Category: ex-gay survivor

Stepping Up & Speaking Out

Tellilng our life stories, particularly the painful bits, takes a lot out of most of us. It requires good support and knowing limits of how deeply we can share. But when we do step up and speak out, sharing our stories with vulnerability and clarity, people hearing us change. This is especially true when ex-gay survivors tell their stories to others, especially to well-meaning others who had wrongly assumed that gay people must change. Once they hear of the pain and damage caused, I have seen them change quickly and deeply.

In August 2006 I spoke to an audience of 350+ at the Greenbelt Festival. I shared some excerpts from my play Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House as well as talked from my heart about my own personal journey to sort out God and my sexuality and the rest of the world. Since that time I have met scores of people who attended that talk who told me how deeply it impacted them. And as a result of that talk, I had the opportunity to present in Wakefield, England last night to a mixed audience that came from as far away as Liverpool and Manchester. (Thank you Wakefield and Jo and Ali for making it happen!)

Our stories matter as we tell them to families and friends, to classmates, on-line and wherever a way opens up for us. Right now ex-gay survivors are sharing their narratives, poetry and art over at bXg.

At the upcoming Ex-Gay Survivor Conference (June 29-July 1, 2007) in Irvine, CA, many survivors will get to share their stories with each other and beyond.

And here is another new wonderful opportunity to share our survivor tales. Truth Wins Out has launched an Internet video campaign called Talking Truth. I remember when Wayne Besen told me about his idea to put up short but meaningful videos on-line to get the word out about the damge experienced by many people who have tried being ex-gay. In his press release Wayne says,

We hope our videos will save lives and make it more difficult for Exodus International to seduce young people with its fictions and fabrications.” said Wayne Besen, Executive Director of Truth Wins Out. “In our campaign, people will hear directly from the victims and see that these programs simply don’t work and can be a drain on time, money and self-esteem. We urge all former ex-gays to immediately contact Truth Wins Out and tell us your compelling story on video, so we can continue to rescue people harmed by ‘ex-gay’ programs.

I know that ex-gay people read my blog, people who I have spoken with and prayed with and been in e-mail contact. As I have written before, if being ex-gay works for you and you go into it with an open mind and heart, than I am happy for you. But for most of us, this has not been possible. Too many people have been wounded and wounded themselves through ex-gay programs and in churches that insist that people must change or at least repress their sexuality. The stories of this sort of harm has not been heard yet by most Exodus leaders and other proponents of ex-gay ministries and gay reparative therapy.

In fact, the harm that these places cause directly affects the individuals who on their own believe that they need to seek a course of celibacy or wish to pursue a straignt life. Lots of people think that every ex-gay experience is the same. People get lumped together and the complexity of our sexuality and individual journeys get flattened. Over at bXg we are beginning to see this complexity as we encourage people to explore the good as well as the harm that came from their ex-gay experiences.

The important point is that we need to tell our own stories because once others tell them for us, the stories morph into a political message. So I encourage you, whatever journey you are on, step up and speak out.

What I Sat Under

When I lived in New York City, I attended Time Square Church. Like our friend, Marvin Bloom, I went to church every time the doors opened–Sunday morning service, Sunday evening service, Tuesday night prayer meeting, Thursday night Bible study, Friday night praise and worship step aerobic class (okay, I made that last one up).

The senior pastor, David Wilkerson, preached most Sundays either morning or evening with a message filled with dire warnings if we as individuals and a nation did not turn to God. For nearly five years I sat under his teaching, and the teachings of the other pastors, in my pursuit of holiness and nearness to God.

My personal struggle with my same-sex attractions kept me close to the front and in the choir, often at the altar for prayer and always looking for answers.

David Wilkerson has traveled widely in the world. Just today I spoke with a woman here in Sweden who heard him speak back in the late 60’s when he spoke to nearly a thousand young people in Stockholm. She said it was the first time many of them had ever heard the word homosexual (homosexuell).

He preached a lot about homosexuality, well, particularly against it. He warned that like ancient Rome, the US along with post-Christian Europe would collapse under the weight of its wickedness. And in saying that I always felt the weight of my own.

Here is a sample from a dramatic sermon (they always are) by Wilkerson given at Time Square Church in 2005.

Hell was spilling out, and Roman society had become one vast orgy. Homosexuality was a respected lifestyle, preferred among the intelligentsia. The entire culture was immersed in materialism, with the rampant pursuit of money, fame and pleasure.

snip

We are living in those last, terrifying days right now, and the signs are everywhere. Europe is becoming wholly pagan, with the institution of marriage being rejected, partners living together and family values vanishing altogether. In Sweden, 30 percent of the population lives together unmarried.

Here in New York State, we’re seeing a “great falling away” of the kind Scripture predicts. Some 410 pastors have enlisted for a homosexual agenda called “Pride in My Pulpit,” in which they hang signs in their churches bearing this motto. The message is, “We’re proud of the homosexual community, and we endorse it.” The numbers of these pastors are growing.

Well, you get the point. Week after week, I heard that message from the pulpit and used that message to help drive me to Jesus, to prayer, to the Bible and nearly to insanity and worse. I even spoke to a minister at the church about my struggle. To my shock he told me that he too had a similar struggle. He warned that it is a spiritual battle, one where I needed to bind the devil, do spiritual warfare and drive out the evil spirits in my life.

Eventually I left the church to go to a smaller house church in Yonkers, NY and then to the mission field in Zambia. When I finally returned to the Northeast of the US, openly gay and integrating my faith with my sexuality, I talked to a Time Square Friend about that minister who had counseled me back in my time at the church.

“Oh, didn’t you hear?” he replied, “Brother _______, moved back to _____ . Soon after he returned home, he killed himself! So awful. And such a man of God. No one knows why he would do such a thing.”

Sadly, I think I know why, knowing the weight of wickedness he sat under, wickedness heaped on him every Sunday. Perhaps it eventually crushed him.

Nytt Inläg in Lund

That’s “New Post in Lund.” I arrived in Lund, Sweden yesterday after a short flight from London to Copenhagen (thanks Esther for the ride and for sharing a bowl of coffee with me!) The last time I was in the university city of Lund with this past September. I visited twice on that trip. The first time was with the crew from the gay theatre troupe in Malmö. Then a few nights later I came with Alex & Noa for Kulturnatten.

This time I stay with a Quaker Friend, Janet and her husband, John, who is a professor at the university here in Lund (about 40,000 students). Today I have the day off to just chill, go to a cafe and do some writing then maybe see a film. Tomorrow I give a talk at their Gay & Lesbian film festival before they screen Fish Can´t Fly.

Thursday the student group, Smålands Nation, sponsors my performance of Homo No Mo at the university as part of IDAHO (International Day Against Homophobia). Then on Friday I fly up to Stockholm to meet up with Alex and also see Daniel (formerly of Malmö). Then it is off to the North to Umeä where I will hang out with Alex, Noa and their three children.

Right now it is 3.20 in the morning. Due to a combination of unresolved jet lag, too much fabulous Swedish coffee and a very entertaining dream about all the US presidental candidates, I am wide awake. (Oh, in my dream, similar to the famous question once asked to Bill Clinton about his pot smoking, where he admitted yes, he did but did not inhale, in my dream, all the candidates and their wives sit in on a cozy roundtable discussion and have to answer if they ever had a same-sex sexual encounter. The LOOK on Hillary´s face! Then there was this whole exchange between Hillary and Laura. Needless to say it got me laughing, which woke me up.)

Tonight I am thinking about the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference in Irvine this summer and what an amazing time it will be for so many of us who spend a great deal of time thinking and writing and talking about ex-gay experiences. As I spoke in Oxford Friends Meeting on Sunday, I shared how the work I do and the conference is not a direct attack on the Ex-Gay Movement.

In fact, some gay activists would most likely want us to come out harder against Exodus and others. But the hope is that by having survivors step up and tell some of their stories, we can tease out the more sublte points that will help to understand the many factors that may lead someone to enroll in an Exodus program and pursue change in other ways, in some cases, for decades.

The press and folks who do not know the issues too deeply, often make broad swipes at Exodus and ex-gays in general. I do believe that program leaders are responsible for the harm their programs cause, and I do believe that more harm than good come from most ex-gay experiences, but the bigger picture reveals that other players influence these issues, including the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer & Questioning (LGBTQQ aka the gAy,B,C´s) community.

During the Q&A at Oxford Meeting on Sunday, I shared some about my faith and my years in the ex-gay movement and in a church system that loved me unconditionally, well except for one strong condition. The audience contained lots of gay men in it along with some lesbians and no doubt bisexuals (the Invisibles as I have come to call them. Yeah, they too do exist), along with lots of straight folks.

After sharing some of my faith journey in response to a question about why I am still a Christian, one man asked, “Why do so many people use religion as a crutch?” (Which sounded to me like an opinion dressed up as a question). I shared how some of us are “wired for God” and just like our ancestors from the earliest days, we pursue a spiritual path of understanding and enlightenment and that for me to deny the God part of me, would be like those years that I denied the gay part of me.

I need to be authentic, and it would be illogical for me NOT to develop a spiritual practice and seek to know the divine. I also acknowleged that some (many?) do not feel the same way and do not understand why someone would choose a spiritual path, especially in light of the oppression many religions pratice. I concluded that I need to be honest about my spiritual path and be aware that much religion can control and hurt people, and that I must avoid those sorts of systems.

I thought about his question the next day in the shower, and considered how so many of us God-wired people have felt (and feel) like unwelcomed outsiders in the LGBTQQ community, especially when we run up against the anger and hurt and accusations we sometimes feel from people who do not share our experiences or interests in matters of faith. Yes, I know that the Church has been CRAP to most to us LGBTQQ folks, and I do not expect folks to embrace their oppressors. I understand that anything that looks and sounds and feels like that old time religion will not work for most (one of the reasons I joined the Quakers.)

But people of faith, Christian and otherwise, within the LGBTQQ community, often feel silenced and shut out by the hurt and the anger and the intolerance of folks who are either not wired for God or not interested. (Much like many of us felt shut out by the hurt and the anger and the intolerance of straight church folks. Hmmm, perhaps we learned it from them…) No wonder some LGBTQQ people of faith turn to an ex-gay program where they can both openly acknowlege their attractions for people of the same-sex along with their love for God.

It is easy to point the finger at Exodus and Focus on the Family and other groups that spread false messages about us as they promise “freedom”. And yes, these groups and leaders need to be held accountable for their actions, particularly when they become aware that they harm people. But those of us in the LGBTQQ community need to also look at ourselves and question “How open and affirming are we?”

Do we love our own unconditionally or only as long as they line up with our politics, style and beliefs?

More Ex-Gay Survivor Stories

Christine and I have been getting so many e-mails from people sharing their ex-gay experiences. (thank you!) We have posted some of these on bXg and others will be there over the next few weeks. Here are two narratives we recently posted.

Brock:

“What a pathetic mess,” I thought as I listened to him cry and boast about another one of his secret sexual encounters behind stall doors, public parks, health clubs, chat rooms, and bath houses. Here I was again at another Dallas ex-gay meeting, with a bunch of weenies in the back of the Church of Christ. The 20-something members of my group sat in a circle around a chair-less, pale-yellow room giving accounts of our madness.

I look back now and my heart breaks for these men, confused and tormented by their natural need. But the thousands of men and women in these groups aren’t weenies at all. By one means or another they have taken the first step in coming out of denial about their orientation, usually at the risk of losing many people they thought were friends.
Read more of Brock’s Narrative

Jodi:

As the former wife of a Southern Baptist Music Minister, a devoted stay-at-home mom of two boys, women’s ministry leader, and church soloist, my life seemed picture perfect from the outside. But, a much different picture was painted underneath. For years I had known that I was a lesbian, but to actually acknowledge that fact to anyone, including myself, was not an option. I certainly could never go to God with such a revelation!! I maintained a life of secrecy and shame.
Read more of Jodi’s Narrative

You can read other narratives here.

What About the Parents?

When someone chooses to enter an ex-gay program like Love in Action (LIA), if they mean to or not, they often bring other people along with them–partners, friends, and in many cases, parents.

Ex-gay leaders have typically pointed to the parents as the probable cause for a homosexual child. How many of us have heard things like, “You’re mother was overbearing and your father was emotionally distant.”

The program leaders and ex-gay spokespeople pieced together the profile of what made us homosexual. They provided us with a template that insisted that serious dysfunction must have occurred in the home, and even when we insisted that things were fine at home, they questioned us further and suggested that we were in denial.

I have heard horror stories from lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people who have told me how program leaders targeted their parents, and in so doing, drove a wedge between parent and child. (see Jeff’s story in a previous post) In some cases the leaders misused their power and even coerced participants to confront parents about past events sometimes even hinting at unspoken abuses.

No one has perfect parents, and parents and their adult children need to talk about past hurts and family issues, but often without any trained counselors, after only a few days of group therapy, ex-gay program leaders have pushed parents and their sons and daughters into conflict and crisis. The “therapy” sessions have caused a deep rift in the relationships and have wounded the parents. The parents left feeling confused, condemned and brokenhearted.

On their web site Love in Action announces one of their newest programs,

We are excited to present a concentrated four-day course designed for parents with teens struggling with same-sex attraction, pornography, and/or promiscuity.

On a recent road trip with my dad I asked him what it was like when he and my mom came to Memphis for the Family and Friends Weekend at LIA, a concentrated family encounter. Here is some of what he said.

We went to the meeting and had no idea of what we were going into. We met a lot of parents in the same category. Lots of kids had no parents there.

Everything seemed to be on the up and up at first. Yeah, but we found out these things aren’t so. I said to them, “You can’t change a zebra’s stripes.” They didn’t go along with me, and they were very aggravated with me for saying so. Some people go through two colleges and they don’t have common sense. I hate when people keep things locked up.

They made me feel that I failed you. That’s how I felt after they got through with me. That’s how they made all the parents feel.

Years after I left LIA and I began to write my play, I interviewed my younger sister, Maria, about that time. What she told me broke my heart. She said that when our parents returned home from the Family and Friends Weekend, they were devastated. They didn’t eat right or look right. They acted sad and depressed. This went on for weeks. My sister felt so concerned that she actually called Love in Action and asked, “What did you do to my parents?!” She felt frustrated by the lack of concern or comprehension she encountered from the staff.

Before my mother died this past September, I apologized to her for my part in dragging her and my dad through the horror of that weekend at LIA and the subsequent ones. She appreciated hearing that, but even in her last letter to me, she still questioned herself as a parent, questions that I know arose in large part because of her time spent at LIA.

(photos of my parents, Pete and Anita Toscano and my sister, Nardina, I was in my mom’s belly in that photo)

After an e-mail from Jim Burroway, who will present at The Ex-Gay Survivor Conference, and his experience at the Focus on the Family Love Won Out Conference, I thought I would provide a link for parents to my post, Can My Gay Child Change?

Ex-Gay Survivor, Darlene Bogle Speaks Out

This from the folks over at God & Gays:

Hi there! Join ex gay survivor and author Darlene Bogle as the next guest on the God, Gays & You Live Interview Series this Thursday, May 3rd 5pm Pacific/8pm Eastern. Sponsored by the hit documentary, God & Gays: Bridging the Gap, listen in live while we get the scoop on how Darlene lead an Exodus group for 15 years to turn around and survive and so much more. We’ll also talk about if you or someone you know is struggling or involved in ex gay programs, what you can do to support and help them in a much healthier and spiritually healing way. Darlene is a featured speaker at the Beyond Ex Gay Conference in June so get on the call and get to know her.

Since this topic is rarely openly discussed, you never know who you could be helping by forwarding this email around to your networks and lists. Invite 10 people you know to be on the call and we look forward to being you then.

Call in information:
Be sure to call in a few minutes early to get in, there’s a limited number of phone lines available!
Thursday, May 3rd 5p Pacific/8p Eastern (one hour)
1-641-297-5800 (Iowa)

Participant Access Code: 29862

Faith Under Fire Uploaded

Two years ago Alan Chambers and I appeared on the TV program Faith Under Fire on the PAX TV network. The show, hosted by Lee Strobel, has since gone off the air. This conservative Christian-based talk show attempted to take on the issue of the Ex-gay Movement.

Recently I found some old video tape of it (which must have melted a bit in my attic crawl space where I stash this stuf so that sound and video are a little funky), and with my highly technical equipment, I uploaded the first half of the segment on YouTube. If you want the second half, I can upload it too.

The transcript on of the program can be found over on Ex-Gay Watch.

(oh and I LOVE the ads for other PAX TV programs–Xtreme Fakeovers! Cold Turkey 2–oh, the irony)

UPDATE:
Okay here is Part Two (wow and I got a visit from Disputed Mutability with a comment!)

bXg’ers on the Radio

Check out ex-gay survivor and BeyondExGay (bXg) co-founder, Christine Bakke on the radio Tuesday, April 23, 2007 9:00 AM EST Sirius OutQ Radio. OutQ is on channel 109.

On Wednesday, April 24, 2007 from 9:00-10:00 AM EST I will be a guest on the live WNPR program Where We Live. I will talk about identity, the ex-gay movement and more.

Also on Wednesday, check out Daniel Gonzales’ new podcast If It’s Wednesday, It’s Ex-Gay. I just finished a nutty phone interview with Daniel. Who knows what he will keep and what he will cut. Reminds me of those heady days when Joe G. manned his Beppepodcast. I am a little high on a vegan carrot cake (yep, that is the decadent gay lifestyle for you) so I channeled a few other people.

And to check out Christine on Good Morning America, click here

I leave Portland, OR tomorrow 🙁 but will be in NYC on Wednesday and Christine and I will hang out 🙂

Tipping Point?

I just watched Christine Bakke on Good Morning America. Diane Sawyer interviewed her. Christine is really the first woman to be highlighted in the national media as an ex-gay survivor. She did an amazing job, so clear, confident, without rancor, just telling her story. Well done! You can see it for yourself here

The piece stands out because Sawyer makes it clear that there is a problem with most reparative therapy and ex-gay ministry. They do show a short clip of Alan Chambers saying,

It’s not an easy process, but someone can choose not to be a homosexual

But they place that quote right before footage of Pastor Ted Haggard and back story about how he was pronounced 100% heterosexual after a mere three weeks of therapy. (Perhaps not something that Exodus would actually agree with or support, but in the media world, all ex-gay experiences fall under the same umbrella).

The ABC piece states,

Although these programs have been widely renounced by medical professionals, they are, in fact, growing nationwide.

They claim that the programs have grown up to 30% since 2002. Not sure what they base that figure on but Focus on the Family and Exodus have been doing a larger outreach to parents of queer and questioning kids since that time. (I heard about 1000 people showed up for the recent Love Won Out in Omaha–paying $60 per person!)

Christine gets to the heart of the matter, not so much discounting the change that other people claim they experienced, rather stating that such a change is not necessary.

Bakke said the therapy was based on the idea that gay people are “broken” and need to be fixed. She now says that gay men and women can be whole just the way they are.

“I would say there’s nothing to cure,” she told Diane Sawyer on “Good Morning America.” “You are fine just the way you are.”

Bakke did informal research about people after the program and found that many of them had changed their behavior, not their orientation. When she began therapy, she believed that she would be completely different once the process was over.

You can read a transcript here and also read the article on Christine in the May issue of Glamour here.

Christine felt bummed that she didn’t get to mention BeyondExGay, the site she co-founded for ex-gay survivors, but they give so little time on these programs. But you can check out bXg here

I will keep you posted about other media events happening this week–radio interviews and more!

Lesbian Ex-Gay Survivors Step Up

Christine Bakke, co-founder of BeyondExGay and recently featured in Glamour Magazine, is slated to share some of her story Monday live on Good Morning America. Of course a volcano can blow up or Hillary Clinton or someone could say something stupid and that will change the course of morning “news” programs, but as it stands Christine will fly out to NYC this weekend to do the Monday morning show. It may air around 8am, but then who knows.

Ex-Gay Watch reports that Ann Phillips, former staff member at Love in Action and an ex-gay survivor, will speak at the Evangelicals Concerned women’s retreat July 25-27, 2007 in Orange County, CA. She speaks so well–witty, wise and practical.