Memphis Pride

I flew into Memphis on Tuesday night, my third visit to this Mid-South city since February when Christine Bakke and I along with several other ex-gay survivors came to town to work with local LGBT folks in organizing Deconstructing the Ex-Gay Myth–A Weekend of Action & Art. Last night I performed my play The Re-Education of George W. Bush–No President Left Behind! making it the fourth play I have presented here in 2008. (I guess I need to write a new play before I return :-p )

10 years ago I lived in Memphis. I had gradutated Love in Action, a Memphis-based residential program designed to straighten folks out, in March of 1998, but I returned to the program around this time after a “relapse”. (I think I was the first person to actually graduate then return for more treatment. Usually graduates only come back to work as staff, which in itself is a form of on-going treatment). I spent the rest of the summer of ’98 up through October going through the five phases of the program once again.

Those days still hold dark memories for me. I think about the desperation and the fear that hung over me. After 17 years of seeking God with all my heart, of surrendering, of submitting to various teachings, programs, ex-gay leaders, church leaders, of praying, fasting, memorizing the scripture, worshipping Jesus, bonding with straight male mentors, digging up the roots to my homosexuality, making amends, binding the strong man, tapping into my masculine side, creating a mythology about my past that fit in with the ex-gay developmental model, of doing, hoping, longing, believing, I had experienced no shift whatsoever in regards to my same-sex attractions (a promise dangled before me for years). Worse yet, the more I sought to contain, crucify, hand over, stuff down, manage, and die daily to my same-sex desires, the stronger they propelled me and the deeper I felt depressed, confused, hopeless and ashamed.

10 years ago I sat perched on the rubble of years of believing God and bullying God for “victory over homosexuality.” That I still remained “bound” meant that I had done something wrong. Ex-gay leaders, Christian counselors and uninformed pastors did a disservice to me when constantly put the blame back on me. I failed to turn myself around because:

  • I wasn’t trying hard enough.
  • I was trying too hard.
  • I didn’t want it badly enough.
  • I wanted it too much.
  • I hadn’t yet discovered the root to my problems
  • I needed to find a different treatment plan.
  • I needed to pray more, read more, do more, more, more!
  • I had not yet repented from the heart.
  • I was not willing to resist until death.

In fact, not too long ago in a Conservative Christian anti-gay radio program, a pastor from Central Church, who I knew from my Love in Action days, brought up the need to suffer even until death in our fight against sin in our lives and specifically in regards to gay attraction.

About 10 years ago I finally came to my senses when I realized that change was not possible, change was not necessary, this “change” was destroying me. Instead I took the advice of Love in Action director, John Smid, who instructed us that if something was not working, try something new. He also regularly reminded us that a definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different outcome. For years I tried to sort out my gay side, to rid myself of it or at least control it, but that only bore negative fruit–the opposite of the fruit of the Spirit. A little less than 10 years ago I decided to try something new, to accept the reality that I am a man who finds other men romantically and sexually attractive. I didn’t feel happy at the time about this acceptance, but I needed to face reality, or the fantasy world I lived in would destroy me.

10 years later I enjoy the fruit of the Holy Spirit in a way I always dreamed of–charitas, gaudium, pax, longanimitas, benignitas, bonitus, fides, mansuetudo and continentia. This year’s Pride celebration in Memphis means a lot to me. Over the past 10 years I have reclaimed my life, recovered from much of the ex-gay harm I experienced and grown into health.

Mid-South Pride, the organizers of this year’s festivities, invited me to be the Grand Marshall of the Memphis Pride parade. I would have declined the invitation in any other city (not that others are asking 🙂 but I feel good and yes proud to celebrate Pride here in Memphis even if I will feel a little silly in a car waving to folks along the parade route. This year I celebrate my liberation from 17 years of ex-gay madness and my deliverance from fautly theories and oppressive practices. I celebrate the freedom that I have to be myself, to live in integrity, to embrace a healthy lifestyle based in reality.

Happy Pride!

This post has 9 Comments

  1. Lewis on June 12, 2008 at 2:51 pm Reply

    There’s nothing quite like the experience of going BACK in time to a former place of strong, heavy memories…the smells, the feelings, the people, the places, the good and bad experiences. Hold your head up, smile, and have a great time in Memphis! For new reasons and with great hope.

  2. Anonymous on June 12, 2008 at 4:43 pm Reply

    Hi,
    I’m a reporter with The Commercial Appeal, the local paper in Memphis. I hope you’re checking your site while in town. I would love to do a story on you and your part in the parade.
    Please call me 529-2445.
    Thanks!
    Lindsay Melvin

  3. Auntie Doris on June 12, 2008 at 5:07 pm Reply

    Yay… I hope you have a WONDERFUL time!!! Make sure you give everyone your best beauty queen smile and wave 🙂

  4. Jimbo on June 12, 2008 at 5:13 pm Reply

    Enjoy the parade!

  5. paul on June 12, 2008 at 6:49 pm Reply

    Dear Peterson,

    Thanks for the walk down memory lane. It’s amazing to meet just one other person with so much of the same story, feelings, crud of my own life… but then to realize there are many, many who have the same story. Damn.

    The ex-gay effort reminds me of the Peanuts halloween cartoon, going from house to house, ex-gay’s are Charlie Brown declaring: “I got a rock.” If Jesus is real, and it’s true that if one asks for bread from God she or he won’t get a “rock,” where does that leave the ex-gay “ministries” with all their methods… in the absence of an intervening “God?”

    I had come to the same conclusion, that somehow God intended me to carry the ‘struggle’ against being gay to the grave. I have to wonder at a “God” who would only subject his son to one day on the cross, but somehow expects us to endure it for a lifetime. Something just didn’t line up.

  6. Angelia Sparrow on June 12, 2008 at 10:46 pm Reply

    If it makes you feel any better, the kids and I will be waving back.

    Bun, my oldest, marches, and Mudd has the PFLAG booth this year.

  7. Peterson Toscano on June 13, 2008 at 4:02 pm Reply

    Lindsay, you are going to get me in trouble with my friend Joe G. who always accuses me of being a media whore. But Joe G. as you can clearly see, I am more of a “press magnet”.

    Paul, very powerful reference to the scripture about bread and stones. I want to share that with others. Good stuff!

    Angela, can’t wait to see you!

  8. Anonymous on June 13, 2008 at 5:58 pm Reply

    Sorry, I forgot to get your number when we spoke. I was looking for someone from Mid-South Pride who could talk about the selection of the GM. Could you give me a call and let me know who would be a good contact?
    Thanks, Lindsay

  9. Tim Morris on June 14, 2008 at 7:01 am Reply

    Your story is exactly what keeps me up at 3:00am blogging, reading, trying to figure my place in this fight for acceptance in the church, equality for all.
    You are an inspiration.

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