Doin’ Time in LA!

I arrived today in Los Angeles for a weekend of shows with plenty of time to meet with cool people I’ve met on the web including folks from the Gay Christian Network, Eric, Jonathan Bullock, Reagan DuCass (who was just once again slimed on DL Foster’s site), Ex-Gay Watch’s Daniel Gonzales (also slimed by Foster), Steve Schalchlin, Joe G, Malcolm Boyd, Mark Thompson and rumor has it even Troy Perry.


My host, C. Todd White and his friend Bob have me in a lovely home in Encino with a super view, a pool and wi-fi. They will have trouble getting rid of me.

On the plane I began reading Tanya Erzen’s book Straight to Jesus–Sexual and Christian Conversions in the Ex-Gay Movement. Erzen spent 18 months at the New Hope residential ex-gay program (formerly Love in Action) in San Rafael, CA. She digs into the lives of participants current and former, mostly white Evangelical males, and unearths motivations and complexities in the pursuit of an ex-gay life. I have completed a third of the book so far.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the ex-gays caught in the middle of the struggle between the public ex-gay program leaders and the gay activists. So many sincere people seeking change in their lives, struggling to do what they feel God wants them to do. Although I often explore the ex-gay experience through comedy, I know it is no joke, and I know that many adults involved in the process feel compelled to do so because of their love of God and their desire to do the right thing.

I remember being there myself for many years. I longed to please God and did everything in my power to serve God, to fill my life with Jesus, to let the Lord do a work in me. I saw myself in a heroic quest to surrender fully to God. And whenever I fell, bruised and filled with remorse, I turned to God and I trusted that Jesus would forgive me and give me strength for a new day as I fought the good fight.

I do not regret the years I sought change from my same-sex desires, well sought more than that, I sought to be whole in Jesus, to be a man of God. I do not regret the efforts in prayer, in church, in Bible study, in pastoral counseling sessions, in ex-gay support groups and residential homes and even the three exorcisms I endured. Perhap I regret some wasted time, years lost, but I do not regret seeking change with all my heart.

When I finally realized that such a change was not possible and I knew I had done everything in my power to make it right, I then was ready to do the work in my life of reconciling my faith in Jesus with my same-sex desires, with reconciling my distrust of the “gay community” with the reality that I somehow belonged in it, with reconciling the rejection I experienced from the church with my longing to still find my place in it, with reconciling the fragmented pieces of myself that did not seem to fit.

For anyone who is ex-gay, post-ex-gay or not even sure where they are in that process, this wrestling challenges us deeply and daily. For all that I criticize ex-gay programs and policies, I cannot help but feel a kinship with the women and men in these programs seeking to find their places in this world.

This post has 12 Comments

  1. CrackerLilo on June 1, 2006 at 3:38 am Reply

    I’ll have to get that book.

    Thank you for sharing your story. I’m so grateful you survived that.

    Reading yours and others’ stories always makes me think of a song. Kiss the Dirt (Falling Down the Mountain) by INXS.

    Playing in the dirt
    We find the seeds of doubt
    Don’t water them with your tears
    Don’t think about all the years
    You’d rather be without

    Eden lets me in
    I find the seeds of love
    And climb upon the highwire
    I kiss and tell all my fears

    Falling down the mountain
    End up kissing dirt
    Look a little closer
    Sometimes it wouldn’t hurt

    Playing in the dirt
    We find the seeds of fun
    And we scream like alleycats
    Tearing down what we attack
    To prove that we are one

    Cutting through the night
    And we find the seeds of lust
    And lose our minds on one intent
    These passions never seem to end

  2. Peterson Toscano on June 1, 2006 at 4:16 am Reply

    Wow, great lyrics. Yeah, that captures it well.

  3. SteveSchalchlin on June 1, 2006 at 11:11 am Reply

    Peter, it’s great to have you here in L.A. I’ve been traveling and have finally gotten around to linking to you from my “new” blog. (I’ve had an online diary for 10 years but only recently converted to blog format).

    I look forward to meeting you on Friday–and also to your host. Feel free to invite others, also.

  4. Joe G. on June 1, 2006 at 2:19 pm Reply

    Those are kind thoughts about everyone who has ever been involved or touched by the whole ex-gay thing. I recently listened to a podcast by an ex-gay. At one point he mentioned how he liked this one particular woman and I thought of Marvin. It was funny, sad, and touching all at the same time. I thought, poor fella that we live in a world that creates such struggles of incongruity.

    More importantly – why aren’t you spending all your time with me?!? I can’t believe how many people who have listed to see for a tiny town like LA. You whore!

    See you soon.

  5. Peterson Toscano on June 1, 2006 at 2:33 pm Reply

    Joe, I am not a whore;
    I am simply accommodating.

  6. Eric on June 1, 2006 at 5:33 pm Reply

    i’m glad you’re “accomodating” Peterson…i’m looking forward to seeing you this weekend and connecting with you next week!

    Eric

  7. CrackerLilo on June 1, 2006 at 9:10 pm Reply

    I am not a whore;
    I am simply accommodating.

    Careful, honey, or I might steal that and put it on a T-shirt! 🙂

  8. Willie Hewes on June 2, 2006 at 7:38 am Reply

    Ah, you lucky people. 🙂

    Great post, Peterson. You’re right, it’s important not to forget the people stuck in the middle.

  9. Jonathan on June 2, 2006 at 8:51 pm Reply

    Peterson…

    Nice digs they’ve got you in!

    I’m so looking forward to meeting you in person! My friend Scott and I were chatting over the weekend and I believe we will be heading over on Sunday. I’ll need to confirm! Anyway…great to have you in town!

    j.

  10. Peterson Toscano on June 2, 2006 at 10:27 pm Reply

    BTW, I just learned that Sunday’s show will be at 7 PM not at 8 PM!

  11. jimbo on June 2, 2006 at 11:41 pm Reply

    Thanks for posting this.

    It reminded me of the years I spent in ‘ex-gay’ mode, and the friends I knew during that time – some of whom are still travelling on that road. I’d like to think that there is still some mutual respect.

  12. memorybabe on June 3, 2006 at 7:05 am Reply

    Peterson,

    I love the tenderness you share in this post–both toward yourself and others. Thanks.

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