Packed day ahead! Currently I am in Newcastle, Northern Ireland where I will give two presentations at a local state-run school first for 15-year-olds and then for 14-year-olds. We will talk about bullying, homophobia, and identity as we play various theater (and theatre) games. I imagine I will perform the Identity Monologue and a scene between Chad and Federico Garcia Lorca from Queer 101.
Sandwiched in between I will sit for a live interview with William Crawley of BBC Radio Ulster. He wants to talk about the Ex-Gay Movement and in particular the plight of survivors who have experienced harm because their attempts (and the attempts of others in their lives) to change and suppress their orientation and gender differences. The show will run during lunch time today (from around 12:15-1:15). Have a listen here.
In the evening I head to Queens University in Belfast to offer a talk for the university’s LGBTQ Soceity. The talk is entitled Homo No Mo?!? Orientation, Gender and the Ex-Gay Movement. The ex-gay movement and treatments to “de-gay” homosexuals became a very hot topic in Northern Ireland, when Iris Robinson, the wife of the First Minister, publically promoted reparative therapy. Earlier in the year Jeremy Marks, who once headed an ex-gay program that has since changed to become pro-LGBT spoke at Queens University. Opponents showed up and asked surreal questions like, “Do you believe in hell?”
In my experience much of the ex-gay movement and many churches’ teachings on gay issues get so soaked in fear and shame that people struggle to think clearly about it all. Many of us soaked in fears of not pleasing God, of messing up and getting a fatal disease, of ending up in an eternity of torment, then mixed in we marinated in shame especially when religious leaders blames us for not trying hard enough to alter our sexuality and questioned our sincerity. True concerns mixed with superstious fears kept many of us suspended in an irrational lifestyle where we defered to other people’s wills and plans for our lives. In all of the panic and shaming, we struggled to discover God’s will for our lives opting for the default setting traditional views foisted upon us.
I remember the day back in December 1998, when after 17 years of pursuing a variety of ex-gay treatments, I finally understood that “change” as it had been promised was not possible nor was it beneficial, in fact, it caused considerable harm. I had no clue at the time what would happen if I defied the orders of the religious leaders in my life, and it felt terrifying. What is going to happen now???! What happened shocked me–clarity, peace, a deeper relationship with God, sanity, health. In Christian language–The Fruit of the Holy Spirit.
I remember at an action we held in Memphis last year and two signs that ex-gay survivor Jacob Wilson held up at different parts of the day. Sign was Change at What Cost??? and the other, a positive reminder–Integrity Changes Lives.