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Archive for the ‘ex-gay’ Category

This week will mark six years since the premiere of my play, Doin’ time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House and the begining of LGBTQ activism that has shaped, challenged and aided me in my own recovery from the Ex-Gay Movement and a life of rotting under the weight of homophobia and heterosexism.

How lovely to walk in the light, to be a peace within myself about who I am and how I am wired, to get beyond the crime of trying to fit in to please other people in the name of God.

Thank God I am gay. What a gift to be given! I once would have sold my soul to be straight. How I begged God to fix me or at least to collude with me to reject a part of me. It proved unecessary. No need for all that violence against myself. I am a man who desires men and who presents in what some say is in a feminine fashion. This is not only normal for me, and many others, but a most excellent way to be wired.

Today as I prepare for my play about transgender Bible characters I experience joy and gratitude.

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So much good stuff out there that has come to my inbox recently.

  • Candace Chellew-Hodge, the creator of Whosoever.org, has a new book out, Bulletproof—A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay & Lesbian Christians. You can hear a public reading here. Check out what Desmond Tutu has to say about the book.

    Gay and lesbian Christians are constantly demoralized and told they are not children of God. In Bulletproof Faith, Chellew-Hodge reassures gays and lesbians that God loves them just as they were created and teaches them how to stand strong, with compassion and gentleness, against those who condemn them. -Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

  • Allyson Robinson gets quoted in a great piece that appeared in yesterday’s Washington Post, Ruling Inspires New Hope for Transgender People.

    But for transgender women such as Robinson, the County Council’s passage of the law was a key reason she chose to live in Montgomery when she moved to the area this year from Texas to take a job at the Human Rights Campaign, a gay and transgender civil rights organization.

    Before settling on a townhouse in Gaithersburg, Robinson and her family sought to rent an apartment. She worried, unnecessarily as it turned out, that the landlord would want to pull out of the lease upon meeting her. Until the law took effect this week, Robinson said, the landlord could have rejected her application because she is a transgender person.

    In the past, Robinson has also worried about taking her four young children to public restrooms at restaurants, because she fears that someone will identify her as a transgender woman and call security. “You find yourself on guard, and mentally and emotionally prepared for that,” Robinson said. “You just never know. For many of us, this kind of thing we fear happens rarely; for others it happens constantly, and the fear of it is very real.”

  • Over the weekend I got to hang out with poet Karla Kelsey. She has done collaborative work with her partner visual artist Peter Yumi. You can see samples here.
  • If you go in for the whole debate thing, check out Opposing Views, which includes polar opinions on politics, religion, money, health and more.

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Over at the FAQ page of Beyond Ex-Gay we have the question, What is an Ex-Gay Experience? with the answer:

It can be as simple as gay guys trying their hand at football and lesbians sitting in on a Mary Kay Makeup makeover to something as serious and severe as electroshock therapy.

The idea is to find change from unwanted same-sex desires and gender differences. In some cases the experience is religious-based, but not always. It can also be done within a group, in one-on-one sessions or solo.

Photo of onramp (?)An ex-gay experience seeks to change desire, behavior and/or gender presentation. People have tried multiple methods including

  • counseling (with a trained counselor or pastoral counseling with a minister)
  • attendance in an ex-gay support group or a residential program
  • dating (or marrying) someone of the opposite sex in hopes of experiencing change in desire
  • dressing and acting according to the gender normative standards in one’s society
  • reading books and narratives by people who say they changed
  • attending ex-gay conferences
  • submitting to prayer, fasting, exorcism, aversion therapy, hug therapy, same-sex heterosexual mentoring, and twelve-step programs.

Lots of people have had ex-gay experiences even though they never attended an ex-gay program. The theories of the Ex-Gay Movement get spread through books, radio programs, men’s and women’s groups, pulpits and in counseling sessions. But even non-gay people who do not conform to gender norms who who may be transgender can be affected by the pressure to “change” or fit in with the norms and demands around them instead of being pursuing a path of authenticity.

I hear from lots of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people who never once stepped foot into an ex-gay program, yet they can say that they have been negatively affected by the ex-gay movement, especially because of their faith background.

Ray Boltz, a well-known contemporary Christian singer, came out publicly yesterday via an interview with the Washington Blade. In the article he references the Ex-Gay Movement.

It got to the point by the early-to-mid ’00s that keeping his homosexuality hidden had become an increasingly wearying notion.

“You get to be 50-some years old and you go, ‘This isn’t changing.’ I still feel the same way. I am the same way. I just can’t do it anymore.’”

There was some exploration of “ex-gay” therapy though Boltz never attended an “ex-gay” camp or formal seminar.

“I basically lived an ‘ex-gay’ life — I read every book, I read all the scriptures they use, I did everything to try and change.”

As with many ex-gay surivor narratives, Ray was not the only one affected by ex-gay experiences. The interview mentions Ray’s wife, Carol, and their children.

One of the challenges that many of us who have been in “mixed orientation” marriages face is how to be honest about ourselves and the marriage while seeking to validate both the good and the difficult aspects of the relationship. Some have called these unions between a gay man and a straight woman (or the other way) “sham marriages,” but for many of us who had been in these marriages, they contained genuine partnership on many levels. Yes, we hid a part of ourselves that we struggled with privately, often apart from our partners, but that does not invalidate the years of relationship building, of loving, of growing and giving.

Realistically these marriages often need to end for both parties to move on and continue to grow and live a healthy life. At the end of these marriages, just like at the end of an ex-gay journey, we often need to find creative ways to mourn the loses of dreams we once held dear. As we get beyond our ex-gay experiences, we will find a new found freedom, hope and even joy, but it comes mixed with regrets and even damage from what we’ve gone through, damage from which we may never completely recover.

My hope is that as people like Ray step forward to tell their stories that others will make better informed choices about their own lives and loved ones so that they can avoid the destructive nature of false promises.

If you are a praying person, pray for Ray and Carol and their family as they publicly step into the light and may have to face some ugliness from folks who feel threatened and challenged by the realities that the Boltz family reveal. Many have come forward in support of them and their courage. May the Boltz family find love in every quarter.

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Hello, my name is Vlad. I have been in this Homo No Mo Halfway House for 27 days. Here in Homo No Mo Halfway House we have five phases, we do 12 Steps and there are approximately 275 rules. First I tell you about the phases. When we move from phase to phase, this is called a “Phase Bump,” and technically only the staff is allowed to bump you.

-Excerpt from Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House

At the Love in Action residential program that I attended for two years the staff led participants through a game know as The Five Phases and The 12 Steps. Participants preoccupied themselves with moving up (and down) artificial gradations like a twisted version of Chutes and Ladders.

  • In Phase One the staff forced participants to look at themselves in order to acknowledge they had a problem, in fact that we were a problem— sinful, addicted, and broken.
  • In Phase Two the focus turned to God, the ultimate perfection and means of escape.
  • Phase Three turned the spotlight on the family where we created new mythologies about our childhood and family dynamics to fit in with the program theories about dysfunctional families and the developmental model.
  • In Phase Four we deconstructed former friendships rebranding them as unhealthy, emotionally dependent, and sick with the charge to develop new, healthy relationships with heterosexual mentors from the church.
  • Finally, we moved to the Fifth Phase where we began to transition into the world outside the program.

While slowly working through the phases, the staff also pushed us through an intensive 12-Step program with the belief that our desires for people of the same sex had to be wrong, sinful and addictive. We needed to account for every past sexual encounter and reframe them to fit in with the addiction model the staff gave us. Through our weekly “Moral Inventories” we wrote about and discussed former sexual experiences reworking them into a clinical narrative designed to reinforce the construct provided by the staff. Instead of a way of expressing love or just being horny, we had to restate our motives for sex so that they instead sprung from our own emotional, psychological or spiritual illnesses.

The Steps, the Phases, and the hundreds of written moral inventories required many hours of concentration and will power. The effort distracted me from the reality that “change” was not possible and was not happening, except for the negative change leading to depression, hopelessness and faithlessness. Instead advancement through the steps and our celebrated “Phase bumps” (which took on the quality of a some sort of tribal celebration with clanging of pots and pounding on the walls) gave the illusion that we experienced actual movement and growth.

Whenever we faltered in our resolve to sublimate our sexual desires and gay identity, the staff and fellow participants urged us to work the program! Instead of questioning the failure or the methods, the staff compelled us to dive into the “therapy” with greater effort and intensity. Whenever progress in the Steps or Phases, the staff lessened some of the many restrictions placed on our time and activities thus giving a false sense of autonomy. Once we failed again to meet program expectations, the staff returned us to an earlier Phase slapping on us restrictions and sanctions on free-time and hard-won privileges.

At times it felt like I lived in an elaborate board game where I got to move three spaces forward only to find that I somehow landed back in jail. I spent so much time and energy on the structure of the program and the hurdles I had to vault that I had little left to question just how ineffective the process proved. We labored towards the goal of graduation when we would stand before the community affirmed by the staff—victors of the game—examples to others that we could achieve success. Little did I understand just how much they deluded me (and I deluded myself) into believing that program success equaled some sort of real change. And little did I realize the paradox that only in losing the game that they set before us did I actually begin to win in life.

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Design by Bakke

Christine Bakke works as a graphic designer. You can see her fine work at Beyond Ex-Gay and especially on the ex-gay survivor collage page. She recently updated my promo card which she originally designed in 2006.

You will see that Homo No Mo is no more, well, at least the play is retired (but is available on DVD and will soon be performed live by another queer solo artist!) Instead I now offer a talk about the ex-gay movement: Homo No Mo?!? Orientation, Gender and the Ex-Gay Movement—A Lively Lecture with Performance.

You can see my performance schedule here. Later this month I will perform three of my plays and lead a few workshops that will take me to Baltimore, MD, Washington, DC, Wethersfield, CT and Glen Mills, PA.

Click on images for larger view.
Christine, great work!

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It’s been on the blogs all weekend, and now the Associated Press also reports that Sarah Palin, the Republican vice president nominee, attends a church that promotes ex-gay ministries, namely Focus on the Family’s Love Won Out day-long conference that tries to convince parents and pastors that God can “transform the lives of those impacted by homosexuality.” What they don’t mention is the kind of transformation that will take place.

Those of us who are former consumers of Focus on the Family/Exodus/NARTH ex-gay theories and practices can attest to the transformations that we experienced as a result of our time in ex-gay programs. The vast majority of people who attempted to sublimate their sexuality did not find a cure, instead we experienced a curse that affected us psychologically, emotionally, spiritually, financially, developmentally, physically and relationally. In the article Ex-Gay Harm Let Me Count the Ways I highlight some of these and also offer testimony of those who have experienced these things.

Sadly many of the ex-gay theories and treatments also negatively affected our relationships with our parents. I don’t doubt that many parents and even pastors go to a Love Won Out event looking for answers as they fear for the welfare of the young people under their care. These adults still live with misconceptions of what it means to be lesbian, gay or bisexual. Instead of getting honest answers though, the speakers at Love Won Out dish out more misinformation. You can hear a first-hand account of what happens at Love Won Out from Jim Burroway who sat through the conference and thoughtfully shares his experience. In the article, Can My Gay Child Change? I raise some of the questions and fears that parents may have as I outline the negative effects that often occur when forcing a child to attend an ex-gay program.

In February ex-gay survivors, those of us who endured these theories and treatments and have worked past the damage to reclaim our lives, traveled to Memphis and stood outside of Love Won Out as a witness to the potential harm that can come from these misguided teachings. We even gave Focus on the Family staff member Melissa Fryrear framed collages of our experiences so that she could hear the other side of the story and consider the majority of people who end up on the other side of they happy clappy ex-gay experience they project on the big screens at Love Won Out.

Perhaps Sarah Palin is woefully ignorant of the potential damage that comes from ex-gay theories and treatments. Maybe it is just because of partisan politics that she comes out against LGBT rights (no matter how the McCain spin wagon tries to paint her as sympathetic), but people are more important than politics. Religious leaders need to reject the propaganda of James Dobson and instead provide intelligent and informed pastoral care. In regards to ex-gay theories and treatments, we see a growing body of evidence that they cause much more harm than good. For those people who clamor for national security, consider the security and welfare of the LGBT youth of this country and oppose ex-gay theories and treatment.

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Homeward Bound

Today I leave Seattle and spend a long day traveling home to Hartford. Because of Gustav, the conference I had hoped to attend in New Orleans got canceled. 😦 The upside is I now get 10 uninterrupted days at home. This has not happened since March.

I cannot begin to write about how special I found the Gender Odyssey Conference.

Gender Odyssey is an international conference focused on the thoughtful exploration of gender. We strive to create an empowering environment where people of all genders can share their experiences and learn from the experiences of others.

Through dialogue, peer-led presentations, and sharing skills and expertise, we work to create broader and evolving language, social support, and life pathways that support all gender identities. By doing so, we hope to strengthen ourselves and develop communities that celebrate all expressions of gender at any age.

I met so many amazing trans men, heard many of their stories, and participated in excellently facilitated workshops. You know when you step into a place that at first seemed foreign with new people and new constructs but suddenly you find yourself in the midst of community? That’s what it has been like.

Last night I had a long and fruitful discussion with Ron, an ex-gay survivor, about the Ex-Gay Survivor Movement and our next steps. He attended the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference we held last year in Irvine, CA and has felt a desire to get more involved with the movement. Now that the summer has ended, I feel able to begin to prepare for our upcoming ex-gay survivor events in Nashville and Denver later this year.

Anthony Venn Brown, an Australian ex-gay survivor, also attended the conference last year. He recently posted a blog entry that consists of a series of questions for ex-gay leaders to consider. You can check them out at his blog: 20 Questions for Ex-Gay Leaders.

I leave the Pacific North West excited that I will return soon. In October I will go to Vancouver, BC and then in November return to Seattle to commemorate Transgender Day of Remembrance. I’m still hoping to get back to Portland soon to visit Doug and Bruce and the guys at Anawim.

Now that summer is basically over, how is everyone doing?
Okay, I must get ready to board my plane…

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