Category: ex-gay

Where are they now? the Ex-Gay Edition

Homo No Mo — No More!

For over 20 years the Ex-Gay Movement, with its promises to heal homosexuals, played large in my life. First I was caught up in that madness desperately believing I would be more valuable to God, church, and society in general if I were a fully functioning heterosexual masculine man. (My husband is thrilled that I failed at that!) After I escaped ex-gay treatment, I spent a time speaking out against the dangers of gay conversion therapy in whatever forms it took.

From about 2008 I have been trying to move on to other issues that I find much more interesting: queer theology, transgender equality and liberation, and climate change as a social justice issue. Still the ex-gay thing pops up quite regularly. Some states passed laws banning conversion therapy for minors. Even President Obama himself denounced treatments to “cure” LGBTQ people after the suicide of Leelah Alcorn.

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The Crap is Back

Protesting Outside of NARTH Nov 8, 2008

Protesting Outside of NARTH Nov 8, 2008

With another presidential election we now have the ex-gay nonsense come up again. This time the Republican Party platform has included it as one of its planks (along with support for discrimination against transgender people and public restrooms.)

At first when I read a headline about Republican platform and ex-gay movement, I thought that they too, like every medical association in the world, loads of faith organizations, and countless politicians issued a statement declaring reparative therapy is wrong and harmful. I mean they are trying to appeal to a wider base, right? They even have a lesbian on the committee to develop the platform. But no, I was mistaken.

As the Republican National Convention begins, party heads are doing damage control after seeing the negative response to the party platform plank that supports conversion therapy. The Advocate magazine reports that RNC head Reince Priebus insists that the party doesn’t endorse reparative therapy.

The plank, pushed by Family Research Council president and convention delegate Tony Perkins, reads, “We support the right of parents to determine the proper treatment or therapy, for their minor children.” Several states and at least one city have barred licensed therapists from subjecting minors to “ex-gay” therapy, and the plank appears to be aimed at such bans. But Priebus contended the plank is not an endorsement of this type of therapy, which has been condemned by medical groups as ineffective and harmful.

Where are they now?

Ron outside of NARTH

Protesting Outside of NARTH Nov 8, 2008

Steven Blum, a journalist in California, contacted me in hopes of better understanding the current status of the ex-gay movement. Didn’t it just quietly go away? I explained that it went underground and overseas.

Toscano says he wouldn’t be surprised if many church counselors today were schooled in the Exodus dogma of yesteryear, but he doesn’t think they’re having much of an impact on congregants anymore. Scrolling through the counselors in the Restored Hope Network, it’s hard not to imagine most of these men and women fruitlessly waiting in their counseling rooms for gays who want to be saved. “Some of these Christian counselors still live in cultural bubbles and they earnestly don’t know that what they were told [about sexuality] was false,” he adds.

But the most troubling thing about the ex-gay movement is that America has exported it, according to Toscano “It’s like the failed tobacco industry: Once they started losing market share, they just shipped their product overseas” — in the case of conversion therapy, to Eastern Europe, Southern and Eastern Africa and parts of Asia and Latin America, in particular, where ministries invest millions of dollars annually in conferences, workshops, publications and more.

Nov 8, 2008 Protest Outside NARTH

Nov 8, 2008 Protest Outside NARTH

In his article, Checking in With the Ex-Gay Movement, Blum asks, “Where are they now?” like unearthing a one-hit wonder from the 1990’s. He highlights a group called Desert Streams, one that has flown under the radar for a long time. It is alive and well, still quiet, but ambitious and entrepreneurial. They offer healing courses all over the world that look at a variety of issues–including how to straighten out an LGBTQ person.

Supporting Ex-Gay Treatment Causes Harm to your Cause

The good news is that in the USA the ex-gay movement has lost its power. There are less and less reasons for people to pursue these programs. Most realize they do not work–not as advertised for sure–and more and more people realize they are dangerous–they cause real harm.

Likely embracing ex-gay therapy will also cause harm to the Republican Party.

 


Featured image : Broken by ex-gay survivor Jason T. Ingram. Photos curtesy of Beyond Ex-Gay.

Can Gay be Cured? A wild and deep radio interview

Same Sex Dialogue hosts, K-Town and Kim Style

Same Sex Dialogue hosts, K-Town and Kim Style

I have become a fan of Same-Sex Dialogue, a podcast that discusses life experiences and what’s going on in today’s society from a lesbian couple’s perspective. Hosts K-Town & Kim Style are hilarious and really nice people. They also take on topics that many people in the USA and beyond still find challenging and helpful to discuss.

There are people all over the US and in the South where the hosts live, who are still struggling with issues some folks feel everyone put behind a decade ago: What does the Bible say about Homosexuality? How do I deal with parents who reject me for being LGBTQ? Dealing with homophobic and heterosexist friends and family. 

K-Town and Kim Style remind us that, yes, It Gets Better, but not for everyone and not the same pace everywhere.

Recent show topics include:

After listening to a few episodes, laughing my ass off, and connecting with the many issues and struggles they brought up, I reached out to them. This weekend they sat me down for an interview that covered a lot of ground. In particular we spent time on the ex-gay movement and my time in Tennessee at the Love in Action residential ex-gay treatment facility–what I call the Homo No Mo Halfway House.

We laughed and also talked about deep issues, heart issues. You can hear our conversation, here, or listen on YouTube below. And check out their Facebook page.

Banning Gay Conversion Therapy in Malta

Gabi Calleja

Gabi Calleja

Having been in Malta twice in my life, I can testify that the people I met there were lovely–smart, passionate about justice, and able to enjoy amazing meals late into the night. (And don’t get me started about my illicit affair with the Maltese pea pastries!)

Through the years I have been associated with a group of LGBTQ Catholics in Malta through a group called Drachma. Back in 2008 was already growing and vibrant LGBTQ activism in the country. Drachma bought the voice of LGBTQ people of faith into the public discourse; they chose to be very public in a deeply religious country.

Fierce Maltese LGBTQ Activists

I remember being at Pride 2008 in the Maltese capitol of Valletta as we streamed through the narrow streets and turned the plaza into an LGBTQ rally. One activist, Gabi Calleja, stood up and took my breath away with her clarity. I paraphrase: “We have the right to marry the people we love. We have the right to jobs and housing. It is an insult to ask permission for these things that are already our rights.” The message was clear to me–these Maltese queer folks in their liberated minds lived in a place with full rights and inclusion of LGBTQ people. They demanded that the world around them catch up.  Gabi has gone on to speak out about gender diversity within the LGBTQ community and the wider world.

View from our table in Maltese cafe

View from our table in Maltese cafe

Speaking Out in Malta about Dangers Of “Gay Cures”

In the Maltese media I got to highlight the dangers of gay conversion therapy.  And through the years with the public witness of Drachma, the theologian James Alison, and Maltese LGBTQ folks like Diane, Mario, Christian, Clayton and many more witnesses have continually pointed out the futility and dangers of gay conversion therapy and ex-gay ministries and the peace and joy of living openly and honestly. These anti-LGBTQ therapies do not only target gays and lesbians, but very much have wreck havoc for transgender and gender non-conforming people as well. Even when they felt unsafe to share their full identities, ex-gay survivors in Malta shared their stories. Back in 2008  one young man told his story of bizarre and dangerous ex-gay treatment in Malta.

So I was thrilled and not terribly surprised to see the follow story in Pink News: Malta could be the first country in Europe to ban “gay cure” therapy.

Minister Helena Dalli presented the bill for its first reading this week

Minister Helena Dalli presented the bill for its first reading this week

The country’s government yesterday unveiled a ‘Affirmation of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Gender Expression’ bill – which would outlaw so-called ‘conversion’ therapy.

The practise of attempting to ‘cure’ someone’s sexuality is considered pointless and damaging by most experts – but is yet to be outlawed in many country.

Malta’s Minister for Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs and Civil Liberties Helena Dalli yesterday presented the bill for its first reading in Parliament – with the aim of prohibiting LGBT ‘conversion therapy’ as a deceptive and harmful act.

public consultation has also launched on the issue, which will remain open for a month.

If you live in Malta, I urge you to weigh in and fill out the short consultation form to share your understanding of gay conversion therapy. If you want to learn more about the harms many of us suffered, read Ex-Gay Harm–Let Me Count the Ways on the Beyond Ex-Gay website.

Important Lessons Learned from a Ridiculous Failed Quest to Be Straight for Jesus

efbc8864cec923046924d238df57af3dWhile it is true that we can learn something from most experiences, some trials are worth avoiding when possible. That is what I think about the nearly 20 years I was trapped in gay conversion therapy when I believed that I would be more valuable to God and everyone else if I were a fully functioning, masculine presenting heterosexual. While I regret all those years I went ex-gay, I admit that I learned many important lessons and I am more engaged in social justice issues as a result.

Perhaps my zaniest character of them all, Marvin Bloom, shares a little of his own wacky ex-gay experience and the lessons he learned. He also reflects on where he would be if he didn’t repent of pursuing a Jesus who demanded he straighten up and fly right. Take a listen to this audio clip of Marvin as he talked about swallowing whole the ex-gay myth (I think you will like the double entendres.)

If you enjoy Marvin, there is a whole lot of him lately on my regular audio magazine, Climate Stew. Hear Marvin trash recycling or talk about Queer Responses to Climate Change or take on Climate Denial.

No Mo Homo No Mo! President Denounces Gay Reparative Therapy

When I was a teen, confused and scared about being gay, I turned to a young handsome friendly priest for help. He seemed different from the older priests, more keyed in to the everyday world, approachable. I told him I was struggling with gay desires. He then abused me, but not in the way most people might think.

He told me it was wrong to be gay, but I need not fear because Jesus could heal me and make me a whole, normal man. He had me lie on the ground as he prayed over me to drive the evil from my body.

That began a nearlyblessings-and-curses-street-sign 20 year quest to find the elusive cure to my chronic homosexuality. As a young person, I never failed to find an adult minister in Catholic and then Protestant Churches who attempted yet another treatment to straighten me out for Jesus. Fasting, prayer, 12-Steps, exorcisms, a whole host of misguided, futile, and ultimately dangerous methods designed to shame me and suppress not only my orientation, but my personality, my dreams, and my will.

I recently wrote about the Tina Fey sitcom, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and how Kimmy’s 15 years in a bunker with a crazed and abusive religious leader reminded me so much of the 17 years I felt trapped in churches and gay conversion therapy programs. I got the message early on that I would be more valuable if I were straight and masculine presenting.

With my husband, Glen Retief

With my husband, Glen Retief

 

My parents never pushed me into these “ex-gay” treatments, but at first they felt happy I was seeking help. They assumed my life would be easier, free of hurtful discrimination if I were straight and heterosexually partnered. Like most other people in the country, religious or not, they were Straight Supremacists.  Heterosexuality was the only acceptable, holy, natural orientation, and with it came loads of perks amd privileges–legal, social, and religious.

My life got derailed by messages that undermined my sense of self, that capitalized on the fear surrounding the HIV/AIDS Crisis, and the negative messages in the media, on the playground, and from the pulpit about gays and anyone who did not conform to gender norms.

I ultimately came to my senses and came out gay. Now I have been working to restore the years the locust of fear, shame, and intolerance have eaten away. It has been work–therapy and much of it, processing my experience through words, art, and comedy, and reeducating myself about LGBTQ people and our history, literature, and spirituality. I have come to a place of joy and contentment, comfortable in my own skin, thrilled to be in a healthy, life-giving relationship with the man I love, and inspired by the many transgender, gender queer, bisexual, lesbian, and gay people who enrich my life.

I am thrilled that President Obama is taking a stand to stop the harm that comes from gay conversion therapy on minors. For too long misguided, untrained, and straight supremacist ministers and religious-based therapists have preyed on young people and abused them with toxic levels of shame all the while insisting how much they love and care for the young person. No doubt some of the many adults who attempted to help me were sincere, but they were also sincerely wrong. It is time to undo that damage and keep it from happening further.

Now that President Obama is taking a stand, I call on Secretary of State John Kerry to do likewise and denounce the global trafficking of gay conversion therapy that has been exported from the USA. Much like the failed tobacco industry turned to foreign markets when American smokers quit or seriously cut back, ex-gay groups and practitioners have agressively push gay conversion therapy in Eastern Europe, Uganda, South Africa, Singapore, and throughout Latin America.

Finally, beyond denouncing gay conversion therapy on LGBTQ youth, let’s demonstrate our family values and make robust efforts to adress homelessness among queer youth, partiularly transgender and gender queer young people who experience a world of woe at home, on the streets, and even at times from older gays and lesbians and LGBTQ organizations. Let’s affirm, support, and stand in solidarity with LGBTQ young people.

 

 

 

Responding to NPR’s Ex-Gay Puff Piece

These days I stay out of the ex-gay fray. I spent far too many years enduring the ex-gay lifestyle, then for nearly a decade I processed the harm that gay reparative therapy brought to me and so many others. In 2008 I retired my one-person comic exposé of an ex-gay boot camp, Doin’ Time in the Homo Ho Mo Halfway House, and focused my performance energy on exploring the many gender non-conforming Bible characters. Most recently I am playing considering LGBTQ response to climate change.

Perhaps I should have gone to Quaker Meeting for Worship with my husband, Glen, on Sunday morning, but I stayed home instead to attend the film Trans that the local Unitarian Church was showing in the early afternoon. Since I have elected to stay off-line on Sundays (Ah, it’s been glorious, like living in 1992 all over again and enjoying books and music and letter writing without the tyranny of Twitter), I listened to our local NPR station as I puttered around the kitchen.

I was shocked to hear the story of a man who liked men but married a woman because of his faith in Jesus. He is a pastor, and while he did not like to use the word “sin” when talking about gays, his message was the same old tired anti-LGBTQ dribble that certain types of churches and Christian organizations have been dishing out for decades. Having gone down the same route myself, I heard through the kinder gentler language the thumping heart of the anti-LGBTQ message. Rachel Martin, the NPR host probed a little with her questions, but did not challenge the story with any facts about how medical associations worldwide have denounced gay reparative therapy and the harm that comes from suppressing one’s orientation and gender differences.

Since I was living off the web for the day though, I needed to pause and not respond on-line immediately. I filled my day with other things that nourished me and connected with LGBTQ people and allies in my community. The next day I had multiple Facebook messages about the segment, and lively discussion ensued. I may have the most diverse collection of Facebook friends including some who still identify as ex-gay or who are straight and married to an ex-gay. They say they are happy, and it works for them.

Having friends who have a different worldview, who listen to news from sources that sound like science fiction to me, softens me to think about the humans behind the rhetoric. It helps me to attack a message without dehumanizing my opponent. Writing an article for the Huffington Post about the NPR “Puff Piece” (pardon the pun), I kept my ex-gay friends and their spouses in mind. I also thought of my former self who was once fiercely committed to destroying the gay part of me and truly believed this was a holy act. Holding onto these tenderly did not drain the passion or clarity from my denunciation of the message being broadcast. Rather it helped fuse my head with my heart.

Here is my HuffPost article: It Gets Boring: NPR Features Same Old Ex-Gay Story

And here is a video I produced some time ago in which I explain the many reasons I spent so many years desperately hoping to de-gay myself.

Throwback Thursday: Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House

Fun fact: I spent 17 years and over $30,00o on three continents trying to de-gay myself. This failed sexual re-orientation odyssey including ex-gay support groups, exorcisms to drive out the demons of homosexuality, and a two-year stint in the notorious Love in Action gay conversion therapy camp in Memphis, TN.

I lived to tell my tale (and to settle down in a delightful relationship with the man I love) and found that I needed humor to get a grip on the madness that nearly destroyed me. It’s been 12 years since I first sat down to write Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House. I do not perform the play any longer, but you can watch it for yourself. I play nine different characters and give you a personal tour of the Homo No Mo Halfway House. You will discover many things about this ex-gay boot camp, including why they can boldly declare: Yes, we have no bananas.

Celibacy with Zack–The latest Queer and Queerer Podcast

Zack Ford and I are back to talk about a new (old) product on the market: celibacy! Also known as “ex-gay lite.” Since the ex-gay movement has largely crumbled in recent years and it’s no longer convincing to argue that sexual orientation can be changed, conservatives are now encouraging gay, lesbian, and bisexual people to just not have sex. Given celibacy has its own theological history, does this new advocacy for embracing it measure up or is it just a different-looking outcome for sin-shaming? Also, Zack is one of the 40 under 40 and I’ve got my eye on some new transgender television shows.

The Queer and Queerer Podcast!

Listen to this week’s episode on iTunes, Stitcher, or on Zack Ford’s blog

(Please click here to listen on iPad/iPhone or download.)

Here’s some more information about what we talked about this week:

» Zack is one of The Advocate’s 40 Under 40.

» Peterson interviews actress Marlo Bernier about her new dramedy Myrna.

» Also read more about the BBC transgender sitcom Boy Meets Girl, the web series Brothers, and the Amazon Prime show Transparent.

 

Subscribe to Queer and Queerer in iTunes!

The feed has the 25 most recent episodes; the rest are archived on this page.

 If you use a different podcatcher, the Queer and Queerer raw feed can be found here.The feed has the 25 most recent episodes; the rest are archived on this page.
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Our theme music is “Appalachia” by Machelli. Download his album, “Opus,” on iTunes.

Ex-Gay Lite: Celibacy–The Other Queer Lifestyle

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Rev. Irene Monroe

Rev. Irene Monroe, recently posted an article, Celibacy Shouldn’t Be the New Ex-Gay Ministry. She writes about a growing trend among former ex-gay leaders, Christian ministers, and some gay Christians who believe God is calling same-gender loving people to a life of celibacy–no sex, no marriage–a single life with no prospect of future partnership.

She writes:

But now, with more and more ex-gay ministries losing potential clients and political leverage (while also losing monies reparative therapies generated), there is a gradual shift from “curing” one’s LGBTQ sexual orientation to abstinence from it. In other words, the theological message that homosexuality is a sin and an abomination to God remain intact, but more emphasis is now placed on celibacy.

An emphasis on a discipleship to celibacy is equally as harmful and damaging as ex-gay ministries.

This message suggests we’re incurable and should execute control over our ungodly desires.

Well said! After almost 20 years living as an ex-gay and then 10 years speaking out about the harm of changing and repressing a gay identity and desires, I have strong feelings about the Celibacy option for people who have romantic and sexual attractions for people of the same gender.  Part of me can see that it is actually very queer to be a celibate gay, to abstain not only from sex but from pursuing any potential partnership or romantic attachment. Queer as in odd or not the normal or mainstream. And as a community there is room for all sort of LGBTQ people. While there are some asexual people in the world, the reality is that most people feel sexual and romantic attraction as part of their humanity. Added to that, humans proposer in relationship. All sorts of studies reveal that people who are partnered are typically happier and healthier and even live longer.

Of course fate is not always fair. Not everyone gets to partner, so a single life is a reality for lots of people straight and gay. Being committed to celibacy chastity while single is standard for many straight Christians. But believing that God does NOT want you to have a partner, that God is asking you to to build a life without the prospect of romance or an interdependent relationship, that God forbids you from forming a coupled relationship which includes all sorts of wonderful things in addition to sex, well that is VERY very rare in the heterosexual world. Why is it suddenly looming so large for gays and lesbians? (I’m assuming bisexuals get counseled by Conservatives to partner with someone of the opposite gender. And I am sure the ex-gay movement–much like portions of the gay Christian movement–still has no idea how to approach trans* people and trans* issues.)

After years of having our sexuality demonized in churches, by family members, in society in general, and particularly in ex-gay programs, I find it highly suspicious when a lesbian or gay feels that God too is encouraging them to renounce their sexuality and their future with a partner. No doubt some people in the world genuinely feel called to celibacy (gay and straight,) but very few. And when someone feels that inclination, I strongly suggest they go through a thoughtful and serious discernment process with the aid of a professional therapist (and NOT a former ex-gay leader or someone who already has a bias against same-gender love.) Rev. Monroe beautifully explains:

Our bodies are our temples, and as our temples they house the most sacred and scariest truth about us: our sexuality.

Our sexuality is an essential part of being human and it is an expression of who we are with and in our bodies. It is a language and a means to communicate our spiritual need for intimate communion-human and divine. However, as lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer children of God, our sexualities transgress the conventional gender and sexual norms.

Also, our sexualities force us all to see the walls of partition erected in our society, in our churches, and in our families that prohibit us to live freely in our bodies. These walls not only contribute to the false socialization of who we are as male and female, but they also contribute to the false spiritualization of who we are as the body of Christ.

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Caughnwaga Women by Marc Aurele de Foy Suzor Coté

There are plenty of heterosexual Christians–pastor, parents, friends, neighbors–who would love to affirm and embrace us just as we are, as long as we don’t flaunt it–act on it, live it. It is one thing to hold up a moral standard of monogamy and sex only within a committed relationship for straight and LGBTQ people alike, but to perform and celebrate heterosexual marriages while insisting that LGBTQ people must submit to celibacy is not only misguided, it is cruel. When I lived as an ex-gay and believed I could not successfully partner with a woman and was forbidden to partner with a man, I assumed I needed to live a life of single celibacy. But a strange thing happened, not only did I abstain from romance and sex, I felt it necessary to build and maintain thick walls around my life in order to protect me from potentially falling in love with friends. With no prospect for partnership or romance, I ended up going beyond a single life to an isolated one of deep solitude with no future and no hope of building a home and binding myself to someone to walk through life with me. It wasn’t the sex that I longed for, although I find physical intimacy with my husband today to be such a delicious joy, it was the whole package of mutual support, caring, affection, togetherness, sharing, and love expressed in thousands of ways.

Jesus, speaking about religious people of his day is recorded as saying, “Woe to you experts in religious law as well! You load people down with burdens difficult to bear, yet you yourselves refuse to touch the burdens with even one of your fingers!” (Luke 11:46) Then in Matthew 23 Jesus castigates religious leaders for making the life of a convert miserable: “…you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves!” The Conservative Christian church, former ex-gay leaders promoting celibacy, and loved ones of LGBTQ people need to repent of their heterosexual supremacy. They need to stop bearing false witness against their LGBTQ neighbors, and they need to recognize that heterosexual unions are in no way superior to our own. The world needs more love–not constrained, micromanaged, fear-driven teaching that only serves to harm people and impoverish the church. Rev. Monroe says it best,

Christians—both straight and LGBTQ—intolerant of the wide spectrum of sexual expressions must reconcile their fear with Jesus’s mandate: “…to love one another” as stated in John 13:34 in order to experience the deepest desire and expression of spiritual communion.  

    (Featured image: Flying Sphere by Robert Tait McKenzie Montreal Museum of Fine Arts)

Homo No Mo available now for digital download!

What do you do when you finally come to your senses after 17 years, over $30,000, on three continents trying to de-gay yourself? How do you process two years enduring a wicked and absurd Christian gay rehab bootcamp? Well you condense that madness and pain into a 90 minute one-person comedy.

That’s what I did over 10 years ago when I created Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House–How I Survived the Ex-Gay Movement. Through a bunch of characters I give a comic tour of the Homo No Mo Mo Halfway House. Based on the true story of my time at the Love in Action program in Memphis, TN, the play provides a mix of outrageous satire and an eye-witness account of what it takes to survive psychological torture and gender role reinforcing activities administered in Jesus’ Name.

Seriously it is my funniest play and now for the first time it is available for download. Meet for the first or hang out again with Chad, Vlad, Tex, Marvin, and the Reverend Meadows. I even make a cameo in my own play! Edited by Morgan Jon Fox this was the final performance of the play before I retired it in 2008. I’m thrilled I can make it available for download at last.

If you want a DVD of the play, order from Quaker Books.
Happy Viewing!

 

Toscano's excellent theater chops morph characters and identities in that world-changing way only performance allows. His writing and philosophy educate and loosen the tightest knots of queer and religious entanglements. But it's his heart, which his engaging presence radiates, that will pull you in, warm you up, and leave you pleading for an encore.

Scott Turner Scofield
, Transgender actor, artist, solo performer & diversity speaker.

 

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