Thursday, May 31, 2007

Doin´ Time in Madrid

I arrived in Madrid, Spain last night to visit my brother and his wife (mi cuñada) for a few days. Today is my brother´s birthday (su cumpliaños), and we celebrated with a big lunch in their new flat in the North of the city.

All day long I have spoken Spanish and really should be blogging over at Dos Equis, the blog en Español that Adriana Cabrera and I co-write. Speaking Spanish is much more forgiving than speaking Swedish. Ugh, Swedish! Svensk! In Spanish if you mispronounce a word, people typically know what you are trying to say, but in Swedish, you end up saying an altogether different word (and somehow one that is always embarassing).

On this trip I have proven that change is possible. I started out with US dollars, changed those for British pound sterling, then moved on briefly to the Danish krone, then to the Swedish krona, then back to the pound and now onto the Euro. I am not sure what has gotten a bigger workout, my language skills or my math skills. I say let´s bring on the one-world government and currency and get it over with!

My brother has a vast DVD collection. In fact, we couldn´t be more different in that regard. I own no more than 10 DVDs, most of them anime or things people gave me that I have never watched (except of course Hedwig!). He has a library of over 250 films, including the entire Disney Classics collection (even though they have no children). Most impressive is collection of actual movie classics. His favorite is The Philadephia Story with Katherine Hepburn.

While I was with Spädbarn Alex and Spädbarn Daniel in Stockholm a few weeks ago, we went to Moderna Museet (Museum of Modern Art). There we watched some silent films including Charlie Chaplin´s Modern Times, which I think was very much inspired by Fritz Lang´s 1927 film, Metropolis. Breathtaking in its humor. I learned so much about comedy in the few minutes we stood there watching.

It is getting close to 10 PM, so that means we will have dinner in the next hour or so. Such a strange time table here in Spain. Tomorrow I will have lunch with a former Exodus leader who is now happily partnered with another man here in Spain. I can´t wait to tell him all about bXg.

On Saturday my brother, his wife and I will go North to Bilboa for a few days. I´ve always wanted to go to that city in the Basque Country. Okay, wine and gazpacho is on the table, so I am off. Hasta pronto.

But first some video.

Here is a clip from Modern Times

And a video teaching you how to make me gazpacho

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Stepping Up & Speaking Out

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

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

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

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

And here is another new wonderful opportunity to share our survivor tales. Truth Wins Out has launched an Internet video campaign called Talking Truth. I remember when Wayne Besen told me about his idea to put up short but meaningful videos on-line to get the word out about the damge experienced by many people who have tried being ex-gay. In his press release Wayne says,
We hope our videos will save lives and make it more difficult for Exodus International to seduce young people with its fictions and fabrications.” said Wayne Besen, Executive Director of Truth Wins Out. “In our campaign, people will hear directly from the victims and see that these programs simply don’t work and can be a drain on time, money and self-esteem. We urge all former ex-gays to immediately contact Truth Wins Out and tell us your compelling story on video, so we can continue to rescue people harmed by ‘ex-gay’ programs.
I know that ex-gay people read my blog, people who I have spoken with and prayed with and been in e-mail contact. As I have written before, if being ex-gay works for you and you go into it with an open mind and heart, than I am happy for you. But for most of us, this has not been possible. Too many people have been wounded and wounded themselves through ex-gay programs and in churches that insist that people must change or at least repress their sexuality. The stories of this sort of harm has not been heard yet by most Exodus leaders and other proponents of ex-gay ministries and gay reparative therapy.

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

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

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Homophobia and Ex-gays in Sweden

Like many people raised in the USA, particularly with an Evangelical church background, I always thought of Sweden as a place where gays and lesbians were freely accepted by a society that had done its work to embrace all of its citizens. And really it is an amazing place with progressive laws for many of its citizens. But anti-gay sentiments can still run deep regardless of laws. Anti-gay messages still get into the public's minds through preachers, neo-Nazis and just plain ignorance.

In September when I visited Sweden for the first time, I felt shocked to hear about homophobic attacks in major cities like Stockholm and that most offices of the RFSL (the national LGBT organization) could not put signs up in front of their offices and meeting places because of anti-gay vandalism. At that time I also learned about people who felt compelled to live double-lives in order to find acceptance within their families, communities and churches.

In regards to the ex-gay movement, many Swedes told me that nothing like this happens in their country. That pleased me to hear, but I had my doubts. Sometimes ex-gay ministry happens under the radar through independent churches where youth ministers and pastors, influenced by US doctrines, engage in practices that most of the public never hear about.

During my most recent trip I heard from a teen who attends a charismatic church in the Stockholm area. At a gathering this month of teens they had a special speaker, a woman who says God delivered her from homosexuality. She used to be a lesbian, but not anymore, well not so much. She did go onto to say that she doesn't really enjoy kissing men so much and still has some struggles. (Alex heard the same account, so perhaps he can add more details if I got them wrong or if there is more to add)

Who knows why the church chose this speaker? Perhaps one of the young women among them showed signs of lesbianism (what exactly are the signs anyway?) The organizer's message came through loud and clear though that the "lesbian lifestyle" was not within God's perfect plan and therefore the faithful must resist, repent, reform. I sense from the teen telling me the story though that most (but perhaps not all) of them saw through the ruse.

But what other messages do they transmit to these young people in Stockholm? If being lesbian is out of God's perfect plan, then what does that make lesbians and gays? Sinners? Enemies of God? Enemies of society? Evil?

Where does violence against gays and lesbians and transgender people arise? I find it curious that Neo-Nazis and certain types of heterosexual Christians spend so much time attacking lesbians and gays. They use different weapons, but to me their hatred and intolerance comes from the same spirit. A spirit that proclaims, You are wrong, sick, flawed, a threat, and therefore you must be dealt with in this life or the next.

Alex sent me a link to an article about a horrific attack on a lesbian at the offices of the RFSL in Stockholm this week. It reminds me of a similar attack that took place near Boston not too long ago.
A woman thought to be in her forties was struck in the head with an axe in central Stockholm on Monday afternoon.

The attack took place at the offices of the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL) on Sveavägen just after 3.30pm.

Police arrested a man around fifteen minutes later in connection with the incident. He was still carrying the axe when he was apprehended.

RFSL chairman Sören Andersson has confirmed that woman was an employee of the organization. He is in no doubt that the crime was motivated by hatred.

"It's obvious that this can't be anything other than a hate crime directed at our organization," he said.

"This clearly shows that the work done to counteract hate crimes has not been sufficient. More needs to be done. It is dreadful, really dreadful, when staff cannot feel safe at work," he added.

The woman has been taken to hospital where the seriousness of her injuries is not yet known.
The former lesbian speaking to a youth group and a man attacking a lesbian in the same city are unrelated. But are they really? If you inform young people that it is wrong to be gay, outside of God's will, even a threat to society like many anti-gay ministers proclaim, isn't it possible that the result would be that someone reacts by hurling anti-gay slurs, vandalizing LGBT centers, or by physically attacking lesbians, gay couples or trans people?

How responsible are we for the words we speak, the messages we transmit? What happens when ex-gay leader teaches that gays are outside of God's perfect plan while at the same time the same leader insists that he takes a public stand against homophobia? Can't they see how they contribute to homophobia and operate under the same umbrella as people who violently hate gays?

Sticks and stone may break your bones, but words, well, they often the fuel the violence.

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Monday, May 28, 2007

Blogging on the Train

Okay, I am one lucky and happy blogger. I am on a train from Newcastle to Wakefield (UK) and could only get a First Class ticket because everything else was sold out. I get to first class, sit in my plush seat, get a hot cup of tea served to me right away, open my laptop and BAM! wifi. So I blog to you as I speed through the English countryside on my to change trains at Doncaster. I live for wifi.

I just came off a wonderfully exhausting and exhilarating weekend with British Quakers ages 18-30ish. In this one weekend I have had so many conservations with thoughtful, informed and passionate Friends. Really inspires me and gives me hope.

At the weekend I met several people who I only knew through e-mail and blogging as well as dear Friends who I have hung with before (hey Esther, Mark and Alyn!). I got to meet and speak at length with Friend Wes who authors the GatheringInLight blog. Wes is very involved with the Convergent Quaker movement which attempts to help Quakers from various background to connect and converse.

In the past I have read many blog post by Convergent Friends, but I feel like such a novice in all of this that I typically don't respond other to say, Cool Post! which I am sure they appreciate, but does not contribute much to the conversation. But there is a time to listen and with much of Quakerism, I do much more listening than speaking.

Okay, I want to sit back and enjoy the views, but before I do, I want to share some new music! In Sweden Alex bought me Rufus Wainwright's newest album, Release the Stars. They adore Rufus in Sweden and the UK (#2 on the UK charts this week). On the album Rufus sings a powerful protest song that speaks to the weariness many of us feel about the US government, its leaders and the harm we have brought to the world.

Speaking about the US as I do my new play, The Re-Education of George W. Bush, I feel so bitter sweet. I come from an amazing country with amazing people, yet we have ruled with violence and oppression. The largest penal colony in the world is in NYC (and grew thanks in large part to Rudolf Guiliani). Our gun laws are outrageous and health care is abysmally bad. We oppress other countries politically, economically and culturally. The waste we produce, the recklessly in which we spend tax dollars, the neglect of the needy and the sellout to corporate interests sickens and saddens me. Then "concerned citizens" spend so much time talking crap about gay people. As if we didn't have real problems in the world that needed attention! Instead the focus gets put on fake problems that then have a real impact on American families--queer and straight.

In his song Going to a Town, Rufus sings,
Tell me do you really think you go to hell for having loved?
(Tell me) and not for thinking every thing that you've done is good
(I really need to know)
After soaking the body of Jesus Christ in blood

I'm so tired of America
(I really need to know)

I may just never see you again or might as well
You took advantage of a world that loved you well
I'm going to a town that has already been burned down
I'm so tired of you America

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Sunday, May 27, 2007

Among Friends in Newcastle

Having a great weekend at Young Friends General Conference, a gathering of young adult Quakers throughout England. Although I am far too old for this group, they graciously invited me to present my Homo No Mo play and lead a Bibliodrama.

As a gay guy, I have found so much love and acceptance among Quakers. But not just that, I have felt challenged in my faith and life many times over. It was at the annual gathering of New England Quakers that I first heard the term "skin privilege," and being with Quakers I have felt convicted many times about how I spend money, my time, my mind.

A lot of it has to do with the willingness to ask questions, or queries as we put it. If I weren't on a shoddy computer at a Internet bar, I'd give you some links to these queries (Friends help me out here). So often in churches I was given creeds and sermons and talking points but rarely encouraged to ask questions of myself and my faith.

Instead they gave me questions to ponder like, "Have you received Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior? Do you tithe regularly? Have you received the baptism of the Holy Spirit?" Interviewers never ask these closed ended questions that only get a yes/no answer. The questions that really help me to grow are the open-ended questions.

Here is one from the British Advices and Queries: How can we make the meeting a community in which each person is accepted and nutured and strangers are welcome?
See, this requires more than a yes or no.


Friday, May 25, 2007

Blogging from London

I am blogging from the Friends Center bookshop and cafe across the street from Euston Station. They have wifi and free computers for anyone to use off the street. I love that.

Not much time. I have to prepare for my talk/presentation tonight at the Courge UK meeting here in London (at an undisclosed location. They are funny about letting people know where they meet. I feel so covert.)

My presentation will center around some of the research I am doing for my next play Transfigurations, which will look at the lives and stories of transgender, genderqueer and gender different people in the Bible. In addition to performing the gAy,B,Cs from Queer 101, I will share some of what I have unearthed about trans folks in the Bible. So much wonderful information about trans people who were utterly essential to the stories in which they appeared.

Many people ask, But who are these trans people in the Bible??? I've never seen them.
Of course many of us have not seen them. We have been trained to look the other way, the gender normative way. Just the stories of bisexual, lesbian and gay people in the Bible seem to have gone missing, but at closer inspection, with lavender lenses, suddenly we see they have always been there.

Sorta like our own world today. Folks in the "mainstream" can miss out on the reality of all sorts of other folks who are not represented in media, elected offices and in ministry. Takes some asking, seeking and knocking.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

How They Found Me

I sometimes feel tickled (and sometimes shocked) when I look the stats for my blogs and see the keywords people plug in that eventually gets them to me. Interestingly enough, everyday someone finds me with a search for pitt bulls. I write about ex-gay stuff everyday but I have the pitt bulls to thank for the traffic.

Here is a list of the most recent keywords that got people to this blog and where they come from.
  • pitt bull (hungary)
  • clips video how hewes (unknown)
  • christian autumn poems (pittsburgh, pa)
  • gay scotland pics (vancouver, british columbia)
  • john smid love in action (albany, ny)
  • black pitt bulls (jersey city, nj)
  • beastiality nova scotia (halifax, nova scotia--better warn the neighbors)
Although the traffic is much much less for the Spanish blog Adriana and I maintain, nearly all of the visitors come from a web search. (I only had the seven above for A Musing, which averages 200 unique visits daily, while Dos Equis has 65 key word searches for the past two days and about that many visitors) As I have written before, some of their key words sound like secret confessions of desperate people.
  • hijo homosexual (gay son)
  • como identificar un gay (how to spot a gay--this one comes up often in many different forms)
  • mi pareja dice que no me ama (my spouse says s/he doesn't love me)
  • mi hija es lesbiana (my daughter is lesbian)
  • cambio de homosexual a heterosexual (gay to straight change)
  • mi esposo es gay (my husband is gay)
  • como vivir con un hijo gay (how to live with a gay son)
  • divorcio por que el marido es homosexual (divorce because my husband is gay)
  • como vivir con un marido homosexual (how to live with a gay husband)
  • padres con hijos gays (parents with gay children)
  • como ayudar a mi hija lesbiana (how to help my lesbian daughter)
And it goes on and on and on.


Monday, May 21, 2007

Is Change Possible? Is this the Right Question?

People so often ask all the wrong questions. The press has been doing this for years in regards to ex-gay programs.

They display bold headlines, Is Change Possible? Exodus leaders and other Christian spokesmen assert that YES it is possible, while gay activists counter NO it is not possible. And so it goes round and round.

People ask the wrong questions. Few ask, What does this change look like that is supposedly possible? I have spoken with leaders at Exodus in the US and others in South America and Europe. Over and over I hear from them that they understand people with same-sex attractions will most likely have these attractions for the rest of their lives. In many perhaps (most cases?), they will not develop attractions for the opposite sex.

I remember how disappointed I felt when I first heard this at Love in Action, where I attended for two years. I spent 15 years trying to become a new creature in Christ Jesus to then show up in what had long been considered the Cadillac of Ex-Gay Ministries only to find that such a change was not a realistic goal.

So the change is not in orientation but in behavior and identity. Perhaps a tiny percentage insist they shifted in their orientation, which of course is something we have to just take at their word.

When looking at most Exodus testimonies, we hear stories of people who lived as sexually addicted, miserable, lonely, faithless, confused people (who also overindulged in drug and alcohol abuse, illegal activities and unprotected sex). They found Jesus and the church, and they changed their lives.

They became celibate, began to develop healthy relationships, changed their lifestyle--not to a straight one, but to one far less reckless and destructive than their previous life.

This is not exclusive to people who are gay or lesbian or bisexual. Lots of straight people, (in fact many more than gay folks), pursue irresponsible, reckless, self-destructive lives, and they would do well to change. Most likely they will be happier, healthier and feel closer to God and others once they do (they may find themselves with more money in their pockets too. Decadence is pricey.) So yeah, that sort of change is possible and can be sought after if needed, but one does not need an ex-gay program to do this.

In fact, I believe that over time attending most ex-gay programs prove harmful for most gay people. In many ex-gay programs (and conservative churches) the leaders teach that many of clients' problems stem from being gay and that even without the reckless lifestyle, they have to daily reject a part of who they are and deny themselves love in the way that makes the most sense and is most authentic to them. These ex-gays will almost always be at war within themselves, a war not sanctioned by the Bible but one declared by the world around them.

Which brings me to the two major questions I rarely hear the press ask or asked by people considering going into an ex-gay program.

Why is change necessary and at what cost?

Sure we can choose to no longer identify as gay. We can deny ourselves relationships with LGBT people. We can even marry someone of the opposite sex and have children. This is no great miracle. Men and women have done this for centuries with and without the help of Jesus.

Why is it necessary to change? Mostly because life would be easier for many of us. Parents would treat us better. Society would gift us with privileges and affirmation. We can feel normal for a change, for a time.

But at what cost? This is one thing that the ex-gay programs never ask. They never follow up to see what happens to people after they have been through programs. They only stay in touch with their successes, who typically have to be quiet about many of their internal struggles.

The ex-gay leaders do not meet the people Christine and I meet through BeyondExGay or the people who pull me aside after one of my talks or shows. The costs of putting ourselves through ex-gay experiences are very very high. In many cases depression, low self-esteem, feelings of worthlessness, suicidal tendencies, discouragement and loss of faith all regularly occur for many who have been through ex-gay experiences.

At bXg we say if someone is happy as an ex-gay, that is fine. But such a life was not possible or healthy for us. Also, such a life is not necessary.

Is change possible? Yes, our societies and churches and families and laws can change so that people who are romantically and sexually attracted to people of the same-sex can be fully accepted and affirmed and celebrated just like heterosexuals. This change takes work and love and listening and painful realization, but well worth the effort.

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

What I Sat Under

When I lived in New York City, I attended Time Square Church. Like our friend, Marvin Bloom, I went to church every time the doors opened--Sunday morning service, Sunday evening service, Tuesday night prayer meeting, Thursday night Bible study, Friday night praise and worship step aerobic class (okay, I made that last one up).

The senior pastor, David Wilkerson, preached most Sundays either morning or evening with a message filled with dire warnings if we as individuals and a nation did not turn to God. For nearly five years I sat under his teaching, and the teachings of the other pastors, in my pursuit of holiness and nearness to God.

My personal struggle with my same-sex attractions kept me close to the front and in the choir, often at the altar for prayer and always looking for answers.

David Wilkerson has traveled widely in the world. Just today I spoke with a woman here in Sweden who heard him speak back in the late 60's when he spoke to nearly a thousand young people in Stockholm. She said it was the first time many of them had ever heard the word homosexual (homosexuell).

He preached a lot about homosexuality, well, particularly against it. He warned that like ancient Rome, the US along with post-Christian Europe would collapse under the weight of its wickedness. And in saying that I always felt the weight of my own.

Here is a sample from a dramatic sermon (they always are) by Wilkerson given at Time Square Church in 2005.
Hell was spilling out, and Roman society had become one vast orgy. Homosexuality was a respected lifestyle, preferred among the intelligentsia. The entire culture was immersed in materialism, with the rampant pursuit of money, fame and pleasure.
We are living in those last, terrifying days right now, and the signs are everywhere. Europe is becoming wholly pagan, with the institution of marriage being rejected, partners living together and family values vanishing altogether. In Sweden, 30 percent of the population lives together unmarried.

Here in New York State, we’re seeing a “great falling away” of the kind Scripture predicts. Some 410 pastors have enlisted for a homosexual agenda called “Pride in My Pulpit,” in which they hang signs in their churches bearing this motto. The message is, “We’re proud of the homosexual community, and we endorse it.” The numbers of these pastors are growing.
Well, you get the point. Week after week, I heard that message from the pulpit and used that message to help drive me to Jesus, to prayer, to the Bible and nearly to insanity and worse. I even spoke to a minister at the church about my struggle. To my shock he told me that he too had a similar struggle. He warned that it is a spiritual battle, one where I needed to bind the devil, do spiritual warfare and drive out the evil spirits in my life.

Eventually I left the church to go to a smaller house church in Yonkers, NY and then to the mission field in Zambia. When I finally returned to the Northeast of the US, openly gay and integrating my faith with my sexuality, I talked to a Time Square Friend about that minister who had counseled me back in my time at the church.

"Oh, didn't you hear?" he replied, "Brother _______, moved back to _____ . Soon after he returned home, he killed himself! So awful. And such a man of God. No one knows why he would do such a thing."

Sadly, I think I know why, knowing the weight of wickedness he sat under, wickedness heaped on him every Sunday. Perhaps it eventually crushed him.

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

bXg in Washington Blade

Dyana Bagby writing for the Washington Blade interviewed Christine Bakke and me about bXg and the upcoming Ex-Gay Survivor Conference. Her piece, Ex-gay not OK, tells some of the history of the bXg website and the thought behind it.
IN SPRING 2005, CHRISTINE Bakke contacted Toscano after attending one of his performances. The two struck a dialogue about their experiences, eventually deciding they wanted to do more to help others like them who “survived” their ex-gay experiences to finally embrace being gay.

The result of their talking is, a website that went online April 2 and shares stories of others who tried to become ex-gay but finally accepted themselves for who they are.
Christine and I talk about the upcoming conference, which will be held in Irvine, CA June 29-July 1, 2007, in the same city at the same time as Exodus' annual ex-gay conference.
"Our conference is a loving response to their message that to be acceptable to God, one has to change an inherent trait,” Bakke said. She spent more than four years trying to change her sexual orientation, including moving to Denver in 1998 and participating in an ex-gay program affiliated with Exodus.

“[Our conference] is our way to tell ex-gays, ‘You don’t have to do this to yourselves,’” she said.
Christine also talks about just how unique bXg is,
BAKKE SAID THAT is the first of its kind — most other ex-gay organizations are watchdog groups.

“Up to this point, the only ex-gay survivor group that existed was a small, almost defunct, Yahoo e-mail list. Ex-Gay Watch has done important work being a watchdog for the ex-gay movement, and I’m thankful they exist,” she said. “But it’s not a place where an ex-gay survivor can go to connect with other survivors, find support and healing, and work through the harm they’ve experienced.”
So have you visited bXg yet and signed up? Are you coming to the conference?

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Friday, May 18, 2007

It's About Heterosexism, Silly

Yesterday was IDAHO, the International Day Against Homophobia. I celebrated it here in Lund, Sweden at the Smålands Nation student group and did my Homo No Mo play to a packed house. I head off to Umeå in the North to do another presentation.

Exodus International president Alan Chambers wrote a blog entry in support of IDAHO (no not the US state of Idaho but the actual anti-homophobia day).
Today is the International Day Against Homophobia. And, you might be surprised to learn that I support this effort. Homophobia does exist. Irrational fear of those who are gay or lesbian is a real problem in our culture. While I believe we have come a long way, I still see true homophobia at work each and every day.
He concludes,

So, when it comes to the evils of homophobia, bullying, name calling, hatred and violence where those affected by homosexuality are concerned, I stand with all decent human beings who are fighting and praying for an end to the ignorance and ungodliness that cause them.
This is not the first time I heard an Exodus leader (current or former) speak about the mission to inform and reform the often anti-gay church. No doubt when an Exodus member goes into a church to give testimony of their dramatic deliverence from the gay lifestyle, in addition to depicting in details the horrors of that lifestlye, they do challenge some folks to think about gay people as not simply evil and sinful and worthless dangerous human beings.

Ex-gay leaders have confessed to me that they even experience homophobia at times within the churches they attend and the Christian organizations where they work with lots of straight people who either avoid them all together or treat them differently from "normal" men and women.

I imagine it gets confusing for some of the straight folks in the church when they hear messages about how wild and out of control gay people live in our unsaved state coupled with the exortations to treat LGB and maybe even T people a little bit better. This is especially true when leaders, like Alan, on the one hand state he stands "with all decent human beings who are fighting and praying for an end to the ignorance and ungodliness that cause" homophobic attacks, and on the other hand he publicly opposes hate crime legislation that would protect LGBT people (like it protects people attacked because of their religion.)

While I applaud Alan for taking a stand within the church and using his platform in order to point out the prejudice, fear and hatred that exists, in addition to the mixed messages he sends, I think he is missing the point, but then so many of us do when it comes to these issues. I spoke the other day before the screening of Fish Can't 'Fly and began my talk by saying,
Heterosexism has affected me much more deeply than homophobia.
I have never been physically attacked by a homophobe and only on a few occasions been verbally assaulted because I am gay, but I suffer the negative effects of heterosexism everyday. Heterosexism most simply defined is the belief that heterosexuality is the preferred, idealized norm for society and anything other is deviant, weird, dangerous and subversive. The people at Wikipedia put it this way,

Heterosexism is a predisposition towards heterosexual people. A related term is Sexual Prejudice, a negative attitude toward someone because of her or his sexual orientation. [1] This bias is not the same as Homophobia, but rather is the discrimination towards or against non-heterosexual behavior due to a cultural or sociobiological bias. Heterosexism suggests that the basis for this bias is not found in the individual per se but rather has a broader cultural or biological basis that results in weighted attitudes towards heterosexuality over other sexual orientations.

While homophobic attacks happen daily, heterosexism happens by the nano second. A young child gets the message over and over again in books, TV ads, teacher's examples and even heterosexually paired salt & pepper shakers, that anything other than heterosexual pairing is just not right. Growing up in such a world, with virtually no positive examples of same-sex couples, queer and questioning young people begin to develope a negative sense of self and can even grow quite isolated and suicidal within a society where they do not see themselves reflected or accepted.

Heterosexual privilege in our society makes it clear that some citizens are more valuable than others. This not only affects LGBT folks, but also unmarried heterosexuals, particularly women. McGill University's Equity Subcommittee on Queer People provides a list of how heterosexual privilege works. Of course most heterosexuals do not see these things as special privileges. They just seem normal. Ah, but if you are not heterosexual (or one practicing heterosexuality in a marriage or other romantic relationship) you sense the significance of these privileges. Here is the list of some heterosexual privileges. Heterosexuals...

  • Show affection in public safely and comfortably, without fear of harassment or violence
    Openly talk about one's partner and relationships to others without considering the consequences
  • Benefit from societal "normalcy": the assumption that heterosexual individuals and relationships are valid, healthy, and non-deviant
  • Assume that all people and relationships are heterosexual, unless otherwise known
  • Do not face rejection from one's family and friends because of one's sexual orientation or gender identity
  • Easily access positive role models and media images for one's gender identity and sexual orientation
  • Cannot be asked to speak on behalf of all heterosexuals
  • Use gender specific pronouns when referring to one's spouse or partner without discomfort or fear of reprisal
  • Have automatic recognition of one's spouse as next-of-kin in emergencies
  • Easily select reading or viewing materials in which heterosexuality is the predominantly reflected orientation
  • Have families similar to one's own represented in children's literature
  • Raise children without fear that they will be rejected or harassed by peers because of their parents' sexual orientation or gender identities
  • Receive support and validation from a religious community
  • Not risk being denied employment, housing, or other services because of one's sexual orientation or gender identity
  • Not be seen as needing therapy to "cure" one's sexual orientation or gender expression
  • Marry
Standing against name calling and violent acts against homosexuals (as we are known by some) sounds like a good thing for a religious leader to do. But when a leader like Alan Chambers also stands against hate crime legislation and marriage equality for lesbian and gay people, it reveals the hollowness of his words.

True, compared to folks like say, James Dobson or Jerry Falwell, Alan Chamber's words sound progressive and thoughtful, but words without actions, just like faith without works, and all sorts of fine sounding words without love are really dead, clanging, clashing gongs that do no more than distract and confuse and contribute to the problem.

UPDATE: Do you want to see heterosexism in action? I just read some comments over at Alan's blog, and Mike Ensley, the assistant to Exodus' Director of Student Ministries, wrote
The fact is, heterosexuality is innately superior. Only heterosexual partners enjoy the complimentary aspect of their physiology, and only they can produce children.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Never in Sweden, right?

I am in the lovely university city of Lund where they know me as Queerstand-up komiker och aktivist Peterson Toscano. I did a talk last night before they showed the film Fish Can't Fly. They said that that film has been the best attended event so far during the film festival.

Lots of people here say that ex-gay stuff doesn't happen in Sweden. They no longer have an Exodus affiliated program. Their ex-gay program doesn't say people can change, but rather they need to remain celebate. But all of these crazy things we do in the US do not happen here in Sweden. Or do they?

After my talk, I met a man who has been a Swedish Pentecostal minister for 30 years. He prayed, sought God, endured exorcisms and much more all in the attempt to change his same-sex desires or else get delivered from homosexuality. He is actually at the very start of his journey out of that closet and is not even ready to visit bXg. But he came to the talk and the movie.

During Fish Can't Fly there is a scene that I have always hated. It takes place in a gay charismatic church in Florida. I was charismatic/pentecostal for years. I went to churches where they lifted their hands, spoke in tongues, prophesied, cast out demons and got slain in the Holy Spirit. The primary reason I joined such a church was because after some years in the Evangelical non-charismatic church, I thought I needed more power from on high in order to drive out the darkness of my homosexuality.

So whenever I see the scene of this gay church with the same worship style, I cringe. I do not think I could ever go back to that sort of a church, even a gay one. But this pentecostal minister confided in me that when he saw that scene, he wept openly. He asked, can it be that I can worship like I do and still be open about my sexuality? So thank you Tom Murray for including that scene in your movie!

Church is not big here in Sweden, and folks like Jerry Falwell, who recently died in the US, are virtually unknown. As far as I could tell, there has been nothing mentioned in the national press about Falwell except for a short blurb in on-line edition of a printed paper. One person explained that the Swedes find comments by Falwell so outrageous that they would simply print nothing about him instead of giving him airspace.

A reporter e-mailed me to ask my reaction to Falwell's death. That is basically how I found out about it, through that e-mail and another from a fellow blogger. I bet if I hadn't checked my e-mails, I would not know.

I read how Falwell had died probably due to heart troubles. My immediate thought was, "If he were a vegan, I bet he would still be alive today."

Falwell is a product of the US and of the liberal policy regarding broadcasting licenses. In most countries in the world, it is extremely difficult to get airtime and especially difficult to own and operate TV and radio stations. In some places, far too difficult. But in the USA it is far too easy, and since the 1920's, evangelists have been spewing racist, sexist, homophobic, heterosexist, poltical garbage along with the Good News right into the homes and hearts of Americans looking for answers in a Post-Industrial and Post-Modern world.

The impact is far greater than most of us can imagine. The reach that many of these folks have had is unreal. Someone like Falwell should have been laughed off the scene a long time ago, but he had reach through his media arm. And sadly, in the US, if you talk, particularly with the authority of the scriptures and a broadcast license, they will listen. Get your photo taken with a few presidents, make some clever predictions, soak your message with fear, and you have yourself an audience who will lap up all the crap you have to dish out without thinking for themselves.

This sort of thing in Sweden is foreign. The concept is bizarre. I imagine the Religous Right, who for decades has pointed to Sweden as the bastion of all things liberal and wrong with the world, would LOVE to change all of that. But with folks like Åke Green and Fred Phelps stirring up trouble, one imagines the Swedes would see the insanity for what it is--hate, fear and lies.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Nytt Inläg in Lund

That's "New Post in Lund." I arrived in Lund, Sweden yesterday after a short flight from London to Copenhagen (thanks Esther for the ride and for sharing a bowl of coffee with me!) The last time I was in the university city of Lund with this past September. I visited twice on that trip. The first time was with the crew from the gay theatre troupe in Malmö. Then a few nights later I came with Alex & Noa for Kulturnatten.

This time I stay with a Quaker Friend, Janet and her husband, John, who is a professor at the university here in Lund (about 40,000 students). Today I have the day off to just chill, go to a cafe and do some writing then maybe see a film. Tomorrow I give a talk at their Gay & Lesbian film festival before they screen Fish Can´t Fly.

Thursday the student group, Smålands Nation, sponsors my performance of Homo No Mo at the university as part of IDAHO (International Day Against Homophobia). Then on Friday I fly up to Stockholm to meet up with Alex and also see Daniel (formerly of Malmö). Then it is off to the North to Umeä where I will hang out with Alex, Noa and their three children.

Right now it is 3.20 in the morning. Due to a combination of unresolved jet lag, too much fabulous Swedish coffee and a very entertaining dream about all the US presidental candidates, I am wide awake. (Oh, in my dream, similar to the famous question once asked to Bill Clinton about his pot smoking, where he admitted yes, he did but did not inhale, in my dream, all the candidates and their wives sit in on a cozy roundtable discussion and have to answer if they ever had a same-sex sexual encounter. The LOOK on Hillary´s face! Then there was this whole exchange between Hillary and Laura. Needless to say it got me laughing, which woke me up.)

Tonight I am thinking about the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference in Irvine this summer and what an amazing time it will be for so many of us who spend a great deal of time thinking and writing and talking about ex-gay experiences. As I spoke in Oxford Friends Meeting on Sunday, I shared how the work I do and the conference is not a direct attack on the Ex-Gay Movement.

In fact, some gay activists would most likely want us to come out harder against Exodus and others. But the hope is that by having survivors step up and tell some of their stories, we can tease out the more sublte points that will help to understand the many factors that may lead someone to enroll in an Exodus program and pursue change in other ways, in some cases, for decades.

The press and folks who do not know the issues too deeply, often make broad swipes at Exodus and ex-gays in general. I do believe that program leaders are responsible for the harm their programs cause, and I do believe that more harm than good come from most ex-gay experiences, but the bigger picture reveals that other players influence these issues, including the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer & Questioning (LGBTQQ aka the gAy,B,C´s) community.

During the Q&A at Oxford Meeting on Sunday, I shared some about my faith and my years in the ex-gay movement and in a church system that loved me unconditionally, well except for one strong condition. The audience contained lots of gay men in it along with some lesbians and no doubt bisexuals (the Invisibles as I have come to call them. Yeah, they too do exist), along with lots of straight folks.

After sharing some of my faith journey in response to a question about why I am still a Christian, one man asked, "Why do so many people use religion as a crutch?" (Which sounded to me like an opinion dressed up as a question). I shared how some of us are "wired for God" and just like our ancestors from the earliest days, we pursue a spiritual path of understanding and enlightenment and that for me to deny the God part of me, would be like those years that I denied the gay part of me.

I need to be authentic, and it would be illogical for me NOT to develop a spiritual practice and seek to know the divine. I also acknowleged that some (many?) do not feel the same way and do not understand why someone would choose a spiritual path, especially in light of the oppression many religions pratice. I concluded that I need to be honest about my spiritual path and be aware that much religion can control and hurt people, and that I must avoid those sorts of systems.

I thought about his question the next day in the shower, and considered how so many of us God-wired people have felt (and feel) like unwelcomed outsiders in the LGBTQQ community, especially when we run up against the anger and hurt and accusations we sometimes feel from people who do not share our experiences or interests in matters of faith. Yes, I know that the Church has been CRAP to most to us LGBTQQ folks, and I do not expect folks to embrace their oppressors. I understand that anything that looks and sounds and feels like that old time religion will not work for most (one of the reasons I joined the Quakers.)

But people of faith, Christian and otherwise, within the LGBTQQ community, often feel silenced and shut out by the hurt and the anger and the intolerance of folks who are either not wired for God or not interested. (Much like many of us felt shut out by the hurt and the anger and the intolerance of straight church folks. Hmmm, perhaps we learned it from them...) No wonder some LGBTQQ people of faith turn to an ex-gay program where they can both openly acknowlege their attractions for people of the same-sex along with their love for God.

It is easy to point the finger at Exodus and Focus on the Family and other groups that spread false messages about us as they promise "freedom". And yes, these groups and leaders need to be held accountable for their actions, particularly when they become aware that they harm people. But those of us in the LGBTQQ community need to also look at ourselves and question "How open and affirming are we?"

Do we love our own unconditionally or only as long as they line up with our politics, style and beliefs?

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Friday, May 11, 2007

The European Slippery Slope

Many years ago someone asked the all important and often annoying question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" To which I quickly replied, "I want to be a European."

An ex-gay program leader once challenged me that I was "too European," and this was especially bad since he believed many gay men in the USA aspire to the cool sophistication associated with Europeans. High fashion, Old World charm and baguettes--a recipe for disaster.

At age 17 I made my first trip to Europe as a proud member of the United States Collegiate Wind Band (I hated that name especially since I played the tuba). We toured England, France, Beligium, Austria and Germany. I loved every second of it (except for the asthma attack after being smothered by a delicious goose down duvet and sinking into goose down pillows), and wanted more and more.

Since that summer of wind banding it, I have returned to the UK and Europe at least 20 times, staying for as long as three months on two ocassions. So far since this time last year, I spent nearly three months in Europe and the UK. A second home?

Even my blog revels evidence that my life gets more and more wrapped up with wonderful, thoughtful, funny Europeans. Half of you folks who leave comments are from the UK and Sweden.

Yesterday I took yet another slide on the European slippery slope--I bought a mobile (translation--cell phone). Oh and it is lovely. So tiny you can swallow it. I can use it throughout Europe and in the US.

After meeting with Dave at Greenbelt and James Alison and Jeremy Marks and then this weekend with Esther and Contemplative Activist and next week with Anna HP and Alex, well, the mobile is quickly filling up with wonderful, thoughtful, funny Europeans.

Well, I am off to Oxfordshire for the weekend and then to Sweden on Monday. You can check out the schedule here.


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Ex-Gay Survivor Conference Fliers--Spread the Word

In order to help get the word out about the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference, Christine Bakke just posted a series of fliers we have created. Each flier is worded for a different audience we hope to draw to the conference--survivors, allies, clergy, mental health professionals.

We provide half page (8.5" x 5.5") fliers with versions in full color and black & white.

Check them out. I ask you to consider printing or e-mailing some of these out to folks who you think might be interested in coming to the conference.

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Happy Landing in London

I am sitting in the office of Courage UK with Jeremy Marks plowing through the score of e-mails he has to answer after being out of the office for the day. Many not the same sort of deluge that Exodus gets daily (see Fuzzy Ex-Gay Math), but it keeps Jeremy busy.

He just read me a wonderfully hilarious article from NewsBiscuit, a UK version of The Onion

Homosexual turns straight after 'good talking to' from father
A young man has publicly announced his intention to become heterosexual despite having been openly gay for several years. Adam Denver said the decision came after a ‘serious bit of lecturing’ from his father. ‘He just sat me down and gave it to me straight. No-one likes a poof, Son,’ recounted Adam; ‘Once he put it like that, I suddenly saw the light
Read the rest for yourself; it's loads of fun.

My flight to London last night went smoothly. I flew Virgin Atlantic. Always wanted to do so, but alas I was not impressed. The vegan meal was insipid. The service was so-so. I have to say their entertainment system outshines anything I have ever seen. Tons of movies, TV programs and muisc to choose from, all self directed with the ability to pause, fast forward and rewind. As it was only a 5.5 hour flight and I had to sleep, I did not partake in the wonders of it.

Today I hang out with Jeremy and then over to Waterloo Station to meet up with Michael, my host. Tomorrow I meet up with a friend from Scotland, then I head over to the offices of Greenbelt to talk about this summer's festival, then hopefully I grab a coffee with James Alison, if we can get our schedules to match up.

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

More Ex-Gay Survivor Stories

Christine and I have been getting so many e-mails from people sharing their ex-gay experiences. (thank you!) We have posted some of these on bXg and others will be there over the next few weeks. Here are two narratives we recently posted.

“What a pathetic mess,” I thought as I listened to him cry and boast about another one of his secret sexual encounters behind stall doors, public parks, health clubs, chat rooms, and bath houses. Here I was again at another Dallas ex-gay meeting, with a bunch of weenies in the back of the Church of Christ. The 20-something members of my group sat in a circle around a chair-less, pale-yellow room giving accounts of our madness.

I look back now and my heart breaks for these men, confused and tormented by their natural need. But the thousands of men and women in these groups aren’t weenies at all. By one means or another they have taken the first step in coming out of denial about their orientation, usually at the risk of losing many people they thought were friends.
Read more of Brock's Narrative
As the former wife of a Southern Baptist Music Minister, a devoted stay-at-home mom of two boys, women’s ministry leader, and church soloist, my life seemed picture perfect from the outside. But, a much different picture was painted underneath. For years I had known that I was a lesbian, but to actually acknowledge that fact to anyone, including myself, was not an option. I certainly could never go to God with such a revelation!! I maintained a life of secrecy and shame.
Read more of Jodi's Narrative
You can read other narratives here.

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Heading Off

Sitting here in Newark Airport getting ready to board my Virgin Atlantic flight to London where Jeremy Marks will meet me in the morning and then I will spend a few days with the fabulous Michael Rutland.

I feel so excited about this trip to Europe where I will see some folks who have become dear dear friends in Sweden and the UK as well as get to see my brother and his wife in Madrid.

AND I got a free ride to the airport (which is about three hours from my home). Turns out a popular news programs wanted to interview me for an upcoming show (probably in June and as soon as I know the details, I will post them). They scheduled me to come today, so early this morning the car turned up to take me to the studio in NYC and then to the airport (which I have turned into my personal office as I plow through my inbox as well as write letters the old fashioned way.)

I feel thrilled that Steve Boese has updated my performance page on my site. Check it out! Thanks Steve.

Okay, more blogging later.


Saturday, May 05, 2007

What About the Parents?

When someone chooses to enter an ex-gay program like Love in Action (LIA), if they mean to or not, they often bring other people along with them--partners, friends, and in many cases, parents.

Ex-gay leaders have typically pointed to the parents as the probable cause for a homosexual child. How many of us have heard things like, "You're mother was overbearing and your father was emotionally distant."

The program leaders and ex-gay spokespeople pieced together the profile of what made us homosexual. They provided us with a template that insisted that serious dysfunction must have occurred in the home, and even when we insisted that things were fine at home, they questioned us further and suggested that we were in denial.

I have heard horror stories from lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people who have told me how program leaders targeted their parents, and in so doing, drove a wedge between parent and child. (see Jeff's story in a previous post) In some cases the leaders misused their power and even coerced participants to confront parents about past events sometimes even hinting at unspoken abuses.

No one has perfect parents, and parents and their adult children need to talk about past hurts and family issues, but often without any trained counselors, after only a few days of group therapy, ex-gay program leaders have pushed parents and their sons and daughters into conflict and crisis. The "therapy" sessions have caused a deep rift in the relationships and have wounded the parents. The parents left feeling confused, condemned and brokenhearted.

On their web site Love in Action announces one of their newest programs,
We are excited to present a concentrated four-day course designed for parents with teens struggling with same-sex attraction, pornography, and/or promiscuity.
On a recent road trip with my dad I asked him what it was like when he and my mom came to Memphis for the Family and Friends Weekend at LIA, a concentrated family encounter. Here is some of what he said.
We went to the meeting and had no idea of what we were going into. We met a lot of parents in the same category. Lots of kids had no parents there.

Everything seemed to be on the up and up at first. Yeah, but we found out these things aren't so. I said to them, "You can't change a zebra's stripes." They didn't go along with me, and they were very aggravated with me for saying so. Some people go through two colleges and they don't have common sense. I hate when people keep things locked up.

They made me feel that I failed you. That's how I felt after they got through with me. That's how they made all the parents feel.
Years after I left LIA and I began to write my play, I interviewed my younger sister, Maria, about that time. What she told me broke my heart. She said that when our parents returned home from the Family and Friends Weekend, they were devastated. They didn't eat right or look right. They acted sad and depressed. This went on for weeks. My sister felt so concerned that she actually called Love in Action and asked, "What did you do to my parents?!" She felt frustrated by the lack of concern or comprehension she encountered from the staff.

Before my mother died this past September, I apologized to her for my part in dragging her and my dad through the horror of that weekend at LIA and the subsequent ones. She appreciated hearing that, but even in her last letter to me, she still questioned herself as a parent, questions that I know arose in large part because of her time spent at LIA.

(photos of my parents, Pete and Anita Toscano and my sister, Nardina, I was in my mom's belly in that photo)

After an e-mail from Jim Burroway, who will present at The Ex-Gay Survivor Conference, and his experience at the Focus on the Family Love Won Out Conference, I thought I would provide a link for parents to my post, Can My Gay Child Change?

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

A Conference for Ex-Gay Survivors & Allies

What: The Ex-Gay Survivors Conference: Undoing the Damage, Affirming our Lives Together
When: June 29-July 1, 2007
Where: University of California at Irvine (Orange County nearly Los Angeles)

For Survivors:

Many LGBT people have had ex-gay experiences. We don't always talk about them, but for a time they shaped a large part of lives and even today may affect the ways we see ourselves and the world around us. Ex-gay experiences come in many forms from dressing and acting in more gender normative ways to actually attending ex-gay programs or receiving therapy.

The reasons we pursued these experiences are myriad and often stem from the heterosexism we faced since early childhood. Also, some of us suffered from unresolved abuse, sexual addiction, low self-esteem or dysfunctional relationships and sought help in all the wrong places only compounding our problems.

As people who now embrace our sexual orientation and identity, we have not always had the opportunity to unpack that time in our lives when we tried to change who we were. Why did we do it? Why did some of us seek out help from "professionals" and why did some of us go it alone? What harm did it caused? What good, if any, came of it? How does it affect us today?How does this ex-gay past effect our current relationships with others and ourselves?

The Ex-Gay Survivor Conference will give us a chance to explore these issues, to meet with other survivors, to process our stories through art and talk and interactive workshops. For many it will give us a chance to find closure to a time in our life that we often keep shut up in the closet we once inhabited. It will also be a chance to share with fellow survivors the many ways we have moved beyond our ex-gay experiences to develop into the healthy people we have become and are becoming.

For Allies
Focus on the Family rolls into your community with their anti-gay Love Won Out conference which promotes ex-gay reparative therapy and "change" programs. Or through one of your friends you just find out that an ex-gay program has been operating in your community for years and you had no idea.

As a concerned citizen you wish to respond, but how?
Sometimes when attempting to stand up for decency and social justice, well-meaning allies to the LGBT community and to ex-gay survivors have unwittingly created further trauma to ex-gay survivors as well as complications in the delicate work of on-going activism. While many ex-gay survivors have appreciated the activist efforts and the outcry of allies opposed to the Ex-Gay Movement, some of the people most effected by harmful ex-gay experiences see that allies can play an even more powerful role.

Becoming an effective ally requires passion, commitment and a willingness to explore an array of issues as we dialogue with the people we seek to support. The Ex-Gay Survivor conference will bring together both ex-gay survivors and the people who care about them in order to look closely at the Ex-Gay Movement and the many ways we can respond to the harm caused by ex-gay experiences.

A special allies' tract of lively interactive workshops will look at the history and ideology of the Ex-Gay Movement as well as specific strategies that allies can take to do something about the incursion of the anti-gay movement into LGBT communities and the homes of LGBT youth. Allies will also get to share the knowledge and techniques they have gained through their own efforts on-line, in the media, in religious settings and in the community.

You see the harm that ex-gay experiences have caused and you have a heart to do something about it. The Ex-Gay Survivor Conference is for you.

So, what are you waiting for, go ahead and register! Check out the schedule and for more info visit Beyond Ex-Gay.

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Ex-Gay Survivor, Darlene Bogle Speaks Out

This from the folks over at God & Gays:
Hi there! Join ex gay survivor and author Darlene Bogle as the next guest on the God, Gays & You Live Interview Series this Thursday, May 3rd 5pm Pacific/8pm Eastern. Sponsored by the hit documentary, God & Gays: Bridging the Gap, listen in live while we get the scoop on how Darlene lead an Exodus group for 15 years to turn around and survive and so much more. We'll also talk about if you or someone you know is struggling or involved in ex gay programs, what you can do to support and help them in a much healthier and spiritually healing way. Darlene is a featured speaker at the Beyond Ex Gay Conference in June so get on the call and get to know her.

Since this topic is rarely openly discussed, you never know who you could be helping by forwarding this email around to your networks and lists. Invite 10 people you know to be on the call and we look forward to being you then.

Call in information:
Be sure to call in a few minutes early to get in, there's a limited number of phone lines available!
Thursday, May 3rd 5p Pacific/8p Eastern (one hour)
1-641-297-5800 (Iowa)

Participant Access Code: 29862

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Faith Under Fire Uploaded

Two years ago Alan Chambers and I appeared on the TV program Faith Under Fire on the PAX TV network. The show, hosted by Lee Strobel, has since gone off the air. This conservative Christian-based talk show attempted to take on the issue of the Ex-gay Movement.

Recently I found some old video tape of it (which must have melted a bit in my attic crawl space where I stash this stuf so that sound and video are a little funky), and with my highly technical equipment, I uploaded the first half of the segment on YouTube. If you want the second half, I can upload it too.

The transcript on of the program can be found over on Ex-Gay Watch.

(oh and I LOVE the ads for other PAX TV programs--Xtreme Fakeovers! Cold Turkey 2--oh, the irony)

Okay here is Part Two (wow and I got a visit from Disputed Mutability with a comment!)

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Praised and Dazed

Yes, I realize it has been several days since I blogged. Over the weekend I co-led a retreat for BGLQT Quakers (I like to to mix up the letters) with my Friend Judy, an amazing bisexual, artistic, singing therapist (just to name a few of her labels). The retreat turned out to be very centered and spiritual, AND I survived a weekend without my cell phone and Internet access (but I did have a dream about AIMing)

Yesterday I spent much of the day with some filmmakers working on a journalistic documentary about the ex-gay movement. I know I encourage lots of folks to share their stories, but I so easily forget how exhausting it is to do so. Being honest, vulnerable and present throughout the telling can knock the wind out of us.

After the filmmakers left, I decided I would not go on-line and answer the 250+ e-mails waiting for me. I would not start reading The Transcended Christian, a book a publisher sent me to review. I would not go on-line to work on bXg or the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference. Instead I made a pot of sweet brown rice and watched a silly movie. Then I slept 10 hours. Telling our stories can be so rewarding and so exhausting.
So please as you tell yours, take care of yourself.

I am home for three days before I head out to Denver for the weekend to present at the Liberty Education Forum, "a non-partisan foundation that conducts educational programs, grassroots training, and research on gay and lesbian issues. The Liberty Education Forum’s mission focuses on gaining new allies for equality among conservatives and people of faith."

Going through my many e-mails as I sit in the library today, I read one with the subject: For your blog or wherever.
Zan Gibbs from the Portland-based Sexually Minority Youth Resource Center (SMYRC) wrote,
SMYRC, the Sexual Minority Youth Resource Center, in Portland Oregon has had the ultimate pleasure not once, but twice now, of being blessed with the presence and performance of Peterson Toscano.

My job at SMYRC for the last ten years, has been advocacy, support, leadership development and counseling for Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans… LGBTQQIPAA… youth….. 23 and under. But my real job here is cutting and dying hair, and working the sound system for the drag queens. Needless to say for Peterson’s sound, I was front row for both shows (and the sound still wasn’t perfect!).

This is what I learned: the LGBTQQIPAA alphabet we have here right now is too long, and queer is to iffy, so we now use Peterson’s “Gay B C’s”… much better. I also learned that if we are going to spell out the whole alphabet soup, we need to add the H, because Heteroflexible is my new favorite word.

I’ve worked with this population for over 10 years, and very few things captivate their attention for more than 30 minutes, and make them howl with laughter to boot. Peterson had them focused and cackling away in their seats for over an hour each time. I think collectively Peterson has now earned 392 crushes from SMYRC. We love him.
Is he married?
If I could marry an organization, it would be SMYRC. They take such good care of their participants and create a safe and fun place.

So with a special warm glow from Zan's words, I go return to the pile of e-mails in my inbox.

Oh, I am listening to an amazing album by genderqueer singer/songwriter namoli brennet. Get it; it's amazing.

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