What a tremendous weekend in Memphis! All the events for Deconstructing the Ex-Gay Myth—A Weekend of Action & Art far exceeded my expectations. Loads of people turned out to everything, but more than the quantity of people was the quality of the exchanges we had and the depth of learning and sharing and loving. Bruce Garrett shares how the weekend moved him and posts some photos here.
We did stand in front of Focus on the Family’s Love Won Out event for a few hours on Saturday morning. We held up clear, positive signs with messages like Christian & Gay, We Know You Love Your Children, Integrity Changes Lives, Change at What Cost? Some ex-gay survivors also went into Central Church to present gifts to the people at Love Won Out, framed collages about our experiences (designed by Christine). But this was a tiny part of weekend. We were not there to protest rather the weekend showcased the creative, strong LGBT community in Memphis.
I spoke with a neighbor today who casually asked, “So what did you do for the weekend?” In my mind I scanned the many events and magical moments over the past few days. The Ex-Gay Survivor Art Show that Christine Bakke curated. The preview of Morgan Jon Fox’s film, This is What Love in Action Looks Like, the wonderful party at the Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center, The bXg Mid-South Regional Gathering, a press conference where some ex-gay survivors spoke out for the very first time, the official retirement performance of Homo No Mo, the Memphis premiere of Transfigurations, a talk on Art, Activism and Spirit at the Quaker Meeting House. So MUCH.
Too much to convey in a casual conversation while waiting on line at the bank. I felt as if I had been a character in A Wrinkle in Time or one of the Narnia books, where I got transported to another time and place, spent months only to return to find out it was really just a long weekend. I replied to my neighbor, “This past weekend? I went to see some friends in Memphis.”
Needless to say I feel exhausted physically and emotionally. Spiritually I feel charged up and renewed. Seeing ex-gay survivors who are not victims, who have creatively reclaimed their lives, encouraged and cheered me.
But I have depleted my resources for now and need some days to recover and rest and reflect on what I experienced. For any survivor, we need to know our limits and take care of ourselves, especially after we have stirred up difficult memories. What we do at Beyond Ex-Gay is complicated personal work that has a public component to it. Unpacking and deconstructing our ex-gay experiences serve multiple purposes. We stand as a witness and warning to the harm that can come because of reparative therapy and ex-gay ministries. Some pro-ex-gay people have begun to listen and think more deeply about their assumptions about the ex-gay option.
Our work though also serves as a tool for healing and recovery. Connecting with fellow survivors helps us as we try to make sense of what we did to ourselves and what we allowed others to do to us. It helps us to see our ex-gay experiences in light of the broader anti-gay cultures that nurtured self-hate, shame and fear. We listen to each other. We recognize that others hear us and know what we are talking about, perhaps for the first time ever since we came out. All good work, but hard work.
As activists, ministers, angelic troublemakers (as Bayard Rustin puts it), our work begins with ourselves. The next few days I will visit my dad where my cell phone does not work and I have no wi-fi (not even dial up). I will help look after him as he recovers from his heart surgery. I will also walk in the woods, cook, watch silly TV, read good fiction, sit in silence, rest, recover and reflect.
So if you don’t hear from me for a few days, please don’t take it personally.