Later this month Beyond Ex-Gay, the organization I co-founded with Christine Bakke will take part in a the Anti-Heterosexism Conference in West Pal Beach, FL. Along with Soulforce, Box Turtle Bulletin, Truth Wins Out, The National Black Justice Coalition and Equality Florida, we will explore the role of heterosexism in society and in particular as a force that compels individuals to “de-gay” themselves through ex-gay ministries and reparative therapy. (Nov 20-22). On Friday the 20th Beyond Ex-Gay will host a day-long Ex-Gay Survivor gathering for survivors and allies.
People will come together from North America, Europe and Australia to meet for a series of workshops and events led by an array of skilled and informed leaders in the work of equality and understanding of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer issues. My friend Angel and Marc from Barcelona will be there after the successful conference we held in Catalonia in May of 2008. They have an exciting announcement to make about the work that has gone on since that historic gathering.
As people finalize their travel plans and work on the finishing touches to their presentations, I head off to the Pacific North West then to Boston. I will not be at the Anti-Heterosexism Conference. I fully support the gathering and the role that Beyond Ex-Gay has in it. I will not attend because in my own work and recovery from ex-gay treatment, I have moved beyond to the place where other concerns and passions fill my life.
Back in 2008 I retired my play, Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House because after five years of presenting it, I felt the play held me back in my artistic and personal growth. To tell the same story night after night caused me to relive those events over and over. I felt a drain. I put the play on DVD and focused on my newer performances, including Transfigurations–Transgressing Gender in the Bible, a play that explores the stories and lives of transgender and gender-variant Bible characters. How refreshing it felt to tell a different story, a new story!
In the past year my work with the Ex-Gay Survivor Movement has included working directly with survivors who contact us through the Beyond Ex-Gay website as well as meeting people on the road as I travel with my performances and a lively lecture I conduct about the Ex-Gay Movement, Gender and Orientation. At various conferences and universities I have presented this talk to help educate people about the ex-gay experience, the many reasons why someone may chose to “de-gay” themselves and how these reasons are directly connected to issues of power and privilege around gender, class, and race.
My role has also shifted to more of a consultant to other activists who have organized actions in the North America as well as in the UK and Eastern Europe. In dealing with the press I have sought to broaden the types of stories that the media covers regarding the Ex-Gay Movement (including the way it affects women–lesbians, wives and mothers.) I have also connected reporters with ex-gay survivors who had not yet publicly shared their experiences.
When I was invited to take part in the Anti-Heterosexism Conference, I experienced a mixture of feelings–enthusiastic along with a flat sort of feeling that I could not immediately identify. In sitting with the feeling during Quaker worship (we sit in silence for up to an hour giving me loads of time to sift through emotions and decisions) I recognized that my passion had moved towards the lives, needs and rights of transgender and gender queer individuals. I also learned that during the same weekend when ex-gay survivors were going to gather in Florida, a group of transgender, bisexual, queer folks were going to meet for the Transcending Boundaries Conference in Massachusetts. I knew that although many of my friends planned to attend the event West Palm Beach, dear friends who I see too rarely, I understood that “my leading” as we say in Quaker circles was to attend Transcending Boundaries.
As soon as I made that decision, I understood that by not attending the Anti-Heterosexism Conference, I opened space for other leaders and potential leaders in the Ex-Gay Survivor Movement to step forward and fill the many spots that I have inhabited during previous gatherings. Christine Bakke has been a brilliant speaker and organizer, so I knew she would do a wonderful job at heading up the ex-gay survivor gathering. With Christine, Dr. Jallen Rix, an ex-gay survivor with a new book coming out in March, will help facilitate the many activities that we have planned for the event. Daniel Gonzales will be on hand to share some of his experience and expertise. Jacob Wilson will also be there to help with the press conference and other aspects of the gathering. Author and ex-gay survivor Anthony Venn-Brown will come from Australia along with former ex-gay leader Darlene Bogle from California. A new leader from Toronto will attend as will a scholar from Virgina who has done extensive research into the ex-gay and ex-gay survivor movements. In other words, the gathering is in good hands.
So I head off to Vancouver today where I will be with youth this weekend from the United Church of Canada. (and I get to celebrate my friend Doris’ 40th birthday!) On November 18 I will take part in the Transgender Day of Remembrance in Seattle, then I head to Portland, OR to perform Transfigurations on November 19 at a United Methodist Church pastored by David Weeklely, who recently publicly announced that he is transgender. I also get to enjoy a long car ride with David and his lovely partner Deborah. The evening of the 19th I take the red-eye flight to Boston in order to get to the East Coast in time for Transcending Boundaries.
Click here to read more about my leading to work on transgender issues and concerns.
Click here to read more about what happens in Quaker meetings.