Speaking out about the Ex-Gay Movement

Last night a crowd gathered at the Lesbian & Gay Community Center of Charlotte (North Carolina) to hear Wayne Besen, founder of Truth Wins Out, speak about the misinformation too often passed as truth and fact by those who promote and provide various forms of ex-gay treatment and practices designed to eradicate gayness in a person’s life.

Wayne was brought to Charlotte by local groups to help in their efforts to counter the potentially harmful message of Focus on the Family and its Love One Out traveling show which rolls into Charlotte tomorrow. Many concerned parents come to these events looking for light and answers and sadly walk away misinformed and frightened. You can read Jim Burroway’s thoughtful eyewitness account of Love Won Out to find out some of what happens and what is said.

You can learn more about this weekend’s events in Charlotte at Charlotte Rainbow Action Network for Equality.

If you have not done so yet, please read Christine Bakke’s beautifully written post Dreams of a Daughter, a response to an article her mother posted at PFOX (Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays).  In it Christine models how to speak clearly and compassionately to the misinformation and religious confusion that influence some parents of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender sons and daugthers.

Over in Italy, protests have been going on over  Luca Was Gay, a song that promotes gay conversion and will be performed by Italian singer/songwriter Pova tomorrow at the Sanremo music festival. In a society that staunchly adheres to heterosexist norms (marriage, children, masculinity for men, etc,) the song reeks of misinformation and ex-gay propaganda. Here are some of the lyrics.

“Luca once was gay but he’s with her today. When Luca talks, he holds his heart in his hand. Luca says: Today I am a different man.

“Today I’m a different man, but back then I needed answers. I was so ashamed, so I did my looking in secret. There were people who told me, “It’s natural,” but I studied Freud and I knew he didn’t see it that way.

“I got through high school, still not knowing what happiness was. An older man made my heart race and that’s when I realised I was homosexual.

“With him, I didn’t hold back. He gave me lots of attention, and I thought it was love. Sure, I could be myself, but then the sex became a competition.

“I felt like I was the guilty one. I figured they’d catch him sooner or later, but I could make the truth disappear so he wouldn’t get in trouble.

“I was looking for my father in all those men. I went with them so as not to betray my mother.”

Campaigners in Italy have stepped up to not only denounce the song, but to speak to how healthy and normal it is to be gay. The  Pink News reports,

Activist Aurelio Mancuso, president of Arcigay, believes that Luca Was Gay refers to Luca Tolve, who says he was “cured” of his homosexuality at the hands of controversial Catholic American psychologist Joseph Nicolosi.

“We want to affirm the dignity of gay, lesbian and bisexual people in Italy, with the intention of involving citizens, singing and dancing together and above all speaking about our feelings,”

Rita De Santis, President of the Association of Parents of Homosexuals, said:

“For me it is a great treasure to have a gay person in the family. Parents of all ages have joined because they believe that there should be a bulwark between them and their sons and daughters.”

The coalition of gay groups have invited all the singers of the Festival to participate with them in the demonstration on Saturday.

“It will be nice to see all gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, straight, women and men from all over Italy, to reiterate that true love knows no boundaries and are not intimidated by darkness of religious and political fanaticism.”

As a result of all the attention this song and the protests have raised, the ex-gay movement and ex-gay theories and treatments are in much of the Italian media this week. Today I sat for an interview that will run on Sunday morning 11:00 am (Italian time) on the Radio Poplare station. If you want to bone up on your Italian, have a listen (Joe G?).

Roberto Festa asked many questions about my time as an ex-gay, why I pursued such a course, the outcomes and how I emerged from 17 years of trying to pursue some sort of change. We also talked about my parents and the often devastating affects ex-gay theories that often put the blame on parents, can have on the family and parents in particular.

You can learn more about the Ex-Gay Survivor Movement and stories of those negatively affected by ex-gay treatment over at Beyond Ex-Gay. To see video about my own experiences at Love in Action with topics about parents, movies, holidays and sex in ex-gay programs, check out my YouTube channel.

This post has 12 Comments

  1. Joe G. on February 20, 2009 at 7:31 pm

    I actually listen to Radio Popolare pretty regularly as they (at least the Rome affiliate) includes some glbt programming. If you’re on at 11 AM then I need to listen about 5 AM. Not too much of a time difference! 😉

  2. Sheriah-SA on February 20, 2009 at 11:11 pm

    Peter, have you ever considered the possibility (fact) that just because you yourself are not cured of your homosexuality does not mean another person wont be cured?? By the way, am not suggesting you must be cured, you’ve made it crystal clear that you DONT need treatment, adding that it is perfectly normal for you to be homosexual. Have you ever taken into consideration the fact that certain people are homosexual due to a different factors??? Maybe some people are gay because they are born gay; others are gay because they were abused etc. And some people, like Luca is telling his story, just like you tell your story..If a person wants to change from gay to straght, and has every reason to, and believes he can change, well he can. Luca says that he is indeed cured. You dont know what factors led to his homosexuality..How about you start being open mind to the fact that some people do indeed change from gay to straight???

  3. Sheriah-SA on February 20, 2009 at 11:21 pm

    Excuse any errors in my post, am dog tired and SLEEPY! Driving around joburg can tire someone and its friday, only an hour ago..must doze off now, sleep..

  4. lower case paul on February 21, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    Excuse any errors in my post,”

    Your post got me thinking… have we ever considered the ‘possibility’ of all those guys living as straights who are really gay? You know, guys who are victims of dominant fathers and submissive moms, bullies who were molested by older women. Guys who would have been naturally gay had they not been sent down the unnatural path of living a straight life by such circumstances. Have we ever considered the ‘fact’ that certain people are heterosexual due to different factors? I am now considering all those straight people who are straight because they were abused, etc..

    If a person wants to change from straight to gay, and has every reason to, and believes he can change, well he can.

    Hope springs eternal.

  5. p2son on February 21, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    Sharia, if we lived in a world where it was neutral to be gay, then perhaps people could more easily make cool, dispassionate choices about sexual orientation. Sadly we do not. We live in a world where it is far easier and acceptable to be straight than gay. Parents, friends, churches prefer gay people to not be gay. Heterosexism is the belief that being straight is the idealized norm. Everything else is less than, suspect, even outright dangerous.

    In a place like Italy where there is rampant homophobia, so many closeted men marrying straight women and religious and non-religious institutions that openly oppose gay people, a message like Pova’s song is irresponsible and misleading. In fact, I would add that it is a matter of public safety. This sort of misguided and uninformed message can cause harm.

    The fact is that the vast majority of people cannot alter their orientation. Many many have tried and failed. According to the largest ex-gay organization in the States, they claim they have a 30% success rate (that is without actually keeping track of their former clients, so at best that is simply a guess). That means that according to their own admission, they have a 70% failure rate.

    What happens then to the vast majority of people who go down this path? What happens to the straight people who marry them? Their children? Their parents who get blamed for making their kids gay? This is a world of woe for most of the people who try this route. Not just a waste of time, but actually damaging psychologically, emotionally, spiritually, financially, vocationally, developmentally damaging.

    Even these ex-gay programs themselves now admit that no one actually “changes” their orientation. They still have the same desires. Some say they have experienced a lessening of desire for the same-sex and some new found desire for the opposite sex. The burden of proof is on them for this.

    But instead of just saying, “I have changed,” too often they use this as proof that ALL can and should change. They speak out publicly to denounce gays and lesbians, use their stories to deny us rights and privileges and spread misinformation about what it means to be gay. They give people false hopes and faulty promises. This is irresponsible and dishonest.

    Can some actually successfully live in a heterosexual marriage? Sure. People have done this for centuries with various degrees of success and failure. As we say over at Beyond Ex-Gay,

    “We believe that ex-gay experiences cause more harm than good. Certain people who currently identify as ex-gay say they are content as such. We don’t seek to invalidate their experience. For us such a lifestyle was not possible or healthy.”

  6. Joe G. on February 21, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    In a place like Italy where there is rampant homophobia…

    Although I’ve never been to Italy based on what I’ve read and my interactions with ex-pats, that’s my impression, too. It feels like you’re back in the 1970’s or 1980’s in the U.S.

  7. KJ on February 21, 2009 at 4:14 pm

    Error in content and propaganda aside, I find that I have an aversion to any song containing a reference to Freud. Not that he doesn’t have his place in the development of the field of psychology, but that place is just not in a song.

  8. Sheria-S.A on February 21, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    lower case Paul, thats a good one!! Your post actually made me laugh, yet you are so right! A lot of people are living a lie, pretending to be heterosexual! So, so true and it is wrong and unfair for all parties involved. Well, i am straight and the problem am having is that, the Bible says a man should not sleep with another man..Now, am trying to put my head around the idea that, that verse is twisted, well, has more than one meaning. (This one is for you peterson). Are you guys saying the Bible has been twisted in some way? Should we start a debate on the Bible then?? lol, there will be a riot!! And peter, i agree with you on..some people want to change from gay to straight for all the wrong reasons, BUT i guess others really want to change maybe because they dont want to be gay anymore. By the way, lcpaul, peter reminded me today that he posted an answer to my comment and i told him am off to a party, and wil reply sunday, yet am so tempted to log on! @ a party?!. Am posting from my fon!!

  9. Joe G. on February 21, 2009 at 9:34 pm

    I saw the performance. He dramatically ended the song with a sign that read: “Nessuno in fondo sa com’ e’ fatto un altro” (not sure if this is what it means: “no one, in the end, knows what it’s like to be the other” or something to that effect, I think>/i>) then walked off without giving a bow. He’s probably bi – you know how they mess up the whole “ex-gay”/”gay” thing! 😉

    And the song is getting lots of attention. It debuted on the Hot Top 50 in Italy at #9 this week. Should be interesting if it stays on the top 50 or not.

    I didn’t even know about it until I read you post, Petey. Talk about being out of the loop! Glad you could get involved. This is just the tip of the iceberg, I bet, for this issue in Italy.

    BTW, you can see the performance here (you might need a Windows Media Player plug-in called “silverlight”; I did)


    Radio Popolare strikes me as left-of-center and always willing to give the glbt community in Italy it’s chance to respond and explain its position (same thing, generally, for the daily La Repubblica.

  10. lower case paul on February 22, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    Sheriah (love the name),

    You wrote: “A lot of people are living a lie,…” I think this is a key that not only applies to the topic of sexuality, but life in general. Lies can take many forms. I think a “lie” that we all must continually guard against is that of not being authentic. What ex ex gays have discovered is that trying to live an ex gay life constitutes living a lie. That it is an effort to make reality conform to a belief.

    I don’t think the issue is what “the Bible says” so much as it is how one approaches and uses the Bible. Obviously there are lots of ways to do that, as is demonstrated by the existence of a gazillion denominations. That fact alone should give the believer pause because it exposes the truth that there is no one agreed upon method that believers can use to ascertain ‘God’s will.’

    There is a verse in the Bible that states that “… the word of God is alive and powerful, sharper than any two edged sword, piercing to the dividing of the soul and spirit… and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the mind…” (I think that’s how it goes, going on memory). I can see how the Bible is a “discerner” because it truly can and does identify peoples intent by what they choose to believe in it and how they choose to follow it. While it is currently fashionable to target BLTG people, arguments for slavery, or genocide can and have been made, using the Bible. Yep, it’s in there.

    But then there are other verses that purport that “we know and see in part…” that “… we see through a glass darkly….” (I love that phrase). And, because this is so, the most important thing we do in life is “love.” That same portion of scripture posits that “love believes all things.” We could spend a lifetime wrapping our brains around that one. Is it possible that part of loving a GLBT person might involve an acknowledgment that we “know and see in part” and simply “believe” the person who says this is the way they are? It’s not as though a TLGB person is asking to be acquitted of murder. We only want the same status of equality that straight people have. We want an emancipation proclamation from society. I think “Christians” should be leading the charge for such, but alas, many who call themselves “Christian”are doing just the opposite. Funny, there was a time in the history of this country where some Christians argued against slavery and some for… both using the Bible.

    A “Christian” is supposed to be a follower of Christ’s teachings? Christ didn’t teach anything against LGTB people. Christ did purportedly spend a great deal of time arguing against those who used the scripture, the “law,” as a code “carved in stone.” Jesus instructed that following the “law of love” “carved on the fleshy tables of the heart” is our obligation to God and people.

  11. Sheriah-S.Africa on February 22, 2009 at 8:10 pm

    Lcp, that was a very thoughtful and insightful comment..My suggestion on these issues is that, there should be open debates about Bible issues and how they relate to modern society so that people understand fully the meaning of scriptures..From my comments, you will be able to see that i dont believe one can be gay and christian, but, like you say, it can take a lifetime to get our brains around this..Am getting more and more confused esp by the issue of homosexuality and the Bible, and the best i can do at this moment is refrain from commenting on this issue. But i sure will contribute meaningfully, sometimes, when need be..

  12. Sheriah-S.Africa on February 22, 2009 at 10:35 pm

    And lower case paul, thanks for the compliment! I get that all the time!

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