Sunday, December 30, 2007

Ex-Gay Survivors Reaching Out

A few weeks ago on a phone call with ex-gay survivor Daniel Gonzales, he said something that resonated with me.
I didn't really understand my own ex-gay experiences and the harm until I began to speak out about them.
I totally get that. Writing and performing my play and sharing my story has helped me to unpack my experiences and understand why I put myself through so much trauma and allowed others to do horrible things to me in the name of God and recovery from homosexuality.

What I also see is that folks like Daniel, once they begin to tell their stories, then reach out to others in innovative ways. Daniel has done a series of excellent YouTube videos about the ex-gay movement including his most current one Dan's Wish List of Christmas Past. He also writes for the blog Box Turtle Bulletin and has made told his story in the media.

Athena McConnell, a lesbian, Christian and a wonderful writer (check out her poetry), recently blogged about some of her ex-gay experiences at former churches she attended. Some folks think that ex-gay ministry only happens in ex-gay programs, but so much happens under the radar through abusive and invasive practices like Athena describes in her piece, The Purple Heart of Ex-Gay
Church staff members began to shout tongues at me, and laid their hands on my forehead in order to cast demons from me. I didn’t know whether to cry, laugh, or scream, so I stayed emotionless, quiet, and scared.
Jallen Rix, another ex-gay survivor who attended and assisted with this summer's Ex-Gay Survivor Conference, has shared some of his story on the web and in the film Fish Can't Fly. He recently completed a university course making him an actual doctor of sexology. Armed with his degree and lots of helpful knowledge, he now offers private consultations and group work to ex-gay survivors, including his six-week class "Ex-Gay?" No Way! Most recently he has been taken on as's Gay Sexpert and published an excellent piece Am I "Normal?"

Take, for example, gender. The first thing you ask a new mother: "Is it a boy or a girl?" If you met someone a year ago, you may not remember the person's name. You may not even remember the person's hair or eye color. But without fail, you remember the person's gender.

There's nothing wrong with these details per se. Just notice how our thinking is heavily influenced by gender -- even before a person leaves the womb. Furthermore, sexologist Dr. Charlie Moser believes that when a minority gains some degree of acceptance in society, it's then easy for that minority to oppress the next. We have seen this when some black communities align themselves with the religious right to condemn queers. We have seen it in our own community's struggle to understand transgendered and bisexual people.

I love how Jallen takes on the issues of gender and identity and I expect he will offer lots of useful advice to the LGBT communities.

Another ex-gay survivor who I met this year and who reaches out regularly through his blog and videos is Vincent Cervantes. In his most recent post hetakes on Marriage and the Bible
and even includes a list of the eight types of marriages in the Bible:
  • Nuclear, traditional model - one man and one woman
  • Polygamy - extremely common, Abraham to Solomon
  • Levirate marriage - law to ensure male progeny, "widow marriage"
  • Bond marriage - made female slaves of the primary wife a wives as well
  • Concubine tenure - matirmony minus the designation and certain privileges
  • Forced servitude, war conquests - conditional on sexual status of victim, virgins only
  • Slavery - patriarchal society, women were property, and so on
  • Rape - perpertrators had to pay a a dowry to avoid penalty (Deuteronomy 22:28-29; 50 shekels dowry)
Christine Bakke has been working hard these past few months to process her ex-gay experiences through her art. In addition to curating Beyond Ex-Gay's on-line gallery she has done moving and insightful art that she has posted on her blog. See Reason and Art, Remember Pearl Harbor and In Mesh.

Yesterday I wrote about recent updates to the Beyond Ex-Gay web site. I didn't mention that I recently spoke with the wife of a former ex-gay. She gave me the BEST Christmas present ever when she told me that she and two other wives with similar experiences have been in touch to support each other as they forge their new lives. Two of them met at the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference this summer.

This sort of thing thrills me, seeing people move beyond their ex-gay pasts, past the hurt and the anger and the shame of it and as they move more fully into the lives they have reclaimed.

Well it is a lovely snowy day here in Sweden and I must take the dog for a walk. How great to be in a country where people actually get excited when they see snow and instead of canceling events and activities because of the weather, they actually get out and do more!

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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Beyond Ex-Gay Update

Since this summer's Ex-Gay Survivor Conference, Christine and I have primarily worked directly with ex-gay survivors, supporting them in telling their stories and helping them find necessary resources for their recovery. We have also met to begin plans for the next two years. Some exciting developments in store.

In addition, we continue to update the bXg website as well as respond to messages we regularly receive from ex-gay survivors all over the world. We see the ex-gay survivor movement as one that will grow with the people who feel drawn to be a part of it.

We welcome your suggestions and submissions for articles, narratives, art work, poetry and anything else you think might contribute to the site and the movement. We are finding that by telling our stories, we begin to understand more what we did, why we did it and what it cost us. Then we can get beyond those ex-gay experiences and enter more fully into life.

Here is a little update:

Video of the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference (15 min):
Here is a shorter trailer version

Featured Question
Okay, complete disclosure, Christine and I envisioned a "Question of the Month" but somehow it turned into the Question Every Six Months! Anyway, here is the current featured question:
What would you tell someone if they were thinking about attending an ex-gay program?
Check out five different answers from around the world as well as previous questions and answers.

New Articles
Loving Dissonance by Tom O'Toole
I also wrote some articles:
Ex-Gay Harm--Let Me Count the Ways
Change was NOT Possible series of articles

We have over 25 articles listed on the articles page with specific articles for ex-gay survivors, parents of LGBT children and spouses. We just posted two articles in Spanish and one in Swedish. If you know a language well and would like to translate some articles, let us know.

New Narratives
Seth Guyette
Barbara Leavitt
David Christie
Brandon Tidwell

Art Work
Collages of ex-gay survivors designed by Christine Bakke
Also we have some new artwork up at the visual art page--photos by Gregg Moreland, new art by Michael Goll, David Christie and Christine Bakke

In the fall a woman from Kentucky doing research for a college project contacted me. A married straight woman, she knew almost nothing about the ex-gay movement before her research project. She told me that she found bXg to be the most thorough and informative site out there. She read everything with interest, but said that the site became real for her when she began to read the narratives of other straight women. Her husband is not gay, but it got her thinking, what if he were? and suddenly the ex-gay survivor story became personal.

This is the power of narrative and one of the hallmarks of the bXg site. We wish to tell our stories as a witness and a warning. For most of us ex-gay therapy and ministries caused more harm than good. Through the art and narratives and such we have begun to build a public record to tell a story that has rarely been told.

Thank you all who have contributed so far.

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Friday, December 28, 2007

Recent Church and non-Church Encounters

I try to worship somewhere on Sundays whenever possible. Most often I go to an un-programmed Quaker meeting for mostly an hour of silent worship.

Three weeks ago I attended West Hills Friends Church in Portland, OR and two weeks ago I worshiped at Freedom Friends Church, a semi-programmed Quaker Church in Salem, OR co-pastored by Peggy Senger Parsons and Alivia Biko. On Sunday I worshiped at my local Friends Meeting in Hartford, CT.

Most people know little about Quakers (no we do not drive horse and buggies, and we do not get a cut from the Quaker Oats company). In the US we have Quaker meetings and Quaker churches. Most Quaker meetings in the US and UK do not have a pastor, and the worship is unprogrammed--we sit down, settle into silence and wait. Someone, anyone really, may speak out of the silence. Sometimes what someone says moves me and inspires me. Other times the message confuses or annoys me (especially those National Public Radio messages, which always start"The other day on NPR...)

Most Quaker churches are programmed or semi-programmed with pastors and a specific order of service. I have been to few of these, so I can't say much more.

Theologically Quaker churches contain people who adhere to a more traditional view of Christianity while Quaker meetings lean towards a more liberal or universalist view. In fact, in Quaker meetings you may find people who do not identify as Christian at all but may be pagan or theist or atheist. Quaker churches may not always be safe places for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people while Quaker meetings usually seek to be open and affirming (and often but not always succeed).

I am a Christ-centered un-programmed Friend (and I would like a venti no-foam, de-caf, soy latte, please). I believe in Jesus and I prefer the silence. In many ways I surf between the two worlds of programmed and un-programmed Quakers--never completely home in either.

At Freedom Friends Church they started with a few songs, an opportunity to share joys then concerns, a prayer time and lastly a period of silence of about 30 minutes with a handful of messages rising from the congregation. They had no sermon.

More and more I believe that this sort of format works well for people new to Quakerism. In the old days people hung out more and spoke about what happened in worship and learned about faith and practice over a meal or while working on a project. But today most people blow into meeting and blow out with little opportunity to know what happens behind the veil of silence.

Personally I think that every un-programmed Friends meeting should have a semi-programmed meeting once every four months. This would be the meeting where one could invite friends who have expressed an interest in coming to meeting. About this I will have more to say at a later time.

On Christmas Eve I attended Catholic mass with my dad. I didn't want him to go alone as my sister Maria was with her in-laws in Long Island and my sister Nardina and my brother Manuel live far away. So I attended mass--the LONGEST HOUR OF THE YEAR! Actually it ran for 55 minutes, but I swear it felt more like three hours.

Even though the priest told jokes and the choir sang some of my favorite Christmas songs (albeit in a key that most humans should not attempt) the whole affair dragged on forever. Now I know that some people get a lot out of Catholic mass, and that having grown up in that tradition, I do not experience it as an adult convert. But throughout the service, just when I began to really focus on God and listen, they interrupted me with another song or prayer or collection (two times!) or people shuffling down to the altar for Communion (I remained in my pew) or an Irish blessing as we left. How can anyone worship with all that racket going on?!?

Today in Umeå Sweden, where I reside until 17 January, I will meet with a small group of people interested in Quaker worship. They do not have a Quaker meeting here, just a few people who have begun to research Quakerism and connect with Quakers via the web and a retreat center near Stockholm.

They have met very few Quakers, so I feel a concern that they may get the wrong idea from me. I am still a baby Quaker. In the un-programmed Quaker meetings we do not have a concept of a Quaker missonary--that would be blasphemous or something. But here I am in Sweden about to meet with these folks as we share our faith and more importantly the experience of worshiping together. Hmmm, maybe I can start a new wave of vegan, comic, queer Quakerism...

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

I'm in Sweden & Marvin's Everywhere

I'm sitting on the couch with Alex and Noa Resare here in Sweden. We all have our Mac laptops out. I have been off-line and needed Alex to update me on all of Marvin's recent media appearances. Yeah, he comes out of the shadows and suddenly here is everywhere.

You can hear a special voice message he left over at the Flatus Show episode 120. I haven't heard it yet, but I hear it is about 10 minutes into the show. But listen to the whole thing, Ken is a cool podcaster even if Joe G refuses to be his Internet boyfriend (but that is more about Joe G's issues and much less to do with cutie Ken).

And speaking of Joe G., over at his podcast he juxtaposes two unlikely folks--Marvin with Charo. You have to hear it for yourself--Episode 14.

Before I left Marvin called to say that he wants to do more video. He feels it is his calling and even bought a video camera and threatened, um promised, to send me the raw files for me to edit.

As to your recent questions, he rebuffed them all saying that he will only take on serious questions and will not be pulled into a trap of the enemy or be some man's play thing (his words not mine).

I think I will be eclipsed by Marvin yet again. He will become more and I will become less. But I'm willing to share the limelight, so see Joe, I am not a total media whore.

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Marvin Under Attack

Just when you thought it was safe to browse YouTube, Marvin strikes again. I should never have gotten him that video camera for Christmas. He keeps sending me files to edit and post for him (he is still skittish about the Internet ever since his whole demonic virus hard-drive meltdown.

In his latest installment he informs us that he is under demonic attack as a result of his recent holiday, um Holy Day message. To make matters worse, he tries to be sensitive this year towards his parents and buys them the "perfect gift" for Hanukkah.

He asked me to tell you that he is willing to take on your questions about faith, morality, demons or even his own life. In his own words, "I'm an open book." God help us all.

Marvin Bloom Under Attack!

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Friday, December 21, 2007

A Very Marvin Christmas

Some of you know Marvin Bloom very well. He was an audio blogger here for several months and shared his own special mix of wisdom and passive aggressiveness. He has been hiding out for over a year, but has made a special appearance for Christmas. Really no words can properly describe the madness and sincerity of Marvin. You will just have to experience it yourself. Of course I told him I would share all messages that you have with him. He will not venture onto the web himself ever since an unfortunate incident with a demonic virus that he downloaded onto his hard drive. But that is another story.

For your enjoyment--A Very Marvin Christmas:


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Equality Ride Documentary

Speaking wtih Ally on the phone today, she directed me to a trailer Vince Cervantes put up on his blog (we bloggers are so incestuously connected). The trailer gives a glimpse of a new film about the 2007 Soulforce Equality Rides. Vince and his partner were both riders (and appear in footage in the trailer and I imagine even more in the film). When I met the riders in April to take part in their training, I felt so moved by them, their faith, their commitment and their love. Even in this short trailer it shines through.

And speaking of video...if you have not done so yet, please watch my holiday greeting, A Homo No Mo Christmas!
And look out, a video will be released (maybe later today, by a cantankerous friend of this blog (no not Joe Gee--someone sweeter and more Christian)

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Homo No Mo Christmas

Time for my annual Christmas video. Last year I bought cyber gifts for everyone while I stayed in Crieff, Scotland, and made a video about it. This year my video is the gift. Yeah, I know, I am so generous.

Last week I performed the Ho Ho Homo No Mo Holiday Special at the MCC in Portland, OR, and for that event I dug into my past to find Christmas related material from the Homo No Mo Halfway House. The following video is a TRUE story of a Homo No Mo Christmas.

Now don't be surprised if in a few days I post another video from an old friend of this blog.

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Alex & Noa in the News

My buds in Sweden, Alex and Noa Resare, have a story worth telling. Theirs is a story of love against all odds and the creativity of God. You can read some of Alex's story over at bXg and his blog.

Recently a regional publication in the city where they live, ran an extensive article about them and their lives as a gay couple with one of the men being trans. Although lots of Americans have this idea that Sweden is light-years ahead of us in regards to LGBT issues, folks still need lots of education. I believe Alex is the first trans person the reporter met.

Here is the opening of the article:
Trots att paret Resare lever trogna sin kärlek och har varit gifta i åtta år, sedan de var 20–21 år, har de fått lämna sitt samfund och rent juridiskt ta ut skilsmässa. Orsaken är att Olivia genomgått könskorrigering och nu heter Alex.

Före könskorrigeringen gick all energi åt till att hålla tillbaka den han kände han var.

– Min Gudsbild och självbild ledde till självförakt, nu ser och uppskattar jag det vackra hos andra och i tillvaron, säger Alex.

För ett par år sedan var de ett aktivt frikyrkopar. Olivia och Noa träffades genom gemensamma vänner. De gifte sig och fick två döttrar. Olivia blev hemmafru på heltid och kämpade för att sköta hemmet perfekt.

Med förväntan träffar jag Alex och Noa tillsammans på ett kafé. Alex har bruna, lite hemlighetsfulla ögon. Stereotypa tankar på honom som Olivia med långt hår, lite läppstift och en dammvippa i handen fladdrar hastigt förbi.
Noa och Alex är inte bara skärpta och villiga att förklara, utan också två människor med en märkbar ömhet mellan sig.

Text: Erika H Magnusson
Foto: Andreas Nilsson
My translations skills fail me. But here is a rough translation. The writer insisted on using Alex's former name, something that I understand but find disrespectful and something done out of ignorance. I will not use any such names in my translation. Alex can help if he wishes and of course others Swedes read this blog:
Despite that the Resare couple lived a sexually faithful life and had been married for eight years, since they were 20 and 21 years 0ld, they have had to leave their marriage for legal purposes and get divorced. The reason is that Noa's wife had undergone sex correction and now is called Alex.

Before the sex correction, all Alex's energy went to to holding back what he knew he was.

"Facing my image of God and my self-image led to lonliness and contempt. Now I understand and see myself as beautiful as other people," Alex says.

The two were active in the free church. Alex (still a woman on the outside) and Noa met through common friends. They married and had two daughters. Alex became full-time housewife and strove to maintain the home perfect.

With anticipation, I envision Alex and Noa together in a café. Alex has brown, little secret full eyes. I had stereotyped thoughts about him that as a woman with long hair, little lipstick and a feather duster in the hand that flutters rapidly past.
Okay, that is all I can do. You can read the entire piece for yourself here. And feel free to correct my translation. It is faulty at best. Or forget about the words altogether and stare at the gorgeous picture of this amazing couple.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

New Video about Gays and Ex-gays

Jim Burroway and Daniel Gonzales over at Box Turtle Bulletin posted two new videos about the Focus on the Family Love Won Out Conference and specifically messages by ex-gays Mike Haley and Alan Chambers.

Mike Haley--The Hope for Marriage

Alan Chambers--I Live a Life of Denial

If you are in the mood for some fabulous logic (with a sprinkling of sparkling humor) around gay sex, "the gay lifestyle" and so many of the arguments that anti-gay people throw up about queer folks, check out John Corvino's newly released extended trailer of the DVD What's Morally Wrong with Homosexuality.

And the following video is a fun and subversive view of the terrifying heterosexual disease that infects good wholesome American queer families. Remember anyone, anyone can be a heterosexual. It's but so sad too.
Shame No More directed by John Krokidas.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Bye Bye PDX, Hello LA

I feel sad to leave Portland, OR, land of ever flowing coffee, the coolest queer community and even a vegan mall. Sounds a bit like heaven to me. You can keep all the fluffy clouds and spotlessly clean elven angels in starched white tunics. Give me the grunge and wonder of Portland.

After hanging out with my vegan, queer-friendly, straight-edge friend, Ben (who brought me vegan baked goods from the cafe he works at) I am off to the airport to fly to Los Angeles. I have a long layover, so I get to escape the airport and have dinner with my buddy Eric Leocadio (who the last time we dined near the airport ate enough food for two large drag queens yet somehow maintains his slender figure).

Tomorrow I will be in the snowy wasteland of Hartford, at least for a few days before I head to NY to see my family for the holiday (pick one, anyone) and then on December 25th I am off to Sweden where it is dark and cold yet strangely warm and I have dear dear Alex and Noa and their children waiting for me as some sort of American Santa Clown come to turn their lives upside down.

Yesterday I worshiped at Freedom Friends Church and will have more to write about that amazing experience. Second week in a row with semi-program Quakers. I almost feel some Quaker guilt (which is sort of like snow in Portland. It rarely ever sticks).

Home tomorrow does sound yummy though. My tea pot calls me.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

New Performance Video Uploaded

I performed Transfigurations--Transgressing Gender in the Bible at SMYRC, the Sexual Minority Youth Resource Center in Portland, OR. In my opening remarks I also performed my identity monologue, which I already have up on YouTube, but it feels so different in front of a live audience.

After the play, I also did and excerpt from Queer 101--Now I Know My gAy,B,Cs. Yes, it is the scene between Chad and Federico Garcia Lorca. Folks have been clamoring for it for over a year, so for your view and sharing pleasure, below you will see that famous scene.

Much thanks to Mark Middleton for taping and editing and uploading the video and then treating me to Pix Patisserie!!!

Identity Monologue

Excerpt from Queer 101

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Even MORE Ex-Gay Survivors

Just this week I have heard several new stories of ex-gay survivors in the press and on the blogs. They are just coming out all over.

There is the story of Scott Harrison who was interviewed for the Southern Poverty Law Center Intelligence Report. He spent time in the Desert Stream/Living Waters program, an ex-gay group that often flies under the radar but maintains an international reach and some of the more bizarre practices regarding evil spirits and homosexuality. Although Exodus says they do not endorse such practices, they still refer people to Desert Stream/Living Waters programs

Harrison recounts one of the deliverance sessions he endured,
It was very intense, dramatic, group prayer. It lasted at least three hours. At the end, I was drenched in sweat. There were some real areas of psychological wounding. All I can really describe it as — because of how it happened and the incorrectness of the theology — is that it felt like a spiritual rape to me.
Another ex-gay survivor, James Stabile, recently appeared in the news (well CBN's 700 Club) as having experienced a miraculous deliverance from homosexuality. Turns out there is more to this story. Stabile's father, Joseph reports that they support their son with his same-sex attractions and explain how he fell prey to praying Christians after Stabile went off his medications for bipolar disorder.
Joseph Stabile said he’s fully accepting of his son’s sexual orientation and believes being gay is neither a choice nor a sin. Joseph Stabile said James left home to go out that Friday night and never returned. Joseph said James, or 'B.J.' as his parents affectionately refer to him, is bipolar and had stopped taking his medication. James called a few days later and told his parents he was moving out, and that he’d be back to get his stuff. James apparently had moved in with some folks from Heartland. After that, it would be some time before James’ parents heard from him, as his church friends reportedly advised him not to contact them. Joseph Stabile said the Heartland folks also may have advised James to throw away his medication, telling him that God would cure his bipolar disorder, too. Joseph’s parents said James has a tendency to be less than truthful, especially when he’s off his medication, and that he loves attention. They said they don’t believe he’s ever questioned his sexuality, but that the folks from Heartland manipulated and exploited him for publicity.
hat tip to Towleroad

Finally, in catching up on YukiChoe's excellent blog that explores ex-gay issues in Singapore and other parts of Asia, I read a moving account of Patrick Lee, who spent 14 years as an ex-gay. His tale includes conversion, deliverance, marriage, and electroshock therapy. It is a rich blog post and includes Lee's reflections of what he learned from his experience.

So many ex-gay survivors have recently come forward to share their stories revealing that for them ex-gay experiences caused more harm than good. Not only do they appear in the press and in the blogs, but also in so many creative ways. You can see some new art by ex-gay survivors over at the Beyond Ex-Gay art gallery. Vincent Cervantes, an ex-gay survivor and theatrical performance activist who has posted a number of YouTube video, reports that he performed some of my play, Doin' Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House, for his scene class, which opened up a discussion about the ex-gay movement.

Most ex-gay survivors I meet do not go public with their stories for lots of good reasons. Weekly I speak with folks who choose to engage in the work to undo the damage they allowed others to do to them and that they have done to themselves and their loved ones through ex-gay experiences. The power of someone's narrative, especially when s/he choses to be vulnerable and is well supported, can bring healing to the individual sharing their experiences. When people go public, their accounts also serve as a witness and a warning to the wider world.

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Friday, December 14, 2007

Fruit Flies and the Gays

Fruit Flies--as in the insect drosophilidae--not savvy straight women who enjoy hovering around fabulous gay men.

Yesterday a reporter from ABC contacted me to ask what I thought about a new study that reveals the sexual orientation of fruit flies can be changed. My immediate response was that I am not a scientist and had not yet been in contact with the fruit fly community, so I wouldn't want to speak for them. But as a vegan, I have personal knowledge of drosophilidae in my fruit bowl, and as an ex-gay survivor, I know about the desperation to change one's orientation.

But how deliciously ironic that they did a study about orientation on fruit flies. Aw, those poor gay fruit flies being type cast in a fruity role once again.

But as I spoke with the reporter, he asked about humans and how some people may respond to this fruit fly orientation switching news. In my mind and heart I traveled back to when I was 19 and longed for a cure. I would have done anything and everything to fix my homosexuality. Any time I heard of a powerful minister or of ex-gay seminar or of a book that another ex-gay found helpful, I pursued these with more earnestness than I ever pursued anything in my life up to that point.

I wanted to be fixed, healed, delivered, saved, set free, cured--be it instantaneously or progressively. I knew it would likely be a long road, but I felt it was all worth it for Jesus and for my own well-being. (and as a good Christian, I had scripture to back me up)

In the quest to straighten out my life I not only harmed myself, but also the people who loved me. I believed that I must discover the way out of being gay no matter the cost, not realizing that I also put the burden on others in my life and ended up wounding them by bringing them along with me on my journey to heterosexuality.

Life became one huge battle--a colossal war that I thought was waged against the devil, my flesh and the world. I grew to understand that the struggle, the strain was so great because I fought against myself and a part of me that could not be changed--a fixed part of me that need not move or shift. When I attempted to change, it created more conflict.

So I spoke with the reporter yesterday and you can read his article here. If There Was a Gay-Straight Switch, Would You Do It?

And the answer was yes. I did do it, well I tried to do it. I did it for all the wrong reasons (and found not really good reasons in the end), even bringing God into the equation believing I had a divine mandate and backing to change my orientation and my identity. But turns out the force behind my discomfort with my orientation actually came from an anti-gay world that has gotten emmeshed with the church to the point that the church upholds and enforces the oppression of the anti-gay world.

And the core of the oppression has little to do with who I desire sexuality. The anti-gay mandate is about masculinity. It springs from sexism and the anti-female madness that poisons the minds of men and large religious institutions. It is the same madness that drove the Nazis to experiment on gay men to try to fix them and turn them into real men, and when that didn't worked, they killed the homosexuals. This drive to stamp out effeminacy in men has even gotten into parts of the gay community.

A real man will have the courage to be authentic in spite of what society has to say about him. A real man will not tamp down the ways he speaks and acts in order to pass as a "straight-acting, masculine man." A real man will abandon an egocentric path of de-homosexualization when he realizes that such a lifestyle is not possible or healthy, and that it harms his loved ones.

And fruit flies, well, perhaps for a season, with scientific intervention, they can jump ship and swim in different waters. They can act heterosexuality or homosexuality while under the influence of a drug or genetic tampering, but really at the end of the day, drosophilidae just want my banana (and apples and peaches and pears and plums and...)

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Ex-Gays and Ex-Gay Survivors in SPLC Report

The Southern Poverty Law Center monitors hate groups and organizations that take a decidedly "anti" stance--anti-Black, gay, woman, etc. They also maintain an excellent site for educators and schools called Teaching Tolerance.

They have coved the ex-gay movement, but in their recent Intelligent Report, a quarterly print and web publication they provide a long article about the ex-gay movement as well as an interview with a former ex-gay leader through Desert Streams/Living Waters. I'm especially glad they included information about Living Waters. This program operates under the radar, has an international reach and does some of the most destructive forms of ministry I have seen.

Lots of us were interviewed for the piece including Scott Tucker, Daniel Gonzales, Eric Leocadio and me, all of whom attended the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference this summer. Sadly they did not interview Christine Bakke. I find the lesbian perspective gets ignored many of these stories even after I suggest to reporters to include women like Christine. Pam Ferguson, writer for Ex-Gay Watch and the former wife of a former ex-gay, does share some of her experience.

Over all I find it a decent article with few errors. (The writer states that I was in Living Waters, but I never attended that program. He also suggests that Love in Action's residential program has closed. Actually the Refuge teen program was discontinued and replaced with a shorter weekend seminar for parents, but as far as I know, the adult program presses on.)

Sometimes I feel frustrated with journalists who get ex-gay details wrong. This was especially true during the 2005 protests of Love in Action. Reporters quoted me saying stuff I never said and routinely mixed up the facts. Of course I have had some involvement with the Ex-Gay Movement since 1982, so the nuances and minutia have become part of my brain. I guess it is sort of like World of Warcraft (hmm in so many ways actually) in that it is a world unto itself, and it can take a lifetime to discover all the nooks and crannies and players in it.

I appreciate that the writer of the piece, Casey Sanchez, does include a reference to the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference this summer in Irvine. More and more reporters recognize a trend where ex-gay survivors come forward to share their stories of what they hoped and felt was promised by ex-gay promoters and providers and the harm these earnest seekers experienced. No two ex-gay programs are alike, and some are much more dangerous than others. I know that some current ex-gays shudder when they hear about what went on in Love in Action when I attended (and likely continues today).

Even thoughtful ex-gay leaders (yes, they too exist) may appreciate the SPLC's report on ex-gay ministries and programs. No doubt harm has happened and will continue to happen until leaders seriously consider what they do, why they do it and how they do it.

I appreciate SPLC stepping up and taking the time to look into the complex world of ex-gays and exposing some of the madness in it.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

This is What Love in Action Looks Like

Morgan Jon Fox recently created a blog for the film This is What Love in Action Looks Like and the other day I blogged about ways co-producer, Bruce Garrett and I have been trying to raise funds (including forcing Marvin into secretarial services.) (Daniel Gonzales left me a cryptic text message about the role of a Hollywood executive director, but it sounded more like fodder from an overwrought mind longing for the West Coast after moving to the mountains of Colorado. Maybe Joe G knows what Daniel is alluding to. Us North-East Quakers are out of the loop I guess.)

Over at the film's blog, you can now donate via PayPal. The money goes to the editing of the film and costs associated with licensing.

Hmmmm, maybe Willie Hewes will auction off a panel of her amazing work! (hint hint) You must read Willie's tender comic The Suckiest Angel and of course the now famous comic Free Z, which was inspired by the events that led to the 2005 protests.

You can see the trailer for the film about the ex-gay camp and the inspirational protests that ensued in the summer of 2005. The is a lovely film by itself that you can check out here.

So even if it is just $5, please consider helping Morgan out with this film. I believe it is the sort of encouraging and moving story that the world needs to hear right about now.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

Prayer Fresheners

Doug, one of my hosts here in Portland, jokingly confessed that he assumed I would spend my spare week here in his place in silent meditation filling his home with a mystical holy aroma, as if I were a plug-in spiritual fragrance--a Glad™ Prayer Freshener. Well, I do my part, but I can't take credit for the wafting up of any sacred scents.

Yesterday Doug, his husband Bruce, and I went to West Hills Friends Church. This is a semi-programmed Quaker church. Unlike my normal Quaker meeting, this one has leaders who give sermons, lead songs, say prayers and do Bible readings. Lots more bells and whistles than I normally go for, but a great service all the same.

They had about 20 minutes of silence, which I confess was my favorite part. I'm unprogrammed that way, but I can see the value of a semi-programmed meeting, especially for folks who are new to Quakerism. It can be daunting to pop into a Quaker meeting where no one starts anything. We just sit down in silence with no welcome or introduction. I imagine the newcomer thinking, "When is this going to start?"

This Sunday, one message that came through, first in the sermon and then in messages out of the silence, was that we must not judge by the exterior of the people around us. Although it may not be obvious at first (or 10th) glance, a bit of God is in everyone. One woman spoke of St. Francis and how he created the first manger scenes with living people. She said that with his draw towards the lowly, St. Francis must have put some of the ugliest people in the choicest roles of the nativity. The woman went on to say that she has begun to construct a mental nativity with the most difficult people in her life as Mary and Joseph, shepherds and wise men. That screaming baby on the plane gets casts as the Baby Jesus (I somehow think that even Marvin would approve).

This got me thinking to a message that has been knocking around in my heart for the past several months. Jesus is reported saying over and over again that the Kingdom of God is within. Then there is that wild parable about the man who finds a vast treasure, so vast that he must bury it in a nearby field. Then he goes and sells all he has so that he can purchase that field.

In thinking of that parable, I see the spiritual life as a great treasure hunt. So often I pray prayers of petition--Lord, I need this or that. Give me strength or courage and wisdom. And I need it now! But then I remind myself (or is it the Spirit?) that the Kingdom is housed within, not without in some distant land farther away than Narnia. Christ has given me everything I need for life and godliness. So then I shift my words, Thank you for the strength, wisdom and courage; now help me locate them within me.

When it comes to the difficult people, opponents, and even declared enemies, I try to turn it into a treasure hunt, a quest to find God within that person (and yes even family members). Somewhere lurking behind the challenges, the bitterness, the rejection, there is a vast treasure to discover.

Considering all this I suddenly feel drawn to silent prayer right now so that I can have ears to hear and eyes to see what is initially imperceivable but as real, or more real actually, than the overabundance of Right Guard™ body spray I doused over all myself this morning. Hmm, maybe Doug will mistake that is a sweet aroma wafting up to heaven, filling the house like a holy incense. Hmm, does the Holy Spirit come in Mountain Fresh?

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Saturday, December 08, 2007

Give and you shall Receive

I met up with Bruce Garrett this week in Baltimore. He and I are both executive producers of the film, This is What Love in Action Looks Like. (link to trailer below). The film follows the story of the 2005 protests in front of the ex-gay program Love in Action, protests sparked by the blog entries of a young 16 year-old whose parents forced him to attend the program for eight weeks.

Morgan Jon Fox directs and edits the film and has been making good progress on it. He should have a version of it ready for preview by February and then it will have an official premiere at a film festival later in the years.

As producers, Bruce and I have to produce money! Morgan works through the non-profit organization, the Memphis Digital Arts Co-op (MeDiA Co-op) and is housed in First Congregational Church in Memphis. Although the film operates on a very low budget, we still need to raise funds to cover licensing for music and TV footage, fees for entry into film festivals and money to cover some of the editing costs.

Bruce and I collaborated about creative ways we could raise money (other than just asking for it!) and he agreed to auction off a political cartoon on whatever topic the receiver desires. Bruce does amazing cartoons including his Coming Out series. He is also considering selling a panel from that series and give the proceeds to MeDiA Co-op for the film.

For my part, tonight I present the Ho Ho Homo No Mo Holiday Special (see crazy poster here) and will show the extended trailer to the audience then give a portion of the proceeds of the offering to the film. But then I started thinking of other things I could auction off and have a few ideas.
  1. A DVD of Doin' Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House. Earlier this year I made up 100 copies of a DVD mostly to send out to perspective venues so they can preview it, but I also sold a bunch in the UK. Almost no one in the States has this and I will not sell it anymore until I have a new version out. So I thought I could auction off this limited edition DVD.
  2. A personalized voice-mail message done by the character of your choice. I can send you the file in mpg format and you can use it on your phone for your voice mail. Come on can't you just see Marvin or Chad taking calls for your. Priceless.
  3. A CD of the BEST of Marvin. These Marvin files are no longer available on the web (because blogger sucks--don't get me started about bloggers lost audio function) but I have the files of each of Marvin's many audio posts. Wouldn't you like to have that in your hot little hand?
Now I don't know the first thing about Ebay, except that it can be insanely addictive, but if someone out there knows how we can setup these three items on Ebay, I say, let the bidding begin!

If you want to make a donation directly to the MeDiA Co-op, checks should be made out to First Congregational Church, with "Media Co-op" listed in the "for" line. Mail to:

MeDiA Co-op
1000 S. Cooper St.
Memphis, TN 38104

You can also join the Facebook Cause for This is What Love in Action Looks Like

And here is where your money will go:

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Friday, December 07, 2007

A Whole New Queer World

On a recent trip I met a man who 25 years ago went into the closet and only reemerged over the past two years. He lived for a while as a gay man in the late 70's and then in the early 80's he fled the gay scene into a heterosexual marriage and deep into the closet.

What a different world it was then. I was just graduating high school. To be gay meant to be reviled in most circles. Conservatism and the Religious Right rose to great power and wielded a long media arm that regularly bashed gays. The primary way that it seemed you could express your "gayness" was at a seedy gay bar or an even seedier adult book store. And of course AIDS hit with a fury and was quickly labeled a "gay disease" and God's judgment on homosexuals.

Many gay men took flight and found refuge in a heterosexual cover or in the ex-gay movement (or both). It was about that time that LIFE Ministries in NYC began their ex-gay program, and I began to attend it. As a Christian struggling with homosexuality, it seemed the only logical, sane and righteous course. I did meet a gay Christian when I was a teen. He was an adult and I was a teen, and he hit on me, so I wanted nothing to do with these fake gay Christians.

Today when I read most ex-gay testimonies of how God delivered someone from homosexuality, I hear the back-story of someone who knows the gay world as it existed in the 80's and early 90's. Their gay lifestyles most often consisted of cruising parks and public restrooms, of drunken binges at gay clubs, of godless irresponsible living with little regards to themselves or others. Their lives, as they describe them, were miserable, depressing and outright dangerous. And the reality is that many gay men have lived this way and some still do.

How the world has changed and is changing. Sure you can still find people living lives that they regret. This happens with both gay and straight people, but the "gay world" today is such a different one than it was 25 years ago. So many more options for connection.

Just this week I presented at Goucher College in Baltimore, MD. The LGBTIQA group PRISM organized the event, and as a result, I got to hang out with the students in the club and their friends (and even one of their mothers!) This group of young folks were like nothing I would have imagined 25 years ago. For one there was no pressure to label anyone or put people into boxes. I really had no ideas who was gay or straight or bi or whatever.

It wasn't about sex or hooking up but about shared interests in literature, foreign languages, environmentalism, film and food. I met a young man who loves the poetry of Christina Rossetti and who couldn't wait to get back to his home so that he could hang out with the guys from the men's Bible study--not at a gay church, just a regular independent Evangelical church that has been his spiritual home and a place he found affirmation, and as a result has been able to deepen his faith.

Now I am back in Portland, OR and I met with the Anawim community last night, a group of men who, for the last decade have met every Thursday night for a meal, Bible study and prayer. These men know each other well, help each other out of financial difficulties and all manners of personal crisis. These men love each other deeply. As we gathered, first for silent then forspoken prayer, I thought about all the people in the world, queer and straight, who long for community, who long for deep intimate relationships and a place where they can be authentic without fear of being rejected. And here is a place, a queer space for that sort of communion. And at Goucher, there is a place where you can be real and be yourself and find friends.

Now I realize that both of these communities are not perfect. I got to see them on their best behavior. I imagine people can be selfish, insensitive and stupid at times. Hey we're talking humans here. And I do not wish to suggest that these communities are sexless. So often in the Church we have been taught that anything having to do with sex is evil and so some queer communities seem to have everything BUT sex. We are sexual beings, and that is what I see so exciting about the communities above, they seem balanced. It is not all about sex and it is not all about eradicating sex from our lives. It is about being fully formed, healthy humans in community with each other.

Some ex-gay promoters and providers live according to a template of gay life in the early 80's. Times have changed and they are changing. Queer folks comes in all flavors and we are finding myriad expressions for our lives. We are not all holed up in a dark dingy bar somewhere waiting for a quickie. We are living our lives, full lives, spiritual lives, meaningful lives, responsible lives, lives that some folks in the 80's like me longed to live.

That man who just reemerged after 25 years locked away in the closet, like being in a time capsule, has so many wonderful things to discover.

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Being Bi

Bi-Coastal that is. This week I live on two coasts. I left Hartford (East Coast) on Monday morning and flew to Portland (West Coast) spent a day and then flew last night to Baltimore (East Coast) where I do a show at Goucher College tonight. Tomorrow I fly back to Portland (West Coast) to perform the Ho Ho Ho Mo No Mo Holiday Special at the Metropolitan Community Church. After that I stay in Oregon for 10 more days and will perform Transfigurations for the folks at the Sexual Minority Youth Resource Center (SMYRC) in Portland and Freedom Friends Church in Salem (where I get to see Peggy and Alivia and Roger and other cool people).

Yesterday on a flight from Minneapolis (No Coast) to Baltimore, I worked on the Holiday Special and burst out laughing at some of the stuff I hope to do on Saturday. Of course Marvin is going to make a special appearance (as he recently did on Joe G's podcast Bored Beyond Belief). Others include Chad, Vlad, Tex and Pastor Meadows. The Holiday Specials is all about gifts--like the gift of restraining straps giving to one participant in the Ho Mo No Mo Halfway House to keep him from "genitalizing" himself in the middle of the night. Although I will retire Homo No Mo for good in 2008, I may keep this Holiday Special in the my bag of tricks mainly because it is so much fun.

On a flight Monday from Atlanta to Portland a young butch guy sat next to me sporting a Red Sox cap. I am a Yankees fan, but deigned to speak with him all the same. He exuded manliness and because he was so gender-normative based on common qualities of masculinity on the East Coast, I assumed he was straight. He asked me about my profession. I never quite know how to answer. Theatrical Performance Activist always requires further explanation. And I felt a tiny twinge of ambivalence. He could be anti-gay. He could be a religious anti-gay person and we still had five hours of flying ahead of us.

"I am a playwright, a comic, and a gay activist," I replied.
"So you are pro-gay or anti-gay?" He asked.
"Oh, totally pro-gay." I said.
"Cool, 'cause I'm gay too and am just coming back from Toronto to visit my boyfriend. We're getting married in January." He announced.

Wow. You can never judge a book by the baseball cap it has on. Turns out not only is he gay but in his early 20's (he is 30 now--yes, which is young to me, okay.) he was a member of the Assemblies of God, went to Bible school and worked for a major TV evangelist. Our backgrounds were strangely similar with him even coming from a Catholic home and converting to Pentecostalism later in life. His father is even a former US Marine like mine.

But unlike my own story, he did not go into the ex-gay movement and never really struggled to reconcile his faith and his sexuality. By age 23 he realized that he was gay and that is how it is and he needed to be honest about his life. He left Bible school, went to college and accepted himself as gay. He experienced little to no guilt or fear as he left the highly superstitious world of the Pentecostal church.

How refreshing to hear of someone who didn't have to go through all that mess. I feel so happy for him.

Well, I have a visitor, the amazing Bruce Garrett, so I must go and explore Baltimore in his hot new car. It is snowing out and I don't have to fly for the first time in three days :-) But back to the West Coast tomorrow.

You can check out my performance schedule here. 2008 will be up by the end of December--cool stuff is coming.


Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Left Behind Ones

Left Behind--no not the widely successful yet poorly written Christian book series designed to frighten people into the Kingdom of Heaven. No the Left Behind Folks become collateral damage in the wake of a failed ex-gay life. Christine Bakke writes about a current story about a man who found Jesus and freedom from his homosexuality on Highway 35.

The man, James, recently shared his story on Pat Robertson's Christian TV program. Several questions came up for Christine after she read James' story.
It made me so sad to read parts of that. I mean, I'm happy that he feels like he's in a better place. But in the interview he gave for the CBN piece, he talks casually about being headed to meet his fiance (when he had his God encounter), but he doesn't mention anything about that situation now.

These left behind ones many times end up also being ex-gay survivors. All I'll say about James' story is that so many of us have had huge emotional rides where we rode a wave of enthusiasm and thought we'd gotten "the cure" only to end up flat on our faces several weeks or months down the road (it's been less than three months for him since this encounter). But what about the fiance? What about the family?
You can read the rest of Christine's post and see some original art she did inspired by the story here.

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Saturday, December 01, 2007

Weekend in Photos

The weekend I still have long to go, but I doubt I will take more photos as I will be quite busy tomorrow. On Friday I was in NYC and then today I was in the Catskills (about 100 miles NW of NYC) where I visited my dad and worked on my cottage. I have been trailed by a TV producer and film crew for an upcoming feature digging up my life in a difficult but also helpful way. Got lots of work done on the cottage while I also cleaned up some emotional clutter from the past. Amazing the amount of work I got done once the film crew showed up :-P

The photos below are some artsy NYC shots, Christmas decorations by my dad on his house (it has a Candyland sort of theme to it IMHO), photos of my dad's cat (which was very lovey dovey) and a photo of my cottage. No time for more text. Must get to bed.

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