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Posts Tagged ‘Christian’

UPDATE: Two more episodes about Kirk’s story has aired since I posted this entry. You can view the stories and read about it over at CNN Anderson Cooper 360.

Abigail Jensen, a friend and activist over at Transmentors International, contacted me about Kirk Murphy’s story. Abigail and I have worked together on initiatives to address the  oppression of  transgender  people at the hands of non-transgender gays and lesbians. She shared with me a link to the story: Reparative Therapy for Trans Youth: Kenneth Zucker is different from George Rekkers how? It is well worth reading.

Yesterday (as I was in the cosmetic aisle buying new eyeliner and concealer for my transgender Bible play) Abigail and I talked on the phone about how so often transgender and gender non-conforming narratives get co-opted by gays and lesbians on blogs and such and then get absorbed into a political discussion about sexual orientation. As a result, the reality of transgender identities and experiences get erased and get folded into the “gay” narrative. In Kirk’s case he ultimately identified as gay, but there are many sissy boys (and tomboys/butch girls) who identify with a gender different from the sex assigned at birth based. They may be assumed gay or lesbian because they present in gender non-conforming ways, but in reality theirs is a distinctly different narrative.

When addressing stories with gender variance in a child, we simply do not know who that child will grow up to be. Transgender and gender non-conforming children and young adults may fall into the hands of reparative therapists who attempt to “fix” their gender. The impulse to seek “help” from parents and other adults in the child’s life arise from a gay panic with the hope that therapy will curtail any gay or lesbian desires/identities in the future. But the gender presentation may very well have nothing to do with the individuals orientation.

In sharing Kirk’s stories and others like it, we need to be careful to be inclusive of the transgender experience. This sort of terrible treatment does not just happen to gays, lesbians, and bisexuals.

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Kirk Andrew Murphy

Last night Anderson Cooper 360 featured the story of Kirk Andrew Murphy, who as a young boy exhibited gender non-conforming behavior. Kirk did not act like the other boys, and after seeing a therapist on TV, his parents turned for help to  who they thought were experts. Seeking a cure they ended up subjecting their child to cruel and dangerous treatments at the hands of George Rekers and other anti-gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender practitioners.

Kaytee Murphy (Kirk’s mom) took Kirk to UCLA, where he was treated largely by George A. Rekers, a doctoral student at the time.

In Rekers’ study documenting his experimental therapy (PDF), he writes about a boy he calls “Kraig.” Another UCLA gender researcher confirmed that “Kraig” was a pseudonym for Kirk.

The study, later published in an academic journal, concludes that after therapy, “Kraig’s” feminine behavior was gone and he became “indistinguishable from any other boy.”

“Kraig, I think, certainly was Rekers’ poster boy for what Rekers was espousing for young children,” said Jim Burroway, a writer and researcher who has studied Rekers’ work.

And of course the treatments did not “work” in the ways that Reker’s reported. Kirk did not change, he simply suppressed whole parts of himself. Like many ex-gay survivors he went underground. He took on masculine roles, and according to his sister, avoided love and possible partnership. He ended up moving far away from the US to India where we ultimately took his life at age 38.

This is a tragic tale about the dangers of  people who offer help while dishing out colossal harm. People like Alan Chambers of Exodus International. People who run local “ex-gay” ministries. Ministers and Christian therapists who counsel lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender people in their congregations that “change is possible.” People who insist that heterosexuality and gender conformity are God’s best and the only healthy way to live. People who target girls and boys who do not behave according to society rules regarding gender and desire. People who offer false promises of a happy fulfilling life if one embarks on a straight and very narrow self-abusive path.

I once forced myself down that very path.

While a few claim they are happy and healthy living ex-gay, seeking an alternative to a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender identities, the vast majority of us who went down this path say we experienced a world of woe as a result. I spent 17 years chasing the promised change in hopes of being a masculine, heterosexual man of God. Oh I changed, but not how I had dreamed. I grew depressed, isolated, self-destructive, and confused. I have met thousands who have had similar experiences. We have begun to gather, to connect and to share our stories. You can read about some of our experiences at Beyond Ex-Gay.

I am so grateful to Jim Burroway for his in depth, thorough, and thoughtful research and reporting about Kirk and his experiences.  I have consistently been impressed with Jim’s attention to detail and his compassion that runs deep and in many directions (read his report about parents who seek a cure for their queer children.) I feel grateful that Kirk’s brother and sister found in Jim someone willing to get to the bottom of the story. I am also grateful to Anderson Cooper and his producers for properly covering this story–highlighting the harm and not falling into the trap that they somehow have to “show all sides.”

If you went through “change” treatments or on your own attempted to change or suppress your gender identity, gender presentation, or orientation, and you see the harm that has come from it, please get help. As Kate Bornstein repeats over and over–Stay Alive. To me this means not merely surviving, but finding how to reclaim our lives, to embrace lief as we undo the damage of these soul crushing experiences.

One resource that may help is Dr. Jallen Rix’s excellent book Ex-Gay No Way–Survival and Recovery from Religious Abuse.  For my part I used comedy and storytelling to expose the horror of my own experience. Also, visit us at Beyond Ex-Gay where you will discover narratives, many articles, artwork (including our survivor collages created by Christine Bakke) and more.

Ex-gay survivor John Holm

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Sunbury, PA (photo credit John Schwenkler)

As the wind began to whip the still tightly closed tree buds and newly blossomed dandelions, my friend Quintin and I walked up Market Street in the idyllic (and rough around the edges) Pennsylvania farming town of Sunbury where we both live.

The broad boulevard has a long narrow park in the center flanked by a cast iron fountain on one end and a Civil War canon the size of an SUV at the other. Recently renovated, the park planners caused an on-going controversy when they relocated the canon to its present position. The unintended consequence of this move manifested itself near Christmas time when they planted Santa’s Shack where it has always been on Third Street sandwiched between the east side of the park and the railroad tracks that cuts directly across town. In so doing they inadvertently aimed the canon directly on Santa as he sat in his big chair fielding requests from Sunburian children.

Right after we crossed the railroad tracks past the recently built and more recently vacated Social Security office, two young white men nearly crashed into us as we rounded the corner. In their late twenties, with an odd mix of scruffy and clean-cut looks with their facial scrub and button-down shirts and what looked like homemade haircuts, they each clung to well-worn black Bibles. Quintin and I gave the traditional Sunburian male greeting–a nod accompanied with a grunted “Good evening.” One of the two men replied, “Would you like to spend eternity with Jesus Christ?” He spoke with an accent common among the Amish Mennonite who populate much of the Central PA rural communities and speak a German dialect commonly called Pennsylvania Dutch.

They did not dress in traditional Amish Mennonite clothing–suspenders and hats, but I have learned that our area contains many different types of Mennonites each with their own rules, customs, and dress codes. English was most likely not the man’s first language, and as he spoke, I was not sure if his embarrassed-sounding, stilted delivery arose from speaking English as a second language or the nature of the question tossed at strangers on the street.

I smiled, “Already taken care of. I became born-again years ago at the age of 17.” Both men smiled back. Quintin looked like he wanted to flee the scene, perhaps worried about what I, his unpredictable performance activist friend newly relocated to the Conservative Susquehanna Valley, might do next. The same man spoke again, “Jesus is coming back very soon.” I found this curious since recently an older gentleman, replete with a long white prophetic looking beard, appeared at Pennsdale Quaker meeting two weeks ago and to those of us silently assembled proclaimed the same Adventist message with the added exhortation that we should get ready. Coincidence? Or is the Second Coming of Jesus trending among white rural religious folks who are suddenly propelled out of their comfort zones into the broader world to warn us all?

Since I speak Evangelical as a second language, I replied, “No man knows the day or the hour. According to scripture he can come back today, next month, or in another two thousand years.” This Biblical response seemed to surprise and please the two street evangelists as evidenced by their broad smiles. They then looked confused about what to do next. Likely they journeyed to Sunbury with its many bars and rough town folk  on the prowl for lost hungry souls. Instead they encountered someone unashamed to say he already shacked up with Jesus decades ago.

To lubricate the conversation, I then slipped into the social banter I mastered when I lived in Memphis, TN where they truly have a church on every corner–in fact some churches take up whole city blocks. “So, what church are you from?”

This question confused the men some more. Perhaps it was my accent–strangely foreign round these parts, or that in their pre-sinner safari preparations they did not rehearse this question. The man doing all the talking fumbled a bit, “We go to one over there,” vaguely pointing towards the river, “a church in Milton,” a smaller town about 15 miles away. “I guess you would say it is a Mennonite one.”

3rd St Tracks (photo credit John Schwenkler)

Unlike many folks I encounter cruising the streets for prodigals, these two Christians did not engage in the typical guerrilla church marketing campaign. They did not seem at all interested in luring prospects into their church to fill the pews. Unlike the church growth methods preached bymissiology guru, Ed Stetzer, these men did not extol the wonders of their congregation, their vibrant youth program, the Family Life Center replete with Olympic-size swimming pool, and the award winning programs for all ages.  They simply canvased our town in order to share Bad News (the scary announcement of End Times) and what some would consider Good News (You can have a friend in Jesus.)

I do not know what would have happened if I had  informed these street ministers that I am happily partnered with a man I hope to marry one day, and that as a Christian who is also gay, I have found comfort in transgender Bible stories.  Based on my experiences with Conservative Christianity, they would likely have interrupted these revelations as obvious, flamboyant signs of the rapidly advancing wicked Last Days. Or perhaps they would have surprised me with sincere questions instead of knee-jerk condemnations.  I do not know because I chose instead to wish them a good night and then carried on towards the local Chinese Buffet with Quintin.

Maybe they will return to Sunbury, and we will continue our conversation. They have good news. I have good news. We are both in search of a prospect, a hungry, open soul ready to hear a life-changing message. The passion  to plant our seeds in fertile, well-tilled soil drives us each out of our homes into the highways and the byways, onto Market Street and beyond.

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David Weekley knew he was male in spite of his female body. Over 35 years ago he underwent a physical transition from female to male then pursued a vocation as a Methodist minister. Through all those years only a select few people knew about his transition and past. His children were unaware (he and his wife adopted) as were his congregation and church leadership. But then he determined he needed to tell his story–first to loved ones, then the bishop, and finally his congregation. His book, In from the Wilderness, opens with the moment of David’s (and his wife Deborah’s) public announcement to their congregation in Portland, OR, and then pulls back to reveal David’s odyssey from childhood until that day and beyond with the consequences that followed.

Reading the book I continually felt the urgency to share history–our history–the transgender, bisexual, queer, lesbian, gay queer collective and individual histories. We are a people with a past, and reading of David’s hero’s journey to pursue authenticity for himself as man and member of the clergy,  immersed me into the history of the 1970’s in the US and the singular steps by transsexuals males at that time. Added to the mix David shares about the complications of romance and marriage as a trans man and a clergy man. His is also an autobiography of  faith and his steadfast pursuit to be the man he felt called to be. He chose to remain silent for many years regarding his own experiences (a necessary step in order to retain his position during a time when LGBT folks were not fully welcomed or affirm,) yet he grew into a strong advocate for LGBTQ inclusion within the United Methodist Church.

David & Deborah Weekley

Mixing narrative with sermons, David tells his story and the story of a religious institution chronically struggling over the “gay issue” which by extension affected many other types of queer folk. David helps explore some of these challenges providing outsiders a rare glimpse into the workings of church politics.

But the strength of the book is David’s story and the process he and his family took in coming out to the congregation capturing that bold, audacious moment when he did it. In the LGBTQ movement we benefit from our elders and their stories. David Weekley’s personal account pulls back the curtain on a special time in history that many have not heard much about–female to male transsexual narratives in the 1970’s.

Regardless if you are religious or not, transgender/transsexual or or not, David Weekley’s book is well worth reading–a slice of history validated and a life celebrated.

In from the Wilderness–Sherman: She-r-man, 125 pages, Wipf and Stock Publishers. Forward by Virginia Ramey Mollencott. Regularly $18.00 available on-line for $14.40

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Zack and Peterson are back in person with each other, but it might be the last time for a while, as Zack has accepted a job in the DC area! But don’t worry, the podcast isn’t going anywhere! This week we take a trip to Harding University in Arkansas, Flour Bluff School District in Texas, and even Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas! The topic? Free speech and queer identities in education. Take a listen to learn all the latest happenings about how queer people are being erased!

The Queer and Queerer Podcast!

Listen to this week’s episode:

(Please click here to listen on iPad/iPhone or download.)

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

» This week’s erotic poem: Episode of Hands by Hart Crane.

» Read the Harding University Queer Press, follow them on Twitter, Like them on Facebook, and watch the President’s scathing speech.

» Learn more about the decision to prevent the GSA in Corpus Christi.

» Zack’s response to the Westboro SCOTUS decision and Bill O’Reilley’s discussion with Megyn Kelly.

» Learn more about the “Be Happy, Not Gay” t-shirt controversy.

» OUTspoken 2011

» True Colors 2011

» Adelina Anthony

» Jade Esteban Estrada

Subscribe to Queer and Queerer in iTunes!

The feed has the 25 most recent episodes; the rest are archived on this page.

If you use a different podcatcher, the Queer and Queerer raw feed can be found here.The feed has the 25 most recent episodes; the rest are archived on this page.
Like us on Facebook for instant updates, new episodes, and discussion!
Follow Zack (@ZackFord) and Peterson (@p2son) on Twitter.
Peterson is desperate for you love and attention:  Like him on Facebook !
Our theme music is “Appalachia” by Machelli. Download his album, “Opus,” on iTunes.

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Who Made You The Drag Queen of the Gay Agenda?

Alright, so we admit we have an agenda, but what is it? Lots of people, like straight pastors and well-funded Glb(t) political operatives, think they know. Zack and Peterson try to suss out who sets the agenda and what it happens to be today. What are the bars by which we measure the success of the LGBTQ movement? We also talk about folks who are trying to bridge gaps, but might just be helping to maintain them. From Egypt to Hollywood to Washington, D.C., we look at who is shaping the agenda and chime in with our hopes and concerns.

Episode 38 of Queer and Queerer

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

Tony Campolo

Tony Campolo preaching

Andrew Marin

Andrew Marin preaching

Ahmed Saad's Book

» This week’s erotic poem: “A Glimpse,” by Walt Whitman.

» HRC’s Trans Job Campaign in Massachusetts

» Egyptian “Gay Rights Activist,” or Ex-Gay Proponent?

» Discussion about Andrew Marin:

Belmont May Change Actions Toward Gay Groups

FriendlyAtheist: “I’m Sorry” Is Not Enough for the Gay Community

» The Second LGBT General Assembly (Facebook Event) – (Saturday, January 20)

» Creating Change in Minneapolis! It’s not too late to register! – (February 2-6)

» A Night with Robyn Ochs at Bucknell University – (Tuesday, February 15)

» See Peterson at Trinity University in San Antonio, TX (February 28-March 1)

Subscribe to Queer and Queerer in iTunes!

The feed has the 25 most recent episodes; the rest are archived on this page.

If you use a different podcatcher, the Queer and Queerer raw feed can be found here.The feed has the 25 most recent episodes; the rest are archived on this page.
Like us on Facebook for instant updates, new episodes, and discussion!
Follow Zack (@ZackFord) and Peterson (@p2son) on Twitter.
Even though the podcast is hosted on Zack’s blog, please make sure you Like ME on Facebook as well!
Our theme music is “Appalachia” by Machelli. Download his album, “Opus,” on iTunes.

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BOO! What’s funny is before recording, Peterson was going to use a funny Halloweeny voice and Zack wasn’t, but the opposite ended up happening!

We sacrifice watching an episode of Glee to bring you this spooky episode, featuring the terrors of Judge Judy, Hare Krishnas, and peanut butter! Most of the episode is dedicated to discussing the true terror that is the Christian “Hell House.”

Take a listen as Zack goes straight and Peterson goes all Stockholm syndrome in our special Halloween/Day of the Dead episode! Have a safe and happy holiday everyone, and don’t forget to find Zack at the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear this weekend in DC!

The Queer and Queerer Podcast!

Listen to this week’s spooky delicious episode

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

Patty Hearst on the Run

» Extra Listening: This American Life‘s report on Hell House.

»Peterson’s post about his run in with Patty Hearst when she was a fugitive.

» Zack’s reaction to the new Clint Eastwood/Matt Damon film, Hereafter.

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My friend Steve Flower posted the following piece yesterday over on Facebook. I asked if I could share it here, and he said yes. Thanks Steve.

What I wish straight Christians knew…

by Steve Flower

It’s National Coming Out Day – celebrated every October 11th, when gays and lesbians choose to share their orientation as an act of openness and presence in the community.  Around the country today gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered (GLBT) individuals will  make the statement that our community is part of “the greater community,” and is not about to go away.

I am not one to wear rainbow-flag patches, or march in parades – I am not a gay activist by any means. However, I’ve spoken a great deal about my faith journey – and how many aspects of my life have affected that journey. So today, as National Coming-Out Day begins, I’ve been thinking about a blog post I wrote a while back…

A couple years ago, Peterson Toscano (a friend I met through the Gay Christian Network online community) asked the question of fellow GCN members:  As GLBT Christians, what would you want straight Christians to know about your experience and your identity?

There were dozens upon dozens of answers – my fellow GCN’ers spilled a lot of bits-n-bytes on this topic. In responding to that question, I’m going use a lot of what I wrote, but also to steal some of their words – the ones that felt like “they were reading my mail,” so to speak. In their voices, they were definitely “killing me softly with their song…”

I’d like straight Christians to know that I love God as much as I used to before I came out. In some circles, saying I’m gay is tantamount to saying that I’m an infidel – that I’ve turned my back on God. I’d want straight Christians to know that I’ve only made this choice because I believe that I can have both God and my sexual orientation.

Back when I believed that I had to choose, I chose God – which is why I spent so many years hiding in church closets. God is at the heart of my life and I knew that, as integral to my existence as my sexuality is, my relationship with God is even more central. It’s only as I’ve studied the scriptures that I’ve become convinced of this.

I would like people to know that I am the same person I was when I was trying to live a hetero life. The fact that I came out of the closet does not change anything about me – except I am trying to be more honest. I didn’t have to make the choice to either be gay or be a Christian. I am both and I have never felt closer to God than I do now, living an authentic life.

I also am grateful that so far, relatively few of my Christian friends have questioned my faith, nor have many rejected me for coming out. Compared to many, many gay Christians, I have had an extremely positive, affirming experience. I believe that this is because those people love me – whatever the hell I am – and knew my faith, regardless of my orientation. (That may very well end tomorrow, of course – but today, at least, I’m grateful for acceptance.)

I’m very grateful for the man who said I want it to be understood that I never quit taking my faith seriously. It’s been a long and rough road to this point – but God is still very much on the throne, and many people have continued to affirm the call I heard a decade ago to “lay down your nets and and follow.”

I would want straight Christians to know that I didn’t choose this.  The process to come to terms with my orientation has been agonizing and painful.  I was never abused and I had a father who did his very best to have his son turn out right. It wasn’t a choice…no matter what you’ve been told, or by whom. It’s just not. But having acknowledged and accepting that this is how I am, I would not choose otherwise, either…

I would want straight Christians to know that the act of accepting gays isn’t a moral breakdown or a failure of faith on their part. For gays there is a right and wrong way to live just as with straight people, and their is a striving for holiness, and there can be such thing as sexual purity and committed relationships.

I would love straight Christians to know how much I’ve tried to “straight-en out.” How much I’ve prayed to God to make me love football and Baywatch babes. And I’d love them to know how desperately I wish that straight people didn’t need those 5 stylish gay guys to make ugly straight men attractive….so they could come over HERE and work on making ME more attractive! (‘cuz boys, I need some WORK done…)

I’d love the other advisors in the all-guys youth group I advised for years to know that I don’t desire their sons any more than they desire each others’ daughters. I’d want them to know that advising their sons was as much an honor and a privilege for me as it is for them. And I’d want the church to know that there is a vast majority of gay men who are JUST as disgusted by child sexual abuse (regardless of the orientation of the perpetrator) as  church folk are.

I’d love people at church to know that the one thing I’d love to see (almost as much as Jesus himself) is for the church to be as worried about Matthew 25 (the whole sheep-n-goats, feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, visit the prisoners  thing) as they are about Leviticus. Now there would be a real miracle!

I’d love Brian McLaren to write a new book about gay Christian faith based on Acts 10, and call it A New Kind of Gentile. (But I want credit for the title…)

I’d like straight people to know that being gay is not like being a vampire or a werewolf. Not only is it not infectious, but we don’t bite. (In fact, like playful puppies, we only nibble where we know it would be welcome. But in an immense advantage over puppies, we don’t piddle on rugs….)

One of my straight Christian blogging friends asked the question: Sometimes, I get the feeling that “being gay” is the most important thing in a gay person’s life. Is it really that important?

I replied to him that it’s like the red thread in a Tartan-plaid fabric – if it wasn’t there, you’d still have fabric, but it wouldn’t be Tartan-plaid. And, to quote Brendan Fraser’s character from the movie Twilight of the Golds, “Every human being is a tapestry – if you pull one thread, or one undesirable color, then the whole thing falls apart and you end up staring at the walls.”

I think it’s important for straight folks to see is that for homosexuals, the revelation that we are gay puts us at odds with a significant portion of society – friends, family, church, and social structures. In that way, it’s not the most important thing to us – but it can become “a” defining thing, if not “the” defining thing to those we care about.

I guess one thing that I really, really wish I could ask straight people of every flavor is this: when I tell you I’m gay, please don’t automatically assume you know what that means. When I say I’m gay, it does NOT mean I am some flamboyant, club-hopping, drug-taking, promiscuous queen (though God knows that some or all of those things have sounded like a good idea, at various times). Please remember that you are still talking to a human being – not a stereotype.

Once I tell you I’m gay, all that is different about me is that you understand my same-sex attraction. Nothing else has changed. And I’m not telling anyone in order to further some mythical “gay agenda” – I’m telling you so I can be more honest about who I am with you. Being “out,” in many ways, is about “not bearing false witness” – which God himself seemed to think was a good thing.

A final thought: I wish Christians could realize some of the cause-and-effect of why some gay people live the lives they do. Christians look at the drug use, gay bars, and promiscuity and then think that being gay can never be holy – but in reality, the Christian church has to take some responsibility for that. The Church has told the world that God does not love someone if they are gay, and would not want a relationship with them “just as they are.” Because they have been told they must choose between God and being gay (and feel they have no choice about being gay), homosexuals are often led to lives of desperation and depression.

I’m grateful to my fellow GCN’ers for putting into words some of the ideas I’ve expressed here. And I’m grateful to be able to think about these things in context of a loving, caring, accepting God.

If someone comes out to you today, try to see it as an act of courage, of faith and trust in you as a friend. Because that’s what it is.

“We are your sons, your daughters, your mothers, your fathers, your neighbors, your coworkers, your friends. We are here to love – and  we are here to stay.”

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