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.