did not directly feel it.”
Smith said she had felt a little apprehension at the thought of being one against 500, but her concerns quickly vanished.
“I was told ahead of time it would be a professional conference,” said Smith, who noted she sometimes uses a pseudonym for Americans for Truth assignments. “It was professional.”
Besen, who wrote, “Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth,” said Smith is “nice,” but warned that her persona is deceptive.
“She’s sweet but a religious fanatic,” Besen said. “Her sole purpose of being at this conference was to demean and smear gay and lesbian people and to distort and twist everything that was said. That was her mission.”
Besen said Smith’s approach is typical of conservative religious activists.
“The most extreme right-wingers are actually very nice on an individual basis,” Besen said. “It is easy to talk to these individuals and say, “‘Oh, they’re friendly,’ and forget that they are just really trying to take away your rights and essentially put you in a cage by passing sodomy laws and having you arrested.”
But Besen said it was appropriate for everyone to be polite to Smith.
“By the same token, I’ve been to several conferences myself and people have been generally polite on the other side,” Besen said. “It’s a free society, and we’re entitled to have a different point of view and go to these conferences.”
Smith acknowledged she never forgot her mission at the conference, even though she claimed some people seemed to be attempting to reshape her views on homosexuality.
“From a Christian conservative perspective, the advance of homosexuality into the media as well as other spheres of society is, to us, alarming,” said Smith, who noted that her opinions have been shaped in part by the loss of several friends to AIDS, which she blames on homosexuality. “Although everybody treated me kindly and respectively, my inner feeling toward everyone is compassion and pity. I feel there is a better way than forming a movement and pushing for so-called civil rights based on sexuality.”
Smith said she and other conservative Christians fear the gay rights movement is making great strides. “I don’t think anybody denies that on either side,” Smith said. “Yes, we think you are succeeding.”
Smith said that when she went through the program and saw the list of attendees and the companies represented by them and sponsors she was taken aback.
“I was floored,” said Smith, who noted she found activist Larry Kramer’s complaints that he was dissatisfied with the progress of the gay rights movement to be even more astounding.
“I was incredulous upon hearing Larry Kramer seem to say that enough strides have not been made,” Smith said.
Smith said she and her associates oppose legislation such as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act because it would force LGBT employees upon Christian bosses who might not want to employ them.
“It would take away from our rights,” Smith said at the conference between sessions.
Would she want to attend the next NLGJA conference in Washington D.C. in 2008? Smith noted that she would have liked to have attended some of the San Diego seminars on honing interview skills and other general journalism skills but was committed to attending the events focused on LGBT issues.
“I thought to myself afterwards maybe this is more needed that we talk to each other,” Smith said. “We should talk more. Of course, if we talk more, we will try to convince you of the correctness of our position and try to win you over to it.”
Smith’s report on the convention will be available at www.americansfortruth.org.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 7, 2007