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Archive for the ‘exodus’ Category

Exodus International, the ex-gay umbrella organization which is fast fading from any sort of prominence, has often proclaimed the bold and yet obscure mantra, “Change is Possible!” To the many of us who suffered under the weight of homophobia & the pressure from family, friends & society who valued heterosexals over others they treated as sub-classes of human, we wrongly assumed “change” meant transformation from gay to straight. Once on the inside, program leaders informed us that such a change was not actually possible. They have since come out in public with similar statements. We now understand that such a change is not neccesary or healthy to pursue.

The journeys many of us have travelled in churches and with our faith & sexuality took unexpected twists & turns. I look back at that 19 year old I once was in NYC engaged in saving the world beginning with myself, and I recognize myriad changes (extreme thinning of my hair being one of the many physical changes.) My faith, my worldview, my understanding of my sexuality have drastically altered, yet I still see shades of the same person, who in many ways carries the similar values, insecurities & hopes.

Which brings me to some questions for you!

-In looking back on your own odyssey, in what ways have you changed? How have you remained the same?

-If you could send a message back in time to your younger self, what would you say? What advice, insight or encouragement might you share?

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Christine and I get lots of messages every week through Beyond Ex-Gay. Most come from people looking for answers or to connect or to share their stories. Some want to thank one of the many people who have shared their stories through narratives or art work.

Last week we received a message for ex-gay survivor Darlene Bogle. Many have written in before to express gratitude to Darlene for both stepping up to tell her story and for also coming forward to issue a public apology for her previous role as an Exodus ex-gay leader, one who firmly promoted and provided ex-gay ministry before she found a better way.

This message we received and came from another former Exodus leader, Anthony Falzarano, who still promotes an ex-gay agenda. His message shocked us so much we wondered if we should even share it with Darlene. But she is a strong and thoughtful woman, and from getting to know her this past year we felt she would like to see it, so we forwarded the message. Darlene decided she wanted to respond to Falzarano’s words publicly through Christine’s blog.

Below is Anthony Falzarano’s e-mail in full.

Darlene, I’m glad I ran across your blog. I still miss you. I am sorry to hear that your lover died of breast-cancer. Darlene is God sending you a message? Please consider coming back to Exodus. You are loved and missed. Why would God call you back to lesbianism, give you a lover and then take her away. I’m sorry that you are going through this. My heart is breaking right now but I believe that you belong to the Lord and “He chastizes the one’s that he loves”. I believe He is calling you back. If you want to talk I am here to listen. Please call me at [removed] if you want to talk. May God Bless You, Anthony Falzarano

I don’t know how she did it, but Darlene spent the time in prayer and thought to put together a response that rings with the clarity and wholeness that I have consistently experienced from her.

I was appalled when I read his words, which on the surface seem so compassionate. It was such a strong reminder of why I left Exodus and could never consider going back under their “umbrella of faith.” How arrogant of Anthony to send such a condemning statement as to ask if God was sending me a message! God sends me messages all the time to remind me of His love and acceptance of me as a lesbian daughter! He has brought a wonderful Christian woman into my life immediately after losing Des. We walk together in faith and love and serve those in our community as a blessed lesbian couple.

To say I am loved and missed (but not accepted) sounds great until he adds the judgmental statement that suggests that Des got breast cancer and was taken away as some sort of punishment for our lesbianism!

To then offer a listening ear if I want to talk? That is the major malfunction of Exodus leaders…How can they listen when their mind is made up?

Darlene then raises important questions about Exodus and the type of “ministry” they offer to people who they say they love.

Anthony believes God is calling me back? To what? The judgmental teachings of Exodus that say you have to change your orientation to be acceptable to God. Long ago I committed myself to acknowledge God in all my ways and allow Him to direct my path. How can I go where God isn’t? To then offer a listening ear if I want to talk? That is the major malfunction of Exodus leaders…How can they listen when their mind is made up?

She concludes by sharing some of why she chose to go public with Falzarano’s message and her response.

I would be happy to have Anthony’s email be revealed for what it is, and my response published for the world to read. Anthony and Exodus have had over 15 years to tell me of their loving acceptance, and have not done so. I will not be responding to Anthony directly, but thanks for sending it on to me.

You can read Darlene’s complete message in Christine’s blog entry Twisted Love.

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This Thursday, in a conference call open to the public, Darlene Bogle and Christine Bakke will share their experiences as lesbians in the Ex-Gay Movement.

For a while I have been considering how the Ex-Gay Movement is an anti-fem movement. Most of the participants in it are male with curriculum and treatment plans geared towards “male issues.” Many of the men involved have felt the need to “change” after years of taunting for being sissies. They learned both on the playground and from the pulpit that the world does not value feminized men.

The cornerstone teaching of nearly every ex-gay program takes a swipe at women while also reinforcing the belief that women must be subservient to men. What makes a boy gay? According to most of these ex-gay providers and proponents gay boys are a bi-product of an “overbearing mother.” This false teaching infers that once a woman usurps a man’s authority and no longer remains submissive, this transgressive act alters the natural order of the world thus misshaping a child. Ugh! Crap with a capital C.

Many ex-gay survivors have come forward and several sites offer thoughtful analysis of the ex-gay world, but we have heard precious little from the women who once partook of ex-gay treatment and have since come to accept their lesbian or bisexual side. Darlene Bogle and Christine Bakke are two women who have gone public with their stories. Last summer Darlene offered a public apology for her previous role as an Exodus ex-gay leader. Christine, the co-founder of Beyond Ex-Gay, has shared her ex-gay story through the Internet, in print and on TV.

You can listen live and partake in a conversation with Darlene & Christine this Thursday:

Many people have either heard of ex-gay therapy in passing or on a brochure laying around their church. Many haven’t heard of it at all. Others have actually experienced it, some even leaving their school, family and workplace to become engrossed in its promises through residential programs spending thousands of dollars.

The cost is not only in money, but also in tears, intimacy challenges, loss of sense of self and even the relationship they once held dear with God. As we mention in our movie, “get to God” is a key factor for people to not only stay connected to the Divine, but also to themselves. Ex-gay therapy is one of the leading ways people get in the way of this connection, trying to fix something that isn’t broke, attempted healing of someone who isn’t sick.

You’re invited to hear the very personal testimonies of two remarkable ex-gay survivors, Darlene Bogle and Christine Bakke. You owe it to yourself to learn from people who have “been there, done that.” Join us on Thursday night.

*********************
Thursday, August 7th, 5pm Pacific/8pm Eastern
1. Dial-In Conference Number 1-218-486-1300
2. Access Code: 807282
******************************
You’re invited to participate by asking your own questions.
Email us your question in advance:
info@godandgaysthemovie.com
and during the call, use yahoo! IM:
godandgaysthemovie@yahoo.com

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Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out spent last week in Asheville, NC with a group of citizens concerned about Exodus International and the annual convention that pulled into town. Read Wayne’s overview of the week and his insightful and appropriately cutting commentary on the events and especially of the words spoken by Exodus leaders and guests. See Exodus: A ‘Loving’ Call to Battle.

Battle indeed. Exodus and the Evangelical Protestant Church (and other churches) insist that gays, lesbians as well as bisexuals and transgender people, go to war against themselves. According to one eye-witness. The closing ceremonies included a clear call to those amassed during the ex-gay jamboree: Life after Exodus means lopping off whole parts of yourself–your wardrobe, relationships with other LGBT people (of course including partners), quitting jobs if need be, making critical and what will no doubt be regrettable decisions all for the sake of following Exodus leaders’ and supporters’ ideas of what God requires. Previously I wrote about this War Within that many of us perpetuated against ourselves.

About the Exodus Conference last week, Wayne Besen writes:

A dark cloud hovered over the Exodus event, with violent hate crimes unsettling the local GLBT community. At the very moment ex-gay televangelists were railing against homosexuals in the foothills, news broke of an 18-year old boy in Anderson, South Carolina whose father, “yelled, cursed, swung a baseball bat, prayed and tried to cast the demon of homosexuality out of him.”

In nearby Greenville, South Carolina, Stephen Moller, an anti-gay thug who murdered 20-year-old Sean William Kennedy outside a gay bar, just learned that he would spend approximately 10 months in jail for his ferocious crime. In this gross miscarriage of justice, the message was sent that murdering gay people was tacitly acceptable, if not encouraged. While in town, I spoke to Sean’s grieving mother, Elke Kennedy, who rightfully called the sentence, “a joke and a slap on the wrist.”

Wayne goes on to chronicle and highlight the mixed messages Exodus leaders and guests put forth to the media and to their own people. No doubt we will hear more about the Exodus conference from those who attended it. Stay tuned.

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Recently over at Beyond Ex-Gay Christine and I posted three narratives of ex-gay survivors from around the world. One is from the US, another from South Africa, and the third is someone I met here in Malta. Each person has had different experiences, which reveals some of the diversity of ex-gay experiences. Also each one reacted and responded differently.

Each narrative deserves attention from ex-gay leaders and those who promote ex-gay ministries and reparative therapy as well as from those of us concerned about the impact of these initiatives to alter someone’s sexuality, especially when it is done in the name of religion.

Many of those who partake in these ex-gay efforts suffer silently for years. In the promotional material and the testimonies offered by groups like NARTH, Exodus and others, we only hear part of the story. The reality is that the vast majority of people who attempt to go ex-gay find it is not realistic or necessary. In coming to those conclusions many realize they not only expended a lot of time and money, they also incurred damage to themselves and others.

Today I will highlight one of these stories, and later this week I will present the others. You can see a full listing of ex-gay survivor narratives here. (We currently have 25 posted, and have received at least that many that we have not yet posted. Writing these narratives takes time and can be traumatic, so we like people to work on them at their own pace and wait a bit before we publish them to make sure they are ready.)

Paul, in the USA bravely shares about his own struggles with anonymous sexual encounters as well as his marriage and his attempts to turn away from his gay desires. In his narrative Paul writes,

At 21 I married a Christian girl who I had known since high school. She was a member of the same church I attended, and had been present at the time when I had “confessed” my attraction to guys a few years earlier. A couple of weeks after we were married, I told my new wife that I continued to struggle with attraction to men. I quickly assured her that God was certainly going to fix me, not to worry. Naively, I figured she would become my ally in the struggle. Instead, she was only devastated. We were kids in a world that didn’t talk of such things, so we didn’t talk of it again after that. I realized again that I was still alone.

The struggles continued and for a time Paul and his wife separated but then they decided to try once again with the marriage, but the troubles remained and then worsened. Paul also internalized the struggle and blamed himself for the failures.

Within a short period of our reuniting, I realized that I wasn’t “over” anything. My attraction to men was right where I had left it, with all it’s former strength. I was angry and ashamed of my failing God and my wife. I could not understand why I couldn’t win this fight and control my attraction to men. I did not understand why God would not help me resist this but I figured I must be doing something wrong, I just hadn’t figured out what that something was yet. I had to retain my faith. I believed God was going to give me the key to freedom, I just had to fight as best I could in the meantime and wait for God to answer my daily prayers (okay, by this time prayer had turned to pleading) and help.

Meanwhile, I forged a chain. I discovered places where I could get anonymous sex and began to frequent those places. I continued to fight my desires, begging God to help me resist my feelings, I even ‘succeeded’ much more than I failed. For every time I failed, I resisted my desires several times first. But honestly, my “success” was just a delaying of the inevitable. I never got past my feelings, they never lessened. Still, I believed in a God who was going to help me, I had to maintain my ‘faith’ in one “called alongside to help.” At best I would resist my desires for a couple of months, and normally I didn’t do that well.

The act of suppressing his gay desires and defining them as wrong and sinful had a negative effect in Paul’s life.

I found I could not control myself, and thought of myself as addicted. This was hard to admit to myself because it violated my faith. I believed “if God be for you, who can be against you?” Not even my self could win against me if God was for me. My “fixes” would quiet my craving for awhile. Just like a drug “fix,” this behavior was slowly killing me. Guilt, shame and self loathing were my constant companions. I could not shake them because I could not stop the behavior that caused them. I believe the lies I told to cover my behavior did even more destruction than the cheap, quick, physical acts. I craved a relationship with a guy that included a romantic emotional bond, not just sex. But, I didn’t believe such a thing could be, because that was “sin.” On top of that, I was married and didn’t want to hurt my wife.

Paul eventually turned to an Exodus ex-gay ministry for help and continued on in his struggle for years. The only one in his area was run by a Mormon and although Paul’s Christian faith branded Mormonism as outside of Christianity as he understood it, the ministry was approved by Exodus. After a time Paul got into legal trouble because of anonymous sexual activities.

In 1998 I got arrested for soliciting an undercover police officer for sex, I was charged with a felony and rode hand cuffed in a police car. They finger printed me and took mug shots. I felt utterly alone and gutted. I went running back to Exodus. I felt surely that getting arrested was that “bottom” I had to hit, how low could I go? Now I was a criminal. I had gone below hitting bottom. I had been instructed by Exodus ministries that being gay is just like alcoholism or drug addiction. So I hoped this must be my “bottom,” though “God” and I both knew how low I had felt most of my life. I could not understand how I could feel so shameful for so long, how I could hate myself and still do these things.

How could I want to change for so long and not be able to do so if what I am is wrong? No one else could answer these questions for me either. I was simply told I needed to keep at it. This “ministry” affirmed me as a failure.I went through another Exodus program, and also went to another Christian counselor who practiced “reparative” therapy. None of this changed me or helped me cope or resist my desire to be with a man. I considered suicide often, but wasn’t brave enough to do it. I considered castration, but knew that wouldn’t change me

His story reveals the complexity of some ex-gay experiences and how “coming out” is not a simple solution or an easy step. It also shows how dangerous it can be for someone to ingest negative and erroneous messages about their sexuality. Paul sought for a cure but instead received the tools to hate himself.

I had spent my life trying to kill a part of myself, but my instinct was to live. Once I stopped trying to kill my attraction to the same sex, that part of me became content to just be. Not that my attraction to the same sex is gone, it is not. But since I have accepted who I am, my compulsion for sex is gone. Turns out that homosexual is two words, it’s not all about sex any more than heterosexuality is. I am reeling, even after being free from compulsion since 2006. I discovered what I needed all along was simple acceptance. I am no longer alone. I am no longer living a lie or acting in a way that damages me or others.

My story isn’t over, in many ways, it’s just begun. People speak of “gay pride.” I understand that, but I don’t really relate to it. I do now understand the need for dignity and realize the damage that having that taken away can cause.

I respect Paul so much for sharing his story. It takes courage to be this honest about oneself. Also I know it is not easy to write these narratives. It brings up so many strong feelings, but hopefully in the act of sharing and being heard, one can gain some clarity, comfort and even healing. You can read all of Paul’s narrative here.

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In his latest video, replete with an appropriate cuckoo clock sound effect, Daniel Gonzales took on the anti-gay, pro-ex-gay campaign, inaccurately titled, The Day of Truth. By the end of Daniel’s video, I think you will agree that “Day of Truth” misleads and misinforms on the facts about people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. The Day of Truth people can’t even come up with 30 seconds of truth. How do they think they will actually fill up a whole day of truth?

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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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