A Conference for Ex-Gay Survivors & Allies

What: The Ex-Gay Survivors Conference: Undoing the Damage, Affirming our Lives Together
When: June 29-July 1, 2007
Where: University of California at Irvine (Orange County nearly Los Angeles)

For Survivors:

Many LGBT people have had ex-gay experiences. We don’t always talk about them, but for a time they shaped a large part of lives and even today may affect the ways we see ourselves and the world around us. Ex-gay experiences come in many forms from dressing and acting in more gender normative ways to actually attending ex-gay programs or receiving therapy.

The reasons we pursued these experiences are myriad and often stem from the heterosexism we faced since early childhood. Also, some of us suffered from unresolved abuse, sexual addiction, low self-esteem or dysfunctional relationships and sought help in all the wrong places only compounding our problems.

As people who now embrace our sexual orientation and identity, we have not always had the opportunity to unpack that time in our lives when we tried to change who we were. Why did we do it? Why did some of us seek out help from “professionals” and why did some of us go it alone? What harm did it caused? What good, if any, came of it? How does it affect us today?How does this ex-gay past effect our current relationships with others and ourselves?

The Ex-Gay Survivor Conference will give us a chance to explore these issues, to meet with other survivors, to process our stories through art and talk and interactive workshops. For many it will give us a chance to find closure to a time in our life that we often keep shut up in the closet we once inhabited. It will also be a chance to share with fellow survivors the many ways we have moved beyond our ex-gay experiences to develop into the healthy people we have become and are becoming.

For Allies
Focus on the Family rolls into your community with their anti-gay Love Won Out conference which promotes ex-gay reparative therapy and “change” programs. Or through one of your friends you just find out that an ex-gay program has been operating in your community for years and you had no idea.

As a concerned citizen you wish to respond, but how?
Sometimes when attempting to stand up for decency and social justice, well-meaning allies to the LGBT community and to ex-gay survivors have unwittingly created further trauma to ex-gay survivors as well as complications in the delicate work of on-going activism. While many ex-gay survivors have appreciated the activist efforts and the outcry of allies opposed to the Ex-Gay Movement, some of the people most effected by harmful ex-gay experiences see that allies can play an even more powerful role.

Becoming an effective ally requires passion, commitment and a willingness to explore an array of issues as we dialogue with the people we seek to support. The Ex-Gay Survivor conference will bring together both ex-gay survivors and the people who care about them in order to look closely at the Ex-Gay Movement and the many ways we can respond to the harm caused by ex-gay experiences.

A special allies’ tract of lively interactive workshops will look at the history and ideology of the Ex-Gay Movement as well as specific strategies that allies can take to do something about the incursion of the anti-gay movement into LGBT communities and the homes of LGBT youth. Allies will also get to share the knowledge and techniques they have gained through their own efforts on-line, in the media, in religious settings and in the community.

You see the harm that ex-gay experiences have caused and you have a heart to do something about it. The Ex-Gay Survivor Conference is for you.

So, what are you waiting for, go ahead and register! Check out the schedule and for more info visit Beyond Ex-Gay.

This post has 4 Comments

  1. Jay on May 3, 2007 at 5:25 am Reply

    Or through one of your friends you just find out that an ex-gay program has been operating in your community for years and you had no idea. As a concerned citizen you wish to respond, but how?

    This statement, as well as others, concerns me, Peterson. You know I have a deep respect for you, and having never gone through an ex-gay program personally, I don’t have much to say about the harm that they may or may not cause.

    However, I do have friends who go to support groups, and even therapy (though none of it, as far as I know, is considered reparative). I respect not only their religious views (which are similar to my own) but also their right to self-determination.

    There are going to be people like me, who have chosen this path because it is what we honestly, genuinely, and strongly believe in. Just like you aren’t going to go away, neither are we.

    I’m just curious about your views regarding this. Are people with alternate views not supposed to state them? Are we not supposed to try to support each other in the walk that we have chosen? That, too, would cause harm.

    Again, this is said with huge amounts of respect for you.

  2. Peterson Toscano on May 3, 2007 at 5:18 pm Reply

    Jay, thanks for writing this comment. One of the most important messages I have to allies to ex-gay survivors (both straight folks and queer folks who have usually no personal experience with ex-gay programs) is that they need to be careful how they go about responding.

    You don’t know how many times I have had to explain to concerned allies why it is not in anyone’s best interest to picket in front of the private residence of Love in Action participants.

    Some folks mean well, but they can end up simplifying the issue and protesting the wrong people and confusing the issues.

    So that is the purpose of the allies’ tract of the conference, to give allies context and background into the issues from the perspective of survivors.

    I do believe that in our current culture where heterosexuality is the idealized norm and the rhetoric against queer folks is so high in church settings (and elsewhere), that most people who pursue an ex-gay life ultimately cause more harm to themselves and others than good that may come from it.

    Since launching bXg, we have received over 50 e-mails from people with these kinds of stories. I add to that the hundreds of people I have met these past few years with similar stories.

    As we say on the bXg site, “Certain people who currently identify as ex-gay say they are content as such. We don’t seek to invalidate their experience. For us such a lifestyle was not possible or healthy.”

    As survivors, for too long other people have told our stories and taken up the cause to “stop the ex-gays.” It is time for us to tell our own stories, to explore our ex-gay experiences, to consider what good if any came of our time pursuing change, what harm came and what we have done to recover from the experience.

  3. Jay on May 3, 2007 at 6:00 pm Reply

    It is time for us to tell our own stories, to explore our ex-gay experiences, to consider what good if any came of our time pursuing change, what harm came and what we have done to recover from the experience.

    Then I support you all in it and pray the best for you. Thank you very much for your thoughtful reply.

  4. ElliotManning on May 4, 2007 at 6:17 pm Reply

    Peterson, your work and your drive continue to inspire me. This conference is going to do something great for the entire LGBT community — I just know it. You’re a strong man, and the people coming to the conference are strong, as well, and I’m proud to be your friend and your supporter.

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