Posts Tagged ‘bXg’

Job of the Week

After a few days rest from the wonders of Oslo, I head off this morning on Amtrak for the beginning of a three week jaunt that will take me to (in order) Hartford, CT, Philadelphia, PA, Boston, MA, Providence, RI, Seattle WA. That’s week one 🙂 Actually once I get to Washington State I settle for a week in Tacoma at University of Puget Sound as their Artist in Residence.

First I have some other presentations to do. On Saturday night I will give a speech at the Connecticut Outreach Society Banquet.

The Connecticut Outreach Society (COS) is a support group for transgendered individuals and their spouses or significant others. Membership in COS is open to all crossdressers, transsexual ( both MtF and FtM ) and gender variant individuals, spouses, and significant other of legal age regardless of gender, race, creed, or sexual orientation as well as to interested medical and mental health professionals. We provide a safe place where crossdressers and transgender individuals may meet and socialize. We meet twice monthly in the Hartford area with members from all over Connecticut as well as from southern Massachusetts.

I know a few people who will attend, so it will be a reunion of sorts for me since moving from Hartford in January. I get to see fellow blogger Diana in her little corner of the Nutmeg State. (She’s going to be my ride and let me know if I am wearing the appropriate ensemble) My topic: Why the LGB NEEDS the T.

We do not need any reason or motivation to do justice work other than someone is being mistreated. Period. We don’t have to relate to them or their story or their identity.  It should be enough that injustice is happening somewhere. But sadly in this capitalistic age  minorities compete for a place at the table and oppressions get recreated around the table based on class, race, gender, gender presentation and orientation (woe to the bisexuals at the table who never get passed the mashed potatoes.) As my friend Tania in the UK commented to me,

There are two obvious  reasons T should be part of LGB

  • we have the same enemies and adversaries who make no distinction between out sub-groups,
  • we are fighting for the same or similar rights and respect with marriage, healthcare, job security etc

In addition to those two, I will highlight others. Not that the trans folks present don’t already know this, but as part of justice work, I think it is important that I state it publicly (and will continue to state it over the next several months in other presentations and writing.)

On Sunday I will do a performance at Friends Central School of Queer 101–Now I Know My gAy,B,C’s. I will spend the whole of Monday at this Philadelphia Quaker school doing a variety of presentations. According to my agent’s schedule (he is so efficient!)

8:30 – 9:00 – Set up in Meeting Room with Josh (faculty light and sound man)

9:00 – 10:00 – Speak on faith journey as a Quaker in all-school assembly in Meeting Room

10:00 -10:40 – Meet with Al’s all-senior class on “Sex and Society” in the Meeting Room

11:00 -11:55 – Break and tour of campus with GSA core team

11:55- 12:30 – Lunch with Middle School Teachers in Room 10.

12:30 – 1:10 – Lunch with Gay-Straight Alliance and interested Quaker Young Leader Students in Dining Hall (I get TWO lunches! That’s my kinda school)

1:10 – 1:50 – Meet with Robyn’s “Quakerism” Classes back across the hall in the Meeting Room.  – 2 classes combined.

1:50 – 2:30 p.m – Meet with students in the Writing Workshop in Wood 22.

2:30 – 3:10 p.m . – Debrief with Robyn and Al in Wood 25.

I have already begun working on my faith journey as a Quaker talk, and feel especially pleased to present it to a group of high school students since it was Quaker high schoolers (the Young Friends) who helped me to salvage my faith after my catastrophic breakup with Evangelicalism.

Peterson about to Transfigure

The next morning I will do a presentation on bullying over at Abington Friends Middle School. Then I head back up the East coast to Boston. On Wednesday March 24th I will present Transfigurations Transgressing Gender in the Bible at Northeastern University. See details here. For those of you who do not know, this play explores the stories and lives of gender non-conformist in the Bible and the world today. I play multiple characters and multiple genders. While in Boston I will also get to worship at Cambridge Friends Meeting for their mid-week service AND I get to hang out with my friend Wendy, a grounded, thoughtful and wise Friend.

From Boston I shoot over (up? down?) to Providence to present Doin’ Time with Peterson Toscano at Brown University. In this show I get to do a bunch of excerpts from four different plays (including the newest I Can See Sarah Palin from my Window!) My Friend Elizabeth has been trying to get me to Brown for some time, so I am thrilled it is happening at last!

After Providence I fly to Seattle, WA where I will spend the weekend with a fellow Ex-Gay Survivor and his partner. He had been through many ex-gay experiences and has done a lot of work to reclaim his life and undo the damage. Ron and I always have deep conversation and great food. I always walk away feeling affirmed.

On March 28 I head to Tacoma where I will serve as Artist in Residence for University of Puget Sound. Similar to my time at Warren Wilson College in February, at UPS I will teach classes, perform and connect with students. On March 31 as part of Transgender Day of Awareness, I will perform Transfigurations, but inserted between each scene individuals from the trans community with share something from their lives. Included in the presenters will be David Weekley, a pastor from Portland who came out trans to his congregation last year, and a wonderful poet from Seattle named Cole. We did this in Seattle for TDOR and it deepened the performance considerably.

David Weekley

In addition to seeing David’s wife Deborah on the 31st, (and I think seeing Kriss from Portland) I ALSO have the added pleasure of hanging out all week with my friend Jane, who like me survived Pentecostal Holiness church experiences, and who has a wicked sense of humor. (We really need to have a camera in the car with us as we whirled around and spin off into all sorts of crazy characters and do improv as we get lost–I’m sure our former oppressors would see that as a metaphor 😛 ) She is the mastermind behind my visit and is the world’s best stage manager (at the Seattle TDOR she jumped in last minute to do my pre-show speech since I couldn’t do a voice over).

Thanks to the efforts of Laura, someone I know from Tacoma who contacted me via Facebook, I will also do a presentation at the Rainbow Center.

The Rainbow Center is a safe, accessible and welcoming community space for meetings, activities and events that strengthen the lives of people in our community. We support Greater Pierce County by providing a centralized source of information and referral for and about the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities. We provide visibility to the history, culture and diversity of our communities.

Maybe I will do my new Rainbow Monologue that I premiered at TransFormAZ last spring. In it I express my grief after years of gender policing and oppression by religious leaders and organizations only to find similar patterns of oppression exercised and rigidly maintained by gay and lesbian people, spaces and organizations. In the monologue I share my shock and anger over this and join with the audience in committing to a community where “everyone has a place at the table. Everyone’s story is important, and we listen deeply to each other.” And when we see there is an injustice, we act.

You can see my whole performance schedule here. Feel free to send me notes via FB, comments or e-mails over the next two weeks. The road gets lonely at times and I get tired out easily. Even Joe Gee’s snarky remarks cheer me. 😛 And it will be good to be that much closer to Mila & Jayna (come up and see me ladies!)

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Jeff Harwood, who I first met back in 1996 when we entered the Love in Action ex-gay program in Memphis, TN, has done a lot of good work in coming out and in detoxing from those years of de-gaying himself. He has shared some of his story on my blog here. Every time I have the privilege to see him when I am in Memphis, he comes out more and more as himself.

Over at Facebook he wrote a note about Masks and his ex-gay experience. I asked if he would post it over at the Beyond Ex-Gay Community Site and if I could repost it here. He generously agreed.

To Hell With Masks
by Jeff Harwood

As part of my Stage Movement class we are required to keep a journal. Our instructor gives us a quote and then a question/statement based on the quote and we are supposed to write a response to it. Below is one of the more recent quotes/statements. The response went in a quite a different direction for me personally. While I was writing it, I felt the need to post the note here and tag people from all the different areas of my life and to get your response to it. Thanks.

“The heart of clowning, to me, is how to get yourself into dilemmas. I don’t have to for them they come my way.” – Bill Irwin

The mask that you personally wear everyday…talk about those masks and those situations in which you wear them and hide your true self.


Detail at entrance of Drill Hall, London

BLEAH! I hate talking about the masks that I wear everyday, because I believe that I’ve grown up enough to throw away any pretense. I’ve come through a lot in my life and I believe that I really have learned to be genuine with others and with myself.

When I think of masks, I think of my entire time that I spent in the ex-gay movement. (In case you don’t know, the ex-gay movement is a religious therapeutic movement that attempts to “cure” LGBT people and make them straight.) That was a time of masks and hiding, a time of constant fear that someone might find out who I really was. I was coerced and manipulated into putting on masks so that I would fit what is hetero-normative, what is “proper and normal” for my gender.

I am now almost ten years outside of that repressive and destructive environment. It took several of those years to come to tear away all those life-destroying encumbrances that were put on me and that I made a part of myself. That process hurt like a son-of-bitch. I still feel sadness and pain when I think about it.

If there is one that I have learned from it is that masks will kill you. They destroy who you are. You get to a point where you can’t distinguish between your masks (lies) and you. God! That is such a pitiful life.

I honestly don’t believe that I function with masks anymore. I can’t begin to explain how freer I am since I’ve thrown off all that crap that was pushed down on me. I was given the liberty to explore all aspects of who I am…the good, the bad, the taboo, everything. I have found parts of me that I didn’t know existed and I love them. You know, I even love the part of me that is still fucking pissed off at the church, at religion and at all the evil that was done to me and others in the of name of god and jesus. Why do I love it? Because it’s me! It’s part of me that I wasn’t allowed to have.

So now, I say what I think. If I have a question, I ask it. Who cares if someone thinks it’s stupid? If I want to hold my partner’s hand across the table in a restaurant, I do. If I need to speak out against something, I speak out. If I don’t say just quite the right way, I don’t care.

If someone gets all bent out of shape and uncomfortable because they don’t like who I am…this new me, it’s not my problem. The funny thing is that I find more acceptance, love and respect from others now than before. Since I have embraced everything—and I mean everything—about who I am, I don’t have to worry or be frightened because there are no more secrets. There is nothing for me to be frightened of.

Those who are bent out of shape and uncomfortable are the ones who are still living behind their own masks. They are afraid. I don’t believe that they are afraid of what others might think or how others might react. I believe that they are afraid of themselves. I believe that they are afraid of the secret parts inside that they have been told, “This is part of you, but you CAN’T HAVE IT.” That part stays locked up inside and it becomes a secret compounded with lies for the sake of some false sense of propriety.

You know, sometimes I think I see that fear on the faces of some of my friends. I just want to go up to them a rip the mask off and tell them, “Who cares if you’re beautiful or ugly? Who cares if that little part of you doesn’t fit what people tell you should be or what is acceptable?” I see it hold them back and it hurts because the truth is that little secret part of them is beautiful just because it is them.

Have me put on a mask, real or imagined, to play a character. That’s fine. I can handle that. It’s no lie. But tell me that I have to put on a mask to live from day to day and I will fight you tooth and nail.

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Later this month Beyond Ex-Gay, the organization I co-founded with Christine Bakke will take part in a the Anti-Heterosexism Conference in West Pal Beach, FL. Along with Soulforce, Box Turtle Bulletin, Truth Wins Out, The National Black Justice Coalition and Equality Florida, we will explore the role of heterosexism in society and in particular as a force that compels individuals to “de-gay” themselves through ex-gay ministries and reparative therapy. (Nov 20-22). On Friday the 20th Beyond Ex-Gay will host a day-long Ex-Gay Survivor gathering for survivors and allies.

People will come together from North America, Europe and Australia to meet for a series of workshops and events led by an array of skilled and informed leaders in the work of equality and understanding of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer issues. My friend Angel and Marc from Barcelona will be there after the successful conference we held in Catalonia in May of 2008. They have an exciting announcement to make about the work that has gone on since that historic gathering.

As people finalize their travel plans and work on the finishing touches to their presentations, I head off to the Pacific North West then to Boston. I will not be at the Anti-Heterosexism Conference. I fully support the gathering and the role that Beyond Ex-Gay has in it. I will not attend because in my own work and recovery from ex-gay treatment, I have moved beyond to the place where other concerns and passions fill my life.

Back in 2008 I retired my play, Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House because after five years of presenting it, I felt the play held me back in my artistic and personal growth. To tell the same story night after night caused me to relive those events over and over. I felt a drain. I put the play on DVD and focused on my newer performances, including Transfigurations–Transgressing Gender in the Bible, a play that explores the stories and lives of transgender and gender-variant Bible characters. How refreshing it felt to tell a different story, a new story!

In the past year my work with the Ex-Gay Survivor Movement has included working directly with survivors who contact us through the Beyond Ex-Gay website as well as meeting people on the road as I travel with my performances and a lively lecture I conduct about the Ex-Gay Movement, Gender and Orientation. At various conferences and universities I have presented this talk to help educate people about the ex-gay experience, the many reasons why someone may chose to “de-gay” themselves and how these reasons are directly connected to issues of power and privilege around gender, class, and race.

My role has also shifted to more of a consultant to other activists who have organized actions in the North America as well as in the UK and Eastern Europe. In dealing with the press I have sought to broaden the types of stories that the media covers regarding the Ex-Gay Movement (including the way it affects women–lesbians, wives and mothers.) I have also connected reporters with ex-gay survivors who had not yet publicly shared their experiences.

When I was invited to take part in the Anti-Heterosexism Conference, I experienced a mixture of feelings–enthusiastic along with a flat sort of feeling that I could not immediately identify. In sitting with the feeling during Quaker worship (we sit in silence for up to an hour giving me loads of time to sift through emotions and decisions) I recognized that my passion had moved towards the lives, needs and rights of transgender and gender queer individuals. I also learned that during the same weekend when ex-gay survivors were going to gather in Florida,  a group of transgender, bisexual, queer folks were going to meet for the Transcending Boundaries Conference in Massachusetts.  I knew that although many of my friends planned to attend the event West Palm Beach, dear friends who I see too rarely, I understood that “my leading” as we say in Quaker circles was to attend Transcending Boundaries.

As soon as I made that decision, I understood that by not attending the Anti-Heterosexism Conference, I opened space for other leaders and potential leaders in the Ex-Gay Survivor Movement to step forward and fill the many spots that I have inhabited during previous gatherings. Christine Bakke has been a brilliant speaker and organizer, so I knew she would do a wonderful job at heading up the ex-gay survivor gathering. With Christine,  Dr. Jallen Rix, an ex-gay survivor with a new book coming out in March, will help facilitate the many activities that we have planned for the event. Daniel Gonzales will be on hand to share some of his experience and expertise.  Jacob Wilson will also be there to help with the press conference and other aspects of the gathering. Author and ex-gay survivor Anthony Venn-Brown will come from Australia along with former ex-gay leader Darlene Bogle from California. A new leader from Toronto will attend  as will a scholar from Virgina who has done extensive research into the ex-gay and ex-gay survivor movements. In other words, the gathering is in good hands.

So I head off to Vancouver today where I will be with youth this weekend from the United Church of Canada. (and I get to celebrate my friend Doris’ 40th birthday!) On November 18 I will take part in the Transgender Day of Remembrance in Seattle, then I head to Portland, OR to perform Transfigurations on November 19 at a United Methodist Church pastored by David Weeklely, who recently publicly announced that he is transgender. I also get to enjoy a long car ride with David and his lovely partner Deborah. The evening of the 19th I take the red-eye flight to Boston in order to get to the East Coast in time for Transcending Boundaries.

Click here to read more about my leading to work on transgender issues and concerns.

Click here to read more about what happens in Quaker meetings.

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My friend Tania in the UK posted a link on my Facebook page about PFOX, Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays, and their insistence that ex-gay materials should be placed in public libraries.

According to the local NBC affiliate,

A Chicago-based group called Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays is urging libraries to carry literature about reformed homosexuals.

The national non-profit organization is arguing that the alleged successes of their “gay reversal” movement are not being heard because libraries refuse to carry their books, such as You Don’t Have to Be Gay and A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality.

One has to wonder just what genre those books would fall under, exactly.

I am sure folks can think of a bunch of snarky responses. Acutally It doesn’t fit under any genre and the answer to the “debate” is a no-brainer. These books do not belong in public libraries. We are not talking about a political issue, although PFOX my be politically motivated in part. The ex-gay movement in the form of Exodus and groups like PFOX has inserted itself into various political causes including opposing employment non-discrimination measures in the US and UK as well has fighting against hate crime legislation that would include protections of individuals based on orientation, gender identity and gender expression. Such protections actually would benefit ex-gays who are gender non-conforming or who get harassed for being something other than purely heterosexual.

No, this is not about politics. It is about public health and safety. Those of us who consumed these books for years and bought into the ex-gay theories have suffered much harm. Our families have suffered harm. The damaging results include psychological, emotional and spiritual harm. We have suffered in our personal development, relationships and even in our career paths as we have diverted our lives to please family and friends who love us unconditionally, well except for one condition–we can’t be queer. For many of us we needed years to recover from the “cure.” No child or adult need to be exposed to these dodgy and dangerous teachings.

The APA just issued a LONG report about reparative therapy stating that it doesn’t work and most likely causes harm.

You can read more about the harm of ex-gay theories and treatments and read first-hand accounts of ex-gay survivors over at Beyond Ex-Gay. PFOX, which has very few actual ex-gay gays in its organization, should really rename itself Disgruntled Parents of Happy, Well-Adjusted Gays & Lesbians.

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So many people who hear me talk about the Ex-Gay Movement and my many varied failed attempts to “de-gay” myself think I am making this stuff up–total fiction. Add to it the Evangelical world view,  some evil spirits, generational curses and football clinics–well it sounds downright nutty.

Daniel Gonzales writing for Box Turtle Bulletin, spent time trying to de-gay himself with the assistance of a “therapist” from the sinister sounding organization NARTH (National Association for the Research and Therapy of  Homosexuality). Recently he has been looking into the parallels between ex-gay treatment like one gets at NARTH and elsewhere with the practices of another infamous organization–the Church of Scientology.

He’s included delicious diagrams and videos. Read Part I and Part II of a Clear Comparison: Scientology and Ex-Gay Programs.

BXG_EGE_Rally5NARTH will have their annual conference this year in Southern Florida, and like last year when NARTH met in Denver, Beyond Ex-Gay will be there to counter the misinformation and false promises. Beyond Ex-Gay will facilitate a day-long Ex-Gay Survivor gathering for survivors and allies. It is the kick-off for an event organized by a coalition of social justice groups. As NARTH meets to share their views about just how awful the gays are and their various dodgy methods to bring about change the Anti-Heterosexism Conference will take place down the road in West Palm Beach, FL Nov 20-23.

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Anyone who has ever been in any sort of ex-gay treatment designed to “de-gay” or “de-lesbian” them, will know that often the “therapies” extend beyond looking at sexuality and tend to dabble a lot with gender. We can joke about the football clinics for the guys and the Mary Kay makeovers for the gals, but beyond the ridiculous, the ex-gay movement is one that demands gender normative presentation and behavior. As a result, many gender-variant and transgender people of faith have ventured into ex-gay ministries and “therapist” offices for gender-normative treatments before they were able to accept and appreciate their gender identity and presentation.

Years of bullying on the playground, at the dinner table, in church youth groups, on the job,  and on the streets can weigh on a person who feels they do not fit into the rigid gender binary enforced by the culture. Without seeing representations of individuals with transgender histories or gender variance, they can feel unique and all alone in a struggle to find their place in the world. The pressure to conform to the only norms available (especially when these are reinforced through religion and the threat of violence in this world and the next) often causes a person to seek change.

I like to think of it as the Gender Melting Pot. One gets placed in the male or the female Gender Melting Pot and then under the intense heat they begin to misshapen and disintegrate into the gender normative muck the chefs envision. I would much prefer a Gender Stew where we all get to mix and mingle, influencing and seasoning (marrying flavors?) but we retain our individual taste and texture.

At Gender Odyssey (a delicious Gender hot and steamy cassarole) earlier this month I met Francie Milazzo, a male to female transgender woman who attended my workshop Homo No Mo?!? Gender and Orientation in the Ex-Gay Movement. Both in the workshop and afterward Francie shared how much her experience of struggling to understand and affirm herself as a male-bodied person with a growing awareness of a female identity brought her into contact with Christian groups that supported her in her many failed attempts to live life as a heterosexual male. She writes about her experience as a trans woman struggling as a Christian.

This was also my first time living away from home and a time of extreme loneliness.  Seeing no alternative, I tried to play the gender role expected of me and sought companionship with a woman, purging my female wardrobe and stopping the hormones for months or years at a time.  To conceal my complete ignorance on dating, I studied Christian books on the subject.   On two occasions I promised before an ordained minister to play the husband’s role dictated by Scripture, although I never revealed the hidden feelings that I mistakenly believed would be “cured” through my efforts.

Through the years this deception brought me to despair, robbed me of hope, joy and dignity and withdrew me ever farther from God and into myself and away from those I cherished. Although I never revealed my inner self in my first marriage, that was destroyed by the stress of my suppressed feelings and my lack of a male soul to play the part. Refusing to see my own fault, I married again after 5 years.  In that relationship, my children and I suffered physical and emotional abuse, breaking up the family and bringing me to desperation and two unsuccessful suicide attempts.

Fortunately for Francie, she found a way out of that despair and learned how to be authentic about herself leading to psychological, emotional and spiritual health. You can read more of her story here. Para Un Testimonio de una Cristiana Transgénera oprima para español.

At Beyond Ex-Gay, the organization for ex-gay survivors, we have featured narratives of transgender people as well as highlighting transgender concerns. While we recognize differences in regards to sexual orientation and gender, we also see lots of overlap and shared experiences. On our FAQ section, where we attempt to be entertaining as well as informative, we write:

What about trans and genderqueer people?

Male/Female sign(cricket, cricket)

In the ex-gay world not much is said or done about trans folks (sometimes neglect has its privileges). But many trans folks experience pressure to change and “act normal” by parents, faith communities, schools and neighborhoods.

A big part of our ex-gay experiences have had more to do with gender than actual sexual activity and desire. Act your gender! is the message we heard directly and indirectly.

But it’s not so simple. Sometimes the outside doesn’t match the inside, and in the case of intersex folks, one’s sex is not easily discerned.

The relentless push from society for trans and genderqueer folks to “change,” to conform or to just disappear remains, even among many gays and lesbians who express transphobia through words, action and inaction.

To read more about a gay man with a trans experience, read Alex’s Narrative.

Beyond Ex-Gay is very pleased to be one of the sponsors for the upcoming TransForm Arizona conference in Phoenix Oct 16, 17 and 18. In addition to performing my play Transfigurations–Transgressing Gender in the Bible, I will also offer my workshop on Gender and Orientation in the Ex-Gay Movement.

At our new Beyond Ex-Gay Community site we seek a diversity of peole with ex-gay experiences including transgender and gender-variant individuals. Although many people went into ex-gay/gender-norm treatment because of religiuos reasons, we are not a religious organization. For many moving beyond their religious backgrounds has been part of the recovery while others have found ways of rediscovering their former religious practice or found a new practice. We have atheists, Christians, agnostics, pagans, neo-Evangelicals, post-Christians, post-Toastie Christians and much more. What draws us together is our shared experience of trying to change something fundamental about ourselves only to discover that pursuing such a change caused much more harm than good.
Like at the upcoming TransForm Arizona event, at Beyond Ex-Gay we seek to unite the T with the LGB. Below is the ad (beautifully designed by Christine Bakke, bXg co-founder) that will appear in the program guide . BXGHalfPgHorzAd

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Since first connecting with ex-gay survivors in 2003, I grew to understand that many of us come down on one side or another of what would seem to be a great and even potentially combative divide. While many ex-gay survivors come from Protestant Evangelical Christian traditions (but by no means all–we have also been in Mormon, Catholic, Christian Science and other faith traditions including Jewish, Muslim and still others), many no longer ascribe to Evangelicalism and have become post-Evangelical. Some of us have moved onto other Christian traditions (I transitioned from Evangelical to Anglican to Quaker) or to other religious/spiritual traditions–Buddhist, pagan, etc–or none in particular, identifying as non-theist, atheist, agnostic, and the list can go on and on.

Yet some of us have remained in our Evangelical Christian traditions or after a period of struggle reclaimed our place inthem and now feel joyful and proud to be Christian. For my part I am a Christian, not Evangelical; I am follower of Jesus within a particular Quaker tradition that practices a group mysticism of sorts. Christine Bakke, my fellow co-founder of Beyond Ex-Gay is not Christian. We have much admiration, affection and respect for each other and find that our differences in regards to faith and religion do not hinder us from being close friends and effective co-facilitators of Beyond Ex-Gay.

Recently we started a community site for ex-gay survivors, a place for ex-gay survivors to connect with each other specifically around our former attempts to de-gay ourselves through diverse methods. We are committed to keeping this space ONLY for ex-gay survivors, so that we can connect with others with similar experiences as we unpack what we did, why we did it, and how we have or are finding recovery from the harm we may have experienced as a result of our ex-gay efforts and those others imposed on us.

Many of us have been deeply wounded by religion and particularly by Christians and Christian institutions (including Bible schools, ministries, and para church organizations.)  Since coming out, some of us have continued to suffer, even at the hands of gay Christians.

On Facebook I asked my friends,

Many ex-gay survivors are either Christian OR Post-Christian. How can we create & maintain a respectful & helpful community & dialog?

Jacobus from the UK wrote:

I imagine many of the Christians are evangelical (since that’s the type most likely to feel the need to go into ex-gay programmes). They are, by definition, most likely to want to bring the ex- or post-Christians “back into the fold”.

The ex- and post-Christians are likely to find that kind of talk at least annoying if not hurtful. They would most likely have left the faith to protect themselves from further hurt or after making a series of rational decisions based on an increasingly skeptical view of the nature of the bible. Some of them might be “evangelical” in their desire to see the Christians escape from their perceived religious prison.

Unless both groups take an “each to their own” approach, antagonism and rancour will be the result.

In ex-gay survivor gatherings I have seen fellow Christians, enthusiastic about their faith, end up saying things in such a way as to silence or shame those ex-gay survivors who no longer ascribe to Christianity. Some non-Christian ex-gay survivors say they walked away with hearing that they are double-failures–failed at being ex-gay and now the suggestion they are failures for not holding on to the very faith that for them turned out to be toxic. (I guess the same sort of shaming/silence can happen from post-Christians towards Christians, but I have not yet experienced this in ex-ex-gay settings.)

Steve, a gay Christian from the US writes:

I think it’s only difficult if *we* are actively trying to be recruiters, healers or promoters. It’s a lot easier if we are just respectful, welcoming neighbors.

So much of it about communication–finding a common language. There are also amazing benefits for me as a Christian to communicate my experiences without using religious language. I have benefited directly from changing up the way in which I talk about my past. When lecturing at academic conferences among non-religious scholars, as I first spoke about my mostly religious-based ex-gay experiences, I suddenly better understood what happened to me in the church & ex-gay programs. The process helped me to unearth the many non-religious reasons I went ex-gay, reasons that had been swallowed up by the religious rhetoric I used as a second-language.

So what does this mean for the bXg Community site? For many of us, the ex-gay experience was so deeply couched in the religious experience that even after we have left it, we struggle to talk about it without drawing on religious language and imagery. In so doing though we may inadvertently undermine the discussion for those who can no longer comfortably communicate with religious language. The reality is that no matter how we identify today, most of us experienced a form of religious violence and abuse in our churches and ex-gay programs, often by people who seemed to be or may have been very sincere and loving but woefully misguided people. Such language can be a trigger for folks and may hinder us from gaining understanding for ourselves.

Among ex-gay survivors both on-line and in our gatherings like the upcoming one in West Palm Beach,  we have a wonderful opportunity to experiment communication beyond our religious differences in part because of our shared pasts. By doing so we may foster a process that gets to the heart of our ex-gay experiences and avenues for recovery.

Many ex-gay survivors are either Christian OR Post-Christian. How can we create & maintain a respectful & helpful community & dialog?

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