Demands, Desires and Dreams

Since first meeting her in spring of 2005, I have been impressed with the earnestness, intelligence, wit and thoughtfulness of Christine Bakke. For a time in her life she sincerely sought an ex-gay path in hopes of leaving the lesbian part of herself behind or at least to submerged that part through various religious-based ex-gay therapies. When she realized that such a route was not possible or healthy, she began the arduous work of reevaluating her life, deconstructing her beliefs, and educating herself about the Bible, sexuality and healthy living.

In responding to a book review Christine’s mother, Jeanette, posted on the PFOX ex-gay/anti-gay web-site, Christine reveals again the depth of compassion and wholeness that has been a hallmark of her own self-reflection and the public and private sharing she has done regarding her ex-gay experiences. Her blog entry is entitled Dreams of a Daughter.

Speaking out of a liberated mind, Christine writes:

I’ve come into my own after much struggle and I reject the notion that I am lost or broken or need to be restored. There is something really disturbing about this idea that I am fundamentally flawed and need salvation in order to be a “good girl” in this world. I already am good, whole, and the only thing I’ve ever needed restored to me was my sanity after the years in the ex-gay movement.

In responding to Jeanette’s words as quoted in a Glamour magazine article about Christine’s story as an ex-gay survivor, Christine writes about the  dreams she has carried for her family and how tragically the dreams we we hold out for ourselves and for our loved ones can get deferred.

Children have dreams for their parents, too. You don’t lay in your parent’s arms and think that you’ll have to defend yourself from them thinking you are lost and damned eternally. You don’t cuddle up and think that one day you’ll find out that they believe that who you are is synonymous with being a rapist. I certainly didn’t have those dreams for my parents. What I did dream instead was that I might be able to express my concerns and be heard. I dreamed that I would be always cherished and deemed worthy of their love and respect, no matter my beliefs. I dreamed that I would be supported in living a life that was truly authentic and truly mine, without the haunting thoughts about what a disappointment I am to them. Those dreams have had to die.

On their website, PFOX leaders state,

Each year thousands of men, women and teens with unwanted same-sex attractions make the personal decision to leave homosexuality. However, there are those who refuse to respect that decision. Consequently, formerly gay persons are reviled simply because they dare to exist! Without PFOX, ex-gays would have no voice in a hostile environment.

I cannot speak for the entire LGBT community, and although I feel it’s my responsibility to raise questions about it, I completely respect the decision of someone to pursue an ex-gay path. I can truly say that “some of my friends are ex-gay.” That said, I do believe people should have informed consent, something that I did not have when I began my own 17 year odyssey attempting to rid myself of all things gay.

In large part due to the influence of Christine Bakke in our early conversations about our ex-gay experiences, over at Beyond Ex-Gay (bXg) we have always included the following statement on our home page.

We believe that ex-gay experiences cause more harm than good. 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.

To the dismay of some and the surprise of others, at bXg we do not bash the ex-gay movement and especially ex-gays, the people struggling with their sexuality and with what they may feel are forces insisting they have to be a certain way. Through our site we simply choose to tell our stories and how the pursuit to eradicate the “queer” sides of us damaged us and our loved ones, including our parents.

I have often thought that PFOX, the Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays, should really be called The Disgruntled Parents of Unrepentant Gay and Lesbians. That may be harsh and not true of some of the parents genuinely looking for answers in light of much misinformation that they learned about gays and lesbians. Growing up in New York City in the 30’s and 40’s my parents only witnessed negative portrayals of gays and lesbians and worse yet horrendous treatment of anyone not straight and gender normative. Without the belief that one can be homosexual and still be whole, healthy and holy, some parents may think the best course would be for their child to change. Who wants to see their child suffer?

Yet without adequate education and information, parents can pressure their children into making choices that actually causes suffering to the child, the parents and the relationship with each other that they value so much.

Over at Beyond Ex-Gay we have two articles especially for parents.

In the battle over LGBT rights and the inclusion of gays and lesbians in the church and in ministry, often the casualties are the families, particularly when some family members act as if being gay or lesbian is the most important issue, the deal breaker. Sadly some desire to give their children a blessing but instead hand them a curse. My hope is that parents with questions will consider Christine’s words before they make demands that may very well lead to the breakdown of the family. There is a better way.

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This post has 4 Comments

  1. KJ on February 17, 2009 at 9:10 pm Reply

    Through a grace that I do not understand, the Lord preserved me from the ex-gay experience, as when I reviewed the claims and “treatments,” I saw futility. Yet, I’ve never felt led to attack those who have followed that path. It is so easy for us to reduce those with whom we are in disagreement to a two-dimensional stereotype. I don’t like having that done to me; Why would I attempt to reduce the humanity of another by returning the “favor?”

    It is ours, with God’s help, to love, and love is transformational, though not always easy.

  2. Valorie Zimmerman on February 18, 2009 at 7:20 am Reply

    I found motherhood to be a two-way process, and mostly I felt the most blessed. I learned from my children, and hopefully they learned from me to. We nurtured one another in so many ways.

    The PFOX parents seem to be looking at parenthood instead in a hierarchical manner. Adults setting the standards, calling the shots, laying down the law. I understand that that is one traditional model of parenting, but what is the result? Adults who haven’t developed critical thinking, self-discipline, and creativity.

    Love IS transformational, as you say, and love can change parents who grew up in a hierarchy, if they only learn to listen to their children, as well as prate. I learned so MUCH from my gay son, and give thanks every day for him, just the way he is. Same as my straight kids! Thank you my darlings. <3

  3. Mike Airhart on February 20, 2009 at 1:48 pm Reply

    I’m surprised that anyone would expect bXg to “bash” ex-gays or their movement.

    That’s simply not bXg’s role. Struggling ex-gays who develop an awareness of their movement’s flaws need to know there are safe places such as bXg where their concerns and struggles can be talked about and listened to, without harsh judgment.

    There are other organizations, of course, which exist to publicly warn the public about the deceptions and harmful untruths of ex-gay political activists and “therapists.”

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