Category: Beyond Ex-Gay

Happy Birthday bXg!!

On April 2, 2007 we launched Beyond Ex-Gay and announced the 2007 Ex-Gay Survivor Conference.

We’re taking a few minutes to share the BXG love and look at all that’s been accomplished:

June 20, 2007: Beyond Ex-Gay (bXg) and Soulforce invite Exodus leaders to dinner.

June 27, 2007: Former Exodus leaders issue a public apology for their roles in the ex-gay world.

June 29, 2007: Dinner with three Exodus leaders.

June 29-July 1, 2007: Ex-Gay Survivor Conference; Reflections from survivors who attended.

July 2 – August 3, 2007: The Ex-Gay Survivor Initiative
Ex-Gay Survivors told their stories in front of places that promote and provide ex-gay therapy/ministry.

August 17, 2007: Three former ex-gay leaders in Australia add their names to the apology from June 27.

Fall 2008: Dozens of ex-gay survivors come forward to tell their stories through bXg, blogs, video and in the press.

February 22-24, 2008: Deconstructing the Ex-Gay Myth—A Weekend of Action and Art, Memphis, TN.

Upcoming April 6, 2008: bXg meeting with therapists to discuss treatment plans for ex-gay survivors.

Upcoming October 23, 2008: Ex-Gay Survivor Regional Gathering in Nashville, TN (part of God and Gays Conference).

Upcoming, date and location TBD: 2009 Ex-Gay Survivor Conference.

Stats: 125+ pages of content on bXg, 65,000+ unique hits, hundreds of contacts and emails, many lives influenced.

What’s Next for us?

Beyond Ex-Gay has been a labor of love. We have accepted (with much gratitude) donations and have at times been able to partner with other organizations, but we need to pursue non-profit status to continue this important work.

It costs money to become a non-profit organization as well as to fund our upcoming projects. Any donatation would be appreciated (although please note, it is not tax-deductible at this time). We invite you to be an active part of the ex-gay survivor movement. Donate using any major credit card or e-check through paypal. If you would like send a check or a money order, please contact us and we will give you further contact information. Thank you for your generosity.

Transforming Faith Conference

I head off to Portland, OR (one of my all time fav cities) on Thursday to attend and present at an amazing conference.

Transforming Faith: Divining Gender – A three-day interfaith gathering in Portland, Oregon that seeks to:

  • Educate communities of faith in the spectrum of gender identities and gender expressions
  • Give tools and resources for supporting gender variant youth
  • Dismantle binary gender constructs and their reign in misogyny and homophobia
  • Nurture and empower transgender leadership.

The keynote address will be offered by Dr. Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, author of 12 books, including Omnigender.

Ah, Mollenkott, one of my heroes (sheroes?) I will present my play Transfigurations — Transgressing Gender in the Bible and also co-facilitate a workshop with Rev. Allyson Robinson.

Also presenting are

  • New Testament scholar Dr. Mary Ann Tolbert, George H. Atkinson Professor of Biblical Studies at the Pacific School of Religion and Executive Director of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry, who will address Gender and the Bible.

  • Jenn Burleton, Executive Director of TransActive will present a panel of youth and resources for supporting gender variant children and teens

  • Faisal Alam, founder of Al Fatiha (a network for LGBTQ Muslims), will be exploring the complex diversity within the Muslim world and will illustrate the many challenges facing queer Muslims.

I will walk amongst giants, and no doubt I will learn a great deal.

On Sunday I will be with Christine Bakke and a group of LGBT-affirming therapists, counselors and trauma specialists. We will gather for a Beyond Ex-Gay Summit to discuss treatment plans for ex-gay survivors. I feel thrilled about this as I meet so many survivors who don’t know where to go for help. Often well-meaning LGBT-affirming therapists do not know enough about the ex-gay movement and how to best help someone.

But before all that I head off to Champaign Urbana, IL to present tomorrow and Wednesday night and I get to hang out with fellow Quaker (and ex-gay survivor) John Holm.

Refried Freud

Over at Beyond Ex-Gay, Christine Bakke wrote an excellent article (accompanied with original artwork) about how ex-gay programs take Freudian theories then mix them up with often bizarre and even dangerous practices.

I knew one women whose therapist gave her assignments to flirt with men. An ex-gay guy who went on several dates to try to learn how to be with a woman (without disclosing that he identified as ex-gay), on the recommendation of his therapist. A woman who was counseled by the leader of the ex-gay group that women should wear makeup (“need to put some paint on the side of the barn”). A man who changed his last name because his ex-gay therapy led him to believe that his parents were to blame for him being gay. A woman who insinuated that she had been abused because she felt like her story didn’t “fit” the ex-gay model without some kind of a root cause. A young man who said that after he got out of the ex-gay movement and was finished with reparative therapy, that’s when the real repairing began. He had to repair the relationships with his family after buying into the belief that they were distant from him and made him gay.

Writing about her own experiences, Christine shares,

I spent hours having deliverance work done, and I still can’t talk a whole lot about it to this day, some of it was so confusing, upsetting and at times, traumatic. I was counseled by at least four different pastors and wives over the years. I was also prayed for and discipled by numerous people in various churches, to whom I confessed so much and let them into so many areas of my life (which also unfortunately meant that they could do greater harm to me emotionally and mentally). I attended conferences and had so much healing prayer that if anyone should have been healed, one would think I would have at least been a good candidate.

Read all of Refried Freud.

Ex-Gay Journey: What Made You Do It? What Did it Cost You?

Over at Beyond Ex-Gay we have posted several narratives of ex-gay survivors. Many of these include lots of details about the struggle over faith and sexuality which compelled the struggler to pursue change and to receive help from reparative therapists and ex-gay ministers.

I think about how I used to tell my story assuming that the primary motivation to aspire to a non-gay life was my faith struggle. After years of unpacking the story, answering many many questions about my experiences, I have grown to understand that the faith issue stood among several key factors that influenced my 17-year quest to be ex-gay.

A friend recently submitted his ex-gay survivor narrative to me. He writes well about his experience as a missionary and in the church as well as in various ex-gay ministries. I will gladly post it as is, but I also know that the writing process gives us an opportunity to unearth more about our histories. The primary goal I see is that by telling our stories, we will understand them more. Secondly they can serve as a witness and a warning to others.

Below is my response to my friend with some key questions that many ex-gay survivors with a faith background might find helpful to ponder.

Hi there. Your article looks good in many ways. I do have a few questions for you to consider.

You attempted to change your sexuality. How did that affect you? Help you? Harm you? I have an article that looks at various types of harm you can check out to get some ideas.

You write your story well. My only reservation is that it is very faith-based, which I know is a big part of your journey and many people’s journeys. The issue is that I get more and more e-mails from people who feel alienated by all the faith-based stories at bXg. It makes me wonder if some of us have to dig deeper. I mean why was the gay thing such a big deal for many of us? What other pressures, perhaps more subtle and hidden, influenced us to pursue change.

For instance, I cannot separate the sense of shame that led me to pursue change with the reality that I had been sexually abused as a child. Perhaps as an outgrowth of that abuse I had grown sexually compulsive in my teens. Sure the conservative churches I attended hammered in me that it was wrong to be gay, but also my life was out of control. I felt like filthy dirty sinner all the time and felt I needed to be fixed. I had genuine problems–unresolved sexual abuse, deep shame, and sexual addiction issues. Add to that the constant barrage of messages I received from society about admirable and normal heterosexuality. In my case religion served as a cover for the other pressing issues that weighed heavy on me.

I put that out there for you to consider any way you might rework your piece so that someone who never was Christian can relate to the struggle you faced. Also, it may help you to better understand why the quest to change had such a hold on you.

Beyond Ex-Gay Memphis RECAP

We have had some time to reflect on the big weekend in Memphis and the events surrounding Deconstructing the Ex-Gay Myth—A Weekend of Action & Art. Christine and I have spent much of the day building some new web pages to give folks a sense of what took place during the weekend.

  • Check out our Memphis photo album with lots of super photos thanks to Bruce Garrett.
  • See video of the press conference and gallery walk
  • Learn more about the Chalk Talk and see up close what people have to say about their ex-gay experiences
  • Read a list of options for ex-gay survivors to consider for their recovery process
We will have information soon about upcoming Beyond Ex-Gay events
April 6, 2008 Portland, OR
May 26, 2008 Barcelona, Spain
October 23, 2008 Nashville, TN

It’s Okay to Be Gay!

In fact, it is great to be gay, if that is true for you, which it is for me. Bianca Phillips at the Memphis Flier wrote a super article all about Deconstructing the Ex-Gay Myth—A Weekend of Action & Art. For a title she used a slogan that the young folks chanted during the 2005 summer actions outside of Love in Action–It’s Okay to Be Gay!

In the piece she lists off all the events for the weekend shares some of her interview with Morgan Jon Fox and with me.

On Saturday from 2 to 5 p.m., Beyond Ex-Gay will host its Mid-South Regional Gathering, a series of workshops and panels for ex-gay survivors, at the gay and lesbian center.

“There’s a lot of psychological, emotional, and spiritual damage [in ex-gay survivors], and there’s a need to unpack what we’ve done to ourselves and let other people do to us,” Toscano says. “This regional gathering will give ex-gay survivors a chance to check in and talk to each other.”

Also on Saturday, local filmmaker Morgan Jon Fox will offer a preview of his long-awaited documentary This Is What Love in Action Looks Like at 8 p.m. at First Congregational Church.

Jon Fox chronicled the 2005 protests of Love in Action’s “Refuge” program, which offered reparative therapy for gay teens. The protests led to state investigations of the center’s license to treat mentally ill people. Last summer, Love in Action closed Refuge in favor of a more intensive program for parents of gay teens.

“It all started with a few kids sticking up for their friend. It was just something to do for the summer,” Jon Fox says. “They ended up impacting the situation on an international level.”

Read all of It’s Okay to Be Gay.

Also this weekend NPR’s Interfaith Voices will do a segment on ex-gay stuff. They interviewed me for the piece and asked me to share some of my story. You will be able to listen on-line here. (They also have an interesting piece about Billy Graham).

The Ex-Gay Survivor Art Show is coming together nicely. Such powerful artwork. Some of it got featured in Bianca Phillips article.

Deconstructing the Ex-Gay Myth in Memphis

In a week I will be in Memphis, TN one of my all time favorite cities in America. Some find that strange since I spent two difficult years in Memphis in the Love in Action ex-gay program. But once I emerged from that experience, for the next three years, I got to know the city and some of the many wonderful lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender folks in that city.

While in Love in Action, I never go west of Highland Avenue so I never saw Mid-Town or Downtown until after two years in the city. At Love in Action the staff forced us to avoid the Forbidden Zone. Apparently the gays took over Mid-Town and kept all the best cafes, restaurants and stores to themselves.

Next week we will deconstruct the ex-gay myth through action and art. Note we will not dismiss the ex-gay myth or rise up a diatribe against it. Rather we will carefully and thoughtfully deconstruct it. According to Miriam Webster online,

Deconstructverb: to take apart or examine in order to reveal the basis or composition of, often with the intention of exposing biases, flaws, or inconsistencies

As a survivor of the ex-gay movement, I have spent the past five years exploring, unpacking and deconstructing my experiences. Through counseling, reading, writing and especially performance art, I have grown to understand what I was after all those years, what I was promised, what I did to myself, and what I allowed others to do to me. I discovered the dreadful toll the ex-gay theories took on my parents.

This weekend will mark the five year anniversary of the premiere of Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House—How I Survived the Ex-Gay Movement! Next week I will offer my official retirement performance of the piece. It served me well, but I see that now I must lay it down (soon–I still have my Cher-like tour the next few years, well except without all the costume changes and big hair).

Below I have Christine Bakke’s poster that will be going up all over Memphis. I ask you to hold the weekend of Feb 22-24 tenderly in your thoughts and prayers. We do not gather to protest but to bear witness to our experiences. The truth is that most people who pursue an ex-gay life cannot sustain such an existence. Nor do they need do.

Change is possible. We can change the way we view ourselves and the world and accept that our desires are not taboo. We can live happy and holy as homosexuals. We contribute to our communities, we create art, we live full rich lives. We struggle like all people because that is part of the human existence. Gay is good. Lesbian is lovely. Bisexual is beautiful. Transgender is terrific. The key is to be authentic. Be real. Be true.

And sometimes to get to that place of integrity, we need to do some deconstruction.

Video Ad for Deconstructing the Ex-Gay Myth

As some of you already know, Memphis-area LGBT groups have partnered with Beyond Ex-Gay and other people around the country to present a series of events under the heading Deconstructing the Ex-Gay Myth—A Weekend of Action Art. (February 22-24, 2008)

We have a new web page up with all the details, and Daniel Gonzales created a YouTube video ad outlining what will happen and why. Here is some of the transcript (video listed below)

On Saturday February 23rd 2008 Colorado-based Focus on the Family and Florida-based Exodus International will set up shop in Memphis to stage “Love Won Out” a day-long conference promoting gay conversion or “ex-gay” ministries. Held at Central Church in Collierville, Love Won Out targets family and friends of LGBT individuals, preaching the message that homosexuality is sinful and change is possible.

Concerned that this harmful message will misinform the community, local organizations, churches and citizens partnered with Beyond Ex-Gay and the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center. Drawing on their personal experiences and expertise they have responded with Deconstructing the Ex-Gay Myth—A Weekend of Action and Art

Beyond Ex-Gay Mid-South Regional Gathering Feb 23 Memphis, TN

As if there weren’t enough great events in Memphis the weekend of February 22-24!

After the outpouring of interest and support since the historic 2007 Ex-Gay Survivor Conference, Beyond Ex-Gay (bXg) will host the

An event for ex-gay survivors and our allies

February 23, 2008 2:00-5:00 PM
892 S. Cooper, Memphis, TN

Organizers, presenters and attenders from the first Ex-Gay Survivor Conference will be present including Christine Bakke, Peterson Toscano :-), Jim Burroway, Daniel Gonzales, Jacob Wilson and more as well as plenty of folks from the Mid-South.

bXg will offer a series of interactive workshops for ex-gay survivors and their allies.
Events will include:

  • A round table discussion about the ex-gay movement and youth concerns
  • From the on-line chat room to the talk show—processing our stories through the media
  • Ex-Gay 101 for allies
  • Creating and Maintaining Support Structures as you Process your Ex-Gay Past
  • and more!

If you are interested in attending the Beyond Ex-Gay Mid-South Regional Gathering in Memphis, TN, please e-mail us bxg(at)beyondexgay.com, and we will register you.
A suggested (but not required) donation of $5.00 will be collected at the event.

Please SPREAD the WORD!
And I’ll see you in Memphis????

Call to Artists!

Beyond Ex-Gay (bXg) and the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center will host an art show with works by those whose lives have been negatively affected by the ex-gay movement. This could include former ex-gays, as well as spouses, children, parents, and friends of former ex-gays.

In the summer of 2007, at the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference in Irvine, CA Beyond Ex-Gay organized a similar art show that helped to communicate how for many of us ex-gay experiences caused more harm than good. Beyondexgay.com also features art by ex-gay survivors at its online gallery.

Submissions of all types of visual art are welcome including drawings, painting, collage, mixed media, photography, or multimedia. Please send photos of your work, along with dimensions, a brief statement about how the work relates to your ex-gay experience, and any other information by February 13th, 2008 to bxg (at) beyondexgay.com

We cannot guarantee that we will feature your artwork, but our panel will review your submission and contact you with further details.

NOTE: You do not have to travel to Memphis to be part of the art show. We will provide you with an address where you will mail/ship your art, and we shall send it back to you right after we take down the art show.