Montel–What Did Not Air

Not sure if you got to watch yesterday’s episode of the Montel Williams Show, Homsexuality–Is There a Cure? , but like most of these shows, they tape more than they use, then things get cut. You can see YouTube video of it here and here. For instance, they did a little video of me that was maybe one minute long for the actual show, but the taping of it two weeks before took over three hours. I would hate to be an editor and have to figure out what to keep and what to cut.

During the show, Montel displayed a strong and clear opposition to gay reparative therapy. This came as no surprise to me since he demonstrated the same during the February 20, 2007 program. That particular show briefly touched on reparative therapy and the ex-gay movement which, according to Montel, moved him to do the show that aired yesterday.

I don’t presume to know what he was thinking or feeling, but at times Montel acted downright angry at what he articulated to be wrong–people feeling compelled (or worse yet forced) to submit to reparative therapy or an ex-gay ministry.

One thing that got cut during Montel’s interview of ex-gay survivor Lance Carroll was Montel’s reaction to Lance’s story of being forced by his parents to attend Love in Action/Refuge. Montel stopped Lance, pointed to the American flag folded up behind them, and said something like, “I fought for this country for the right of all Americans, not just straight Americans.” No doubt Montel is opinionated, but as a quirky queer guy seeing that from backstage, I felt affirmed and, well, American.

Montel lost his patience when talk of the Bible or Christianity came up. I found this to be true during the taping of the previous show I did. During that February 20th show, I stressed to him that I am still a Christian today.

(Note: if you ever are a guest on Montel’s show, you will have to assert yourself and press in to tell your story. Like most talk show hosts, he gets carried away and likes to talk. This was true during the February 20th show that also touched on Hip Hop. Some could say that he was intolerant and overbearing towards rappers who rapped about sex and violence. During yesterday’s show I thought Lance did an excellent job of holding his own, correcting Montel when he did not have the details straight.)

At one point during the taping of the show, Montel had an outburst about the Bible. I am not surprised it got cut. He expressed frustration with something someone said about the Bible and homosexuality. Exasperated Montel blurted out, “The Bible?! if People are so concerned about doing what the Bible says, why is there so much God-d*mn racism!”
An insightful question indeed. Why don’t we hear much about white Evangelicals addressing racism and skin privilege in the US and the world?

Donna and Tom Cole, a married couple and ex-gay ministers, never appeared in the final cut of yesterday’s program. During the taping, after Lance’s interview, the Coles sat on the stage with Montel. First Montel showed a video of the Coles telling the story of their relationships, their gay/lesbian pasts and where they are today. To me the film showed them in a favorable light, as a sweet and sincere couple. They looked great together on screen and seemed genuinely happy.

In fact, as I watched backstage, knowing that I was slated to go on right after them, I wondered how I would respond to their story. My own marriage ended terribly, something that I feel much pain and regret over to this day. I wish I could have achieved what it seems the Coles have accomplished instead of causing my wife, myself and our families so much hurt.

As the video ended, the camera turned to Montel and the Coles to begin the interview portion. Donna leaned in and spoke quietly to Montel. He listened a bit, then said to them aloud, “Let’s go backstage and talk about this.” They exited the set and spoke together backstage.

I happened to be backstage at the time, waiting in a partitioned area next to where they met. As a result, I heard most of the exchange (it is a not a big set; everything looks bigger on TV. I looked big, right?).

Donna expressed that Montel was not giving them a chance to tell their story and that he was heavy-handed against ex-gays. I wondered to myself at the oddness of the conversation as the Coles were just about to tell their story and had every chance to counter Montel’s words. The whole thing confused me, but then it is a scary thing to stand up and share your personal life in front of a bunch of strangers, particularly if you feel like the tide may be against you.

The Coles then left. I did not hear the final part of the exchange, and suspect only Montel and the Coles did, but they did not return to the set, which caused the producers to bring Alan Chambers, President of Exodus International on as the next guest.

As the show progressed, Montel seemed to get more and more frustrated. He kept going back to the wording on the Exodus site. It was only some moments before that Lance had shared his story and we heard about the hypocrisy of the Ted Haggard story. Montel seemed focused, maybe even fixated with the message of the web site, unsatisfied with the answers he received.

With military men in my family, I have seen something similar like this around the dinner table. Be it about politics, family drama or the firmness of the pasta, they can project a rigid sense of right and wrong then get impatient with anything they perceive as waffling or invalidating their conclusions. (My Marine dad expressed these very feelings during and after yesterday’s show).

I understand that there is a huge difference between Exodus and NARTH and JONAH and the International Healing Foundation and People Can Change and LIFE Ministries and the Glory Tabernacle of the Holy Ghost Explosion’s Sword of Truth Ex-Gay Immersion Program (okay I made that one up), but to many of us who desperately sought help from our unwanted same-sex attractions, we would go anywhere and to anyone. Some of us have endured exorcisms, electro-shock therapy, touch therapy, hug therapy, residential care, 12-step programs, family counseling, aversion therapy, Christian counseling and discipleship programs.

As a result, some of us have experienced a great deal of loss and pain at the hands of people who we thought could help us. For many of us, our ex-gay experiences caused more harm than good. When some people hear me share some of my experiences, I have been surprised at the outrage and indignation they express at what they perceive as just plain wrong. I often have to remind angered loved ones, how I believe (hope?) that many of the program leaders and counselors who ministered to me, did so mainly out of love and an earnest intent to help others.

From backstage I witnessed the taping of the the show get nuttier by the minute as people in the audience also got involved, both at Montel’s prompting and on their own. At one point Montel sought for an unbiased audience member to read the text from the Exodus web site with which Montel took issue. He struggled to find someone. The audience consisted of a mixture of people, some from off the streets, ex-gay supporters (from PFOX and JONAH I think), folks from the LGBT community and others who were “gay-friendly”. To me it felt that tensions were high and growing, but of course I was a nervous wreck backstage as I prepared to go on.

That and I felt exhausted. I had been on the red-eye from LA to NY the night before, arrived at 8:00 AM and only had about four hours sleep (my eyes looked puffy, right?) I just turned 42 last month and that sort of travel wears me out! By the time I sat onstage, I struggled to get my story out. I felt rushed and got cut off at the end by some disruptions from the audience.

Yesterday sitting with my Dad, my little sister and her two sons during the airing of the show, I squirmed a bit at how vulnerable I allowed myself to be and how much personal information I shared. I don’t think I shared too much, but for all the performance and speaking I do, I feel private about some matters. I don’t care what side of the issues you fall on, it feels raw to share some of that stuff.

I felt relieved when the show finally ended. It had been a LONG day, a roller coaster. I think afterwards all of us guests trudging backstage looked like we had just run a marathon. So much effort expended on a short TV program that does not and cannot capture the complexity of an issue that has been at the center of some of our lives for decades.

This post has 18 Comments

  1. Regan on March 17, 2007 at 1:45 am

    Peterson, you did wonderfully, you were clear and concise. You have a marvelous voice and persona in this medium.

    This is something I brought up, on another blog.
    Sure the Bible is always going to say how straight people think they should treat gays and lesbians.

    But what should really be discussed is, how did gay people treat others in the Bible?
    Did they throw innocents in pits to be killed by lions, or did they amass armies to turn other people gay?
    What revenge are straight folks so entitled to, that not even MENTIONING you’re gay can go without threat?

    We’re the children of the enlightened age, when slavery and the subjugation of women as property to be traded is no longer sanctioned by law, so neither should the exclusion of gay people as so reprobate that even virgins like Lance Carroll are too evil to allow to be themselves.

    Let’s get real, the main reason why things are still the way they are, is that many in the straight world KNOW that gay people haven’t and never will act in kind to the way straight people have treated them over the centuries.

    Peterson, you were right, promiscuity, sexual betrayals are terrible to do to another person.
    But having the moral clarity to differentiate these is job one of people of faith, not hiding behind it.

    Some military men are hard asses, true.
    But not tolerating bull is a good thing too.

    Were you here in LA and I didn’t know it?! When did you tape that show?

  2. Peterson Toscano on March 17, 2007 at 2:03 am

    regan, it was crazy that I had so little time in LA. I wanted to hang with you and others, but was caught up in taping at CBS studios for hours the two days I was there Feb 26 and 27. I barely got to see the sun!

    Can’t announce what the show is yet, but the host is a woman, tall and beautiful. I bought a little special outfit at Armani Exchange so I looked slightly fashionable.

  3. Jim Johnson on March 17, 2007 at 2:29 am


    Thanks for putting yourself out there to help other people avoid the struggles you’ve endured. Reading about the “behind-the-scenes” on one of the national talk shows was also very interesting. I’ve posted a link to this story on my blog to try and get as many people to read it as possible.

  4. Peterson Toscano on March 17, 2007 at 2:55 am

    regan, as always you make great points and I have been thinking of your questions since I read them about an hour ago. Nothing like a good question.

    Jim, thank you for your affirming words here and on your blog. I feel certain the taping of the show was an emotional experience for everyone involved. These things are a marathon and Montel does two or three shows in one day. I really can’t imagine that.

  5. Anonymous on March 17, 2007 at 5:33 am

    Peterson, you’re a great ambassador for our cause, for you know our cause be just. You seemed to be a serene island in a sea of increasing insanity on the show. I imagine even you were cut to bring out the points that Montel demanded be made. But now why did you have to go and spoil it and just tell us you were exhausted by the time of your taping? LOL!

    — Lynn David

  6. Anna HP on March 17, 2007 at 9:46 am

    Sweet P! The only thing big about you is your heart. And with a big heart comes lots of space to fill with all types of feelings, good or bad. It’s always intense to share your stories, no matter how many times, and being many people in the same situation at the same place doesn’t really make it easier. i don’t think your age, but your wonderful person, has to do with you being exhausted. It´s important to recover and spend time with yourself every now and then.
    I know you know all of this but I tell you because I love you. right?

  7. Dave Rattigan on March 17, 2007 at 11:10 am

    Montel is a bundle of contradictions. It’s fine for him to get angry with ex-gay therapy and religious abuse, but I wish he’d start getting as angry with that absolute huckster he permits to come on his show to play ruthlessly with people’s lives and emotions – namely, the “psychic” Sylvia Browne.

    PS. Where can I enroll with the Glory Tabernacle of the Holy Ghost Explosion’s Sword of Truth Ex-Gay Immersion Program?

  8. Rick on March 17, 2007 at 11:47 am

    Peterson –

    Thanks for the behind the scenes scoop! It really helps to know what the other two hours were like in the taping. I was under the impression (from Mike Ensley’s blog?) that the Coles were just thrown out in a fit of anger by Montel, so it was good to hear your perspective.

  9. queertardo on March 17, 2007 at 8:04 pm

    Not to be a big old nelly, but honestly,
    Peterson you were totally fierce! You said all the right things, made PERFECT sense and you looked like a natural. Thank you for what you said both on the show and in your blog.
    much respect, queertardo.

  10. M on March 18, 2007 at 1:15 am

    I don’t have anything to add, but I think you did really well. I follow your blog and doings a lot and think that what you stand for is great. And I really like your moderate positions. Keep it up! Very good job.

    God Bless.

  11. Justice MH on March 19, 2007 at 9:10 pm

    First of all montel has a right as everyone else has to get angry with religous bigotry. His regular guest a psychic sylvia browne does not play with people’s emotion and feelings.Montel doesn’t have show impatence towards sylvia browne because she gives you good insights, not religious dogma. Montel already said she prove to him she is the real deal. If we were in the bibical days she would be a prophet. She is very compassionate about God caring and helpful for God’s people. You know i’m a christian, so is sylvia, but other christians could believe stuff with little proof and evidence. I met her twice, i was a skeptic about her, but she prove she is the real deal. She doesn’t have a crystal ball or make it up. She knows it, it comes God, and thankful she shares her God-given gift!
    peterson visit my blog about the bible and homosexuality.

  12. Justice MH on March 19, 2007 at 9:15 pm

    ALso mr. dave you never even met Sylvia Browne.I see why people say christians be quick to judge, but don’t know all the facts!

  13. Rural Lesbian on March 19, 2007 at 10:51 pm

    Thanks for having the courage to stand up there.

  14. David W. Shelton on March 22, 2007 at 3:30 am

    Peterson, I finally had a chance to watch the highlights from your Montel appearance, and I don’t think it could have been any better. As Regan said, you were concise, intelligent, and passionate. That’s ALWAYS difficult.

    I haven’t had much to say about the ex-gay movement for a while since you and the folks at ex-gay watch do such a profound job at shouting the truth from the rooftops.

    Again, thank you. Well done!

  15. Tom Cole on March 23, 2007 at 6:59 pm

    I’m not sure if this will even get posted, but I feel a need to clarify. My wife and I were waiting backstage before coming out. We were both aware that our ability to share our side of things were a bit iffy at best. When we sat down Donna whispered in Montel’s ear “I just want you to know that our stories are as real as theirs”, referring to Lance and Mike Jones. Montel sat up suddenly and said “What do you mean by that?”. “What are you saying. I want to see you backstage. Once backstage he cleared everyone off stage except the producers and began to yell “How dare you talk to me that way?” Donna repeated what she said to Montel to the producers. Montel yelled “I have been doing this show for 16 years and I have always been fair and balanced. I will not have people on my show who have already made up their mind. You’re off the show. You got your free trip to New York” and he walked off. You stated that we said he was unfair to exgays. That is completely untrue. Never said it, didn’t happen. You might have inferred that from Montel’s rant, but it never occurred. Donna said one sentence. That’s it. Montel was irrational and a diva. The producers lavishly apologized to us and have continued to do so through email exchanges. They knew it was irrational. Whatever happened, it wasn’t about what we said.

  16. Peterson Toscano on March 23, 2007 at 9:01 pm

    tom, thanks for sharing things from your perspective. I wrote about what I knew and heard but I was not as close to the exchange as you and Donna were. I only overheard parts of it from backstage on the other side of a partition.

    I am curious though why when the time came for you and Donna to speak, after the video played of your story played, why she leaned in to speak privately instead of waiting for the interview to start. The video finished and that would have been your moment to tell your story.

    To me it seemed the video the producers put together was honored your stories and lives together and showed you in a positive light. Did you see it differently?

  17. Tom Cole on March 23, 2007 at 10:06 pm

    We both thought the video was still playing and didn’t realize we were on yet. She wasn’t saying “You’re biased and unfair”. She just wanted him to know our stories are real too. Was it the wisest thing to do? Probably not. But she had no idea that it would cause the reaction that it did.

    What I saw of the video was well done. It did make it sound like our falling in love was what motivated us to leave homosexuality, and that is not accurate. But overall, what I saw of it was really nice. In fact, I almost wanted to ask them if we could have a copy.

    I’ve done a lot of media in the past and I’m well aware of what kind of situations we could walk into. I had no preconceived notions that he wouldn’t let us tell our story.

    I would have to say that having seen the show, his bias and his anger were painfully obvious. What he accused us of was evident in his own heart (a bit of projection maybe).

  18. Jimbo on December 13, 2007 at 2:27 pm

    I noticed a link to this recent posting on worldnet. It refers to Alan Chambers’ take on what happened at the Montel show. I guess individuals will always tend to remember different things from an event.

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