Stepping Up & Speaking Out

Tellilng our life stories, particularly the painful bits, takes a lot out of most of us. It requires good support and knowing limits of how deeply we can share. But when we do step up and speak out, sharing our stories with vulnerability and clarity, people hearing us change. This is especially true when ex-gay survivors tell their stories to others, especially to well-meaning others who had wrongly assumed that gay people must change. Once they hear of the pain and damage caused, I have seen them change quickly and deeply.

In August 2006 I spoke to an audience of 350+ at the Greenbelt Festival. I shared some excerpts from my play Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House as well as talked from my heart about my own personal journey to sort out God and my sexuality and the rest of the world. Since that time I have met scores of people who attended that talk who told me how deeply it impacted them. And as a result of that talk, I had the opportunity to present in Wakefield, England last night to a mixed audience that came from as far away as Liverpool and Manchester. (Thank you Wakefield and Jo and Ali for making it happen!)

Our stories matter as we tell them to families and friends, to classmates, on-line and wherever a way opens up for us. Right now ex-gay survivors are sharing their narratives, poetry and art over at bXg.

At the upcoming Ex-Gay Survivor Conference (June 29-July 1, 2007) in Irvine, CA, many survivors will get to share their stories with each other and beyond.

And here is another new wonderful opportunity to share our survivor tales. Truth Wins Out has launched an Internet video campaign called Talking Truth. I remember when Wayne Besen told me about his idea to put up short but meaningful videos on-line to get the word out about the damge experienced by many people who have tried being ex-gay. In his press release Wayne says,

We hope our videos will save lives and make it more difficult for Exodus International to seduce young people with its fictions and fabrications.” said Wayne Besen, Executive Director of Truth Wins Out. “In our campaign, people will hear directly from the victims and see that these programs simply don’t work and can be a drain on time, money and self-esteem. We urge all former ex-gays to immediately contact Truth Wins Out and tell us your compelling story on video, so we can continue to rescue people harmed by ‘ex-gay’ programs.

I know that ex-gay people read my blog, people who I have spoken with and prayed with and been in e-mail contact. As I have written before, if being ex-gay works for you and you go into it with an open mind and heart, than I am happy for you. But for most of us, this has not been possible. Too many people have been wounded and wounded themselves through ex-gay programs and in churches that insist that people must change or at least repress their sexuality. The stories of this sort of harm has not been heard yet by most Exodus leaders and other proponents of ex-gay ministries and gay reparative therapy.

In fact, the harm that these places cause directly affects the individuals who on their own believe that they need to seek a course of celibacy or wish to pursue a straignt life. Lots of people think that every ex-gay experience is the same. People get lumped together and the complexity of our sexuality and individual journeys get flattened. Over at bXg we are beginning to see this complexity as we encourage people to explore the good as well as the harm that came from their ex-gay experiences.

The important point is that we need to tell our own stories because once others tell them for us, the stories morph into a political message. So I encourage you, whatever journey you are on, step up and speak out.

This post has 4 Comments

  1. Ally on May 30, 2007 at 11:08 am Reply

    …we need to tell our own stories because once others tell them for us, the stories morph into a political message.

    Spectacular point. I need to think more about this transmogrification (per Calvin) from personal to political…not only how others do it to my story, but how I do it to theirs.

    When are you coming home, Peterson? The U.S. seems a little bit less nice without you.

  2. Steve Boese on May 30, 2007 at 12:13 pm Reply

    Hey P…

    I second Ally’s thought, as I expanded on here: Personal Healing: A Political Act?

    Beautiful morning in Hartford today… gentle breeze, comfy temp, singing birds.

    Have a great day!

  3. Peterson Toscano on May 31, 2007 at 11:48 am Reply

    ally, thanks so much. I get back to the States by 5 June but head off almost immediately to North Carolina for a yearly gathering of Quakers there. Hopefully I will be home for an entire week starting June 12. Yes!

    Steve, I love your post. Thank you for that.

  4. Diana_CT on May 31, 2007 at 2:04 pm Reply

    Our stories are powerful and they can affect people that we have never met.
    I do outreach at colleges and universities here in Connecticut. One of the universities that I did an outreach a couple of years ago was the University of Harford for a class for psychology majors. The following year while I was standing in line waiting for our reservation at a local restaurant and this women came up to me and said, “You probability don’t remember me, but you spoke in one of my classes and because of what you said I was able to better understand what one of my patients who is transgender is going through.” I will always remember that for the rest of my life. That I had helped someone I never met just by telling my story.
    Telling our stories is like throwing a pebble into a pond, we never know where the ripples will stop.

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