Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Rest, Recovery, and Reflection

What a tremendous weekend in Memphis! All the events for Deconstructing the Ex-Gay Myth—A Weekend of Action & Art far exceeded my expectations. Loads of people turned out to everything, but more than the quantity of people was the quality of the exchanges we had and the depth of learning and sharing and loving. Bruce Garrett shares how the weekend moved him and posts some photos here.

We did stand in front of Focus on the Family's Love Won Out event for a few hours on Saturday morning. We held up clear, positive signs with messages like Christian & Gay, We Know You Love Your Children, Integrity Changes Lives, Change at What Cost? Some ex-gay survivors also went into Central Church to present gifts to the people at Love Won Out, framed collages about our experiences (designed by Christine). But this was a tiny part of weekend. We were not there to protest rather the weekend showcased the creative, strong LGBT community in Memphis.

I spoke with a neighbor today who casually asked, "So what did you do for the weekend?" In my mind I scanned the many events and magical moments over the past few days. The Ex-Gay Survivor Art Show that Christine Bakke curated. The preview of Morgan Jon Fox's film, This is What Love in Action Looks Like, the wonderful party at the Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center, The bXg Mid-South Regional Gathering, a press conference where some ex-gay survivors spoke out for the very first time, the official retirement performance of Homo No Mo, the Memphis premiere of Transfigurations, a talk on Art, Activism and Spirit at the Quaker Meeting House. So MUCH.

Too much to convey in a casual conversation while waiting on line at the bank. I felt as if I had been a character in A Wrinkle in Time or one of the Narnia books, where I got transported to another time and place, spent months only to return to find out it was really just a long weekend. I replied to my neighbor, "This past weekend? I went to see some friends in Memphis."

Needless to say I feel exhausted physically and emotionally. Spiritually I feel charged up and renewed. Seeing ex-gay survivors who are not victims, who have creatively reclaimed their lives, encouraged and cheered me.

But I have depleted my resources for now and need some days to recover and rest and reflect on what I experienced. For any survivor, we need to know our limits and take care of ourselves, especially after we have stirred up difficult memories. What we do at Beyond Ex-Gay is complicated personal work that has a public component to it. Unpacking and deconstructing our ex-gay experiences serve multiple purposes. We stand as a witness and warning to the harm that can come because of reparative therapy and ex-gay ministries. Some pro-ex-gay people have begun to listen and think more deeply about their assumptions about the ex-gay option.

Our work though also serves as a tool for healing and recovery. Connecting with fellow survivors helps us as we try to make sense of what we did to ourselves and what we allowed others to do to us. It helps us to see our ex-gay experiences in light of the broader anti-gay cultures that nurtured self-hate, shame and fear. We listen to each other. We recognize that others hear us and know what we are talking about, perhaps for the first time ever since we came out. All good work, but hard work.

As activists, ministers, angelic troublemakers (as Bayard Rustin puts it), our work begins with ourselves. The next few days I will visit my dad where my cell phone does not work and I have no wi-fi (not even dial up). I will help look after him as he recovers from his heart surgery. I will also walk in the woods, cook, watch silly TV, read good fiction, sit in silence, rest, recover and reflect.

So if you don't hear from me for a few days, please don't take it personally.

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Monday, February 25, 2008

A Surreal & Amazing Radio Exchange About Ex-Gays & Gays

This past weekend in Memphis I saw wonders. Really amazing things as people stepped up and told their stories. My jaw continued to drop at the stunning things I heard and saw, the healing, the art, the honesty, the love.

Today I experienced yet another wonder of sorts. Dr. Larry Bates of the Info Radio Network invited me onto his hour-long radio talk show News & Views along with a pastor from Central Church, which hosted Love Won Out this weekend.

Just to give you a sense of the flavor of this conservative Christian program that airs on over 70 Christian stations around the nation, some recent show titles include, The Fight for Morals and Values: It's Up to You. Socialism and the Democratic Candidates in their own Words. Surviving Homosexual Parenting.

Before we started the show, I requested that we pray, and I had my Quaker Friend (and elder for the weekend) Kristi praying in the lobby for the show and for me.

I cannot fully describe what took place. The show is not for the faint of heart, but I truly felt deep peace, clarity and gentleness throughout. Lots of people were praying for me and I felt lifted and held. Also, Christine Bakke and others helped me prep in advance. It went so well for the first hour, that Dr. Bates asked us to stay for a second hour as the show went out live and the bank of phones flooded with callers wanting to weigh in.

All I can say is listen to the show (if you can) and see what you think. I walked away thanking God that I had the opportunity to share a simple, sane message.

Listen to Homosexuality: Choice or chance? With gay activist Peterson Toscano and Central Church Director of Pastoral Ministry Bill Bellican.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

More Memphis

Below are some photos from our action outside of Love Won Out in Memphis. Our goal was to tell the other side of the story. Here you see Ryan, Daniel, Jacob, John and Brandon. Thank you Daniel and Brandon for making the sign and Jacob for help with the words.
Here I am quoting my dad.
The cute couple Jacob & Ryan
Jim Burroway gets interviewed by Fox
Ex-gay survivor Jason with the sign "I tried Ex-gay Therapy (It Didn't Work) flanked by local supporters from PFLAG and the Memphis Friends Meeting.

Local folks standing out with survivor and Bob (Holy & Whole) who arrived rom Topeka that morning.

Christine Bakke blogged last night about some of the Saturday events here in Memphis as part of Deconstructing the Ex-Gay Myth—A Weekend of Action & Art.
Today we had, among other events, the Mid-South Regional Gathering for Ex-Gay Survivors and Allies. At the conference in Irvine, I was so busy doing the behind-the-scenes work I didn't really have the ability to participate in the conference. This afternoon, though, I was able to take part in the activities and workshop we'd planned. I really needed it. I've been heavily processing a lot of stuff the last 6 months or so and it really helped to get together with a group of folks who know exactly what I'm talking about, and just really "get" me. It also felt good to be able to communicate with my art.

We did another chalk talk. We'll post photos of it soon. It moved me deeply and I participated by writing a lot of thoughts on the paper wall, and then crying and processing during the debriefing. I really appreciate everyone else's comments and input, as well as the understanding nods as we all talked about our experiences. It is so wonderful not to feel alone with all of this.
Read all of Christine's post here.

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Gee, what happened to all the lovely comments on this blog? I miss you guys. Maybe since half of you are already here in Memphis, you don't feel the need to write your comments. You can give them in the form of hugs and such. Well, I just like hearing from you.

It has been an awesome weekend so far. Really couldn't be better except that on Thursday I got quite a scare when my sister called to say our dad was rushed to the hospital with a heart problem. He never had heart problems in his life. I started looking into flights home and figured I would miss out on the Memphis weekend. But we then got good news that the problem would be remedied easily with some minor surgery and with the implant of a pacemaker.

They did the surgery on Friday morning, he is home now feeling 10 years younger. I will get to spend a few days with him starting Wednesday when I can cook and help around the house, as he has to take it easy while he heals. A challenge for him as he doesn't like to sit still for too long.

So think of him in your thoughts and prayers and also all of us in Memphis. One more day of Deconstructing the Ex-Gay Myth!


Saturday, February 23, 2008

Ex-Gay Survivors Speak Out in Memphis

What a day! The Ex-Gay Survivor Art Show opened and we also had a powerful press conference at the Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center (a really great spot) to kick off Deconstructing the Ex-Gay Myth—A Weekend of Action & Art. Then this evening I performed the official retirement show of Doin' Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House.

The art is amazing and Christine Bakke did a great job of putting it together along with the help of so many others including Jason Ingram, who also has art in the show. We even have art from John Evans, one of the founders of Love in Action.

Daniel Gonzales of Box Turtle Bulletin took video and I know that Bruce Garrett took a bunch of photos. The video is up already (wow Dan, fast work!).

Here see and hear Jim Burroway speak about his recent visit to Love Won Out, what he hear and saw. It moved me to tears.

Here fellow ex-gay survivor and former Love in Action participant Brandon Tidwell shares his story and an impassioned plea to understanding, love and acceptance. Brandon speaks so clearly. I learned a lot about telling my own story from hearing him tell his.

Here Jacob will tells his story including the summer he spent at Love in Action. He was there during the summer protests sparked when I 16 year old boy cried for help when his folks forced him to attend the Refuge program. Jacob relates the horrendous Family and Friends weekend encounter when he had to share his most shameful sexual experiences in front of his parents and a bunch of strangers. Very powerful and moving.

Here John Holm speaks out for the first time publicly as an ex-gay survivor. He will tell his full story tomorrow in front of Central Church, and from hearing it, I know he has so much courage and has done so much to reclaim a life that seemed so desperate for so long.

Here Christine Bakke provides us with a gallery walk about the Ex-Gay Survivor Art Show. Daniel Gonzales and Jason Ingram speak about their art too. Christine explains the idea behind her House of Cards art piece which is sooooo amazing!

I felt so much hope and encouragement at the work these folks have done to reclaim their lives, address the harm they experienced because of their ex-gay experiences and the effects of an anti-gay society. These are not victims. They are survivors and people who thrive in this world. I feel so pleased to be among them this weekend.

Hope to have some images soon. I have not taken any photos yet.

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Friday, February 22, 2008

It's Okay to Be Gay!

In fact, it is great to be gay, if that is true for you, which it is for me. Bianca Phillips at the Memphis Flier wrote a super article all about Deconstructing the Ex-Gay Myth—A Weekend of Action & Art. For a title she used a slogan that the young folks chanted during the 2005 summer actions outside of Love in Action--It's Okay to Be Gay!

In the piece she lists off all the events for the weekend shares some of her interview with Morgan Jon Fox and with me.

On Saturday from 2 to 5 p.m., Beyond Ex-Gay will host its Mid-South Regional Gathering, a series of workshops and panels for ex-gay survivors, at the gay and lesbian center.

"There's a lot of psychological, emotional, and spiritual damage [in ex-gay survivors], and there's a need to unpack what we've done to ourselves and let other people do to us," Toscano says. "This regional gathering will give ex-gay survivors a chance to check in and talk to each other."

Also on Saturday, local filmmaker Morgan Jon Fox will offer a preview of his long-awaited documentary This Is What Love in Action Looks Like at 8 p.m. at First Congregational Church.

Jon Fox chronicled the 2005 protests of Love in Action's "Refuge" program, which offered reparative therapy for gay teens. The protests led to state investigations of the center's license to treat mentally ill people. Last summer, Love in Action closed Refuge in favor of a more intensive program for parents of gay teens.

"It all started with a few kids sticking up for their friend. It was just something to do for the summer," Jon Fox says. "They ended up impacting the situation on an international level."

Read all of It's Okay to Be Gay.

Also this weekend NPR's Interfaith Voices will do a segment on ex-gay stuff. They interviewed me for the piece and asked me to share some of my story. You will be able to listen on-line here. (They also have an interesting piece about Billy Graham).

The Ex-Gay Survivor Art Show is coming together nicely. Such powerful artwork. Some of it got featured in Bianca Phillips article.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Walking in Memphis

Yeah, I actually did walk about three miles today in Memphis. Of course people of a certain race and class don't walk much in this city, and I got strange looks as I walked along Cooper towards the Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center and First Congregational Church. Christine Bakke has arrived, and I received a text message from Bruce Garrett that he pulled into town with sweet ride of car.

I saw Morgan Jon Fox tonight, poor guy looks wiped out from working on filming a movie while also editing This is What Love in Action Looks Like and still working his regular job. Artists will make great sacrifice to do their art. I know that what he shows on Saturday will be amazing, and he will also share about the film making process as well.

On Friday night I will do my official retirement performance of Doin' Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House. I hired a camera crew, and four cameras will capture the performance so that the play can be put together for a DVD. Morgan will edit it for me and do it in an artistic way that I believe will capture the essence of the play.

Tomorrow Jim Burroway and Daniel Gonzales of Box Turtle Bulletin will arrive as will Jacob Wilson and his partner Ryan. Others are coming into town too who I am sure you will hear about in the next few days. I will keep you posted.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Parents & the Ex-Gay Movement

This weekend staff from Focus on the Family and Exodus International, two large and well-funded organizations, will speak to hundreds of parents about the "gay lifestyle" and will present testimonies claiming that "change is possible". Parents will listen to folks who directly and indirectly pin the blame on parents for having a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender child. We know what they teach because some of us recently attended the Love Won Out Conference and and also listened to the recordings of all the presentations. See Jim Burroway's detailed account.

My parents suffered under this message while I attended the Love in Action program in Memphis some years ago. Today I recorded this video relating the horrific Family and Friends Weekend and the effect Love in Action's erroneous and cruel teachings had on my parents.

In the past year I have shared my family's experience with several ex-gay leaders. Many expressed shock at what happened at Love in Action. But when I spoke with someone who is slated to speak at Love Won Out this weekend about all that happened with my mom and the years of doubt and torment she suffered, he shot back, "Healthy people ask for what they need." I said, "Wait, what!?" He continued, "If your mom was having problems, she should have gotten some help." But my mom had already been burnt by "experts," and I know she didn't want to expose herself to more hurt. But even if she could of or should of talked to someone to help her understand the issues better, what a pitiful response from this Christian leader.

This sort of thoughtless, insensitive, reactionary behavior needs to stop. Many ex-gay programs like Love in Action make mistakes. They do things on a trial and error basis sampling whatever teachings drop into their laps. (I know because in two years there, we ran through several teachings and practices). These program leaders, who claim they care about people and families, need to listen to the stories of the many people who can point to the harm they experienced at the hands of ex-gay minsters. These are not a few isolated stories. Just in the past 10 months dozens of people have come forward to share their stories publicly. These are not paid professional activists or lobbyist, but people who stand up to bear witness to what they have seen and heard and experienced.

For further information, see What About the Parents? as well as the ex-gay survivor narratives over at Beyond Ex-Gay.

Also, join us for Deconstructing the Ex-Gay Myth—A Weekend of Action & Art.

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When Your Partner is an Ex-Gay Survivor

Over at Beyond Ex-Gay co-founder Christine Bakke and I receive many e-mails from ex-gay survivors sharing their stories, thanking us for the site and offering their suggestions for new features to add. We also routinely receive messages from people who never attended an ex-gay program or tried to change and suppress their sexual orientation or gender presentation, but they have become painfully aware of the harm of ex-gay experiences because their partner attempted a change process.

Last week I heard from Jayne, a lesbian in the Mid-West who wrote to us looking for answers regarding her relationship with Rachel, a woman who attended an ex-gay program previous to dating Jayne. As I mention in my article, Emotionally Dependent Relationships, many of these ex-gay programs trained us to distrust close emotional ties with people of the same-sex thus insulating us from intimacy and hindering healthy relating even years after the ex-gay experiences. The process of living in the closet in a hostile world didn't help either.

Jayne graciously took up my invitation to write about her relationship with Rachel in hopes that others in similar situations will find comfort and support in their shared experiences. I also hope that a dialog will begin among partners of ex-gay survivors just as it has begun among the straight spouses of former ex-gays.

Jayne writes,
Loving Rachel is not hard to do at all. She is the most beautiful and generous person I have ever known, and I believe that our paths have brought us to this moment in time for a reason. In my opinion, that reason is to help her face the anguish and pain from her ex-gay experience and move forward as a healthy lesbian woman who can still have a close and loving relationship with God as well as nurture our connection to one another as two women.


Her ex-gay experience has caused some difficult struggles for me and added some incredibly tough stress on our relationship. Some days are better than others, but the main struggle I have is how to be a supportive partner for her as I listen to her experiences, of which I have an immediate physical reaction to, but don’t voice that reaction because I don’t want her to feel judged or misunderstood. She has been through a very tough ordeal with the program she attended and continues to struggle with “right” or “wrong.” How do I give her the space she needs as well as prove to her that I’m committed to her and am not going to abandon her?
You can read all of Jayne's article here.

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Ex-Gay Survivor Jacob Wilson Speaks Out

In the summer of 2005 the ex-gay program Love in Action made national headlines after accepting Zach, a 16 year old gay boy into their Refuge program. Before he went into the program, Zach called out for help on his blog. Concerned citizens and friends of the young man took a stand and each day shared their message of love and acceptance through signs, blog posts, interviews and social networking on MySpace.

Jacob Wilson was a 19 year old client in Love in Action's adult program that summer. Back then Exodus programs did not have a prohibition to mix minors and adults together in their program, so Jacob sat in session with all the participants in both Love in Action's programs. He didn't have any real idea what was happening outside the building until he saw the trailer of Morgan Fox's film that we screened at the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference this past summer.

Wendi Thomas of the Memphis Commercial Appeal interviewed Jacob for an article that appeared in yesterday's edition.
Zach's supporters protested outside of LIA, but Wilson says the men and women inside were told not to make eye contact with the protesters and not to read their signs.

After Wilson left LIA, he found out what the protesters had wanted him to know.

"These people weren't doing it to be activists, they were doing it to show that we weren't alone, that we were loved ... It crushes me that that message was cut from us."

That message of love -- an affirming, inclusive love -- will get another airing next weekend, at the same time that conservative Christian heavyweight Focus on the Family will hold its de-gaying "Love Won Out" conference at Central Church.
Jacob will come to Memphis this weekend to tell more of his story. He will also lead a round table discussion for folks 25 and under during the Beyond Ex-Gay Mid-South Regional Gathering. Find out what happened to Jacob that summer and learn how you can help your friends when they feel coerced or compelled to attend an ex-gay program.

Read more of Wendi Thomas' article here. For more information about the weekend's activities, visit Beyond Ex-Gay. See Daniel Gonzales' video promo for the weekend here.

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Friday Night Ex-Gay Entertainment

In the Love in Action ex-gay residentatl program, Friday night was movie night. Yeah, we got to see one movie a week in the form of a video (they didn't have a DVD—it was over 10 years ago). In the following YouTube video I reveal the secrets behind watching films in the Big House. Find out what's in, what's out, and why Biblical films were banned!

Ex-Gay Watch posted this VERY FUNNY music video that finally explains how it is that "the gays" are destroying marriage.

And I posted this before, but here is the entertaining trailer for the film, Chasing the Devil: Inside the Ex-Gay Movement. The man talking about zebras with the cat trying to steal the shot is my father.

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Gay Eighth Grader Fatally Shot

Many of you know about this awful incident. I've been too sick about it to write up a blog post. But it comes as a stark reminder that we have work to do.

I will copy and paste what Jim Burroway at Box Turtle Bulletin wrote:

Lawrence King, a 15-year-old student at at E.O. Green Junior High School in Oxnard, California was shot at least twice in the head by another classmate last Tuesday. Fellow students say that King was gay and was often taunted by fellow students.

King was rushed to St. John’s Regional Medical Center, where he was initially listed in critical condition. By the end of the day, his condition was reportedly improving. But today we learn that he has been declared brain dead by two neurosurgeons at the hospital on Wednesday at 2 pm. He is being kept on life support so his organs can be harvested for transplant.

Police said the 14-year-old Brandon McInerney shot King at the start of the school day and fled the campus. He was arrested by police a few blocks away. Today, prosecutors charged him with premeditated murder, with a special allegation of using a firearm in the commission of a hate crime. Once King is removed from life support, prosecutors have indicated they will try McInerney as an adult.

Lawrence’s father described his son as “headstrong, confident, artistic and sweet“:

Larry King loved to sing songs by folk rock trio Crosby, Stills and Nash, and was studying “The Star-Spangled Banner” in hopes of singing it at his younger brother’s baseball games, his father said. “He had a very gifted singing voice.”

…He also enjoyed using licorice sticks to catch crawdads at Bubbling Springs Park in Port Hueneme, where his family would go for his younger brother’s baseball games.

You can read some of Jim's commentary in his post.

You can also read John Ireland's commentary at

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Deconstructing the Ex-Gay Myth in Memphis

In a week I will be in Memphis, TN one of my all time favorite cities in America. Some find that strange since I spent two difficult years in Memphis in the Love in Action ex-gay program. But once I emerged from that experience, for the next three years, I got to know the city and some of the many wonderful lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender folks in that city.

While in Love in Action, I never go west of Highland Avenue so I never saw Mid-Town or Downtown until after two years in the city. At Love in Action the staff forced us to avoid the Forbidden Zone. Apparently the gays took over Mid-Town and kept all the best cafes, restaurants and stores to themselves.

Next week we will deconstruct the ex-gay myth through action and art. Note we will not dismiss the ex-gay myth or rise up a diatribe against it. Rather we will carefully and thoughtfully deconstruct it. According to Miriam Webster online,
Deconstruct-verb: to take apart or examine in order to reveal the basis or composition of, often with the intention of exposing biases, flaws, or inconsistencies
As a survivor of the ex-gay movement, I have spent the past five years exploring, unpacking and deconstructing my experiences. Through counseling, reading, writing and especially performance art, I have grown to understand what I was after all those years, what I was promised, what I did to myself, and what I allowed others to do to me. I discovered the dreadful toll the ex-gay theories took on my parents.

This weekend will mark the five year anniversary of the premiere of Doin' Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House—How I Survived the Ex-Gay Movement! Next week I will offer my official retirement performance of the piece. It served me well, but I see that now I must lay it down (soon--I still have my Cher-like tour the next few years, well except without all the costume changes and big hair).

Below I have Christine Bakke's poster that will be going up all over Memphis. I ask you to hold the weekend of Feb 22-24 tenderly in your thoughts and prayers. We do not gather to protest but to bear witness to our experiences. The truth is that most people who pursue an ex-gay life cannot sustain such an existence. Nor do they need do.

Change is possible. We can change the way we view ourselves and the world and accept that our desires are not taboo. We can live happy and holy as homosexuals. We contribute to our communities, we create art, we live full rich lives. We struggle like all people because that is part of the human existence. Gay is good. Lesbian is lovely. Bisexual is beautiful. Transgender is terrific. The key is to be authentic. Be real. Be true.

And sometimes to get to that place of integrity, we need to do some deconstruction.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Transgender Bible Heroes & Sheroes

I just read an article in Christianity Today which reports on "Evangelicals hope to respond with both moral authority and biblical compassion to gender identity disorder." Ugh.

Even LGBT-affirming folks like Jimmy Creech seem to question the Biblical support for the transgender experience. He starts off strong enough when they quote him saying,
Religion has been used in history to discriminate against various groups of people by justifying slavery, denying women the right to vote, and persecuting religious minorities," says Jimmy Creech, executive director of Faith in America. "Today it is being used to persecute lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people.
But then he adds this zinger.
We have to recognize the Bible in terms of the history and culture in which it was written," Creech says. "Scripture doesn't address the issues of transgender experience.
The piece also quotes Warren Throckmorton, who had been a strong proponent of ex-gay therapy and still supports his own form of ex-gay treatment under a different name in which he tries to provide a way to people to get lined up with Biblical sexual ethics (ah, but whose?)
"Transgender impulses are strong, but they don't match up with the Christian sexual ethic," says Warren Throckmorton, associate professor of psychology at Grove City College in Pennsylvania. "Desires must be brought into alignment with biblical teachings, but it will be inconvenient and distressful."

"Even if science does determine differentiation in the brain at birth," Throckmorton says, "even if there are prenatal influences, we can't set aside teachings of the Bible because of research findings."
The piece goes on to talk about the LGBT civil rights issues and hate crime legislation. They also quote ex-gay leader Alan Chambers who conflates gender issues with sexual orientation. Something that lots of LGB folks have done for a long time.

But the writer never once counters Creech's or Throckmorton's assertions. Perhaps I read a different Bible, but once I put on some gender glasses and re-visited the scriptures with an eye to find those Bible folks who live outside of socially prescribed gender roles and presentations, I found a treasure trove of transgender Bible characters.

The article doesn't make a single reference to eunuchs, those gender others who play key roles in both the Hebrew and Christians scriptures. The whole story of Esther would fall apart if it were not for the surgically altered gender variant eunuchs. But beyond eunuchs, there are plenty of other individuals that good Biblical exegesis reveals as gender variant.

Ignorantly lots of folks think you need to have a surgery to be transgender. Nope, not true. Also, they fail to acknowledge that we do not always know who is trans among us or in the scriptures. Many of us live and work and worship alongside people who have transitioned, and we never know it. Some of these folks never had surgery. Today for female to male trans folks testosterone and chest binding works wonders.

Now if folks want to get a good education about the transgender experience in the scriptures, I encourage them to see my play Transfigurations—Transgressing Gender in the Bible. I will be in Memphis with it in less than two weeks. Here is the excellent poster designed by the amazing Christine Bakke (click on it for a larger view).

If you need some more info on transgender faith issues, visit Trans Faith Online. I just had coffee with Chris Paige, the creator of the site and strongly encourage you to spend time reading the many wonderful articles there. Chris rocks.

Have a listen to the Trans-Ponder podcast with Jayna and Mila. In episode 19 they had me on to talk about Trans Bible characters.

And why not pick up the Bible and find some transgender Bible characters for yourself. Ask, seek, knock. They're there!

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Doin' Time in Providence & Philadelphia

I had an EXCELLENT weekend which began on Thursday in Providence's Lincoln School for the Quaker Youth Leadership Conference. Organizers asked me to give a keynote address and that they chose art and activism for their theme. Instead of giving a traditional speech, I performed The Re-Education of George W. Bush—No President Left Behind! Here you see a photo of Vlad doing his now infamous dance. Thanks to Fabian from Brooklyn Friends School for the photo!

On Friday morning I got up early to take the train down to Philadelphia where I performed the Bush play that evening at Calvary United Methodist Church. The following night I presented Doin' Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House at Germantown United Methodist.

Here you see a photo of me after the show with two high schoolers from Germantown. Thanks to Bill Ewing for this photo.

After performing the Bush play twice in a row, I feel stoked to get it out there. The piece has settled in to where I think it should be and the characters exude lots of passion especially after some recently tuning I did to Marvin's monologue and part of Tex's.

From the title lots of folks assume that in the play I just stand around and bash Bush. Yawn. Please! my creativity allows me to go beyond that simple exercise to something more complex and necessary. The Philadelphia Gay News ran an interview on page 39 in their Friday 2/8 edition where I talk about the Bush play and some of what happens in it. You can read it here.

The play helps me explore and express the outrage I feel right now. So many things inspire outrage in my country and in the world right now. Cutting taxes while going to a war under false pretenses. The on-going prisoner abuse and torture in our prisons and detention centers within our borders and the countries we occupy. The tremendous waste we create in the US. The unhealthy foods the industrial complexes pump out all the while trashing the planet. The inequity and privilege that Hurricane Katrina exposed still exists in America because of racial and class differences. The sickening ways that some descendants of European immigrants react to immigrants from other parts of the Americas. Lots of reasons for outrage.

Some folks think that since Quakers maintain a Testimony of Peace and advocate non-violence that our faith forbids us from feeling and expressing anger. I joked this weekend that as a Quaker I don't get violent, just passive aggressive. It's funny because it so often is true. When we stuff our anger, it pops out in all sorts of toxic and unhelpful ways.

No, as a Quaker because of the Testimony of Integrity, I need to express my anger. I must not shrink from conflict but acknowledge it and its causes. We feel outrage for a reason. That passion moves us to action. Otherwise we suck it up and grow bitter and tense and aggressive in indirect ways.

I process many feelings and experiences through art and through comedy. Comedy can be a violent tool wielded to rip people to shreds or it can be a prophetic device used to expose the ironies of our times, injustice and hypocrisy. Anyone can make fun of another person. That requires little skill. But to explore my outrage and its causes has taken me some time. It took nearly three years to write my Bush play.

Over the weekend I also got to hang out with some amazing Young Adult Friends in Philadelphia and others who visited. Ah, speak about passion! These folks care about the planet, their neighborhoods, and very much about God and knowing God. I felt inspired and challenged by their lives and actions.

(Oh, and we played a raucous game of Simpsons Clue--It was Mr. Smithers (dressed as a maid) in the Nuclear Power Plant with a poisoned donut!)

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

Speaking Out part two--Ex-Gay Survivors in the News

Via Victoria Lavin at Daily Queer News (which you can subscribe to by e-mailing dailyqueernews (at) I found out about a great Orange County/Long Beach, CA Blade interview with ex-gay Survivor Eric Leocadio (who is also featured here at Beyond Ex-Gay)
Long Beach blogger Eric Leocadio learned to reconcile his strong Christian faith and his sexuality. He now uses his website, Two World Collision, to share his story with others. For nearly 14 years, a young Christian prayed his attraction to men would disappear. When his faith was strong, he trusted God to provide him with a wife and the desire for her. When his faith faltered, he tried to kill himself. Now comfortable with his faith and sexuality, Eric Leocadio shares his ongoing story on his Web site, Two World Collision. Leocadio spoke with the Blade about his personal saga.

Blade: Tell us about your experience in the ex-gay movement.
Leocadio: I went through ex-gay programs. I was part of Desert Stream Ministries in a program called Living Waters. It was a six-month program geared toward addressing people’s sexual and emotional brokenness. I think the trend for the ex-gay movement is that they will continue to have more people who go through the program and leave the paradigm.
As always, Eric expresses himself thoughtfully, intelligently and passionately. Further on in the interview he shares about his faith, his ex-gay experiences, and the role blogging has had for him and others. You can read the whole interview here.

I will be in Philadelphia this weekend doing two shows, and columnist Carol Towarnicky at the Philadelphia Daily News wrote a piece about my upcoming visit. She captures my ex-gay experiences well in the column. (there is one major typo in that they printed the name of some random woman instead of Christine Bakke as the co-founder of Beyond Ex-Gay. Carol tells me they will correct it soon).
FOR 17 years, Peterson Toscano was a "born-again, evangelical, conservative Republican Christian." And for 17 years, Peterson Toscano tried not to be gay.

He memorized hundreds of Scriptural passages with the thought that "the 'Good Word' would replace all the evil, bad, homosexual feelings" he had.

He attended a 12 step-style support group for "ex-gays" in New York but found that, week after week, fellow participants returned with the same problems.

He was exorcised. He attended different churches and was "baptized in the Holy Spirit." He got married and became a missionary in Africa. None of it worked, of course. So Toscano spent two years in a residential program in Memphis, Tenn., to "truly get this thing settled in my life."

You can read more here.

Ex-gay survivors keep telling your stories. People are listening. Change is happening. Warren Throckmorton reports that even at the recent Exodus Leadership Conference, keynote speaker Wendy Gritter, mentioned the ex-gay survivors narratives posted over at Beyond Ex-Gay!

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Speaking Out!

Today I have witnessed and heard of extraordinary examples of people speaking out a message of sanity and hope.

1. Anthony Venn-Brown in Australia alerted me to a group of Christian ministers calling themselves 100Revs. They have decided to speak out during the sometimes raucous Mardi Gras festivities in their country, not to denounce the LGBT community like so many have done in the past, but rather to issue a public apology for the awful ways the Church has treated to LGBT people. In their official statement they say,
As ministers of various churches and denominations we recognise that the churches we belong to, and the church in general, have not been places of welcome for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people. Indeed the church has often been profoundly unloving toward the GLBT community. For these things we apologise, whatever the distinctive of our Christian position on human sexuality – to which we remain committed. We are deeply sorry and ask for the forgiveness of the GLBT community. We long that the church would be a place of welcome for all people and commit ourselves to pursuing this goal.
They do not make a position statement about the Bible and romantic and sexual relationships between people of the same sex, rather they stick to admitting a lack of hospitality and love toward LGBT individuals. It's a good start.

In August of 2007 three lesbians Christians, who were former ex-gay leaders in Australia, issued their own apologies for promoting and providing ex-gay ministry. It makes me wonder if their example inspired the straight ministers to issue this most recent apology.

2. And speaking of ex-gay ministries, I traveled to nearby Storrs, CT today to the sprawling UCONN campus to hear long time ex-gay critic Wayne Besen give a talk about the ex-gay movement. Since he felt the flu coming on, he brought me forward to share some of my experiences as a former ex-gay and now as an ex-gay survivor. I also spoke about Beyond Ex-Gay and the Ex-Gay Survivor Movement.

When I was first coming to grips with my ex-gay past, Wayne's book helped me so much to get perspective on what I allowed others to put me through and the real damage I suffered from attempting to suppress and change my sexual orientation and gender differences.

In his talk today Wayne reminded me of two powerful tools the anti-gay church and the ex-gay promoters use to lure people like me. For years I fell for the fear and smear tactics. They warned me of the perils of being gay. The loneliness, the life threatening illnesses followed by an eternity in hell. They also smeared LGBT people with countless testimonies depicting a life of drugs, out of control behaviors, toxic relationship and even violence. Perhaps I'll write more about this in a later post because these tactics really held sway over me for decades.

Wayne showed some video, including the very powerful story of a woman who initially wanted her gay son to go straight. If you haven't seen it yet, please do. I think every parent considering going to Love Won Out needs to see it.

3. Last but by no means least, my Swedish buddies Alex and Noa Resare have been downright Swedish media whores first appearing in regional magazines and newspapers, then in Sweden's most read daily national newspaper, and then today on national television. Their story is very moving and powerful. Not only are they gay, but Alex is a transgender man who transitioned from female to male. I am still waiting for some links from Alex so I can properly blog about this (hint hint). Alex shares some of his story at bXg. You can read a little about Alex's busy week here, but he needs to give out more for his many fans.

UPDATE: here is a link to the TV program. Alex and Noa are about 4 minutes in. Hey Alex, you're wearing the exact same shirt I wore on the Trya Banks show. It looks better on you. :-)

I have to dash as I'm getting ready for a show in Providence tomorrow night and then two shows in Philadelphia this weekend.

ANOTHER UPDATE: speaking of speaking out, Dave Rattigan over at Ex-Gay Watch reports that the Anglican bishop of Liverpool has experienced a change of heart and a change of mind regarding his former less than friendly stance towards the gays.
The Bishop of Liverpool has apologized for his part in opposing the proposed appointment of openly gay cleric Jeffrey John as Bishop of Reading. The Right Reverend James Jones - perhaps the Church of England’s most prominent evangelical bishop - has also drawn attention to God-sanctioned same-sex relationships in the Bible, describing the story of David and Jonathan as a “witness to love between two people of the same gender,” and signalling an openness to more dialogue on the subject.

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Video Ad for Deconstructing the Ex-Gay Myth

As some of you already know, Memphis-area LGBT groups have partnered with Beyond Ex-Gay and other people around the country to present a series of events under the heading Deconstructing the Ex-Gay Myth—A Weekend of Action Art. (February 22-24, 2008)

We have a new web page up with all the details, and Daniel Gonzales created a YouTube video ad outlining what will happen and why. Here is some of the transcript (video listed below)
On Saturday February 23rd 2008 Colorado-based Focus on the Family and Florida-based Exodus International will set up shop in Memphis to stage "Love Won Out" a day-long conference promoting gay conversion or "ex-gay" ministries. Held at Central Church in Collierville, Love Won Out targets family and friends of LGBT individuals, preaching the message that homosexuality is sinful and change is possible.

Concerned that this harmful message will misinform the community, local organizations, churches and citizens partnered with Beyond Ex-Gay and the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center. Drawing on their personal experiences and expertise they have responded with Deconstructing the Ex-Gay Myth—A Weekend of Action and Art

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Monday, February 04, 2008

Emotionally Dependent Relationships

Some of you may shudder when you see or hear the words Emotionally Dependent Relationships. This is especially true if you attended an ex-gay program that warned against the perils of emotional dependency.

Today I received a voice mail from a friend who attended Love in Action with me over ten years ago. Just the other day when we spoke on the phone he sounded chipper with a wonderful attitude about himself and life in general, but on the recorded message his voice sounded desperate. If I hadn't understand the words in his message correctly, I would have inferred from his tone of voice that he had spent the night strung out on crack cocaine engaging in multiple unprotected sexual encounters. He sounded defeated and demoralized. What terrorized him? It wasn't a "sexual fall," as we called it back at Love in Action. No, he encountered the specter of emotionally dependent relationships.

Now this is a guy who has not really had sex with another guy in his whole life. Like some who come to a place like Love in Action, he pretty much always had sexual feelings for guys, but he was much more interested in a romantic relationship than in hooking up. The staff drummed it into him that his drug of choice came in the form of intense relationships with other guys. Explicitly and more subtly they stressed that such relationships were unhealthy, abnormal and sinful.

For many of us, the results of these teachings exacerbated our feelings towards the object of our affection along with the toxic feelings of shame and fear. Ex-gay ministers taught us to distrust strong feelings towards anyone, especially anyone of the same-sex even if that person was not gay or lesbian.

Christine Bakke recently wrote about this topic and did some art work which she shares in her blog post In Mesh. She writes,
The biggest problem I still face is fear of close relationships with others - especially women. Fear of "emotional dependency" or "enmeshment." Fear of needing someone. Fear of...I don't know. Just fear, and now just a consistent inability to wholly participate in friendships with others.

I know that it's not true - that while some relationships can be unhealthy, most are not. And closeness and yes, even at times emotional dependency should not be demonized. There are times when we all need others, and to be shamed for relationships that we had while ex-gay, those that others deemed unhealthy; relationships that may have been getting us through some of the tougher moments in our ex-gay is a great harm and a great disservice to us at a time when we were the most vulnerable, and the most laid bare, needing others around us.
Those ex-gay providers who expound on the hazards of enmeshment and emotional dependency most often target lesbians with these teachings, but gay men also fall under the sway of these misguided ideas. The fear and shame-soaked lessons about emotionally dependent relationships gave us false and dangerous guidance that still affect some of us today years after we left the ex-gay world.

We may not always be conscious of it, but today some of us still hold others at bay not allowing them to get too close lest we form some sort of negative bond with them. We secretly hold the beliefs that we are emotionally broken, flawed, dangerous. We live independent lives without deep and intimate connections with others. And when we begin to feel a drawing closer to a person, so often doubts and fears seem to come out of nowhere, and before we know it, we squash the blossoming attachment.

The reality is that humans need intimate, meaningful relationships.
It is not good for man or woman to be alone.
The concept of a single person is an abnormal modern construct. Up until recently most of our people lived in family units of some kind. The lone hermit was viewed as the rare saint or more often the town crazy person. Not everyone lived with a romantic and sexual partner, but they lived in families made up of all sorts of configurations. Modernity created the single person who so often lives detached from other humans except for business transactions, work, and long-distance family ties that tenuously hold people nominally responsible for each other.

Not that I want to bash the single life; I am single myself. But many of us long for something more. That longing comes from legitimate need—a human need, just like we as humans need physical touch. Without it we begin to grow depressed, to detach, to fade.

All sorts of research has been conducted that highlights the positive affects of skin to skin touch. After I have spent extensive time with someone who loves me, and we held each other, cuddled and touched, I felt joy even weeks afterwards when we were physically far away from each other. I'm not even talking about sex here (not that there is anything wrong with sex), but simply the human need for touching, holding, being physically present with another.

Jesus and the disciples created deep relationships among each other that were dependent and full of physical intimacy. (Look in the Gospels yourself, and you will find plenty of examples). From my time in the Mediterranean and parts of South America and Africa, I witnessed wonderful expressions of physical same-sex intimacy among friends. Physical and emotional intimacy and dependence can be healthy and healing.

Some ex-gay teachings on intimacy and relationships run counter to our natural, healthy human needs. They instruct us to divorce ourselves from reality, from our genuine needs as well as from our sexual orientation. They demand that we live lives devoid of physical intimacy except for the rare cases when ex-gays marry someone of the opposite sex. Other than that all relationships and forms of intimacy remain suspect and taboo. They allow us to be intimate with the Spirit of God, but we need to avoid physical and emotional connectedness with other humans.

no, No NO! We need to live in reality. As a Christian and lover of God, I know this to be true--God desires truth in the inmost part. We need each other. We need deep and meaningful relationships and that human touch—emotionally and physically. We need to depend on friends and lovers and loved one and have them depend on us to supply each other with the things only humans can give to each other.

As a Christian I recognize that this is how God set it up. Sure ultimately I know that God supplies all my needs, but just like God supplies my nutritional need through healthy veggies, legumes, fruits and grains, I receive God's love through other people. God provides me so much of what I need from the emotional and physical intimacy I share with others.

In fact, in regards to these teachings, I see the ex-gay movement as an Ex-Human Movement. In some ways it mirrors what the modern world pushes on us, that we can make it all on our own, except instead of God, the modern world provides us with materialism.

No, we need each other, and when we don't have our emotional and physical needs met, we mourn, we feel the loss and the pain of detachment, of emotional solitude. At those times I need to acknowledge reality and express my need to myself, to God and to others. It is not a matter of whining (and yeah some of my friends get tired of hearing it), it is a matter of being present in the pain of unmet need and then putting into words, images, prayers, sighs, and groans what we long for, what we need. We ask, we seek, we knock.

The false ex-gay teachings on emotionally dependent relationships rest on a faulty foundation. They overlook reality and in turn paralyze people and force them into a stagnant way of life. The best way I can think to counter lies like these is with simple, rational, truth. Then I can begin to detox from the noxious teaching that enabled me to be an emotional stranger for so long.
Then Jesus said, "Lazarus come out!" And the dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them "Take of the grave clothes and let him go."

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Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Harm of Ex-Gay Minister--A Mother Speaks Out

Truth Wins Out posted three great new videos with individuals speaking about the ex-gay movement and their personal experiences. The one that moved me the most features Susan Stanskas, a parent of a gay man who,
discusses how ‘ex-gay’ organizations divide families - in the name of family values - and even cause some gay teenagers to commit suicide. In this video, she urges parents to accept their gay and lesbian children and warns about the harm done by rejecting them. “Would you rather have a gay child, or a dead child?” she poignantly asks.

Clint Trout, who spent 13 years as an ex-gay, shares some of the outrageous things he did in order to get "healed" from being gay and also talked about the teachings he received that blamed his parents for his same-sex attractions. He also talks about life post-ex-gay and the clearness and fullness he has found since he left Exodus ministries and embraced the reality of who he is.

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Saturday, February 02, 2008

Live Radio Interview Sun 2/3 11:30 am EST

Gary Hines from G-Town Radio out of Philadelphia will interview me live tomorrow (Sunday) at 11:30 am. I'll be heading to Philly next weekend where I will perform on Friday The Re-Education of George W. Bush—No President Left Behind! and on Saturday Doin' Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House—How I Survived the Ex-Gay Movement!

Lots to talk about with the Ex-Gay Movement, George W. Bush, shoot we may even talk about transgender Bible characters! In his e-mail today Gary promised me that he will not ask me anything sexual. Ah, but that doesn't mean I won't ask him anything sexual.

Listen live and streaming. (If you have trouble listening, go to the radio program's help page)

Of course I would have just come directly from Quaker Meeting for Worship, so who knows if I will have anything to say. Hmm, I guess silence doesn't work too well on the radio.

You can check out my presentation schedule here.

Gary posted an archive of the interview on his blog.

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Friday, February 01, 2008

Beyond Ex-Gay Mid-South Regional Gathering Feb 23 Memphis, TN

As if there weren't enough great events in Memphis the weekend of February 22-24!

After the outpouring of interest and support since the historic 2007 Ex-Gay Survivor Conference, Beyond Ex-Gay (bXg) will host the

Beyond Ex-Gay Mid-South Regional Gathering
An event for ex-gay survivors and our allies

February 23, 2008 2:00-5:00 PM
Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center
892 S. Cooper, Memphis, TN

Organizers, presenters and attenders from the first Ex-Gay Survivor Conference will be present including Christine Bakke, Peterson Toscano :-), Jim Burroway, Daniel Gonzales, Jacob Wilson and more as well as plenty of folks from the Mid-South.

bXg will offer a series of interactive workshops for ex-gay survivors and their allies.
Events will include:
  • A round table discussion about the ex-gay movement and youth concerns
  • From the on-line chat room to the talk show—processing our stories through the media
  • Ex-Gay 101 for allies
  • Creating and Maintaining Support Structures as you Process your Ex-Gay Past
  • and more!
If you are interested in attending the Beyond Ex-Gay Mid-South Regional Gathering in Memphis, TN, please e-mail us bxg(at), and we will register you.
A suggested (but not required) donation of $5.00 will be collected at the event.

Please SPREAD the WORD!
And I'll see you in Memphis????

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