Category: Beyond Ex-Gay

The challenges of coming out from conversion therapy

While it feels like ancient history to me, my long and winding odyssey in what was called the Ex-Gay Movement, still informs a lot of my work. I spent nearly 20 years trying to transform myself into a masculine presenting heterosexual. These days I regularly receive questions from people about conversion therapy. Recently a  friend of mine asked about a man he suspects has been through conversion therapy. Though married with children, the man has offered hints to my friend.

I think my friend is ex-gay

My friend is openly gay and wonderfully flamboyant. One would imagine an ex-gay would run the opposite direction. But the man keeps coming back.  They don’t talk about “gay stuff,” but there an important exchange happening. My friend wrote wondering if this person is asking for help. He also wanted to know what advice I could give in connecting with someone who has been through conversion therapy.

Based on my own experience and the many people I have met who survived or who are still in conversion therapy, I shared some thoughts. In this blog I am sharing an edited version of my response:

The Attraction and Revulsion of all things LGBTQ

People who pursue conversion therapy and ex-gay experiences have a unique experience; they are simultaneously drawn to and repulsed by LGBTQ stuff. They often live with internalized homophobia that radiates outward. While no longer receiving conversion therapy, the person may also live with all sorts of myths and prejudice towards LGBTQ people and LGBTQ communities. As a result they shun overtly LGBTQ spaces and events like Pride.

The folks at the Southern Poverty Law Center once asked me if ex-gay ministries should be considered hate groups. I responded: these programs are more like “self-hate” groups. Yes, they have done harm to the LGBTQ community, but that harm first comes to them and then spills into the world.

I find that even after people come out LGBTQ after a time in conversion therapy, they go through a period of uncertain allegiance. They no longer actively partake in the ex-gay/conversion therapy groups, but may maintain relationships with leaders who run them. It has been called dry gay relationship. There is still an affinity and draw to that anit-LGBTQ world. Like someone coming out of an abusive relationship, they can quickly come to the defense of their abuser when someone judges the abuser in a way that sounds too harsh to them.

Conversion Therapy Motivations and Harm

I wrote a piece some years ago about the various types of harm that come to those to partake in ex-gay treatments. It affects us in emotional, psychological, sexual, spiritual, and physical ways. It can also negatively affect our career path and relationships years after coming out.

Recovering from the conversion therapy process is complicated. Therapists need to take care to help someone understand what they went through. One of the most helpful things someone who has received conversion therapy can do is to determine WHY they have pursued this course. While this may sound like a simple question, often there are hidden motivations under the religious crust. I did a video about this that helps point out some of these less immediately obvious reasons, particularly to the person pursuing “change.”

If you can help the person to articulate why they are pursuing this, that can help. Sometimes I ask, “If you miraculously won’t up 100% straight and masculine, how would you life be different? How would this affect your relationships with family, friends, work, church? What differences would you experience?” This is a way to begin to get them to think what they are really after, and at the end of the day, it often has precious little to do with pursuing Jesus.

The Power Twins: Fear & Shame

Jacob Wilson, ex-gay survivor outside NARTH Conference

Finally, fear and shame often choke the life out of ex-gays and people involved with conversion therapy. This is true of conversion therapy survivors as well. This toxic mix makes it hard for folks to think clearly. In my experience it was like my brain had been removed and handed over to the church and sat pickling on the shelf of some pastor. The fear and shame kept me from accessing my critical thinking.

This fear also made me skittish. If someone came along to challenge my determination to “de-gay” myself, I ran away in fear. Fight or flight kicked in as I thought, “If I keep talking to this person, they are going to say something that will destroy my faith and my limited success fighting my gay side. Ultimately I will hell!” So when speaking with someone still in this work know that if you push too hard, the person may push you away.

Addressing Abuse

I ended my email to my friend this way:

You have experience with people who suffer sexual, emotional, and physical abuse. In many ways think of the person who endured conversion therapy as someone in an abusive relationship. That complicated world of abuse is wrapped up in many layers and have multiple negative consequences.

The best thing you can do is to be there for him and remain a gentle, safe, gay presence in his life. He will keep coming back. Hopefully one day soon he will open up.

There’s a demon in my underwear! Queer and Queerer Ep. 19

What’s worse than crabs in your crotch? Demon possession in your pubic area. This week Zack and I go where few gay male podcasters have gone before. (You will have to listen to the podcast for it to all make sense. Let’s just say, this is the scene they left out of The Vagina Monologues.)

Okay now the proper show notes:

She graced the pages of Glamour magazine. She stunned the nation on Good Morning America. She helped launch a movement (Beyond Ex-Gay) and NOW she is our guest on Queer and Queerer! Zack and I welcome Christine Bakke to the program. Christine is an artist, an activist, and an outspoken ex-gay survivor. As a lesbian who once tried to suppress and change her orientation, she now speaks out passionately about the dangers of treatments that try to “de-gay” you. She joins us to talk about the Prop 8 ruling, its implications for the Ex-Gay Survivor movement, exorcism, demon nests, and activist art!

Remember, send us your questions for episode 20! You can ask us ANYTHING.

The Queer and Queerer Podcast!

Listen to this week’s episode:

// Here’s some more information about what we talked about this week:

» Read the Prop 8 decision findings of fact in detail.

» The Slate Political Gabfest discusses the Prop 8 ruling.

» Meet Ryan Kendall, Ex-Gay Survivor and Prop 8 witness

» Details magazine looks at gay exorcism

» The APA’s Report on Reparative Therapy

» Be careful not to fall out of your RV!

Former Ex-Gays Speak Out & Continue to Organize

There has been lots of ex-gay related news the past few weeks.

  • A wave of news stories both in the US and UK gay and mainstream news centered around Bryce Faulkner.  It’s been well over a week since anything has been published about this story.  We all hope Bryce is well wherever he may be right now.
  • We have also heard stories of gay exorcisms in the US and in England.
  • The APA released their findings after spending two years looking at gay reparative therapy and concluded that it does not work and should not be attempted because it can likely cause harm.
  • And last week, amidst reports of financial difficulties, Focus on the Family announced they will no longer host Love Won Out, a conference that targets parents of queer and questioning youth and ministers who work with youth, and has handed it over to Exodus to run instead.

Phew! That’s a lot of news to digest. As an ex-gay survivor, I have been especially interested in the many ex-gay survivors, particularly folks in their 20’s, who have been telling their stories on-line and in the media.

In an article for Edge, Great Lakes Regional Editor Joseph Erbentraut interviewed ex-gay survivors Jacob Wilson (age 23, Iowa), Vincent Cervantes (age 22, California),  and Daniel Gonzales (age 29, Colorado).

Gonzales ultimately abandoned the teachings as he independently realized that his homosexuality was “neither something that needed to or could be changed.” He, as well as Cervantes and Wilson, now participate in a group called Beyond Ex-Gay, a network of ex-gay survivors who share their testimonials with hopes it will dissuade others from seeking harmful therapy.

“These programs are everywhere and so few people know they exist,” Wilson said.” For us to come together and be one voice saying that these ex-gay programs do more harm that good, telling people that you’re OK being gay and OK the way you are, I believe saves lives.”

Read the whole article here. Vince Cervantes has also announced that he will appear on the Tyra Banks Show in a program that will look at ex-gay treatment and particularly the awful world of gay exorcisms.

Some of you may remember the name of another ex-gay survivor, James Stabile, who dramatically got caught up into the ex-gay world with a fanfare of Christian media grandstanding his “conversion.”  Stabile eventually sorted himself out and shared his story of how he fell prey to anti-gay religious teachings. Now at peace with his gay orientation and his faith, he recently announced that he has started Love Actually,  a local support group in Dallas, TX for others who have been through ex-gay ministries and treatment.

“I thought, there has to be a place you can go if you have been in straight camp,” he says. “Somewhere you can be brought back into who you are and feel loved.”

It was an experience he really needed because, although Stabile identifies as gay, he says he felt like he didn’t quite fit in with the community after his experiences in reparative therapy, and after announcing he was straight on the Christian Broadcasting Network’s “The 700 Club.”

“I didn’t feel like I fit in the gay community, but I was not straight,” he said.
He says he found an online home at, where he first started to realize he was not alone, that there are many others like him who’ve been through the same process and “came out gay all over.”

“Love Actually is a place people can come to and know they are not alone, they are loved and loved by God,” Stabile says.

Read the whole article over at Dallas Voice.

Christine Bakke and I founded Beyond Ex-Gay in April 2007.  In addition to adding over 100 pages of content to the site we have  helped to organize gatherings for ex-gay survivors in Irvine, CA, Nashville, TN, Denver, CO, Memphis, TN and Barcelona, Catalonia. We are connecting with hundreds of ex-gay survivors in North America, Europe and beyond. Some of these feel it is important to publicly share their stories to serve as a witness of what they encountered and as a warning to others who are considering gay reparative therapy or ex-gay ministry for themselves or a loved one.  In so doing they are helping to reshape public discourse about these treatments and ministries.

If you have not done so yet, check out this Brian Murphy’s film about the first Ex-Gay Survivor conference which was sponsored by Beyond Ex-Gay and Soulforce:

The role of the Internet has helped tremendously in connecting ex-gay survivors with each other an in organizing our events and actions. I recently wrote in article for the Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide about the power of the web in regards to former consumers of ex-gay treatments and therapies (See ‘Ex-gay’ survivors go on-line.) In addition to our website, Beyond Ex-Gay has a Facebook group with over 400 members in it, most of whom are ex-gay survivors. Over 500 people have contacted us directly through our website, some still in ex-gay programs looking for answers and honest information.

Over the past six months Christine has made a special focus to create the Beyond Ex-Gay Community, an on-line social networking site specifically for survivors to connect with each other about their ex-gay experiences and their recovery from them. No doubt you will hear more about this effort over the next few months.

The next ex-gay survivor gathering will be November 20, 2009 in West Palm Beach, FL. Beyond Ex-Gay will organize the gathering as a pre-conference event leading up to the Anti-Heterosexism Conference, an event sponsored by Soul Force, The National Black Justice Coalition, Truth Wins Out, Box Turtle Bulletin and Equality Florida. This same weekend NARTH, an organization that claims that something is wrong with LGBT people and that they must be fixed through therapy, will hold their annual conference also in West Palm Springs. Last year several of us ex-gay survivors along with allies gathered in front of the NARTH conference held in Denver, CO as public witnesses to the potential harm that comes from gay reparative therapy.

I am especially pleased with the Anti-Heterosexism theme that Soulforce and the rest of the organizers have chosen for the pro-LGBTQ conference. In the discussions about gay reparative therapy so much of the focus gets stuck on religion. We have some who seem to think that the conflict facing a person of faith who is also attracted to the same gender is primarily and exclusively a religious conflict.   They maintain a stunning oversight of the vast heterosexist infrastructure that exists in practically every level of society–religious as well as secular exerting daily pressure on LGBT people to straighten up and be gender normative.

The belief that fuels much of the desire to go straight is that heterosexuals are more valuable than gays or lesbians or bisexuals. Heterosexuality is still presented as the idealized norm through virtually every institution, film, pop song, government policy and print or TV ads. In its simplest terms the message pumped out day after day is that Straight is Great! and anything else is “less than,” suspect, evil. No sexual orientation is superior to another. Being honest about who you are and your orientation and gender identity is great and worthy of support. It is also worthy of representation in the media, religious institutions, and public policy.

It is thrilling to see all of this organizing and speaking out by ex-gay survivors and allies. The power of personal testimony brings healing and it brings change. At one time when someone mentioned ex-gay therapy, the average person would say, “Oh, that’s crazy; it’ll never work. How silly.” More and more people have begun to realize that not only does ex-gay therapy not work, it is completely unnecessary and most likely is dangerous to pursue. Dozens of ex-gay survivors have told their stories on-line through videos, news stories and more. I have a feeling many more will step up to share their stories–why they went ex-gay/what the ex-gay world looked like for them/what good, if any, they encountered/ and what costs (emotional, spiritual, financial, etc) they incurred.

Beyond Ex-Gay Goes to Nashville

This year Christine Bakke and I have committed to organize regional events in order to connect with other ex-gay survivors as well as stand as witnesses to the destructive results that often occur from submitting to ex-gay theories and treatments.

So far this year Beyond Ex-Gay has partnered with local LGBT groups in Memphis, TN and Barcelona, Cataluña to put together series of events that has helped to educate the public about ex-gay experiences, their potential harm and the ways that people can recover.

One of my hopes has been to take part in existing LGBT conferences to add an ex-gay survivor track or presence to them.  Next month Christine and I will go to Nashville, TN to take part in the Our Family Matters Conference. The conference will cover many topics about faith and sexuality, but specifically the organizers have given us time to speak about ex-gay experiences and to connect with fellow survivors.

Tennessee’s Out & About paper ran a story this week about ex-gay survivors and the upcoming conference.

For nearly 20 years, Peterson Toscano underwent a variety of treatments meant to suppress his homosexuality. Two of those years were spent at Love in Action, a residential treatment center in Memphis.

The religious-based ex-gay movements are meant to straighten gays out but often do more harm than good, Toscano said.

“Right now, people in some churches feel that they must hide the fact they are gay for fear they will be thrown out,” Toscano said. “Many of us have tried to change, but instead of finding a blessing, the programs I attended nearly destroyed my faith and my life.”

Toscano will offer his unique perspective as part of the Our Family Matters Conference held Oct. 22 through 25 at Second Presbyterian Church in Nashville.

Launched as a live version of Kim Clark’s acclaimed documentary, God and Gays: Bridging the Gap, the conference will address questions related to the relationship between God and the GLBT community. The event will include a film festival, live concerts, national keynote speakers Jack Rogers and Rev. Deborah Johnson, and three days of workshops

Other presenters will include Mary Lou Wallner, who I first met through participating in the film project Fish Can’t Fly and Christian singer (and now publically out gay man) Ray Boltz.

On Thursday October 23 Christine, Darlene Bogle and I will take the evening to share about our ex-gay experiences and how we survived and now thrive as we worked through our ex-gay pasts. You may remember that Darlene joined two other former Exodus leaders in issuing a public apology for their roles in promoting and providing ex-gay treatment. I will also do excerpts from some of my plays including Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House—How I Survived the Ex-Gay Movement!

On Saturday October 25 we will get to meet with ex-gay survivors in a workshop setting which will give folks a chance to connect with each other, share their own stories and find strategies for recovery from the harm they experienced through ex-gay treatment and theories.

Since Christine and I will not be the key organizers  of the conference, we will have SO MUCH more time to hang out with survivors during the many breaks, meals and other sessions. Check out the full schedule and please consider coming to the Our Family Matters Conference!

November 7-9 Christine and I along with Daniel Gonzales and several local groups will organize a series of events in Denver, CO in response to NARTH’s annual anti-gay conference. We will host an art show, a performance, ex-gay survivor gathering and a summit for LGBT-affirming leaders. You can learn more about our Denver event here.

Another Ex-Gay Survivor Comes Forward

Recently over at Beyond Ex-Gay Christine and I posted three narratives of ex-gay survivors from around the world. One is from the US, another from South Africa, and the third is someone I met here in Malta. Each person has had different experiences, which reveals some of the diversity of ex-gay experiences. Also each one reacted and responded differently.

Each narrative deserves attention from ex-gay leaders and those who promote ex-gay ministries and reparative therapy as well as from those of us concerned about the impact of these initiatives to alter someone’s sexuality, especially when it is done in the name of religion.

Many of those who partake in these ex-gay efforts suffer silently for years. In the promotional material and the testimonies offered by groups like NARTH, Exodus and others, we only hear part of the story. The reality is that the vast majority of people who attempt to go ex-gay find it is not realistic or necessary. In coming to those conclusions many realize they not only expended a lot of time and money, they also incurred damage to themselves and others.

Today I will highlight one of these stories, and later this week I will present the others. You can see a full listing of ex-gay survivor narratives here. (We currently have 25 posted, and have received at least that many that we have not yet posted. Writing these narratives takes time and can be traumatic, so we like people to work on them at their own pace and wait a bit before we publish them to make sure they are ready.)

Paul, in the USA bravely shares about his own struggles with anonymous sexual encounters as well as his marriage and his attempts to turn away from his gay desires. In his narrative Paul writes,

At 21 I married a Christian girl who I had known since high school. She was a member of the same church I attended, and had been present at the time when I had “confessed” my attraction to guys a few years earlier. A couple of weeks after we were married, I told my new wife that I continued to struggle with attraction to men. I quickly assured her that God was certainly going to fix me, not to worry. Naively, I figured she would become my ally in the struggle. Instead, she was only devastated. We were kids in a world that didn’t talk of such things, so we didn’t talk of it again after that. I realized again that I was still alone.

The struggles continued and for a time Paul and his wife separated but then they decided to try once again with the marriage, but the troubles remained and then worsened. Paul also internalized the struggle and blamed himself for the failures.

Within a short period of our reuniting, I realized that I wasn’t “over” anything. My attraction to men was right where I had left it, with all it’s former strength. I was angry and ashamed of my failing God and my wife. I could not understand why I couldn’t win this fight and control my attraction to men. I did not understand why God would not help me resist this but I figured I must be doing something wrong, I just hadn’t figured out what that something was yet. I had to retain my faith. I believed God was going to give me the key to freedom, I just had to fight as best I could in the meantime and wait for God to answer my daily prayers (okay, by this time prayer had turned to pleading) and help.

Meanwhile, I forged a chain. I discovered places where I could get anonymous sex and began to frequent those places. I continued to fight my desires, begging God to help me resist my feelings, I even ‘succeeded’ much more than I failed. For every time I failed, I resisted my desires several times first. But honestly, my “success” was just a delaying of the inevitable. I never got past my feelings, they never lessened. Still, I believed in a God who was going to help me, I had to maintain my ‘faith’ in one “called alongside to help.” At best I would resist my desires for a couple of months, and normally I didn’t do that well.

The act of suppressing his gay desires and defining them as wrong and sinful had a negative effect in Paul’s life.

I found I could not control myself, and thought of myself as addicted. This was hard to admit to myself because it violated my faith. I believed “if God be for you, who can be against you?” Not even my self could win against me if God was for me. My “fixes” would quiet my craving for awhile. Just like a drug “fix,” this behavior was slowly killing me. Guilt, shame and self loathing were my constant companions. I could not shake them because I could not stop the behavior that caused them. I believe the lies I told to cover my behavior did even more destruction than the cheap, quick, physical acts. I craved a relationship with a guy that included a romantic emotional bond, not just sex. But, I didn’t believe such a thing could be, because that was “sin.” On top of that, I was married and didn’t want to hurt my wife.

Paul eventually turned to an Exodus ex-gay ministry for help and continued on in his struggle for years. The only one in his area was run by a Mormon and although Paul’s Christian faith branded Mormonism as outside of Christianity as he understood it, the ministry was approved by Exodus. After a time Paul got into legal trouble because of anonymous sexual activities.

In 1998 I got arrested for soliciting an undercover police officer for sex, I was charged with a felony and rode hand cuffed in a police car. They finger printed me and took mug shots. I felt utterly alone and gutted. I went running back to Exodus. I felt surely that getting arrested was that “bottom” I had to hit, how low could I go? Now I was a criminal. I had gone below hitting bottom. I had been instructed by Exodus ministries that being gay is just like alcoholism or drug addiction. So I hoped this must be my “bottom,” though “God” and I both knew how low I had felt most of my life. I could not understand how I could feel so shameful for so long, how I could hate myself and still do these things.

How could I want to change for so long and not be able to do so if what I am is wrong? No one else could answer these questions for me either. I was simply told I needed to keep at it. This “ministry” affirmed me as a failure.I went through another Exodus program, and also went to another Christian counselor who practiced “reparative” therapy. None of this changed me or helped me cope or resist my desire to be with a man. I considered suicide often, but wasn’t brave enough to do it. I considered castration, but knew that wouldn’t change me

His story reveals the complexity of some ex-gay experiences and how “coming out” is not a simple solution or an easy step. It also shows how dangerous it can be for someone to ingest negative and erroneous messages about their sexuality. Paul sought for a cure but instead received the tools to hate himself.

I had spent my life trying to kill a part of myself, but my instinct was to live. Once I stopped trying to kill my attraction to the same sex, that part of me became content to just be. Not that my attraction to the same sex is gone, it is not. But since I have accepted who I am, my compulsion for sex is gone. Turns out that homosexual is two words, it’s not all about sex any more than heterosexuality is. I am reeling, even after being free from compulsion since 2006. I discovered what I needed all along was simple acceptance. I am no longer alone. I am no longer living a lie or acting in a way that damages me or others.

My story isn’t over, in many ways, it’s just begun. People speak of “gay pride.” I understand that, but I don’t really relate to it. I do now understand the need for dignity and realize the damage that having that taken away can cause.

I respect Paul so much for sharing his story. It takes courage to be this honest about oneself. Also I know it is not easy to write these narratives. It brings up so many strong feelings, but hopefully in the act of sharing and being heard, one can gain some clarity, comfort and even healing. You can read all of Paul’s narrative here.

Beyond Ex-Gay Mail Bag

Every week Christine Bakke and I get e-mails and messages from people who visit the Beyond Ex-Gay Website. We answer every one with a personal response. For some people this is their first attempt to reach out to someone since leaving the ex-gay movement or since they began to accept themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex. Recently I received this message that got me thinking and praying and talking to friends before I responded,

I am a Christian. I believe homosexuality in a sin. I have read all the pro-gay and anti-gay books i can find, including Boswell’s. I have gone to MCC the gay church. Nothing feels right. My mentor keps talking about “the gay Lifestyle”. I tell him there is no such thing….just as there is no “straight lifestyle”. Two suicide attempts and I chickened out of both. Guilt overwhelms me when I attempt to meet a guy or have sex. Dating women makes me feel like a liar. Damned if I do and damned if i don’t. I do not want to go against the Bible and sin and I do not want to live a lie and try to “go straight”. I am one of millions I am sure, but this is my life. I just do not know what to do.

I was actually at the annual gathering of Friends General Conference (Quakers) when I received this message. Without revealing the person’s identity except to say his name is Steve, I shared the e-mail with the high school students in the workshop I co-facilitated (Xtreme Quakerism!) We held meeting for worship with attention to Steve. In the stillness of worship I read the message and we held Steve in the Light and prayed for him. If during our worship they had something they wanted to say to Steve, they spoke it out. Based on their ministry, I wrote Steve the following response.

I have thought of you several times since getting your initial message through Without sharing your full name, I read part of your e-mail to the high school students in the workshop I led last week. They are young Quakers, mostly straight, and they felt moved to pray for you and to encourage you. One thing that rose out of our worship was a message about fruit. One of the Quakers asked, “Where is the joy in the journey?”

In looking at the fruit of the Holy Spirit, we have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, humility, self-control, etc. I remember my ex-gay years and how I longed for the gift of self-control. But I found for the most part most of the gifts did not grow, especially joy. In fact, I experienced quite the opposite. I grew sad and depressed even suicidal. I grew impatient with God, myself and others. I begged, demanded, implored God to help me straighten myself out or at least help me to control my desires. It seemed the more I pursued this path the worse things grew. There were moments when I thought I “got it figured out” only to discover that I was back in the same place I started. The depression and impatience only grew.

I realized that I was coveting my straight neighbor’s life. I wanted God to do something that God clearly had no intention of doing. I didn’t see the gift in being gay. I thought it must be a curse. But God was so very patient with me. When I finally succumbed to the reality that I am gay and that I will not change, and that if I pursue this course much longer it would destroy me and my faith, I suddenly found peace and a growing joy. In fact, I have experienced a whole garden of growth of the fruit of the Spirit. Yes, I lost some friends though it all, but I realize now they loved me conditionally. They loved me as long as I struggled to kill off a part of myself, but once I accepted the reality of who I was, even though I was happier and closer to God than ever before, they didn’t want anything to do with me. But God is good and I have developed new friendships, deep and thoughtful ones. Family and friends who have known me for a long time say that I am so much more solid and present than ever before. They feel love from me and see I am in a healthy place in my life.

We hear many lies spoken about gay people. We have been programmed to hate ourselves. We have conformed to the negative patterns of this world, patterns that some large parts of the Church have taken up as a fundamental cause as if these causes came from God. But we can be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we can begin to understand God’s will for us. Like you I grew to distrust both pro-gay and anti-gay theology. But I trust God, and through being still and laying things out before God, I have found a clear and solid path and much much fruit.

Christine and I are beginning to seek out people who could serve as part of a team in helping us respond to the many e-mails we get at bXg. We get so many that we will not be able to respond to them all. If you are interested in being part of this team, let us know.

Christine talks about Beyond Ex-Gay on the Radio

Christine Bakke, co-founder of Beyond Ex-Gay will appear as a guest of Blogtalk Live on-line radio program.

This week on ‘Talk Back Live’ we will be discussing ‘The Ex-Gay Myth’, our special guest will be Christine Bakke from Beyond Ex-Gay. We will be discussing the half truths that come out of the ex-gay world, including those who have survived the false claims of Ex-gay Ministries. I will also share my story, of how I got involved in the Ex-Gay world, and how it was Ex-Gay people like D.L. Foster and Charlene Cothran that really showed me, that this whole ex-gay thing was false.

The fun gets started on May 17th, at 8pm EST. As always feel free to call in and join in on the conversation.

You can listen live here (and the show will also be archived)

Diverse Approaches Reveal Complexity of Ex-Gay World

Since going public with the story of my ex-gay journey (odyssey?), one of the most encouraging signs I have seen is the large number of people who have come forward to tell share their own stories. In addition to ex-gay survivors, we see many concerned citizens writing and speaking out against the de-gayification process and the forces behind it. (Just this week former ex-gay Noé Gutierrez added his own perspective.)

Pam Spaulding, the guys at Good as Gay, Jim at Straight Not Narrow, Joe Brummer, Bruce Garrett, and of course Jim Burroway along with Timothy Kincaid and Daniel Gonzales over at Box Turtle Bulletin, and so many others have consistently reported on the ex-gay movement.

Two individuals who have contributed tremendously are Mike Airhart, (founder of Ex-Gay Watch, which continues to serve as an ex-gay watchdog under the management Dave Roberts) and Wayne Besen, who heads up Truth Wins Out. Besen is also the author of Anything But Straight—Unmasking the Lies and Scandals Behind the Ex-Gay Myth, a book which helped me considerably in coming to my senses and in coming out of the closet.

Each one of us approaches the ex-gay world differently. Personally I use comedy and storytelling. At Beyond Ex-Gay, with the able and insightful Christine Bakke, we focus on ex-gay survivors, those who attempted to suppress and change their gay/lesbian/bisexual orientation or gender differences. Beyond Ex-Gay’s primary goal is to provide on-line and actual venues for ex-gay survivors to process their experiences as we also offer them guidance and support (as well as referrals to mental health professionals when necessary).

One of the results of the Ex-Gay Survivor Movement is that the stories of survivors reveal some of the many reasons and combinations of reasons that led some of us to reject what we viewed as the gay community in favor of an alternate gay universe which encouraged us to literally go to war against ourselves. Unpacking our stories along with the subsequent harm we experienced serves as a witness and a warning about the potential dangers of pursuing an ex-gay route. We offer an indirect indictment against the de-gayification process.

Others provide a more direct reproach. Wayne Besen so often brilliantly exposes the hypocrisy of some anti-gay “leaders” as well as the silliness of some forms of ex-gay treatment. Recently some ex-gay proponents criticized Wayne for his article ‘Corrective Rape’ of Lesbians In South African Schools Shows Sickness of ‘Ex-Gay’ Movement. Perhaps based on the provocative title alone (I’m all for eye-catching titles) some have inaccurately portrayed Wayne’s insightful commentary. Wayne highlights religious and society-based homophobia leading to oppression of gays in many forms. Either these critics cannot read properly or simply wish to pick a fight.

Wayne makes it clear that folks like Exodus would never approve of ‘Corrective Rape’ just like many Exodus folks cannot stomach exorcisms to drive out gay spirits. Wayne explains,

Of course, these extreme cases do not represent the so-called “ex-gay” movement in general. Certainly, Exodus and even NARTH, I beleive, would oppose such torture. However, the notion that GLBT people must be “changed” no matter what the psychological or physical toll is in step with the West’s ‘ex-gay’ movement. The very existence of these organizations creates a sour climate where GLBT lives are demeaned and homosexual relationships are viewed as inferior. In such a hostile environment, some people will take desperate measures (exorcisms) or partake in dangerous experiments (shock therapy) to fix the “problem.”

Instead of contemplating the insightful critique offered by Wayne, some folks bear false witness in their attempts to pose as victims. No doubt Wayne can take care of himself, and to me the appearance of misleading articles in reaction to Wayne’s post indicates to me that he hit the nail right on the head.

We each have diverse approaches. In the work to unearth what factors and what players are behind the ex-gay movement, we reach out to different audiences and use different methods. Ex-gay survivors no longer remain silent. We point to the motivations that led us on an arduous and often dangerous journey. Concerned citizens, both gay and straight, speak out against the ineffectual and unnecessary things people have felt compelled to do in order to straighten up. Some of us dialog with others, some protest, some quietly work behind the scenes, some let the authority of their own stories speak for them, and some support those doing the work.

Together we are doing a good work to bring light and sanity and reality regarding the anti-gay oppression that reveals itself in myriad ways. In the Advocate magazine’s recent article about ex-gay survivors and the ex-gay movement, you can read more about some of the creative ways we approach the often thorny issues surrounding change ministries and therapies.

Beyond Ex-Gay in the Advocate

The Advocate magazine published long article about ex-gays and ex-gay survivors and the changing landscape of the ex-gay movement. They quote quite a lot of people including Christine Bakke and me. (They often overlook the lesbians, so I am so glad they gave her plenty of space to share).

For more than a year, the website has been a virtual gathering point for ex-gay survivors, many of whom now picket ex-gay ministries events and conferences and attempt to share their stories with attendees. Beyond Ex-Gay also holds conferences of its own. “Our primary goal is being a support group for ex-gay survivors,” says Toscano. Like Christine Bakke, who runs the group with him, he attended ex-gay ministries for years before finally accepting his gayness. “Our secondary goal,” Toscano adds, “is to talk about the harm of reparative therapy” — therapy meant to de-gay you –“in ex-gay ministries.”

The reporter, Tim Murphy, spent time getting to know the subjects of the piece and took a humanist approach to each one. In his conclusion he admitted an affinity for John Smid, who recently resigned as director of Love in Action.

I laid down my reporter’s notebook (metaphorically — we were on the phone). Smid was funny and thoughtful and affable. I told him that I’d like to be his friend, that as a comfortable, happy gay man raised Catholic but now more inclined toward a broadly spiritual liberal humanism, I’d like to meet for coffee and discuss these issues more. And I said I truly had no interest in changing him. Could he say the same thing?

Some people find it hard to believe, but many ex-gay leaders can be charming, interesting and fun people. But hey, most are gay after all.

It is a long piece that helps to flesh out some of the events over the past year.

The Believers—Ex-gay Survivors Making Peace With Those Who Tried to “Cure” Them

If you want to see the LOGO Be Real program on-line with wonderful footage from the Memphis bXg event and more of Christine, my own dad, and John Holm, another ex-gay survivor, click here.

On a personal note, I finished a few days with the delightful John Henson in Wales and have moved in with Auntie Doris for a few days in London before heading off to Oxford. Purrrrrfect weather–so sunny and clear.

Heading Out to England

I leave tomorrow night for London and will not have time to blog until sometime next week. Some updates:

  • I performed Queer 101—Now I Know My gAy,B,C’s at a high school outside of Boston today. The first session had about 350 students and the second session had at least 500. They listened deeply and asked excellent questions. Tomorrow morning I perform the same play at Manchester Community College.
  • Beyond Ex-Gay will co-host two conferences in Barcelona at the end of May. I have some info up at our site, but it is in Catalan. I hope to have info in English soon. I will give a keynote address (in Castilian). I mean I can do dinner and directional Spanish, but this is going to be a stretch. I love a challenge.
  • On May 5 Beyond Ex-Gay will be featured in LOGO TV’s Be Real Program. (Tom D left me a snarkily sweet text message saying he saw me in the trailer for the program) They interviewed Christine and me as well as my dad, and ex-gay survivors John Holm and Scott Tucker. I think the program runs in rotation throughout the week. (We are also featured in a gay national magazine towards the end of May. I will give you details when I know them.
  • I received 100 DVDs of Homo No Mo to take with me to Europe. Don’t forget if you got one of last year’s dodgey version, hit me up for a free upgrade. US copies will be ready by mid-June if not sooner.
  • I will be in the UK and Europe the next five weeks with stops in St. Albans, London, Cardiff (Wales), Oxford, Leeds, Belfast (Northern Ireland), Barcelona and Madrid. Check out the performance schedule for details.