Category: Love in Action

Lesbian Ex-Gay Survivors Step Up

Christine Bakke, co-founder of BeyondExGay and recently featured in Glamour Magazine, is slated to share some of her story Monday live on Good Morning America. Of course a volcano can blow up or Hillary Clinton or someone could say something stupid and that will change the course of morning “news” programs, but as it stands Christine will fly out to NYC this weekend to do the Monday morning show. It may air around 8am, but then who knows.

Ex-Gay Watch reports that Ann Phillips, former staff member at Love in Action and an ex-gay survivor, will speak at the Evangelicals Concerned women’s retreat July 25-27, 2007 in Orange County, CA. She speaks so well–witty, wise and practical.

Tale of Two Zachs

Today’s New York Times features the story of a gay teen, Zach O’Connor who lives in Connecticut. I first heard his story two years ago at the True Colors Conference when he co-led a workshop with his therapist. I saw him at the conference last week, and he is doing really well.

The article brings out how wonderful his parents responded to him when, at age 13, they suspected he might be gay. Initially Zach freaked out about the possibility,

“They asked me, ‘Do you know what being gay is?’ ” he recalls. “They tried to explain there’s nothing wrong with it. I put my hands over my ears. I yelled: ‘I don’t want to hear it! I’m not, I’m not gay!’ ”

But his parents observed that their son was not happy.

Cindy and Dan O’Connor were very worried about Zach. Though bright, he was doing poorly at school. At home, he would pick fights, slam doors, explode for no reason. They wondered how their two children could be so different; Matt, a year and a half younger, was easygoing and happy. Zach was miserable.

The O’Connors had hunches. Mr. O’Connor is a director of business development for American Express, Ms. O’Connor a senior vice president of a bank, and they have had gay colleagues, gay bosses, classmates who came out after college. From the time Zach was little, they knew he was not a run-of-the-mill boy. His friends were girls or timid boys.

He began to open up and, Zach’s parents found him an affirming therapist, took him to the True Colors Conference, then allowed him to blossom and accept himself.

You can hear an audio version of Zach O’Connor telling his own story.

Many of you know of another Zach–Zach Stark. Nearly two years ago, when he was 16, Zach Stark’s parents also felt concerned for their son when they discovered he might be gay. They responded by placing their son into the Love in Action/Refuge (LIA/R) ex-gay day camp. Many of us remember the shocking story and Zach’s cry for help:

On May 29, the teen blogged that his parents sat him down and told him he was going to a “fundamentalist Christian program for gays.”

“They tell me that there is something psychologically wrong with me, and they ‘raised me wrong.’ I’m a big screw up to them, who isn’t on the path God wants me to be on. So I’m sitting here in tears, [joining] the rest of those kids who complain about their parents on blogs — and I can’t help it,” Zach wrote.

“I’ve been through hell. I’ve been emotionally torn apart for three days… I can’t remember which days they were … time’s not what it used to be,” the teen wrote in his last blog entry, posted June 3.

Zach Stark did his time and has been pretty silent since. He turns 18 tomorrow. I don’t know for sure how things are with his parents today, and I can’t pretend to know how difficult it is to raise a teenager. Parents make mistakes and often do the best they know how to do. All the same, I wish the Starks had met the O’Connors before they put their son through hell.

hat tip to Jack Drescher
photo credit: C. M. Glover for The New York Times

(Okay, Zach turning 18 is big news, but it is not the BIG news. That will come tomorrow. And I know I said midnight tonight, but it will have to wait until tomorrow morning, hopefully by noon 🙂

Doin’ Time with Tyra

Some of you may remember a blog entry about a very last minute trip to Los Angeles earlier this month. It was all very covert, but I got the call today that frees me to share some of the details with you. (note: this is not the BIG news I have for you next Monday; this is just big news.)

I went to Los Angeles to be a guest on the Tyra Banks Show. The show will air on Thursday April 12, 2007 and proves to be quite interesting. In the show Tyra (we are now on a first name basis) looks at some places where lesbians and gays are not safe.

One segment will be about the world of sports, specifically basketball Her guest will be John Amaechi a former NBA player who recently came out. Tyra will also look at the world of Hip Hop with some same-gender loving rap artists. Very interesting.

And sandwiched between the two will be a segment about how it is not safe for gays in the church, which of course brings up a conversation about the ex-gay movement. For this segment her guests include, John Smid, the director of the Love in Action (LIA) ex-gay program (which I attended for two years), an LIA staff member and a recent LIAgraduate. These folks will go on first to tell their stories and talk about the LIA ministry.

Then Tyra brings gay Mormon dad, Steven Fales onto the stage along with me. (Steven is the writer and performer of the one-person show, Confessions of a Mormon Boy.) Tyra shows a video of us telling our story, full of scary music and wild screen shots, and then we have a few minutes to talk. We made a great team. I have to say it was great being there with Steven who was so very centered before the show. We then had a great debrief afterwards.

(See here the photo of lovely Steven and little ole me–really I am a tiny person–I forget that)

Honestly I felt quite anxious about this program. Tt was only with the insistence of Sarah, my booking agent, that I did it. I did not know how I would feel being on the set with John Smid, particularly in the rough and tumble world of daytime TV where they love conflict. When the program airs, I’ll share a little more about these feelings and the challenges I faced. Overall, I think it will be another opportunity for survivors to share their stories.

Go here to find out where in the US the show airs. For folks in Sweden and the UK and Saudi Arabia (yeah, I know you’ve been lurking), I am not sure what to tell you. Do you have Tyra in Sweden?

Oh and on the Current TV station, a short independent film about the ex-gay experience has been greenlighted and is airing (about three times a day for the next five weeks). The film juxtaposes interviews with John Smid and me along with excerpts from my play, Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House. To find out more, click here. A shorter on-line version is still available here.