Category: ex-gay

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.

 

Download!

Love in Action shuts down residential program

According to the Love in Action Website the Memphis-based ex-gay group no longer operates it residential program:

Love In Action’s Residential program has been suspended indefinitely. Simply put, there is a significant need to bring all of LIA under one location for it to be more cost effective. We continue to counsel and grow through our 4-Day Intensives, Hourly Counseling, Conferences, Support Groups, and Church Assistance Program.

I am thrilled that the sun has finally set on this part of the program–one that housed and harassed many of us these past 30 years. While they will continue to offer some limited services, it appears that they have begun to dismantle operations.

What better way to celebrate than you see the new documentary by LIA protester and filmmaker Morgan Jon Fox. This is What Love in Action Looks Like chronicles what happened when a 16 year old boy was forced to attend Love in Action and how his friends responded and ultimately help shut down the youth program back in 2007. Or pop in your DVD of Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway Housse, now a HISTORICAL satire of the Love in Action program. =D

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Doin’ time in Northern Sweden

In a few hours I will perform once again in Umeå, Sweden, a progressive city in the North of Sweden. I believe it is the fifth time I have been here, and arriving at the home of Alex & Noa Resare, I feel like I have come home. In fact, the past two days I have slept about 13 hours each night. Their home with their three children is a place where I can relax, recuperate, and just be myself (a person who likes to sleep 13 hours a night and then sit in bed and do my work.)

Tonight I will perform a variety show of sorts, “Doin’ Time with Peterson Toscano–Just when you thought it was safe to laugh.” I have done this show more and more the past two years, and have enjoyed being able to pick and choose from nearly a hundred different options of what I can present. Even though it is guaranteed that I will do some bits (Chad & Lorca from Queer 101 & The Identity Monologue) each show turns out different from the last with a clear theme emerging. Tonight’s show I will focus on sexism, misogyny, bodies, and strong women. Here is an outline of possible bits I will perform.

Doin’ Time in Umeå

Intro: Sweden is TOO progressive for my comedy. You all need to elect a racist, homophobic government so that my jokes will mean something (said sarcastically.) I also notice that the flight over alters my body. Once I get off the plane and walk among the Swedes, I am twice as fat as I was in the States. You are all so beautiful, naturally beautiful. Even your fat people here are fit. We could learn from your natural living to just learn to embrace ourselves for who we are.

1. Henry Kissinger had a boob job
2. scene from Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House (Chad & Vlad intro)
3. scenes from “Queer 101–Now I Know My gAy,B,Cs” Chad &Lorca, Earthel
4. scene fromRe-Education of George W Bush–Dr. Meadows does Sodomy
5. scene from I Can See Sarah Palin from my Window–NEW monologue about woman with “issue of blood”
6. scene(s) from Transfigurations–Deborah and possibly man with pitcher of water (I will do all of Transfigurations on Sunday, so I don’t need to do it all tonight)
7. Stand up: some cancer comedy. Don’t you hate it when your mom gets lung cancer? People ask such stupid questions. “Did she smoke?” WTF etc
8. Comedy sketch: Marvin & Samson or How Marvin “did it” kinda
9. Vlad and his superpower. Invisibility can be complicated
10. Identity Monologue

Chances are I will not get to all of this and in fact may end up doing some very different bits. A lot of it depends on the audience. Part of doing solo performance work requires building a dynamic relationship with one’s audience. They give me energy and direction as I share my mind and heart. A bond occurs, often unique from audience to audience, and the show and my performance gets influenced by that bond and our shared needs, interests, and personalities. What I love about LIVE solo performances is that truly anything can happen. And often I discover new material, new jokes, new insights that I incorporate into the act during a future performance, an imprint of that one audience on the enduring work.

I imagine this happens a lot with teachers in the classroom who present some of the same lessons year after year or pastors who repeat sermons (come on, you can confess that you recycle ministerial material.) Jazz musicians have a long history of improv and immediate creation in front of a live audience. There is something magical about the whole thing. If I think about it, I see it is also scary, so I won’t think too much about it. Instead I will rehearse rehearse rehearse and have the words roll around my mouth and tongue and let my body shape shift into characters very different (and some not so different) from me.

I’ll let you know how it goes…

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There’s a demon in my underwear! Queer and Queerer Ep. 19

What’s worse than crabs in your crotch? Demon possession in your pubic area. This week Zack and I go where few gay male podcasters have gone before. (You will have to listen to the podcast for it to all make sense. Let’s just say, this is the scene they left out of The Vagina Monologues.)

Okay now the proper show notes:

She graced the pages of Glamour magazine. She stunned the nation on Good Morning America. She helped launch a movement (Beyond Ex-Gay) and NOW she is our guest on Queer and Queerer! Zack and I welcome Christine Bakke to the program. Christine is an artist, an activist, and an outspoken ex-gay survivor. As a lesbian who once tried to suppress and change her orientation, she now speaks out passionately about the dangers of treatments that try to “de-gay” you. She joins us to talk about the Prop 8 ruling, its implications for the Ex-Gay Survivor movement, exorcism, demon nests, and activist art!

Remember, send us your questions for episode 20! You can ask us ANYTHING.

The Queer and Queerer Podcast!

Listen to this week’s episode:

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

» Read the Prop 8 decision findings of fact in detail.

» The Slate Political Gabfest discusses the Prop 8 ruling.

» Meet Ryan Kendall, Ex-Gay Survivor and Prop 8 witness

» Details magazine looks at gay exorcism

» The APA’s Report on Reparative Therapy

» Be careful not to fall out of your RV!

Change is Possible? Of Course!

Exodus International, the ex-gay umbrella organization which is fast fading from any sort of prominence, has often proclaimed the bold and yet obscure mantra, “Change is Possible!” To the many of us who suffered under the weight of homophobia & the pressure from family, friends & society who valued heterosexals over others they treated as sub-classes of human, we wrongly assumed “change” meant transformation from gay to straight. Once on the inside, program leaders informed us that such a change was not actually possible. They have since come out in public with similar statements. We now understand that such a change is not neccesary or healthy to pursue.

The journeys many of us have travelled in churches and with our faith & sexuality took unexpected twists & turns. I look back at that 19 year old I once was in NYC engaged in saving the world beginning with myself, and I recognize myriad changes (extreme thinning of my hair being one of the many physical changes.) My faith, my worldview, my understanding of my sexuality have drastically altered, yet I still see shades of the same person, who in many ways carries the similar values, insecurities & hopes.

Which brings me to some questions for you!

-In looking back on your own odyssey, in what ways have you changed? How have you remained the same?

-If you could send a message back in time to your younger self, what would you say? What advice, insight or encouragement might you share?

The Confusion over Sexual Abuse, Drugs, Promiscuity and Gay Orientation

This week I received an e-mail from a guy who is about 22 years old. He lives in a big city and although his father was unhappy with him being gay and wanted him to get therapy to become straight, this guy came out as a teen and became very active in one of the gay scenes in his city which included lots of partying, sex and drugs. Now he is attempting to sober up (in fact has been drug free for almost 10 months), and in getting help with substance abuse and compulsive sexual behavior, he has gotten religious. This has led to pressure to leave off being gay altogether. He wrote us at Beyond Ex-Gay asking for help with the confusion he feels right now. In my follow-up e-mail, I mostly asked questions to better understand his situation and his confusion. He reported that as a child he was sexually abused twice.

He writes,

So today I started searching on internet stuff about homosexuality and I found a lot of info, so I´m really confused. I think god has a big plan for me, but is really hard to discover what it is. I found your case in a wave of articles.

There´s a part of the Bible which says that you can´t get laid with men, such as you do with women, I think is Levitic and theres a lot of things that really freak me out.

I have to say I have a kind of sexual addiction, that I´ve been dealing with recently. Theres a mess in my head, I think you know exactly the way I feel…
There are a lot of things I have to separate… My lust, from my preference, my addiction to drugs and alcohol, my attitude with god, etc…
That´s like a summary about my life.
What do you think?

I have asked him for permission to share a little of his story and my response. I know many people who read this blog will relate to some of the themes that emerge. Below is an excerpt of what I sent.

Dear __________

You mention something very important and very painful–you were sexually abused twice as a child. I am so sorry to hear this. I know firsthand how difficult and challenging this can be. Boys are often told they must be strong, macho, so often we don’t get to tell anyone about what happened. It becomes a secret, a burden that we carry. So many people get abused as children–male and female bodied people–and much of it never gets reported. With the abuse also comes a lot of shame and confusion. We feel the shame our abuser puts on us like a mark on our souls. We can feel dirty, evil, bad, wrong. We also develop a complicated relationship with our own bodies. In fact, it has been proven that boys who were sexually abused can develop a overactive sexual hunger. They can react by having a lot of sex later in life. It is like the early sexual experiences increases our desires. Someone harmed us and we live with the effects. (You can read about some of these effects at Wikipedia)

In my case sexual abuse DID NOT make me gay or effeminate. I was already liking “girly things” and had crushes on boys and male teachers before the abuse. Perhaps this is what made me a target for the an abuser. What the abuse did was complicate my sexuality and how I felt about myself. It made me hyper sexual while also piling on shame about my sexuality. It also was complicated because the abuse in part was pleasurable–the attention, even the sex, so I felt guilty and responsible. Does that make sense? Your experience may have been different. In my case I ended up blaming myself for much of it thinking that I asked for it. I then responded by having a lot of sex with other boys during my teen years and then into my 20s (even as I tried NOT to be gay).

Turning to drugs, sex, partying can all be results of sexual abuse. Our lives can get out of control not because we are gay, but because our sexuality was tampered with. Now you are trying to clean up your life, stay clean and sober, stay out of trouble, but it feels like you have to get rid of ALL of it. You may have learned some bad habits among your friends on the party scene. You may be growing tired of all of that and want something more. A clean, wholesome life. I understand that.

The problem is that if that clean wholesome life means denying the reality that you are a guy who is mostly drawn to guys for romance and partnering, you may fall into the hands of a type of abusers once again–people trying to impose their ideas of sexuality on you. They may mean well and think they are helping you, but I have seen the results of this–many times people grow depressed, more promiscuous, lonely, confused and far from God and others. Getting help with your drug addiction and sexual compulsion is a great thing, but if it also includes trying to change your orientation, it can have terrible effects. The APA just put out a LONG report about this very thing last week stating that no one should provide these change therapies because they don’t work and often cause harm. (You can get a link to the report from Ex-Gay Watch.) If one feels that their faith and sexuality don’t line up they should attempt to live a celibate life or find a new faith community that accepts gays, lesbians and bisexuals.

The important thing right now is that you get the help you need about your primary issues. Staying drug free sounds like an important thing in your life as is having a faith life. There are also gay-affirming churches that can help you grow in your relationship with God. There is a wonderful on-line community called the Gay Christian Network) where many people are gay and Christian. You will find a lot of people who don’t want to have sex before they are in a committed relationship and even some who believe God doesn’t want them to have sex at all right now. They remain honest about their orientation and faithful to how they feel led.

We live in the world that believes that heterosexuals are more valuable than homosexuals. Anti-gay religious and non-religious spokespeople will point out to the excesses and misery of some gay people and say, “It is that way because they are gay.” never admitting that much of the pain gay people experience has to do with living double lives for fear they lose their family’s love or their jobs or their friends if they don’t hide the gay part of them. Also, There are holy and stable gay people out there who you may not have yet met. I know hundreds of them. I am not exaggerating. Many have overcome a time of extreme sex and drugs and craziness. They have dealt with the real pain in their lives and have developed deep and meaningful relationships with God.

To me Jesus means so much. I am a Christian and someone involved in a faith community. I walk in the Light before God as a gay man after nearly 20 years of trying to change for everyone else, thinking this is what God wanted. I needed to separate issues–sexual addiction, abuse, despair, gay orientation–these are all different things that may impact each other, but to treat my gay orientation like an evil disease or effect of the fall or the result of abuse only makes my problems more complicated and delays my healing. There are excellent trained therapists out there who can help you shift through these difficult issues and help you find clarity.

Former Ex-Gays Speak Out & Continue to Organize

There has been lots of ex-gay related news the past few weeks.

  • A wave of news stories both in the US and UK gay and mainstream news centered around Bryce Faulkner.  It’s been well over a week since anything has been published about this story.  We all hope Bryce is well wherever he may be right now.
  • We have also heard stories of gay exorcisms in the US and in England.
  • The APA released their findings after spending two years looking at gay reparative therapy and concluded that it does not work and should not be attempted because it can likely cause harm.
  • And last week, amidst reports of financial difficulties, Focus on the Family announced they will no longer host Love Won Out, a conference that targets parents of queer and questioning youth and ministers who work with youth, and has handed it over to Exodus to run instead.

Phew! That’s a lot of news to digest. As an ex-gay survivor, I have been especially interested in the many ex-gay survivors, particularly folks in their 20’s, who have been telling their stories on-line and in the media.

In an article for Edge, Great Lakes Regional Editor Joseph Erbentraut interviewed ex-gay survivors Jacob Wilson (age 23, Iowa), Vincent Cervantes (age 22, California),  and Daniel Gonzales (age 29, Colorado).

Gonzales ultimately abandoned the teachings as he independently realized that his homosexuality was “neither something that needed to or could be changed.” He, as well as Cervantes and Wilson, now participate in a group called Beyond Ex-Gay, a network of ex-gay survivors who share their testimonials with hopes it will dissuade others from seeking harmful therapy.

“These programs are everywhere and so few people know they exist,” Wilson said.” For us to come together and be one voice saying that these ex-gay programs do more harm that good, telling people that you’re OK being gay and OK the way you are, I believe saves lives.”

Read the whole article here. Vince Cervantes has also announced that he will appear on the Tyra Banks Show in a program that will look at ex-gay treatment and particularly the awful world of gay exorcisms.

Some of you may remember the name of another ex-gay survivor, James Stabile, who dramatically got caught up into the ex-gay world with a fanfare of Christian media grandstanding his “conversion.”  Stabile eventually sorted himself out and shared his story of how he fell prey to anti-gay religious teachings. Now at peace with his gay orientation and his faith, he recently announced that he has started Love Actually,  a local support group in Dallas, TX for others who have been through ex-gay ministries and treatment.

“I thought, there has to be a place you can go if you have been in straight camp,” he says. “Somewhere you can be brought back into who you are and feel loved.”

It was an experience he really needed because, although Stabile identifies as gay, he says he felt like he didn’t quite fit in with the community after his experiences in reparative therapy, and after announcing he was straight on the Christian Broadcasting Network’s “The 700 Club.”

“I didn’t feel like I fit in the gay community, but I was not straight,” he said.
He says he found an online home at  BeyondExGay.com, where he first started to realize he was not alone, that there are many others like him who’ve been through the same process and “came out gay all over.”

“Love Actually is a place people can come to and know they are not alone, they are loved and loved by God,” Stabile says.

Read the whole article over at Dallas Voice.

Christine Bakke and I founded Beyond Ex-Gay in April 2007.  In addition to adding over 100 pages of content to the site we have  helped to organize gatherings for ex-gay survivors in Irvine, CA, Nashville, TN, Denver, CO, Memphis, TN and Barcelona, Catalonia. We are connecting with hundreds of ex-gay survivors in North America, Europe and beyond. Some of these feel it is important to publicly share their stories to serve as a witness of what they encountered and as a warning to others who are considering gay reparative therapy or ex-gay ministry for themselves or a loved one.  In so doing they are helping to reshape public discourse about these treatments and ministries.

If you have not done so yet, check out this Brian Murphy’s film about the first Ex-Gay Survivor conference which was sponsored by Beyond Ex-Gay and Soulforce:

The role of the Internet has helped tremendously in connecting ex-gay survivors with each other an in organizing our events and actions. I recently wrote in article for the Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide about the power of the web in regards to former consumers of ex-gay treatments and therapies (See ‘Ex-gay’ survivors go on-line.) In addition to our website, Beyond Ex-Gay has a Facebook group with over 400 members in it, most of whom are ex-gay survivors. Over 500 people have contacted us directly through our website, some still in ex-gay programs looking for answers and honest information.

Over the past six months Christine has made a special focus to create the Beyond Ex-Gay Community, an on-line social networking site specifically for survivors to connect with each other about their ex-gay experiences and their recovery from them. No doubt you will hear more about this effort over the next few months.

The next ex-gay survivor gathering will be November 20, 2009 in West Palm Beach, FL. Beyond Ex-Gay will organize the gathering as a pre-conference event leading up to the Anti-Heterosexism Conference, an event sponsored by Soul Force, The National Black Justice Coalition, Truth Wins Out, Box Turtle Bulletin and Equality Florida. This same weekend NARTH, an organization that claims that something is wrong with LGBT people and that they must be fixed through therapy, will hold their annual conference also in West Palm Springs. Last year several of us ex-gay survivors along with allies gathered in front of the NARTH conference held in Denver, CO as public witnesses to the potential harm that comes from gay reparative therapy.

I am especially pleased with the Anti-Heterosexism theme that Soulforce and the rest of the organizers have chosen for the pro-LGBTQ conference. In the discussions about gay reparative therapy so much of the focus gets stuck on religion. We have some who seem to think that the conflict facing a person of faith who is also attracted to the same gender is primarily and exclusively a religious conflict.   They maintain a stunning oversight of the vast heterosexist infrastructure that exists in practically every level of society–religious as well as secular exerting daily pressure on LGBT people to straighten up and be gender normative.

The belief that fuels much of the desire to go straight is that heterosexuals are more valuable than gays or lesbians or bisexuals. Heterosexuality is still presented as the idealized norm through virtually every institution, film, pop song, government policy and print or TV ads. In its simplest terms the message pumped out day after day is that Straight is Great! and anything else is “less than,” suspect, evil. No sexual orientation is superior to another. Being honest about who you are and your orientation and gender identity is great and worthy of support. It is also worthy of representation in the media, religious institutions, and public policy.

It is thrilling to see all of this organizing and speaking out by ex-gay survivors and allies. The power of personal testimony brings healing and it brings change. At one time when someone mentioned ex-gay therapy, the average person would say, “Oh, that’s crazy; it’ll never work. How silly.” More and more people have begun to realize that not only does ex-gay therapy not work, it is completely unnecessary and most likely is dangerous to pursue. Dozens of ex-gay survivors have told their stories on-line through videos, news stories and more. I have a feeling many more will step up to share their stories–why they went ex-gay/what the ex-gay world looked like for them/what good, if any, they encountered/ and what costs (emotional, spiritual, financial, etc) they incurred.

Bitter Fruit from a Toxic Garden

With all the Twitter updates I’ve done recently, it’s hard to imagine writing more than one pithy sentence, but here goes.

I arrived in Allentown, PA yesterday after a lovely evening at a Lutheran church in Bridgeport, CT. In Allentown I am hosted by the Rainbow Players of the local MCC. Dean Hiatt, the key organizer, and I have known each other for over 25 years after we first met at LIFE ministries, an ex-gay program in NYC.

During the car ride, Dean and I compared notes about the many ex-gays we knew from that time. Oh what a bitter harvest of pain and misery! Divorce, AIDS, death, alcoholism, substance abuse, along with the loss of jobs, child custody, ministry opportunities and faith. In pursuing a ‘cure’ most instead found a curse on their lives and the lives of their loved ones.

The reality is that the vast majority of people who attempt to change their orientation are unsuccessful. In fact most ex-gay leaders today say that an actual change from gay to straight is unrealistic. What they have not yet acknowledged are the dreadful consequences that most often come from pursuing such a change. Broken homes, broken lives, broken dreams.

I am so glad that Dean has been able to reclaim his life, but still the pain and the effects of living in delusion will likely be experienced by him and his former wife for the rest of their lives. For him the toll was great and nearly cost him his life. Others, who were initially inspired by his ex-gay life and his heterosexual marriage have also harvested bitter fruit through their own failed marriages and desperate struggles.

Those who claim they care about pastoral care and the welfare of people need to consider the potential dangers in advocating an ex-gay course.

There is a better way.

Gratitude

This week will mark six years since the premiere of my play, Doin’ time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House and the begining of LGBTQ activism that has shaped, challenged and aided me in my own recovery from the Ex-Gay Movement and a life of rotting under the weight of homophobia and heterosexism.

How lovely to walk in the light, to be a peace within myself about who I am and how I am wired, to get beyond the crime of trying to fit in to please other people in the name of God.

Thank God I am gay. What a gift to be given! I once would have sold my soul to be straight. How I begged God to fix me or at least to collude with me to reject a part of me. It proved unecessary. No need for all that violence against myself. I am a man who desires men and who presents in what some say is in a feminine fashion. This is not only normal for me, and many others, but a most excellent way to be wired.

Today as I prepare for my play about transgender Bible characters I experience joy and gratitude.

Assorted Goodies

So much good stuff out there that has come to my inbox recently.

  • Candace Chellew-Hodge, the creator of Whosoever.org, has a new book out, Bulletproof—A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay & Lesbian Christians. You can hear a public reading here. Check out what Desmond Tutu has to say about the book.

    Gay and lesbian Christians are constantly demoralized and told they are not children of God. In Bulletproof Faith, Chellew-Hodge reassures gays and lesbians that God loves them just as they were created and teaches them how to stand strong, with compassion and gentleness, against those who condemn them. -Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

  • Allyson Robinson gets quoted in a great piece that appeared in yesterday’s Washington Post, Ruling Inspires New Hope for Transgender People.

    But for transgender women such as Robinson, the County Council’s passage of the law was a key reason she chose to live in Montgomery when she moved to the area this year from Texas to take a job at the Human Rights Campaign, a gay and transgender civil rights organization.

    Before settling on a townhouse in Gaithersburg, Robinson and her family sought to rent an apartment. She worried, unnecessarily as it turned out, that the landlord would want to pull out of the lease upon meeting her. Until the law took effect this week, Robinson said, the landlord could have rejected her application because she is a transgender person.

    In the past, Robinson has also worried about taking her four young children to public restrooms at restaurants, because she fears that someone will identify her as a transgender woman and call security. “You find yourself on guard, and mentally and emotionally prepared for that,” Robinson said. “You just never know. For many of us, this kind of thing we fear happens rarely; for others it happens constantly, and the fear of it is very real.”

  • Over the weekend I got to hang out with poet Karla Kelsey. She has done collaborative work with her partner visual artist Peter Yumi. You can see samples here.
  • If you go in for the whole debate thing, check out Opposing Views, which includes polar opinions on politics, religion, money, health and more.