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.

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