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Archive for the ‘gay’ Category

Over at Facebook I have many different types of friends (like 2200 friends) and of course they have friends who represent many perspectives. Today on a friend’s wall posting about wearing purple in support of LGBT youth two straight folks raised objectives revealing that they felt “bullied” into showing support of gay kids. In frustration one of them said, “We need to have a Heterosexual Pride Parade.” The other agreedMr. & Mrs. Salt & Pepper.

Now I know a lot of straight people. Some of my best friends are heterosexual. In fact, I come from a distinctly heterosexual family that I love. I know that some straight folks feel put upon by all of the recent news about gay. lesbian and transgender suicides and bullying. “Why do we have to hear about THEM all the time?” Hmmmm. Welcome to my world where I constantly have to go out of my way to hear about anything other than straight lives.

Lately I have been thinking of the subtle powerful force of heterosexism, like high blood pressure, I consider it the “silent killer” insistent and constant in its messaging that heterosexuality is NORMAL, the idealized norm, what everyone is expected to be, an identity that is celebrated, rewarded and represented to the exclusion of all others.

Like a low-grade fever or undetected high blood pressure, non-straight, non-gender normative people live with a steady barrage of pro-heterosexual messages mixed in with anti-LGBT messages. Even in US states where they offer “gay marriage” everyone knows it is not the same as a straight marriage because of the federal protections granted to heterosexual couples and denied to all others. But beyond the legal protections or lack of protections in the household, on the job and elsewhere, we get a deluge of pro-straight messages in pop songs, commercials, movies, religious ceremonies, proms–shoot even salt and pepper shakers! I know that there is a growing movement to include LGBT lives and voices in the media and on the agenda of the board of education, but it’s spotty at best and is often drowned out by the heterosexism that exists in almost every encounter silly and sublime.

Here’s an example of straight pride & privilege.

Marueen says, “My husband Bill & I got together w/ our two daughters & their husbands to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary and Cindy & Todd’s first baby. At church the pastor said a blessing over the family & we recommitted our vows.”

And everyone says, “Oh, that is so nice.” And it is and there are gifts and cards and photos and public sharing on Facebook and beyond revealing pride and affirmation and celebration of Bill & Maureen’s successful heterosexuality.

Of course most don’t think of Maureen & Bill expressing “Heterosexual Pride.”

It’s just “normal.”

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What’s worse than crabs in your crotch? Demon possession in your pubic area. This week Zack and I go where few gay male podcasters have gone before. (You will have to listen to the podcast for it to all make sense. Let’s just say, this is the scene they left out of The Vagina Monologues.)

Okay now the proper show notes:

She graced the pages of Glamour magazine. She stunned the nation on Good Morning America. She helped launch a movement (Beyond Ex-Gay) and NOW she is our guest on Queer and Queerer! Zack and I welcome Christine Bakke to the program. Christine is an artist, an activist, and an outspoken ex-gay survivor. As a lesbian who once tried to suppress and change her orientation, she now speaks out passionately about the dangers of treatments that try to “de-gay” you. She joins us to talk about the Prop 8 ruling, its implications for the Ex-Gay Survivor movement, exorcism, demon nests, and activist art!

Remember, send us your questions for episode 20! You can ask us ANYTHING.

The Queer and Queerer Podcast!

Listen to this week’s episode:

// Here’s some more information about what we talked about this week:

» Read the Prop 8 decision findings of fact in detail.

» The Slate Political Gabfest discusses the Prop 8 ruling.

» Meet Ryan Kendall, Ex-Gay Survivor and Prop 8 witness

» Details magazine looks at gay exorcism

» The APA’s Report on Reparative Therapy

» Be careful not to fall out of your RV!

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There has been lots of ex-gay related news the past few weeks.

  • A wave of news stories both in the US and UK gay and mainstream news centered around Bryce Faulkner.  It’s been well over a week since anything has been published about this story.  We all hope Bryce is well wherever he may be right now.
  • We have also heard stories of gay exorcisms in the US and in England.
  • The APA released their findings after spending two years looking at gay reparative therapy and concluded that it does not work and should not be attempted because it can likely cause harm.
  • And last week, amidst reports of financial difficulties, Focus on the Family announced they will no longer host Love Won Out, a conference that targets parents of queer and questioning youth and ministers who work with youth, and has handed it over to Exodus to run instead.

Phew! That’s a lot of news to digest. As an ex-gay survivor, I have been especially interested in the many ex-gay survivors, particularly folks in their 20’s, who have been telling their stories on-line and in the media.

In an article for Edge, Great Lakes Regional Editor Joseph Erbentraut interviewed ex-gay survivors Jacob Wilson (age 23, Iowa), Vincent Cervantes (age 22, California),  and Daniel Gonzales (age 29, Colorado).

Gonzales ultimately abandoned the teachings as he independently realized that his homosexuality was “neither something that needed to or could be changed.” He, as well as Cervantes and Wilson, now participate in a group called Beyond Ex-Gay, a network of ex-gay survivors who share their testimonials with hopes it will dissuade others from seeking harmful therapy.

“These programs are everywhere and so few people know they exist,” Wilson said.” For us to come together and be one voice saying that these ex-gay programs do more harm that good, telling people that you’re OK being gay and OK the way you are, I believe saves lives.”

Read the whole article here. Vince Cervantes has also announced that he will appear on the Tyra Banks Show in a program that will look at ex-gay treatment and particularly the awful world of gay exorcisms.

Some of you may remember the name of another ex-gay survivor, James Stabile, who dramatically got caught up into the ex-gay world with a fanfare of Christian media grandstanding his “conversion.”  Stabile eventually sorted himself out and shared his story of how he fell prey to anti-gay religious teachings. Now at peace with his gay orientation and his faith, he recently announced that he has started Love Actually,  a local support group in Dallas, TX for others who have been through ex-gay ministries and treatment.

“I thought, there has to be a place you can go if you have been in straight camp,” he says. “Somewhere you can be brought back into who you are and feel loved.”

It was an experience he really needed because, although Stabile identifies as gay, he says he felt like he didn’t quite fit in with the community after his experiences in reparative therapy, and after announcing he was straight on the Christian Broadcasting Network’s “The 700 Club.”

“I didn’t feel like I fit in the gay community, but I was not straight,” he said.
He says he found an online home at  BeyondExGay.com, where he first started to realize he was not alone, that there are many others like him who’ve been through the same process and “came out gay all over.”

“Love Actually is a place people can come to and know they are not alone, they are loved and loved by God,” Stabile says.

Read the whole article over at Dallas Voice.

Christine Bakke and I founded Beyond Ex-Gay in April 2007.  In addition to adding over 100 pages of content to the site we have  helped to organize gatherings for ex-gay survivors in Irvine, CA, Nashville, TN, Denver, CO, Memphis, TN and Barcelona, Catalonia. We are connecting with hundreds of ex-gay survivors in North America, Europe and beyond. Some of these feel it is important to publicly share their stories to serve as a witness of what they encountered and as a warning to others who are considering gay reparative therapy or ex-gay ministry for themselves or a loved one.  In so doing they are helping to reshape public discourse about these treatments and ministries.

If you have not done so yet, check out this Brian Murphy’s film about the first Ex-Gay Survivor conference which was sponsored by Beyond Ex-Gay and Soulforce:

The role of the Internet has helped tremendously in connecting ex-gay survivors with each other an in organizing our events and actions. I recently wrote in article for the Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide about the power of the web in regards to former consumers of ex-gay treatments and therapies (See ‘Ex-gay’ survivors go on-line.) In addition to our website, Beyond Ex-Gay has a Facebook group with over 400 members in it, most of whom are ex-gay survivors. Over 500 people have contacted us directly through our website, some still in ex-gay programs looking for answers and honest information.

Over the past six months Christine has made a special focus to create the Beyond Ex-Gay Community, an on-line social networking site specifically for survivors to connect with each other about their ex-gay experiences and their recovery from them. No doubt you will hear more about this effort over the next few months.

The next ex-gay survivor gathering will be November 20, 2009 in West Palm Beach, FL. Beyond Ex-Gay will organize the gathering as a pre-conference event leading up to the Anti-Heterosexism Conference, an event sponsored by Soul Force, The National Black Justice Coalition, Truth Wins Out, Box Turtle Bulletin and Equality Florida. This same weekend NARTH, an organization that claims that something is wrong with LGBT people and that they must be fixed through therapy, will hold their annual conference also in West Palm Springs. Last year several of us ex-gay survivors along with allies gathered in front of the NARTH conference held in Denver, CO as public witnesses to the potential harm that comes from gay reparative therapy.

I am especially pleased with the Anti-Heterosexism theme that Soulforce and the rest of the organizers have chosen for the pro-LGBTQ conference. In the discussions about gay reparative therapy so much of the focus gets stuck on religion. We have some who seem to think that the conflict facing a person of faith who is also attracted to the same gender is primarily and exclusively a religious conflict.   They maintain a stunning oversight of the vast heterosexist infrastructure that exists in practically every level of society–religious as well as secular exerting daily pressure on LGBT people to straighten up and be gender normative.

The belief that fuels much of the desire to go straight is that heterosexuals are more valuable than gays or lesbians or bisexuals. Heterosexuality is still presented as the idealized norm through virtually every institution, film, pop song, government policy and print or TV ads. In its simplest terms the message pumped out day after day is that Straight is Great! and anything else is “less than,” suspect, evil. No sexual orientation is superior to another. Being honest about who you are and your orientation and gender identity is great and worthy of support. It is also worthy of representation in the media, religious institutions, and public policy.

It is thrilling to see all of this organizing and speaking out by ex-gay survivors and allies. The power of personal testimony brings healing and it brings change. At one time when someone mentioned ex-gay therapy, the average person would say, “Oh, that’s crazy; it’ll never work. How silly.” More and more people have begun to realize that not only does ex-gay therapy not work, it is completely unnecessary and most likely is dangerous to pursue. Dozens of ex-gay survivors have told their stories on-line through videos, news stories and more. I have a feeling many more will step up to share their stories–why they went ex-gay/what the ex-gay world looked like for them/what good, if any, they encountered/ and what costs (emotional, spiritual, financial, etc) they incurred.

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This year Christine Bakke and I have committed to organize regional events in order to connect with other ex-gay survivors as well as stand as witnesses to the destructive results that often occur from submitting to ex-gay theories and treatments.

So far this year Beyond Ex-Gay has partnered with local LGBT groups in Memphis, TN and Barcelona, Cataluña to put together series of events that has helped to educate the public about ex-gay experiences, their potential harm and the ways that people can recover.

One of my hopes has been to take part in existing LGBT conferences to add an ex-gay survivor track or presence to them.  Next month Christine and I will go to Nashville, TN to take part in the Our Family Matters Conference. The conference will cover many topics about faith and sexuality, but specifically the organizers have given us time to speak about ex-gay experiences and to connect with fellow survivors.

Tennessee’s Out & About paper ran a story this week about ex-gay survivors and the upcoming conference.

For nearly 20 years, Peterson Toscano underwent a variety of treatments meant to suppress his homosexuality. Two of those years were spent at Love in Action, a residential treatment center in Memphis.

The religious-based ex-gay movements are meant to straighten gays out but often do more harm than good, Toscano said.

“Right now, people in some churches feel that they must hide the fact they are gay for fear they will be thrown out,” Toscano said. “Many of us have tried to change, but instead of finding a blessing, the programs I attended nearly destroyed my faith and my life.”

Toscano will offer his unique perspective as part of the Our Family Matters Conference held Oct. 22 through 25 at Second Presbyterian Church in Nashville.

Launched as a live version of Kim Clark’s acclaimed documentary, God and Gays: Bridging the Gap, the conference will address questions related to the relationship between God and the GLBT community. The event will include a film festival, live concerts, national keynote speakers Jack Rogers and Rev. Deborah Johnson, and three days of workshops

Other presenters will include Mary Lou Wallner, who I first met through participating in the film project Fish Can’t Fly and Christian singer (and now publically out gay man) Ray Boltz.

On Thursday October 23 Christine, Darlene Bogle and I will take the evening to share about our ex-gay experiences and how we survived and now thrive as we worked through our ex-gay pasts. You may remember that Darlene joined two other former Exodus leaders in issuing a public apology for their roles in promoting and providing ex-gay treatment. I will also do excerpts from some of my plays including Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House—How I Survived the Ex-Gay Movement!

On Saturday October 25 we will get to meet with ex-gay survivors in a workshop setting which will give folks a chance to connect with each other, share their own stories and find strategies for recovery from the harm they experienced through ex-gay treatment and theories.

Since Christine and I will not be the key organizers  of the conference, we will have SO MUCH more time to hang out with survivors during the many breaks, meals and other sessions. Check out the full schedule and please consider coming to the Our Family Matters Conference!

November 7-9 Christine and I along with Daniel Gonzales and several local groups will organize a series of events in Denver, CO in response to NARTH’s annual anti-gay conference. We will host an art show, a performance, ex-gay survivor gathering and a summit for LGBT-affirming leaders. You can learn more about our Denver event here.

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I’m sitting on my front porch at my house. It’s suddenly crazy humid and I’m living AC free this summer. I live on a one-way street and someone just zipped along driving in the wrong direction. Wait, she’s getting out. She’s walking towards me. Hold on…

Okay, that was weird. She comes right up to me and introduces herself and starts chatting. I’m like, okay. She tells me all kinds of personal info about her child and the child’s husband and then asks, “So are you going to give me a tour of the place?” I’m like, “Wait, What?” Turns out she is here to see the downstairs apartment (I live in an old Victorian house and the first floor is for rent).

By the way, my landlord loves me because I am never home which saves him a ton of money since utilities are included in my rent. So yeah, feeling very much at home these days never wanting to leave again, well at least until next week.

The fall schedule has really come together nicely with performances in Vancouver, British Columbia, Washington, DC, Nashville, TN, Denver, CO and Seattle, WA. Also this month I will be outside of Philadelphia. A few other gigs are still coming into place. Sadly nothing in Texas yet 😦 Although I have Paige in Austin who is seriously plugging for me.

I have begun to work on a new play that I am not ready to write much about yet. What I can say is that it will be completely different from anything I have ever done before. Oh, and it will not be a one person play. That’s all you get for now. Also, this fall I will begin working on a book that I’ve been asked to co-author. It’ll be about gay stuff. I’ll let you know more when I have more to say about that.

This fall will see the final performances of The Re-Education of George W. Bush (PLEASE do not make me have to re-write this play so that it is about President John McCain!) The big news is Transfigurations–Transgressing Gender in the Bible. I just performed it for two audiences with several transgender people in attendance. It’s important for me to hear what they have to say about it and to get their input. All around I have gotten positive feedback both about the scholarship of the Biblical portions and about the portrayal of the trans people in the play. some folks are interested in having come to San Francisco to do it there in 2009.

So back to school for me (I perform at a high school on Tuesday) and soon I can break out the fall sweaters. I do have some wonderful personal news happening, but I will keep that under my hat for now.

Wait, here comes the woman looking at the apartment…

She likes it especially because the landlord is gay. She says that gays are clean and quiet. I’m not sure if I should feel pleased or offended. Maybe a little bit of both.

Okay, if this humidity breaks, I might just do a YouTube video. If you get totally bored this weekend, check out Joe G’s podcast. He doesn’t mention me in it for a change (I think he has been fixating on me lately.) Also, check out the video or podcasts of the amazing Mila & Jayna.

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Nearly every day straight women visit my blog after putting in a search like, “my husband is gay” or something similar. In November of 2006 Susanne shared some of her story and since then other women (and men) have also read about Susanne’s marriage and her gay husband. These have also shared some of their own stories.

Earlier a woman left the following comment.

Betrayal by my husband of 28 years is devastating. He hid his gay life for years… He lied over and over and over. And put my health/life at risk. I am hurt to the core and don’t know how to get through this and ever trust and love again… How do you get over the feelings of hurt, rage, anger, sorrow, inadequacy, disgust, sadness, etc.?

Please feel free to go to the blog entry and add your own supportive comments, words of comfort and maybe share some of your own experience as a straight spouse or just someone who cares. Often when these women first find out, they struggle to share with anyone in their lives.

From getting to know some of these women face to face and through phone calls and e-mails, it is amazing how they have found the support they need and have found the strength in themselves and around them to work through the pain and the challenges. It is not easy for any of them and they have admitted that some days are harder than others, but speaking out was one of many things that has been helping them to know they are not alone and that there is a future and a hope worth pursuing.

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Doin’ it meaning worship that is. As many of you know I am a member of the Religious Society of Friends (aka Quakers). I came to the Quakers as a refugee after a religious odyssey that took me from Roman Catholicism to Fundamentalism to Evangelicalism to Pentecostalism to Anglicanism and ultimately (or penultimately?) to Quakerism. A long and winding road indeed. I do not regret any of the stops I made although some proved more useful than others.

For me the Quaker way provides something other than a belief structure. We don’t have any established creeds to which we ascribe or affirm. Each Quaker has his or her own beliefs, but we do hold onto values that we have grown to cherish through the years (peace, integrity, simplicity, etc). It has also proved to be a healthy environment for me as a person who is gay.

But if you want to see a Quaker sputter a bit, ask the Friend, “So what do Quakers believe?” It’s kind of like asking vegans, “So what kind of meat do you eat?” For me being Quaker is not so much about what I believe, but more about what I practice, especially the practice of silence and stillness in worship.

paul (lower case “p”)recently e-mailed me about his first foray into a Quaker meeting. I asked if I could share some of his initial experiences on my blog. He agreed, so I hand it over to Paul.

Four weeks ago I attended my first Quaker meeting. It was really something, kind of felt like coming home, it is very familiar somehow. We gay folk, or anyone who doesn’t fit the status quo really, are often outsiders, strangers. Some of us spend our whole lives hiding in order to fit in, which is a contradiction in terms, I know, but to get the feeling of acceptance we hide the part or parts of us we know won’t be accepted. When we find a place where we can simply be who we are, it’s profound, like an orphan coming home. I say “orphan” because many of us have never really had a home, so I guess this is what it feels like.

Quaker service is not like any church I have ever been to. Before service there is what is called “Bible Workbench.” I guess one might compare it to “Sunday school,” but it’s nothing like it really. Instead of a teacher, there is a moderator, and the “workbench” is an open discussion on a portion of bible scripture. All viewpoints are welcomed, the only ‘rule’ is you cannot disparage another’s comment… thought you are free to disagree.

After “Bible workbench” there is the Quaker worship service. This also is not like any “church” service I have ever been to. In every church I have been to, there is singing, often musicians, praying out loud and a sermon from a pastor or preacher. Generally lots of bells and whistles. In contrast, a Quaker service is an hour spent in silence. Any participant who believes they have a message to give, is free to give it, but my experience has been that there is more silence than messages. Bells and whistles are fine just like chocolate cake is fine, but a steady diet of it isn’t very healthy. I don’t think it can be a substitute for “stillness.” Especially if it’s true that we have to “be still” to “know” who “is God.” The bells and whistles can actually impede the event and distract us from “God” replacing God with a God substitute, an image of our own making (which seems like idolatry). “Stillness” seems the absence of all such ideas and images in and effort to encounter the Who is right now.

If you want to find a Quaker meeting near you, check out QuakerFinder.org.
To read other blogs by Quakers about Quakerism, check out QuakerQuaker.org.

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I warn you that none of this may make sense. (But I do have a butt/bum joke embedded in my little sermon below)

I’ve been reading the words of Jesus a lot lately (at least those recorded in five different Gospels–Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Thomas) in the shocking and lovely book Good As New: A Radical Retelling of the Scriptures. My reading mixed with conversations with folks in Malta on Guernsey and England has gotten me to think in a new direction (well new for me).

For weeks I have reflected and spoke about the miracle of the loaves and the fishes. (Auntie Doris heard this one over and over and over again) Here is one version of the story in Mark 8:1-10 (form Good as New version.)

It was during this visit abroad that Jesus again found himself with a large crowd of hungry people. Jesus called his friends together and said, “I’m concerned about all these people who’ve been with me for three days and haven’t eaten. If I send them away hungry some may collapse before they get home, because they’ve come a long way.” The friends asked, “How can we get enough bread to feed everyone, out here in the country?”

Jesus asked how many loaves there were and they told him “Seven.” Jesus told the crowd to sit down and took the seven loaves. He said “thank you” to God, broke the loaves and gave them to his friends to pass among the crowds. They also had a few small fish. Jesus thanked God for these and handed them on to be passed around. The crowd has as much to eat as they wanted and seven baskets of leftovers were collected. About four thousand people were fed before being sent home.

It’s a well-worn story that many people know. I have always seen it as one of those, “Jesus pulls a rabbit out of a hat” kind of tricks/miracles. Cool! Jesus can make bread miraculously appear! Now that can come in handy.

But I see another more challenging way that I can look at this story.

The disciples and the crowd are out in the countryside for three days. This is before the days of Subway Sandwich shops and Red Lobster restaurants or well-catered retreats. This is a people used to carrying food around when they travel. Jesus rightly discerns that some folks don’t have any food left and will need nourishment to get home. Wow, how thoughtful, how sweet, how unbelievably practical. I love this Jesus.

So he turns to his team, “What you got?” I love how even in the English you can hear the sarcasm and exasperation in the disciples’ response. But Jesus had a plan, a radical one that did not require any magic tricks, one that I believe serves as an even more impressive miracle.

Jesus sat everyone down. Then taking the scant offerings the disciples rustled up, he begins to serve the people. Now I don’t for a minute believe the disciples gave up all they had to Jesus. If they were like most of us, they probably squirreled away a secret stash for themselves for later in the day. In fact, in the John 6 version of the same or similar story, the disciples offer nothing of their own but instead take five loaves and two fish from a little boy (giving an entirely different meaning to “out of the mouth of babes.”)

Jesus provocatively begins to distribute the little he has to give. I imagine Jesus doing this very slowly, dramatically, taking his time with it. The disciples see the basket rapidly emptying. They dig into their hoards and pass some more food forward. The news spreads quickly and quietly through the crowd, first to those closest to the disciples then radiating out. A supply line forms as each one who has food passes it along through many hands to the disciples then to Jesus and then back to the people.

In the end EVERYONE eats, including those who had no longer had food as well as those who carried more than enough. The crowd had such vast resources of food among them that stacks of leftovers remain.

A “magic trick” Jesus is cool and convenient to have on hand. One that calls on me to contribute from my own stockpile so that another’s needs can be met, challenges me and the society in which I live.

One of the classic clobber texts that has been used to silence and shut out gays, lesbians and bisexuals from the church has been 1 Corthinians 6:9,10. (I imagine some use it to keep out transgender folks too).

Many scholars dispute the accuracy of using the word “homosexual” in the text. Other renderings include effeminate and soft (as in living a life of luxury and ease). I am sure you can find much about this dispute on-line. What I do find noteworthy about the list of those who will not “inherit the Kingdom of God” is that it includes people partaking in everyday activities that I rarely hear mentioned from the pulpits in North America.

Neither will any thief or greedy person or drunkard or anyone who curses and cheats others.

Many have used I Corinthians 6:9,10 to stake claims on who can and cannot go to Heaven. Ah, but does this passage actually speak about our eternal reward in some galaxy far far way? The writer of Romans, in a long discussion about the discomfort among some believers with the culinary choices and practices of others, defines the Kingdom of God this way,

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit…

Looking at the current credit crisis, I think many will agree that much of the trouble we get ourselves into in regards to debt has to do with living beyond our means–greed. Of course there are other reasons for getting in arrears, (tee hee) but if I am honest, I have to admit that buying those shoes on sale at Macy only felt like an emergency at the time.

Here is the formula that I see. When I am greedy, this can lead to stinginess and to debt. I then experience a lack of peace, joy and righteousness in my life. Makes sense. I mean instead of peace, I worry about how I will pay the bills. I feel depressed over the situation. I may also find myself tempted to be less than virtuous when someone at the checkout counter makes a mistake in my favor. (I may even ascribe the mistake to God’s justifying that it’s God’s way of looking out for me. The Lord is my accomplice; I shall not want!).

For years I thought God was mostly concerned with my sexuality. I spent nearly two decades and tons of time, prayer and money obsessing over the bits between my legs and what I should and should not do with them. Reading the words of Jesus, checking out how he operated, I begin to see that I lived distracted from reality.

I leave you with a video posted on my friend Mario’s blog. Wow, seems Disney and Barrack Obama, encourage us to consider the “least of these…”

God Help the Outcasts

hat tip to Mario at Gay, Christian & Campaigning

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Dave Rattigan at Ex-Gay Watch has been blogging about a hate crime attack on one of his neighbors. He reports the sad news of Michael Causer’s death and encourages people to visit the Facebook group set up about Michael,

A gay teenager has died, just one week after he was brutally beaten in a homophobic attack.

Eighteen-year-old Michael Causer of Whiston, near Liverpool, England, died in hospital on Saturday August 2 at 12.30pm. He had been attacked by other youths while walking with friends in nearby Huyton, some time before 11am on Friday July 25. It was a busy road and it was broad daylight.

Emergency brain surgery the following day could not save him.

Michael lived just a couple streets away from me. He had many friends and family around here. Many of them are now part of a Facebook group dedicated to his memory. Please drop by and read some of the beautiful messages of support. Join the group and offer your own support if you can.

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Lambeth Log Final Day

Yesterday, my final full day at Lambeth, flew by quickly with lots of highlights.

I returned to the Changing Attitude/Integrity Bible study where they continued to looked at John 9. This time we considered how the man born blind grew to understand Jesus through sharing his experience with others.

The night before I had dinner with a friend who is disabled and often uses a wheelchair. She and another friend, a wheelchair user, recently traveled from England to Ireland on a holiday. They took the journey with a personal assistant to help out along the way. On their return to Heathrow, the airline temporarily misplaced both their wheelchairs. They sat in airport issued equipment while attempting to sort things out with a Heathrow employee. My friend said that throughout the entire exchange the employee spoke rudely, but more shocking still, the Heathrow employee never once looked at my friend or the other person also sitting in a wheelchair. He dealt exclusively with the assistant as if the two disabled women did not exist.

We see what appears to be a level of ableism in the John chapter nine story. The religious leaders repeatedly and rudely questioned the formerly blind man, and they treat him like an idiot or like some adults would treat a child as if he doesn’t know what he is talking about. In moment rarely seen in the Gospels, they completely discount his story and instead call on his parents to explain what happened.

18 The Jewish leaders still refused to believe the man had been blind and could now see, so they called in his parents. 19 They asked them, “Is this your son? Was he born blind? If so, how can he now see?” 20 His parents replied, “We know this is our son and that he was born blind, 21 but we don’t know how he can see or who healed him. Ask him. He is old enough to speak for himself.”

I love how we can look at the scripture with different lenses to consider various perspectives. How often do “able-bodied” people treat disabled people like children as if they did not have a valid opinion or intelligence or feelings or romance or whatever.

Next I sat for an interview for the BBC World Service Reporting Religion. The presenter asked excellent questions. He and the producer prepared better than most journalists I have enounctered, having watched the DVD of Homo No Mo as well as listening to previous interviews. He asked penetrating and at times challenging questions. It was not a fluff interview at all. At one point he pressed in about my need/choice to be part of a church that was so controlling.

For years I continued to place myself in abusive churches that did not affirm me but often ruled with tactics of fear and shame. During the interview I got to explain about my current choice to be an active member in the Religious Society of Friends how the Quakers seem the exact opposite for me. It is a faith community where I have to find my own way without a leader telling me what to do or how to do it. (The show is slated to air next weekend. I will provide a link when it is up).

After that Auntie Doris, Tractor Girl and I met up with Davis Maclyalla, a gay man from Nigeria who received asylum from the UK government because of the dangers he faced in his home country. What a sweet and fun guy! He exuded such joy and confidence. His mind and heart sounded clear and at peace.

I took the most delicious nap in the afternoon (yes, we older folks need our afternoon naps) then met up with Auntie Doris for some silent worship before my presentation at Keynes Lecture Hall. Before we did though a producer from the BBC and his cameraman approached me, “You know we are filming you tonight because the Archbishop of Wales will attend your presentation,” he explained as I looked puzzled at all the equipment.

Actually I did not know, but turns out Barry Morgan, the archbishop, who has spoken out in favor of women bishops and the inclusion of LGBT people in the church, agreed to attend my performance and in fact asked all the Welsh bishops to join him. BBC Wales has tracked him with a film crew over the past few weeks for a documentary that will air in December.

My presentation went off well in many ways (with the archbishop prominently seating towards the front and an enthusiastic and attentive audience). I shared in more serious ways than the previous night. Of course I did funny bits from Homo No Mo but also included more about my spiritual journey as I attempted to explain to the audience how my mind looked during those 17 years when I sought to suppress and change my sexuality.

The crew told me that the archbishop would say a few words after the Q&A session. When I finished, the LGCM organizer asked me to stay in the front while the Barry Morgan spoke. I assumed the archbishop would share his views about LGBT people in the church or just give an tepid inspirational message to the audience like bishop types have been known to do. Instead he gave me one of the most affirming public tributes that I ever received. He thanked me and marveled that I still have faith after my trial and expressed admiration that I did not grow bitter because of it. He went on a bit more about my presentation as I sat there opened mouthed and nearly in tears.

After hearing about bishops who don’t listen or don’t care or don’t “get it,” it felt so good to hear something different, something affirming. And in a strange way, it felt healing. I mean after years of not getting affirmed by many different clergymen, to have an archbishop embrace me like that dislodged some of the rejection I had experienced. Ultimately I know that I stand on my own two feet before God and man about my life, and I do not need anyone in the church to approve or affirm me. But it still feels good to hear it.

I also met a wonderful woman from Utah. A recovering Mormon and a straight woman who has found many men to be jerks, she told me how much she appreciated hearing messages from a gay guy that went beyond the gay issues. More and more I have been talking about gender and sexism in my presentations as well as skin privilege. Although they each contain distinct features, many of these oppressions operate in similar ways.

She told me how recently she endured a negative incident with two gay men, who over drinks with her proceeded to pronounce all sorts of awful things about women. This shocked and hurt her; it did not surprise me. I have witnessed a tremendous amount of misogyny, a hatred or contempt of women, dished out by gay men. I cannot think of two groups that could be better allies, but sadly some gay men have not sorted out their own gender issues. They also have not begun to deprogrammed from the sexism and male privilege dumped into us by society. In my own freedom as a white gay man, I need to grow sensitive to the oppression of others–including women, non-whites and the disabled.

Over dinner last night Auntie Doris gave me a Rowan Williams Christmas ornament (the shop at Canterbury Cathedral has the coolest gifts) along with a postcard that contains a quote by Steve Biko,

The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.

Indeed. I know that during much of the Lambeth Conference and also in many of our faith traditions around the world, we seek to help oppressors and those not yet affirming of LGBT people to better understand the issues, to experience transformation by the renewing of their minds.

Far too many of us though still need to do that same work in our own minds. We need to detox from the shame that has addled our brains since childhood. We need to deprogram from the oppressive ways of thinking about ourselves and others. We need liberated minds and hearts filled with clarity about who we are and about the world around us. Many of us have begun this journey. Let’s press on and break off the shackles of what others have said about us and others, whoever we are, and let’s seek to see with a sharper vision and a deeper insight.

I head off to London today, then fly home tomorrow where I will get to spend a day with my home meeting before heading off to Baltimore Yearly Meeting for a week (which I imagine will be a restful time for me).

photo credit goes to Auntie Doris

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Thanks to the expert driving skill of Auntie Doris I arrived safely at Lambeth Conference in Canterbury. Fortunately (or not) I have wi-fi in my dorm room on campus here at the University of Kent so I can blog some.

On the way to Canterbury we listened to LBC Radio (a talk radio station for the greater London area) and the show hosted Jeni Barnett. She offer topic after topic in a frenetic random order, but the one issue that caught my ear had to do with English people trying to change their accents to sound more like the Queen. She asked for callers who had also tried to change their accents.

I turned to Auntie, “Should I?” and with little more than a nod from her, I called. (Joe Gee, that fabulous podcaster, will be simultaneously proud of me and appalled by me). I explained that in the US I get much better customer service when I speak with a posh British accent. This accent is a perceived by many in the US to carry class and sophistication (and it may possibly be a bow to our former colonial masters :-p ). In fact, when I was quite young, I tried to emulate some of the British accents from films in order to alter what I considered my “gay accent.” I thought I might get people off the gay scent.

I then talked about the Ex-Gay Movement and how much of it has to do with gender including getting one’s voice to adhere to gender norms. Some ex-gay leaders taught me that proper men speak with a downward inflection and use less words than women. They also instructed me to drop to my lower register when I spoke. I wrapped up the brief radio segment by letting Jeni know that I was off to Lambeth (pointing towards Canterbury as I spoke on the phone in the car) to do a talk/performance/cabaret act about my time as an ex-gay and the process to integrate my sexuality and spirituality.

Joe Gee will no doubt call me a media whore. I often remind him that I am simply a press magnet. Auntie Doris wants to have a goal that every time I travel with her by car in England, I need to find a reason to call into one of these programs.

After this encounter with Jeni, Auntie and I arrived at Lambeth. I had been invited by the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM). Richard Kirker of LGCM met me, sorted out my room at Darwin Hall and then pointed me towards the exhibitors hall.

Auntie Doris and I walked into the hall then froze with our mouths wide open. No, it was not a display of fine dark chocolates from around the world. What greeted us proved to be much richer and appealing. The most gorgeous, colorful, artful robes and stoles captured our attention. They hung draped on racks and hangers calling to us to wrap ourselves up in ecclesiastical prêt-à-porter. As a Quaker, I suddenly felt envy for these Anglicans and their brilliant plumage. As a gay man with a penchant for auspicious and flamboyant clothing, I felt right at home.

We walked around the stalls, and just like Auntie Doris’ uncle (an Anglican vicar) told us, several exhibitors expressed a strong pro-LGBT message. In fact, I counted at least four stalls set up with colorful posters and lots of literature all about the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The Zacchaeus Fellowship, a Canadian Anglican ex-gay type group, had a small stall set up with some literature, but they had no staff present when we passed by. They provided booklets with stories of four ex-gays and a hand-out with suggested books and links for “those struggling with homosexuality.” These included books by Andrew Comiskey, Joe Dallas, Leanne Payne, Mario Bergner and Joseph Nicolosi (A Parent’s Guide to Presenting Homosexuality). In their list of “Websites of Interest” they mention several groups including PFOX and NARTH, and Ex0dus Global Alliance. At the bottom of their list of resources they provide this disclaimer:

Please note: The above information is provided as a courtesy. The reader must determine the suitability of the contents found under these links for his or her purposes, interests and beliefs.

Speaking with two women at the Integrity/Changing Attitude stall we agreed that ex-gay promoters and providers would also offer warnings similar to those found on cigarette boxes here in the UK.

WARNING: Immersion in ex-gay theories and practices may harm you and those around you.

In offering ex-gay treatment (in whatever form they suggest) as an option, I do not often hear the fact that most people come to the conclusion that they do not need alter their orientation or submerge it or cut it out of themselves. In fact, in trying to do so many of us have actually experienced harm. Sure a handful of people say that such a change is possible and that they are happy no longer identifying as gay or lesbian, but from my experience of 25 years in and around around the ex-gay world, these folks represent a tiny majority of the many people who attempted it before them.

The good news is that I heard mostly positive messages today about LGBT people, especially in with the screening of a new film, Voice of Witness: Africa. Filmmakers Cynthia Black and Katie Sherrod traveled from the US to Africa to film LGBT people in Uganda, Kenya and Nigeria. They state:

It is an awesome responsibility, for just by talking to us these folks are risking more than any of us privileged people can begin to understand.

Among those we talked to is
* a transgendered [F to M] Nigerian
* a partnered lesbian activist in Uganda
* a transgendered [M to F] Ugandan
* one of a pair of gay 20-something twins in Kenya
* a gay Ugandan farmer whose dream is to own two acres of land to grow his sugarcane
* gay partners in Kenya who dream of having their union blessed
* a gay Nigerian who was beaten badly simply for being gay

I felt especially moved by the stories of the trans people in this 20 minute film. Apparently traans people face even more risks and dangers than lesbian, gay and bisexual people. All the stories moved me especially when they spoke of their faith. Then seeing the retired Ugandan bishop, Christopher Ssenyonjo, speak passionately about LGBT issues and even starting a Bible study for gay men floored me.

Afterwards I got to meet many LGBT and affirming people in the Anglican/Episcopal Church including:

At dinner I ran into William Crawley, who I first met in Belfast in May. He will do his BBC Radio Ulster Sunday Sequence from Lambeth this week. Do check it out. (No Joe Gee, I will not be on it).

I also got to meet Christina Rees, chair of Women and the Church (WATCH) I’ll put a link but their site was down tonight. We had a great chat about gender and sexism in the Church and about how so much of the gay issue comes down to gender and an anti-fem attitude. (which goes back to the point above about how I changed my voice to sound more “masculine” as part of my de-gayification process). After Christina mentioned to me that about 70% of the Anglican Church attenders/members are women, I suggested she change her organization’s name to Women and Their Church.

So I guess this is the part of the blog entry when I share my first impressions and my current feelings. I feel happy to be here, honored in many ways. It also feels less of a big deal than I had imagined. I mean reading the press reports for the past few months, seeing the photos and such, I came with this big notion of LAMBETH. Having arrived, now I see people. Sure some dress in exquisite tailored frocks, but under their finery, I see people. People can connect. They can listen to each other. They can affect each other emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. The concept of LAMBETH intimated me. But people? I like people.

(Wed and Thur at 8:00 PM I will present here at Lambeth–The 70% Show, a talk/performance/whatever about my own spiritual journey as a Christian who happens to be gay and my nearly 20 years as an ex-gay. For more info see: LGCM site)

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To Lambeth and Beyond!

I take off today on a whirlwind island hopping adventure. I first travel to the island nation of Malta (south of Italy) where I will be for 10 days as the guest of Drachma, a Catholic group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

In Malta I will meet with the members of Drachma, lead a Bibliodrama or two, and perform two plays: The Re-Education of George W. Bush and Transifgurations—Transgressing Gender in the Bible.

From there I pick up Auntie Doris and we head off to the island of Guernsey for nearly a week. She raves about this channel island where she grew up, so since I had the time I thought it would be a nice excursion. And I can also keep Auntie Doris out of trouble :-p I haven’t talked to her about this yet, but it would be cool to meet up with some of the Evangelical leaders there to talk about LGBT concerns and pastoral care.

Rested up from my trip to Guernsey, I head to Kent, England for the Lambeth Conference where I will offer a talk as part of the official fringe events. I’m even on the official schedule! Okay this is a BIG deal.

Free performance by Peterson Toscano who shares his spiritual journey, explores queer issues and tells how he survived the ‘ex-gay’ movement through comedy and excerpts from his play “Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House”.

The Anglican Church meets only once every 10 years and this year the BIG issue is the GAY issue. I will do my presentation twice which will include some of my own personal journey, excerpts from Homo No Mo and more. You can find info about it here.

If you are interested in going to either talk (or both!), do register for the free tickets. They need to have a sense of how many are coming.

(photo credit Ted Waddell)

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