Doin’ Time with Christine Bakke

I’ve gotten to spend lots of quality time with Christine Bakke, my fellow co-founder of Beyond Ex-Gay (bXg). Last week I spent a few days in Denver, CO, near where Christine lives, so that we could spend time working on the bXg site and some of our next steps. Lots of exciting stuff coming up!

Last night Christine and I sat for a long and relaxed interview on the Strictly Confidential Radio Program. (You can hear an archived recording of the program here. We cover topics from demons to tap dancing and I even do excerpts from Homo No Mo)

What a treat to not have to rush through the issues and our stories. I love how Christine speaks about the ex-gay movement. She has really influenced me to understand that many different types of people provide ex-gay treatment and ministry. Most ex-gay ministers are not in it for the money. They really think they offer the best possible option to LGBT folks. And the reality is, that some folks do get a measure of help from their time in the ex-gay world.

Many of us turned to the ex-gay providers because we had needs that had to be met, and we doubted the LGBT communities had the resources or the will to help us. Many men who choose to go ex-gay have struggled with sexual addiction and unhealthy compulsive sexual behavior. Some of this stems from the deep shame and guilt we can carry about our sexuality. Whatever the reasons we have had sexual addiction issues, gay men who want to get control of their lives too often feel that the LGBT communities do not provide the necessary support or services to help them with their addiction. In fact, many LGBT regional and local magazines are loaded with sex ads and provocative images that only exacerbate the problem for someone looking for assistance.

Another group of people (and there can be cross-over with the folks with sexual addiction) are those folks with unresolved sexual abuse issues. They can feel dirty, guilty, and filled with shame. Sadly they do not carry their own shame but that of their abuser who marked them with the wrong they forced upon their victim. When these formerly abused folks hear the messages from the church and the ex-gay world–you can find freedom from sexual brokenness, find new life in Christ, be washed clean in the blood–it sounds VERY appealing. In fact, ex-gay programs prey on survivors of abuse without even knowing it.

Then when we get to the ex-gay world, we learn from them lessons that state the abuse made us gay or lesbian, thus deepening the shame. NO! The abuse did not make us gay. It had made our lives miserable and complicated, but not homosexual.

As Christine and I spoke on the radio program last night, we tried to outline some of these compelling issues that cause someone to flee to ex-gay programs for help. I know also that heterosexism and the demands of parents and church have a lot to do with it too, but as LGBT folks, we need to also consider what services and support we can provide in our communities so that people with abuse and addiction issues feel affirmed and helped. Some of the larger cities have such services, but we can do lots more.

Rarely have I seen models of a gay man and a lesbian woman working together on a project like Christine and I have been doing for over a year now. Great divides can exist between the worlds of gays and lesbians. Knowing Christine has enriched my life and the work of bXg. Two are better than one. That’s for sure.

This post has 4 Comments

  1. Brian on November 14, 2007 at 5:17 pm Reply

    Thank-you for this insight. I wonder if we could brainstorm ways here or on bXg that gay and transgender people could come together to offer the services and alternatives that you talk about in a very visible and effective way. I agree, they are desperately needed.

  2. Peterson Toscano on November 14, 2007 at 5:27 pm Reply

    brian, yeah, I think it is a worthwhile discussion and something that we should bring up at future ex-gay survivor gathering and also discuss it on-line.

  3. Jonathan Holm on November 15, 2007 at 6:40 pm Reply

    This is insightful stuff, Peterson, and eloquently articulated as usual :-). I’m with you, Brian, and Christine on being willing to work toward a visible LGBT-friendly community effort to help folks recover from sex addictions and from childhood sex abuse.

    You’re right that these two items are some of the biggest draws to ex-gay ministries; I would contend that they are two of the biggest retention methods too. From my days in ex-gay ministries, I remember not only being told that the LGBT community did not or would not help people deal with sex addiction–but that the LGBT community either didn’t care about or (worse yet) promoted/encouraged compulsive sexual behavior. On the issue of sexual abuse, the ministries contended that being sexually active in the LGBT community was tantamount to sexually abusing oneself and others (based on the belief/assumption that all homosexual behavior is evil and destructive), so in some sense the sexual abuse issue was leveraged to keep people inside the ex-gay ministries.

    Just as Soulforce, gaychristian.net and Beyond Ex-gay are visible community efforts that counter the false notion that faith and homosexuality are mutually exclusive, I agree with you that it would be awesome to see a visible community effort to help LGBT people recover from sex abuse and sex addiction.

    I think gay therapist Joe Kort’s popular books for gay men are one visible LGBT-friendly solution to the two issues. Joe advocates LGBT-friendly therapy for sexual abuse issues and encourages guys with compulsive sexual issues to join helpful twelve-step programs for sex addicts. I’ve also seen another book (the author’s name escapes me, but I remember the title) called Cruise Control that’s a book targetted at helping gay men stop and recover from compulsive sexual behavior. I don’t know how “visible” this book is, though.

    But these are just two books, and their target is just the gay male corner of the LGBT community. I don’t want to minimize the significance of these book, but I’d love to be part of a broader, community-wide movement to help people recover from these two issues while affirming their orientation.

  4. alex resare on November 16, 2007 at 11:13 pm Reply

    well, it would be great if a gay man and a lesbian could work together for a year. But I don’t know if you really counts. You’re just too versatile and are part lesbian you’re self so the cooperation works without anyone raising any eyebrows…

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