Category: ex-gay

Ex-Gay Survivors who never attended a program

Over at the FAQ page of Beyond Ex-Gay we have the question, What is an Ex-Gay Experience? with the answer:

It can be as simple as gay guys trying their hand at football and lesbians sitting in on a Mary Kay Makeup makeover to something as serious and severe as electroshock therapy.

The idea is to find change from unwanted same-sex desires and gender differences. In some cases the experience is religious-based, but not always. It can also be done within a group, in one-on-one sessions or solo.

Photo of onramp (?)An ex-gay experience seeks to change desire, behavior and/or gender presentation. People have tried multiple methods including

  • counseling (with a trained counselor or pastoral counseling with a minister)
  • attendance in an ex-gay support group or a residential program
  • dating (or marrying) someone of the opposite sex in hopes of experiencing change in desire
  • dressing and acting according to the gender normative standards in one’s society
  • reading books and narratives by people who say they changed
  • attending ex-gay conferences
  • submitting to prayer, fasting, exorcism, aversion therapy, hug therapy, same-sex heterosexual mentoring, and twelve-step programs.

Lots of people have had ex-gay experiences even though they never attended an ex-gay program. The theories of the Ex-Gay Movement get spread through books, radio programs, men’s and women’s groups, pulpits and in counseling sessions. But even non-gay people who do not conform to gender norms who who may be transgender can be affected by the pressure to “change” or fit in with the norms and demands around them instead of being pursuing a path of authenticity.

I hear from lots of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people who never once stepped foot into an ex-gay program, yet they can say that they have been negatively affected by the ex-gay movement, especially because of their faith background.

Ray Boltz, a well-known contemporary Christian singer, came out publicly yesterday via an interview with the Washington Blade. In the article he references the Ex-Gay Movement.

It got to the point by the early-to-mid ’00s that keeping his homosexuality hidden had become an increasingly wearying notion.

“You get to be 50-some years old and you go, ‘This isn’t changing.’ I still feel the same way. I am the same way. I just can’t do it anymore.’”

There was some exploration of “ex-gay” therapy though Boltz never attended an “ex-gay” camp or formal seminar.

“I basically lived an ‘ex-gay’ life — I read every book, I read all the scriptures they use, I did everything to try and change.”

As with many ex-gay surivor narratives, Ray was not the only one affected by ex-gay experiences. The interview mentions Ray’s wife, Carol, and their children.

One of the challenges that many of us who have been in “mixed orientation” marriages face is how to be honest about ourselves and the marriage while seeking to validate both the good and the difficult aspects of the relationship. Some have called these unions between a gay man and a straight woman (or the other way) “sham marriages,” but for many of us who had been in these marriages, they contained genuine partnership on many levels. Yes, we hid a part of ourselves that we struggled with privately, often apart from our partners, but that does not invalidate the years of relationship building, of loving, of growing and giving.

Realistically these marriages often need to end for both parties to move on and continue to grow and live a healthy life. At the end of these marriages, just like at the end of an ex-gay journey, we often need to find creative ways to mourn the loses of dreams we once held dear. As we get beyond our ex-gay experiences, we will find a new found freedom, hope and even joy, but it comes mixed with regrets and even damage from what we’ve gone through, damage from which we may never completely recover.

My hope is that as people like Ray step forward to tell their stories that others will make better informed choices about their own lives and loved ones so that they can avoid the destructive nature of false promises.

If you are a praying person, pray for Ray and Carol and their family as they publicly step into the light and may have to face some ugliness from folks who feel threatened and challenged by the realities that the Boltz family reveal. Many have come forward in support of them and their courage. May the Boltz family find love in every quarter.

Trapped in the Ex-Gay Board Game

Hello, my name is Vlad. I have been in this Homo No Mo Halfway House for 27 days. Here in Homo No Mo Halfway House we have five phases, we do 12 Steps and there are approximately 275 rules. First I tell you about the phases. When we move from phase to phase, this is called a “Phase Bump,” and technically only the staff is allowed to bump you.

-Excerpt from Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House

At the Love in Action residential program that I attended for two years the staff led participants through a game know as The Five Phases and The 12 Steps. Participants preoccupied themselves with moving up (and down) artificial gradations like a twisted version of Chutes and Ladders.

  • In Phase One the staff forced participants to look at themselves in order to acknowledge they had a problem, in fact that we were a problem— sinful, addicted, and broken.
  • In Phase Two the focus turned to God, the ultimate perfection and means of escape.
  • Phase Three turned the spotlight on the family where we created new mythologies about our childhood and family dynamics to fit in with the program theories about dysfunctional families and the developmental model.
  • In Phase Four we deconstructed former friendships rebranding them as unhealthy, emotionally dependent, and sick with the charge to develop new, healthy relationships with heterosexual mentors from the church.
  • Finally, we moved to the Fifth Phase where we began to transition into the world outside the program.

While slowly working through the phases, the staff also pushed us through an intensive 12-Step program with the belief that our desires for people of the same sex had to be wrong, sinful and addictive. We needed to account for every past sexual encounter and reframe them to fit in with the addiction model the staff gave us. Through our weekly “Moral Inventories” we wrote about and discussed former sexual experiences reworking them into a clinical narrative designed to reinforce the construct provided by the staff. Instead of a way of expressing love or just being horny, we had to restate our motives for sex so that they instead sprung from our own emotional, psychological or spiritual illnesses.

The Steps, the Phases, and the hundreds of written moral inventories required many hours of concentration and will power. The effort distracted me from the reality that “change” was not possible and was not happening, except for the negative change leading to depression, hopelessness and faithlessness. Instead advancement through the steps and our celebrated “Phase bumps” (which took on the quality of a some sort of tribal celebration with clanging of pots and pounding on the walls) gave the illusion that we experienced actual movement and growth.

Whenever we faltered in our resolve to sublimate our sexual desires and gay identity, the staff and fellow participants urged us to work the program! Instead of questioning the failure or the methods, the staff compelled us to dive into the “therapy” with greater effort and intensity. Whenever progress in the Steps or Phases, the staff lessened some of the many restrictions placed on our time and activities thus giving a false sense of autonomy. Once we failed again to meet program expectations, the staff returned us to an earlier Phase slapping on us restrictions and sanctions on free-time and hard-won privileges.

At times it felt like I lived in an elaborate board game where I got to move three spaces forward only to find that I somehow landed back in jail. I spent so much time and energy on the structure of the program and the hurdles I had to vault that I had little left to question just how ineffective the process proved. We labored towards the goal of graduation when we would stand before the community affirmed by the staff—victors of the game—examples to others that we could achieve success. Little did I understand just how much they deluded me (and I deluded myself) into believing that program success equaled some sort of real change. And little did I realize the paradox that only in losing the game that they set before us did I actually begin to win in life.

Design by Bakke

Christine Bakke works as a graphic designer. You can see her fine work at Beyond Ex-Gay and especially on the ex-gay survivor collage page. She recently updated my promo card which she originally designed in 2006.

You will see that Homo No Mo is no more, well, at least the play is retired (but is available on DVD and will soon be performed live by another queer solo artist!) Instead I now offer a talk about the ex-gay movement: Homo No Mo?!? Orientation, Gender and the Ex-Gay Movement—A Lively Lecture with Performance.

You can see my performance schedule here. Later this month I will perform three of my plays and lead a few workshops that will take me to Baltimore, MD, Washington, DC, Wethersfield, CT and Glen Mills, PA.

Click on images for larger view.
Christine, great work!

Vice Presidental Contender & the Ex-Gay Treatment

It’s been on the blogs all weekend, and now the Associated Press also reports that Sarah Palin, the Republican vice president nominee, attends a church that promotes ex-gay ministries, namely Focus on the Family’s Love Won Out day-long conference that tries to convince parents and pastors that God can “transform the lives of those impacted by homosexuality.” What they don’t mention is the kind of transformation that will take place.

Those of us who are former consumers of Focus on the Family/Exodus/NARTH ex-gay theories and practices can attest to the transformations that we experienced as a result of our time in ex-gay programs. The vast majority of people who attempted to sublimate their sexuality did not find a cure, instead we experienced a curse that affected us psychologically, emotionally, spiritually, financially, developmentally, physically and relationally. In the article Ex-Gay Harm Let Me Count the Ways I highlight some of these and also offer testimony of those who have experienced these things.

Sadly many of the ex-gay theories and treatments also negatively affected our relationships with our parents. I don’t doubt that many parents and even pastors go to a Love Won Out event looking for answers as they fear for the welfare of the young people under their care. These adults still live with misconceptions of what it means to be lesbian, gay or bisexual. Instead of getting honest answers though, the speakers at Love Won Out dish out more misinformation. You can hear a first-hand account of what happens at Love Won Out from Jim Burroway who sat through the conference and thoughtfully shares his experience. In the article, Can My Gay Child Change? I raise some of the questions and fears that parents may have as I outline the negative effects that often occur when forcing a child to attend an ex-gay program.

In February ex-gay survivors, those of us who endured these theories and treatments and have worked past the damage to reclaim our lives, traveled to Memphis and stood outside of Love Won Out as a witness to the potential harm that can come from these misguided teachings. We even gave Focus on the Family staff member Melissa Fryrear framed collages of our experiences so that she could hear the other side of the story and consider the majority of people who end up on the other side of they happy clappy ex-gay experience they project on the big screens at Love Won Out.

Perhaps Sarah Palin is woefully ignorant of the potential damage that comes from ex-gay theories and treatments. Maybe it is just because of partisan politics that she comes out against LGBT rights (no matter how the McCain spin wagon tries to paint her as sympathetic), but people are more important than politics. Religious leaders need to reject the propaganda of James Dobson and instead provide intelligent and informed pastoral care. In regards to ex-gay theories and treatments, we see a growing body of evidence that they cause much more harm than good. For those people who clamor for national security, consider the security and welfare of the LGBT youth of this country and oppose ex-gay theories and treatment.

Homeward Bound

Today I leave Seattle and spend a long day traveling home to Hartford. Because of Gustav, the conference I had hoped to attend in New Orleans got canceled. 🙁 The upside is I now get 10 uninterrupted days at home. This has not happened since March.

I cannot begin to write about how special I found the Gender Odyssey Conference.

Gender Odyssey is an international conference focused on the thoughtful exploration of gender. We strive to create an empowering environment where people of all genders can share their experiences and learn from the experiences of others.

Through dialogue, peer-led presentations, and sharing skills and expertise, we work to create broader and evolving language, social support, and life pathways that support all gender identities. By doing so, we hope to strengthen ourselves and develop communities that celebrate all expressions of gender at any age.

I met so many amazing trans men, heard many of their stories, and participated in excellently facilitated workshops. You know when you step into a place that at first seemed foreign with new people and new constructs but suddenly you find yourself in the midst of community? That’s what it has been like.

Last night I had a long and fruitful discussion with Ron, an ex-gay survivor, about the Ex-Gay Survivor Movement and our next steps. He attended the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference we held last year in Irvine, CA and has felt a desire to get more involved with the movement. Now that the summer has ended, I feel able to begin to prepare for our upcoming ex-gay survivor events in Nashville and Denver later this year.

Anthony Venn Brown, an Australian ex-gay survivor, also attended the conference last year. He recently posted a blog entry that consists of a series of questions for ex-gay leaders to consider. You can check them out at his blog: 20 Questions for Ex-Gay Leaders.

I leave the Pacific North West excited that I will return soon. In October I will go to Vancouver, BC and then in November return to Seattle to commemorate Transgender Day of Remembrance. I’m still hoping to get back to Portland soon to visit Doug and Bruce and the guys at Anawim.

Now that summer is basically over, how is everyone doing?
Okay, I must get ready to board my plane…

Meaning

Recently in Frostburg, MD on an excursion to Mainstreet Books, one of the finest independent bookstores I’ve been to for some time, a poet who accompanied me slipped a copy of The Collected Poems of Constantine Cavafy, a new translation by Aliki Barnstone (read review here).

Cavafy, the 20th Century Greek writer, who lived unashamedly with his gay side (well openly for the most part), always drew me since I read his poem Ithaka for a college course on Odysseus. (Hear it read in English by Sean Connery or in the original Greek from the movie about Cavafy.)

Reading this new fresh translation, I had to buy the book.

This poem tells my story in a way that has eluded me for over a decade. (try reading it aloud)

Meaning
by C.P. Cavafy

The years of my youth, my sensual life–
how clearly I see their meaning now.

What needless repentances, how futile…

But I didn’t see the meaning then.

Out of the dissolute life of my youth
my poetry’s aims grew.
my art’s realm was drawn.

That is why the repentances were never steadfast.
And my resolutions to hold back, to change,
lasted two weeks at the most.

You can read more Cavafy poems in English and Greek here.

The Shame & Blame Game in Ex-Gay Programs

The program leaders at Love in Action (LIA) and in all the other ex-gay programs I attended (along with the counselors I saw and authors of the ex-gay books I read) believed in a development model leading to homosexual desire and activity. Although each ex-gay therapist or minister used different and methods often contrary to each other, they universally agreed that boys became gay because of an “overbearing mother and an emotionally or physically absent dad.” In addition, they taught that sexual abuse contributed to same-sex attractions.

In LIA and elsewhere, the leadership made us create a mythology about ourselves based on the developmental template they placed before us. By mixing psycho-babble, scripture, and language from the AA 12-Step program, they constantly reinforced their authority over us. When any of us questioned the template they provided by stating our lives did not fit it, they insisted that we needed to look more deeply. They warned us, that as “addicts,” it was in our nature to deceive ourselves and minimize not only the consequences of our actions but also the causes.

Adhering to the belief that our parents failed us, the LIA program leaders then served as surrogate parents who attempted to undo the damage inflicted by our actual parents. During The Family and Friends Weekend, they not only confronted each participant with their development theories, they also pushed parents to admit that their child’s faulty development stemmed from a dysfunctional family structure.

The program buttressed the their teaching with the belief that everyone lives in a flawed sinful state. By being flawed and sinful parents, the program leaders reasoned that our folks ended up harming their own offspring. “Sin begets sin.” The staff then endeavored to lead the families in a corporate confession which included fathers of program participants confessing the ways they had ceded leadership to their wives. The Family and Friends Weekend thus operated under the notion that only by returning to the God-sanctioned patriarchy could the flawed son or daughter begin to experience success in divorcing themselves from homosexuality.

The Family and Friends Weekend created a climate of fear and shame, a toxic mix that made it difficult to think clearly. The environment placed us in a vulnerable state where we looked to the program leaders as authorities to lead us out of the mess stemming from our sinful nature and poor choices. When any parent or loved one questioned the teachings, program leaders responded with program jargon, scripture or pseudo-psychological language. The leaders stood as the final authority, almost as Gnostics who had come to the place of hidden knowledge. They then attempted to share that knowledge with those of us still darkened by ignorance and inner rebellion.

I only learned years later that my parents experienced deep personal distress as a result of their first Family and Friends Weekend. My sister told me that for the first two weeks after they returned home, “there was something wrong with Mom and Dad.” They seemed depressed and spoke little. It even affected their appetite. She said it was like a light had gone out in them. She felt so concerned that she called the LIA office and demanded, “What did you do to my parents?” LIA never followed up.

Years later when I told one of the LIA leaders who had been part of that weekend about my parents’ distress and how it resulted in years of self-doubts and emotional upheaval, he responded with program jargon and put the blame back on my parents by stating, “Healthy people ask for what they need.” He suggested that since my parents were not healthy to begin with, they didn’t know how to seek the help they needed.

By constantly turning the blame around and pointing to the flawed nature in each one of us, the program leaders chronically avoid responsibility for the unethical and harmful practices and theories they promote and provide. I do not know if the current staff of Love in Action still forces parents and participants through the shameful and harmful steps of The Family and Friends Weekend. If they genuinely care for people and about pastoral care, I invite them to listen to some of our stories to reconsider their methods before they do more harm.

See a video about The Family & Friends Weekend.
Read an article at Beyond Ex-Gay.

Lambeth, Quakers and Ex-Gays on the Radio

It’s my international radio weekend! Although I am in Western Maryland right now taking part in Quaker gathering, I will also be on the radio in Canada and beyond.

Tonight at 10:00 PM (Eastern Standard Time) I will be a once again be a guest on Vancouver’s Queer FM CiTR 101.9fm where I will talk about my recent trip to Lambeth, my upcoming trip to Vancouver, Canada in October and whatever else Heather, the show’s enthusiastic host, gets me to talk about. You can listen live here.

Also, last week while at Lambeth Conference, George Arny of BBC World Service interviewed me for the Reporting Religion program. I talk at length about my ex-gay experiences, Beyond Ex-Gay, my faith journey and being a Quaker today. You can listen to the program here.

A Love that Dares to Be So Obscene

Christine and I get lots of messages every week through Beyond Ex-Gay. Most come from people looking for answers or to connect or to share their stories. Some want to thank one of the many people who have shared their stories through narratives or art work.

Last week we received a message for ex-gay survivor Darlene Bogle. Many have written in before to express gratitude to Darlene for both stepping up to tell her story and for also coming forward to issue a public apology for her previous role as an Exodus ex-gay leader, one who firmly promoted and provided ex-gay ministry before she found a better way.

This message we received and came from another former Exodus leader, Anthony Falzarano, who still promotes an ex-gay agenda. His message shocked us so much we wondered if we should even share it with Darlene. But she is a strong and thoughtful woman, and from getting to know her this past year we felt she would like to see it, so we forwarded the message. Darlene decided she wanted to respond to Falzarano’s words publicly through Christine’s blog.

Below is Anthony Falzarano’s e-mail in full.

Darlene, I’m glad I ran across your blog. I still miss you. I am sorry to hear that your lover died of breast-cancer. Darlene is God sending you a message? Please consider coming back to Exodus. You are loved and missed. Why would God call you back to lesbianism, give you a lover and then take her away. I’m sorry that you are going through this. My heart is breaking right now but I believe that you belong to the Lord and “He chastizes the one’s that he loves”. I believe He is calling you back. If you want to talk I am here to listen. Please call me at [removed] if you want to talk. May God Bless You, Anthony Falzarano

I don’t know how she did it, but Darlene spent the time in prayer and thought to put together a response that rings with the clarity and wholeness that I have consistently experienced from her.

I was appalled when I read his words, which on the surface seem so compassionate. It was such a strong reminder of why I left Exodus and could never consider going back under their “umbrella of faith.” How arrogant of Anthony to send such a condemning statement as to ask if God was sending me a message! God sends me messages all the time to remind me of His love and acceptance of me as a lesbian daughter! He has brought a wonderful Christian woman into my life immediately after losing Des. We walk together in faith and love and serve those in our community as a blessed lesbian couple.

To say I am loved and missed (but not accepted) sounds great until he adds the judgmental statement that suggests that Des got breast cancer and was taken away as some sort of punishment for our lesbianism!

To then offer a listening ear if I want to talk? That is the major malfunction of Exodus leaders…How can they listen when their mind is made up?

Darlene then raises important questions about Exodus and the type of “ministry” they offer to people who they say they love.

Anthony believes God is calling me back? To what? The judgmental teachings of Exodus that say you have to change your orientation to be acceptable to God. Long ago I committed myself to acknowledge God in all my ways and allow Him to direct my path. How can I go where God isn’t? To then offer a listening ear if I want to talk? That is the major malfunction of Exodus leaders…How can they listen when their mind is made up?

She concludes by sharing some of why she chose to go public with Falzarano’s message and her response.

I would be happy to have Anthony’s email be revealed for what it is, and my response published for the world to read. Anthony and Exodus have had over 15 years to tell me of their loving acceptance, and have not done so. I will not be responding to Anthony directly, but thanks for sending it on to me.

You can read Darlene’s complete message in Christine’s blog entry Twisted Love.

Women & the Ex-Gay Movement

This Thursday, in a conference call open to the public, Darlene Bogle and Christine Bakke will share their experiences as lesbians in the Ex-Gay Movement.

For a while I have been considering how the Ex-Gay Movement is an anti-fem movement. Most of the participants in it are male with curriculum and treatment plans geared towards “male issues.” Many of the men involved have felt the need to “change” after years of taunting for being sissies. They learned both on the playground and from the pulpit that the world does not value feminized men.

The cornerstone teaching of nearly every ex-gay program takes a swipe at women while also reinforcing the belief that women must be subservient to men. What makes a boy gay? According to most of these ex-gay providers and proponents gay boys are a bi-product of an “overbearing mother.” This false teaching infers that once a woman usurps a man’s authority and no longer remains submissive, this transgressive act alters the natural order of the world thus misshaping a child. Ugh! Crap with a capital C.

Many ex-gay survivors have come forward and several sites offer thoughtful analysis of the ex-gay world, but we have heard precious little from the women who once partook of ex-gay treatment and have since come to accept their lesbian or bisexual side. Darlene Bogle and Christine Bakke are two women who have gone public with their stories. Last summer Darlene offered a public apology for her previous role as an Exodus ex-gay leader. Christine, the co-founder of Beyond Ex-Gay, has shared her ex-gay story through the Internet, in print and on TV.

You can listen live and partake in a conversation with Darlene & Christine this Thursday:

Many people have either heard of ex-gay therapy in passing or on a brochure laying around their church. Many haven’t heard of it at all. Others have actually experienced it, some even leaving their school, family and workplace to become engrossed in its promises through residential programs spending thousands of dollars.

The cost is not only in money, but also in tears, intimacy challenges, loss of sense of self and even the relationship they once held dear with God. As we mention in our movie, “get to God” is a key factor for people to not only stay connected to the Divine, but also to themselves. Ex-gay therapy is one of the leading ways people get in the way of this connection, trying to fix something that isn’t broke, attempted healing of someone who isn’t sick.

You’re invited to hear the very personal testimonies of two remarkable ex-gay survivors, Darlene Bogle and Christine Bakke. You owe it to yourself to learn from people who have “been there, done that.” Join us on Thursday night.

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Thursday, August 7th, 5pm Pacific/8pm Eastern
1. Dial-In Conference Number 1-218-486-1300
2. Access Code: 807282
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You’re invited to participate by asking your own questions.
Email us your question in advance:
info@godandgaysthemovie.com
and during the call, use yahoo! IM:
godandgaysthemovie@yahoo.com