Saturday, June 30, 2007

Dinner with Some Exodus Leaders

Some of you know that Christine Bakke and I sent out an invitation to Exodus leaders to have dinner with some ex-gay survivors. The dinner happened last night and was sponsored by Beyond Ex-Gay and Soulforce. Here is a copy of the invitation. I have received several messages from people wanting to know:
Did you have a meeting with Exodus leaders last night?
Did they accept your invitation?
What happened????
Christine and I told the three Exodus leaders present for our dinner last night here in Irvine, CA that we would not blog about the details or even mention their names. If they wish to blog about it, that is fine and welcome, but not necessary. In seeking dialog we need to develop trust and know that every word we say will not end up out on the web.

Three leaders of Exodus member ministries joined four of us ex-gay survivors for dinner. No one from Exodus International senior leadership or from the Exodus board attended the dinner, and those present for the dinner stressed that they do not represent Exodus International.

Beside Christine and me, two college students attended the meeting, Vincent Cervantes and Vincent Pancucci, both from California. These two are partners and met while students at Azusa Pacific University, a Christian school. They both received ex-gay therapy through their church and at the school.

The format of the dinner was simple. We shared our stories about our ex-gay experiences and the challenges and difficulties we faced in large part because of these experiences. We also answered questions and then we all discussed some of the issues raised. The Exodus leaders present listened respectfully and answers thoughtful and insightful questions. They took copious notes and said that they would report back to Alan Chambers. After the dinner some of the Exodus leaders came to my show at UC Irvine.

Overall I felt very pleased with the dinner and the opportunity to share our ex-gay experiences and that for us they caused more harm than good.

Alan Chambers did respond to our invitation via e-mail and expressed interest but stated that he did not have the time during this week but was interested in meeting at a later date.

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Friday, June 29, 2007

Arriving at the Ex-Gay Survivors Conference

Last night waiting at the elevator here in the hotel a woman ,also waiting, looked at me. I looked at her. We recognized each other although we had never met. But we somehow knew we were in Irvine for the same thing. She ran over to me, hugged me and told me her story.

She was looking for something on Google a week ago and found bXg and the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference. She said to herself, "I need to be there". And here she is all the way from Texas. She told a tale of parents and siblings who constantly tortured her because she is lesbian and that she can't stand suppressing her sexuality any longer. She has cried everyday since Mother's Day and she says she is ready for healing.

Although the conference doesn't officially kick off until tonight, people are arriving. I met Anthony Venn Brown from Australia. Jeremy Marks is here from England. Folks from Colorado and Florida and New York. Although the fortune telling arm of Focus on the Family yesterday prophesied, "a counter-conference drew about 100 people," we are only just beginning to draw and will continue to draw all weekend long.

Early this evening Christine and I and two other survivors will meet for a private dinner with a handful of leaders from Exodus member ministries. No senior member of the Exodus International staff or board has arranged meetings with any of the conference organizers. At this point no national Exodus staff member will come to the dinner citing that they are not free to do so. As we stated in the past, the dinner is a private affair without reporters. We will not announce the names of those from Exodus who attended or the details that we discussed.

In the lobby of the hotel some people who knew of each other for years met in person for the first time. People who attended ex-gay ministries together years ago connected for the first time in decades and caught up on the years since that time when they tried to change and suppress their sexuality.

People are arriving and the joy and the hope they exude centers me from all of the details swirling in my mind. After a week of press appearances and witnessing the dishonesty and outright slander from some Christian leaders, these folks arriving at the conference remind me once again that this is not about politics or protest; it is about people. We are about pastoral care, not propaganda.

What will we be doing? Check out the conference schedule!

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Misinformation, Outright Lies and Our Response

The schedule for the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference is now up! I am so excited about so many of the activities, especially the film forum (where we will have a very special announcement to make).

Steve Boese, our web master, has been working very hard to keep the conference page updated with the latest news and links to media and blogs.

He just posted a the response Christine Bakke and I have to an erroneous Focus on the Family Citizenlink article about the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference. Focus wrote:

Exodus Conference Offers Hope to Hundreds

The 32nd annual Exodus International conference is underway in Irvine, Calif., and God is at work.

"We've already seen an amazing turnout, amazing response, amazing speakers," said Randy Thomas, executive vice president of Exodus. "The Lord has really done a great work so far in the conference."

The meeting, which began Tuesday and wraps up Sunday, has drawn close to 1,000 people — and no protesters so far. Across town, a counter-conference drew about 100 people. Thomas and Exodus President Alan Chambers are working to set up talks with the other conference leaders.

"We are always in ongoing communication with people who disagree with us, people with similar testimonies," Thomas said. "We definitely will be in communication with them."

Exodus leaders will recognize the obvious error in the article: Early registration for the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference does not begin until Friday evening, and regular registration will be Saturday morning. No one knows yet what the attendance figures will be.

We must admit our frustration on reading this account of the two conferences.

In framing the community web site, and planning the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference, we have been clear: We will speak plainly and directly about our ex-gay experiences. From the beginning, we have recognized that even though our ex-gay experiences caused us more harm than good, that was not the intent of ex-gay leaders. We have invited Exodus leaders to hear our stories in private, while publicizing the invitation to give all Exodus leaders an opportunity to respond.

We understand that interactions between formerly ex-gay people and the leaders of the ministries they attended have often been contentious, or political, or angry, or simply nonexistent. As a result, we have carefully considered each step leading up to and since inviting ex-gay leaders to hear our stories.

The survivor conference has been co-located with the Exodus conference to facilitate dialogue. It is intentionally distinct from the Exodus in a number of ways; however, it has not been staged as a political or competitive protest.

Our purpose is to serve the needs of former ex-gays, their families, friends, and supporters. The experiences of former ex-gays and their allies have often been mischaracterized and their needs misunderstood. Identifying those needs and moving forward together as a community will happen on its own terms, not as a reaction to or a protest of Exodus.

In response to our attempts to be transparent about our plans and intent, we have been mischaracterized as a protest movement, as seeking to steal hope from ex-gays, and now had our attendance quantified more than a day prior to the conference opening.

We look forward to sitting down with a small handful of Exodus leaders to share a meal and tell our stories Friday evening.

We look forward to hearing a specific affirmative response to our invitation for dialogue with senior Exodus leaders.

We continue to challenge ourselves to move carefully, respond humbly, and not bear false witness as we interact with Exodus.

We look forward to a similar effort in response from Focus on the Family and Exodus International.

Christine Bakke and Peterson Toscano

Ex-gay survivors and co-founders of

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Apologies, Reflections and Advice

So much ex-gay news on the blogs, TV and print media this week in large part because of the conferences taking place this week in Irvine where people with ex-gay experiences get to meet up and share their experiences. The Ex-Gay Survivor Conference begins tomorrow and Exodus' Freedom Conference is already in full swing.

Yesterday bXg along with Soulforce organized a press conference at the LA LGBT Community center where three former Exodus leaders publicly apologized for their roles in ex-gay ministry.

Jeremy Marks, former head of Exodus Europe stated,
Perhaps I should take this opportunity first to say how sorry I am, and to ask forgiveness from all my fellow Gay, Lesbian Bisexual and Trans-gendered people who might be listening to this—for my part in colluding with the religious right in the Western world. Though at the time we did not see it this way, our collusion involved setting up and maintaining an oppressive anti-gay, and I must also say equally anti-Christian view of homosexuality, that profoundly dishonors Jesus Christ and has betrayed the Gospel.
He then went on to outline more of his own journey of moving past ex-gay ministry into his current role at Courage UK, an LGBT-affirming Christian group in the UK.

Michael Busse, one of the original founders of Exodus shared some of the realities he witnessed during his time at Exodus recounting the good and the bad.
I need to say that some had a positive, life-changing experience attending our Bible studies and support groups. They experienced God’s love and the welcoming fellowship of others who knew the struggle. There were some real “changes”—but not one of the hundreds of people we counseled became straight.

Instead, many of our clients began to fall apart – sinking deeper into patterns of guilt, anxiety and self-loathing. Why weren’t they “changing”? The answers from church leaders made the pain even worse: “You might not be a real Christian.” “You don’t have enough faith.” “You aren’t praying and reading the Bible enough.” “Maybe you have a demon.” The message always seemed to be: “You’re not enough. You’re not trying hard enough. You don’t have enough faith.”
Darlene Bogle gave a moving apology that got a number of people in the audience crying during the press conference. CNN showed some of the footage on the Paula Zahn Show last night.
My heart was in the right place, but my message was not. I apologize to those individuals and families who believed my message that change was necessary to be acceptable to God. In recent years I have seen the resulting damage from rejection, shame, and conditional love. I apologize for my part in presenting a God of conditional love, and ask forgiveness for the message of broken truth I spoke on behalf of Exodus.
Christin Bakke, one of the ex-gay survivors present at the press conference shares some of her feelings over at her blog.
What I didn’t count on was the emotion I felt when I reached out to accept the letter. Sometimes these kind of symbolic gestures can feel staged, but it made an emotional impact on me and I felt myself tearing up as we shook hands and hugged Darlene, Michael and Jeremy. It was moving and healing to hear an apology for the harm and damaging messages that I received.
Eric over at Two World Collision also attended the press conference and blogs about it here. The LA Times covered the story in today's paper which you can read here.

Cybersocket is not a magazine that I imagined would write about the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference or the issues surrounding it (they mostly write about gay porn!) but they published a long and well researched article about the conference. It includes lots of quotes from many of the people involved and digs deeper than most other articles I read.

Jim Farmer, the author of the piece asked me what advice I would give someone who is considering going into the ex-gay movement.
“If someone tells me they want to be straight or try an ex-gay program, I encourage them to take time and really think about the reasons why they want to do this,” he says. “On the surface they may point to a few Bible verses and talk about the conflict between their faith and sexuality, but often if they take the time they will unearth other strong motivating factors that influence them. I ask them to consider the benefits to being perceived as straight. Does the world they live in receive them more enthusiastically? Is their job more secure? Does their family feel more comfortable? Do doors open for them to serve in their church? This may all be true but it indicates that the motivation to change is primarily to please others on the outside and not coming from a genuine inward desire to change. The weight of the world pressures many of us to straighten ourselves up and live a ‘normal’ life, but at what cost and who really benefits in the end?”
Finally, Daniel Gonzales, who also attended the press conference (and took me to Laguna Beach's Boom Boom Room last night) shot some video of the three former ex-gay leaders and posted it over at Box Turtle Bulletin. He asked them about change, and if when they were ex-gay, did they believe they had changed.

Michael Bussee

Darlene Bogle

Jeremy Marks

Daniel also shot video of me answering the same question which you can view here.

Today we have a big planning day as we finalize the preparations for the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference. The key to our conference is that it will be an interactive event where participant will not simply sit in lectures and hear from experts. Instead we will facilitate multiple activities designed to help participants unpack the ex-gay experience.

So how am I feeling in all of this? (I mean this is a blog so a certain amount of navel gazing is required). Not sure, still stressed as there is so much to do (and I am off to Friends General Conference on Sunday morning for a week leading a workshop for some cool high schoolers). I feel sad at how defensive Alan Chambers has sounded in press reports. I know that it may come as a blow for former leaders to publicly apologize for the damage they feel they caused as a result of the ex-gay ministry they practiced and that our conference here in Irvine the same week as Exodus' may seem like an affront and even harassment. But this is not our intention.

While in Love in Action we were regularly encouraged to monitor our feelings, particularly when we felt defensive. I have found the practice helpful through the years. By asking the questions, "What is behind this feeling? Why do I feel defensive? Is there something for me to look at here?" I was able to unearth issues that I needed to address, areas of my life and actions that were not in order.

I feel sad that some people feel attacked because we say that ex-gay experiences caused more harm than good. Not only did they not work, they are not necessary for us. Even Exodus itself says that at least 70% of the people that go through their doors cannot succeed in meeting the standards set before them. (and this is without any formal research so may be a conservative estimate). I feel sad because Exodus as an organization has aggressively attack lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans by speaking out against marriage equality and hate crime legislation. Don't they see they are attacking us, seeking to deny us rights and speaking untruths about us.

If someone feels they cannot embrace their same-sex attractions and wish to live a celibate life or even a straight lifestyle, they have every right to do so. Some of us who are gay also are celibate as we wait for a life partner. Some people are bisexual and can successfully negotiate a heterosexual marriage. But for most of us this was not possible and in fact the pursuit of such a life nearly destroyed us.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Former Exodus Leaders Publicly Apologize

Today in LA three former Exodus leaders publicly apologized for their involvement in the ex-gay movement. Darlene Bogle, Michael Bussee and Jeremy Marks each shared their own personal statements and then Michael read out the shared statement. They signed the apology and presented it to ex-gay survivors who were present at the press conference.
Statement of Apology from Former Exodus Leaders
Issued by Darlene Bogle, Michael Bussee, and Jeremy Marks
June 27, 2007

As former leaders of ex-gay ministries, we apologize to those individuals and families who believed our message that there is something inherently wrong withvbeing gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. Some who heard our message were compelled to try to change an integral part of themselves, bringing harm to themselves and their families. Although we acted in good faith, we have since witnessed the isolation, shame, fear, and loss of faith that this message creates. We apologize for our part in the message of broken truth we spoke on behalf of Exodus and other organizations.

We call on other former ex-gay leaders to join the healing and reconciliation process by adding their names to this apology.

We encourage current leaders of ex-gay programs to have the courage to evaluate the fruit of their programs. We ask them to consider the long-term effects of their ministry. and Soulforce organized the press conference, and we worked with the leaders for the past few weeks as they revisited their ex-gay pasts and recounted the good and the harm of ex-gay ministry. The whole experience was very moving.

We felt pleased to have representation from the public and the press. CNN, the local ABC News, Azteca America TV (Spanish) as well as Here TV each shot the event and reporters from the Advocate, LA Times and Frontier Magazine and the Orange County NPR affiliate covered it. I did an interview in Spanish for Azteca that will air nationally tonight.

Here is moving video of Micheal Bussee up over at Box Turtle Bulletin

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Ex-Gay Survivor Conference--Some Buzz

The Colorado Confidential paper published a great two part interview with Christine Bakke, the fabulous co-founder of (bXg). The article goes through some of her own personal history as an ex-gay, but more importantly her process of coming out of the ex-gay movement, moving beyond the hurt and the silence to becoming a national presence as a lesbian ex-gay survivor. Part One and Part Two

Steve Boese, the web master extrodinaire over at bXg put out a call to bXgers to share what the conference means to them. We have begun to get some powerful responses which Steve has begun to post.

David F. from Dallas writes,

I found out about the conference only last week, and immediately booked it.

I spent 8 years in ex-gay ministries, reparative therapy, and aversion therapy and finally left after a suicide attempt.

My involvement in these groups has affected every area of my life, from my belief in God to my ability to create trusting friendships and relationships. I have come a long way, but have a long way yet to go.

I'm looking forward to meeting other survivors, hearing their stories, and perhaps sharing my own story. By going to the conference, I also hope to show my support for my fellow "ex-ex-gays" and the organizations that support us.

If you are able to attend the conference or not, we would love to hear from you and what this conference means to you.

For regularly updates about the conference, to see what is happening in the media and to read what others are saying on the blogs, visit the bXg Conference page

Most of the organizers are in Irvine today to work on the preparation for the conference. I finally got to meet the wonderful Pat Walsh, director of the LGBT resource center at UC Irvine. She is actually retiring and ending her time after 23 years of service by co-sponsoring the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference with bXg and Soulforce. She never had an ex-gay experience but stands as a strong ally who has witnessed some of the damage on students she has met through the years.

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Doin' Time in West Hollywood

Ah, in sunny LA where I presented a show with Momma this morning at WeHo Church. It is our Dragged Out of the Spiritual Closet piece we did at True Colors this year. This time our audience was mostly gay Christian men (with a smattering of women and a German TV crew that has been stalking me since Friday).

After service we all headed off to The Abbey for some drinks, snacks and chatting. Momma, being the big Hollywood big shot, was immediately shown to the best table in the house and given a bunch of free munchies. Glamor has its perks.

Since I was first visited the Abbey last year with my long lost buddy Joe and filmed my first vlog entry there, I thought I would take out the camera and shoot some more video and photos.

1. Daniel Gonzales, Timothy Kincaid and Me
2. Daniel and Momma
3. Momma and Me before our show (I'm playing Dr. Rev. Meadows)
4. Momma momentarily pissed (she got over it right away; she's classy that way)

Oh, and Nathan, the cute guy who appears in the video next to Momma showed me the following video. Pretty much the funniest five seconds of video you will see.

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Ex-Gay in New York City

Many believe that only people living in the rural South in the USA have tried to change or suppress their attractions for people of the same sex. They also believe that in order to do so, people enrolled (or were forced to attend) treatment camps at some undisclosed location.

In my quest to straighten myself out I did ultimately end up at a residential center on a farm right outside of Memphis, TN. But before that I spent the vast majority of my ex-gay life in New York going anywhere I could to find the elusive cure to my gayness.

In my mind I simply desired to stop sinning in body and in mind. There never was a shortage of ministers out there who tried to help me. Most of those who attempted to fix me were not officially part of the Ex-gay Movement.

In fact, I imagine that the vast majority of people who attempt to change or suppress their sexuality do so without the assistance of Exodus, NARTH, JONAH, Courage, Evergreen or any of the other ex-gay groups out there. Most people do it on their own, with the help of ex-gay books, discipleship programs, ministers, prayer, fasting, and sheer willpower.

Jared over at Musings of a Confused Man visted bXg's conference news page and wrote about his own self-directed journey:
I do not consider myself an ex-gay. I never went to therapy. I never joined any of the various organizations or support groups that loosely make up the ex-gay movement. The closest I ever came to the ex-gay movement was to read a book written to help people "come out of homosexuality." Beyond that, I merely prayed for God to change my attractions and asked friends to do likewise.

However, I do think I understand the kind of self-loathing and sense of frustration that drives a person to undergo such therapy. After all, those were the same feelings that motivated my own solitary struggle. (Truth be told, I'm not entirely sure why I didn't try ex-gay therapy.) I can understand how the need to change can be so intense when you believe that your value as a person, moral integrity, and happiness all hinge on overcoming same-sex attractions. I can understand being willing to do almost anything to rescue yourself from that. And I know the kind of emotional and spiritual damage you can do to yourself while operating from that mindset.
I can so relate to the mindset that he describes. I would (and did) anything no matter how crazy it sounded from--exorcisms to two years in a "camp". I remained determined to get right with God and get to the bottom of my gayness.

Many people who come to the Ex-Gay Survivors Conference will most likely relate to Jared as well. We didn't just go to Exodus for help. We found many roads on our ex-gay journey.

This weekend the NY Blade published an opinion piece I wrote about my ten year ex-gay existence in NYC:
Growing up in the straight world that was Sullivan County Catskills (which today is gayer than Greenwich Village), I moved to New York City after a stint at a small suburban Christian college, which found me far too gay for its campus. From the ages of 19 to 29, I was desperate to resolve the struggles between my same-sex attractions and my faith.

I joined a small church in the Upper West Side where they lifted hands, spoke in tongues, and counseled me to replace my evil desires with the Word of God. I endured two exorcisms, attended seminars, let preachers lay hands on me, and dove head first into a weekly ex-gay support group. I fought temptation every day (not always successfully), and felt healed enough to marry my best friend, a sister from the church.
You can read the rest of the piece here.

As we gather this week in Irvine with people from as far away as Australia, England and NYC, we will unpack our pasts, the motivations behind our actions to change and suppress our sexuality, the good we gained from our efforts, and the harm that affects some of us even today. I spent the past 4 1/2 years of doing my Homo No Mo play and speaking and blogging and receiving some counseling to help make sense of the years I spent as an ex-gay.

But many folks have felt they never had the opportunity to explore this part of their lives that was once so huge for them. I look forward to meeting these folks this week as we seek to undo the damage and affirm our lives together.

Note the photo of is of me "officially coming out of the closet" :-)

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

It's About People--Not Protest

Yesterday Exodus issued their reaction to the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference. Focus on the Family's Citizen Link Daily Update refers to our conference and states.
Just a mile down the road, gay activists, co-sponsored by the University of California - Irvine, have scheduled a counter-conference at which some people will claim they were hurt by ex-gay organizations.
Exodus Executive Vice President Randy Thomas weighs in,
"We live in a great country where people can have freedom of assembly," he said. Unfortunately, the organizers of the counter-conference will "try to project their experience onto all of us, when in fact thousands of people, myself included, have overcome homosexuality."
In casting us as protesters and minimizing the scope of the organizers to a local group in Irvine, CA, Exodus not only knowingly misinforms people, they also miss the point. Sponsored by Soulforce, as well as the LGBT Resource Center at the University of California in Irvine (not the university itself), the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference serves as much more than a counter-conference.

Christine addresses this very well her blog as she outlines the purpose of the conference,
Our message that there is healing and wholeness for those who have felt alienated from their faith, from God, and from family because of a lack of change in orientation is a message of hope. We're saying that those who have suffered because of their ex-gay experiences are not alone, and a wonderful life and healthy relationships can be theirs, in contradiction to what many of us have heard from Focus on the Family and Exodus.
Our gathering next week is about people, not protest. It's about pastoral care, not propaganda.

For the past 4 1/2 years I've traveled throughout North America and Europe telling my story at universities, churches, theaters, community centers and homes. As a result, I got to hear lots of other stories. In e-mails and one-on-one, people have told me about the loss and the trials they have faced as a result of pursuing what they were told was God's will for their lives--a course of suppressing their same-sex attractions and their personalities in order to no longer be gay or lesbian (or bisexual or transgender).

These stories pulled at me saying that more needs to be done to help survivors find clarity and direction after they experienced so much loss and damage--some of it self-inflicted and some of it at the hands of church workers and ex-gay ministers. No one meant to cause harm, and in fact in some cases some good occurred. But too often the pain and suffering outweighed the good to the point where many of us even questioned and rejected the possible benefits of our ex-gay experiences.

Jim Burroway wrote on his blog yesterday,
Exodus recently has claimed a 30% success rate, without any proof to back it up. But even if we accepted that figure, that means 70% fail. These ex-gay survivors know the pain that comes from that failure. They have a lot of important things to say, and the least Exodus could do is acknowledge them with civility instead of dismissing their stores as “protest.”
Exodus admits that most people under their care cannot achieve the goals set before them. If say 3,000 people were to identify as successful ex-gays (success being an unclear descriptor) then according to Exodus 7,000 individuals were unable to live up to the standards set before them, even though most desperately tried and invested huge chunks of their lives, energies and financial resources, even sacrificing careers and relationships in order to reach those standards.

What about these folks? What's more important, the politics of "change" or the people caught in the cross-fire?

One of the main goals of the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference is to give these folks--the majority of the people who passed through Exodus' doors--a venue to unpack their experiences, to mourn the losses when necessary and to constructively look at ways to undo the damage and move on in life. The weight of our ex-gay lives have kept some of us from life for far too long.

That's why at the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference we will not have any keynote speakers or lectures. Instead we will create spaces for people to talk to each other, talk about the good and the bad of ex-gay experiences and the costs involved. Survivors will share the expertise they have gained through their own recovery. This conference will help to address the needs of the majority of people who once submitted their lives and trust to Exodus ministries.

I believe there are some some leaders at Exodus who care more about people than politics, more about pastoral care than propaganda. I call on these folks to visit, read the narratives, see the heart behind the action. Come to dinner with us on Friday June 29. It will just be a handful of survivors and conference organizers sitting at the table for a meal where we hope we can share some of our experiences with you. You can read the invitation here.

And if you are an ex-gay survivor, or know and love someone who is, come to the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference, not to protest, but pursue understanding, peace and reconciliation with the past in order to build a better future.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

An Open Invitation to Exodus Leaders

In regards to same sex attractions, the question has been debated over and over, Is Change Possible? but for many of us who attended Exodus programs, in some cases for years, the more important question is not about the possibility of change but the costs involved in pursuing that change. Change at what cost?

Next week many Exodus leaders, of both large and small ministries, will gather in Irvine for the Exodus Freedom Conference. A smaller conference will take place nearby where a group of ex-gay survivors along with concerned allies will meet to share and try to make sense of their own ex-gay histories.

These concurrent gatherings in the same city present us with wonderful opportunities to connect with each other. With that hope in mind, Christine Bakke and I, co-founders of BeyondExGay (bXg), issue the following open invitation to Exodus leaders.

We have already sent a signed copy of the invitation to Alan Chambers, president of Exodus along with an e-mail and will e-mail it to specific Exodus leaders we know. We also posted it on bXg. All Exodus leaders are invited. Please share this letter with any Exodus leader who may be in Irvine next week.

An Open Invitation to Exodus International for Dinner and Dialogue

Dear Exodus Leaders,

It is no coincidence that we scheduled the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference at the same time and in the same city as Exodus’ Freedom Conference. Although we do not wish to interrupt your gathering, we do long for the opportunity to connect with you. Many of us have spent months and years under your care in your ministries. We turned to you for help and received some good from our time under your care. Sadly our ex-gay experiences caused more harm than good, and for many of us we have needed years to recover.

We understand that this was not your intent. From knowing quite a few of you personally, we know that you have a heart to help people and to serve God. You meant to bless us.

Too often once we leave your programs, you never hear about our lives and what happens to us. Most ministries do not have aftercare programs or any formal means to follow-up on participants. Some stories you do not get to hear. If you do, our stories can be simplified by the press or infused with anger or hurt. In hopes of giving you the opportunity to hear about our experiences and the harm that we felt came to us as a result of our pursuit of an ex-gay life, we would like to invite you to join us for a private dinner on Friday, June 29, 2007.

The purpose of the dinner is to give you an opportunity to hear our stories. We do not wish to bash you, attack you or shame you. We simply desire to share our stories with you. No members of the press will be allowed into the dinner and it will not be recorded or filmed. We are hoping for a small gathering with a few ex-gay leaders and some ex-gay survivors. At the dinner a few of us will tell you our stories.

If you are interested in attending this dinner, please RSVP to


Peterson Toscano and Christine Bakke

Ex-gay survivors and co-founders of

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Shift at Exodus?

Lots in the news yesterday about a possible shift in focus at Exodus, or at least with Alan Chambers. See Ex-Gay Watch for details about the possibility that there is no such thing as an "ex-gay".

No doubt lots of discussion has gone on between folks at Exodus and concerned activists and citizens. IN the past few months Exodus president Alan Chambers has made some moves to better protect youth in their programs and has come out against bullying and homophobia.

All of this is welcomed news. Dialog helps us challenge our assumptions, stretch our thinking, consider new possibilities. I know that when I speak with people who identify as ex-gay or former homosexual (or whatever term they may prefer), I walk away with a deeper and broader understanding.

Some time ago I put out a call to Exodus leaders to hear the stories of survivors, people who attended Exodus programs for months, even years, and at the end of the day came away harmed more than helped. For some of us the process of recovery from our ex-gay experiences has taken years and will take plenty more time. We submitted ourselves to the care of people we trusted, people, who for the most part, intended to help us. But we walked away depressed, discouraged and depleted.

I don't know if there is a shift at Exodus. I know that there are ex-gay leaders who really care about people more than issues. These folks may not speak out in public much or get on national TV programs, but they are part of Exodus too and have been working behind the scenes for years to help move the organization back to the ministry roots and away from political lobbying.

In the past few years Exodus has intentionally shifted their focus to target youth with their own Exodus Youth MySpace page and of course Love in Action's Refuge program.

As of this moment if you go to the Refuge site,, it looks much more understated than I ever remember it. I cannot easily find a reference to Refuge on Love in Action's pages. It is not listed as one of LIA's current programs, and I can't find a link on Exodus Youth. Has this program quietly ended? If so, this is a BIG shift.

Since I posted this earlier today the Refuge page has been taken down. You can see a cached page of what I saw this morning.

This is not about politics, about winning or losing. It is about people. There are people who do feel uncertain about their same-sex attractions. They feel this way for many reasons. In trying to sort these feelings out, folks have turned to Exodus, and although Alan still claims that hundreds of thousands have been helped (see video below), I imagine many more people have been harmed than helped. Even the help we received has not outweighed the harm.

My hope is that in Irvine we can continue the dialog.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Dueling Conferences and Positive Messages

The Ex-Gay Survivor Conference received some recent press coverage on the West Coast. The June 29-July 1 conference in Irvine, CA got a mention in today's LA Times. Yesterday the Orange County Register published a piece about the two "dueling conferences" happening in Irvine this month.

Organizers of both conferences got counseling designed to help them "go straight," also known as "pray the gay away."

But they came to very different conclusions about the success of such programs and how much harm or help they can be.

"I chose to live differently, and my feelings changed, too," said Alan Chambers, president of the Orlando, Fla.-based Exodus International, who is married. "Today, I am a far different person. Not that I don't struggle, but my life has changed. I certainly don't have the desire to be involved in homosexuality. It has no power over me."

One of the original founders of the Exodus movement has a different view. Michael Bussee, who co-founded Exodus at Anaheim's Melodyland Christian Center in 1976, said he quit counseling people to go straight when he realized he couldn't even "cure" himself.

They quote me too. Check it out for yourself.

I have gotten some really nice e-mails from people who will be coming to the conference, people from all over the world. German TV crews, folks in Australia, throughout the US and of course on the West Coast.

There is also this German article that appeared in today's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Was hinter dem Angebot „Befreiung von Homosexualität“ steckt, hängt allerdings davon ab, um welches der zahlreichen Programme es sich handelt. Peterson Toscano hat in dem jahrelangen verzweifelten Bemühen, seine homosexuellen Neigungen zu überwinden, alles Mögliche ausprobiert. „Genützt hat es nichts“, sagt der 42 Jahre alte Performancekünstler aus Hartford, Connecticut, der mittlerweile ein bekennender Schwuler ist. Toscano wurde mit 17 Jahren evangelikaler Christ. „Weil ich religiöse Leidenschaft suchte und einer einflussreichen Gemeinschaft angehören wollte.“ Doch seine inständigen Gebete, Gott möge seinen homosexuellen Phantasien ein Ende machen, wurden nicht erhört.

Deshalb suchte er Verstärkung bei den wöchentlichen Gruppentreffen der christlichen Vereinigung „Life Ministries“ in New York. Die meisten Teilnehmer seien aus der Unterhaltungsindustrie gekommen. „Mein Eindruck war, dass viele von ihnen aus Karrieregründen versuchten, heterosexuell zu werden. Aber am Wochenende sind etliche wieder in die Schwulenszene abgetaucht.“
It goes on and on like that with a few words that I understand (like my name and "ex-gay" and Hartford).

The creator of a really cool video sent me the link. What I LOVE about this video (besides the handmade feel to it) is that it shows the vital role that allies have in helping ex-gay survivors fully embrace themselves and find peace and a new life. Enjoy Arthur's Reserved for Gays part one and two.

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Friday, June 15, 2007

Models & Mentor

In NYC for the day to meet up with some media types--nice folks all. I also got to see David C. Ah David C! I LOVE David C.

For one he first introduced me to Rufus Wainwright years ago when the Poses album first came out. In fact, it was also in his car that I first heard and fell hard for Bjork.

David C is also an ex-gay survivor. He graduated Love in Action (LIA) shortly before I arrived back in 1996. We have lived similar lives with David a few steps ahead of me.

Before LIA he also married a woman and then divorced. He knew the pain and disappointment of a good relationship that could not work.

He worked hard on his program at LIA and from what I learned took his life as a Christian more seriously than most people I ever met.

After some time out of LIA, living an ex-gay life, he too went through a crisis and began to question the teachings he spent so much time learning. He dove into an abyss of questions, questions of utmost importance. Questions about everything.

With tenacity and integrity he walked through that bitter valley unpacking everything he ever believed. He found music and poetry and art that spoke to his situation. He found models in St. George and Rosetti and Everything But the Girl. He explored faith and sexuality and truth and beauty.

I remember aching for David as he faced every issue head-on and then concluded that the ex-gay life he had pursued not only contained half-truths but was constructed on sinking sand. He mourned deeply. He faced his worse fears and ultimately built a new life.

He found a life partner then moved far from home. He returned to university after a 10 year gap and has used his magnificent brain with all of his might.

David has served as a model and mentor for me--not only in the new life he constructed, but more so in his fearless commitment to authenticity.

Thank you David for being such a true brother to me and for doing nothing half-assed.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Christine Has Been Podcasted!

Actually Godcasted. Christine Bakke, (who recently celebrated a birthday!) appears on the recent edition of Candace Chellew-Hodge's Godcast (#13). She talks about the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference, Beyond Ex-Gay (bXg) and her own ex-gay journey. She explains the purpose behind the conference and what will happen there. I love Christine's wit and warmth as she speaks about these issues. You can have a listen here.

Christine blogs about some recent international attention lately with a piece in a Russian paper (Sadelle, Vlad says, check out the original to practice your Russian :-)
A 35 year old American woman has challenged "Reparative therapy" which supposedly cures the homodemon.

35 year-old American Kristina Beykk wanted to escape from homosexuality with the aid of the program of the so-called ex-gays, who promise to cure the "misguided souls" through the word of the Lord, the lesbian journal "Pinx" reports.
I love the "homodemon" thing. As many of you know Christine was recently featured in Glamour Magazine and Good Morning America, making her the first lesbian ex-gay survivor to speak out in such a way. No doubt you will hear more about her and her other international exposure soon.

In other audio news, Exodus International is running radio ads on Christian radio stations in Orange County, CA in preparation for their upcoming Exodus Freedom Conference. The ads boast "a sudden, radical complete change. Through Christ freedom is possible for those who struggle with same-sex attractions. " On Exodus' site they claim that the ads are actually aimed at changing the church,
Exodus International exists to mobilize the body of Christ to minister grace and truth to a world impacted by homosexuality. As such, we are calling upon the evangelical church to undergo a sudden, radical and complete change in the way it has dealt with the issue of homosexuality in the past.
You can hear it yourself here and decide what you think they are trying to say.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Up and Coming

Hey gang, I miss reading many of your blogs! I hope to have some time this week to finally catch up.

So many things in the works. As many of you know, Christine and I over at bXg along with SoulForce and the LGBT Resource Center at UC Irvine will host the first ever Ex-Gay Survivor Conference in Irvine, CA the weekend of June 29-July 1, 2007. I don't know yet how many we will have at the various events, but the response has been amazing from survivors and concerned allies on the West Coast, throughout the US and from as far away as Toronto, NYC and London.

All day today I have talked to people coming to the conference to present their films or art or to just join in the discussion. No doubt this will be a historic event and will change some people's understanding of ex-gay experiences. This will be true of survivors themselves who may not ever had the opportunity to effectively unpack their former experiences--the motivations behind seeking change, the good that came of their quest, and the harm they caused themselves and others. Allies will also learn much more about the broader issues in the life of ex-gay survivors and the complexity of the struggle that many of us faced.

I spoke with a reporter today who asked about the "dueling conferences" and if ours was a reaction to the Exodus conference. I explained that I don't see it that way. Exodus has presented their conference for decades. Loads of people have protested it in the past. Ours is not a protest or designed to harass Exodus leaders or ex-gays. We seek a positive response to the Exodus conference and damage that many of us had done to ourselves (often with assistance from others).

Also the conference will give Exodus leaders a chance to hear other stories, stories that they may not hear often. What happens to someone after they leave an Exodus ministry or ex-gay therapy? Typically these programs have no follow-up or aftercare. The years of depression, confusion, discouragement and loss happen out of ear shot of many ex-gay leaders.

The conference will provide people an opportunity to tell their stories in many formats (Internet, written narratives, art, etc) so that these stories will reach the ears and hopefully the hearts of ex-gay leaders, pastors, parents and others who encourage (or even force) people into ex-gay experiences.

Exodus used to be a ministry that tried to help people struggling with a variety of issues. Today it functions more as a lobbying group in DC tyring to limit the rights of LGBT people. Within Exodus are so many people, many who I have met, many who have good hearts and noble intentions. They still want to help people. They believe that ex-gay ministry is the best they can offer. Many of us have found something better and have reclaimed our lives. We want the opportunity to share this with each other and anyone who may be interested in hearing.

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Photos from Europe

I was not too much in the mood to take photos on this recent trip. But on two days I did take a few shots. One was in Stockholm with Alex and Daniel. We went down into the Metro where they have each station fitted with artwork. You will see Alex looking a the Solar System. We also went to the Museum of Modern art. Then we tried to find a nice cafe, but the one we wanted was closed because the owner needed to take care of a sick cat. Aw, that is so sweet.

The other day I took photos was when I was with Jose Luis. I went to a garden near Madrid and took photos of flowers, then he and I went out of the city to Aranquez where I shot some more photos.

Oh and in Oxfordshire, I took a photo from my window which you will see below.
Click on photos to see MONSTER SIZED versions.
Enjoy. I know I did.

Oh and here is a little something special that I found over at a fellow blogger's site. You will never guess what they are advertising. I love the UK. hat tip to Mike Ditto


Thursday, June 07, 2007

Among Friends in North Carolina

I arrived yesterday in Asheville, NC for the yearly meeting of unprogrammed Friends from this region that extends throughout Tennessee, and North Carolina and into Virginia and Georgia (and I imagine South Carolina).

SAYMA invited me to come and give a plenary address tonight about my faith journey as a Quaker. I will also adress the teen group as well as lead a bibliodrama. I appreciate prayers, warm thoughts and holding in the Light so that I can speak from the heart and in the Spirit.

One thought that keeps coming to me is how I am a refugee. (no not a Yankee from the stiff cold North seeking refuge among friendly folks in the South--although it does feel great to be back down here). No, I am a spiritual refugee. I had to flee my own faith community, in part because of my unwillingness and inability to conform to sexual norms.

But it is no longer only about my sexual attractions. I am a refugee in regards to how I look at life and faith and even politics. I don't fit any longer in the Evangelical church that I once called home and family.

Not that I am a perfect fit among unprogrammed Quakers. Oh, they don't have a problem with the gay thing (well most don't) but I talk far too much about Jesus for some.

Too gay for some Evangelicals and too Christian for some liberal Quakers. Not quite at home. Which I guess is how many refugees feel, particularly those from other countries. They find refuge, a safe place, but that doesn't make it home.

I sometimes feel that way among Friends. Perhaps we are never fully at home no matter where we are.

Update: Sunday June 10--The time here with Friends at SAYMA went very well. Funny how when you come out (as gay, as Christian, etc) how other people come out to you too. I also had some wonderful talks about how some Friends struggle with a lot of Jesus talk because of how they had been abused in their previous faith communities. I can understand that and see how that could get in the way for some people when they hear lots of messages that use similar language. Christine and I often talk to each other about the post-traumatic stress folks can experience even in affirming churches once they hear the language and see the images from their former church experiences.

Last night I got to meet up with Kevin and his friend Brian. Kevin is another graduate of Love in Action and an ex-gay survivor. He had finished the program before I did, and we would get together for lunch once a week (we had to get special permission for this). He said he remembered how depressed I was during those times which reminded me of the days I just broke down and cried in my room sometimes for hours. No one could console me.

Yesterday in speaking with a reporter from a German newspaper, she asked, "Did you get anything good out of your experience in the ex-gay movement?" I told her that I met some amazing people, people who have become my closest friends. We went through hell together and have bonded deeply.

I get to spend the evening with a friend in Asheville and head back home to Hartford tomorrow where I will sit tight for at least three days. phew!

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Former Exodus Missionary Speaks Out

Jose Luis Maccarone lived as an ex-gay for over 10 years. I first met him during my time at Love in Action when he came for a visit to the US to share his testimony around the country.

In 2000 he moved from his home country of Argentina to Madrid, Spain and become Exodus Interational's first missionary. After serving as an ex-gay missionary for a few years, he came out gay.

Last week Jose Luis and I spent a day together, and he wanted to tell some of his story. In this series of videos, Jose Luis shares some of his ex-gay survivor narrative, what it was like to live as an ex-gay, the good and the bad that came of his experience, his recovery and a message to his former clients.

Jose Luis shares some of the reasons why he became ex-gay.

In this video Jose Luis talks about life as an Exodus leader and missionary

What good, if any came of your ex-gay experiences and how were you harmed?

Jose Luis talks about his recovery from the ex-gay movement and speaks to the people who he had ministered to as a missionary and ex-gay leader

Shortly after I posted this entry, I received the following e-mail from Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International.
Please make sure to note and clarify that Jose was a missionary with the Exodus International that now is called The Exodus Global Alliance. He was not affiliated with the ministry Exodus International that I represent. Though there is a connection to the two ministries, he was not one of our representatives.



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Monday, June 04, 2007

Another Homeless Gay Teen

About once every six weeks I get an e-mail about a young person in Connecticut who needs a home because their parents no longer want them in the home because the teen is transgender or bisexual or lesbian or gay or even just questioning. Families are complicated, and no doubt other reasons come into play, but in almost every case the deciding factor to eject the child from the home is because they are too queer for mom or dad.

Robin McHaelen, the director of True Colors, sends out the requests via email. I just received one yesterday about a 16 year old lesbian who needed a home (and as a result of Robin's efforts, the teen has found two homes to choose from!). I just received another request today.
This young man just turned 18. He is bright, responsible, caring and homeless. His mom listened in on the phone last week and heard him come out to someone. The mom's response was to put him out. He has been staying with a friend since then, but can't remain. We would love to find him a place in Windsor Locks or very close so he can finish school (He graduates later this month).
(If you live in Connecticut and are queer, you know how to contact Robin).

My mom spoke to me a few times about parents and how I need to be patient with them around LGBT issues. They grew up in different times when it was not imaginable to be a happy, healthy homosexual. And that most queers get the snot beat out of them every other day. This advice has helped me a great deal when speaking with worried parents who fear their children will end up lonely and unhappy and in trouble. These concerned parents often need to hear new stories to replace the assumptions they have.

But I cannot understand a parent who feels so strongly against same-sex attractions and gender differences that s/he would actually push their child onto the streets. Of course not all parents respond the same way. Some force their children onto the streets, others into ex-gay programs, and others keep their sons and daughters within reach.

A friend of mine in Boston has worked a lot with youth and is a licensed sex educator for the Boston Public School system. She said she noticed a pattern in responses by parents of LGBT children when the parent has a problem with having a queer child.

She said among parents who are white, the response has typically been something like, "You might be gay (or lesbian, etc), but not in MY house!" Then they kick their kids out. The young people stay with friends for awhile, going from house to house, but in many cases they end up on the streets. Among Black parents the response is different: "You are not lesbian (or gay, etc) and you are going NOWHERE." The son or daughter stays in the home, watched carefully and perhaps silenced, but not destitute.

Last week I received an e-mail from a FTM transgender friend of mine. He is still college-age and is only just coming out to his parents. When he shared with them that he is trans and that he hopes to transition, their immediate response was to withdraw all financial support.

Again I understand how a parent may have concerns or be confused or need educating, but to react by impoverishing your offspring troubles me. Is this what we learn from living in a capitalist society that teaches people can and should be manipulated by money? How about talking? How about spending time together trying to understand each others' needs and concerns? Rather some seek to silence, contain and disenfranchise their loved ones..

I wrote about parents and their fears in my post, Can My Gay Child Change? The short answer is YES. If you treat them like dirt, if you disrespect them and push your agenda on them without opening your heart about your real fears and concerns and listening to theirs, your child will grow distant from you and even hostile. Then when they need you the most, (and you need them) you will have positioned yourself far far away.

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Sunday, June 03, 2007

Why Did You Even Try to Change?

Ex-gay survivors have many reasons for wanting to change from gay to straight. Some we have never fully articulated, but recently I got to understand yet another reason why I so desperatly sought to change my sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual.

During this current trip to Europe, I had a long conversation with a conservative Methodist woman from the US (who now lives abroad). I have thought long and hard about the ecounter and after journaling about it some, I decided to write the essence of it here.

After sharng with this women in detail my ex-gay saga--the steps I took, my heart to please God, and the damage the process caused emotionally, psychologically and spiritually--the woman proceded to tell me that she felt the scripture was clear on the matter and that we should not give God a timeline of when we want him to work. She then asked,
But why did you even try to change? Perhaps it was God's will for you to bear
the burden of your gay feelings as your daily cross. We all have burdens to bear.
ME: Do you realize what you are saying? That I would go all of my life without the prospect for a companion or lover or partner. That I would even have to be concerned about having a male roomate because I might fall in love with him. Do you understand how hard such a life would be?
SHE: God can always do a miracle!

ME: Like change me? See change is essential. If not, you will live your life shut off from intimacy. Look at the Catholic Church and what has happened with so many of the priests.

SHE: I don't want to look at the Catholic Church.

ME: You need to. They suppressed their sexuality and it came out all twisted. I grew up Catholic and some of the most bitter men I ever met were priests.

You are a divorced heterosexual woman. You may never remarry, but you always have the hope that you will find a nice man and settle down. If not, you can always get a roomate to be a companion to you. But you will deny me that hope and insist that I live a celibate life without a partner, unless of course God does a miracle. I sought God for nearly two decades for that miracle and it nearly destroyed me.

Jesus spoke about this very thing when he condemned the Pharisees saying,
You put burdens on men's backs that you will not bear yourselves and make them
twice the sons of hell as youselves.
I finally suggested we pray together because I found her words abusive, and we were not getting anywhere. Also, I knew I had to stop the dialogue before it got any further and ugly. I found it difficult because I felt she wasn't hearing what I had been saying and instead she said many of the same things I told her that I had told myself for years.

We prayed, but I left haunted by the memory of years of hoping, longing, praying for change, knowing instinctively that if it did not come, (and for most I met, it never did) then I looked at the prospect of a lonely lonely life.

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Friday, June 01, 2007

How Do I Know if my Spouse is Gay????

Over at my Spanish blog, Dos Equis, I have a post entitled ¿Como Identificar si mi pareja es homosexual? which is similar to the English post What About the Spouse? The Spanish site Adriana and I maintain got so many hits due to search results about gay and lesbian spouses that we decided to write about it in Spanish.

Today I received the following comment:

Sí encontré este blog por el título de este post. Tengo serias dudas
sobre mi esposo, y esperaba encontrar aquí alguna respuesta que me ayude a
identificar si su comportamiento tiene que ver con una orientación homosexual, pero de eso, nada. Ya que te encuentras en esa situación, quizá puedas darnos algunos tips para aquellas que somos lastimadas por el engaño de un hombre que no se resigna a reconocer su inclinación, lo cual es muy injusto para la mujer. Gracias.

I found this blog through the title of this post. I have serious doubts about my husband, and I hope to find some answer that can help me determine if the way he acts might reveal that he has a homosexual orientation, but so far, I have found nothing. Since you have been in this situation, would you please give me tips those of us that suffer because of the deceit of a man who refuses to recognize his inclination, which is very unjust for the women.

This woman deserves useful answers, but I feel hesitant to write about what signs there are to figure out if your husband is gay. For one there are cultural differences to consider. Also, one size does not fit all. Each man is wired differently, and he may display certain "signs" for a variety of reasons, not simply because he is homosexual or bisexual.

So I put it out there for readers. What would you say to this woman? Some of you were married to men or women who turned out to be gay or lesbian or bisexual. Some of you who are gay or lesbian or bisexual were married to a spouse for years before you came out to your spouse. What would you say to this woman?

I also received a comment on this blog at What About the Spouse? I think it deserves to be reprinted here:

The emotional earthquake caused when a person finds out his or her spouse is gay can be devastating. I was married to a gay man for 38 years before divorcing him. I did not know when we married that he was gay.I have learned through my experinece that there are few resources for the straight spouse.

In my work as a life coach, I encourage people to cast a grateful eye toward what was good in the relationship so that moving on can be a creative process rather than one fueled by resentment and anger. Those feelings are definitely there at first, but
the energy of them can be used to create a new life.

I have also found that many gay men have made the mistake of thinking that since the straight wife was friendly and understanding with other gay men, she would accept her husbands desire to live the life style. It came as a bit of a shock to mine that I divorced him.

It would be helpful for gays married to straights to have an understanding of what their spouse might experience beforer they come out to the spouse.

Good article! Melissa McCutcheon

Thank you Melissa! I appreciate the conversations I have had with spouses who have allowed me to see the pain and difficulties as well as their healing process after they discovered that thir marriages were not going to work. Thank you for stepping up and telling your stories.

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