This week in my memoir writing I have focused on events that took place at the Love in Action ex-gay residential facility. Back in 2003 I could not speak directly about a lot of what happened there, even with friends. Instead I wrote a one-person comedy, Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House–How I Survived the Ex-Gay Movement! In this farce I gave the audience a tour of the facility which attempted to straighten out gays. I highlighted the zaniness of the place, and then added some poignant touches. To accomplish this, I had to do it all in character using other voices, other personalities. It was too hot to touch directly. Indirectly I exposed the foolishness and the awfulness of the place and the process to de-homosexualize oneself.
Time passed and by 2008 I felt I could no longer perform the play. In many ways I had moved on and began to focus on transgender issues and less on anti-ex-gay activism. But I knew I was not done at all with talking and writing about these experiences. For one there is a large and growing group of ex-gay survivors, and we find that peer support is critical for working past much of the damage that comes from ex-gay ministry and reparative therapy (going to a properly trained and skilled therapist may also be essential for many of us.) In addition to connecting with others who have experienced the misery and the confusion around ex-gay treatment, including trying to figure out what to do with the good stuff we picked up along with all the poison, I knew I needed to explore my own experiences in writing. I tried back in 2003 before I wrote the play but decided to lay it down for a time. Last year while touring in the UK, I picked up the manuscript, judged it inferior and started over again.
As I have written this week about the structure of the Love in Action program and revisited my frame of mind during that time, I have begun a mourning process. I feel regret in a fresh new way and anger and sadness over what happened to me and what I allowed happen to me Yes, I can think about all the good things that emerged as a result, but I do not wish to invalidate the destruction those experiences caused me and others. I struggle to face it, to feel it, but I also have a courage and a determination to stare that pain in the face, to sit in it for a spell, to record it.
Lots of people in the media like to poke fun at the ex-gay experience. “These people think you can change, now look at the ridiculous methods they use…” with a cut-away to the infamous ex-gay therapist Richard Cohen smacking the snot out of some couch cushions while ranting about his mother. Ha ha, look at the foolish, deluded nut. Yeah, it is funny. Ridiculous. It is also terribly tragic. I guess that is what I am trying to capture in my writing these days–the silly and the sublime aspects of the ex-gay experience.