Category: ex-gay survivor

Ex-Gay Survivor John Holm Speaks Out

Daniel Gonzales of Box Turtle Bulletin interviewed John Holm, an ex-gay survivor who traveled to Memphis from Illinois to be part of the big weekend. John also attended last summer’s Ex-Gay Survivor Conference and is a fellow Quaker. In this video he speaks a little bit about his ex-gay experiences, dating women and Quakerism.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sjA0yqheKcs]

Thank you John for stepping up and telling some of your story!

Beyond Ex-Gay Memphis RECAP

We have had some time to reflect on the big weekend in Memphis and the events surrounding Deconstructing the Ex-Gay Myth—A Weekend of Action & Art. Christine and I have spent much of the day building some new web pages to give folks a sense of what took place during the weekend.

  • Check out our Memphis photo album with lots of super photos thanks to Bruce Garrett.
  • See video of the press conference and gallery walk
  • Learn more about the Chalk Talk and see up close what people have to say about their ex-gay experiences
  • Read a list of options for ex-gay survivors to consider for their recovery process
We will have information soon about upcoming Beyond Ex-Gay events
April 6, 2008 Portland, OR
May 26, 2008 Barcelona, Spain
October 23, 2008 Nashville, TN

Lovely Shifts and Dramatic Changes

I keep having to remind myself that it is not even a full year since Christine Bakke and I launched Beyond Ex-Gay (bXg) and the Ex-Gay Survivor Movement. That was in April of 2007 after an all night crazy session where we posted nearly 30 pages of content in eight hours. Now we have over 120 pages of content with loads of narratives, art work, articles and resources. Soon we will have a recap of what happened in Memphis with photos, video and more.

After the launch of bXg, we partnered with Soulforce and UC Irvine’s LGBT resource center to organize the first ever Ex-Gay Survivor Conference in Irvine, CA. By choosing to have it in the same city and the same week as Exodus’ annual conference, we saw the beginnings of a deeper sharing that previously had not taken place between ex-gay leaders and ex-gay survivors.

By telling our stories through art, in the media, over dinner, in a chalk talk, apologies, through video and written narratives, our message has been that for many of us, our ex-gay experiences caused us more harm than good. In telling our stories we have sought to understand what happened to us and to stand as a witness and warning about some of the harm that can come from trying to change and suppress our orientation and gender differences.

People began to listen. Others felt encouraged to speak out. In less than a year dozens have come forward, not to attack ex-gays, but simply to share how the ex-gay life was not possible or healthy for them, and that they found a better way for themselves.

Some discussions we held were very public, others very private, and will remain private. And we have begun to see shifts and changes.

Love Won Out has since revamped their web site and now presents a slightly more realistic picture about change than they have in the past. Ex-gay leaders attended some of the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference events and blogged about how moved they were by what they saw and heard. People have begun to use the term ex-gay survivor in the media and on their blogs. Recently Wendy Gritter, a leader of an Exodus affiliated program in Canada, specifically referred to the stories at Beyond Ex-Gay in her keynote address to Exodus leaders earlier this year. Wendy has since published a piece over at Ex-Gay Watch outlining some changes she would like to see take place at Exodus.

And today we learn from Ex-Gay Watch that Alan Chambers announced that

In August, 2007 after a lot of prayer, deliberation and listening to friends and critics alike — but mostly the Lord — we decided to back out of policy issues and our Director of Government Affairs took a position with another organization.

This is good news indeed and comes after much work on the part of folks both within and outside of Exodus to help the leadership to consider backing away from getting tangled in debates about LGBT rights.

Back in July during the Ex-Gay Survivor Initiative sponsored by Soulforce, ex-gay survivors shared their stories around the country with a recurring theme about harm, but also with a call to ex-gay leaders and church leaders to consider pastoral care and people’s lives before politics.

John Corvino, a philosophy professor and wonderful lecturer about LGBT issues recently wrote an excellent article about ex-gay issues. In it he says,

People often ask me what I think about ex-gay ministries. I have no objection to them in principle, but serious problems with them in practice.

I have no objection to them in principle because I believe we should give others the same respect that we ourselves demand. That includes giving people wide latitude about living their lives as they see fit. If you really believe that you’re heterosexual deep down, and you want to take steps to help realize that identity, far be it from me to insist otherwise. I’ll let you be the expert on what you feel deep down, as long as you show me the same courtesy.

You can read the rest of the piece here.

Lovely shifts and dramatic changes are happening. Thank you to all ex-gay survivors who have stepped up to share their lives and their stories. Later this week along with Box Turtle Bulletin we will release more video of ex-gay survivors who recently began to speak out. We cannot underestimate the power of telling our stories honestly, vulnerably, not out revenge or malice but out of concern for others who may not know the other side of the story.

Chalk Talk on Ex-Gay Experiences

Last weekend in Memphis Beyond Ex-Gay held a regional gathering for ex-gay survivors and allies. Like at last summer’s Ex-Gay Survivor Conference we also did a Chalk Talk, which is a visual conversation done on a wall. Anyone can write a word, phrase or image about the prompt. They can also connect thoughts.

This time we chose for our prompt Ex-Gay Experiences. Daniel Gonzales of Box Turtle Bulletin took some footage of the Chalk Talk once we finished. Christine blogged about the experience here.

The power about a Chalk Talk is that everyone can add what they like. Also, their words stay out there. With the Ex-Gay Survivor Movement one of the things we hope to see is ex-gay leaders and others who promote ex-gay therapies to listen to the words and stories of ex-gay survivors. Here is a wonderful opportunity.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PbkvBr5x3W8]

Rest, Recovery, and Reflection

What a tremendous weekend in Memphis! All the events for Deconstructing the Ex-Gay Myth—A Weekend of Action & Art far exceeded my expectations. Loads of people turned out to everything, but more than the quantity of people was the quality of the exchanges we had and the depth of learning and sharing and loving. Bruce Garrett shares how the weekend moved him and posts some photos here.

We did stand in front of Focus on the Family’s Love Won Out event for a few hours on Saturday morning. We held up clear, positive signs with messages like Christian & Gay, We Know You Love Your Children, Integrity Changes Lives, Change at What Cost? Some ex-gay survivors also went into Central Church to present gifts to the people at Love Won Out, framed collages about our experiences (designed by Christine). But this was a tiny part of weekend. We were not there to protest rather the weekend showcased the creative, strong LGBT community in Memphis.

I spoke with a neighbor today who casually asked, “So what did you do for the weekend?” In my mind I scanned the many events and magical moments over the past few days. The Ex-Gay Survivor Art Show that Christine Bakke curated. The preview of Morgan Jon Fox’s film, This is What Love in Action Looks Like, the wonderful party at the Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center, The bXg Mid-South Regional Gathering, a press conference where some ex-gay survivors spoke out for the very first time, the official retirement performance of Homo No Mo, the Memphis premiere of Transfigurations, a talk on Art, Activism and Spirit at the Quaker Meeting House. So MUCH.

Too much to convey in a casual conversation while waiting on line at the bank. I felt as if I had been a character in A Wrinkle in Time or one of the Narnia books, where I got transported to another time and place, spent months only to return to find out it was really just a long weekend. I replied to my neighbor, “This past weekend? I went to see some friends in Memphis.”

Needless to say I feel exhausted physically and emotionally. Spiritually I feel charged up and renewed. Seeing ex-gay survivors who are not victims, who have creatively reclaimed their lives, encouraged and cheered me.

But I have depleted my resources for now and need some days to recover and rest and reflect on what I experienced. For any survivor, we need to know our limits and take care of ourselves, especially after we have stirred up difficult memories. What we do at Beyond Ex-Gay is complicated personal work that has a public component to it. Unpacking and deconstructing our ex-gay experiences serve multiple purposes. We stand as a witness and warning to the harm that can come because of reparative therapy and ex-gay ministries. Some pro-ex-gay people have begun to listen and think more deeply about their assumptions about the ex-gay option.

Our work though also serves as a tool for healing and recovery. Connecting with fellow survivors helps us as we try to make sense of what we did to ourselves and what we allowed others to do to us. It helps us to see our ex-gay experiences in light of the broader anti-gay cultures that nurtured self-hate, shame and fear. We listen to each other. We recognize that others hear us and know what we are talking about, perhaps for the first time ever since we came out. All good work, but hard work.

As activists, ministers, angelic troublemakers (as Bayard Rustin puts it), our work begins with ourselves. The next few days I will visit my dad where my cell phone does not work and I have no wi-fi (not even dial up). I will help look after him as he recovers from his heart surgery. I will also walk in the woods, cook, watch silly TV, read good fiction, sit in silence, rest, recover and reflect.

So if you don’t hear from me for a few days, please don’t take it personally.

A Surreal & Amazing Radio Exchange About Ex-Gays & Gays

This past weekend in Memphis I saw wonders. Really amazing things as people stepped up and told their stories. My jaw continued to drop at the stunning things I heard and saw, the healing, the art, the honesty, the love.

Today I experienced yet another wonder of sorts. Dr. Larry Bates of the Info Radio Network invited me onto his hour-long radio talk show News & Views along with a pastor from Central Church, which hosted Love Won Out this weekend.

Just to give you a sense of the flavor of this conservative Christian program that airs on over 70 Christian stations around the nation, some recent show titles include, The Fight for Morals and Values: It’s Up to You. Socialism and the Democratic Candidates in their own Words. Surviving Homosexual Parenting.

Before we started the show, I requested that we pray, and I had my Quaker Friend (and elder for the weekend) Kristi praying in the lobby for the show and for me.

I cannot fully describe what took place. The show is not for the faint of heart, but I truly felt deep peace, clarity and gentleness throughout. Lots of people were praying for me and I felt lifted and held. Also, Christine Bakke and others helped me prep in advance. It went so well for the first hour, that Dr. Bates asked us to stay for a second hour as the show went out live and the bank of phones flooded with callers wanting to weigh in.

All I can say is listen to the show (if you can) and see what you think. I walked away thanking God that I had the opportunity to share a simple, sane message.

Listen to Homosexuality: Choice or chance? With gay activist Peterson Toscano and Central Church Director of Pastoral Ministry Bill Bellican.

More Memphis

Below are some photos from our action outside of Love Won Out in Memphis. Our goal was to tell the other side of the story. Here you see Ryan, Daniel, Jacob, John and Brandon. Thank you Daniel and Brandon for making the sign and Jacob for help with the words.
Here I am quoting my dad.
The cute couple Jacob & Ryan
Jim Burroway gets interviewed by Fox
Ex-gay survivor Jason with the sign “I tried Ex-gay Therapy (It Didn’t Work) flanked by local supporters from PFLAG and the Memphis Friends Meeting.

Local folks standing out with survivor and Bob (Holy & Whole) who arrived rom Topeka that morning.

Christine Bakke blogged last night about some of the Saturday events here in Memphis as part of Deconstructing the Ex-Gay Myth—A Weekend of Action & Art.

Today we had, among other events, the Mid-South Regional Gathering for Ex-Gay Survivors and Allies. At the conference in Irvine, I was so busy doing the behind-the-scenes work I didn’t really have the ability to participate in the conference. This afternoon, though, I was able to take part in the activities and workshop we’d planned. I really needed it. I’ve been heavily processing a lot of stuff the last 6 months or so and it really helped to get together with a group of folks who know exactly what I’m talking about, and just really “get” me. It also felt good to be able to communicate with my art.

We did another chalk talk. We’ll post photos of it soon. It moved me deeply and I participated by writing a lot of thoughts on the paper wall, and then crying and processing during the debriefing. I really appreciate everyone else’s comments and input, as well as the understanding nods as we all talked about our experiences. It is so wonderful not to feel alone with all of this.

Read all of Christine’s post here.

Ex-Gay Survivors Speak Out in Memphis

What a day! The Ex-Gay Survivor Art Show opened and we also had a powerful press conference at the Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center (a really great spot) to kick off Deconstructing the Ex-Gay Myth—A Weekend of Action & Art. Then this evening I performed the official retirement show of Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House.

The art is amazing and Christine Bakke did a great job of putting it together along with the help of so many others including Jason Ingram, who also has art in the show. We even have art from John Evans, one of the founders of Love in Action.

Daniel Gonzales of Box Turtle Bulletin took video and I know that Bruce Garrett took a bunch of photos. The video is up already (wow Dan, fast work!).

Here see and hear Jim Burroway speak about his recent visit to Love Won Out, what he hear and saw. It moved me to tears.

Here fellow ex-gay survivor and former Love in Action participant Brandon Tidwell shares his story and an impassioned plea to understanding, love and acceptance. Brandon speaks so clearly. I learned a lot about telling my own story from hearing him tell his.

Here Jacob will tells his story including the summer he spent at Love in Action. He was there during the summer protests sparked when I 16 year old boy cried for help when his folks forced him to attend the Refuge program. Jacob relates the horrendous Family and Friends weekend encounter when he had to share his most shameful sexual experiences in front of his parents and a bunch of strangers. Very powerful and moving.

Here John Holm speaks out for the first time publicly as an ex-gay survivor. He will tell his full story tomorrow in front of Central Church, and from hearing it, I know he has so much courage and has done so much to reclaim a life that seemed so desperate for so long.

Here Christine Bakke provides us with a gallery walk about the Ex-Gay Survivor Art Show. Daniel Gonzales and Jason Ingram speak about their art too. Christine explains the idea behind her House of Cards art piece which is sooooo amazing!

I felt so much hope and encouragement at the work these folks have done to reclaim their lives, address the harm they experienced because of their ex-gay experiences and the effects of an anti-gay society. These are not victims. They are survivors and people who thrive in this world. I feel so pleased to be among them this weekend.

Hope to have some images soon. I have not taken any photos yet.

Walking in Memphis


Yeah, I actually did walk about three miles today in Memphis. Of course people of a certain race and class don’t walk much in this city, and I got strange looks as I walked along Cooper towards the Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center and First Congregational Church. Christine Bakke has arrived, and I received a text message from Bruce Garrett that he pulled into town with sweet ride of car.

I saw Morgan Jon Fox tonight, poor guy looks wiped out from working on filming a movie while also editing This is What Love in Action Looks Like and still working his regular job. Artists will make great sacrifice to do their art. I know that what he shows on Saturday will be amazing, and he will also share about the film making process as well.

On Friday night I will do my official retirement performance of Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House. I hired a camera crew, and four cameras will capture the performance so that the play can be put together for a DVD. Morgan will edit it for me and do it in an artistic way that I believe will capture the essence of the play.

Tomorrow Jim Burroway and Daniel Gonzales of Box Turtle Bulletin will arrive as will Jacob Wilson and his partner Ryan. Others are coming into town too who I am sure you will hear about in the next few days. I will keep you posted.

Parents & the Ex-Gay Movement

This weekend staff from Focus on the Family and Exodus International, two large and well-funded organizations, will speak to hundreds of parents about the “gay lifestyle” and will present testimonies claiming that “change is possible”. Parents will listen to folks who directly and indirectly pin the blame on parents for having a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender child. We know what they teach because some of us recently attended the Love Won Out Conference and and also listened to the recordings of all the presentations. See Jim Burroway’s detailed account.

My parents suffered under this message while I attended the Love in Action program in Memphis some years ago. Today I recorded this video relating the horrific Family and Friends Weekend and the effect Love in Action’s erroneous and cruel teachings had on my parents.

In the past year I have shared my family’s experience with several ex-gay leaders. Many expressed shock at what happened at Love in Action. But when I spoke with someone who is slated to speak at Love Won Out this weekend about all that happened with my mom and the years of doubt and torment she suffered, he shot back, “Healthy people ask for what they need.” I said, “Wait, what!?” He continued, “If your mom was having problems, she should have gotten some help.” But my mom had already been burnt by “experts,” and I know she didn’t want to expose herself to more hurt. But even if she could of or should of talked to someone to help her understand the issues better, what a pitiful response from this Christian leader.

This sort of thoughtless, insensitive, reactionary behavior needs to stop. Many ex-gay programs like Love in Action make mistakes. They do things on a trial and error basis sampling whatever teachings drop into their laps. (I know because in two years there, we ran through several teachings and practices). These program leaders, who claim they care about people and families, need to listen to the stories of the many people who can point to the harm they experienced at the hands of ex-gay minsters. These are not a few isolated stories. Just in the past 10 months dozens of people have come forward to share their stories publicly. These are not paid professional activists or lobbyist, but people who stand up to bear witness to what they have seen and heard and experienced.

For further information, see What About the Parents? as well as the ex-gay survivor narratives over at Beyond Ex-Gay.

Also, join us for Deconstructing the Ex-Gay Myth—A Weekend of Action & Art.