Category: exodus

The Ex-Gay Survivor Movement–What’s It All About?

On the blogs and in the media folks are still wrapping their heads around the many ex-gay and ex-ex-gay events that took place last week. Many of these events were organized by Beyond Ex-Gay (bXg) and Soulforce, the most notable being the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference, the public apology by three former Exodus leaders and a private dinner attended by three people from Exodus and four ex-gay survivors.

Those of us involved in planning the events of last week are still catching our breath from it all. After nearly a year of planning, it felt stunning to see our dreams and thoughts come to life. Christine and I (with tons of help from our friend Steve Boese) launched bXg in April. Shortly after that we announced the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference that we co-hosted with Soulforce and the LGBT Resource Center at UC Irvine.

Anyone who has spent any time looking at the bXg site can get an idea of what Christine and I are about and what some of our goals are. There we post narratives of fellow ex-gay survivors, and resources such as poetry, art work and articles.

We don’t seek to bash people who identify as ex-gay or invalidate their experiences. Instead we wish to create a space to tell our own. The primary reason being for our own well being and recovery. Too often we shoved our ex-gay experiences in the closet believing that people in the LGBT community may just mock us for spending so much time, money and energy seeking to alter our sexuality. Some can be insensitive to personal and spiritual struggles that filled so much of our lives.

In looking at the events of the past week and the exposure they generated, some people have asked what we hope to achieve. They suspiciously wonderr if we wish to see groups like Exodus diminished, dismantled, and destroyed. In a politically charged debate I can see how they can raise these questions.

This weekend we saw the birth of the Ex-Gay Survivor Movement. It is a movement without a manifesto or agreed upon goals. Instead we have created a venue for people, who desperately sought to change and suppress their sexuality, an opportunity to unpack their experiences and to ask the essential questions–

Why did I pursue change? What was I looking for? What did I do to myself and let others do to me? What good came of the experiences I had? What harm came of it? How can I recover from these experiences and move on?

These are hard questions to face both by survivors and by those who advocate reparative therapy and ex-gay ministry. For 4 1/2 years I have asked myself these questions and wrestled with them on this blog and through my performance work. Looking at these questions initiates a grieving process for many of us. But in looking at these questions we get past the rhetoric to the heart of the matter–not Is change and suppression of same-sex attraction possible?–but Why is it so highly desired and what are the costs in pursuing it?

It also raises the question about the responsibility of those who advocate gay reparative therapy and ex-gay ministry. What happens once people leave your care? Do you know? Do you care?

Some want to know what the purpose is of setting up meetings between ex-gay survivors and proponents of ex-gay ministry and reparative therapy. For me the primary goal is truth sharing. Where it goes from there depends on the people at the table. For it to be true dialog we need to be open to listen.

In the ex-gay discourse there has been an imbalance in the information sharing. Those of us who attended ex-gay ministries and received reparative therapy know intimately what these leaders have to say. In some cases we sat for years under their teaching carefully paying attention, writing notes, reading the books assigned, attending the lectures, listening to the tapes. We know that side of the story. We know firsthand that many of the people who advocate ex-gay ministries and reparative therapies do so out of a sincere desire to help people.

The imbalance comes in that many of these ex-gay ministers and reparative therapists do not know the other side of the story. Most (in fact I know of none) have any organized aftercare program or follow-up. They don’t even send out a survey asking, “How was your ex-gay experience? What can we do differently to make it more beneficial to you?” There are stories and truths that they do not know, and part of the work is to create venues where we can share these narratives with ex-gay ministers and reparative therapists.

bXg provides such a venue for those willing to come and spend some time at the site. The dinner provided another such venue. The press conference outside of NARTH’s offices where three survivors shared their stories and presented beautifully designed and framed collages offers yet another venue. Through documentary films, radio and TV interviews, letters, blogs and personal conversations, we seek to tell the other side of the story. (Daniel Gonzales just posted some more video over at Box Turtle Bulletin)

Do the ex-gay survivors want to see the end of all ex-gay ministries? You will have to ask each one of us individually. We have different opinions about this. We do not need to have a unified message because we understand these issues are complex. The process of institutional change is an organic process, a dynamic process and one that depends on who is willing to come to the table and what attitudes, assumptions, fears and hopes they bring with them.

The Ex-Gay Survivor Movement–What’s It All About? It is about speaking the truth in love. It is about seeking to tell our stories as honestly and vulnerably as possible. It is about telling our stories for our own well being. It is about telling our stories as a witness to the harm we see from a church and a world that insists that to be anything but straight is not good enough and what happens to the people who passionately follow that line of reasoning.

This movement is a radical departure from what some people expect. Even some gay activists are caught off guard by it and do not understand why many of us don’t feel bitter and angry. Some conservative Christian groups, who do not know firsthand about the ex-gay struggle yet they insist it is the only route for same-sex attracted people, seem to feel threatened by the gathering of a handful of people who are willing to care for each other, listen deeply to each other and publicly tell our stories.

There is a mysterious power in telling our stories, and one thing is for sure, the Ex-Gay Survivor Movement is about standing up and telling our stories. I hope that the Church, ex-gay ministers and reparative therapists have ears to hear, and that they don’t haggle over words and ultimately miss the point.

Dinner with Some Exodus Leaders

Some of you know that Christine Bakke and I sent out an invitation to Exodus leaders to have dinner with some ex-gay survivors. The dinner happened last night and was sponsored by Beyond Ex-Gay and Soulforce. Here is a copy of the invitation. I have received several messages from people wanting to know:

Did you have a meeting with Exodus leaders last night?
Did they accept your invitation?
What happened????

Christine and I told the three Exodus leaders present for our dinner last night here in Irvine, CA that we would not blog about the details or even mention their names. If they wish to blog about it, that is fine and welcome, but not necessary. In seeking dialog we need to develop trust and know that every word we say will not end up out on the web.

Three leaders of Exodus member ministries joined four of us ex-gay survivors for dinner. No one from Exodus International senior leadership or from the Exodus board attended the dinner, and those present for the dinner stressed that they do not represent Exodus International.

Beside Christine and me, two college students attended the meeting, Vincent Cervantes and Vincent Pancucci, both from California. These two are partners and met while students at Azusa Pacific University, a Christian school. They both received ex-gay therapy through their church and at the school.

The format of the dinner was simple. We shared our stories about our ex-gay experiences and the challenges and difficulties we faced in large part because of these experiences. We also answered questions and then we all discussed some of the issues raised. The Exodus leaders present listened respectfully and answers thoughtful and insightful questions. They took copious notes and said that they would report back to Alan Chambers. After the dinner some of the Exodus leaders came to my show at UC Irvine.

Overall I felt very pleased with the dinner and the opportunity to share our ex-gay experiences and that for us they caused more harm than good.

Alan Chambers did respond to our invitation via e-mail and expressed interest but stated that he did not have the time during this week but was interested in meeting at a later date.

Misinformation, Outright Lies and Our Response

The schedule for the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference is now up! I am so excited about so many of the activities, especially the film forum (where we will have a very special announcement to make).

Steve Boese, our web master, has been working very hard to keep the conference page updated with the latest news and links to media and blogs.

He just posted a the response Christine Bakke and I have to an erroneous Focus on the Family Citizenlink article about the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference. Focus wrote:

Exodus Conference Offers Hope to Hundreds

The 32nd annual Exodus International conference is underway in Irvine, Calif., and God is at work.

“We’ve already seen an amazing turnout, amazing response, amazing speakers,” said Randy Thomas, executive vice president of Exodus. “The Lord has really done a great work so far in the conference.”

The meeting, which began Tuesday and wraps up Sunday, has drawn close to 1,000 people — and no protesters so far. Across town, a counter-conference drew about 100 people. Thomas and Exodus President Alan Chambers are working to set up talks with the other conference leaders.

“We are always in ongoing communication with people who disagree with us, people with similar testimonies,” Thomas said. “We definitely will be in communication with them.”

Exodus leaders will recognize the obvious error in the article: Early registration for the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference does not begin until Friday evening, and regular registration will be Saturday morning. No one knows yet what the attendance figures will be.

We must admit our frustration on reading this account of the two conferences.

In framing the community web site, and planning the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference, we have been clear: We will speak plainly and directly about our ex-gay experiences. From the beginning, we have recognized that even though our ex-gay experiences caused us more harm than good, that was not the intent of ex-gay leaders. We have invited Exodus leaders to hear our stories in private, while publicizing the invitation to give all Exodus leaders an opportunity to respond.

We understand that interactions between formerly ex-gay people and the leaders of the ministries they attended have often been contentious, or political, or angry, or simply nonexistent. As a result, we have carefully considered each step leading up to and since inviting ex-gay leaders to hear our stories.

The survivor conference has been co-located with the Exodus conference to facilitate dialogue. It is intentionally distinct from the Exodus in a number of ways; however, it has not been staged as a political or competitive protest.

Our purpose is to serve the needs of former ex-gays, their families, friends, and supporters. The experiences of former ex-gays and their allies have often been mischaracterized and their needs misunderstood. Identifying those needs and moving forward together as a community will happen on its own terms, not as a reaction to or a protest of Exodus.

In response to our attempts to be transparent about our plans and intent, we have been mischaracterized as a protest movement, as seeking to steal hope from ex-gays, and now had our attendance quantified more than a day prior to the conference opening.

We look forward to sitting down with a small handful of Exodus leaders to share a meal and tell our stories Friday evening.

We look forward to hearing a specific affirmative response to our invitation for dialogue with senior Exodus leaders.

We continue to challenge ourselves to move carefully, respond humbly, and not bear false witness as we interact with Exodus.

We look forward to a similar effort in response from Focus on the Family and Exodus International.

Christine Bakke and Peterson Toscano

Ex-gay survivors and co-founders of

Former Exodus Leaders Publicly Apologize

Today in LA three former Exodus leaders publicly apologized for their involvement in the ex-gay movement. Darlene Bogle, Michael Bussee and Jeremy Marks each shared their own personal statements and then Michael read out the shared statement. They signed the apology and presented it to ex-gay survivors who were present at the press conference.

Statement of Apology from Former Exodus Leaders
Issued by Darlene Bogle, Michael Bussee, and Jeremy Marks
June 27, 2007

As former leaders of ex-gay ministries, we apologize to those individuals and families who believed our message that there is something inherently wrong withvbeing gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. Some who heard our message were compelled to try to change an integral part of themselves, bringing harm to themselves and their families. Although we acted in good faith, we have since witnessed the isolation, shame, fear, and loss of faith that this message creates. We apologize for our part in the message of broken truth we spoke on behalf of Exodus and other organizations.

We call on other former ex-gay leaders to join the healing and reconciliation process by adding their names to this apology.

We encourage current leaders of ex-gay programs to have the courage to evaluate the fruit of their programs. We ask them to consider the long-term effects of their ministry. and Soulforce organized the press conference, and we worked with the leaders for the past few weeks as they revisited their ex-gay pasts and recounted the good and the harm of ex-gay ministry. The whole experience was very moving.

We felt pleased to have representation from the public and the press. CNN, the local ABC News, Azteca America TV (Spanish) as well as Here TV each shot the event and reporters from the Advocate, LA Times and Frontier Magazine and the Orange County NPR affiliate covered it. I did an interview in Spanish for Azteca that will air nationally tonight.

Here is moving video of Micheal Bussee up over at Box Turtle Bulletin

It’s About People–Not Protest

Yesterday Exodus issued their reaction to the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference. Focus on the Family’s Citizen Link Daily Update refers to our conference and states.

Just a mile down the road, gay activists, co-sponsored by the University of California – Irvine, have scheduled a counter-conference at which some people will claim they were hurt by ex-gay organizations.

Exodus Executive Vice President Randy Thomas weighs in,

“We live in a great country where people can have freedom of assembly,” he said. Unfortunately, the organizers of the counter-conference will “try to project their experience onto all of us, when in fact thousands of people, myself included, have overcome homosexuality.”

In casting us as protesters and minimizing the scope of the organizers to a local group in Irvine, CA, Exodus not only knowingly misinforms people, they also miss the point. Sponsored by Soulforce, as well as the LGBT Resource Center at the University of California in Irvine (not the university itself), the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference serves as much more than a counter-conference.

Christine addresses this very well her blog as she outlines the purpose of the conference,

Our message that there is healing and wholeness for those who have felt alienated from their faith, from God, and from family because of a lack of change in orientation is a message of hope. We’re saying that those who have suffered because of their ex-gay experiences are not alone, and a wonderful life and healthy relationships can be theirs, in contradiction to what many of us have heard from Focus on the Family and Exodus.

Our gathering next week is about people, not protest. It’s about pastoral care, not propaganda.

For the past 4 1/2 years I’ve traveled throughout North America and Europe telling my story at universities, churches, theaters, community centers and homes. As a result, I got to hear lots of other stories. In e-mails and one-on-one, people have told me about the loss and the trials they have faced as a result of pursuing what they were told was God’s will for their lives–a course of suppressing their same-sex attractions and their personalities in order to no longer be gay or lesbian (or bisexual or transgender).

These stories pulled at me saying that more needs to be done to help survivors find clarity and direction after they experienced so much loss and damage–some of it self-inflicted and some of it at the hands of church workers and ex-gay ministers. No one meant to cause harm, and in fact in some cases some good occurred. But too often the pain and suffering outweighed the good to the point where many of us even questioned and rejected the possible benefits of our ex-gay experiences.

Jim Burroway wrote on his blog yesterday,

Exodus recently has claimed a 30% success rate, without any proof to back it up. But even if we accepted that figure, that means 70% fail. These ex-gay survivors know the pain that comes from that failure. They have a lot of important things to say, and the least Exodus could do is acknowledge them with civility instead of dismissing their stores as “protest.”

Exodus admits that most people under their care cannot achieve the goals set before them. If say 3,000 people were to identify as successful ex-gays (success being an unclear descriptor) then according to Exodus 7,000 individuals were unable to live up to the standards set before them, even though most desperately tried and invested huge chunks of their lives, energies and financial resources, even sacrificing careers and relationships in order to reach those standards.

What about these folks? What’s more important, the politics of “change” or the people caught in the cross-fire?

One of the main goals of the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference is to give these folks–the majority of the people who passed through Exodus’ doors–a venue to unpack their experiences, to mourn the losses when necessary and to constructively look at ways to undo the damage and move on in life. The weight of our ex-gay lives have kept some of us from life for far too long.

That’s why at the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference we will not have any keynote speakers or lectures. Instead we will create spaces for people to talk to each other, talk about the good and the bad of ex-gay experiences and the costs involved. Survivors will share the expertise they have gained through their own recovery. This conference will help to address the needs of the majority of people who once submitted their lives and trust to Exodus ministries.

I believe there are some some leaders at Exodus who care more about people than politics, more about pastoral care than propaganda. I call on these folks to visit, read the narratives, see the heart behind the action. Come to dinner with us on Friday June 29. It will just be a handful of survivors and conference organizers sitting at the table for a meal where we hope we can share some of our experiences with you. You can read the invitation here.

And if you are an ex-gay survivor, or know and love someone who is, come to the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference, not to protest, but pursue understanding, peace and reconciliation with the past in order to build a better future.

An Open Invitation to Exodus Leaders

In regards to same sex attractions, the question has been debated over and over, Is Change Possible? but for many of us who attended Exodus programs, in some cases for years, the more important question is not about the possibility of change but the costs involved in pursuing that change. Change at what cost?

Next week many Exodus leaders, of both large and small ministries, will gather in Irvine for the Exodus Freedom Conference. A smaller conference will take place nearby where a group of ex-gay survivors along with concerned allies will meet to share and try to make sense of their own ex-gay histories.

These concurrent gatherings in the same city present us with wonderful opportunities to connect with each other. With that hope in mind, Christine Bakke and I, co-founders of BeyondExGay (bXg), issue the following open invitation to Exodus leaders.

We have already sent a signed copy of the invitation to Alan Chambers, president of Exodus along with an e-mail and will e-mail it to specific Exodus leaders we know. We also posted it on bXg. All Exodus leaders are invited. Please share this letter with any Exodus leader who may be in Irvine next week.

An Open Invitation to Exodus International for Dinner and Dialogue

Dear Exodus Leaders,

It is no coincidence that we scheduled the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference at the same time and in the same city as Exodus’ Freedom Conference. Although we do not wish to interrupt your gathering, we do long for the opportunity to connect with you. Many of us have spent months and years under your care in your ministries. We turned to you for help and received some good from our time under your care. Sadly our ex-gay experiences caused more harm than good, and for many of us we have needed years to recover.

We understand that this was not your intent. From knowing quite a few of you personally, we know that you have a heart to help people and to serve God. You meant to bless us.

Too often once we leave your programs, you never hear about our lives and what happens to us. Most ministries do not have aftercare programs or any formal means to follow-up on participants. Some stories you do not get to hear. If you do, our stories can be simplified by the press or infused with anger or hurt. In hopes of giving you the opportunity to hear about our experiences and the harm that we felt came to us as a result of our pursuit of an ex-gay life, we would like to invite you to join us for a private dinner on Friday, June 29, 2007.

The purpose of the dinner is to give you an opportunity to hear our stories. We do not wish to bash you, attack you or shame you. We simply desire to share our stories with you. No members of the press will be allowed into the dinner and it will not be recorded or filmed. We are hoping for a small gathering with a few ex-gay leaders and some ex-gay survivors. At the dinner a few of us will tell you our stories.

If you are interested in attending this dinner, please RSVP to


Peterson Toscano and Christine Bakke

Ex-gay survivors and co-founders of

Shift at Exodus?

Lots in the news yesterday about a possible shift in focus at Exodus, or at least with Alan Chambers. See Ex-Gay Watch for details about the possibility that there is no such thing as an “ex-gay”.

No doubt lots of discussion has gone on between folks at Exodus and concerned activists and citizens. IN the past few months Exodus president Alan Chambers has made some moves to better protect youth in their programs and has come out against bullying and homophobia.

All of this is welcomed news. Dialog helps us challenge our assumptions, stretch our thinking, consider new possibilities. I know that when I speak with people who identify as ex-gay or former homosexual (or whatever term they may prefer), I walk away with a deeper and broader understanding.

Some time ago I put out a call to Exodus leaders to hear the stories of survivors, people who attended Exodus programs for months, even years, and at the end of the day came away harmed more than helped. For some of us the process of recovery from our ex-gay experiences has taken years and will take plenty more time. We submitted ourselves to the care of people we trusted, people, who for the most part, intended to help us. But we walked away depressed, discouraged and depleted.

I don’t know if there is a shift at Exodus. I know that there are ex-gay leaders who really care about people more than issues. These folks may not speak out in public much or get on national TV programs, but they are part of Exodus too and have been working behind the scenes for years to help move the organization back to the ministry roots and away from political lobbying.

In the past few years Exodus has intentionally shifted their focus to target youth with their own Exodus Youth MySpace page and of course Love in Action’s Refuge program.

As of this moment if you go to the Refuge site,, it looks much more understated than I ever remember it. I cannot easily find a reference to Refuge on Love in Action’s pages. It is not listed as one of LIA’s current programs, and I can’t find a link on Exodus Youth. Has this program quietly ended? If so, this is a BIG shift.

Since I posted this earlier today the Refuge page has been taken down. You can see a cached page of what I saw this morning.

This is not about politics, about winning or losing. It is about people. There are people who do feel uncertain about their same-sex attractions. They feel this way for many reasons. In trying to sort these feelings out, folks have turned to Exodus, and although Alan still claims that hundreds of thousands have been helped (see video below), I imagine many more people have been harmed than helped. Even the help we received has not outweighed the harm.

My hope is that in Irvine we can continue the dialog.


Christine Has Been Podcasted!

Actually Godcasted. Christine Bakke, (who recently celebrated a birthday!) appears on the recent edition of Candace Chellew-Hodge’s Godcast (#13). She talks about the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference, Beyond Ex-Gay (bXg) and her own ex-gay journey. She explains the purpose behind the conference and what will happen there. I love Christine’s wit and warmth as she speaks about these issues. You can have a listen here.

Christine blogs about some recent international attention lately with a piece in a Russian paper (Sadelle, Vlad says, check out the original to practice your Russian 🙂

A 35 year old American woman has challenged “Reparative therapy” which supposedly cures the homodemon.

35 year-old American Kristina Beykk wanted to escape from homosexuality with the aid of the program of the so-called ex-gays, who promise to cure the “misguided souls” through the word of the Lord, the lesbian journal “Pinx” reports.

I love the “homodemon” thing. As many of you know Christine was recently featured in Glamour Magazine and Good Morning America, making her the first lesbian ex-gay survivor to speak out in such a way. No doubt you will hear more about her and her other international exposure soon.

In other audio news, Exodus International is running radio ads on Christian radio stations in Orange County, CA in preparation for their upcoming Exodus Freedom Conference. The ads boast “a sudden, radical complete change. Through Christ freedom is possible for those who struggle with same-sex attractions. ” On Exodus’ site they claim that the ads are actually aimed at changing the church,

Exodus International exists to mobilize the body of Christ to minister grace and truth to a world impacted by homosexuality. As such, we are calling upon the evangelical church to undergo a sudden, radical and complete change in the way it has dealt with the issue of homosexuality in the past.

You can hear it yourself here and decide what you think they are trying to say.

Former Exodus Missionary Speaks Out

Jose Luis Maccarone lived as an ex-gay for over 10 years. I first met him during my time at Love in Action when he came for a visit to the US to share his testimony around the country.

In 2000 he moved from his home country of Argentina to Madrid, Spain and become Exodus Interational’s first missionary. After serving as an ex-gay missionary for a few years, he came out gay.

Last week Jose Luis and I spent a day together, and he wanted to tell some of his story. In this series of videos, Jose Luis shares some of his ex-gay survivor narrative, what it was like to live as an ex-gay, the good and the bad that came of his experience, his recovery and a message to his former clients.

Jose Luis shares some of the reasons why he became ex-gay.

In this video Jose Luis talks about life as an Exodus leader and missionary

What good, if any came of your ex-gay experiences and how were you harmed?

Jose Luis talks about his recovery from the ex-gay movement and speaks to the people who he had ministered to as a missionary and ex-gay leader

Shortly after I posted this entry, I received the following e-mail from Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International.

Please make sure to note and clarify that Jose was a missionary with the Exodus International that now is called The Exodus Global Alliance. He was not affiliated with the ministry Exodus International that I represent. Though there is a connection to the two ministries, he was not one of our representatives.



It’s About Heterosexism, Silly

Yesterday was IDAHO, the International Day Against Homophobia. I celebrated it here in Lund, Sweden at the Smålands Nation student group and did my Homo No Mo play to a packed house. I head off to Umeå in the North to do another presentation.

Exodus International president Alan Chambers wrote a blog entry in support of IDAHO (no not the US state of Idaho but the actual anti-homophobia day).

Today is the International Day Against Homophobia. And, you might be surprised to learn that I support this effort. Homophobia does exist. Irrational fear of those who are gay or lesbian is a real problem in our culture. While I believe we have come a long way, I still see true homophobia at work each and every day.

He concludes,

So, when it comes to the evils of homophobia, bullying, name calling, hatred and violence where those affected by homosexuality are concerned, I stand with all decent human beings who are fighting and praying for an end to the ignorance and ungodliness that cause them.

This is not the first time I heard an Exodus leader (current or former) speak about the mission to inform and reform the often anti-gay church. No doubt when an Exodus member goes into a church to give testimony of their dramatic deliverence from the gay lifestyle, in addition to depicting in details the horrors of that lifestlye, they do challenge some folks to think about gay people as not simply evil and sinful and worthless dangerous human beings.

Ex-gay leaders have confessed to me that they even experience homophobia at times within the churches they attend and the Christian organizations where they work with lots of straight people who either avoid them all together or treat them differently from “normal” men and women.

I imagine it gets confusing for some of the straight folks in the church when they hear messages about how wild and out of control gay people live in our unsaved state coupled with the exortations to treat LGB and maybe even T people a little bit better. This is especially true when leaders, like Alan, on the one hand state he stands “with all decent human beings who are fighting and praying for an end to the ignorance and ungodliness that cause” homophobic attacks, and on the other hand he publicly opposes hate crime legislation that would protect LGBT people (like it protects people attacked because of their religion.)

While I applaud Alan for taking a stand within the church and using his platform in order to point out the prejudice, fear and hatred that exists, in addition to the mixed messages he sends, I think he is missing the point, but then so many of us do when it comes to these issues. I spoke the other day before the screening of Fish Can’t ‘Fly and began my talk by saying,

Heterosexism has affected me much more deeply than homophobia.

I have never been physically attacked by a homophobe and only on a few occasions been verbally assaulted because I am gay, but I suffer the negative effects of heterosexism everyday. Heterosexism most simply defined is the belief that heterosexuality is the preferred, idealized norm for society and anything other is deviant, weird, dangerous and subversive. The people at Wikipedia put it this way,

Heterosexism is a predisposition towards heterosexual people. A related term is Sexual Prejudice, a negative attitude toward someone because of her or his sexual orientation. [1] This bias is not the same as Homophobia, but rather is the discrimination towards or against non-heterosexual behavior due to a cultural or sociobiological bias. Heterosexism suggests that the basis for this bias is not found in the individual per se but rather has a broader cultural or biological basis that results in weighted attitudes towards heterosexuality over other sexual orientations.

While homophobic attacks happen daily, heterosexism happens by the nano second. A young child gets the message over and over again in books, TV ads, teacher’s examples and even heterosexually paired salt & pepper shakers, that anything other than heterosexual pairing is just not right. Growing up in such a world, with virtually no positive examples of same-sex couples, queer and questioning young people begin to develope a negative sense of self and can even grow quite isolated and suicidal within a society where they do not see themselves reflected or accepted.

Heterosexual privilege in our society makes it clear that some citizens are more valuable than others. This not only affects LGBT folks, but also unmarried heterosexuals, particularly women. McGill University’s Equity Subcommittee on Queer People provides a list of how heterosexual privilege works. Of course most heterosexuals do not see these things as special privileges. They just seem normal. Ah, but if you are not heterosexual (or one practicing heterosexuality in a marriage or other romantic relationship) you sense the significance of these privileges. Here is the list of some heterosexual privileges. Heterosexuals…

  • Show affection in public safely and comfortably, without fear of harassment or violence
    Openly talk about one’s partner and relationships to others without considering the consequences
  • Benefit from societal “normalcy”: the assumption that heterosexual individuals and relationships are valid, healthy, and non-deviant
  • Assume that all people and relationships are heterosexual, unless otherwise known
  • Do not face rejection from one’s family and friends because of one’s sexual orientation or gender identity
  • Easily access positive role models and media images for one’s gender identity and sexual orientation
  • Cannot be asked to speak on behalf of all heterosexuals
  • Use gender specific pronouns when referring to one’s spouse or partner without discomfort or fear of reprisal
  • Have automatic recognition of one’s spouse as next-of-kin in emergencies
  • Easily select reading or viewing materials in which heterosexuality is the predominantly reflected orientation
  • Have families similar to one’s own represented in children’s literature
  • Raise children without fear that they will be rejected or harassed by peers because of their parents’ sexual orientation or gender identities
  • Receive support and validation from a religious community
  • Not risk being denied employment, housing, or other services because of one’s sexual orientation or gender identity
  • Not be seen as needing therapy to “cure” one’s sexual orientation or gender expression
  • Marry

Standing against name calling and violent acts against homosexuals (as we are known by some) sounds like a good thing for a religious leader to do. But when a leader like Alan Chambers also stands against hate crime legislation and marriage equality for lesbian and gay people, it reveals the hollowness of his words.

True, compared to folks like say, James Dobson or Jerry Falwell, Alan Chamber’s words sound progressive and thoughtful, but words without actions, just like faith without works, and all sorts of fine sounding words without love are really dead, clanging, clashing gongs that do no more than distract and confuse and contribute to the problem.

UPDATE: Do you want to see heterosexism in action? I just read some comments over at Alan’s blog, and Mike Ensley, the assistant to Exodus’ Director of Student Ministries, wrote

The fact is, heterosexuality is innately superior. Only heterosexual partners enjoy the complimentary aspect of their physiology, and only they can produce children.