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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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