Category: Beyond Ex-Gay

bXg in Washington Blade


Dyana Bagby writing for the Washington Blade interviewed Christine Bakke and me about bXg and the upcoming Ex-Gay Survivor Conference. Her piece, Ex-gay not OK, tells some of the history of the bXg website and the thought behind it.

IN SPRING 2005, CHRISTINE Bakke contacted Toscano after attending one of his performances. The two struck a dialogue about their experiences, eventually deciding they wanted to do more to help others like them who “survived” their ex-gay experiences to finally embrace being gay.

The result of their talking is Beyondexgay.com, a website that went online April 2 and shares stories of others who tried to become ex-gay but finally accepted themselves for who they are.

Christine and I talk about the upcoming conference, which will be held in Irvine, CA June 29-July 1, 2007, in the same city at the same time as Exodus’ annual ex-gay conference.

“Our conference is a loving response to their message that to be acceptable to God, one has to change an inherent trait,” Bakke said. She spent more than four years trying to change her sexual orientation, including moving to Denver in 1998 and participating in an ex-gay program affiliated with Exodus.

“[Our conference] is our way to tell ex-gays, ‘You don’t have to do this to yourselves,’” she said.

Christine also talks about just how unique bXg is,

BAKKE SAID THAT Beyondexgay.com is the first of its kind — most other ex-gay organizations are watchdog groups.

“Up to this point, the only ex-gay survivor group that existed was a small, almost defunct, Yahoo e-mail list. Ex-Gay Watch has done important work being a watchdog for the ex-gay movement, and I’m thankful they exist,” she said. “But it’s not a place where an ex-gay survivor can go to connect with other survivors, find support and healing, and work through the harm they’ve experienced.”

So have you visited bXg yet and signed up? Are you coming to the conference?

Ex-Gay Survivor Conference Fliers–Spread the Word

In order to help get the word out about the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference, Christine Bakke just posted a series of fliers we have created. Each flier is worded for a different audience we hope to draw to the conference–survivors, allies, clergy, mental health professionals.

We provide half page (8.5″ x 5.5″) fliers with versions in full color and black & white.

Check them out. I ask you to consider printing or e-mailing some of these out to folks who you think might be interested in coming to the conference.

More Ex-Gay Survivor Stories

Christine and I have been getting so many e-mails from people sharing their ex-gay experiences. (thank you!) We have posted some of these on bXg and others will be there over the next few weeks. Here are two narratives we recently posted.

Brock:

“What a pathetic mess,” I thought as I listened to him cry and boast about another one of his secret sexual encounters behind stall doors, public parks, health clubs, chat rooms, and bath houses. Here I was again at another Dallas ex-gay meeting, with a bunch of weenies in the back of the Church of Christ. The 20-something members of my group sat in a circle around a chair-less, pale-yellow room giving accounts of our madness.

I look back now and my heart breaks for these men, confused and tormented by their natural need. But the thousands of men and women in these groups aren’t weenies at all. By one means or another they have taken the first step in coming out of denial about their orientation, usually at the risk of losing many people they thought were friends.
Read more of Brock’s Narrative

Jodi:

As the former wife of a Southern Baptist Music Minister, a devoted stay-at-home mom of two boys, women’s ministry leader, and church soloist, my life seemed picture perfect from the outside. But, a much different picture was painted underneath. For years I had known that I was a lesbian, but to actually acknowledge that fact to anyone, including myself, was not an option. I certainly could never go to God with such a revelation!! I maintained a life of secrecy and shame.
Read more of Jodi’s Narrative

You can read other narratives here.

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.

Ex-Gay Survivor, Darlene Bogle Speaks Out

This from the folks over at God & Gays:

Hi there! Join ex gay survivor and author Darlene Bogle as the next guest on the God, Gays & You Live Interview Series this Thursday, May 3rd 5pm Pacific/8pm Eastern. Sponsored by the hit documentary, God & Gays: Bridging the Gap, listen in live while we get the scoop on how Darlene lead an Exodus group for 15 years to turn around and survive and so much more. We’ll also talk about if you or someone you know is struggling or involved in ex gay programs, what you can do to support and help them in a much healthier and spiritually healing way. Darlene is a featured speaker at the Beyond Ex Gay Conference in June so get on the call and get to know her.

Since this topic is rarely openly discussed, you never know who you could be helping by forwarding this email around to your networks and lists. Invite 10 people you know to be on the call and we look forward to being you then.

Call in information:
Be sure to call in a few minutes early to get in, there’s a limited number of phone lines available!
Thursday, May 3rd 5p Pacific/8p Eastern (one hour)
1-641-297-5800 (Iowa)

Participant Access Code: 29862

bXg’ers on the Radio

Check out ex-gay survivor and BeyondExGay (bXg) co-founder, Christine Bakke on the radio Tuesday, April 23, 2007 9:00 AM EST Sirius OutQ Radio. OutQ is on channel 109.

On Wednesday, April 24, 2007 from 9:00-10:00 AM EST I will be a guest on the live WNPR program Where We Live. I will talk about identity, the ex-gay movement and more.

Also on Wednesday, check out Daniel Gonzales’ new podcast If It’s Wednesday, It’s Ex-Gay. I just finished a nutty phone interview with Daniel. Who knows what he will keep and what he will cut. Reminds me of those heady days when Joe G. manned his Beppepodcast. I am a little high on a vegan carrot cake (yep, that is the decadent gay lifestyle for you) so I channeled a few other people.

And to check out Christine on Good Morning America, click here

I leave Portland, OR tomorrow 🙁 but will be in NYC on Wednesday and Christine and I will hang out 🙂

Tipping Point?

I just watched Christine Bakke on Good Morning America. Diane Sawyer interviewed her. Christine is really the first woman to be highlighted in the national media as an ex-gay survivor. She did an amazing job, so clear, confident, without rancor, just telling her story. Well done! You can see it for yourself here

The piece stands out because Sawyer makes it clear that there is a problem with most reparative therapy and ex-gay ministry. They do show a short clip of Alan Chambers saying,

It’s not an easy process, but someone can choose not to be a homosexual

But they place that quote right before footage of Pastor Ted Haggard and back story about how he was pronounced 100% heterosexual after a mere three weeks of therapy. (Perhaps not something that Exodus would actually agree with or support, but in the media world, all ex-gay experiences fall under the same umbrella).

The ABC piece states,

Although these programs have been widely renounced by medical professionals, they are, in fact, growing nationwide.

They claim that the programs have grown up to 30% since 2002. Not sure what they base that figure on but Focus on the Family and Exodus have been doing a larger outreach to parents of queer and questioning kids since that time. (I heard about 1000 people showed up for the recent Love Won Out in Omaha–paying $60 per person!)

Christine gets to the heart of the matter, not so much discounting the change that other people claim they experienced, rather stating that such a change is not necessary.

Bakke said the therapy was based on the idea that gay people are “broken” and need to be fixed. She now says that gay men and women can be whole just the way they are.

“I would say there’s nothing to cure,” she told Diane Sawyer on “Good Morning America.” “You are fine just the way you are.”

Bakke did informal research about people after the program and found that many of them had changed their behavior, not their orientation. When she began therapy, she believed that she would be completely different once the process was over.

You can read a transcript here and also read the article on Christine in the May issue of Glamour here.

Christine felt bummed that she didn’t get to mention BeyondExGay, the site she co-founded for ex-gay survivors, but they give so little time on these programs. But you can check out bXg here

I will keep you posted about other media events happening this week–radio interviews and more!

Tender

I’m feeling tender today. Good thing that I am among Friends here. Peggy Parsons, the amazing motocyle-riding, Christ-centered Quaker minister and her family have put me up for the night here in Salem, OR. Peggy is the real deal pastoring a semi-programmed Quaker church, preaching wherever the doors open and working with trauma victims in Burundi–many of them Quakers.

Last night the brilliant Quaker artist (music, visual art, humor, you name it) Alivia Biko cooked us a killer vegan meal replete with vegan chocolate chip cookies. I felt loved. (BTW both Peggy and Alivia miss Joe G. Just saying in case he is lurking 🙂

Yeah, I am feeling tender as I soak up all of this love in Portland with Doug and Bruce and Bonnie and in Salem with Peggy and her family and Alivia.

This tour has been great in many ways but harder than most. Since the launch of bXg, Christine, Steve and I have received so many stories from people sharing their trauma from ex-gay experiences. I read some of these and start to cry. Lots of people have been hurt and allowed themselves to be hurt. It feels good to see people finding healing, but the process is painful for most.

Feeling tender about violence. Many of us unprogrammed Quakers know Virgina Tech, site of the recent deaths of 33 people, because we have had our annual gatherings there before. In 2005 I performed my Homo No Mo play there. Seeing the photos of the campus seemed so creepy having been in many of those places for worship and fellowship.

Feeling tender about Quakers and the rift that exists between many of us. Some Evangelical Quakers take issue with queer Quakers. Last week I read of a dreadful report of an Evangelical Friend condemning same-gender loving Quakers in the harshest terms. With lots of programmed Evangelical Friends Churches in Oregon, it feels strange knowing that perhaps because of my queerness, I might not/will not be welcome.

Feeling tender about some queer folks at a Quaker venue who took issue with my apperance, wondering how on earth I could still identify as a Christian after all that the Christian church and Exodus had done to me. The thought that I am gay man who identifies as Christian offended them deeply. I get this reaction at times from folks in the LGBT community, but it smarts extra hard when it comes from folks in a Quaker context. Among unprogrammed Quakers, I find I walk on eggshells when I talk about my faith in Jesus. Is that just me being over-sensative or does this reflect a serious issue within the Quaker movement?

Feeling tender about doing my show today, The Re-Education of George W. Bush. It is the most personal of all my plays, even more so than Homo No Mo. I appear in the play as myself three different times to talk about my mom–her life, her death and her wisdom. I also take on a bunch of issues close to my heart–the war in Iraq, skin privilege, the environment as well as oppression of LGBT people. I have not performed the play since January, so I will rehearse all afternoon.

Feeling tender about lots of things, which is often the life of an artist. Feeling grateful too for freshly baked vegan cookies and a big glass of rice milk over at Alivia’s house last night before bed. It wasn’t really the cookies, but the love behind them. I bet you have your own comfort foods that get to your heart too.

Lesbian Ex-Gay Survivors Step Up

Christine Bakke, co-founder of BeyondExGay and recently featured in Glamour Magazine, is slated to share some of her story Monday live on Good Morning America. Of course a volcano can blow up or Hillary Clinton or someone could say something stupid and that will change the course of morning “news” programs, but as it stands Christine will fly out to NYC this weekend to do the Monday morning show. It may air around 8am, but then who knows.

Ex-Gay Watch reports that Ann Phillips, former staff member at Love in Action and an ex-gay survivor, will speak at the Evangelicals Concerned women’s retreat July 25-27, 2007 in Orange County, CA. She speaks so well–witty, wise and practical.

America’s Next Top Lesbian

She’s smart, attractive, passionate about making the world a better place AND she is featured in the May issue of Glamour–she is Christine Bakke–America’s Next Top Lesbian.

Christine stepped up to the plate and gave an interview with a writer for Glamour Magazine. It was a little over a year ago when the reporter swept into her life, and what a grueling experience. I mean, to tell your story is hard work and from the little bit I know about the interview process it was deep and intense.

I read the Glamour piece on Christine and I am impressed with the care and thoughtfulness that went into it. Clearly Stephen Fried takes his work seriously.

Christine has already gotten an e-mail response to the article which she writes about on her blog. She also shares her reasons behind doing the interview and putting her story out there with all the doubts and fears it stirs up.

It was a very deliberate decision I made to have my story out there. I knew it
had the potential to be inflammatory, unflattering and/or incorrect. I know
that’s happened to a lot of folks who have talked to media. I was worried about
my family. It was one thing for me to decide I would come out nationally, but my
family didn’t have a choice in the matter. I was surprised they actually agreed
to talk to Glamour. My sister, especially. I’m glad they decided to participate.

Part of my decision to be interviewed and be out very publically was that I was so pleased that a national magazine was taking an interest in a woman’s story. Historically there have not been other women talking about their ex-gay experiences. Jennifer had her story featured in Fish Can’t Fly, but I think that was one of the first lesbian former ex-gay stories I’ve seen. Now I see more women
starting to speak out and I’m thrilled about that. I think our journeys often
are a bit different from the mens’ in ways that have not yet been explored, and
I’m interested in that. I’m looking forward to there being discussion on this in
the future.

And Christine is right, up until now the vast majority of ex-gay survivors coming forward have been us white gay guys, which in many ways reflect the demographics of many of the Evangelical Christian ex-gay programs. Still lesbians who’ve been through the movement do exist. Their stories need to be heard (along with trans folks, people of color, spouses of ex-gays, the parents, children and former/current same-sex partners).

I am thrilled that in bXg we are starting to get a growing selectoin of lesbian survivors on the Narrative page. Well done Christine for coming forward and putting yourself out there.

Also, Shawn O’Donnell did a fine job on CNN’s Anderson Cooper Show tonight. He too was in Fish Can’t Fly and each time he tells his story he gets more and more solid and clear. It is like watching a ghost turn into a human right before your eyes. There is a mysterious power in telling our stories.

Thank you Shawn for pressing on in your journey and in telling your truth.