Monday, March 31, 2008

Transforming Faith Conference

I head off to Portland, OR (one of my all time fav cities) on Thursday to attend and present at an amazing conference.
Transforming Faith: Divining Gender - A three-day interfaith gathering in Portland, Oregon that seeks to:
  • Educate communities of faith in the spectrum of gender identities and gender expressions
  • Give tools and resources for supporting gender variant youth
  • Dismantle binary gender constructs and their reign in misogyny and homophobia
  • Nurture and empower transgender leadership.
The keynote address will be offered by Dr. Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, author of 12 books, including Omnigender.
Ah, Mollenkott, one of my heroes (sheroes?) I will present my play Transfigurations -- Transgressing Gender in the Bible and also co-facilitate a workshop with Rev. Allyson Robinson.

Also presenting are
  • New Testament scholar Dr. Mary Ann Tolbert, George H. Atkinson Professor of Biblical Studies at the Pacific School of Religion and Executive Director of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry, who will address Gender and the Bible.

  • Jenn Burleton, Executive Director of TransActive will present a panel of youth and resources for supporting gender variant children and teens

  • Faisal Alam, founder of Al Fatiha (a network for LGBTQ Muslims), will be exploring the complex diversity within the Muslim world and will illustrate the many challenges facing queer Muslims.

I will walk amongst giants, and no doubt I will learn a great deal.

On Sunday I will be with Christine Bakke and a group of LGBT-affirming therapists, counselors and trauma specialists. We will gather for a Beyond Ex-Gay Summit to discuss treatment plans for ex-gay survivors. I feel thrilled about this as I meet so many survivors who don't know where to go for help. Often well-meaning LGBT-affirming therapists do not know enough about the ex-gay movement and how to best help someone.

But before all that I head off to Champaign Urbana, IL to present tomorrow and Wednesday night and I get to hang out with fellow Quaker (and ex-gay survivor) John Holm.

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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Equality Ride Anyone?

Soulforce is gearing up for Equality Ride 2008. This gives a few young people an amazing opportunity to join in with others to visit college campuses that have traditionally closed their doors to LGBT students.

Having met last year's crew, I felt so impressed by their passion, depth and integrity. It takes great sacrifice (about 6 weeks with training and on the road), but the Rides change lives, both for the riders and the people who meet them.

Soulforce has begun taking applications for Equality Ride fall 2008
In just two years, the Equality Ride has become a national forum wherein discourse about diversity is beholden to truth. And now, the journey continues. This fall, another bus of young adults will ride to illuminate the doctrinal roots of LGBT oppression. In the places they will visit, survival can mean enduring anything from harassment to codified discrimination. As the South has a distinct legacy of political, religious, and social conservatism, which further informs LGBT oppression, the 2008 Equality Ride will have its geographic focus there. This year we are widening the scope of the Ride to reach more denominations and seminaries. The expanding lineup will also include several faith-based Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Perhaps you feel a tug to find out more? Deadline is May 9.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Refried Freud

Over at Beyond Ex-Gay, Christine Bakke wrote an excellent article (accompanied with original artwork) about how ex-gay programs take Freudian theories then mix them up with often bizarre and even dangerous practices.

I knew one women whose therapist gave her assignments to flirt with men. An ex-gay guy who went on several dates to try to learn how to be with a woman (without disclosing that he identified as ex-gay), on the recommendation of his therapist. A woman who was counseled by the leader of the ex-gay group that women should wear makeup ("need to put some paint on the side of the barn"). A man who changed his last name because his ex-gay therapy led him to believe that his parents were to blame for him being gay. A woman who insinuated that she had been abused because she felt like her story didn't "fit" the ex-gay model without some kind of a root cause. A young man who said that after he got out of the ex-gay movement and was finished with reparative therapy, that's when the real repairing began. He had to repair the relationships with his family after buying into the belief that they were distant from him and made him gay.
Writing about her own experiences, Christine shares,
I spent hours having deliverance work done, and I still can't talk a whole lot about it to this day, some of it was so confusing, upsetting and at times, traumatic. I was counseled by at least four different pastors and wives over the years. I was also prayed for and discipled by numerous people in various churches, to whom I confessed so much and let them into so many areas of my life (which also unfortunately meant that they could do greater harm to me emotionally and mentally). I attended conferences and had so much healing prayer that if anyone should have been healed, one would think I would have at least been a good candidate.
Read all of Refried Freud.

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Friday, March 28, 2008

Talkin' Trash about John Smid

Shortly after I reported that John Smid had resigned from Love in Action, lots of folks have speculated as to the reasons. We may know soon enough. Yesterday evening I heard from someone who had read the letter that went out to supporters announcing John's resignation, who told me it does not take effect until July. Perhaps we will know more when the program makes their official public statement in their newsletter in April.

Last summer John gave a talk about masturbation where he made what sounded to me and many others bizarre references to his wife and to her vagina. Since the news broke of John's resignation, stories have begun to swirl along with jokes quoting John's talk.

For me perhaps some of this vagina talk would be funny right now if I didn't know John Smid and especially his wife. She is a lovely, kind woman. I also was married to a woman when I was ex-gay, and she suffered greatly because of my gay orientation and our failed marriage. I suffered greatly too.

We have no indication that John has been unfaithful. From everything I hear from folks in Memphis, he is not leaving in disgrace. Although some folks may wish to see such an outcome after all the harm that many of us experienced in Love in Action, some of this sounds downright cruel and petty. Lord knows I get angry about a lot of this stuff. It has affected me and my family in devastating ways. I attended that awful program for two years.

But these are people we are talking about.

No question, Ex-Gay leaders need to be held accountable for the harm they cause, for the uniformed misguided programs they create, and the dangerously misleading statements they make. But that doesn't give me license to treat them like shit.

Perhaps I am just a sappy Quaker who believes the crazy notion that that of God is in everyone. But I cannot forget that for most of my adult life I had been a born-again, Evangelical, Conservative Republican Christian who was very very anti-gay (and self-hating). I have changed dramatically. Change is possible. It was a hard road to make the changes I had to make, to question my world view, to see just how wrong I was. But it becomes even more difficult when people assume the worse and hurl insults.

I have been one of the most constant critics of Love in Action, and I will be thrilled the day that program completely shuts its doors. May that day come quickly! But I was one of them, and I care what happens to them, and I hope that they find a better way.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Premiere of New Film about Ex-Gay Movement

Someone has to make the mockumentary, Not Another Ex-Gay Movie! The film festival circuit is about to be glutted with a rush of ex-gay docs and films. Although I have yet to see it, I hear wonderful things about Jessica Yu's film Protagonist, which features four very different men who each follow a similar journey. One of the subjects is Mark Pierpoint, a former ex-gay and ex-gay minister.

The newest ex-gay doc to hit the screens is Bill Hussung and Mishara Canino's Chasing the Devil: Inside the Ex-Gay Movement which premieres March 29th at the Birmingham SHOUT Gay & Lesbian Film Festival.
CHASING THE DEVIL: INSIDE THE EX-GAY MOVEMENT is a feature documentary film presenting an unflinching look at the personal journeys of four people who claim to have changed their sexual orientation from gay to straight. Their stories mark the first time documentary filmmakers have been allowed inside the “ex-gay” movement and provide an empathetic and, at times, devastating portrait of those who claim homosexuality is an illness that can be healed
You will see lots of familiar (overexposed?) faces in the film--Richard Cohen, Joanne Highley, Me. You will also see some new folks who speak about their experiences for the very first time including my father, Pete Toscano. He agreed to sit down with Bill and Mishara to tell his story as the father of someone who was once ex-gay. I was in the other room when they did the interview so as to give him privacy, but he told me afterwards that he shared about the painful and surreal experience of attending Love in Action's Family and Friends Weekend.

I interviewed my dad once about the experience. He said,
We went to the meeting and had no idea of what we were going into. We met a lot of parents in the same category. Lots of kids had no parents there.

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

They made me feel that I failed you. That's how I felt after they got through with me. That's how they made all the parents feel.
More and more diverse voices have begun to emerge from the many people who have been negatively affected by ex-gay programs like Love in Action. Former and current spouses of ex-gays or ex-gay survivors, former ex-gay leaders and now parents are speaking out. When each person comes forward and tells their story, we get a fuller picture of the many ways that ex-gay experiences cause more harm than good.

You can read an interview with the film's producer Bill Hussung here and watch the trailer below.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

John Smid Resigns from Love in Action Ex-Gay Program

I am running to do a show and just got a voice mail from a former Love in Action staff member who said, "I'm sure you heard the news, but if not, you may be interested to know that John Smid resigned from Love in Action."

John Smid served as the Executive director and CEO of Love in Action in Memphis, TN.

When I know more, I'll let you know or post what you know in comments.

UPDATE: I found out that in one of Love in Action's last mailings to supporters, they made the announcement that John Smid planned to retire and move onto other things but did not specify what these things might be. I truly hope John gets out of the ex-gay work. He's done it for over 14 years, and I have always had the sense that he has wanted to be a proper minister in a church with a congregation and all. We'll see what he does next.

The challenge when someone is an ex-gay leader (or even an ex-gay critic) for awhile is trying to determine what to do next. It is such an alternate universe in many ways and lots of perks hold people in it for longer than they want. Even though an ex-gay ministry does not provide a lot of money, it gives some leaders national exposure, chances to speak in churches in front of large congregations, and opportunities to make important decisions that affect all sorts of lives. I can imagine that many things after that can feel like a step down.

John Smid is slated to speak at the next Love Won Out in San Jose on April 12.

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Phallic Fruit Fetish Anyone?

From Urban Dictionary
Phallic Fruit Fetish--

A "disorder" popularized by gay Quaker performing artist Peterson Toscano in his play "Doin' Time the Homonomo Halfway House" about his time spent as a patient in a Christian residential program to "cure" gay people. Another resident in the program suffered from Phallic Fruit Fetish (or PFF) and had a persistent desire to commit sexual acts with phallically shaped fruits. The problem was alleviated when all phallic shaped fruits were removed from the facility.
Rev. Smid ordered all bananas removed from the house upon learning of a patient's phallic fruit fetish.
And as I have Chad explain in the play,
He had a PFF, a Phallic Fruit Fetish, but he had a really serious case of it that actually extended into the vegetable word. As a result, no cucumbers, no zucchini, no carrots--oh, except for the little mini carrots; they don't bother him so much.
Urban Dictionary submission by Daniel Gonzales
Artwork by Christine Bakke
Crazy Character Chad by me.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Ex-Gay Journey: What Made You Do It? What Did it Cost You?

Over at Beyond Ex-Gay we have posted several narratives of ex-gay survivors. Many of these include lots of details about the struggle over faith and sexuality which compelled the struggler to pursue change and to receive help from reparative therapists and ex-gay ministers.

I think about how I used to tell my story assuming that the primary motivation to aspire to a non-gay life was my faith struggle. After years of unpacking the story, answering many many questions about my experiences, I have grown to understand that the faith issue stood among several key factors that influenced my 17-year quest to be ex-gay.

A friend recently submitted his ex-gay survivor narrative to me. He writes well about his experience as a missionary and in the church as well as in various ex-gay ministries. I will gladly post it as is, but I also know that the writing process gives us an opportunity to unearth more about our histories. The primary goal I see is that by telling our stories, we will understand them more. Secondly they can serve as a witness and a warning to others.

Below is my response to my friend with some key questions that many ex-gay survivors with a faith background might find helpful to ponder.

Hi there. Your article looks good in many ways. I do have a few questions for you to consider.

You attempted to change your sexuality. How did that affect you? Help you? Harm you? I have an article that looks at various types of harm you can check out to get some ideas.

You write your story well. My only reservation is that it is very faith-based, which I know is a big part of your journey and many people's journeys. The issue is that I get more and more e-mails from people who feel alienated by all the faith-based stories at bXg. It makes me wonder if some of us have to dig deeper. I mean why was the gay thing such a big deal for many of us? What other pressures, perhaps more subtle and hidden, influenced us to pursue change.

For instance, I cannot separate the sense of shame that led me to pursue change with the reality that I had been sexually abused as a child. Perhaps as an outgrowth of that abuse I had grown sexually compulsive in my teens. Sure the conservative churches I attended hammered in me that it was wrong to be gay, but also my life was out of control. I felt like filthy dirty sinner all the time and felt I needed to be fixed. I had genuine problems--unresolved sexual abuse, deep shame, and sexual addiction issues. Add to that the constant barrage of messages I received from society about admirable and normal heterosexuality. In my case religion served as a cover for the other pressing issues that weighed heavy on me.

I put that out there for you to consider any way you might rework your piece so that someone who never was Christian can relate to the struggle you faced. Also, it may help you to better understand why the quest to change had such a hold on you.

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Multi-Media Roundup

Below are some important videos that address ex-gay stuff AND when you are done, at the very bottom, see Christine Bakke's handiwork.

Over at YouTube ProfMTH put up a movie review of the anti-gay propaganda movie Sodom and Gomorrah. No it is not one of the Biblical porn films Love in Action forbade us from watching, rather a contemporary story about the lavender menace threatening the world as we know it. I felt especially pleased when I heard the reviewer referenced the apologies of former ex-gay leaders that Beyond Ex-Gay and Soulforce featured at our press conference last June in LA.

Next we have a video brought to us by Daniel Gonzales over at Box Turtle Bulletin. This one features Jeff Williamson. Christine writes an EXCELLENT post inspired by this video. Daniel writes,
When Jeff Williamson of Denver came out to his parents a year ago they sent him to see Christian counselor Bob Hudson whom they had been referred to through Focus On The Family. Jeff, who knew there’s nothing wrong with being gay, researched the ex-gay movement and pro-gay theology before his appointment, during which he ceded no ground to his counselor’s agenda. Jeff’s story is presented as a triumphant model for all too many youth who are sent, by their parents, against their will to ex-gay programs.

Also at Box Turtle Bulletin, Jim Burroway speaks about ex-gay programs and money. Lots of people think there is gold in them thar hills, but Jim breaks it down for us to reveal that money is not such a huge factor in promoting and providing ex-gay ministry (a concept lost on some folks who think it is all about the money and thus overlook what is really going on).

Finally, I just got off the phone with Morgan Jon Fox who is editing my Homo No Mo DVD. Christine graciously agreed to design the DVD cover art, so I sent her some files from the original poster designs. She started playing with my image immediately with some creative outcomes as evidenced by the random image below. When the DVD comes out in May, don't be surprised if you see my Chad character flailing in a tub of bananas or something.

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Burps & Farts

In my play, The Re-Education of George W. Bush—No President Left Behind, my character Chad offers an environmental lesson. His primary point outlines how being a vegan helps the planet. In his deliciously flaming style he states that,
Gas from cars has a significantly less impact on the planet than that emitted from cows in the forms of burps and farts.
And as I say the line, I put my left hand to my mouth ( for burps) and then down by my behind (for farts) and add, "I think that's the sign language for those."

After last night's performance, two women approached me and said that they knew American Sign Language. One asked if I wanted to learn the actual signs for burp and fart. Um, yeah! So next time you see the show, if you don't know them already, you will also learn these signs. Brilliant.

The Chad environmental lesson serves as a pivotal scene in the performance because it is the first lesson that does not simply target the president. It speaks directly to the audience and their own personal practices. It forces people to look at the global outcomes of one of their daily actions. It opens the door for me to talk about other issues to examine. By the end of the play, I can state that as someone raised in the USA, I have been programmed to be racist, sexist, homophobic, wasteful and violent. I suggest that this may be true for many of us and conclude by affirming that I need to re-educate the little George W. Bush lurking inside of me.

I received an e-mail from an audience member who overheard two women commenting about my show (and the Chad scene in particular) as they exited the hall. One of the women said,
Hitler was a vegetarian so you have to be careful with that moral superiority stuff.
Um, right. He also wore trousers, drove in cars and clipped his fingernails. So should I run around in a skirt sporting Howard Hughes-like curly nails? (Although I like the idea of the skirt)

I feel pleased by the remark. I hope my Bush play provokes people, gets them to look at their lives and practices and ask, "How might I be part of the problem?" Anyone can bash George W. Bush and thus feel a little better about themselves. Looking inward takes more work.

What if we place ourselves on a continuum based on how we live our lives? On one end stood George W. Bush, and the other was say Gandhi or Mother Theresa. Based on our lifestyles and regular practices, where do we fall? To whom are we closest? Although I admire Gandhi and Mother Theresa much more than the current US president, I have to admit that I fall much nearer to Bush. In this exercise George W. Bush stands as a symbol for a particular attitude or excess. Instead we could place other folks there--Paris Hilton for instance or Joe G :-)

None of us can ever live the perfect life or one where we leave no damage no matter how hard we try. We can greatly lessen the harm we do to the planet and to each other. The complete solution to global warming will not be all of us going vegan, but when we reduce our meat and dairy consumption, (along with an increased commitment to buying local products), we will make a BIG difference. (Besides a vegan diet improves our health and, more importantly, our skin considerably!)

I had a blast last night with the 200 plus people in the audience right here in Hartford where I live. I even got to meet Becca, who visits my blog (you have beautiful eyes!) During the talk-back time afterwards, I spoke directly to the audience, mostly progressive liberals, about the verbal violence we dish out towards other humans because they happen to be Conservatives, Republicans or Christians.

Part of the re-education process requires that I recognize everyone has some good in them even if I'd prefer to write them off as intolerant, hateful, bigots, but doing so serves as easy way out and creates further conflicts while leaving us feeling smug and self-satisfied. As a Quaker, I hear over and over about how "that of God is in everyone." This optimistic teaching interferes with my desire to assume the worse in people, to discount their needs, and invalidate their values.

In virtually every Hollywood movie I have seen, they drum into me the message that we have only two types of people in the world--good guys and bad guys. That binary exists in fiction. And on this my 1010th blog post (a lovely example of beautiful actual binary), I feel encouraged and challenged once again to view anti-gay conservative leaders, ex-gay ministers, and even George W. Bush (oh and Dick Chaney too) as humans, fellow travelers, offspring of the divine.

That doesn't mean they are not responsible for any cruel, thoughtless or harmful things they may say or do. It means that I recognize we are made of the same stuff, and, yes, we all burp and fart.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Doin' Time in Huntington, WV

WV=West Virginia. I spent the past few days in Huntington in order to present Doin' Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House at Marshall College. The weather there remained wet but warm in the upper 60's. Now back in Hartford the temperature hovers slightly above freezing with a wicked wind and the threat of snow. I will spend much of the day indoors doing chores, listening to fabulous music and prepping for my show tomorrow in Hartford--The Re-Education of George W. Bush.

I met such lovely people in Huntington, WV. Rebbeca from the LGBT Outreach Center has a fine taste in music (Spoon was playing in her car when she picked me up!) and a deep curiosity about the gnostic Gospels. On Wednesday night at a club club called Luna (with some fine music of their own, kick-butt hummus, and some of the best gins on the planet) a small group of us sat on the couches and talked about faith, queer issues and the ex-gay movement. Justin, a volunteer at the LGBTO Center joined me for dinner the night before and told me about his life as a queer guy in WV which includes long walks in the woods, a deep love of nature and Xena, the Warrior Princess. (He even wore a Xena t-shirt to dinner). Rebbeca, Justin and Doug (also from the center) helped me set up lights and run sound for my show. Rebecca even brought her parents and sister.

I also met Kit who just returned to Huntington after being away in California. Kit introduced us all to the Luna Club (and his dapper friend Shane) only proving once again that progressive people with excellent taste exist everywhere. Going to a place like West Virginia some biased folks in the North East joke with me, "Wait, I didn't know they had colleges in West Virginia. And aren't you afraid to go there?" My only fear was that I wouldn't find any sweet brown rice. Other than that I expected exactly what I found, intelligent, well-informed, queer and queer-friendly folks.

Next week I travel to James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA and will get to meet the very smart scholar Christine M. Robinson, Assistant Professor of Sociology & Interdisciplinary Liberal Studies Department of Sociology and Anthropology. Christine recently published a well-written article about The Politics of Masculinity and the Ex-Gay Movement. I will write a blog post about her work soon.

This amazing tour the past five years has rewarded me greatly. Have I gotten rich doing what I do? YES, but not in my bank account. I have grown so rich with friends, amazing conversations, new ideas and knowledge that have literally shaped my work and my life.

Now I shall return to my household chores, fabulous music, rehearsal, and well, heck, a big ole bowl of sweet brown rice!

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Re-Educating Bush & More on the Radio

Thursday March 20, 2008 8:30 PM

The Gay Spirit Radio Program
WWUH 91.5 FM Hartford CT

Greater Hartford's only gay news program featuring contemporary issues, music, and special guests will interview Peterson Toscano about his play The Re-Education of George W. Bush--No President Left Behind! in advance of his Hartford performance. Peterson will also talk about Deconstructing the Ex-Gay Myth which took place in Memphis in February.

This program can only be heard live. Visit the station's web page to hear it live and streaming.

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An e-mail to a man who is ex-gay

I often receive e-mails from former ex-gays and current ex-gays asking me about my experience. Yesterday I got one such e-mail that got me thinking deeply about my time at Love in Action, an ex-gay residential program in Memphis, TN. Although the message I received starts out accusatory, it quickly becomes more thoughtful. I sense the person genuinely desires to hear about my experience and dialogue. What I appreciate his message is that in it he shares some of his journey and the reasons behind it. I thought his questions helpful, so I want to share them with you along with my answer. I have removed his name and the year he attended LIA. (photos are from the renovation of my cottage)
I attended Love in Action in August 20xx. What I don't understand is why you have so many negative things to say about LIA. I hope you remember that you choose to attend the program and were not forced into attending. You should respect other peoples decisions to live for God and change their lives. I know how hard it is to struggle with homosexuality. But I know that in the end I want a deeper relationship with my creator and that is what motivates me to change my sexuality. You must have had some very strong convictions to spend thirty thousand dollars and countless hours in therapy. Peterson, Why made you change your mind about wanting freedom from homosexuality? I am sorry if at first I came off a little rude. But I really would like to talk with you more on the subject. I have some family members who identify as being gay, and they tell me that this is how I was created.... But I know that God wants more for me. Do you think I asked to be like this? Of course not. I wanted straight and have a wife and kids and the whole nine yards. I am trusting God, that one day it will happen for me.
Thank you so much for writing. I always appreciate meeting fellow LIA graduates. We share a unique experience that most people in the world do not understand. I have spent time thinking about your questions and have a LONG answer below. Thanks for asking. It got me thinking and writing.

I run into so many people who ask,
Why did you go to Love in Action for two years? Why did you spend so much time and effort trying to change your sexuality?
Many people do not understand the conflict and turmoil some of us have felt and the lengths we have gone to in order to do what we felt we needed to in order to correct what we saw as wrong with us.

Some of my dearest friends today are guys who went through LIA with me. Most are now gay, but one is married to a woman, and I was actually the best man in his wedding. Having each other has helped a lot as we live post-LIA.

Like you I have always wanted a deep relationship with my creator. At age 17 I found Jesus (or Jesus found me?) and the Bible made sense in a way it never did before. I entered a lifelong journey of worship of God, of listening to the Lord and of doingministry. Because of messages I heard around me, mostly from the playground growing up and from the media, I got the idea that being straight was the only normal path and anything other than straight was abnormal, taboo, sick, and bad.

I just wanted to be a good person, a faithful Christian and to be normal. I heard about the dream of a family with a wife and children from virtually every movie, pop song and even advertisements I experienced from the time I was small. Society continually represented and rewarded straight people it while it punished and made fun of people who weren't straight. I heard over and over that non-straight people were sad and unholy.

With all my heart I endeavored to crucify my flesh daily and find a way out of my gay desires and into a straight life. I believed the promise,
If any man be in Christ Jesus he is a new creation, the old is gone, behold all things have been made new.
To me that meant that Jesus could completely save me from my same-sex attractions and restore me to the place that I had been told was normal. Surely God was strong enough to do that especially after the mighty work that Jesus did on the cross and through the resurrection.

I found many ministers, counselors and ex-gay leaders who insisted that change was not only possible but probable. I went to church every chance I could, spent hours daily in prayer, praise, Bible study and simply enjoying the presence of God. I failed often but always returned to God bringing my struggle, feeling unworthy to serve as a missionary until I got this thing beat.

At age 25 I married a woman after our church leaders at a very well-known church encouraged us that God would bless our marriage. It seemed I had found that place of freedom I longed for all those years, and for two solid years I remained physically faithful to my wife. We seemed like an ideal Christian couple. But my desires for other men did not diminish. My desires for my wife never materialized. She could tell that I did not desire her and this wounded her deeply. She kept thinking there was something wrong with her. She knew of my former struggles but believed like me that God would bless us. I avoided sex as much as possible, not so much because I did not desire her sexually but more so because of the extreme guilt and shame I felt because I could only be successful in the bedroom if I thought of other men when I was intimate with my wife. I felt like I betrayed her every time we had sex.

I grew depressed, suicidal, hopeless. I continued to call out to God, but after five years of marriage, everything fell apart. It was then I chose to enter Love in Action. I hated that my struggle destroyed everything I held dear--my marriage, my work in Christian service, my church friendships--all lost.

It was at LIA that I first heard that it was impractical to expect that I would change from gay to straight. John Smid, the director, said that this is an unrealistic goal and that most likely we will continue to struggle with our desires for the rest of our lives. I hated that. I felt so deflated and discouraged and wondered if I made a big mistake in coming to LIA. But it was one of the best gifts I received from LIA--reality.

I learned other valuable lessons, especially from a counselor I worked with through LIA. Speaking about some childhood abuse issues he told me that sexual abuse and being gay are two distinctly different things. This freed me up to look at these issues separately and more objectively. John Smid and the other staff also continually reminded us that a definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result. I thought,
Wait a minute, that's what I have been doing for 17 years, begging God, bullying God to change me as I suppress my desires and call them bad and evil and sinful and sick. What happens if I do something different? What happens if I accept my desires as a natural reality of who I am, how I am wired, and take it from there?
And that is what I did. At first I assumed that meant I could not be a Christian any longer. How I mourned the thought of losing Jesus in my life, not simply because I believed I might go to hell, but more so because I cherished the presence of God in my life and my daily time of seeking God and listening to God. I soon realized I could not live without God, and although I distrusted gay theologians, I knew I needed to come to God with my desires and really ask God for his guidance. All those years previously I assumed the right prayer to pray was
God change me, fix me, help me out of this.
Instead my prayers became more open handed.
God I have these desires. What do you want me to do with them? with my life? I don't want to simply exchange one identity for another.
I held it out before God and listened. I began to realize that my thirst for change was not as spiritual as I had always assumed. I used God as a cover for the strong hunger to "be normal," to fit in, to have the dream of straight life and a wife and kids and the whole nine yards. In essence I coveted my straight neighbor's life. I thought I was listening to God, but really I was hearing the values of the world imposed upon the church, values that praised straight people and punished gay people.

At first I hated the idea that I was gay, but hated more living without integrity. And I began a journey to discover myself and to discover God's, not man's, will for my life. And the wild thing is that now I have a deeper more honest relationship with my creator than I ever dreamed possible. I have clarity and understanding and my previous out of control behaviors no longer disrupt my life. I treat my body with dignity and respect and am no longer compulsive.

If you are happy and truly feel that the ex-gay path or a celibate one is the way that God has for you, than I feel happy for you. I do not in anyway wish to invalidate your experience. I just know that for me such a life was not possible nor was it healthy. Love in Action helped me face reality, gave me great friends and some valuable lessons, but overall my time there caused me much more harm than good. The family and friends weekend devastated my parents. (I talk about this here). The overall experience deepened the shame I felt about myself and demonized all of my sexual desires not honestly separating compulsive unhealthy addictive desire from healthy normal desires.

This may not have been your experience. I can understand that, but the vast majority of people I have met (well over 1000) who have tried an ex-gay life say that long-term it was not beneficial, realistic, or necessary. But we are all wired differently and perhaps you represent someone in the tiny minority who find that the ex-gay way is helpful and sustainable.

Over at Beyond Ex-Gay we share some of our stories through our narratives, art work, poetry and articles. We make it very clear that
We believe that ex-gay experiences cause more harm than good. Certain people who currently identify as ex-gay say they are content as such. We don’t seek to invalidate their experience. For us such a lifestyle was not possible or healthy.

Not that it was all bad: Some of us received positive help through our ex-gay experiences. We grew to understand our sexuality better and in some cases even overcame life-controlling problems.

But for most of us, these experiences brought us inner turmoil, confusion, and shame. We are still in a process of recovery from the damage. Through sharing our stories with each other, we find wholeness and healing.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Oh, the Places You Will Find Us!

Before I forget, check out Horton Hears a Who. Amazing with a wonderful queer subplot if I ever saw one.

I remember when I first came out as gay. Filled with residual shame and still believing all the myths about LGBT people, I hated the idea of being part of the gay world which I assumed had at the center of its universe a bar (a smoky bar at that filled with catty drag queens and drug addicts.)

I have been fortunate though and have experienced all sorts of LGBT people throughout the US, Canada, Europe, West Africa and the Caribbean and have discovered that I need never enter a bar to meet up with brilliant, interesting and thoughtful LGBT people. But I can also meet amazing people at bars too. Also, some drag queens radiate the love of God and a stellar intellect and killer wit.

I can meet LGBT folks at book clubs and film festivals, in cafes and at poetry jams, gay bingo, and at community centers, in churches, choirs, theater productions, anti-war rallies, food pantries, orchid societies, gay soccer teams, softball and bowling leagues, conferences, colleges, hiking clubs, camps, resorts, cruises, and LGBT bookstores.

I find LGBT folks on the boards of LGBT (and other) organizations, at music concerts, and gay-owned restaurants. I meet LGBT folks on-line through wonderful social networking sites like the Gay Christian Network, and of course through blogging. I meet them at book signings and Pride Flag making events, art shows and Gospel concerts, political rallies, and fund raisers for LGBT youth groups.

I meet them in homes for game night or to watch the Super Bowl or NCAA Championships or to just hang out with them and their kids. We go to the beach, out on the lake for the day, for a cup of coffee or a prayer meeting or a music jam. We camp together at arts festivals. We worship at national or regional gatherings. We read together, share music and listen to many different LGBT comedians and storytellers. We work on causes, in gardens, on school projects and art projects or in cooking a meal.

In my LGBT world, I meet hundreds of well-adjusted, content folks living their lives, pursuing their dreams, contributing to their communities. Traveling has helped me to see beyond the myths and find our people in all sorts of wonderful nooks and crannies. None of us need to remain trapped in the shame and the myths.

Of course this is only a partial list. Please feel free to add to the lists in the comment section.

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Confusion & Fear Over Transgender Children

Randy Thomas, the executive vice president of Exodus and an ex-gay yesterday answered some questions about transgender children for Focus on the Family's CitizensLink on-line newsletter. Throughout the article I see evidence of confusion, misinformation and downright fear.

Hearkening back to the 50's and 60's Thomas laments,
With my parents' generation — the boomers and older — there were deeply taught gender roles, but that started breaking down with Gen X. Now people don’t know how to teach being a male or a female to younger males or younger females.
His answers quickly turn to highlighting lavender scare of gay activists in the school system and the fears he has of the consequence of letting young people decide for themselves if they are a boy or a girl,
The schools are being co-opted by a worldview that is undermining a child’s ability to learn how to be a responsible citizen, and they are going to create chaos. Teenagers are confused enough about their identity; they don’t need gay activists or transgendered activists going into their schools confusing them even further.
Actually many of these transgender children are the only ones NOT confused about their identity. The confusion comes when adults tell them they don't know what they are talking about.

I sat at dinner with 16 year old Sean and his mom. Sean knew he was a boy as early as age three. Apparently and his mom were uninvited to the Oprah Show when they couldn't produce any early photos of Sean looking like a little girl. He just never did even though biologically it appeared he was born one.

Some people like Randy Thomas want a very simple world with everything falling neatly into place. When it comes to gender, things do not turn out so simply. How do we account for individuals who are born intersex with both or ambiguous genitals. Usually a doctor determines the sex of the infant and has often gotten it wrong.

But our sex (and especially gender) is not simply determined by the bits between our legs. All sorts of complex processes happen in the womb around our sex that biologically affect our brains, hormones, body types and more. In a simple world where certain people want to think that nothing ever deviates from the mythical norms of the 1950's, some people come out of the womb with the outside not matching the inside. But instead of listening to these folks, (often because they are children and considered by some to be ignorant) some people insist that these young people are wrong about who they know themselves to be.

Gender variant and transgender people have been around for a very long time. Recently they have had more opportunities to tell their stories, so suddenly for some it seems these stories are new. Consider jazz musician Billy Tipton who lived all his life as male without any questions from anyone. After he died, it came to light that he was biologically female. Many transgender people have passed for thousands of years. There is nothing new under the sun.

Conflating issues of marriage with gender identity, Thomas writes,

As Christians, we know that male and female both uniquely represent the image of God, and when they come together in the form of marriage, they bear witness of Him in a way that they can’t do alone. So gender identity is very important to God.

In fact, gender is so very important that gender variant people pop up all over the place in the Bible. The entire book of Esther would fall apart without the surgically altered gender other eunuchs. You have people acting and presenting outside of gender norms and roles in key stories in Genesis, Judges and the Gospels. Randy may consider coming to see my play Transfigurations--Transgressing Gender in the Bible.

Most importantly we need to sit with transgender people, hear their stories and learn the scientific facts about sex and gender, particularly the complex pre-natal processes that occur.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Messing with Momma

Momma is in town from LA this week for the True Colors Conference. The big day of the conference was today, and of course Momma was the bell of the ball with THREE costume changes. I did a workshop about the ex-gay movement and then performed Transfigurations. I am pooped and heading to bed because we have another full day tomorrow at the conference then we will drive to my father's house. I thought it was time to bring Momma home to meet the family :-p

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Performance Schedule UPDATED

The other day I updated the performance schedule to include shows in Rochester, NY, Johnstown, PA, the Twin Cities, MN, and Canterbury, England. Currently I perform four different productions and do talks (and somehow I don't mix them up).

I'm especially pleased they I was invited to give a plenary address at the Friends General Conference (Quaker). As a Quaker, I have presented more and more at Quaker venues the past two years although I mostly do non-Quaker gigs. I actually find some Quaker venues to be the most challenging for me. Most Quakers who have seen my work seem to get what I do and enjoy it, but I have had more offense from Quakers than from any other type of audience member. Some Quakers find comedy to be violent or get so caught up in words that they can miss the point.

Also, when I talk about LGBT issues, I have gotten a strange resistance among some liberal Quakers. They express sentiments like, "Oh, we don't need that message. We have done a lot of work around this issue in our meeting. We passed a minute on same-sex partnerships back in 1984."

The majority of these liberal Quaker meetings remain racially homogeneous (white), so issues of diversity come up around race a lot which is great and essential. I have learned much about skin privilege and racism through the working groups on these issues in our meetings.

But the largest minority population within our meetings are most likely the LGBT folks (or maybe those people with scent allergies :-). From talking with several of them, I know we have work to do in our meetings around heterosexism and even homophobia. But when the shields go up--We have already dealt with that stuff--then the meetings can grow stagnant with some people feeling silenced or marginalized.

All of this leaves me with questions about what I will present at FGC. Do I do a play? A talk? Let the silence speak for me? (The perfect Quaker cop out when all else fails). Talk about queer issues? Faith issues? Art? I know I will spend more time praying and prepping for this one talk than any other I will do this year.

While at FGC I will also co-facilitate a workshop for high schoolers,
Xtreme Quakerism - Radical Faith for Mind, Body and Spirit
Peterson Toscano & Kri Burkander
This dynamic, interactive workshop will be an opportunity to deepen your faith, nurture your Spirit, share your heart, and get (re)energized to be a radical Quaker in the world. Through games, movement, worship, meditation, art, writing, drama, and much more, we'll build a loving community and support each other in listening to the leadings in our lives that are calling our faith into action.
Although the workshop lasts for six days, I have a feeling it will be invigorating and centering for me (and hopefully for the other participants).

Other presentations in the works will be in other parts of England, Northern Ireland, Barcelona, Stockholm, and in the States in Illinois, Connecticut, Maryland and Arizona.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

To Alan Chambers--Be a Doer of the Word

Last week I blogged about Alan Chambers and his announcement that Exodus was moving away from politics. Through Ex-Gay Watch Alan Chambers asserted

that after listening to friends and critics alike — but mostly the Lord — we decided to back out of policy issues and our Director of Government Affairs took a position with another organization.

Today David Roberts at Ex-Gay Watch reports that Exodus continues to maintain ties with a politically active conservative group.

After XGW discovered information indicating that Exodus International is a member of the prominent religious conservative political organization, The Arlington Group (AG), we asked President Alan Chambers to respond on the record. He replied that Exodus was indeed a member, and they planned on maintaining that membership.

Publicly Alan stated that he was willing to take a leap of faith. He suggested that the Lord was behind this decision to back out of policy issues.

The author of James asks the critical question,

But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? James 2:20

For years Exodus member ministry leaders petitioned Exodus to get out of the business of politics. Ex-gay survivors also have raised the question, “If the vast majority of us do not end up living an ex-gay life and instead embrace another way that we feel is more healthy for us, why does Exodus seek to punish us by denying us rights and privileges afforded to heterosexuals?”

Perhaps Alan spoke too soon and did not count the cost of stepping out of the political arena. Perhaps certain politically active funders and supporters will disdain a non-political Exodus and throw their money and support to groups that care less about people and more about politics.

Wendy Gritter modeled leadership for the Exodus leaders when she gave her keynote address and again in the article she posted here at XGW. She stressed,

We have been distracted by the politics around homosexuality.

Of her own ministry she promises,

We are pastorally-focused, not politically driven.

Alan has heard from friends and critics, but according to him—mostly the Lord—that Exodus should move out of policy work. Quoting from James again,

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. James 1:22

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Monday, March 10, 2008

The War Within

Many lesbian, gay and bisexual folks live with internalized homophobia. We grow up in a society that insists that heterosexuality is the approved norm, and anything other than it is not only "less than" but actually a perversion. Even when we did not hear bad things said about gays, lesbians and bisexuals, we have almost exclusively heard good things about heterosexuals while virtually nothing positive about people not heterosexual. We experienced heterosexual lives, loves, and desires prominently celebrated in pop songs, romantic comedies, religious services and billions of images. We got the message that non-heterosexuals were not fully human.

I do not understand why the weight of heterosexism and homophobia affects some people more than others. Some of us actually have taken an aggressive stance to rid ourselves of our same-sex attractions and gender differences. We went to war with a part of ourselves. We called that part of ourselves Our Enemy. We demeaned it, hated it and resolved to destroy it.

For me I turned to the ex-gay movement as well as the conservative Church for the arsenal I needed to wage this war against my gay orientation and my less than masculine presentation. I reveled in the warfare analogies found in Paul's epistles. I allowed myself to believe that I wrestled not against flesh and blood but actual spiritual principalities and powers who fought over my very soul. Seeing myself in the midst of a colossal cosmic struggle for my salvation and sanctification filled me with holy purpose and an inflated sense of self.

In reality I did wrestle against flesh and blood, my very own. I bullied God and demanded that God drive his sword into my being to sever me from my own flesh and blood, to execute a violent surgery on my personality.

Not too long ago I spoke with an ex-gay survivor who grapples to understand the difficulties in his life and why it remains so hard for him to move beyond his ex-gay experiences. He wonders why it cannot be a simple recovery without all the pain and difficulty he suffers.

After we go to war against ourselves, we find ourselves in the midst of the carnage. We sliced up our hearts. We slandered ourselves daily and did all manner of cruelty to ourselves. Aided and abetted by an anti-gay Church and world, we can now find our souls sliced and diced and in bleeding tatters.

I went to war against myself. Actually I joined someone else's war, recruited to drive out a part of myself even though that part of me did nothing wrong. After I stopped the battle, I assessed the ruin. I remember the first few years before I began to process my ex-gay experiences and the damage they brought to my life. I felt angry and bitter, cheated and deceived while still battered by daily onslaughts of guilt and doubt and fear. No wonder it took me nearly 10 years to begin to feel good about myself again.

Bob Loos, an out gay man and licensed therapist, attended some of our ex-gay survivor activities we recently held in Memphis. After being among some survivors Bob wrote,
My immediate impression of the survivors I met was that they are at once happy and injured, vigorous and in pain, empathic and seeking strength, and perhaps most of all, capable of loving and deserving utmost love.
He touches on the complexity that many of feel as we face the reality of our pasts and begin to undo the damage. I feel hope that we find clarity and recovery, but I do not doubt that the work can be a chore. It would be easier to stuff our ex-gay pasts in our now abandoned closets. Easier but not helpful long term.

I spent nearly 20 years in pursuit of a fantasy. I coveted my straight neighbor's life. I have long forgiven myself for the missteps I took and completely understand why I did what I did growing up in the US when I did. I have begun to forgive those people who promoted and provided a false and faulty product.

I do not desire revenge, rather, I long to see ex-gay providers take a fearless and thorough look at their practices and the lives negatively affected by them. It is not enough that they meant well, which I know some of them believe to be true and may cling to as an amulet to ward off reality.

Society provided gay, lesbian and bisexual people (and transgender folks as well) with negative messages about ourselves, messages that some of us ingested and turned inward. The Ex-Gay Movement then provided us with the tools and weapons to go to war against ourselves.

The vast majority of people who have tried the ex-gay way discovered that it was not possible or healthy. Now in our post-ex-gay lives, post-war, we do the hard work to pick up the pieces and rebuild. Fortunately we do not have to do it alone.

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Ex-Gay Survivor Jacob Wilson Shares More

Jacob Wilson attended Love in Action the summer of 2005. He recently came public with his story in the Memphis Commercial Appeal and at a press conference during Deconstructing the Ex-Gay Myth—A Weekend of Action & Art. You can see Jacob here with his boyfriend Ryan, who is holding the Christian & Gay sign.

While in Memphis for the weekend, in addition to leading a round table discussion about youth issues at Love in Action, Jacob also agreed to be interviewed by Jim Burroway of Box Turtle Bulletin. In the following video Jacob shares about his ex-gay past and his parents' role in encouraging change. Then he discusses the changes he actually experienced and that feeling of dying inside.

Jacob doesn't need to come forward to tell his story. His generosity helps so many people. His story shows the anguish someone goes through when they feel the conflict over their sexuality as well as the trials they endure when they attend programs like Love in Action. In hearing his story, I can see the value of the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference in Irvine in helping folks like Jacob to begin to unpack and understand their ex-gay experiences.

Thank you Jacob!
(and thanks to Daniel Gonzales for posting the video)

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Saturday, March 08, 2008

Pondering Gender

Michelle at Quasifictional has a post up about gender and some of what she has learned in the recent past since getting turned onto the Trans-ponder podcast hosted by Mila and Jayna (you girls rock, and your podcast never disappoints!)

Michelle includes fascinating links about gynecomastia, a condition of enlarged male breasts, including the story of a Christian man with the condition who has struggled to know how to respond. Really great stuff, thought provoking and mind expanding. (She even refers to Inga Muscio, my shero)

Yesterday I spent the day in NYC and got to talk to several people about my Transfigurations play and the shift that I have taken to move away from my role in telling my own story as a former ex-gay to focus more on gender issues. There's been great injustice against trans people among LGB folks and lots of misinformation.

After two days of wet and cold weather, I have put on my PJs and crawled up on the couch with a cup of tea and a new book, Capote in Kansas: A Ghost Story. The prose is weak but the story is strong so far.

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Ex-Gay Survivor John Holm Speaks Out

Daniel Gonzales of Box Turtle Bulletin interviewed John Holm, an ex-gay survivor who traveled to Memphis from Illinois to be part of the big weekend. John also attended last summer's Ex-Gay Survivor Conference and is a fellow Quaker. In this video he speaks a little bit about his ex-gay experiences, dating women and Quakerism.

Thank you John for stepping up and telling some of your story!

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Beyond Ex-Gay Memphis RECAP

We have had some time to reflect on the big weekend in Memphis and the events surrounding Deconstructing the Ex-Gay Myth—A Weekend of Action & Art. Christine and I have spent much of the day building some new web pages to give folks a sense of what took place during the weekend.
  • Check out our Memphis photo album with lots of super photos thanks to Bruce Garrett.
  • See video of the press conference and gallery walk
  • Learn more about the Chalk Talk and see up close what people have to say about their ex-gay experiences
  • Read a list of options for ex-gay survivors to consider for their recovery process
We will have information soon about upcoming Beyond Ex-Gay events

April 6, 2008 Portland, OR
May 26, 2008 Barcelona, Spain
October 23, 2008 Nashville, TN

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Lovely Shifts and Dramatic Changes

I keep having to remind myself that it is not even a full year since Christine Bakke and I launched Beyond Ex-Gay (bXg) and the Ex-Gay Survivor Movement. That was in April of 2007 after an all night crazy session where we posted nearly 30 pages of content in eight hours. Now we have over 120 pages of content with loads of narratives, art work, articles and resources. Soon we will have a recap of what happened in Memphis with photos, video and more.

After the launch of bXg, we partnered with Soulforce and UC Irvine's LGBT resource center to organize the first ever Ex-Gay Survivor Conference in Irvine, CA. By choosing to have it in the same city and the same week as Exodus' annual conference, we saw the beginnings of a deeper sharing that previously had not taken place between ex-gay leaders and ex-gay survivors.

By telling our stories through art, in the media, over dinner, in a chalk talk, apologies, through video and written narratives, our message has been that for many of us, our ex-gay experiences caused us more harm than good. In telling our stories we have sought to understand what happened to us and to stand as a witness and warning about some of the harm that can come from trying to change and suppress our orientation and gender differences.

People began to listen. Others felt encouraged to speak out. In less than a year dozens have come forward, not to attack ex-gays, but simply to share how the ex-gay life was not possible or healthy for them, and that they found a better way for themselves.

Some discussions we held were very public, others very private, and will remain private. And we have begun to see shifts and changes.

Love Won Out has since revamped their web site and now presents a slightly more realistic picture about change than they have in the past. Ex-gay leaders attended some of the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference events and blogged about how moved they were by what they saw and heard. People have begun to use the term ex-gay survivor in the media and on their blogs. Recently Wendy Gritter, a leader of an Exodus affiliated program in Canada, specifically referred to the stories at Beyond Ex-Gay in her keynote address to Exodus leaders earlier this year. Wendy has since published a piece over at Ex-Gay Watch outlining some changes she would like to see take place at Exodus.

And today we learn from Ex-Gay Watch that Alan Chambers announced that

In August, 2007 after a lot of prayer, deliberation and listening to friends and critics alike — but mostly the Lord — we decided to back out of policy issues and our Director of Government Affairs took a position with another organization.

This is good news indeed and comes after much work on the part of folks both within and outside of Exodus to help the leadership to consider backing away from getting tangled in debates about LGBT rights.

Back in July during the Ex-Gay Survivor Initiative sponsored by Soulforce, ex-gay survivors shared their stories around the country with a recurring theme about harm, but also with a call to ex-gay leaders and church leaders to consider pastoral care and people's lives before politics.

John Corvino, a philosophy professor and wonderful lecturer about LGBT issues recently wrote an excellent article about ex-gay issues. In it he says,
People often ask me what I think about ex-gay ministries. I have no objection to them in principle, but serious problems with them in practice.

I have no objection to them in principle because I believe we should give others the same respect that we ourselves demand. That includes giving people wide latitude about living their lives as they see fit. If you really believe that you’re heterosexual deep down, and you want to take steps to help realize that identity, far be it from me to insist otherwise. I’ll let you be the expert on what you feel deep down, as long as you show me the same courtesy.
You can read the rest of the piece here.

Lovely shifts and dramatic changes are happening. Thank you to all ex-gay survivors who have stepped up to share their lives and their stories. Later this week along with Box Turtle Bulletin we will release more video of ex-gay survivors who recently began to speak out. We cannot underestimate the power of telling our stories honestly, vulnerably, not out revenge or malice but out of concern for others who may not know the other side of the story.

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Monday, March 03, 2008

I was an Ex-Gay in Bible School

Well, that is not exactly true, it was a Christian Liberal Arts College and I was trying to be ex-gay. Putting me in the dorm with the entire soccer team and an old-fashion communal shower stall sorely tested my resolve. Those were the days of the 5am two minute showers. My roommate, an Italian bodybuilder with skimpy nylon shorts even in the dead of winter, knew of my "struggles." I had explained it all to him on our first day rooming. That didn't get him to put on anymore clothes. It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.

Nyack College, in Nyack, NY. I attended for two years. Well, I nearly completed one year when after repeated falls from grace, the dean of students asked me to withdraw lest I be kicked out. After a summer of intensive counseling with my pastor, Nyack took me back, but this time into Simpson Hall, where they had private shower stalls and music majors. During my second year at Nyack I fell in love with a boy, dated a girl, and kept all my secrets to myself. I learned an important lesson at that Christian school. Don't be too honest about your struggles; it will just get in trouble.

I head back to Nyack, NY on Sunday to do a play, not at the college, but at The Nyack Center.
What: Peterson Toscano's one-person play, "Doin' Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House: How I Survived the Ex-Gay Movement."
When: 7 p.m. March 9. Doors open at 6.
Where: Nyack Center, 58 Depew Ave., Nyack.
More information: Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door. Students pay $10. Call 845-634-5729 or visit
Suzan Clarke of the Journal News interviewed me and published an article about my ex-gay journey and the show—Survivor of ex-gay therapy to perform at Nyack Center.

And yes, last week was the official retirement show of Homo No Mo. This is just my Cher-like victory lap (with less costume changes and wigs).

While I am in Nyack, I actually would welcome the opportunity to meet up with folks at the college or the seminary. I am technically one of their spawn. Technically.

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Saturday, March 01, 2008

Chalk Talk on Ex-Gay Experiences

Last weekend in Memphis Beyond Ex-Gay held a regional gathering for ex-gay survivors and allies. Like at last summer's Ex-Gay Survivor Conference we also did a Chalk Talk, which is a visual conversation done on a wall. Anyone can write a word, phrase or image about the prompt. They can also connect thoughts.

This time we chose for our prompt Ex-Gay Experiences. Daniel Gonzales of Box Turtle Bulletin took some footage of the Chalk Talk once we finished. Christine blogged about the experience here.

The power about a Chalk Talk is that everyone can add what they like. Also, their words stay out there. With the Ex-Gay Survivor Movement one of the things we hope to see is ex-gay leaders and others who promote ex-gay therapies to listen to the words and stories of ex-gay survivors. Here is a wonderful opportunity.

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