Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Powerful Letter from US Churches

Greg Morrisee, a cool UCC minister friend of mine near Boston e-mailed me, "The US Conference for the World Council of Churches to the 9th Assembly in Brasil wrote this letter that is absolutely incredible. Definitely worth reading and sharing. It's basically what the Christian Churches in the US are saying to the Christian Churches in the world. If only it were echoed... you know... anywhere."
The vast majority of the peoples of the earth live in crushing poverty. The starvation, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the treatable diseases that go untreated indict us, revealing the grim features of global economic injustice we have too often failed to acknowledge or confront. Our nation enjoys enormous wealth, yet we cling to our possessions rather than share.

We have failed to embody the covenant of life to which our God calls us; hurricane Katrina revealed to the world those left behind in our own nation by the rupture of our social contract. As a nation we have refused to confront the racism that exists in our own communities and the racism that infects our policies around the world. We confess that we have failed to raise a prophetic voice loud enough and persistent enough to call our nation to seek just economic structures so that sharing by all will mean scarcity for none. In the face of the earth’s poverty, our wealth condemns us. Lord, have mercy.
Read the whole letter here

Trop, c'est trop! (Enough is Enough!)

This just in from Chuck, a fellow queer Quaker who forwarded me the following article,
A small group of priests in French-speaking Quebec has taken the rare step of openly criticizing the Catholic church for its opposition to same sex marriages and the ordination of active homosexuals.

The 19 priests wrote a letter to Quebec's bishops complaining that the arguments used by the church "had caused confusion and disagreements" among the faithful.

"Does the church necessarily have the last word on the mysteries of political, social, family and sexual life?" asked the letter, which was published in Sunday's edition of La Presse newspaper.

"In these matters, the official teaching of the church has been shown to be wrong more than once."
Read more at Reuters Canada

Monday, February 27, 2006

Failing Grades

Eugene at Parodoxy reasons that even if conservative Christians followed what they say they believe about same-gender loving people, the Bible and Christ's commands to love, they fall far short of the mark and fail to show compassion. Read Eugene's Exam Time.

United Against Hate

David Shelton just published a piece at Advocate.com in which he shares about Fred Phelps recent anti-gay ugliness while protesting "in Fort Campbell, Ky., to blame the gays for Iraq War casualties."

Shelton shares "how the gay community found instant solidarity among Army wives and soldiers".

Almost Myself

Any film focused on trangender folks will inspire controversy from all directions. Tom Murray, creator of Fish Can't Fly and Farm Familes--In Search of Gay Life in Rural America, just finished filming his latest film, Almost Myself--Stories of Gender Blending and Mending.

So far he's been able to thoughtfully bring out human stories of queer folks on the farm and in the church. I can't wait to see the narratives he shares with us next. Check out the new site which includes a preview.

Preying on Youth in St. Louis

This weekend in St. Louis, MO Focus on the Family held their anti-gay road show Love Won Out which specifically targets parents who have or fear that have queer chilren as well as church youth workers.

Colleen Keating, who atteneded a vigil outside the event, shares her thoughts.
Despite what Alan Chambers said about our vigil, I thought that we succeeded in being quite positive:

"Anonymous defamation from any party is offensive, but the public protest planned by the gay community is particularly disturbing," he said. "Contempt for those of us who have chosen to leave homosexuality behind is not an action consistent with the call for tolerance and diversity."

What Chambers doesn't seem to understand is that none of us have "contempt" for the attendees (at least no one I spoke with). We felt badly for the young kids in the backseats of SUVs, looking down guiltily as they saw us--were their parents taking them to the event in the hopes of a "cure"? I know I felt badly for the parents hoping for a cure, and blaming themselves.
Exgay Watch provides links, quotes and analysis here and here.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

A Visit from Mr. Hetero Himself

Over at myspace where I also posted my Mr. Hetero Parts One and Two, I got a visit from a very special guest, 21 year-old Jimmy Otino, the winner of the Mr. Hetero Contest.
Jimmy left the following comments:
First off, there is no power struggle here - There was a homosexual contest in California, so we put together a heterosexual contest! But, it was up to the media and the ignorant people of society to blow it all out of proportion and be in FEAR for themselves for being intolerated! And if you'd like the bible stories, here you are:
1corinthians 6:9-10 9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.

Also, read Genesis 19. - This speaks of how God destroyed the land of Sodom, for it's homosexual sinfulness.

We did not tip-toe around anything or try to spread our opinion, it is taken from the bible!
There are so many more references that God speaks about the subject here - remember, this is not our opinion, this is God's word!

Mr Hetero was done for no reason but to have fun, and to spread God's truth! God bless!
To which I responded:
Thanks Jimmy for stopping by, even if it is just to tell us what awful sinners we are.

No there was no tip-toeing around. The points made were made loud and clear--you believe that same-gender loving people are just as bad as theives and those who covet (ugh, like I do at the mall??) and those who get drunk and those who have sex out of marriage.

Now about Sodom, you have that one wrong. Even Jesus, when he refers to that incident, he does so to highlight how immoral it is to be inhospitable. Read for yourself--Matthew 10:13-15 (New International Version)
Sending his disciples out to preach the gospel, Jesus tells them to go to specific homes, then instructs them...

"If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town."

Why like Sodom and Gomorrah, because they tried to have homosexual sex? No, because they were not hospitable. Look at Genesis and all the ways the godly people go out of their way to show hospitality. That is how they judged someone's morality, by how they treated their guests.

Sadly, that is how the young people I met on Saturday night treated me. They did not welcome me or listen to my words. Shame.

To my regular visitors, PLEASE be as polite as possible to Jimmy, even in light of how he wields the word of God as a weapon. Perhaps he might learn something here from our thoughtful responses, especially as we share stories about our lives.
I encourage folks to go to my myspace posting if you like, but please be civil (even if you feel some folks don't deserve it) or I will delete your comments.

Also of note, an article about the event in Bay Windows and click here for some video of the event (hat tip to pie and coffee)

A New York "Ex-Gay" Story

Some folks express shock that an event like Mr. Hetero can take place in liberal Massachusets. As if intolerance and religious oppression only happens in rural Southern American towns. (A common slander coming from many Northerners). Actually knuckle heads live everywhere (just as there are broad-minded thoughtful folks everywhere).

I spent 17 years seeking God to change me from my same-sex attractions, to transform me into a "man of God". For 10 of those "ex-gay" years, I lived in New York City. Not Little Rock, AR, Huntsville, AL or Odessa, TX, but in big bad Sodom itself. In fact, during that time I met scores of men (and some women) in NYC who attempted to live as straight-acting former homosexuals.

I lived in NYC from 1985 to 1995 where I received all sorts of reparative therapy designed straighten me out. As a born-again Christian with homosexual desires, I easily found ministers and counselors in the city who helped me pursue change. In the late 1980’s I attended Life Ministries, the Manhattan-based ex-gay support group founded and run by former actors.

Dismayed at seeing many of my fellow ex-gays marry then fail in their new lives, I pursed further help at area churches and ministries where I submitted myself to counseling, “healing-prayer” and a deliverance session with an exorcist. I got so good at playing a straight character in my own life that I actually convinced others and myself that I was no longer gay.

In fall 1990 I married my dearest friend. On the same stage that premiered My Fair Lady our wedding took place at the Mark Hellenger Theater (home of Pastor David Wilkerson's Times Square Church, my church home for much of my time in NYC). My wife and I felt hopeful that God could do anything if we only believed.

Five years later my wife and I left NYC for the mission field in Zambia. Shortly after that, (1996) our marriage ended in heartache because of my same-sex attractions. It was then, broken, desperate but still hopeful to change from being controlled by same-sex desires, I entered the Love in Action program in Memphis, TN. I worked on my issues there for nearly two years, sought the Lord with all my heart and ultimately graduated in 1998. I came OUT a few months later. I've been coming out ever since.

I am in NYC today, and as I visit old spots where I used to eat and watch movies, I feel like the girl in Our Town visiting ghostly places and people long gone. Except I am no ghost; I feel more solid and real than ever before.

I cannot undo all the damage I did to myself and others. By trying to be something I could never be, I hurt the people I loved the most. I pray for their healing and my own. I know that in this city today and cities all over the world, young men and women still struggle to understand their queerness, particularly in light of their faith. I pray they don't spend decades seeking the impossible. I pray they see themselves clearly, focus on REAL issues and flee a life of fantasy for a life of truth in the inmost part.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Straight to the Top

My Day at the Mr. Heterosexual Pagent
Boston's Weekly Dig paper sent reporter Michael Broduer to cover the event on Saturday. He refers to me as a sneaky gay activist. Because I showed up with a pregnant straight woman???

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Marvin & the Winter Olympics

In which Marvin wonders aloud why this year he feels drawn to the Olympics and considers if it is because he is now a Christian and a Republican. Go Team America!
this is an audio post - click to play

Mr. Hetero Part Two -- The Danger

Although I wrote that this event was not outwardly "mean-spirited", I believe it was downright dangerous, particularly for youth.

When I was a young person struggling with same-sex attractions, I often tried to decode behavior around me. How did normal guys operate? How did they greet each other? How did they walk, laugh, dress and how could I copy them?

If I were my queer youth self sitting in the Mr. Hetero audience, here are some of the messages that I would have heard.

The Events

The Best Use of Duct Tape
Highlights: men demonstrated how they used duct tape to remove lint from their clothing, trim down unsightly body hair and clean the gunk out of their belly buttons.
What I learned: Straight men value self grooming albeit in a primitive fashion.

Name the Food Where blindfolded straight men identified different junk foods by tasting them.
Highlight: When Jimmy identified the first item to be Lays Original Potato Chips, Pastor Tom Crouse was not going to let that past. As a literalist, he wanted to hear Lays Classic. The crowd pressured him into relenting.
What I learned Straight men value junk food and have leanings towards being literal when it comes to written texts.

Wedding Proposal Where men demonstrated how they proposed to their wives or how they will propose to prospective wife.
Highlight: After hearing some pretty lame and self-centered proposals (and cute ones too) contestant Pat, stole the show. He hopped off the stage, knelt before his wife seated in the front row and proposed to her anew thanking her for being so patient with him then he expressed his commitment to a partnership where they help each other grow in life, love and faith. A stunning moment of healthy relating. Many women in the audience (oh and me too) dabbed the tears away from our eyes.
What I learned Most straight men don't know how to talk to women yet somehow stumble along, but some may genuinely care about healthy, loving partnerships. (Hey so do I!)

Highlight: The crowd went wild when Jimmy belted out a 1980's rock anthem. Lots of other performances, some less than noteworthy, but all done with heart.
What I learned Straight men can be goofy and even play with queer themes, but only as part of an act.

Strength (or tearing up Oprah's O magazine). Tom Crouse totally backpeddled on this one. He said he didn't understand what the fuss was about in the press. He claims he chose Oprah's magazine simply because it was the thickest one. Lame, lame, lame and it sounded like a lie. This event wasn't about strength, if it were, then why did each man get just one magazine to tear up? It was a symbolic gesture. (yes and they also tore up one Sports Illustrated, but not the coveted swimsuit issue).

This event was NOT about strenth. It was about power and the fear that power is being lost to folks who shouldn't have it.

The entire audience was white, except for the young Black minister imported from Springfield, MA who endorsed the event with an opening prayer.

I've heard white folks talk with derision about Oprah for years. Why? I reckon it is because she is a strong, independent, successful, unmarried rich Black woman who gets women to talk to each other about the issues and their lives (oh, and gets lots of folks to read books). But Tom Crouse cannot say this from the platform or behind the mic (and perhaps he hasn't even articulated it for himself yet but lives with a vague disdain for Oprah without ever investigating what it is all about).

What I learned some straight white men choose to do something that is offensive, doggedly stick to it,then think they can get away with a thoughtless and disingenuous explanation about it,(and most often they do).

That's just the FUN stuff. The real danger that was preached to us (and put on the big screen and t-shirts) is that heterosexuality is designed by God, and in effect everything else is deformed, defective and demonic.

Hearing that message explicitly and implicitly, it is no wonder that 22-year-old Jonathan, raised in the church with a preacher father, lived a double life for years, hiding his same-sex attractions. Imported from a Bible school many hundreds of miles away, Jonathan shared his testimony with us of how he repented of homosexuality.

I have no doubt that he has repented, but I feel pretty sure that like the hundreds former "ex-gays" and handful of current "ex-gays" I know, he still struggles with same-sex attractions. But he knows that to survive in his heteronormative Christian family, church and college, he has to live free of homosexuality or at least proclaim that he is free.

Sadly when he slips up one too many times or even begins to questions things, he will most likely find himself on the outside, maybe even homeless. (yes, it happens all the time in good Christian homes and many queer Christian youth end up taking their own lives).

I love speaking with teens and 20-somethings. I appreciate their insights, honesty and creativity. But I felt shock when I spoke with some young people after the Mr. Hetero event. I told them that I am a gay Christian. I instantly got challenges in the form of questions. "What do you mean by Christian? Don't you know that the Bible says that homosexuality is a sin?"

I attempted to tell them a little of my story, how I spent 17 years seeking God, reading the scriptures, doing everything in my power to change into a heterosexual (since I too had believed it was designed by God), but I had to come to new conclusions and work even more years to integrate my faith into my life. They would have none of it. They wouldn't even let me tell my story. They literally shut me down.

As a friend reminded me afterwards, they couldn't hear my story. It was too threatening. They had to stick with the party-line because to take in anything else might undermine their whole world view.

So sad to hear young people parrot back what they have been told without being able to at least listen to the history of someone who grappled with these issues for over 20 years. I value their opinions, but I tried to explain that I have heard what they had to say all before (I used to preach it myself) but they have yet to hear me and stories like mine.

But that is the dangerous part of all. I walked away from Mr. Hetero with the understanding that there is only ONE valid story that Tom Crouse and men like him want to have told. Not Oprah's story, not a non-Christian's story, not a queer Christian story, not a lesbian's story or a bisexual's story or a transsexual's story or a gay man's story.

Tom Crouse will claim that it is the Bible story he wants told, but even with the sermon he inserted in the middle of the event, I didn't hear the Bible story, I heard the story of territorial rights, the story of hanging onto every bit of power and privilege some folks have enjoyed for centuries, the story of oppressing others so that one group can come out on top.

That is a violent story and a dangerous story and one that has been told far too many times already.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Mr. Hetero Contest Part One

Yep, I travelled an hour by car with my very pregnant friend C. to the Mr. Hetero Contest held in Worcester, MA. So much to report on this event, but I don't have much time right now. (I'm on chemotherapy patrol this week--damn cancer!)

Really it was a fascinating time. In essence Pastor Tom Crouse created a safe space for heterosexual men to be goofy and play around with what it means to be a heterosexual man.

It was like a straight drag show, where straight men let their hair down and explored their straightness and to some degree their maleness. They loosened up their straight-jackets just enough to relax and have some fun.

Of course they don't need a Mr. Hetero event to do that but so often straight white men feel constrained in expressing themselves and rarely take the opportunity to look into their heterosexuality and masculinity.

I spoke with Pastor Tom after the event. He asked, "Was it mean-spirited?" I responded, no, I didn't get that sense, but I did sense a lot of fear. In much of what Pastor Tom said about having to be politically correct and in their aggrieved cry to take back the rainbow ("We're taking it back!") I heard fear. Fear that something valuable is being taken from them, that rights are being denied, that some power and privilege they feel they've enjoyed has evaporated.

Hey, rainbows are big. They cover the whole sky. Really, there is enough rainbow to go around.

I have loads more to say, but wanted to get out a quick post. But as always in my travels, I met lovely people, funny people, people worried that their needs will not be met.

I also saw and heard dangerous messages. Some of the most dangerous and desperate acts are committed out of fear.

More later. Oh, and you can read Worcester Independent's Mike Benedetti share his detailed account of the event.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Marvin's Test Results

In which Marvin reveals the outcome of his HIV test and muses whether he should share this information with his Sunday School class.
this is an audio post - click to play

Friday, February 17, 2006

Marvin Podcasted AGAIN!

Actually, Joe at beppepodcast includes some of Marvin's reflections that Marvin previously posted here about the podcasting experience with Joe. Have a listen. Great music by Alivia Biko on Joe's show this week.

To hear the original podcast, click here.

No word from Marvin about his HIV test results. He posted a rant earlier, but no results. I thought for sure he would post something by now.

To Be Counted--a poem

Diana sent me one of her poems. Thought you would enjoy it.

To Be Counted

There is a right of passage.

That we all share in common.

Whether you are gay,

Or lesbian,

Or bisexual,

Or transgendered.

When at one time or other,

You must step forward,

And declare,

What your inner voice tells you.

To step over the line,

To be counted.

To stand tall.

Marvin Freaking Out & ANGRY

Where Marvin feels angry about maybe being HIV+ as he awaits his results but doesn't know who to be angry with. HIV/AIDS--a curse from God or a blessing in disguise???
this is an audio post - click to play

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Marvin Waiting and Freaking Out

Where Marvin begins to lose it as he waits for his HIV test results.
this is an audio post - click to play

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Spanking for Jesus!

Recently on an Ex-Ex-gay Yahoo listserve group, I received a series of e-mails denouncing and trying to get their minds around a a Spanking for Jesus ministry (okay that is a gross generalization of the discussion).

I cannot help but think how this relates to "ex-gay" ministries.

If we consider Joe Kort's words in the film Fish Can't Fly, that "ex-gay" therapy is a form of implicit sexual abuse, I see some similarities.

Kort suggests that with "ex-gay" therapies someone in a position of authority (church or "ex-gay" leader) imposes his/her sexuality or concept of sexuality (heterosexual/"ex-gay") on someone who looks up to them for guidance and protection. Kort concludes that this is a form of sexual abuse, not explicit where people are physically molested, but implicit where someone uses their position to force a sexual belief onto another.

When questioned, most "ex-gay" workers say they do what they do out of their spiritual convictions, as part of their ministry. They do it for God and in Jesus' name. But like sexual predators and abusers, do they also get power over others through implicit sexual abuse?

If we consider Exodus' shift of focus where they now explicitly target youth, this concept of sexual predator in the form of Christian ministry comes into even sharper focus.

Many times in my "ex-gay" experience, I've been told that there is a connection between sexual abuse and same-sex attraction. From what they say a high percentage of the folks attending "ex-gay" programs have been sexually abused. They point out that this group represents a higher percentage than the national averages. They then conclude that means the national averages are wrong proving that sexual abuse is a cause of same-sex attractions and one's involvement in the "gay lifestyle".

What these folks don't take into account is that many of us who had been abused sexually as children had become vulnerable to further abuse at the hands of other abusers, including "ex-gay" ministries. Because of our abuse, we were susceptible to the messages within the conservative church and the"ex-gay" ministries that there is something fundamentally wrong with us and that we need to change, we need to be cleansed, we need to be made new.

Unwittingly playing off of the shame of unresolved sexual abuse, the "ex-gay" ministries lure those who had already been abused by others thus extended the abuse even further (and Spank us for Jesus!)

I explore this further in How Sexual Abuse Made me "Ex-Gay".

Would love to hear other people's thoughts and experiences.

Addicted to Race Podcast

Tina shared with me a link to "a podcast about America’s obsession with race, with a specific emphasis on mixed race identity and interracial relationships." Haven't had a chance to listen to the epidsodes I've downloaded yet, but Tina recommends it, and she is so cool.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Luke & Teo's Valentine's Greeting

Tina and Joslyn's two fabulous sons serenade and dance and just look precious for the camera (and us for their 2nd Annual Valentine's Greeting.

Marvin Feeling Better!

In which Marvin declares victory over demonic attacks and talks about his recent podcast experience.
this is an audio post - click to play

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Calling All Lesbians!

Lesbian, Lesbian, Lesbian. We don't hear enough of that word. Such a lovely word, a provocative word, a rich word.

As I've been travelling North America and Europe sharing my experience in the "ex-gay" movement for these past three years (wow, it went so fast) I feel the absence of the lesbian voice in narratives of the "ex-gay" experience.

Later this month I will present about the "ex-gay" movement at a women's conference at Sarah Lawrence College and feel hungry to know more about the experience of women who have attended "ex-gay" programs. I would love you to share some of your thoughts in the comments or to e-mail me about your experiences as a woman in the "ex-gay" movement.

Marvin at the Doctor's

Where Marvin bites the bullet and goes to the doctor with his illness and all his morbid fears. And what a run around!

If you haven't done so yet, check out Marvin's exclusive tell-all interview at Beppepodcast.
this is an audio post - click to play

Saturday, February 11, 2006

The Journey of Being an Ally

Jim Johnson over at the excellent pro-gay blog Straight, Not Narrow recently experienced a negative reaction to one of his pro-gay posts in a Yahoo queer group. Although he has had positive experiences in the past and a good track record with similar groups, some members of the Yahoo group felt offended by the post and possibly the presence of a straight man in their midst.

Puzzled over this reaction, Jim reminded us all that acceptance is a two-way street. LGBT groups can be intolerant too.

I agree with Jim that LGBT groups can be much more open, particularly towards queer-affirming people of faith, but as I considered his post I thought about the challenge of being an ally and the sort of rejection an ally may experience. I posted the following response that I thought might be helpful to those of us who seek to be better allies.

Jim, I so appreciate what you do. The presence of straight allies in the struggle gives me so much hope. Your posts, filled with insight, warmth and humility provide a well-needed perspective.

I completely understand the response you recevied from the the LGBT group in question. I do not see it on the same level as the rejection LGBTQ individuals have faced.

A few things to consider.

1. I once heard Judy Shepard, mother of the slain gay man Matthew Shepard say, "Church hurt is the worst kind of hurt."

As I've been traveling throughout US, Canada and even Europe I have found many LGBTQ folks who have been so wounded by churches in their past that it takes extreme courage to comtemplate going even into a queer affirming congregation.

So many flashbacks occur for many of us, so many fears and even shame. Even though we are welcome with open arms, we don't see those arms. We see the fist that we felt shut us away from the God that many of us loved.

This is not your problem to solve; we each have to find our way to the divine for ourselves, but it will help you to know that a post with the title "Don't Trust the System, Trust the Lord" can feel inflamatory and bring up lots of debris from the past.

2. Many conservative Christians believe they need to be wise as serpents in their efforts at evangelism. I have learned to distrust seemingly affirming messages from straight Christians until I know for sure where they are coming from.

You may have a good track record with some of us queer folks, but you may find that you will have to do plenty of relationship building before you are welcome to speak directly into a community that has been hurt by straight Christians.

3. This last point is harder to express so I will talk about myself some. I am a white man. I have been trained to think and respond in certain ways as a white man. I know in most places I go my opinion is valued and even sought after for lots of reasons. Part of the privilige I experience in America as a white man is that loads of people are open to hear what I have to say.

This is not the case for everyone. Women, people of color, people with disabilities, transsexuals, lesbians, bisexuals and even white gay men at times have to struggle to be heard.

I know that when I am around people of color and women, as a white man, I need to listen more than speak. I have many things to learn, many assumptions to unlearn. These folks have heard a white male perspective for a very long time. One of the gifts I can give is to listen, to hear, to learn. In so doing I can then grow into their communities and find out how I can contribute in a meaningful way.

So, Acceptance is a Two-Way Street, but some streets go up-hill. Depending on the direction you are going, you may have to exert more effort and walk more carefully.

You have chosen to walk uphill, to become an ally. Don't be surprised if you are not always warmly welcomed. In the plast Many who look very much like you have wounded us deeply and we are not keen on having that happen again--especially from an ally. It hurts that much worse.

Please don't lose heart. We all have places to grow within our communities and as we each seek to be allies.

Marvin is Sick

Not in the moral sense of sickness (although some of you may be thinking that) no, Marvin is quite unwell physically (as evidenced by his most recent post below). I'll be sure to send him your well wishes for a speedy recovery. He was distraught at the prospect of having to miss church tomorrow if he is not better in time.

The Draw of Homophobia

At dinner last night with John Stephens (friend of Tom Fox, one of four peaceworkers currently held captive in Iraq) and with Ray and Alan from Gay Christian Network (GCN), our conversation ranged widely. At one point we talked about how the homophobic remarks by conservative Christian leaders and politican often result in donations to the cause and votes on election.

The same is true for newspaper circulation. Christine sent me a link to an article outlining the outing of celebrities in Cameroon, West Africa, a decidedly homophobic country. (Where I performed Queer 101 last April)

Seems homophobia is good for the newspaper business.
"It's been a long time since our circulation exceeded 5000," said L'Anecdote editor Francois Bikoro. "Since we began dealing with homosexuality, it has gone up to more than 20,000.
Read the full article in The Australian)

Friday, February 10, 2006

LIA Court News

Folks have been wondering what's been going on with Love in Action and the court case against the state (and the restrictions placed on the program by the state). Hat tip to Queer Action Coaltion for posting a link to this Memphis Flyer story that tells the highlights of D.J. Butler's story and a little about the trial details.

Marvin Gets Podcasted!!??!

Yep, Joe G. at Beppepodcast (out of LA) interviewed Marvin earlier in the week. Listen to learn so many facts about Marvin's former gay days "in the lifestyle", how he became a Christian and so much more. Seems Marvin is getting more attention than I am these days. That's okay, I'm sure once he makes it big, he'll remember us little people.

Marvin on His Sick Bed

Suffering from what seems to him to be a combination of a cold, the flu and the Bubonic Plague, Marvin calls in sick, contemplates going to the doctor (once he tackles the HMO insurance hurddles involved) and talks about a new man in his life (don't get your hopes up).
this is an audio post - click to play

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Marvin & His Mother

In which Marvin regrets telling his mother all about his recent good news. He may also be coming down with a cold.
this is an audio post - click to play

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Morgan & the QAC

As I posted back in October, Morgan Fox and the folks at the Queer Action Coalition (QAC) continually impress me. These young people, not trained in activism, the law or public relations have stood up to the oppression of young people they have witnessed in Memphis.

Always at the heart of what they are the welfare of the individuals involved (including Zach Stark's parents during the summer protests) and integrity.

Just read the QAC's recent post to see what I mean. I've watched these folks move with such care, thoughtfulness and passion. It's been a learning process for all of them, but they consistently have take the high road.

Much more will come out about Love in Action (LIA). Some experiences in LIA I have recetly heard from eye witnesses shock me beyond words. Any parent who cares for the welfare of their children will be shocked to hear these things as well. It will all come out in the proper time, but like the QAC has modelled for us, the welfare of individuals and integrity needs to be the focus.

When you see ugly and hateful comments, try to resist succumbing to the same spirit. Instead speak your truth in love.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Marvin Returns (part 3)

In which Marvin concludes his tale and reveals exactly why the pastor and Dolores hauled him into the church office. If you have not done so yet, first listen to Marvin Returns and Marvin Returns (part 2) to get the full story.
this is an audio post - click to play

Evidence of the Slippery Slope

Now that we have legal civil unions for same-sex couples in Connecticut, all sorts of domestic partnerships have popped up as evidenced by the two creatures who now co-habit my living room area.

Morgan Fox, on a recent visit to Hartford brought me my own Ugly Doll and do you know within minutes it partnered with my froggy friend (won for me at the Santa Cruz, CA amusement park back in Sept '03). They seem very happy together.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Thank God Vonnegut Smokes!

Which is a terrible thing to write since my mother currently battles lung cancer. But because of Kurt Vonnegut's addiction to nicotine I spent five 10-15 minute private cigarette breaks with him throughout Saturday evening.

Vonnegut, in Hartford to speak alongside of fellow writers, Joyce Carol Oats and Jennifer Weiner, needed some assistance throughout the evening. As an advisory board member to the Connecticut Forum, I was asked to serve as Mr. Vonnegut's personal valet.

In his mid-eighties, Vonnegut needed to conserve his energy throughout day's events, which included a book signing, press conference, cocktail party, dinner, and then the two hour plus Forum event. I stuck close to his side, managed the fans that mobbed him and most importantly joined him outdoors for his smoke breaks.

Not that I smoke (my delicate vegan body would crumble from one puff of his unfiltered cigarettes) but I did not mind gulping Vonnegut's second-hand fumes and first-hand accounts of Capote (He said that Philip Seymour Hoffman played the author exactly as Vonnegut remembered Capote from real life) and the madness of our times.

In the limo we spoke about Christianity. Mr. Vonnegut: "Jesus had some good things to say. The most radical was that he was anti-revenge which is what killed him."

During a smoke break, joined by a young woman named Amy who flew in from California just to see Vonnegut and was resourceful enough to bum a cigarette and ask the author for his opinion of a good book to read: Mr. Vonnegut: "Voltaire's Candide."

He outlined a scene where Candide, with a deadly accurate Spanish rifle, enters the jungle. A beautiful naked woman runs by with a monkey biting her ass (his words). Candide shoots and kills the monkey who turns out to have been the woman's lover. He laughed, wide mouthed and deep--deep with many messages about love and loss, prejudice and assumptions.

During our smoking breaks we talked about the Bush administration, "freedom of speech" and the blight that is humanity on the planet today. We talked about NYC and Margaret Meade (he studied as an anthropologist) and ancient people who welcomed their queer members into the community as gifts. We talked of the Nazi party and of Hemmingway with his suppressed love for men.

We spoke of the "ex-gay" movement. Mr. Vonnegut: "So does it work at all?" Sure, if the goal is to make men more "masculine" and women more "feminine" and if it is to curb certain behaviors. But no one ever becomes straight, just straight-acting.

We spoke of many things including art. Mr. Vonnegut: "Everyone needs to practice some sort of art, even if you are not very good at it. Art enlarges the soul."

I believe he practices what he preaches. With all the profound, witty, scandalous and insightful remarks bursting out of his mouth, the most impressive thing to me was that when he spoke to me (and Amy and others he met), he really saw us, he spoke to us. He did not speak around us blowing his ideas into the atmosphere like his cigarette smoke, but he spoke to us, into our eyes, our souls. And he heard us.

"What do you do?" he asked. "I write plays, one-person shows that I perform throughout North America and Europe." (We talked at length about The Re-Education of George W. Bush play I have been writing.) He leaned in and looked me deep in my eyes and with respect he pronounced, "You are a playwright." Later that evening as he chatted backstage with his daughter, grandson and his grandson's girlfriend, he introduced me as a colleague, "He is a playwright," said with warmth, admiration and awe.

I embrace that evening as a gift (and the next day hanging out with Amy eating at the Crack Palace and learning about her amazing journey). A gift that every artist needs, a gift of how we each can grow larger, fuller, deeper and more real.

Vonnegut mused that in the wake of the backlash the tobacco companies received because of the harm caused by smoking, he wishes to write a letter complaining that after years of reading the warnings, he wants to sue them because he is still alive. And after those magical cigarette breaks with Kurt Vonnegut, I might just pen a thank you note to Phillip Morris.

(You can read Alan Bisbort's recent interview, What Makes Your Soul Grow...and Other Observations, with Kurt Vonnegut that appeared in the Hartford Advocate.)

(Oh, and I didn't take the photo of Vonnegut. I got it from a funky Russian language site on the author, and I couldn't find a photo credit--my cyrillic is rusty I guess.)

Sunday, February 05, 2006

LIA News Update

The Queer Action Coalition has posted an update to the most recent Love in Action news including this post with links accounts D.J. Butler's story which hit all the major press in Memphis.

Butler, a 17 year old who was forced by his parents to attend LIA/Refuge, escaped and ultimately was granted legal emancipation from his parents.

(NOTE: I cannot vouch for the accuracies in all these accounts. Sadly news providers are sloppy and generalize too much. One of the few journalists I trust to get the facts right is Eartha Melzer of the Washington Blade, who has yet to report on this story. Is she still at the Blade???)

Marvin Returns (part 2)

In which Marvin recalls what happens when he is hauled into the pastor's office for a meeting. If you haven't done so yet, listen to Marvin Returns first to get the full story.
this is an audio post - click to play

Friday, February 03, 2006

Marvin Returns

In which Marvin begins an account of his week which started at a gay church!

(When he called me to tell me he posted, he apologized for the abrupt ending of the recording. Blogger only gives a few minutes for a message and he got cut off. Hedidn't have time to re-record before having to run off to work. He promied he will continue his account very soon. Who knows where it will end?
this is an audio post - click to play

Some "Ex-Gay" News

These stories seem to come in waves and it is likely we will hear more about "ex-gay" ministries in the gay press the next few weeks.

Love in Action News

Most notable is a press release posted by Mike Airhart at Ex-Gay Watch states that Teenage Participant in Exgay Love In Action/Refuge to Speak Out According to the press release
The teen will tell his story, and answer questions about his traumatic stay at Love In Action, including his eventual escape from Memphis, and the legal battle that awarded him with the promise of never being forced into the program again....

...The teenager will be in Memphis on Friday, February 3 at 3 p.m. in front of the Federal Courthouse, as Love In Action awaits a judge's decision in a “Motion to Dismiss/Preliminary Injunction” hearing - Love In Action International, Inc. v. Phil Bredesen, et al.

Soul Survivors' Web Launch

In Toronto, Canada, former "ex-gay" survivor Darin Squire launched a website for his new organization Soul Survivors which serves as a support group for "anyone who has been burt in any way in the namoe of a religion, spiritual belief or doctrine."

The site offers links/resources as well as survior stories. They also will screen Fish Can't Fly on March 17, 2006.

Lavender Languages

Also, at the Lavender Languages conference next weekend at American University in Washington, DC, Lori Heintzleman from the University of Colorado in Boulder will present a paper, Ex-Why Me’s: How Ex-gays get to be Oppressed.

In addition to presenting Queer 101 on Friday, I will also speak a little about the "ex-gay" movement during a Sunday lunch panel discussion entitled GLBTQ Discourse, Text, and Actions: What Have We Done to Ourselves?. The Washington Blade just published a piece about the conference. (Fish Can't Fly filmmaker, Tom Murray e-mailed to say that he is going to attend part of the conference.)