Monday, October 31, 2005

Just Call Me Miss Informed

The big joke about Americans is that we suck when it comes to Geography. Yeah, if it wasn't for my travels, I'd be clueless. Worse still is the misinformation I received in history class.

I'm reading Marc Allen's The Millionaire Course, which has very little to do with being a millionaire and everything to do with living an intentional life in the pursuit of our dreams. In the chapter covering the power of partnership, he shares ideas he gleaned from Riane Eisler's book The Chalice and the Blade.
(a must read!)

Eisler believes that two major world systems influence every country and even business and personal interactions.

The Blade = domination
The Chalice = partnership

Allen's misinformed education sounds identical to mine.
Nearly all the world history we were taught in school has been the history of the blade—the history of domination—the conquest of warrior societies, beginning with the Greeks and Romans.

World History—at least this is what I was taught—started in Sumer, “the cradle of civilization,” but quickly moved to Greece, “the birthplace of democracy,” where it all really started. Then it moved to Rome, then the rest of Europe, and finally America! It was the history of the people who dominated the world, told from their point of view. Learning this history in school consisted of memorizing a great many dates for a great many wars.

India and China were mentioned somewhere as having ancient cultures, but all we ever learned about them was that India had a caste system and strange religions, and China invented gun powder, but they only used it for fireworks, and never invented guns. Africa was “the dark continent,” shrouded in mystery. We knew little about it, except for Egypt, a great civilization four thousand years ago, now dead, and baffling.

Latin America was hardly ever mentioned in the world history I was taught. Australia was mentioned only as the place that was settled by British convicts.

The world history we were taught was the story of the conquerors. An endless procession of wars and conflict, because violence only leads to more violence and domination leads to endless conflict.
Now through the help of folks like Howard Zinn, James W. Loewen and Inga Muscio to help sort out my misinformation.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

World without Toes

I've been thinking about toes lately (not in a fetishy sort of way). I normally overlook my sweet little toes except when I have a problem with one of them or I need to clip renegade nails. Those little guys and gals at the end of my feet typically don't play a role in my day to day musings.

Here's a pitch for a horror movie. (Just in time for Halloween)
One morning everyone all over the world wakes up to find all their toes fell off during the night. (Don't ask how it happened I haven't worked it out yet) Detached toes lie in clumps at the bottom of our beds.

Suddenly the able-bodied human bi-peds who always took for granted their mobility, cannot walk, cannot stand. See without our toes we're toast. We can't walk or even stand up on our own. In an ironic twist, many people with physical disabilities will suddenly be more able bodied than those of us who have strolled freely.
Those little guys and gals at the end of our feet play a critical role in most of our lives. The power of the toes.

So then I got thinking about other little guys and gals in our midst, the young people in the world.

The English mystery novelist PD James steered away from her usual genre when she wrote The Children of Men, a science fiction story in which James created a world where 20 years prior, humans lose the ability to reproduce. As the novel opens, the youngest people in the world are 20 years old. Playgrounds and schools lie in decay and humanity suffers hopelessness and anarchy.

Reminds me of some churches and Quaker meeting houses. Okay, not so dire, but how lifeless a meeting for worship feels when no children and teens attend. These little guys and gals give life to the meeting, even when they meet in another room nearby doing their own activities.

As a gay single man without children, like a dried up tortoise, I could creep into meeting for worship and hole myself up in a corner. Then I could get all grumpy when a child interrupts the sacred silence of our gathering. And then I could feel bitterness and self-pity because I don't have children of my own in my life to shush or rock or adore.

Somehow I don't feel these things. Somehow I smile and feel warm inside when I see those little guys and gals wriggling all around me.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Whoring for Christ

Christine aka Rising Up recently introduced me to the work Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, a Christian lesbian scholar. After reading the transcript from an address she gave entitled Whore-ishly Implementing the Political Vision of the Christ-Sophia, I feel full as a tick! (an expression not lost on my friends from the American South)

I can easily write five posts about the content Mollenkott covers in her brief talk and her refreshing insights into how Jesus embodied the sort of political activism that not only reaches out to marginalized and oppressed minorities, but also incites liberation. She also talks about how in Jesus' day, all women not under the direct control of a man (husband, father or brother) were considered whores. So it wasn't just what you do, but who controls you.

In speaking about activism and our need to join with other oppressed minorities, Mollenkott says,
We lesbians can live in separatist bliss if we want to, but that does nothing for the larger society or the churches to which we belong.

If we want to implement the political vision of the Christ-Sophia, we must learn to strategically affiliate ourselves with other political or religious groups in order to overcome exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, cultural imperialism and systemic violence, not only against ourselves but against oppressed people everywhere.

As Phelan says, “Our politics must be informed by affinity rather than identity, not simply because we are not all alike, but because we each embody multiple, often conflicting, identities.”…

To say it another way: because society defines us as outsiders, we can gain clout by making alliances with other outsiders in projects where our goals intersect.
Read the whole thing for yourself.
To view streaming video of Mollenkott and other progressive female theologians, visit here.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Doin' Time in Oneonta

I just performed and spoke at the State University of NY at Oneonta (about an hour from the state capital, Albany). I was here last April with Doin' Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House and this time I presented Queer 101, showed excerpts of Fish Can't Fly and spoke about the "ex-gay" movement.

I just love the people here. Amazing professors looking at issues of power and privilege through the lens of African studies, Caribbean studies, Women's studies, Queer get the point.

I get to hang out witih super students like Sarah(s) and Amy and Heather and Ishmael and Gavin. I always learn so much when I come to university like this one.

In the audience this evening was a small group of young white men from a conservative Christian campus group. I was so pleased when two of them approached me after the show and asked questions about the Bible and how I can justify being gay in light of what the scriptures seem to say.

We chatted about the six clobber passages, but the thing that struck me most during the conversation was--these guys are my brothers. What would happen if we agreed to overlook those six passages and just do what many Christians do together--pray, talk, worship, study the scriptures, reach out to the needy? We have thousands of things in which we agree. Really, at that moment I just wanted to find a place where we could worship God together.

It's funny but more and more I am speaking publically about my faith. I find it to be a personal topic (even more personal than when I discuss my "ex-gay" past and issues of sexual addiction and childhood abuse), but it is an important part of who I am.

Well, I'm very tired and have a long drive home through the Berkshire Mountains. Then I have to prep for my performance of Footprints, An Inspriational Comedy (it's been over a year since I performed this piece).

If I have time tomorrow, I may stop at the Shaker Museum in Old Chatham, NY. If I do, I'll let you know.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

How Sexual Abuse Made Me Ex-Gay

Lots of "ex-gay" proponents claim that one of the causes of same-sex attraction is childhood sexual abuse. I don't think they are lying; they truly believe it. In fact, I imagine that the majority of people who attend their programs have been sexually abused, so in their logic they have concluded that sexual abuse + other factors (family, gender confusion, etc) = GAY.

Instead of searching for the elusive root causes of same-sex attraction, I wish they would ask themselves, "Why do our programs attract same-gender loving people who have also been sexually abused?"

I think of my own story. I was sexually abused as a young boy. Age seven. That abuse filled me with shame and guilt, partly because it was a much older boy who perpetrated it, and I actually enjoyed some of it. I was already gay before I was abused--I felt an attraction towards other boys.

Filled with shame and guilt, I grew up in a decidedly homophobic society that proclaimed that being gay was a sickness, an aberration, a sin, an abomination. Because of the abuse I suffered as a child, I felt dirty, evil, shame-filled and unloveable. (These feelings are common for many who have experienced sexual abuse.)

These negative feelings made me a target for the Evangelical church which promised that I could be a child of the King, a holy servant of God and a new creation with robes washed clean in the blood of the Lamb. I jumped right in!

After becoming a born-again Christian, I still felt dirty; the blood of Jesus did not wipe away the shame from the abuse I suffered. I then discovered Exodus and Life Ministries' "ex-gay" program in NYC.

They promised wholeness and freedom from homosexuality. With my poor self image and mountain of shame, I felt lured into the loving family they offered and the "ex-gay" lifestyle. (Yes, there is an "ex-gay lifestyle--but more about that in another post).

Like many people who had been abused, I was vulnerable to even more abuse. I let these "ex-gay" leaders impose their sexuality and their theories on me. I have no question they meant well, but they still did harm, and I let them.

Ultimately I ended up in Love in Action, the Memphis-based "ex-gay" residential rehab program. I still felt dirty. I still felt shame. I still felt unwanted--spoiled goods.

And in a wonderful paradox I found freedom from the shame of sexual abuse through the ministry of Love in Action. Through counseling, writing, and rap sessions, I acknowledged for the first time in my life that I suffered genuine abuse, and more importantly that I did not cause it. I learned that there is a difference between being gay and being abused. I separated my same-sex attractions from the toxic feelings I felt from being abused.

Shortly after I exited the program, I came OUT. Having addressed the horror of the childhood abuse, the angst, confusion and dissatisfaction with myself melted away. I understood that I had been fighting the wrong battle all those years in the "ex-gay" programs.

Many lesbians, gays, transsexuals, bisexuals and other queer folks never dream of entering an "ex-gay" program. Their sense of self is untarnished from childhood abuse, and in spite of the effects of societal homophobia, they feel comfortable in their skins. The "ex-gay" leaders rarely meet these folks, but they too exist.

Having been sexually abused did not make me gay; I was gay anyway. But living with unresolved childhood sexual trauma made me the perfect candidate for the dehomosexualization process.

But I learned the truth, and that truth set me free.

Homo Gnomo!

Yep, it is official. Thanks to Christine at Rising Up from the Ashes (and the folks at PhotoShop), I now have a Homo Home Gnome. (Thanks Abby for suggesting a gnome over a cat.)

He seems very happy in his new environment. He's adjusted well to my wild gay lifestyle. He even helped me make soy milk in my new artificial mechanical legume breast.

You can get your own "It's Not for Sissies" products at CafePress. I personally like the Homo No Mo thong, like the gnome I wear mine on my hat.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Love in Action Court News

This just in from a very handsome man in Memphis...

In connection with their federal laws suit against the state of TN, Love in Action asked the judge in the case to order an injunction against the state. I believe LIA wants to keep the licensure department from keeping tabs on the program. The licensure department is responsible to make sure LIA is still in compliance with state law in regards to the number of people with mental illness in the program.

The judge denied LIA's request.

The trial, where LIA claims the state violated the "ex-gay" programs freedom of speech and religion is still pending.

Stay tuned...

(oh, and thanks handsome man in Memphis)

You can read more here.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

LIA Sues TN: Court Date Tomorrow

Not much to say except that I called the State of TN (yes the whole state) and found out that the Love in Action trial against the state begins tomorrow (Friday October 21, 2005) at 2:00 PM CST.

When I hear more, I will post it.

In talking with some friends we wonder, if LIA should win this case (meaning that their civil rights of free speech and religion had been violated), what precedent does this set? Will TN state law need to be changed? Will people with mental illness become more vulnerable to the sometimes well meaning and often times misguided practices of ministries who discount science in their pursuit to heal people.

Also in the news...

Anna Uhls, News Editor of The Ithacan, Ithaca College's daily, ran a cover story today entitled Coming Out.
“I hadn’t come out to my parents yet,” (senior Nora McCaffrey) said. “I was terrified and unsure. I was scared they weren’t going to accept me ever again.”

McCaffrey said she was afraid she was going to break her parents’ hearts with the news that she was gay.

“It’s very unhealthy to have a secret,” said McCaffrey...“It eats away at you until you embrace it. I had such an unhappy life. I just couldn’t be happy about anything.”

Coming out is the process in which Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people inform other people about their sexual orientation. There are many aspects to coming out that can be difficult, but most agree that the hardest moment is telling their parents.
Later in the article they mention Love in Action and the lawsuit.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Doin' Time at Home

Phew, I finally had a few days to sort out my apartment. I recently went from a two room apartment to a one-room studio. Actually it is the same apartment, but my fabulously queer landlord and his partner needed another room for all their fabulous queer stuff. That meant I lost my kitchen (there is more to this story, but it is too complicated to explain.)

Anyway, I needed to create a kitchen, living room, dinning room, office space and work-out area in my one very large bedroom. With some help from highly skilled (and heavy lifting) friends Christina, Jen and Chris I moved everything and created an organized and pleasant home. I even have room to rehearse!

Now that the place is in order, I can get back to writing. I am VERY excited about my new piece, The Re-Education of George W. Bush. I'm more than half way done building it.

Sexually Compulsive? Take the Test.

Exgay Watch has lots of interesting posts up this week including the following:
While antigay activists con exgays into believing same-sex attraction and addiction are synonymous, some advocates for equality are constructively educating people about compulsion and offering them the practical means to change.

Sexual Compulsives Anonymous offers a 20-question test, 14 characteristics of compulsion, and steps toward recovery.
Check out Queer Visions for the test and more.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Playing Catch-Up

I had a super weekend in Baltimore performing two of my plays and premiering some new material (The Re-Education of George W. Bush). I met some super new people and caught up with old friends.

Notably I hung out a bit with Bruce Garrett, the fantastic cartoon artist and blogger. He showed me some of his original artwork including a piece he did about Love in Action and some his new fun and insightful coming out series.

In the past few weeks I've blogged a lot (and I still have more posts to put up) and I thought readers need a chance to catch up. I've been able to spend time thinking about several issues regarding the "ex-gay" movement, homophobia, US history and race issues among white queer leaders.

Here are some post I would love you to read if you haven't yet.

Who is Silencing the Ex-Gays?

What's Under the Anger? (That is the anger and hate that some conservatives spew out at people who are LGBTQ)

Ex-Gay, Just a Crazy American Thing?

White Gay Leaders Attempt to Bridge the Racial Gap

The Day the Indians Discovered Columbus

The False Image of LIA (I apply one of the cornerstone teachings of Love in Action to the program director himself)

Friday, October 14, 2005

Let Us Prey (on Youth in Seattle)

Janet I. Tu of the Seattle Times reports about Exodus' Groundswell ministry which seeks to target, recruit and convert youth to the "ex-gay" lifestyle.
An "ex-gay" Christian ministry is coming to Seattle later this month with a new agenda — to reach gay teens.

Exodus International, an evangelical organization that claims to turn people away from homosexuality and toward heterosexuality, has a new initiative called Groundswell, which aims to help youth pastors and others who work with gay teens to convey the belief that homosexuality is sinful, though God still loves people who struggle with it.

Groundswell also hopes to get into public schools its message that gays have a choice and are not compelled to live as homosexuals.
Read the entire article here

According to an October 3, 2005 Exodus press release,
This youth initiative offers resources and support to the young people who request it, information for their friends and family and training for youth workers. New developments to reach the youth audience this year include the Groundswell conference, a one-day event designed to teach youth workers, parents and students how to minister to gay-identified youth or youth struggling with unwanted same-gender attractions. The conferences will take place in major cities across America starting this fall.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

White Gay Leaders Attempt to Bridge the Racial Gap

Hat tip to Jennifer for sending me the link to Dionne Walker's article, Gay Leaders Seek to Bridge Racial Divide. (I think they mean White Gay Leaders)
National gay and lesbian groups are responding with marketing campaigns and old-fashioned schmoozing to win over minority gays, many of whom argue white activists want their votes on gay marriage and other national issues, but rarely include poverty, racism and other minority concerns on their agendas.
The article raises disturbing questions. Why exactly does the white gay leadership seek to reach out to LGBT people of color and how creative are they in trying to connect with people?
Mason lists a concern of many white gay leaders: In areas where minority gay communities are not well-organized, reaching across racial lines is nearly impossible.
"We don't have a Richmond black gay pride, for example," she said. "We don't have that type of opportunity for us to really find who these folks are."
Well, let's hope Richmond's black gay community can pull together a pride event next year so that White gay leaders can get to know them. Much easier than actually having Black gay friends.

My "Ex-Gay" Body

Recently writer and speaker Jay Sennett interviewed me for his blog. A female to male trans man, he asked me original questions about my body and how being in the "ex-gay" movement affected my physical identity.
While in the LIA program, we were taught and expected to stand erect with our arms to the side whenever we stood to receive "feedback" from staff or other participants. Our shoulders had to be squared back with our head up. We were required to maintain direct eye contact. One of my acts of rebellion while in the program was to squint my eyes whenever I received feedback. That or I would give the most piercing eye contact possible.
Read Straight Acting

In other news, GayLife, Maryland's LGBT Community Newspaper, just published an interview with me. I stood in a wet and smelly phone booth in Oxford, England while I spoke with the reporter, Beth Barnes. She must have felt prety chummy with; she refers to me the article as Peter. What cheek!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Who is Silencing the Ex-Gays?

Today is National Coming Out Day. Some “ex-gays” feel so silenced and marginalized by the “gay community” that they have used this week to push their film, I Too Exist. But who is really silencing these “ex-gays”? Perhaps it is their own bedfellows--the conservative religious right.

A week ago Sunday I traveled by car from Southampton to London with Jeremy Marks, former Exodus International board member, former director of Exodus Europe and the founder of the once “ex-gay” now gay-affirming British group Courage. He shared insights about Exodus’ pioneering work.

In the early 1970’s most Christian churches in the US wanted nothing to do with same-gender loving people. With the sexual revolution in full swing, some Christians with same-sex attractions felt overwhelmed with the rising wave of promiscuity in the world--both hetero and homo.

Out of genuine compassion and the need to create a middle space, Exodus formed and did what no one had seriously done before, minister to homosexuals. Many found refuge and relief among their own, people of faith with same-sex attractions in the midst of a decidedly homophobic society and what felt like an anti-Christian “gay community”

At first Exodus had virtually no church support--they survived on the fringes of faith communities creating their own. They worked at trying to figure out why they were different from mainstream America and how they could change abd become fully accepted members in church ad society.

Jeremy explained that it was a time of searching and discovery. He believes that had they continued to think and pray through the issues, many Exodus leaders and members would have come to the place where they could fully embrace both their sexuality and faith together. They would eventually conclude that individual change from homosexuality was not possible, rather society needed to change.

But some things happened that derailed the honest searching and self-discovery.

In 1977, former Miss Oklahoma turned Orange Juice hawker, Anita Bryant, spoke out against proposed anti-discrimination laws that would protect gay men and lesbian women in Florida’s Dade County.

The next year Christian writer and speaker, Tim Lahaye published a book entitled Unhappy Gays.

In 1979 Jerry Falwell founded the Moral Majority and declared war on homosexuals.

In 1980 former psychology instructor, Paul Cameron, began manufacture and disseminate bogus stats aimed at painting gays as serial killers, pedophiles and walking epidemics.

Then in the early 1980’s came AIDS, “nature’s revenge on gays” ( according to Pat Buchanan’s infamous words in 1983.)

Politicians quickly learned that trashing gays got votes. Antigay conservative religious leaders like James Dobson figured out that when they slandered and scapgoated gays, the money tumbled in from Americans terrified by the gay agenda to destroy their children.

About this time the courtship between the political/religious conservative leaders and Exodus began. What better way to expose the dangers of the “gay lifestyle” than to produce examples of repentant homosexuals who through their testimonies confirmed the slander churned out by preachers and politicians.

Exodus, in need of legitimacy from the church, welcomed the advances of the Religious Right, but initially with suspicion. In the past many individuals in Exodus had been burned by these groups. The antigay message did not sit well with some Exodus leaders who still struggled with same-sex attractions.

Quickly though, with the acceptance and tacit support of the mainstream conservative church, Exodus became a tool of the Right, so much so that by 1998, fundamentalist groups under the Coral Ridge Ministries banner, “Truth in Love” exploited the testimonies of Exodus “ex-gays” in a million dollar ad campaign that included full page ads in major US newspapers.

“Ex-gays” became the media darlings of the moment perched on high as examples for the rest of us. That was until the fall of John Paulk two years later.

Jeremy went on to explain that Exodus, in collusion with the hetero church became silenced except when porclaiming the party line that change is possible through Jesus Christ. No longer could they honestly explore the issues surrounding same-sex attractions, its origins and place in the world.

No one could be completely honest about their struggles and the fact that for the vast majority in Exodus, same-sex desires did not go away. Change was not possible, just behavior modification or bisexuality (an unmentionable).

Today funded in part by large organizations like Focus on the Family and used for political purposes by both the church and elected officials, Exodus is frozen in time, unable to analyze and revise its message, grow or change for fear that they will be dropped like a backslidding hot potato. “Ex-gay” leaders cannot honestly share their struggles for fear that they will lose the positions they fought so hard to earn within an antigay church that still distrusts the “ex-gay” movement.

Who has marginalized the “Ex-gay” movement? Who silences “ex-gays”? The pro-gay liberal press and the armies of gay activists with our sinister agenda?

Or is it the Religious Right, a political machine that profits off the lives of gays and lesbians who can only be welcome at the table as long as they behave?

Sources: Conversation with Jeremy Marks, October 2, 2005 and Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Report, Spring 2005 The Thirty Years War, A Timeline of the Anti-Gay Movement by Bob Moser.

(This October, hear about the “ex-gay” struggle in Tom Murray’s documentary, Fish Can’t Fly)

Monday, October 10, 2005

The Day the Indians Discovered Columbus

WARNING: US History Lesson. Contains Graphic Language

When I studied at City College of NY, I took a Carribbean Studies class that exploded many misconceptions and myths planted in my head.
It was the first time I learned that "the Indians" Columbus discovered had names. Taino. Arawak. Carib.

I learned that many English words come from the Taino language.
(hammock, potato, savannah and hurricane)

I learned that women sometimes served as chiefs or cacique.

I learned that the Tainos built canoes that could hold 100 people.

I learned that the Spainards enslaved the Tainos, infected them with deadly diseases, tortured and butchered runaways, and raped the women.

Bartoloméde Las Casas, a Spanish priest, documented some of the atrocities against the native people at the hands of his fellow Spaniards. I feel sick everytime I read his words.
They forced their way into native settlements, slaughtering everyone they found there, including small children, old men, pregnant women, and even women who had just given birth. They hacked them to pieces, slicing open their bellies with their swords as though they were so many sheep herded into a pen.

They even laid wagers on whether they could manage to slice a man in two at a stroke, or cut an individual's head from his body, or disembowel him with a single blow of their axes.

They grabbed suckling infants by the feet and, ripping them from their mothers' breasts, dashed them headlong against the rocks. Others, laughing and joking all the while, threw them over their shoulders into a river, shouting: 'Wriggle, you little perisher.'
While crying out against the injustices done to the Tainos, Las Casas opened the door to injustice against the people of Africa by proposing that Africans be used as slaved instead of the dwindling Taino population.

In the USA we celebrate only two national holidays to honor specific men.

Martin Luther King, Jr.
Christopher Columbus.

This so clearly reflects the bi-polar nature of American foreign and domestic policy.

Today is Columbus Day.

A Day to mourn.
A Day to speak out against the genocide of an ancient people
A Day to acknowledge and speak out against injustice done to the Tainos, Africans and their descendents.
A Day like every other day when we can make a difference to undo some of the wrongs that have been done.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

You Know You Want It

Yup, the Doin' Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House thong!

Totally FI! (False Image). A bargin at $9.99 in snuggly cotton!

Check out Tina Encarnacion's "It's Not Just for Sissies" line at CafePress. T-shirts, mugs and yes, thongs, suitable for confiscation when you enter LIA.

Seventeen Magazine Features LIA Survivor

This summer Wade Richards, LIA Survivor and one of the subjects in the film Fish Can't Fly and the book Anything But Straight, told me that Seventeen Magazine's Cara Nissman interviewed him for the teen girl's magazine (that some boys really like too!) Nissman struggled to find teen "ex-gays" and ex-ex-gays willing to tell their stories. Instead of exploiting a teeenager and possibly causing trouble with their parents and peers, for the November 2005 edition of Seventeen, she settled on 26-year-old Wade Richards, someone who speaks passionately about his early teen years in the church and late teens in LIA.

The piece highlights the connection between anti-gay teachings Wade got in his conservative church and how he eventually landed into the cadilac of "ex-gay" programs.
One day after church in January 1994, when Wade was 15, he went up to a few church friends, "I need help," he begged. "I want to serve God, but I think I'm gay." Wade said. "Talk to the pastor," they urged. For the next year, Wade and his pastor met every week to pray for God to change him. Hoping the prayers would work, Wade kept his feelings for guys a secret from his mom.
A year later, after his mom found out he might be gay, Wade was forced to live in homeless shelters and with friends. Two years later, still in conflict over his same-sex desires and his Christian faith, he entered LIA and received "ex-gay" therapy for 18 months.

He eventually came out and an embraced who his is as a gay man (and so much more).

Wade's time and my time in LIA overlapped by a few months. We found out we had attended the same church in NYC and had similar experiences in churches with people trying to cast demons out of us. Oh the places homophobia can take us.

The FreeZ group at MySpace has a scanned copy of the article in their Forum, or read it at the newstand (or even BUY the magazine)

Hat tip to FreeZ member, I'm Not Your Star... for starting the topic thread.

What's Under the Anger?

bristol church window
Originally uploaded by p2son.
While I was a participant (patient?) in the Love in Action "ex-gay" residential program in Memphis, TN, we not only talked about sex (A LOT!) but also about our emotions.

When in our rap sessions a participant brought anger issues (we had so much to be angry about), staff members John Smid, Mike Haley, and others often asked the question, "What is under the anger?"

They went on to explain that anger is a secondary emotion fueled by other emotions.

As a man with same-sex desires and gender-queer tendencies, I regularly feel the hate and anger woven into the policies, practices and lies packaged by conservative churches, para-church organizations, and "ex-gay" groups.

When I read about religious organizations that exclude LGBTQ people from being a part of the group (even including some Quaker groups), I feel the sting of rejection and the implicit message that there is something gravely wrong with me; I am unwelcome and unclean. I hear violence in the messages of exclusion and judgement.

But drawing on the teachings of Smid and LIA, I've been asking, What is under the anger? What fuels the anger of LGBTQ discrimination?

I believe it is fear. Not exclusively, but in large part.

When James Dobson rails against the "gay agenda" and raises the spectre the end of Western Civilization as we know it, I hear fear.

When Concerned Women of America warn against the dangers of gay sex going so far as to cite examples of anal incontinence (our dirty little secret!), I hear fear.

When LIA files a federal law suit against the state of Tennessee and claims their loss of civil rights, I hear fear.

When conservative Christians repeatedly throw up the same six scripture passages that purportedly condemn homosexualty (while overlooking the hundreds of passages that condemn heterosexual sin), I hear fear.

For the 17 years I lived as a conservative Christian and an ex-gay; I felt a lot of fear too.

I could not enter into honest debate regarding the Bible, its interpretation and authority, for fear that it would undermine my faith.

In church I was warned against deceivers who would creep into the church to lead others astray. I was warned against unbelievers who unwittingly could be used as tools of the devil to lead others astray.

I was warned about the slippery slope of sin, that the heart was deceitful and that I lived in a corrupt body and in an evil corrupt world ruled by the prince of darkness.

That's a lot of fear. And as a result, I could not and would not work things out for myself. I trusted my leaders--the pastors and teachers and evangelists-- who told me what the Bible had to say.

As I have described it before, I was in a biblically induced coma.

When Christians feel so much fear, it should raise a red flag. If God, through Jesus, is the supreme being (as many but not all Christians believe) and if God is love, and if perfect love casts out fear, why all the fear?

We do crazy irrational things when we feel fear. We create monsters out of shadows and distrust even our friends. Witness the nation-wide sway of fear on the US population after 911 and the effect of the color-coded terror alert on our ability to make rational decisions during elections.

As a Christian, I was taught that fear is the opposite of faith. I propose that fear is also the opposite of love. Sadly many Christians live terrified of their God. They also live fearful that they will be swallowed up by an ungodly world that will destroy their children and their faith. Their leaders feed them terror and misinformation from the pulpit. They learn to fear me and other LGBTQ people--some of us in their own community, church and family. And fear bears a bitter fruit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

I don't know about you, but I am hungry for the Spirit sort of fruit in the churches and in our world.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Chatting with Chad

Ex-Gay Watch currently is host to an engaging discussion around the comments of "ex-gay" activist, Chad Thompson. Thompson offers up his Strategies for Success talk which "unfold(s) a blueprint for complete healing from homosexuality".

Commentors, including Thompson himself, discuss Thompson's claim and their implications. The comments contain rich and profound insights. As always Regan DuCass provides an intelligent and thoughtful view.
I struggle with being a woman. I have struggled with being black.
And sometimes I've hated being both things.
Because of how OTHER people treated me because I was black and/or female.
Struggle is a fact of life. However, constant socio/political factors that CREATE and FOSTER the struggle itself cannot be left out of this, Chad.
As I emailed to you. Identity is a powerful thing and HOW, TO WHOM, and WHY one GIVES IT UP cannot be ignored either.
You didn't CHOOSE not to be gay. You were fearful of it, and knew deeply what it would cost you if you disclosed that identity.
So you denounced and abdicated it before it barely matured.
Another commentor, JJ writes,
I think what bothers me is the insinuation that 'if it worked for me, it can work for you'... which then leads to the "if it's not working for you, then it's obviously your own fault".

People have a right to try and be ex-gay if they want to, and this may get me stoned on blog, but those organizations have a right to exist, and even to have their opinions heard in public forums... but when they call themselves "Christian" and then promise healing, an it doesn't work, they find a loophole in their promise that blames the very person who came to them for help, and that is so harmful, and hurtful.
There is lots more, much of it rich and well worth reading (and some of it just silly or ugly). You can read the original post and the comments here

And speaking of engaging and profound, I just had an excellent conversation with Christine (Rising Up), an "ex-gay" survivor from Denver. In fact she had moved to Denver to be part of an "ex-gay" program that still operates there. She is just beginning to get out and tell her story. We really need to hear from lesbians and their experiences in the "ex-gay" movement. The movement and our discussions so often resolve around gay men, but many women have been spun throug the revolving doors of Exodus programs.

Christine's honesty and transparency give great weight to her words. In her entry My Escape from the Staright Lifestyle she writes,
One of the things that bothers me about many ex-gay testimonies is that they often talk about how horrible the "gay lifestyle" is, and how shallow and drug-, alcohol-, and sex-filled it is. I guess they never consider the fact that there are queer folks who don't live like that.

I was amused recently by the realization that most ex-gays' characterizations of the "gay lifestyle" fairly accurately describe my former "straight lifestyle." In the years prior to my coming out, I had a drinking problem, slept with people I didn't know, and used drugs when I partied with friends.
I also got to speak with other cool, engaging people this weekend, including dinner with blogger Abby, her partner Aaron and my Quaker Friend, Ben who helps organizes film festival for The 48 Hour Project. Dinner was in Botson's Little Italy--loud but good. Abby writes about the meal in her current posting.

AND I had the privilege of catching up with Memphsis filmaker, Morgan Jon Fox who also works with the QAC. Later this month he will show a teaser of his upcoming documentary on Love In Action.

Oh, and if you have lost track of the LIA story, Eartha Jane Melzer of the Washington Blade has written the most accurate piece I've seen about Tennessee's investigation into the program and the subsequent federal lawsuit LIA filed. She even quoted me from this blog! So you can say you read it here first.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Ex-Gay--Just a Crazy American Thing???

oxfordshire mound
Originally uploaded by p2son.
In many ways, the "ex-gay" movement in the UK has been crippled. Exodus lost its foothold when Courage and Jeremy Marks acknowledged that no one can change from gay to straight and that to try was just causing more damage.

Many Brits I've spoken to recently assume that the "ex-gay" movement is simply another American oddity. UK Blogger and psychology PhD canidate, Contemplative Activist, begs to diiffer. She writes about the "ex-gay" and anti-gay activities that occur underground in British evangelical and charismatic churches and through the rising trend of Christian Counseling in the UK. Because it cannot be easily monitored, the unseen work of anti-gay activities in UK churches can be more harmful there then the very public work of Exodus when it was in full operation.

Out of her own experiences in UK churches she writes:
Was I involved in unusual crack-pot churches? No, I was not. I was just aware of what was going on because some of my closest friends were gay Christians - some of them still are, but many have left churches and are pursing their own spirituality, still suffering from the rejection caused by well-meaning but very very misguided Christians.

I'm telling you now - all this is going on behind the scenes in a church near you - yes, even the ones with cucumber sandwiches, and most likely in the ones with a lively and active group of young people.
Read the rest: Too English to be Ex-gay

Also in the UK, comicbook artist genius, Willie Hewes, muses on the root causes of homophobia. She tells the tale of her friend Iain who went from homophobic to gay-affirming--all from watching "lesbian porn". Read They Do Exist: Ex-Homophobes

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Home again (for the moment)

Homo No MO?
Originally uploaded by p2son.
I arrived in NYC from London last night at 8pm and didn't crawl into my own bed until 2am, but it was worth the effort go all the way home to Hartford last night.

Home for two days. Tomorrow I'll be at the Watkinson School where I will present my theater piece How the Indians Discovered Columbus. In it I highlight some of what we know about the Tainos, the people who lived in the Caribbean when Cristobal Colon and his men invaded the islands. (yes, I have an opinion about that history)

Earlier today I got together with my friend, John Selders, a real champion of queer issues and the minister of Amistad Church UCC here in Hartford.

Later this week I will get to present at the Boston Arts Academy, a public school with an emphasis on performing and visual arts. I will present Queer 101 then lead groups with New England Quaker wonder woman, Lisa Graustein on Thursday. Friday I will lead a master class in theater and talk to more students.

Towards the end of October I return to Boston to perform Doin' Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House at Northeastern University then I'm off to Baltimore the weekend of Oct 14 to do Homo No Mo, Queer 101, excerpts of The Re-Education of George W. Bush and to talk about the "ex-gay" movement.

Towards the end of the month I will be at SUNY Oneonta (Upstate NY) for Queer 101 and then I will perform Footprints, An Inspirational Comedy in Middletown, CT.

Basically this month I will perform pretty much every theater piece I've ever written. Tina Encarnacion cautioned me not mix up my scripts or else we might end up with Columbus discovering his sexuality with Jesus on the beach as they discuss the enviormental footprints in the sand of George W. Bush.

Nice to be home for a little, to walk around my neighborhood and catch up with friends.
You can see my full 2005 presentation schedule here.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Gay Teens in Time Magazine

Originally uploaded by p2son.
Time magazine's John Cloud wrote a cover article entitled The Battle Over Gay Teens. I met John when he attended the Point Foundation retreat where he interviewed a number of the young people featured in his piece.

In speaking with him a few weeks after the retreat, he explained that his goal was to give gay teens as much airspace as possible in order to tell their stories (that means he had to cut out some of us older queers).

Although I have not yet gotten my hands on the magazine to read the whole article (and see the lovely photos taken by Katja Heinemann who took this photo of me!) I imagine it will be thoughtful and insightful.

John even attended the Exodus conference and provides first hand accounts of his time.

Also, when you get a chance, check out the excellent website/blog of Keith Boykin, the speaker and co-author of Beyond the Downlow, Sex, Lies, and Denial in Black America. I find he provides a clear voice in the midst of a predominately white controlled gay media.

holideck lounge

holideck lounge
Originally uploaded by p2son.
I took this photo as a sipped my gin and tonic and read the Guardian. Nice way to wait for a flight, eh?

The Holideck will now be known as my official London offfice. For more pics, click on the photo.
Oh, I LOVE the many wild flavors of potato chips (or crisps) they have in the UK. I mean wild, not just salt and vinegar. We have prawn cocktail, thai chicken, smoky bacon and my favorite--roasted lamb with mint sauce (yummy AND vegan friendly).

Journey's End (nearly)

Isle of Wight (The Needles)
Originally uploaded by p2son.
Well, I'm hanging out at the Holideck here at London's Heathrow Airport waiting for my flight. Really not a bag deal. The Holideck is the amazingly cool three level lounge with open bars, all-you-can eat snacks, wi-fi, and very, very cool interiors.

This weekend I travled down to Southampton and got to spend a day at the Isle of Wight. The weather was perfect, in fact, it never rained in the 10 days I was here.

On the Isle of Wight I witnessed a bartender watering his hanging flower pots with a pitcher of beer. The stuff flows like water.

I enjoyed my time at the Quaker Meeting house in Southampton and staying with Contemplative Activist and her partner. Willie Hewes came down by train and Jeremy Marks drove just to hear my talk Talkin' Trash in the Homo No Mo Halfway House. Last evening I arrived in London and had a wonderful talk about queer issues with a well-known conservative Christian leader here (sorry that is all I can share about this one).

Great trip with much to process. Looking forward to my own bed and shower for a day before I take off again.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

LIA Protest/Lawsuit Dream Sequence

In June I learned some very powerful lessons in Memphis from watching the QAC in action.

Morgan, Cale, Suzie, Alex and the others strove to "speak truth to power" without hurting anyone, especially Zach and the other LIA/R victims/participants. They also made it clear from the beginning that their intentions were never to shut down LIA, rather to speak out against an injustice that was being done to young people.

I remember when a cameraman from ABC wanted footage of Zach leaving the LIA facility. He badgered the protesters who stood in the line as he attempted to find out what Zach's family car looked like and repeatedly asked about Zach's last name (this was before Joe Stark outed his family on CBN).

The QAC refused to budge. They did not in anyway wish to hurt or exploit Zach and the other participants.

I think in the same spirit, even though LIA's lawsuit lists the locations of its two residential facilities, I suggest we leave those facilities alone. Hold no protests there, no obvious drivebys, etc.

I hear bloggers' and commenters' frustration about LIA/R still being open (I think it is frustration) and it will be echoed in lots of people as this story continues to break in blogs and the news. Some may wish to rise up and setup camp outside of the LIA residential facilities.

I'm sure most LIA survivors would agree with me that when we live in the LIA "ex-gay" cottage on Davidson Road (or any of the other homes scattered around Memphis) the last thing we wanted was any attention from the outside world. (Unless perhaps they were cute guys hanging around shirtless :-) We lived in shame and fear; a bunch of protesters would only confirm the slander we were hearing about the agressive and thoughtless gay community seeking to devour us.

This is now a legal battle. The state of TN presented its finding to its investigation. LIA countered with a lawsuit. The most important thing now is that the state of TN does not cave in light of the costs and the bother of a trial. For that reason, we need to continue to speak truth to power.

In fact, if I could have my dream come true, it would not be that LIA closes down. Rather it would be that John Smid and the other staff seriously question what they do, sit down and listen to the 400 people who have been through their doors since 1994 and see the sort of damage they do in their program (even if their intentions are good). Then in response to what they witness they seek a new way to reach out to same-gender loving and queer people--a way that would genuinely help the community and no longer harm individuals in it.

Perhaps we need to have a truth and reconciliation truth-sharing event where LIA staff get to hear from scores of participants about our experiences in and since LIA. Perhaps like Jeremy Marks and the former "ex-gay" Courage Organization, LIA will respond thoughtfully, lovingly and honestly and create a gay affirming organization that actually helps same-gender loving and other queer people.

Perhaps they shall know the truth and the truth will set them free.

Perhaps. Perhaps. Perhaps.