Thursday, December 29, 2005

From Cameroon to Saskatoon: 2005 & Beyond

Can't believe 2005 is nearly over. What an awesome year that brought me throughout North America (including US states VA, TN, NY, NJ, CT, MA, AL, MI, PA, CO, IN, KY, RI, MD, CA, NM, , Puerto Rico and my Canadian debut in Saskatoon!), England, Spain and Cameroon.

I feel so privileged to speak with people about the "ex-gay" movement and LGBTQ issues. I presented at universities, high schools, churches, conferences, community centers (as well as on planes, trains and buses). It was especially enriching to hear many people's stories and learn about issues that affect women, people of color, the trans community, people with disabilities, bisexuals and teens.

This year's series of presentations were entitled, The 2005 Burning Bush World Tour (um, that is a Biblical reference). I am so very grateful to Sarah B. Miller, my business associate for all her hard work in organizing my bookings. I am so grateful to all of the folks who sponsored my shows and presentations. I also give thanks to John, Bill and Bobbie for serving so gracefully on my support committe. Loads of other people to thank too at GCN, folks at Exgay Watch, the ex-ex-gays formerly of LIA, the queer Quakers, Hartford Friends Meeting, friends at Watkinson School and gosh a ton more.

2006 is looking very interesting with many college performances booked (I'll have the schedule up soon after New Years). There are still a few openings, so if you know of a college group or some other group who may be interested in Doin' Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House or one of my other presentations, please e-mail Sarah.

If you have a snappy idea for a title for my 2006 tour, please post it in the comments or e-mail me

Finally, I want to recognize my grandmother, Nardina Toscano, who after 97 years on this earth, died this week. I think about all the people who help makes us who we are. My grandmother shared her faith and love with me freely. She would always pray when I was on the road. "Keep helping the children," she would say. I explained that I speak to adults too to which she'd reply, "They're all God's children". I'm going to miss her and her prayers (and those crazy little blankets she would make and give me to hand out to people!)

The Berlin Stories

Ceramic designer and good friend Roy Steele is in Berlin for the holidays and has begun to chronicle his experience with excellent photos and compelling text. Check out Berlin Stories here. He doesn't have a place for comments, but feel free to comment here.

Roy also designed three of my web sites. Oh and he is one of my hereos.

To the right is one of Roy's pieces, "Ramona".

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Staff Changes at LIA

Nathan Bell, associate director of Love in Action International, announced via an e-mail that he has been terminated by the Memphis-based "ex-gay" program. He writes:
I am writing to communicate a couple of important things. First, thanks to all of you for your support of me throughout my years at Love in Action. Unfortunately I have been terminated from my position after 8 years of cooperative work. It is important for me that you know (t)his termination was not over a moral failure on my part – nor over any negligence of my responsibilities.
Bell, an "ever-straight" heterosexual man, was on staff when I was in the program. According to his staff profile (which was still on the LIA site this morning)
In his early adolescence, Nathan came to know the Lord personally. After learning of his father's intent to follow homosexual pursuits, Nathan has persevered, allowing God to utilize this tragedy to ground him in Christ.
You can read Bell's testimony for yourself.

(I received a forwarded copy of the e-mail from Bob Painter, former LIA participant and staff member, who received it directly from Bell. It was addressed to 195 individuals presumed to be "supporters".)

Meet Marvin

I met Marvin recently and after several conversations, I asked him to offer a series of audio blogs here. I'll leave it at that and let him speak for himself.
this is an audio post - click to play

Sunday, December 25, 2005

How Christmas Made Me "Ex-Gay"

I sat next to him at Christmas Eve dinner last night. Nice guy. German-born, travelled the world with his UN parents, lives in NY. Artist type. In a room of heterosexual family and friends I wondered if this man could be "the one"--the ultimate Christmas gift--a life partner.

We chatted, we joked, I let it slip out a dozen ways that I am gay. The white wine and his open friendly banter made me believe he was too. "I'm heading home tomorrow," I placed on the table. He countered, "I wish you would stay."

Next at the Brazilian Christmas Eve bash (replete with non-stop dancing, darts and enough food to save a medium-sized starving village), I chatted some more with the potential love of my life. Did he look extra deep into my eyes?

As my Brazilian friends, in precise heterosexual pairing, danced circles around the gringos, my love, my mate, my life partner to be, broke my heart with a casual aside about a recent girlfriend being Brazilian, then he twirled away in the arms of a blond woman leaving me standing by the basket of bread (the carbs of comfort).

Maybe it was the switch to red wine or the realization that I was probably the only gay man in a room of nearly 20 couples, but I suddenly felt alone, angry, deflated.

Later, at my parents' home, watching dysfunctional heterosexual families artistically portrayed in late-night movies (and gay men artfully dying of AIDS on Logo), I thought of a friend, a gay man who although he has survived the "ex-gay" movement, recently got on-line in search of a woman, a wife. I don't judge him or blame him. In his words (and in the words of an "ex-gay" leader I know) "I've always wanted a family." Perhaps he means, a normal family--normal and easy in the eyes of society. Who wants to be the weird one out? I know I didn't last night as my Christmas Eve melted down into self-pity and garlic rolls.

I hear people condemn homosexuality because they claim the Bible cries out against it. I hear "ex-gay" leaders who proclaim that it was their relationship with Jesus Christ that transformed them. I would love someone to be honest about this desire to change. It is not the Bible that compels us, (not exclusively) it is society, it is thousands of nuclear family Christmas specials and heterosexually-matched salt shakers and the disappointment that once again the only possible eligible man in the room is irrepairably wrong for you.

No wonder, in the words of John Smid, many of us queer folks create gay ghettos for ourselves (and "ex-gay" ones too!). This Christmas Santa (the letters of whose name also spells Satan) did not bring me a partner, a tall order even for a demi-god like Father Christmas. But the season did give me a little more compassion for those folks who desperately seek to be something they cannot. How we long to belong, even if it costs us our lives.

Merry Happy.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Troubling Times at LIA?

The Queer Action Coaltion, who keeps a steady hand on the pulse of Love in Action, wonders if recent signs point to genuine difficulties Memphis-based "ex-gay" program. They consider:
  • As has been public knowledge LIA has had two live in facilities for their adult program The Source. Over the weekend we were informed that they have been forced to shut down one of their houses due to lack of enrollment. Again, this is unconfirmed, however, if true, would mean this has happened since the infamous summer of '05 in which the "Christ Centered Ministry" faced numerous protests, and world-wide media attention for their dealings with youth.

  • At a screening of "What Does Love In Action Look Like: The Preface" this past weekend we were informed by a source close to Dr. Stephen Rice, LIA Borad Member, that he has been heard murmuring that the devil is in the midst at Love In Action, refering to internal conflicts within the organization.

  • Sources close to us who've happened to be driving by LIA have noticed fewer and fewer visitors at their facilities in Memphis.
The post goes on to quote a cry for help from a recent LIA newsletter and ends with a heartfelt plea for genuine change on the part of the "ex-gay" program.

Read more of Is Love In Action in need of some Love In Action?

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Goal of Simplicity

One of the Quaker testimonies is Simplicity. In musing about the frantic holiday season, Liz Opp blogs about the practice.
One topic I hear about at this time of year, almost as a surrogate for the larger topic, is that of simplifying. Simplifying is not the same as practicing simplicity, but it seems as if the former has also nearly become a surrogate for the latter.

Simplifying does not address the same question as What distractions might I remove, especially at this time of year, so that I might better hear God and God's guidance for me?
In the Pendle Hill pamphlet 194, Quakerism of the Future, John Yungblut writes about how simplicity can open the door to mystical encounters with the divine.
The mystical experience comes by grace. But we can at least engage in that first classic step on the steep ascent, the process of purging. We can, bay an effort of the will, resolve to move toward the simple life in which we are not encumbered with possessions nor driven by an over-scheduled daily program.
With the rapid close of 2005 I think about the ways that I seek to practice simplicity and how this practice has enriched my life.

I do not have a TV or Internet access at home. Also, this summer I got rid of my car and now live without one. I am not better than anyone else for doing these things, but my pace has changed significantly.

I can be more intentional about when I go on-line, what I watch on TV, where I go and how I get there. Surprisingly my relationships with others have opened up along with my openness to God (and to my work). I have hewn out a space for myself to create, commune and center.

As I go into 2006 and set my goals for the new year (resolutions never work for me!), I will consider other ways that I can practice simplicity--not so that I can be a better person or a super Christian, (Betty Bowers is already the world's best Christian) but so that I have more space to live and love.

TV Interview Today

I'll be on a public access program from Seattle this afternoon. You can watch streaming. I'll actually be on the phone live during the show and will talk about my "ex-gay" experience and the Fish Can't Fly film.

The program is streamed live from 5 to 6pm (Eastern time) 2 to 3pm (Pacific time).

The program is called Being In Seattle.
web address:

(BTW Do you realize how difficult it is to find someone with a land line phone without call waiting? Geez!)

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Doin' Time in Denver

I've spent a long and busy weekend here visiting former ex-lesbian (that means she is now a lesbian) Christine. She just had a LONG interview for a story that will be placed in a women's fashion magazine. Who would have thought they would be interested in the "ex-gay" movement. So we got to talk "ex-gay" stuff.

I also shared some excerpts from some of my shows including my upcoming play, The Re-Education of George W. Bush.

Unexpected surprises from this trip included a chat and a drink with blogger Mike Ditto (who helped me organize my Sarfari bookmarks and tutored me on how to utilize RSS feeds--thanks!). I also had lunch with a long-term "ex-gay" leader. Really a wonderful face to face connection as we spoke and listened to each other. I don't feel free to share the details, but I walked away feeling like we had genuine dialogue.

I met some of Christine's friends--Jules from Autralia and Jordan and Cherise from the Women's Circle (or is it the Womyn's circle--a debate ensued over Ethiopian food.)

Last night in Loveland, CO, I got to see Kennan sing in a Christmas choral concert with full orchestra. I know Keenan from Gay Christian Network (GCN) and seeing him up there singing his solo I felt so proud of him knowing some of the struggle it's been to come out and find himself.

Eugene, also from GCN did the driving and answered my hundreds of questions about his life, his blog, the emerging church movement and post-modern Christianty (fascinating guy).

Off to Quaker meeting for worship in a few minutes, but I just had to write and say what an awesome time it's been here this weekend. Although I got NO Christmas shopping done. Oh, well, no one gets gifts this year.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Why I Do It

I confess, I meet up with "ex-gay" leaders. Yep we have coffee and lunch and phone conversations. Good times. Really.

Over at Ex-Gay Watch a commentor wondered why I was so keen on meeting with an "ex-gay" leader in my state. I posted a response which help articulate some of what I do and why we need to connect with our "opponents".

I want to meet with (an "ex-gay" leader) because we currently live in a political environment where we do not listen to each other--unless of course the person is saying something with which we agree. We may visit each other's blogs, go to a speaking engagement or tune into a radio program, but rarely do we get to connect face to face with someone who is on the other side of an issue.

This past year I have had significant and extended conversations with FOTF's Mike Haley, Exodus' Alan Chambers and others who I have agreed not to mention publically. We agreed that the majority of our conversations would not be shared with others so that we can be transparent about our feelings and experiences. (Daniel G. recently modelled this same sort of thing when he had dinner with Chad Thompson).

What these conversations have done for me is to see the humans behind the messages. As a Quaker Christian, I don't see anyone as my enemy. They may be an opponent on a specific issue, but there is much more to them and me than that one issue.

No one has the monopoly on what is right. When I meet with conservative Chrisitan leaders, I learn things about myself and about the assumptions I carry about them; perhaps they may also learn some things, but that is not my priority.

I speak out against the "ex-gay" movement because as someone who spent 17 years in it, I know first hand the damage we can do to ourselves in it. But as a Quaker Christian I believe that there is something of God in each person, and I feel compelled to glimpse a bit of God in those who it would be much easier to ridicule and dismiss.

Most likely we will retain our stance on "the issue" but for me the purpose of dialogue is not to convert someone, rather to expand our thinking. And that is something we all need to do.

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Rising Cost of "Ex-Gay" Ministries--Faith

I run across negative anti-church/God attitudes among queer folks all the time, especially white queer folks. I know when I perform one of my shows in a gay-affirming church, no matter how many rainbow banners they have furled out front, some queer folks won't step foot into a church.

Not because of hatred, but because of hurt. Judy Shepard said it best, "Church hurt is the worst kind of hurt".

I often hear the stories of people who have been through "ex-gay" ministries. Afterwards they often try to sort out their faith, and many, like jilted lovers, end up walking away from the very relationship they wanted above all others, a relationship with God.

Last week I had coffee with a Love in Action survivor. We both live in Connecticut now but had entered the Memphis-based "ex-gay" program on the same day nearly 10 years ago. He spoke about how after years of attending anti-gay Christian churches, "ex-gay" ministries and then Love in Action, he could not open up the Bible any longer. He sought with all his heart to find transformation through Jesus Christ, but when he realized that change from his same-sex attractions could not happen (and experienced the subsequent rejection from church folks) he struggled to hold onto his faith.

At his new blog, Heath, a young man from Texas who is gay and had been raised as an Evangelical Christian, writes about the effects of a "faith" that relentlessly attacked him
I've been bitter towards Christianity for the past few years. My heart has been hardened, and I've been carrying around this tremendous weight of anger inside of me. I was so hurt, but part of me longed for the old days. The days when I was so sure that God was up there in his Heaven, and that he loved me, and that everything would be okay. I wanted to believe like that again so bad... but I was scared. I was scared to go back to Christianity, because I was so scared of getting hurt again. I didn't know what to do or where to turn.
Chris from Liverpool, England sent me some of his story to post on my Homo No Mo Survivor's page.
I too am a survivor of the ex-gay movement. I was brought up in a very religious background and felt ashamed I was attracted to other men. I often felt suicidal and had massively low self-esteem.

After casual, empty encounters with men, I was so empty and I discovered the wonderful "loving" arms of the ex-gay movement. Things were good at first, but as time went on, I noticed that a leader in the group was having a bit of an obsession with me. But I felt so guilty and ashamed of myself that I could have been convinced to do anything.

He was into us having a "David and Johnathan" relationship and it became more and more homo-erotic as time went on. It climaxed in an incident where I ended up being molested and sexually assaulted by him.

So I was left devastated. I went on a massive crusade o(f) removing every shred of Christianity from my life, and I succeeded.
The other day Lisa, a young woman in Connecticut wrote me
I find the ex-gay movement interesting since I've been an ex-gay before though I don't consider myself one now. I try not to get into the religion thing too much but "something" keeps dragging me back. :) I am a ex-Jehovah's Witness who is lesbian and with that said, I feel like I have to come out twice. Once for being lesbian and a second time for my former religion. Talk about a cross to bear, though I don't believe in the cross thing, (but that's another story.)
Over and over hear the stories of lost faith, of longing for faith. Miraculously some folks have been able to inegrate their faith with their sexuality. You find them at the Gay Christian Network at queer affirming faith communities all over and visiting this blog.

But so many more live divorced from the Divine. The effects of rejection have soaked into their souls. They won't dare go back to their former faith communities and have yet to discover a new way.

"Ex-Gay" ministries like Exodus, "a nonprofit, interdenominational Christian organization promoting the message of 'Freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ'" actually do more to destroy the faith of lesbians, transsexuals, bisexuals and gays than bring about real, lasting liberation. They don't intend to do so, but they do help free us from the shackles of a fear-based, unworkable intolerant religion. Then sitting in the ashes we ask ourselves the critical question, "Now what?" For some, this is when the adventure really begins.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Lion, the Witch and the Lube?!!?

Date two (yeah, I had a date with a real live man--cute and sweet) and after eating at the Thai Crack Palace (not its real name but should be), we went to see The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. He never read the book, so it was a treat to sit next to him and guage his reaction.

At a key point in the film, a character says, "We will go to Aslan". (Speaking of course of the very alpha male Christ-like hero of the film). My date turns to me and with a grin on his face asks, "Did they just say 'Ass Land?'"

Uh, no that's the cowboy movie. And no, we are not going there. Not yet.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Worthy--So Worthy

On a flight last spring I spoke with a recently retired executive from the Focus on the Family organization. We talked gay stuff, as I tend to do, and he quoted a well worn statistic that Focus' founder, Dr. Dobson is fond of spouting.
"Isn't it true that the average gay man has sex with over 1,000 sexual partners in his life time?"
I responded, that even if that statistic were true, have you ever thought to ask the critical question WHY? Why would anyone in their right mind subject themselves to so many sexual partners, risk of diseases, violence and more? Unless of course they swallowed the lies about us that many conservative leaders spew--the lies that a gay man is unworthy, unclean, an abomination, sinful, evil, wrong. Yeah, if someone believed that about himself, he would treat his body and life without dignity and worth.

Blogger Jonathan Bullock posted a lovely piece about this very thing. Check out I Am Worthy!

Mr. Hetero Contest?!?

Okay, this is stranger than fiction. Scott, a regular commentor, sent me a Focus on the Family "news" story about a pastor in Massachusetts who is running a Mr. Heterosexual contest.
The homosexual community has flooding the marketplace with products and opportunities exclusively for gays and lesbians. Now a talk show host in Massachusetts is turning the tables. Tom Crouse, pastor of Holland Congregational Church and host of the radio program “Engaging Your World” is launching a “contest” to name the most heterosexual guy in Massachusetts.

“We’re just looking for tolerance for heterosexuals.”

Someone should stand up for heterosexuality, someone should stand up and celebrate how God’s made us and I said, ‘I’m gonna!’, so I think I’ll have a Mr. Heterosexual Contest!”
I thought I WORKED in satire. Read the whole story here. The event is February 4, 2006 about 35 minutes away from my home. Hmmm, maybe my "ex-gay" character, Chad, should enter....I feel some performance art coming on.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Gush and Ye Shall Receive

The other night with Tina Brown I gushed and gushed so much about the New Yorker cover with two servicemen kissing, I ended up getting a signed copy of the magazine.


Monday, December 05, 2005

The Rising Costs of "Ex-Gay" Ministries

Running an "ex-gay" ministry can be costly. Consider all the publicity materials, staff costs, PR and overhead. Often these expenses get covered by conservative churches and para-church organizations (like Focus on the Family). The folks who attend these programs may be asked to cover some of the costs as well.

While at Love in Action (LIA), I paid nearly $1,000 per month for the services they provided which included four rap sessions a week, a Monday night Bible study, one-on-one sesssions, bi-annual family and friends weekend, housing and five meals a week. They still had to raise loads of money to cover all the costs.

But for those of us who attended "ex-gay" ministries, the costs incurred continue on for months and years after we exit the programs.

A few days after Thanksgiving I received an e-mail from Jeff, a fellow LIA survivor, who like me had been encouraged to look deeply at the dysfunctions in our families to unearth the roots of our homosexuality. None of us have perfect families, but many of us felt compelled to turn our childhoods into nightmares of neglect, pyschological torture and dangerously unhealthy relating.

After years of living with the aftermath of "ex-gay" therapy to Jeff and his family, he looked afresh at the family issues raised while at LIA. With his permission, I post some of his e-mail here.
I was able to apologize to my parents for the things that I said and did during the my time in LiA. Over the past several months, I have thought often about all the hurtful statements that were made concerning my dad and his "absenteeism" and my "inappropriately close" relationship with my mom. I came to realize that all of that was just untrue. In my effort to "make sense" and to find some cause for my homosexuality that fit the mold, I created and stretched and reshaped my childhood to match the mold. My parents suffered for it...

...I'm still angry that during all this time in LiA that no one challenged any of us if what we were saying about our parents was true. The only challenges issued (that I remember) were to those who claimed to have good, healthy relationships. The more we "stirred up the waters", the more kudos and positive credit we were given. (Kind of the same way we were given credit the more we added to our powerlessness list.)

Anyway, both my dad and mom were very appreciative of the apology. My mom said two or three times over the course of the weekend how much the apology meant to both of them.
The loss to the family is just one of the many on-going costs many of us have endured because of our exposure to "ex-gay" ministries and anti-gay churches. Next I will look at how "ex-gay" ministries undermine our relationships with God and our faith.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Divne Miss M Speaks Out

Speaking with MSNBC's Allison Stewart the other night, she said the most overlooked news story of importance is the genocide in Darfur, Sudan. I confess I know virtually nothing about the conflict there and have searched around on-line since to begin to educate myself. (I mean if Allison Stewart says it's important, then I should listen.)

Bette Midler has begun to speak up and speak out for the victims of Darfur.
Over the last two years, over 380,000 people have died, and 2 million driven from their homes by a brutal campaign of repression by the Sudanese government. Darfur's women have been targeted for systematic rape and brutality.

This terrible inhumanity must stop. It affects all of us, because we are all connected in one human family. But to stop it you and I need to rise up and be heard. We CAN stop the killing, if we can persuade our government to put enough pressure on the Sudanese government and its allies to make them stop
Click here to find out what we can do.

Friday, December 02, 2005

An Evening with Luminaries

For you communication and news junkies, you will now experience profound envy. I spent much of yesterday with Tina Brown, Ben Bradlee, Omar Wasow, and Alison Stewart. As a member of the advisory board for the Connecticut Forum, I served as a personal valet to Ms. Brown and hung out with the group from 4:30 PM until nearly 11:00 PM. (WNBA star and former U-Conn Lady Husky, Sue Bird also joined the panel and spoke with confidence and clarity)

The theme of the evening's forum was Talkin 'bout My Generation. The divide between the generations became most apparent when they discussed technology and news gathering. They also shared loads of wisdom, insights and laughs. This panel worked well together, and appeared to really enjoy each other's company.

I was most excited about meeting Tina Brown. As the former editor of Vanity Fair and the New Yorker, she turned those magaiznes around and made them into profitable publications with stellar writers. It was during the same time from the mid-80's to mid-90s that I lived in NYC as an "ex-gay" fundamentalist, charismatic Christian.

Every now and then I felt the lure into "the world" and would pick up the New Yorker or Vanity Fair. What a witty and intellect view of humanity opened before me as I guiltily enjoyed the words on their pages. The day that Tina Brown put two a cartoon of two servicemen embraced in a passionate kiss (a spin on the famous WWII Victory Day photo), I felt both horrified and exhilarated.

Most moving to me was when Tina Brown, who moved from her country of England to NYC in the mid-80's, spoke about 911 and how that event turned her into an American, and perhaps more accurately, a New Yorker. She spoke about her father and his World War II stories that used to bore her most of her life. After 911 she wanted nothing more than to hear her recently deceased father's stories again. She stated that we live in a time when we do not listen to our elders.

For more highlights of the evening, check out comments.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

A Spanish Poem Para Ti

this is an audio post - click to play
From Madrigales by Federico Garcia Lorca (with English translation). Enjoy. Lorca melts my butter (and I'm vegan!)