Category: ex-gay survivor

Ex-Gay Survivor Initiative

Yesterday Soulforce organized a press conference outside the headquarters of the National Association for the Research and Treatment of Homosexuality (NARTH). Three ex-gay survivors, one of them a patient of NARTH’s Joseph Nicolosi, each read a statement and presented a collage that shares their ex-gay experiences and in particular the emotional, psychological and spiritual damage of reparative therapy and ex-gay ministry.

Daniel Gonzales, Darlene Bogle and Shawn O’Donnell stepped up to tell their stories. Daniel over posted about it at Box Turtle Bulletin and also has video of each of the statements delivered.

It’s About People–Not Protest

Yesterday Exodus issued their reaction to the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference. Focus on the Family’s Citizen Link Daily Update refers to our conference and states.

Just a mile down the road, gay activists, co-sponsored by the University of California – Irvine, have scheduled a counter-conference at which some people will claim they were hurt by ex-gay organizations.

Exodus Executive Vice President Randy Thomas weighs in,

“We live in a great country where people can have freedom of assembly,” he said. Unfortunately, the organizers of the counter-conference will “try to project their experience onto all of us, when in fact thousands of people, myself included, have overcome homosexuality.”

In casting us as protesters and minimizing the scope of the organizers to a local group in Irvine, CA, Exodus not only knowingly misinforms people, they also miss the point. Sponsored by Soulforce, as well as the LGBT Resource Center at the University of California in Irvine (not the university itself), the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference serves as much more than a counter-conference.

Christine addresses this very well her blog as she outlines the purpose of the conference,

Our message that there is healing and wholeness for those who have felt alienated from their faith, from God, and from family because of a lack of change in orientation is a message of hope. We’re saying that those who have suffered because of their ex-gay experiences are not alone, and a wonderful life and healthy relationships can be theirs, in contradiction to what many of us have heard from Focus on the Family and Exodus.

Our gathering next week is about people, not protest. It’s about pastoral care, not propaganda.

For the past 4 1/2 years I’ve traveled throughout North America and Europe telling my story at universities, churches, theaters, community centers and homes. As a result, I got to hear lots of other stories. In e-mails and one-on-one, people have told me about the loss and the trials they have faced as a result of pursuing what they were told was God’s will for their lives–a course of suppressing their same-sex attractions and their personalities in order to no longer be gay or lesbian (or bisexual or transgender).

These stories pulled at me saying that more needs to be done to help survivors find clarity and direction after they experienced so much loss and damage–some of it self-inflicted and some of it at the hands of church workers and ex-gay ministers. No one meant to cause harm, and in fact in some cases some good occurred. But too often the pain and suffering outweighed the good to the point where many of us even questioned and rejected the possible benefits of our ex-gay experiences.

Jim Burroway wrote on his blog yesterday,

Exodus recently has claimed a 30% success rate, without any proof to back it up. But even if we accepted that figure, that means 70% fail. These ex-gay survivors know the pain that comes from that failure. They have a lot of important things to say, and the least Exodus could do is acknowledge them with civility instead of dismissing their stores as “protest.”

Exodus admits that most people under their care cannot achieve the goals set before them. If say 3,000 people were to identify as successful ex-gays (success being an unclear descriptor) then according to Exodus 7,000 individuals were unable to live up to the standards set before them, even though most desperately tried and invested huge chunks of their lives, energies and financial resources, even sacrificing careers and relationships in order to reach those standards.

What about these folks? What’s more important, the politics of “change” or the people caught in the cross-fire?

One of the main goals of the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference is to give these folks–the majority of the people who passed through Exodus’ doors–a venue to unpack their experiences, to mourn the losses when necessary and to constructively look at ways to undo the damage and move on in life. The weight of our ex-gay lives have kept some of us from life for far too long.

That’s why at the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference we will not have any keynote speakers or lectures. Instead we will create spaces for people to talk to each other, talk about the good and the bad of ex-gay experiences and the costs involved. Survivors will share the expertise they have gained through their own recovery. This conference will help to address the needs of the majority of people who once submitted their lives and trust to Exodus ministries.

I believe there are some some leaders at Exodus who care more about people than politics, more about pastoral care than propaganda. I call on these folks to visit, read the narratives, see the heart behind the action. Come to dinner with us on Friday June 29. It will just be a handful of survivors and conference organizers sitting at the table for a meal where we hope we can share some of our experiences with you. You can read the invitation here.

And if you are an ex-gay survivor, or know and love someone who is, come to the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference, not to protest, but pursue understanding, peace and reconciliation with the past in order to build a better future.

Shift at Exodus?

Lots in the news yesterday about a possible shift in focus at Exodus, or at least with Alan Chambers. See Ex-Gay Watch for details about the possibility that there is no such thing as an “ex-gay”.

No doubt lots of discussion has gone on between folks at Exodus and concerned activists and citizens. IN the past few months Exodus president Alan Chambers has made some moves to better protect youth in their programs and has come out against bullying and homophobia.

All of this is welcomed news. Dialog helps us challenge our assumptions, stretch our thinking, consider new possibilities. I know that when I speak with people who identify as ex-gay or former homosexual (or whatever term they may prefer), I walk away with a deeper and broader understanding.

Some time ago I put out a call to Exodus leaders to hear the stories of survivors, people who attended Exodus programs for months, even years, and at the end of the day came away harmed more than helped. For some of us the process of recovery from our ex-gay experiences has taken years and will take plenty more time. We submitted ourselves to the care of people we trusted, people, who for the most part, intended to help us. But we walked away depressed, discouraged and depleted.

I don’t know if there is a shift at Exodus. I know that there are ex-gay leaders who really care about people more than issues. These folks may not speak out in public much or get on national TV programs, but they are part of Exodus too and have been working behind the scenes for years to help move the organization back to the ministry roots and away from political lobbying.

In the past few years Exodus has intentionally shifted their focus to target youth with their own Exodus Youth MySpace page and of course Love in Action’s Refuge program.

As of this moment if you go to the Refuge site,, it looks much more understated than I ever remember it. I cannot easily find a reference to Refuge on Love in Action’s pages. It is not listed as one of LIA’s current programs, and I can’t find a link on Exodus Youth. Has this program quietly ended? If so, this is a BIG shift.

Since I posted this earlier today the Refuge page has been taken down. You can see a cached page of what I saw this morning.

This is not about politics, about winning or losing. It is about people. There are people who do feel uncertain about their same-sex attractions. They feel this way for many reasons. In trying to sort these feelings out, folks have turned to Exodus, and although Alan still claims that hundreds of thousands have been helped (see video below), I imagine many more people have been harmed than helped. Even the help we received has not outweighed the harm.

My hope is that in Irvine we can continue the dialog.


Models & Mentor

In NYC for the day to meet up with some media types–nice folks all. I also got to see David C. Ah David C! I LOVE David C.

For one he first introduced me to Rufus Wainwright years ago when the Poses album first came out. In fact, it was also in his car that I first heard and fell hard for Bjork.

David C is also an ex-gay survivor. He graduated Love in Action (LIA) shortly before I arrived back in 1996. We have lived similar lives with David a few steps ahead of me.

Before LIA he also married a woman and then divorced. He knew the pain and disappointment of a good relationship that could not work.

He worked hard on his program at LIA and from what I learned took his life as a Christian more seriously than most people I ever met.

After some time out of LIA, living an ex-gay life, he too went through a crisis and began to question the teachings he spent so much time learning. He dove into an abyss of questions, questions of utmost importance. Questions about everything.

With tenacity and integrity he walked through that bitter valley unpacking everything he ever believed. He found music and poetry and art that spoke to his situation. He found models in St. George and Rosetti and Everything But the Girl. He explored faith and sexuality and truth and beauty.

I remember aching for David as he faced every issue head-on and then concluded that the ex-gay life he had pursued not only contained half-truths but was constructed on sinking sand. He mourned deeply. He faced his worse fears and ultimately built a new life.

He found a life partner then moved far from home. He returned to university after a 10 year gap and has used his magnificent brain with all of his might.

David has served as a model and mentor for me–not only in the new life he constructed, but more so in his fearless commitment to authenticity.

Thank you David for being such a true brother to me and for doing nothing half-assed.

Christine Has Been Podcasted!

Actually Godcasted. Christine Bakke, (who recently celebrated a birthday!) appears on the recent edition of Candace Chellew-Hodge’s Godcast (#13). She talks about the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference, Beyond Ex-Gay (bXg) and her own ex-gay journey. She explains the purpose behind the conference and what will happen there. I love Christine’s wit and warmth as she speaks about these issues. You can have a listen here.

Christine blogs about some recent international attention lately with a piece in a Russian paper (Sadelle, Vlad says, check out the original to practice your Russian 🙂

A 35 year old American woman has challenged “Reparative therapy” which supposedly cures the homodemon.

35 year-old American Kristina Beykk wanted to escape from homosexuality with the aid of the program of the so-called ex-gays, who promise to cure the “misguided souls” through the word of the Lord, the lesbian journal “Pinx” reports.

I love the “homodemon” thing. As many of you know Christine was recently featured in Glamour Magazine and Good Morning America, making her the first lesbian ex-gay survivor to speak out in such a way. No doubt you will hear more about her and her other international exposure soon.

In other audio news, Exodus International is running radio ads on Christian radio stations in Orange County, CA in preparation for their upcoming Exodus Freedom Conference. The ads boast “a sudden, radical complete change. Through Christ freedom is possible for those who struggle with same-sex attractions. ” On Exodus’ site they claim that the ads are actually aimed at changing the church,

Exodus International exists to mobilize the body of Christ to minister grace and truth to a world impacted by homosexuality. As such, we are calling upon the evangelical church to undergo a sudden, radical and complete change in the way it has dealt with the issue of homosexuality in the past.

You can hear it yourself here and decide what you think they are trying to say.

Up and Coming

Hey gang, I miss reading many of your blogs! I hope to have some time this week to finally catch up.

So many things in the works. As many of you know, Christine and I over at bXg along with SoulForce and the LGBT Resource Center at UC Irvine will host the first ever Ex-Gay Survivor Conference in Irvine, CA the weekend of June 29-July 1, 2007. I don’t know yet how many we will have at the various events, but the response has been amazing from survivors and concerned allies on the West Coast, throughout the US and from as far away as Toronto, NYC and London.

All day today I have talked to people coming to the conference to present their films or art or to just join in the discussion. No doubt this will be a historic event and will change some people’s understanding of ex-gay experiences. This will be true of survivors themselves who may not ever had the opportunity to effectively unpack their former experiences–the motivations behind seeking change, the good that came of their quest, and the harm they caused themselves and others. Allies will also learn much more about the broader issues in the life of ex-gay survivors and the complexity of the struggle that many of us faced.

I spoke with a reporter today who asked about the “dueling conferences” and if ours was a reaction to the Exodus conference. I explained that I don’t see it that way. Exodus has presented their conference for decades. Loads of people have protested it in the past. Ours is not a protest or designed to harass Exodus leaders or ex-gays. We seek a positive response to the Exodus conference and damage that many of us had done to ourselves (often with assistance from others).

Also the conference will give Exodus leaders a chance to hear other stories, stories that they may not hear often. What happens to someone after they leave an Exodus ministry or ex-gay therapy? Typically these programs have no follow-up or aftercare. The years of depression, confusion, discouragement and loss happen out of ear shot of many ex-gay leaders.

The conference will provide people an opportunity to tell their stories in many formats (Internet, written narratives, art, etc) so that these stories will reach the ears and hopefully the hearts of ex-gay leaders, pastors, parents and others who encourage (or even force) people into ex-gay experiences.

Exodus used to be a ministry that tried to help people struggling with a variety of issues. Today it functions more as a lobbying group in DC tyring to limit the rights of LGBT people. Within Exodus are so many people, many who I have met, many who have good hearts and noble intentions. They still want to help people. They believe that ex-gay ministry is the best they can offer. Many of us have found something better and have reclaimed our lives. We want the opportunity to share this with each other and anyone who may be interested in hearing.

Among Friends in North Carolina

I arrived yesterday in Asheville, NC for the yearly meeting of unprogrammed Friends from this region that extends throughout Tennessee, and North Carolina and into Virginia and Georgia (and I imagine South Carolina).

SAYMA invited me to come and give a plenary address tonight about my faith journey as a Quaker. I will also adress the teen group as well as lead a bibliodrama. I appreciate prayers, warm thoughts and holding in the Light so that I can speak from the heart and in the Spirit.

One thought that keeps coming to me is how I am a refugee. (no not a Yankee from the stiff cold North seeking refuge among friendly folks in the South–although it does feel great to be back down here). No, I am a spiritual refugee. I had to flee my own faith community, in part because of my unwillingness and inability to conform to sexual norms.

But it is no longer only about my sexual attractions. I am a refugee in regards to how I look at life and faith and even politics. I don’t fit any longer in the Evangelical church that I once called home and family.

Not that I am a perfect fit among unprogrammed Quakers. Oh, they don’t have a problem with the gay thing (well most don’t) but I talk far too much about Jesus for some.

Too gay for some Evangelicals and too Christian for some liberal Quakers. Not quite at home. Which I guess is how many refugees feel, particularly those from other countries. They find refuge, a safe place, but that doesn’t make it home.

I sometimes feel that way among Friends. Perhaps we are never fully at home no matter where we are.

Update: Sunday June 10–The time here with Friends at SAYMA went very well. Funny how when you come out (as gay, as Christian, etc) how other people come out to you too. I also had some wonderful talks about how some Friends struggle with a lot of Jesus talk because of how they had been abused in their previous faith communities. I can understand that and see how that could get in the way for some people when they hear lots of messages that use similar language. Christine and I often talk to each other about the post-traumatic stress folks can experience even in affirming churches once they hear the language and see the images from their former church experiences.

Last night I got to meet up with Kevin and his friend Brian. Kevin is another graduate of Love in Action and an ex-gay survivor. He had finished the program before I did, and we would get together for lunch once a week (we had to get special permission for this). He said he remembered how depressed I was during those times which reminded me of the days I just broke down and cried in my room sometimes for hours. No one could console me.

Yesterday in speaking with a reporter from a German newspaper, she asked, “Did you get anything good out of your experience in the ex-gay movement?” I told her that I met some amazing people, people who have become my closest friends. We went through hell together and have bonded deeply.

I get to spend the evening with a friend in Asheville and head back home to Hartford tomorrow where I will sit tight for at least three days. phew!

Former Exodus Missionary Speaks Out

Jose Luis Maccarone lived as an ex-gay for over 10 years. I first met him during my time at Love in Action when he came for a visit to the US to share his testimony around the country.

In 2000 he moved from his home country of Argentina to Madrid, Spain and become Exodus Interational’s first missionary. After serving as an ex-gay missionary for a few years, he came out gay.

Last week Jose Luis and I spent a day together, and he wanted to tell some of his story. In this series of videos, Jose Luis shares some of his ex-gay survivor narrative, what it was like to live as an ex-gay, the good and the bad that came of his experience, his recovery and a message to his former clients.

Jose Luis shares some of the reasons why he became ex-gay.

In this video Jose Luis talks about life as an Exodus leader and missionary

What good, if any came of your ex-gay experiences and how were you harmed?

Jose Luis talks about his recovery from the ex-gay movement and speaks to the people who he had ministered to as a missionary and ex-gay leader

Shortly after I posted this entry, I received the following e-mail from Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International.

Please make sure to note and clarify that Jose was a missionary with the Exodus International that now is called The Exodus Global Alliance. He was not affiliated with the ministry Exodus International that I represent. Though there is a connection to the two ministries, he was not one of our representatives.



Why Did You Even Try to Change?

Ex-gay survivors have many reasons for wanting to change from gay to straight. Some we have never fully articulated, but recently I got to understand yet another reason why I so desperatly sought to change my sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual.

During this current trip to Europe, I had a long conversation with a conservative Methodist woman from the US (who now lives abroad). I have thought long and hard about the ecounter and after journaling about it some, I decided to write the essence of it here.

After sharng with this women in detail my ex-gay saga–the steps I took, my heart to please God, and the damage the process caused emotionally, psychologically and spiritually–the woman proceded to tell me that she felt the scripture was clear on the matter and that we should not give God a timeline of when we want him to work. She then asked,

But why did you even try to change? Perhaps it was God’s will for you to bear
the burden of your gay feelings as your daily cross. We all have burdens to bear.

ME: Do you realize what you are saying? That I would go all of my life without the prospect for a companion or lover or partner. That I would even have to be concerned about having a male roomate because I might fall in love with him. Do you understand how hard such a life would be?
SHE: God can always do a miracle!

ME: Like change me? See change is essential. If not, you will live your life shut off from intimacy. Look at the Catholic Church and what has happened with so many of the priests.

SHE: I don’t want to look at the Catholic Church.

ME: You need to. They suppressed their sexuality and it came out all twisted. I grew up Catholic and some of the most bitter men I ever met were priests.

You are a divorced heterosexual woman. You may never remarry, but you always have the hope that you will find a nice man and settle down. If not, you can always get a roomate to be a companion to you. But you will deny me that hope and insist that I live a celibate life without a partner, unless of course God does a miracle. I sought God for nearly two decades for that miracle and it nearly destroyed me.

Jesus spoke about this very thing when he condemned the Pharisees saying,

You put burdens on men’s backs that you will not bear yourselves and make them
twice the sons of hell as youselves.

I finally suggested we pray together because I found her words abusive, and we were not getting anywhere. Also, I knew I had to stop the dialogue before it got any further and ugly. I found it difficult because I felt she wasn’t hearing what I had been saying and instead she said many of the same things I told her that I had told myself for years.

We prayed, but I left haunted by the memory of years of hoping, longing, praying for change, knowing instinctively that if it did not come, (and for most I met, it never did) then I looked at the prospect of a lonely lonely life.

How Do I Know if my Spouse is Gay????

Over at my Spanish blog, Dos Equis, I have a post entitled ¿Como Identificar si mi pareja es homosexual? which is similar to the English post What About the Spouse? The Spanish site Adriana and I maintain got so many hits due to search results about gay and lesbian spouses that we decided to write about it in Spanish.

Today I received the following comment:

Sí encontré este blog por el título de este post. Tengo serias dudas
sobre mi esposo, y esperaba encontrar aquí alguna respuesta que me ayude a
identificar si su comportamiento tiene que ver con una orientación homosexual, pero de eso, nada. Ya que te encuentras en esa situación, quizá puedas darnos algunos tips para aquellas que somos lastimadas por el engaño de un hombre que no se resigna a reconocer su inclinación, lo cual es muy injusto para la mujer. Gracias.

I found this blog through the title of this post. I have serious doubts about my husband, and I hope to find some answer that can help me determine if the way he acts might reveal that he has a homosexual orientation, but so far, I have found nothing. Since you have been in this situation, would you please give me tips those of us that suffer because of the deceit of a man who refuses to recognize his inclination, which is very unjust for the women.

This woman deserves useful answers, but I feel hesitant to write about what signs there are to figure out if your husband is gay. For one there are cultural differences to consider. Also, one size does not fit all. Each man is wired differently, and he may display certain “signs” for a variety of reasons, not simply because he is homosexual or bisexual.

So I put it out there for readers. What would you say to this woman? Some of you were married to men or women who turned out to be gay or lesbian or bisexual. Some of you who are gay or lesbian or bisexual were married to a spouse for years before you came out to your spouse. What would you say to this woman?

I also received a comment on this blog at What About the Spouse? I think it deserves to be reprinted here:

The emotional earthquake caused when a person finds out his or her spouse is gay can be devastating. I was married to a gay man for 38 years before divorcing him. I did not know when we married that he was gay.I have learned through my experinece that there are few resources for the straight spouse.

In my work as a life coach, I encourage people to cast a grateful eye toward what was good in the relationship so that moving on can be a creative process rather than one fueled by resentment and anger. Those feelings are definitely there at first, but
the energy of them can be used to create a new life.

I have also found that many gay men have made the mistake of thinking that since the straight wife was friendly and understanding with other gay men, she would accept her husbands desire to live the life style. It came as a bit of a shock to mine that I divorced him.

It would be helpful for gays married to straights to have an understanding of what their spouse might experience beforer they come out to the spouse.

Good article! Melissa McCutcheon

Thank you Melissa! I appreciate the conversations I have had with spouses who have allowed me to see the pain and difficulties as well as their healing process after they discovered that thir marriages were not going to work. Thank you for stepping up and telling your stories.