Friday, August 31, 2007

Spiritual Aids

Monday at Greenbelt, Trevor, James, James, Bill and I ate at Nuts Cafe and chatted with a nice Christian couple who joined us at our table. Not sure how the conversation got on the topic, but somehow we began to talk about Adult Bookstores, well, not so much about their contents of porn and sex toys, but about the irony of calling these places "bookstores" for "adults". It all seems rather adolescent.

Similarly misnamed are items sold under the heading Marital Aids. Although there must be testimonies of married couples who have been aided by the use of whips, chains, porn videos and sex toys, I have a feeling that many (most?) consumers of marital aids are not looking to deepen their relationship with their spouse. (Of course I may be wrong about all this, and I am sure some of you will sort me out :-)

Over the weekend I witnessed Matt Redman perform Greenbelt's Main Stage. Technically Redman doesn't perform; he leads worship. His sweet and upbeat songs encourage people to open up and draw near to God.

He possesses a warm, friendly voice--emotive, not afraid to show his intimacy towards God, his passionate desire to worship Jesus. I own two or three of his albums and through the years have enjoyed his voice, melodies and most of his lyrics. Seeing him listed as a Greenbelt presenter, I jumped at the chance to experience his worship leading.

I sat in a shaded spot as the music began. Redman called us to worship. Clap your hands! Shout to the Lord! Dance! He gave lots of instructions and pushed the audience to respond enthusiastically. Like many pop and rock singers do, at one point he called out to the crowd, How is everyone doing? He received a tepid response, so he repeated the question with emphasis. I said, HOW IS EVERYONE DOING? And on cue, the crowd went wild.

As the "worship" continued, a large group of audience members in the center, up towards the front lifted their hands, jumped up and down, and shouted along with the songs (much like I had done for years in the charismatic church services I attended).

But as the crowd cheered, I grew quiet. The more Redman sang and rallied for us to join in the worship, the more I withdrew. I suddenly felt like a stranger speaking a different language. Instead of warming, my insides felt still and cool and distant.

I questioned myself,
Has my heart grown cold to God? Is this because I am gay and I am bold enough I accept this fact? Have I lost my "first love"?
The answers came quickly and confidently. No, I still love to be in God's presence. I still love to worship. But I no longer need to be ushered to the throne of God like in the past. I no longer need a cheerleader pointing me to Jesus. These past six years, as I sat in silent worship in Quaker meetings, in that stillness, I have found that "hearts unfold like flowers before thee, opening to the Sun above."

It is not that I think that Matt Redman-style worship is worthless or bad. But I have outgrown it. I don't need it like I once did. Instead of a call to worship it sounded more like clanging cymbals to me right now. It serves as an outmoded prop to help me worship or aid, a spiritual aid. Today I don't need all those bells and whistles and exhortations. I just need a quiet room, silence among Friends, and then I find I can usually enter into a place of openness and listening and surrender.

Here is a crude analogy for those of you who remember tests like the SAT.
Right now, for me, a porn film is to marriage as Matt Redman is to worship. It serves as a distraction, a pleasant but unnecessary stimulation that I have outgrown.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

UK Photos

Too lazy to blog with actual words, so here are some photos from Wales (the ones with the water wheel), from Greenbelt (with James Alison under the red and white tent) and in the Cotswolds.

The indoor Roman images are from the Corinium Museum in Cirencester, the external church photo with the church in the distance is from the parish church in Cirencester (its a big one) and the other church shots are from the Fairford Church (a rare one because it has original stain glass and an image of Mary that the Puritans didn't destroy.) The stone cat marks the grave of Tittles the Cat, Fairford Church cat that lived for nearly 17 years!

If you REALLY want to know what any of the pictures are all about, just ask. Otherwise, just make it up for yourself. :-)

Click on photo for larger image. Thanks to Trevor, James and James for being such lovely hostesses.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Greenbelt 2007 Day Three

I was too wiped out to post anything last night. Actually happy wiped out. Good day that ended with friends at the Organic Beer Tent. I did miss the Hymn and Beers though.

On the third day I didn't get to see as much, but I did hear two talks. Another by James Allison and one my Mark Yaconelli, which was particularly moving and helpful for me. It was about failure and loss and what you do when you feel at the end of yourself, broken. It actually reminded me of an important spiritual lesson I learned at one of the most desperate moments in my life when everything unraveled. It reminded me that sometimes the best comfort is no comfort at all, rather to allow myself to feel the pain, to sit in the loss and grieve it properly.

My interview with Premiere Radio went well and was a lot of fun because author GP Taylor was also interviewed and their was a Catholic clergy member in the London studio. I hope I didn't sound too snippy, but after I related some of my ex-gay experience, the clergy member said something like, "Well, in the Catholic Church we do not condemn a homosexual orientation. The only problem is when someone engages in homosexual activity. What do you think about this?"

It was early (thus my voice being so low Alex) and I was on auto-pilot and I blurted out, "I think you are asking people to become Eunuchs, to box in their sexuality. We have seen how this has happened in the Catholic Church, that when you box in your sexuality, it comes out in all sorts of inappropriate ways."

After that I had an interview with Greenbelt Radio. I also learned that that show they asked me to add had been slated for Centaur, the LARGEST indoor venue. It is HUGE and not at all suited for the sort of work I do with my plays. I need an intimate space where people can be focus on the small actions on the stage.

I thought ab0ut it through day and decided that I will do an extra show, but instead of a complete performance, I will do a highlights show where I can do excerpts from all my shows. This will help hold the audience and if something doesn't work, I move onto another bit.

Thinking of doing the gAy,B,C's from Queer 101 as well as Chad's fantasy date with Lorca. I want to do a scene as Marvin, either when Brother Ralph "falls out in the Spirit" or when Marvin casts the demons out of his computer. I will do the opening of Homo No Mo with Chad and Vlad (always a crowd pleaser when Vlad says "Focus" in his unique way) and that may be it except for the Identity Monologue.

Then right after that I head over to the 11-14 year olds area where I will lead a Bibliodrama. Maybe the passage where Jesus casts out a herd of demons into a herd of pigs. What does that story mean???? Is Jesus some sort of Anti-pork, Jewish sorcerer and activist?

OUTerSpace, the new LGBT group at Greenbelt had a LOVELY service, the highlight of which was when a woman, who had recently been forced out of her church as worship leader because she is lesbian, spoke to the group. She said that she knows that God loves and and in fact, God likes her. And then she gave a simple but sincere encouragement to others who feel marginalized in their churches and families. Amazing how many people I met who just came out or are barely out.

The day ended at the Organic Beer Tent where I passed a HUGE test. It involved two very athletic straight young men, one hugging me, a bit smashed and begging me to come to their tents to continue the party. The Holy Spirit (in the form of Auntie Doris from Ship of Fools) helped me hold my ground. I remained in the Beer Tent and the boys took to their party without me. Phew.

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Greenbelt 2007 Day Two

Ah, lovely day at Greenbelt. Although I remained uncharacteristically anxious about my show all day into the evening. (More about that in a moment).

I first listened to James Alison give a talk about the New Testament Clobber passages (most often used to clobber lesbian, gays and bisexuals). Last Year James covered the Old Testament passages, and after hearing him speak, I declared on this blog that I want to have his Biblical love child. I still do.

In his talk he discussed Romans 1 and expertly unraveled it. I left during the Q&A, but Trevor told me about a man who stood up and said something like, "All my life I have been condemned by that passage in my churches, but now you tell me it doesn't condemn me." And Trevor said you could see the light and freedom breaking over the man's face. You can read James Alison's thoughts on Romans 1 here.

Next I just chilled a bit knowing I had to pace myself, especially in the hot sun. I did go to the Liquid Lunch where a panel of four funny people (comedian types) talked about Greenbelt, what they saw, what they recommend and comments about the festival. Very fun and I even got a mention!

In the afternoon I heard worship leader Matt Redman present at the Main Stage. I will have more to say about this when I have more time.

Most of the rest of my day I prepped for my show. Took a nice long nap in a quiet worship space (I think I snored). Sat with my Friend Esther. Wrote in my Journal. Ran through my lines.

Then I had my show. People lined up an hour in advance. Crazy. I felt the show went well. The pace and the length seemed just about right. I am in the midst of still tweaking bits. Vlad's dance seems long here to UK audiences. Maybe in the US too, but no one has said that since my earliest workshop presentations of the piece (before I edited the song some). Good laughter (they laughed more than most US audiences) and I felt well connected.

After the show James Alison came forward to greet me and inform me that the ushers had to turn away 500 people. The venue already held 500. Hope they went instead to the Beer and Hymns at the Organic Beer Tent.

After my show I dashed to see Ikon, a group from Northern Ireland that does provocative theater. This year's theme was The God Delusion: Where Does Your Faith Lie. Lots of deep questions they asked. Not much more to say about it right now. Left me lots to think about.

I need to go to bed immediately before I have a 30 minute interview with Premier Radio from 8.30-9.00 UK time. Premier is a fairly conservative national Christian radio station. I am shocked that they invited me to it. I believe you can listen live.

So many people to thank for today, but especially my host James in Cheltenham (Jimbo at GCN) for providing me such a restful place to lay my head.

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Friday, August 24, 2007

Greenbelt 2007 Day One

Not that I will post something everyday. Just am thrilled about today as I go to bed. James from Bridgend, Wales drove me to the home of James in Cheltenham where I also got to see Trevor from further South.

We are all hear for Greenbelt, a fabulous, funky, one-of-a-kind Christian arts festival loaded with bands, amazing speakers, performances, dance, an organic beer tent, a tiny tea tent and some very lovely people.

I will present my plays, "The Re-Education of George W. Bush" and "Doin' Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House." And to my shock and surprise, I was listed on page three of the Greenbelt program as one of the Seven Do Not Miss events! This is out of thousands of events. Then the Church Times also listed me in their Greenbelt edition. Guess I don't have to hang up posters this year.

Really, it makes me a little anxious. I went to a Do Not Miss event last year and it stunk! I feel the pressure that so many people will expect so much. So think of me, pray for me. I do the Bush show on Saturday and Homo No Mo on Sunday. On Monday I lead a Bibliodrama for 11-14 year olds.

I feel privileged and very very fortunate to be able to be here, not just to present, but to be in a spiritual place where I hear challenging messages about the environment, immigrants, the plight of the Palestinians, and a call to authentic Christian living.

I really wish Alex and Ally and Willie Hewes and Elliot and Pam and Christine and the whole lot of you could be here with me. I'd even buy you a pint of Absolution Ale at the Organic Beer Tent. (Hymns and Beer tomorrow night after my show!).

Off to bed. Night all.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Doin' Time in Southern Wales

I have some photos for you! Since I arrived on Friday, I have stayed at the home of John and Valerie Henson. John, who will also present at Greenbelt this weekend, is the author of several books including, The Gay Disciple and Good as New--A Radical Retelling of the Scriptures. Our talks nourish, challenge and delight me. Both Valerie and John are smart, spiritual and sensible people (and Valerie is a great cook too and so kind to make me vegan meals).

Pictured below you will see...
  1. John and Valerie's lovely cat, who allowed me to scratch her back. Like most cats, she has not forgotten that her kind were once worshiped in Egypt. (Christine, I took this photo just for you)
  2. their garden patch (forest?) of rhubarb. Valerie made a gorgeous rhubarb crumble (with non-dairy custard!)
  3. me with a packet of nut loaf from Asda (the UK Walmart). WHY don't we have this yummylicious item in US supermarkets???
  4. a couple playing bowls at the park near the house
  5. the turn-off to the beach where a beech tree is bursting through the stone wall
  6. the Welsh coast during high tide. About an hour later I walked across a stretch of beautiful soft sand. Since no one was around, I sunbathed nude. Momma will be proud to know that I finally got some color in my cheeks.
Click photos to Enlarge.


Monday, August 20, 2007

Australian Radio Warns of Ex-Gay Imports

This story appeared on Australian's ABC radio program The World Today. Like most mainstream news they have some of the details wrong. The ex-gay movement is not just about trying to turn people straight. It is about reinforcing an anti-gay message that we find in the church and in much of society. In a large part it teaches that only the heterosexuals can be holy since, as they announce over and over again the very opposite of homosexuality is holiness.

Those of us who have been in it know well enough how the message works. According to the report, ex-gay ministries may be coming into Australia like a foreign invasive species.
The United States' controversial "ex-gay" movement has its eye on Australia.

Ex-gays are homosexuals who say they've been "cured" or turned straight. They've been in conversion courses across the United States which work to reorient sexuality, mostly from a Christian perspective.

The ex-gays now want to get their message into schools and into other countries,
as North America Correspondent, Mark Simkin reports from Memphis, Tennessee.

The reporter, Mark Simikin, goes on to interview Brandon Tidwell, an ex-gay survivor who recently shared his story in front of Love in Action.
Brandon Tidwell spent three months and $10,000 at Love In Action, trying to get straightened out. It didn't work.

BRANDON TIDWELL: I didn't get to talk to my parents or my family members for six weeks after entering the program - couldn't make a call, no email none of that.

MARK SIMKIN: Clients have to report any fantasies to their counsellors, personal belongings are routinely searched. The rulebook is extraordinary.

BRANDON TIDWELL: Men must remove all facial hair seven days a week and sideburns must not fall below the top of the ear.

Women must shave legs and underarms at least twice weekly.

The clients may not wear Abercrombie and Fitch or Calvin Kline brand clothing, underwear or accessories.

No television viewing, going to movies…
You can read the transcript or listen to the audio here.

Ex-gay ministries in Australia is nothing new. This radio report comes on the heels of the apology of three former ex-gay leaders from Australia and then an announcement that two others have shifted their perspective. Perhaps this is a way to replenish the flagging leadership. Time to restock in Europe as the major ex-gay program, Courage UK folded some years ago.

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Doing it in Swedish

While I was in Lund, Sweden this spring, I sat down for fika (a little afternoon sweet snack with coffee or tea) with journalist Tor Billgren. Tor interviewed me for Swedish radio.

In the interview I speak about my marriage, my time at Love in Action, ex-gay "success" and the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference. I also do a short excerpt of Doin' Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House where Chad and Vlad talk about the program rules.

I asked Tor about the broadcast details of the interview.
It was aired by Sverige Radio (The National Broadcasting Association) on channel P1 on June the 29th. The program is called "Människor och tro" (Humans and belief) and is a journalistic magazine which deals with religion, beliefs and clashes within the world of faith.

Before the interview the host gave a short summary of the ex gay-movement, and introduced your project and that your conference took place in the same city as the Exodus-conference. And then you explain how you chose the location.
Although some of it is in Swedish, the bulk of the interview is in English. You can have a listen here.

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Two More Former Ex-Gay Leaders in Australia Reveal Shift in Perspective

Last week BeyondExGay and Soulforce announced that three former ex-gay leaders from Australia publicly apologized for their roles in providing and promoting ex-gay conversion therapy.

Anthony Venn-Brown, (who appears right about now on 60 Minutes in Australia), a Christian leader in Australia, shares on his blog about two other leaders who also reveal how their perspectives shifted from when they were ex-gay leaders.

John Meteyard, a former Exodus Asia Pacific & Living Waters leader and former member of the International Advisory Board of Exodus, states,
Whereas once I was ardent in my opinion that homosexual orientation was unquestioningly a result of the 'fall' and God's intention was therefore always to heal the same-sex attracted believer and help them to be 'whole', my position is now somewhat different.

What I now believe is that being a Christian with a homosexual orientation often causes a great deal of strain and angst for those of us so affected. The result of this strain can be traumatic, debilitating and overwhelming. I also believe that it is important that we all respect the rights of gay and lesbian believers to work through the complexities of their situation with God in their own way and in their own time.
A fellow former ex-gay leader, Paul Martin, is currently the principal psychologist at the Centre for Human Potential. Considering his experience as an Exodus ministry leader in Melbourne and his expertise as a psychologist, he concludes,
During this time, there was not one person that I met or worked with who, in any genuine way achieved the fundamental transformation from homosexual to heterosexual they so desperately desired. The stress of attempting to change their sexual orientation however increased risk of suicidality, and absolutely led to erosion of self-esteem and increased levels of depression and self-deprecation at a very deep level.
In his post Anthony raises the question, Why has it taken so long for people like these 5 and myself to speak up? He lists six possible reasons for this including,
  1. When people leave ex-gay programs they are not empowered but defeated and often live with a sense of failure and shame. It takes time to feel good about yourself again.
  2. The experience of spending years trying unsuccessfully to become heterosexual can leave a person traumatised. That takes time to heal.
The message that John and Paul share is consistent with what we have begun to explore in the US--ex-gay conversion therapy and ministry cause more harm than good. Well meaning people leading ex-gay ministries can actually hinder their clients' wellbeing.

From reading scores of ex-gay survivor narratives and speaking with hundreds of other survivors, it becomes more and more evident that consumers of ex-gay ministries run the risk of experiencing psychological, emotional and spiritual harm, not to mention the negative impact on relationships, careers and finances.

I appreciate former leaders taking responsibility to counter the message they supported for so many years once they have come to understand the errors in their teaching and practice.

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

Another Ex-Gay Survivor Goes Public

In what has become a national trend, another person who spent years in subjection to ex-gay conversion therapy, has come forward to tell his story. Jonmarc Ross of Portland, Oregon shared his narrative in response to the recent Love Won Out anti-gay event that took place in his city. He then sat down with Julie Sabatier of Just Out Newspaper.
Jonmarc Ross knows firsthand how harmful the “ex-gay” ministries can be. His experience with the movement almost cost him his life. Ross, 39, lives in Portland, where he works as a painter for Resurrection Properties. He relocated to P-town 12 years ago from Orange County, Calif., while he was still in the throes of fruitless efforts to “cure” his homosexuality. He gave Just Out a window into that experience.
Sabatier goes on to ask Jonmarc various questions about his experience.
JS: What kinds of methods did you undergo to try to “cure” yourself?

JR: While I was in therapy, I was to keep a journal of any time I was attracted to another man. Lots of studying what [I] call “clobber passages” in Scripture—the passages in Scripture that the ex-gay groups interpret to back their story up…basically using the Bible to clobber people over the heads and beat them into submission. When it wasn’t working with [the therapist] he told me I should t
alk to my pastor. That resulted in my being basically yanked from my position as worship leader and then pulled into the pastor’s office for a 20th century version of the Spanish Inquisition with all 13 elders of the church. This was all before I had been with another man.
You can read more here. Jonmarc is currently working on a narrative to submit to bXg.

To see video of two other ex-gay survivors from Portland, OR who came forward during the recent Ex-Gay Survivor Conference, click here.

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Friday, August 17, 2007

Happy in Wales

After 24 hours of travel, I arrived safe and sound in Southern Wales. Here is how the trip went.
  1. Yesterday at noon I met Sarah, my booking agent, at noon for lunch (Vietnamese) then she dropped me off at the bus station in Hartford, Connecticut (aka where I live)
  2. I took the 2:00 PM Peter Pan bus to NYC. It was supposed to get in at 4:30 but with the traffic got in at 6 pm.
  3. Took the E subway to the Air Train in Queens, NY
  4. Took Air Train to JFK airport
  5. Hung out for 4.5 hours eating vegan junk food, writing e-mails and chatting on the phone.
  6. At 11:30 PM flew to London. Sat next to Gerry, a very cool New Yorker who works as a consultant to museums around the world.
  7. Arrived at Heathrow at 11:30 AM (today)
  8. Went through immigrations (actual conversation with immigration official--"You were just here in May. Why are you back again? Why were you here then? Why did stay for a week, leave then come back for another week." I told him that I am an artist. That sufficed.
  9. Took 1:15 bus to Cardiff, Wales.
  10. Arrived at 4:00 PM and was met by John Henson, my host and author of The Gay Disciple.
  11. Took another bus to his home where I met his partner Valerie, who served me a stunning vegan dinner that consisted of a bean stew, new potatoes and a plum crumble with soya custard for desert.
So after much travel, I am cozy and well fed and well loved and will go to bed soon. John and I have been talking about the Bible and trans people. Between Valerie's cooking, Bible discussions with John AND that they have wi-fi, I may never leave.

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Former Ex-gay Leaders in Australia Apologize

Former ex-gay leaders in Australia have added their voices to a public apology for "the isolation, shame, fear, and loss of faith" caused by the message that gays and lesbians must change or suppress their sexual orientation in order to be good Christians.

On June 27, 2007, Soulforce and BeyondExGay (bXg) brought together former ex-gay leaders from the U.S. and U.K. to issue a public apology for their prior involvement in providing and promoting ex-gay conversion therapy. As part of their apology, Darlene Bogle, Michael Bussee, and Jeremy Marks appealed to other former ex-gay leaders to join the healing and reconciliation process by adding their names to the apology.

Inspired by this historic statement, Vonnie Pitts, Wendy Lawson, and Kim Brett--all former leaders of Australian ex-gay ministries--have come forward to confirm with their American and British counterparts that ex-gay ministries cause more harm than good.

Pictures and complete text of the Australian leaders' statements are available at bXg and Soulforce.

"There has been an increasing uneasiness in me since 2005 that what I was teaching was harmful to people," says Kim Brett, who founded an ex-gay program that was affiliated with Exodus and Living Waters, two U.S. ex-gay groups. "I became tired and ill at ease with always feeling that this part of my life and others attending the group were broken and in need of fixing."

Wendy Lawson, former leader of an ex-gay group in Melbourne, emphasized the personal psychological impact of the ex-gay message:

"I suffered torment and huge anxiety all muddied by confusion and constant failure during the Exodus years. For me the most traumatic outcome was my personal sense of failure as a Christian and not being accepted as a part of the church family I loved," says Lawson.

Vonnie Pitts was a heterosexual church leader who organized an ex-gay support group in the Sydney area. Although her group members were dedicated and determined, she did not witness the changes in orientation promised by the group's curriculum, which was adopted from the Missouri-based Living Waters ministry.

"If I were to see any of the people that I took through the Living Waters program again, I would say 'I'm sorry.' My intentions were to help you through your struggle, but I acted in ignorance," says Pitts.

The Australian former ex-gay leaders were organized by Anthony Venn-Brown, who attended Australia's first ex-gay program in 1972 and spent the next 22 years attempting to suppress and change his sexuality. During that time he married and became a national Christian leader in Australia through the Assemblies of God Church. Through his own experiences, Venn-Brown eventually came to realize that the ex-gay message created trauma rather than freedom. He narrates this journey in the recently published book, A Life of Unlearning-A Journey to Find the Truth (New Holland Publishers) and will share some of his story on 60 Minutes in Australia on Sunday August 19, 2007.

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Ex-Gay Survivor on Public Radio & in French Press

Since sharing her story in Glamour earlier this year, Christine Bakke has stepped up to tell about her ex-gay experiences in multiple venues. Today on Colorado Public Radio she will be featured in a segment about the ex-gay movement.

10:00 am and 7:00 pm Mountain time on 1340 AM in Denver & 1490 AM in Boulder. You can listen online in real-time at, or access the archived story there soon after broadcast. Once the interview is archived, go to and click on “Colorado Matters” on the right hand side-bar schedule. Then type in Christine Bakke or ex-gay in the search bar at the top of the page.

Also, over in France, Glamour has published Christine's story in their French addition. I hope to pick up a copy when I am in London if possible.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Big Changes

Well, many of you know that I recently announced that in February 2008 I will retire my play, Doin' Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House--How I Survived the Ex-Gay Movement! I am still working out the gala finish to the play (and yes I am working on a DVD version of it although I want everyone to see it live).

I have experienced other changes too. My time at New England Yearly Meeting (an annual gathering of Quakers from New England) moved me deeply, particularly in my commitment to living a simply. I may even cancel one of my three cell phones!

The Testimony of Simplicity (via wikipedia)
The Testimony of Simplicity is the Quaker belief that a person ought to live his or her life simply in order to focus on what is most important and ignore or play down what is least important. It is the practice among Quakers (members of the Religious Society of Friends) of being more concerned with one’s inner condition than one’s outward appearance and with other people more than oneself. Friends believe that a person’s spiritual life and character are more important than the quantity of goods he possesses or his monetary worth. Friends also believe that one should use one’s resources, including money and time, deliberately in ways that are most likely to make life truly better for oneself and others.
Some ways I have incorporated the Testimony of Simplicity in my life include how I spend my money and time. Over the last few years I have tried to buy at least half of my clothing from charity shops like the Salvation Army. This not only saves money, but it also moves me away from the direct support of unfair labor practices for people in the clothing industry.

Part of the reason for being a vegan has to do with simplicity. A simple vegetable-based diet is cheaper and has less of an impact on the planet (and wonderfully healthy for most people). Lately I have been shopping for locally grown produce when possible. Some of you know that I have toyed with a raw vegan diet--delightfully simple, but not always practical when one travels a lot.

With travel I have made various changes and considerations, the biggest being when I got rid of my car in the summer of 2005. This has saved me money, helps the planet, connects me with my community and simplifies my life. When I have had a car, it was so easy to spend lots of time driving around doing unnecessary chores and shopping.

When I can, I walk. If I can't walk, I take the bus. If I can't take the bus, I try to share a ride with a friend or borrow a car. If I can't borrow a car, I rent a car. If the distance is too far, I take the train. If the distance is too far for the train, I fly.

I adore the Internet, but I am also addicted to it. I do not have an Internet connection at home other than through my Treo 700P phone (which I will most likely dump soon). When I had the Internet at home, I spent far too much time on-line and got very little done for the time spent typing away. Keeping my house quiet and restful (some say boring), helps me live a simpler life. I haven't had a TV for years. Don't get me wrong I LOVE TV and watch it whenever I travel, but I want to keep my home TV-free.

Also, two years ago I downsized from a one-bedroom to a studio apartment. Not only is it cheaper but cozier. My rent is dirt cheap and includes utility, so it is something I don't have to worry about. Having a small space is easier to clean and forces me to think about what I really need and don't need. It feels yummy to give things away.

Diet, clothing, travel, home. I never thought I could simplify these things, but as I do, I find that I have more freedom, not less. Having less monthly expenses free me up to do more with less. Eating a simple diet keeps me healthy. Having a quiet simple home centers me and takes off lots of stress.

Recently I instituted a HUGE change. I do not know what initiated it, but suddenly out of blue I created a massive shift in my lifestyle. Of course it is one of those changes most people can't see outwardly (the best changes are often that way). But this change affects my every move I make and one that I can sense every waking hour.

Yes, after four decades I have transitioned my undergarments from briefs to boxers (without the interim step of those clinging boxer-briefs that ride up your legs).

Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Off to Wales and England

I fly out to London on Thursday and then head directly to Cardiff with George W. Bush (well my Bush theater piece at least). I will spend a week in Southern Wales and hopefully will explore some. I love the Welsh coast and haven't been for some time. You can get details for Saturday's show in Cardiff here.

After Wales I am off to the Greenbelt Festival. Few places feel like home like Greenbelt did last year--with the Tiny Tea Tent, the amazing presenters, the off-beat theater and progressively cool Christians (and others). They even have an organic beer tent! Come on how cool is that!

For all you Greenbelters, I have a tentative schedule of what and when and where I will present.
Engagement 1
Event: The rE-Education of George W. Bush
Date: Saturday 25th August 2007
Venue: Mandarin
Start time: 19.30 End time: 20.45

Engagement 2
Event: Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House
Date: Sunday 26th August 2007
Venue: Mandarin
Start time: 17.00 End time: 18.30

Engagement 3
Event: Drama Workshop
Date: Monday 27th August 2007
Venue: The Mix (ages 11-14)
Start time: 16.15 End time: 17.45
In addition to the shows, I have a few weeks to knock around and visit with friends. Still working on the schedule. So many Brits, so little time!


Monday, August 13, 2007

Ex-Gay Survivors Get Press in Nashville

Christine Bakke and Darlene Bogle spoke in front of the Southern Baptist Convention Headquarters last week. On Saturday the Tennessean, Nashville's daily paper, published an article (Baptist Reach out to Gays, to Make them Ex-Gay) about Darlene's story, some of Christine's, and last week's visit. They also include a few quotes from Bob Stith, the Southern Baptist Convention's first national strategist for gender issues.

In the charged debate over God and gays, there are few topics more controversial than so-called reparative therapy — the idea that sexual orientation can, or should, change. The American Psychological Association is in the midst of a yearlong review of the issue, hoping to determine whether such church-based therapy is effective, and whether it may do more harm than good.

'Success' didn't last

For three decades, ex-gay ministries like Exodus International have shared success stories of people who have used prayer and willpower to change, or at least suppress, their homosexuality.

Bogle used to be one of the success stories.

Thank you Darlene and Christine for stepping up and telling your stories so well.

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Geh wie ein Cowboy

Some of you know that a German TV crew trailed me for about a month filming me in my home, in NYC, at the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference and at shows in Connecticut and California. Michael Heussen, the TV correspondent from ARD TV saw the film, But I'm a Cheerleader, a few years back and had been fascinated by the ex-gay story ever since.

Although I learned no German during my experience, I enjoyed getting to know Michael and the various cameramen and sound guys.

Sunday night on German prime time national TV, ARD aired its piece about the ex-gay movement. In it they show bits of interviews with Alan Chambers, Michael Bussee, some folks at the Exodus conference and me (see me in my backyard among the flowers and in Times Square).

You can see the 7 min + clip on-line (link on the bottom left of the page). If you do, you may be able to figure out what Geh wie ein Cowboy has to do with me.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007


This week at New England Yearly Meeting I met a wonderful new Friend, Jeanne Stern, who although a New England Quaker, currently lives in Austin, TX. A filmmaker and artist, Jeanne has a bright bright spirit. On her excellent and colorful site, she provides samples of her films, art and more. From her bio:
Jeanne Stern creates miniature microcosms with dioramas and film puppetry. Her puppet film "Les Malaventures de Zut-Alors," about Siamese brother and sister Zut and Alors, screened at SXSW and is currently touring with Heather Henson's Handmade Puppet Dreams Film Festival.
I watched the Zut-Alors film today and marveled at the beauty, humor, intelligence and warmth in it. I especially appreciate the audio with its funky little sound effects and music. Watching the film, I thought of my dear Friend, Alex Resare, and his own journey. I think he will enjoy Les malaventures de Zut-Alors.


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Ex-Gay Survivors in Nashville, TN

Christine Bakke and Darlene Bogle went to Nashville, TN yesterday and stood in front of the headquarters of the Southern Baptist Convention. They each share personal, moving stories of their own experiences as ex-gay. They also called on the Baptists to consider people before politics and to heed the warning that many of us who pursued ex-gay conversion therapy caused us more harm than good.

You can see video here:

Read the Tennessean article here.


Impressed by My Friends

Friends (and friends) have impressed me lately with their faithfulness and commitment.

Ex-Gay Survivors Christine Bakke (along with Darlene Bogle) headed to Nashville this week and stood in front of the Southern Baptist headquarters to share some of their experiences as ex-gay survivors.

The Baptists recently appointed "a Texas pastor to become its "national strategist for gender issues" -- a position designed to promote "ex-gay" ministries to SBC congregations." In other words they will be welcoming, but not affirming. Soulforce sponsored Christine and Darlene as part of the Survivor Initiative. These two spoke up as witnesses to the harm that can come as a result of seeking to suppress and change one's sexuality.

In Portland, Oregon this weekend, PFlAG, The Community of Welcoming Congregations, GLADD and some Quakers offered a positive response to the Focus on the Family Love Won Out Conference that rolled into town on Saturday. The Salem Press reported about the event.

As part of their interfaith prayer vigil, Jonmarc Ross, an ex-gay survivor, a birthright Quaker (and a dear friend I have gotten to know this year) shared some about his 14 year quest to turn away from homosexuality, the devastating results that ensued, and how he reclaimed his life,
"I was having a complete mental breakdown and seriously contemplating ways to end my life," said Portland resident and survivor of the ex-gay movement Jonmarc Ross. "It wasn't being gay and holding on to my faith that nearly killed me; it was misguided faith in the belief that I had to change."

He continued, "Today I celebrate that I left that scared self loathing boy behind and began a very long and painful journey to a place where I can finally see a man that God loves."
And here in Rhode Island, I am witnessing something amazing among the Young Friends (high school) gathered for New England Yearly Meeting. I volunteered to be one of the adults to sit in with them during their Nominations Committee (NomCom) deliberations. Each summer the Young Friends form a committee to create a slate of possible young Friends who will be leaders throughout the coming year at retreats. They take this task on as a sacred charge and all togerther spend five or six hours throughout the week in meetings (often while their peers are off playing or napping).

Yet again I felt amazed at these young people's depth of spirituality and commitment. (They blew me away two years ago with their response to the less than centered worship time by adults at gathering) They gather for each NomCom meeting and sit in silence. They then speak thoughtfully, lovingly and carefully about their fellow Friends as prospects for the Ministry and Council (M&C) board. Often throughout the meetings these young people ages 14-17 stop and settle into silence, seeking direction and insight with every step they take. They consider the needs of the community as well as the needs of the possible M&C members. They ponder what each brings to the community and how the experience of being on M&C will affect each one, and with tremendous care, they discuss their Friends' strengths and weaknesses.

I cannot adequately express the wonder of these meetings and how each time they floor me with their depth and compassion and insight. I feel honored to be part of their deliberations. During these time with these Young Friends I learn to listen to the Spirit and how to speak the truth in love.

I feel so encouraged by the love and good works I see going on in the world this week.

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

Change Was NOT Possible--part 3 of 3

This is the third in a three part series.
Part One: What Was I After and Why?
Part Two: What Happens When Change is not Possible?

Part Three: Living on the Outside

After I exited LIA, I lived for a short time as an ex-gay apart from being in the program. I kept accountable, denying myself daily, being careful where I went and what I thought. I took up the struggle as my daily cross to bear, believing that God would give me the strength to bear it each day, one day at a time. It was pretty much everything I did for the past 17 years, but this time with more therapy and tools at my disposal.

During his talk at the recent Love Won Out Conference in Phoenix (hat tip to Jim Burroway) Alan Chambers spoke about denial.
I think you can expect a life of obedience. Matthew 16:24 talks about those who take up their cross and follow the Lord. They have to live a life of denial. And in the early days of when I started speaking and debating and doing all sorts of things related to the issue of homosexuality, and took my position with Exodus, people used to say, "Oh Alan, you're just in denial." I used to get so mad when they'd say, "You're just in denial. You're just denying who you're really are." And I'd say, "No I’m not. I'm not in denial. I'm not in denial." And then I came to the place where I realized, you know what? God calls us as Christians to a life of denial.

I love that today, I realize that I do live a life of denial. Not denial of who I used to be, not denial of who I could be today, but I deny what comes naturally to me.
I too denied what came natural to me. My same-sex desires existed in me from the earliest time. I tried casting them out, handing them over to God, therapizing them away, containing them and ultimately denying them and nailing them to the cross. I crucified myself with Christ and died daily. The problem was I was not dying to “sin”. No what I thought was sinful in my life, my same-sex desires, only grew stronger with a natural energy that I could not destroy. No but I did died daily, by inches, my personality and my well being suffered.

Then one day I woke up and surveyed my life. I took stock of the depression, the stress, the feelings of self-loathing, and the exhaustion. I considered Jesus’ promise when he declared
Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
I stayed in bed feeling the weight of the burdens piled on top of me. That yoke was not easy and the burden was not light. It crushed the life out of me. The letter of the law kills but the Spirit gives life. No matter how much I trusted in the Spirit’s power, I had insisted that the Spirit enable me to follow the law of man and not the word of God, and the law was killing me.

Then I said to myself, “What are you doing? This is insane!” And at that moment I woke up as if out of a coma and for the first time in nearly two decades I understood that my pursuit to change and suppress my sexuality was unnecessary and unhealthy. Sure I experienced change, but not what I had hoped for. The ex-gay process transformed me into a joyless, uptight, frustrated drone of a man, growing more and more distant from God despite the many hours of daily prayer and Bible study.

In my journey I began to realize that I needed help with specific issues. I objectified people and their bodies as sexual objects. I had the tendency to be compulsive and addictive in my sexual life and not see sex as a means of loving and building a relationship but as a means to quench an unmet need. I also realized how much I wished to fit in and please the straight men around me and live in such a way as to gain their approval and acceptance. But none of these issues had to do with my natural orientation towards men. In fact, mine was a very human struggle that many more straight men face than do gay men.

But in demonizing all same-sex desire, branding it evil, demonic, unhealthy and abnormal, I sought to destroy it. First I tried to magically alter it into heterosexuality and when I understood the implausibility of such a miracle, I then tried to silence and suppress my desires looking to God to enable me to destroy myself.

I sought the wrong things. Instead of focusing on the simple message of Jesus—love your neighbor as yourself—I coveted my straight neighbor and tried to become just like him. In the end I hated myself. I felt ashamed of myself and as a result I acted shamefully.

I accepted that I could not rid myself of my same-sex desires. I grew to understand that my desires were not abnormal or wrong. I accepted and affirmed myself. I then began to see real change in my life—the ability to address the sexual compulsion, the moral will to stop objectifying people as mere sexual objects.

I also found a new honesty with God and others, a transparency that eluded me for years. Friends and family noticed the difference over the past eight years and remark how I am much more alive, solid and emotionally available than ever before.

Some suggest that since we never can actually change our sexuality that we should still strive to cage it in, silence it and nail it to the cross. For me I realize that such a life does come not from a following God but from following man.

Change from being gay to straight was NOT possible for me, neither was it necessary. Trying to NOT be gay didn't work either, even when I viewed it as my sacrifice to God. Pursuing to change and suppress my sexuality came at a great cost. Sure I learned some good lessons, but ultimately the process caused me more harm than good.

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Friday, August 03, 2007

Lesbian Attacked in Jackson, TN

Jim Burroway over at BTB mentioned an attack on a lesbian in Tennessee.
A Jackson, Tennessee-area woman was left partially blind and possibly brain damaged from an attack at a club. The fight broke out when a patron thought she looked like a man and assumed she was gay when she started dancing with a male friend. When he told her to leave using a gay slur, she replied that she was a woman, but yes, she’s a lesbian. Her assailant then punched Amanda in the face and jabbed her in the left eye about four times with the bottom of a beer bottle before smashing the bottle over the back of her head.
So her attacker first went after her because he thought she was a gay man, and then when she identified as lesbian, he still went after her. I wonder what part of the attack had to do with her not being gender-normative. She looked like a man to the assailant. Since she didn't fit the mold, it seems like he punished her.

I hope she has a speedy recovery and that this attack doesn't affect her life too deeply. I hate that people can't be safe simply because of how they look and how they are perceived and who they are.

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Off to NEYM

NEYM=New England Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quaker) in Smithfield, RI.

This will be my 6th NEYM and the 5th time as a resource person (RP) for the Young Friends (high school) group.

As an RP, I serve as a FAP (friendly adult presence) helping oversee activities, being present for worship and meeting for worship with attention to business. I also co-lead an Affinity Group (this time with the amazing Anna B!) that meets nightly for check-ins, discussions, games and snacks..

Early on I learned two key lessons when working with Quaker teens.
1. I am judged by the quality of the snacks I provide.
2. Respect that of God within them and let them lead as the RPs facilitate.

I also learned early on that these teens don't want or even need advice from me. They get that all the time. They want to be heard, and they want to hear each other without a lot of talk by well-meaning adults. Therefore, my role is to help maintain a safe space where that sort of sharing takes place.

This year will be different from past years because we lost a recent graduate in a car accident this winter, and we will have a memorial for Chris during our sessions.

I feel honored to be with these young Friends, to see them grapple with spiritual, social justice and personal questions.

I set my intentional to be present with them and to limit my time on-line and on the phone. Lots of other folks will be busy this week sharing their ex-gay experiences around the country (can't tell you anything yet, but you will hear more next week).

My part this week is to be present, to stay open to the Spirit and these young Friends, to listen deeply, be slow to speak as I trust God to be in our midsts.


Thursday, August 02, 2007

Ex-Gay/Survivor News Update

Yet again another week with lots of news and stuff about ex-gays and survivors.
  • For me the biggest (at least to me personally) is my announcement that I will retire my one-person comedy, Doin' Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House.

  • Frontiers, an LA based LGBT-themed magazine did a piece about the Ex-Gay Survivor Movement. Writer James F. Mills reports and comments about the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference and the Survivor Initiative outside of NARTH. (hat tip to Daniel Gonzales)

  • KDW out of Portland, Oregon, reports about Focus on the Family's Love Won Out Conference that will be there this weekend.

  • EDGE Boston published the last of its four part series on the Ex-Gay Movement. Although they need to do some more editing on the piece (they changed Darlene Bogle's surname to Boyle at some point), David Foucher wraps up his series with positive stories and quotes. He highlights lots of Darlene's story with her partner Dee. I am glad he also included an account I shared with him about a recent trip to Montreal.
"I went to Montreal," says Toscano by way of example. "People told me it’s great, you’ve got to go to the gay village. So I went, I walked down Ste. Catherine, and there’s a bar, a sex shop, a bathhouse, a club. Another bar, a sex shop, a bathhouse, a club. I walked the whole block and I realized I’m just not represented there. I thought, ’Where’s the little café where they’re doing a poetry reading? Where’s little spiritual centre where people can talk about faith? Where are the lesbians? Where are the trans people? Does it take a whole village to get off?’

"I didn’t feel part of that community because I didn’t want to hook up with someone," he sighs. "And part of our community’s development requires us to grow and invest in our lives. I know sex is a moneymaker, but there should be more to us. So I think there are issues for our community, and the ex-gay narrative helps bring that out."
  • Jim Burroway posted his next installment in his Love Won Out Conference recap. In Part Five, he quotes conference speakers and analyzes their message in his post A Candid Look at "Change". (Also, some of the content at Box Turtle Bulletin is now available in Russian)

  • Barry James Moore, an ex-gay survivor, just published a new article at his site: We are all Naked. In it he explores his own ex-gay journey. (I will highlight this more in an upcoming post.
  • Some new videos out there. This one is making the rounds at various blogs. The person identifies as someone who no longer identifies as gay and shares candidly about his experiences. I think it helps to understand how some folks view themselves and the issues in their lives. This is not representative of all folks I have known who are ex-gay or whichever term they wish to use. hat tip to Ex-Gay Watch.

  • You can also practice your Spanish while you listen to the narrative of Vicente Cervantes, an ex-gay survivor who also was on the Equality Rides earlier this year (and is a performance artist!)

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"Homo No Mo" No More????

As promised, I have an important announcement to share with you. It's something that I had determined months ago, but sat with it, talked to my support committee and some of you about and held in the Light since that time.

I feel confident and even excited to announce that in February 2008 I will officially retire my play, Doin' Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway Houuse--How I Survived the Ex-Gay Movement. I premiered the play in Memphis, TN in February 2003 (on my birthday) and have since taken it far and wide. (A Google Vanity Search yields nearly 12,000 hits for the term "Doin' Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House")

Back in 2003 there was very little out there countering the claims of ex-gay therapies and ministries. Mike Airhart had just started Ex-Gay Watch, and although gay activists, like Wayne Besen, spoke out against the Ex-Gay Movement, there were no ex-gay survivors telling their stories in any public way.

Since that time so much has changed. Folks like Christine Bakke and Darlene Boggle and Shawn O'Donnell and Eric Leocadio and Alex Resare and David Christie and Daniel Gonzales and (I could go on for quite some time) have come forward to share their own stories. Christine Bakke and I (with lots of help from Steve Boese, who reviewed Homo No Mo back in 2003) set up Beyond Ex-Gay (bXg) in April of this year and filled it with lots of powerful stories.

The Ex-Gay Survivor Conference and Soulforce's Ex-Gay Survivor Initiative have helped to highlight the concerns of ex-gay survivors and the clear message that many of us experienced more harm than good in our pursuit to suppress and change our sexuality. As a result, several survivors have shared their stories in video and placed them on YouTube. Currently there are at least eight differen documentary films in the works that all deal with the ex-gay issue. There is the autumn release of Save Me, a film about the ex-gay struggle, and new blogs by ex-gay survivors are being created weekly.

My story is out there, in large part because of my play and talks, and has been featured in news stories, documentaries, and TV programs (check out this week's Edge article). I feel it is time for me to lay down the Homo No Mo play. In part, I want to make room for other people to tell their stories. Also, I know it will not be healthy or even interesting to be stuck in the same role for a long time. I have other plays that I do and still others in the works.

I do intend to produce a high quality DVD version of Doin' Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House. We may do some filming in December with hopes of having it out by the spring of 2008. And I will perform the play as often as possible between now and February. My hope is to have my final performance in Memphis. (the fall schedule will be up once I return from England)

If you have been saying for years that you MUST get Homo No Mo to a theater or church or university near you, this your time to act. Feel free to contact Sarah or me.

But more importantly I want to thank you for your support and affirmation as I have been telling my story through the Homo No Mo play. I feel a special fondness for the piece in large part because of the many amazing people I have gotten to know through performing it. Through writing, performing and re-writing the piece, I learned a great deal about myself and my own struggle.

Today I see big shifts happening in the ex-gay world and the church, so I believe my play will very soon lose its relevance and simply become historical. We have lots to celebrate, and I see this final run of Homo No Mo to be part of that celebration.

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