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Posts Tagged ‘ex-gay survivor’

Sometimes it’s a good thing to be a failure, particularly when one tries to destroy their personality and sexuality (or assist others in destroying theirs.)  The vast majority of people who have attempted to “de-gay” themselves through reparative therapy, straight camps and ex-gay ministries ultimately come out gay. Sadly many of these come out psychologically disheveled and need therapy to recover from the therapy. With stories flying around about George Rekers, a strong proponent of treatments to “cure gays” and legal actions to deny LGBT people rights (all the while using some of his anti-gay earnings to fund European vacations with a gay rent boy while asserting “I am NOT gay!) I thought it might be useful to hear from some folks who took part in some of these failed treatments.

Dr. Jallen Rix is an ex-gay survivor. He has already told his story through his widely read sex column and in the feature length documentary film Fish Can’t Fly. He now has a new book, Ex-Gay No Way! Survival and Recovery from Religious Abuse.

Jallen Rix, as a young Southern Baptist, joined an ex-gay ministry when he discovered his same-sex attractions. Although the ministry did not make him heterosexual, it did manage to destroy any sense of stability and self-esteem.
Ex-Gay No Way is Dr. Rix’s journey through the ex-gay world and what he did in the aftermath to reintegrate positive sexuality with healthy spirituality. Further, he demonstrates that the tactics used in these oppressive environments are many of the same damaging schemes used everywhere in power-abusive religious organizations today.

Jallen along with singer/songwriter Melissa Etheridge will appear on LA Talk Radio today May 14, 2010 from 6-8 PM PST. Check out the Tony Sweet program and learn more. Also check out this video of Jallen talking about his book.

Unlike ex-gay leaders like George Reker’s and others caught out there failing to live a life that they demanded of others, Micheal Bussee, one of the original founders of Exodus International, left the anti-gay ministry and chose to come out with his ministry partner (and then life partner Gary Cooper.) You may remember that Michael was one of three former Exodus officials who issued a public apology in 2007. This apology can serve as a model for people like John Smid, the former director of Love in Action, who has struggled to come up with a clear statement that reveals why he is apologizing and the steps he is taking to undo the damage.

In Michael’s personal apology he issued the same day as the group apology, he talks about the early work of offering “alternatives” to gays, and how it did not work, and more importantly it caused great harm.

I need to say that some had a positive, life-changing experience attending our Bible studies and support groups.  They experienced God’s love and the welcoming fellowship of others who knew the struggle.  There were some real “changes”—but not one of the hundreds of people we counseled became straight.

Instead, many of our clients began to fall apart – sinking deeper into patterns of guilt, anxiety and self-loathing.  Why weren’t they “changing”?  The answers from church leaders made the pain even worse:  “You might not be a real Christian.”  “You don’t have enough faith.”  “You aren’t praying and reading the Bible enough.” “Maybe you have a demon.”  The message always seemed to be:  “You’re not enough.  You’re not trying hard enough.  You don’t have enough faith.”

Some simply dropped out and were never heard from again.  I think they were the lucky ones.  Others became very self-destructive. One young man got drunk and deliberately drove his car into a tree.  Another (a fellow leader of the ex-gay movement) told me that he had left EXODUS and was now going to straight bars – looking for someone to beat him up.  He said the beatings made him feel less guilty – atoning for his sin.  One of my most dedicated clients, Mark, took a razor blade to his genitals, slashed himself repeatedly, and then poured drain-cleaner on the wounds—because after months of celibacy he had a “fall.”

In the midst of all of this, my own faith in the EXODUS movement was crumbling.  No one was really becoming “ex-gay.”  Who were we fooling?  As one current EXODUS leader admitted, we were just “Christians with homosexual tendencies who would rather not have those tendencies.”  By calling ourselves “ex-gay” we were lying to ourselves and to others.  We were hurting people.

Over at the blog Box Turtle Bulletin, ex-gay survivor (in a very sexy This American Life voice) Daniel Gonzales has begun to post a series of short videos where Michael talks about his role in Exodus, his regrets and the terrible things that happened in a ministry that set out to help the struggling homosexual.

In this video Michael talks about the the inherent harm that comes from ex-gay treatment and comments on John Smid’s “apology.” Bussee makes it clear that:

It’s the message that’s destructive, it’s the overall message.

As that message sinks in to your sense of self that you’re damaged, you’re broken, you’re in need of repair… that’s the damage.

There are people that don’t become aware of that damage until years later.

(Transcript here)

In this video Michael talks about what happens after people LEAVE ex-gay treatment and reveals how they never offered any kind of after-care or even checked in to see how people where doing. (Read full transcript here.)

And in this video Michael Bussee, who has known LOTS of ex-gays in his life reveals that NO ONE including the leaders actually changed in spite of what they publicly said. We Were All Still Struggling Silently As We Promised Change (Transcript here)

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Sara, a Facebook friend, suggested I watch the latest episode of the TV program House (Season 6, ep 19 The Choice available in the US at Hulu. It was written by David Hoselton and directed by Juan J. Campanella)

If you have never seen the program, Dr. House and his staff routinely uncover the causes and cures for impossibly sick people with the most obscure ailments. In this episode, the patient, Ted, fell sick on his wedding day at the altar. As the story unfolds we discover that Ted “used to be gay” but changed through treatment prior to meeting his bride.

Throughout the episode Ted experienced a dazzling array of symptoms (loss of voice, fainting, heart attack, stroke like symptoms, severe headaches and even a spell of lactating!) As the medical team put Ted through a series of tests including EKGs, MRIs, HIV test, spinal taps, and a bunch of other things I couldn’t keep track of, Ted’s story unraveled and his fiancee discovered his secrets. Ted had a boyfriend for three years (Cotter), but decided to leave off being gay, so he went to a straight camp. As House called it, Dr. Liberace’s He-man Quackery Camp.  There he received all sorts of treatments including getting pumped up with hormones and Electro-convulsive therapy. House: To zap the fabulous out of him! Run an EKG to see if they straightened him or just scrambled him. Ted felt he was cured although he suffered erectile dysfunction when intimate with Nickie, his bride-to-be. In response Dr. House ordered yet another test, this time to check the vascular flow to the penis. I wonder what the medical bill is for these patients after Dr. House gets done with them.

In the end Ted’s physical symptoms had nothing to do with the ex-gay experiences. Or I don’t think they did. It got complicated. They used the ex-gay story line to share a message about the healthiness of just being yourself and the pain that comes to so many (in this case Ted, Nickie and Cotter). One of the female doctor raised excellent questions about consent, and how unfair it was to Nickie, that she was going to marry a gay man without knowing all the facts. House ultimately pronounced to Ted, “Some things you are born with.” In the end Nickie left Ted as he shouted, “I want to marry you. I need to marry you!”

Surprisingly the episode did not mention religion at all, a conscious choice by the writers I am sure. If they did any research into the ex-gay world, they would have come across a lot of religious materials. They must have decided to go for a secular route and leave God out of it.

When Ted cried out to Nickie, “I need to marry you!” it shot right through me and nearly caused me to cry. Ugh, how many memories that scene brought back for me. For so many years I felt so desperate to be a husband to a woman, to be seen as normal in the world. Like the Ted character I despised the idea of being gay. In my case I wrapped it all up in Jesus and turned my journey to de-gay myself into a noble religious pilgrimage. Sure my faith motivated me, but so many other factors weighed on me, pressured and coerced me. And how much easier my life seemed as a “straight person.” Not that it was any easier internally, but outwardly the world treated me more kindly and with greater respect. I received all sorts of rewards and privileges once I was perceived as straight.

Sadly the straight experiment failed miserably for me hurting lots of people including my wife at the time. It caused me damage–psychological, emotional and spiritual damage. My failed attempts to straighten myself out also caused physical symptoms in the form extreme lower back problems ultimately resulted in a herniated disc. I started ex-gay treatment at age 17. It was about that time that I first started having back problems that lasted until my early 30s. After I accepted the reality that I was gay and began to get therapy to undo the damage of years of conversion therapy, my back problems went away. It’s been over 10 years since my back has gone out.

This episode of House had very little to do with medicine, like most episodes, but more about human lives and relationships. It spoke to the secrets we keep and the hopes we harbor, sometimes irrationally in the face of reason. It portrayed Ted as a tortured soul running from reality. I would not be surprised if we were to see the next few scenes that Ted would still insist that he did not want to be gay and then look for another cure. Hopefully someone like Ted finally comes to his or her senses and realizes that so often it is the anti-gay society that is sick that needs to be fixed and from that well-spring of rejection comes so much pain and confusion. That pain and confusion can be overcome. It doesn’t take a medical breakthrough, rather hard work, a healthy support system and often professional help to undo the damage done through conversion therapy and ex-gay ministry.

If you want to find out about real life ex-gay survivors, check out the Beyond Ex-Gay website where you will find lots of narratives, artwork and articles. Also, take a lot at ex-gay survivor Dr. Jallen Rix’ new book Ex-Gay No Way — Survival and Recovery from Religious Abuse. See Jallen’s video here.

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Zack and I dive into this week’s scandal of Dr. George Rekers of the Family Research Council and NARTH and his hiring of rent boy “Lucien.” How does the media cover ex-gay issues? How does the LGBT community respond to sex work?  Will Lucien be cast aside after the scandal subsides like Mike Jones after Ted Haggard, or will the community support him? We discuss many of the sides of the story that aren’t getting much attention. Also, Zack shares some news from the higher ed job front and Peterson talks about his zaniest summer jobs.

The Queer and Queerer Podcast!

Listen to this week’s episode

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

» Miami New Times: George Rekers Is a Homosexual, Escort Says

» Joe Jervis of Joe.My.God Interviews Lucien

» Miami New Times: Things Rekers Said To Lucien When He Didn’t Think We Were Listening

» For more on ex-gay survivors, check out Beyond Ex-Gay

» Zack’s post on the higher education job search

» TransForm NH (Friday, July 23 – Sunday, July 25)

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The Homo No Mo Halfway House DVD

One of the most exciting features I see among many ex-gay survivors is the many ways we seek to process our experiences through art, be it theater, film, visual art, writing, music, etc. Through the act of writing and then performing my one-man play Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House–How I Survived the Ex-Gay Movement, (now available only on DVD) I grew to understand my story better as both connected with others about their own and communicated to the broader world about the potential dangers of ex-gay therapy (as well as the inherent humor in some ex-gay programs.)

Last June I began a memoir–new genre and in some ways a new story, as I will not only share my time at the Love in Action ex-gay program, but also write much about my failed marriage and the myriad reasons I went ex-gay. I have about 100 pages complete and will work on it throughout the summer. Last week I also began a stint as co-host of a NEW podcast with blogger Zack Ford. It’s called Queer and Queerer, and no doubt I will talk about my sordid ex-gay past along with other LGBTQ issues, religion and higher education.

In 2007 and 2008 Beyond Ex-Gay focused on regional, national and international events. Once we got the movement going with the voices of ex-gay survivors in the media and on-line, we turned our attention toward community and the important question, how can we best support ex-gay survivors as they process their own past experiences and embrace their new lives. In 2009 we created the Beyond Ex-Gay Community site, an on-line social networking site ONLY for ex-gay survivors. Membership has steadily grown, but more importantly ex-gay survivors are sharing their experiences in a venue with other folks who understand the complexity of the ex-gay world, the lure it once held for us, the damage it caused many of us, and the creative and at times challenging ways we have discovered to overcome that trauma while holding onto any good we may have gotten from our time in the ex-gay world. Art has been an important means of recovery for some of us. Christine Bakke and others have done lots of visual art about ex-gay experiences and poets like Scott Tucker have posted their poetry over at the bXg site.

Daniel Gonzales, an ex-gay survivor who has attended most of the Beyond Ex-Gay events in the past three years and whose YouTube video in which he shares his story has had over 130,000 hits, recently sat down with former founder of Exodus International and now ex-gay survivor, Michael Bussee and here shares the first of many to be released videos interviews.

I know of two new works by ex-gay survivors.

NEW BOOK! by Dr. Jallen Rix

Jallen Rix, Ph.D, an active member of Beyond Ex-Gay, who attended the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference in Irvine, CA, the Ex-Gay Exposé in Denver and the recent Anti-Heterosexism Conference in Miami, has published a book called Ex-Gay No Way! Survival and Recovery from Religious Abuse.

Jallen Rix, as a young Southern Baptist, joined an ex-gay ministry when he discovered his same-sex attractions. Although the ministry did not make him heterosexual, it did manage to destroy any sense of stability and self-esteem.

Ex-Gay No Way is Dr. Rix’s journey through the ex-gay world and what he did in the aftermath to reintegrate positive sexuality with healthy spirituality. Further, he demonstrates that the tactics used in these oppressive environments are many of the same damaging schemes used everywhere in power-abusive religious organizations today.

Check out more at his site and order your copy HERE or at Amazon.

Jason T Ingram, who attended and displayed art at the 2008 Deconstructing the Ex-Gay Myth events in Memphis, has created a new one-person, multimedia performance art piece called Identity Thieves which will premiere on April 25th in Seattle, WA. Over at his site Jason has lots of info about the piece including some video.

NEW PERFORMANCE ART by Jason T. Ingram

About three years in the making, Identity Thieves is a multi-media performance piece written and performed by Jason T. Ingram about his five-year journey through the “ex-gay” movement and how he survived. Jason integrates his singing and instrumental live music with background accompaniments and visual projections of stills and film clips. Jason’s goal is to raise awareness about these issues as well as to help others heal from religious abuse and to show that creative expression can be a powerful outlet for growth and recovery. The complete piece without intermission should be just over an hour and may be done with a brief discussion following. Jason’s style is artistic, edgy and uplifting. Some of his music sounds aggressive as well as gentle and most of his works do not resemble church culture, but tries to stay cutting edge

If you are in the Seattle area, check it out.

Living Water Fellowship – 7204 NE 175 ST, Kenmore, WA 98028 – 206-963-0807

What other projects are out there by ex-gay survivors. Please feel free to share your projects with the bXg community, and congratulations to Jallen and Jason!

If you are an ex-gay survivor (someone who attended ex-gay treatment and/or tried on your own to suppress or change your orientation and/or gender differences only to discover that such a change was not necessary, possible or healthy, consider becoming a part of the Beyond Ex-Gay Community.

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Yesterday I arrived in  Tacoma for my week as University of Puget Sound’s Artist in Residence. They comfortably settled me into the Trimble Guest Room, a cozy accommodation replete with imported Chinese rosewood furniture and delicious satiny sheets. Choreographer and dancer Twyla Tharp stayed her in February 2008 when she gave a lecture on campus. I adore Tharp and her work and get a creepy artistic thrill at lying in the same bed that supported her graceful frame.

The producer of my event, Jane Brazell, has organized a series of performances and classroom appearances that will showcase two presentations while also giving me a chance to connect with both theater and religious studies students (and lots of LGBTQ folks).

As I look over the week I am especially pleased about three theater classes I will teach on Tuesday. Often on campuses I teach classes but typically in subjects like Sexuality, Gender Studies, Sociology or Religion. I hardly ever get to do theater classes. You have to understand that in many universities the theater department doesn’t take kindly to a full-time performance artist who circumvents the tradition theater trajectory. But on this trip I will get to present to theater students about the work of a solo artist, the process of character development and the steps I take when building a play.

On Thursday I will also hang out in a Shakespeare class where we will focus on gender and the Bard. When I studied theater at City College in NYC back in the early 1980’s I was most drawn to modern classics by Ibsen, Strinberg, Shaw and O’Neil, mostly the most serious and tragic plays and to Shakespeare. I even got coaching from actress Diane Venora who had just completed her run as the first female Hamlet on Broadway. I wanted to be a SERIOUS actor doing SERIOUS plays. I wanted nothing to do with comedy.

Tonight  at Tacoma’s Rainbow Center I will perform excerpts from my comedy Queer 101–Now I know my gAy,B,Cs. In it I look at homophobia, identity and activism through the words and lives of lesbian and gay poets. I imagine I will also mention my own sordid past of trying desperate to be anything BUT a homosexual. I wholeheartedly believed that gender-normative straight men were more valuable than me, and I did everything in my power (and God’s) to change all that. The process weakened me considerably, but I did live to tell the story and to analyze why someone might spend so much time, money and effort to annihilate a part of themselves.

Tomorrow I will perform on campus Doin Time with Peterson Toscano, a variety show of sorts with performance arts bits mixed it. I give the audience a sampling of excerpts from most of my plays and also perform monologues specifically created for this presentation including my new Rainbow Monologue. I believe Marvin Bloom will also make an appearance and tell his story about his encounter with Samson. (It’s not what goes in your butt that makes you gay; it’s what’s in your heart.) Of course I will also share material from my newest (yet to be premiered) play, I Can See Sarah Palin from my Window! Lessons Before the Second Coming.

Wednesday is the BIG night with a special performance of  Transfigurations–Transgressing Gender in the Bible. It will include “inserts” between scenes when members from the trans community (turns out all male-identified trans people) will take a few minutes to read their poetry or share a moment from their lives. We are celebration Transgender Day of Visibility, and I am very excited to see how these men’s contributions will add to the evening and my performance.

I also get to spend time in a religion class where we will discuss gender non-conforming Bible characters and saints. The professor has done research and presentations around “transvestite Saints.” I imagine I will learn a thing or two.

As some of us met last night to consider the goals, expectations and hopes for the week, a strong and passionate ally to the transgender community made a mistake. We sat together on a couch. She was on my right and turned to the trans man on my left and then called him a female name. I imagine it was his birth name, the first name she learned associated with him. She immediately apologized, and we spoke briefly about how this happens and what we can do when this happens. Often it is an innocent mistake–using the wrong the name or pronoun after having used a different one for a time. Other times it is beyond a mistake, particularly when it seems someone does not try to use the correct name or pronoun and there is an attitude of intolerance coming off of the offender.

In my immediate family we all have long names. My oldest sister is Nardina, but we have always called her Dina. My sister Maria has always been Marie to my parents, and my family and school friends have always known me as Peter. I get that some family and childhood friends don’t call me Peterson. I have never asked them to do so, and I don’t mind because it reminds me of a special intimacy we share. BUT when people I meet today or who write about me on their blogs or in e-mails or in news stories refer to me as Peter, well I feel like they are talking about someone else. I feel like they are being rude. I feel they disrespect me.

What do we do when someone in our community refuses to use the correct name or pronoun? A transgender man in Hartford told me that he had been active in the gay male community for years before he came out to his gay friends as trans. He said suddenly people who ONLY ever knew him as male started screwing up pronouns. He told me how much that hurt, how he felt invalidated, disrespected and unaffirmed by his own community.

What can we do? A passive-agressive side of me (mixed in with my teacher side) wonders if we should give the offender a dose of their own medicine. How about a assign them a new name that is usually used for a different gender? How about I also use some new pronouns. So Chet  becomes Samantha and she is soooo unhappy about it. It might just get the point across. But it may be also practicing a form of violence. I’ll have to think about it.

Last night as we sat on couches together in the tense moment after a person was mis-named, I saw community and relationship at work. These are folks who are on a journey together. They both have transitioned in a public way–one female to male, the other unaware/uninformed lesbian to engaged and passionate ally to transgender people. They trust each other. They can talk. She apologized. He accepted. I suggested, “Hey, maybe every time someone messes up on a name, they have to pay $10. For misplaced pronouns–$5.” (of course the amounts can adjust according to the means of the people involved) From my right to my left $10 passed. Trans Action complete.

I have a good feeling this is going to be an excellent week.

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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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Tarald Stein from Oslo

Next Tuesday my partner Glen Retief and I will both present at an LGBTQ conference in Oslo, Norway–Homo og trans–Meningsløse kategorier?. The theme of the conference is gender and sexuality in a trans-cultural perspective. This event is sponsored by LLH (the National organisation for LGBT rights) Skeiv ungdom (Queer Youth) and Skeivt forum (a forum for Queers within Academia) The conference itself will be funded by the Norwegian ministry of foreign affairs.

As a white South African involved with the Queer Liberation and anti-Apartheid movements, Glen will read an excerpt from his upcoming memoir, The Jack Bank, and recount some of the activism he witnessed and in which he took a part. In addition to doing excerpts from my plays Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House and Queer 101–Now I Know my gAy,B,Cs, I will present a paper entitled The US-Based Ex-Gay Movement: Aggressively Dangerous at Home and Abroad.

I am an ex-gay survivor. I spent 17 years and over 30,000 USD on three continents attempting to suppress and change my orientation and gender-variance through a variety of programs, Christian ministries and therapies. I took part in what is known as the Ex-Gay Movement or Reparative Therapy. Not only did the process prove ineffective—it did not in any way make me any less gay and only temporarily altered my gender presentation—it also proved destructive. In speaking with over 1,500 fellow ex-gay survivors we have outlined nine areas of harm that come from reparative therapy within the context of homophobic and heterosexist societies. Many of us began these potentially harmful treatments through a religious context, but we have since unearthed many non-religious factors that motivated us. Although primarily a product of the USA targeting adults, the modern Ex-Gay Movement has steadily expanded its influence at home and abroad. In the past 20 years they have shifted their focus to include queer and questioning youth in the United States while also exporting their treatments and theories abroad with projects in parts of Asia, Africa, South America and Europe.

In addition to my presentations at the conference, I will perform in Oslo on Monday night at Blitz presenting Doin’ Time with Peterson Toscano. It will serve as a premiere of some new material I have been working on for my newest play I Can See Sarah Palin form my Window! Lessons Before the 2nd Coming.

In an effort to ensure that no American is left behind, comic actor Peterson Toscano presents a zany, thought-provoking and surprising play. Dreams from my Mother meets Going Maverick with a Russian folk-pop interpretive dance thrown in. One actor, five characters & and everything you need to know before Jesus Returns, Palin becomes president or Obama destroys us all!

Next Friday I also present my play Transfigurations–Transgressing Gender in the Bible, a piece that looks at the many gender non-conforming people in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. Turns out some of the most important people in the most important Bible stories were gender variant or gender non-conforming. While I do not believe we should base our laws on the Bible, I have found that discovering and spending time with these Bible characters as well as spending time with transgender people and transsexuals has deepened my faith and my commitment to justice.

Here’s a video where I talk about transgender rights and the reality of gender non-conformists in the Bible.

Before Oslo we spend a day in NYC where I will catch up with my nephew (who is so cool he a room at the New Yorker hotel for his college dorm room) and hopefully get to grab a coffee with fellow performance artist Scott Turner Schofield. Glen and I will also pop into the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) for an exhibition of William Kentridge works, an artist from South Africa, as well as the highly popular Tim Burton exhibit.

Victor Mukasa

From New York we spend the weekend in Paris before heading off to Oslo. I am especially looking forward to worshiping a the Paris Friends Meeting (Quaker) which I have heard about from other Friends who have been there. I wonder what French silence is like… I see lots of good bread and wine in my immediate future. But even with all of the charm and allure of Paris, I am most looking forward to Oslo. I have discovered that when I travel I am most interested in people and food, in that order or better yet together. At the conference I will get to hang out with a new buddy, Tarald Stein, the Norwegian poet and queer/trans activist. 

I’ll also get to meet up with a bunch of other people engaged in justice work including Victor Mukasa who will present on The U.S. Christian Right attack on lesbian, gays, bisexuals and trans persons in Africa: Introduction of the “Anti-homosexuality Bill” in Uganda. Victor spoke in December at the UN about human rights violations against LGBTI people on the continent of Africa. Here is video of that address.

As often happens at conferences like this one, I expect to learn a lot, particularly as one of the primary focuses will be centered on transgender issues and concerns. My first role as an ally is to listen then to listen some more.

And in honor of my French and Norwegian excursion, my Jesus Loves You! tweets will be in French and Norwegian 🙂

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Warren Wilson pedestrian bridge

I successfully completed my third and final week at Warren Wilson College as their first ever Activist in Residence. (Read about Week One and Week Two.) It served as a week to windup a few things and even included a blowout birthday party for me replete with vegan cookies, cupcakes and a giant vegan chocolate layer cake from Rosetta’s Kitchen in Asheville. YUM! Leah McCullough did an AMAZING job of creating spaces for me to do my work and connect with students. I loved checking in with her daily and spending time with her in her office debriefing. I also enjoyed hanging out at the RISE office getting to know the folks there and the head of the RISE Project, Kelly Kelbel, who gave me a handmade notebook with envelopes. I’m using it as a travel journal for the next year. =)

In addition to gaining some weight from vegan treats during my time at WWC, I also gained some new insights and new ideas. The week began with a follow-up meeting to talk about the intersection and complications of sexuality and spirituality. I met with the Emmaus Christian group the week before where we walked through a few exercises to explore the topic, so we needed to debrief and discuss these further. We did this through a Chalk Talk, a wonderful protocol where we have a prompt on a white board or paper on the wall and everyone has a chance to write a word, phrase or draw an image in response. As people add their thoughts others can respond to these, connect ideas, ask and answer questions. The activity is done without speaking and gives participants a chance to see ideas and have them remain in the room. So often in traditional discussions ideas get lsot as the conversation builds, and often only a few share. We then discussed the Chalk Talk together as a group.

From there I dashed over to another building to prep for my show that evening, Doin’ Time with Peterson Toscano, a variety, cabaret, performance art piece of sorts where I do excerpts from most of my plays along with some stories, poems, and other performances. Since the Wilson students are engaged in politics and environmental issues , I did four scenes from my retired play The Re-Education of George W. Bush–No President Left Behind! a political farce. I forgot how much fun it feels to perform this piece and how biting the satire and commentary can be. Looking at the current political landscape, I have begun to conclude that it is time to rework the play with a new title and some new themes then reissue it (like how Disney releases movies from their vault.) I have been toying with titles. Tell me which you like best (or propose one of your own.) The play operates as a series of lessons mostly aimed at progressive liberals (I’m trying to lure that crowd in with a provocative title where they think they will get something they won’t really get but instead get something more necessary) In a way it is a primer for how to be a good American and world citizen taking issues of sexism, racism, skin privilege, oppression of LGBT folks, environmentalist tied into diet, foreign policy and more. Some possible titles

  • Bridge to No Where & Beyond
  • Everything You Should Know before Jesus Returns (or Palin Becomes President)
  • I Can See Sarah Palin from my Window
  • How to Become the World’s Sexiest American in 5 Easy Steps
  • I Can See Sarah Palin from my Window–What You Should Know before Jesus Returns

You get the idea.

The next evening I got to take part in the Queer Circle (a project of the EMPOWER Crew) and led an activity that allowed us to explore and express our multiple identities. Each person got a bunch of post-it notes. On each one they wrote one of their identities (gay, son, vegan, Quaker, New Yorker, etc) They then put the post-its on the wall grouping as they went next to other post-its that they felt where similar to their own (Quaker, Catholic, Wiccan, Jewish.) We carry so many identities that often get lost in LGBTQ circles or church circles or family circles. Later in the week I did this same activity with a Sociology class. The fancy name for the activist is Affinity Protocol.

The next day I joined in for a class that looked at the impact of society on the family. I spoke about homophobia, heterosexism and the Ex-Gay Movement and how all if these affect the family in huge ways. Some of the material I drew from my articles

The negative effects of homophobia and heterosexism on the family are tremendous and tragic. If we want stronger families in our communities, we need to have full liberation and acceptance of LGBTQ people. This way parents do not have to keep secrets, grow distant or worse yet coerce loved ones into dangerous treatments.

I was supposed to leave on the Thursday, but they presented the Vagina Monologues that night and so many people I had gotten to know were it in, I just had to stay an extra day. Have you seen the Vagina Monologues yet? What an amazing and insightful show. I think every guy in America (and beyond) should see it. As a male-bodied, male-identified person, I miss so much of what happens in the lives of women. This play gives a few short sketches of the challenges, the humor, the dangers that come from being women in a world that perpetuates so much violence and oppression against women.

Before the Vagina Monologues though I got to hear Clarissa Sligh speak and share some slides of her amazing work as a photographer and visual artist. Her latest book is entitled Wrongly Bodied: Documenting Transition from Female to Male. As a female-bodied, female-identified person, the lives of transgender and transsexual individuals was foreign to Sligh. I love how she modeled the journey to become an informed ally of trans people.

That same day (full day I know) I led a group of students on a field trip to area Christian bookstores. I think there were five members of the Peace and Justice and the Religious Life crews who joined me as we browsed Christian bookstores first to simply see what they offered. For progressive liberals the Evangelical conservative person becomes objectified and dehumanized in our Tweets and comedy and rants. I thought it would be helpful to explore the bookstores and get a sense of what sort of books and topics are represented. They also had an assignment. When a staff members asks, Can I help you find something? the student replies, Yes, what sort of resources do you have for gay Christians? (or lesbian or transgender or bisexual.)

As I expected nothing outrageous occurred during this exchange. Also as I expected the stores had no LGBTQ-affirming resources. What I did not expect was that they also did not have any overtly anti-gay or ex-gay literature either. This is the FIRST time that has happened. Hmmm, perhaps change is coming. Both of the stores are major national franchises. Some of the students had never been in a Christian bookstore before and were surprised at the affinity they had with some of the topics and merchandise. I nearly bought The Little Princess Devotional Bible (with a genuine plastic pear necklace for a handle!) I did buy a DVD of Veggie Tales: Esther, The Girl Who Became Queen, which I found disappointing and below the standard of most of the Veggie Tales. No surprise but the eunuchs (the hero/sheros of the story) get practically erased and show up in the form of some peas. I couldn’t finish it and left it behind in a hotel room in Chattanooga the next week.

I left campus on the Friday after leading the Affinity Protocol activity on identity for Sociology 101 and headed with my host Roger to Asheville to perform at Jubilee Community, a funky congregation in downtown Asheville. Roger was a wonderful host (we went hiking along the Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway the next day and ate sinfully delicious vegan chocolates) and did a great deal to get the word out about the play, but sadly the turnout was poor and nearly no one from Jubilee attended. I didn’t feel personally hurt by this but offended that this progressive community did not turn out for a transgender-themed event. I attended the early service on Sunday (they have two) and saw well over 250 people there and lots of lesbian couples and some gay men. Someone told me that he heard a few people say they didn’t think they needed to come because the church is so welcoming. Ah, welcoming is not the the same as informed and affirming. I venture to guess that most of the congregants know very little about the lives of transgender people. I realize this issue is not on the radar of most LGB people and LGB-affirming people, but unlike most other issues, it needs to be, especially if we tag on a “T” to the LGB. This is a matter of integrity and justice. That and the non-trans LGB people and LGBT-affirming institutions impoverish themselves by remaining ignorant and unengaged regarding transgender issues and lives. I especially felt for Roger, a non-trans gay man in the congregation who put his heart and soul into putting together an event for his community but did not get proper community support in the end. He got the building, he got permission, he got two or three helpers, but no community. We need to change that.

Scene from Transfigurations

After a weekend in Asheville, I headed with a friend to Cookeville where I spent time with some of the coolest people on the earth at the Hidden Springs Farm and Nursery. Oh the popcorn they serve! From there I went to Chattanooga and did a performance of Transfigurations–Transgressing Gender in the Bible for the Spectrum group and folks from the area. The room was a big challenge–a large old lecture hall that was climatically challenged (This room is too hot. Now it’s too cold. Funny it is never just right,) but it revealed to me once again that theater can and should happened anywhere. The audience grew so still and hushed by the last quarter of the play. It felt sacred.

My last stop was Baltimore where I did a day-long training for the Soulforce Equality Rides. This is a group of college-age folks who are going to Christian colleges to engage in thoughtful discussion around queer, transgender, bisexual, lesbian, gay issues. I spoke about the Ex-Gay Movement and helped them try to unearth the many reasons someone might opt for this choice. So many of the reasons have nothing to do with Jesus or faith. Mixed in with noble intentions can be lots of ignoble things like fear, the desire to fit in and be “normal” and well cowardice. It’s odd because I think it takes someone who is both courageous and a coward to be ex-gay along with a willingness to question reality and attempt to create a new reality. I admire many ex-gays, having been one myself, for the determination to change while also recognizing the complexity that desperation so often brings to the process. I also led a workshop called Slow Dancing with the Enemy–Effective Strategies for Engaging you Opponent. Very much inspired by the groundbreaking work and philosophy of Bonnie Tinker, a lesbian Quaker anti-war, marriage equality activist from Portland (sadly she died this past summer, and I miss her very much.)

Bonnie Tinker

I also performed Transfigurations for the Equality Riders. This group practices radical inclusion in a way that many LGBTQ groups do not. Of the 20+ riders, at least four are trans identified, and they have a nice mix of ethnicity, orientation, background. They serve as a helpful model for other groups that struggle to be diverse in more than name.

Now I am home at last in Central PA with my partner Glen and our two cats Wally and Emma (named after the famous  anarchist Emma Goldman whose important essay on anarchism I got in zine form at Warren Wilson College from a deliciously gender-queer boi bear wonder.) Glen and I just celebrated our 85 birthday (he turns 40 on March 8th and I turned 45 on Feb 17) with friends at a nearby Japanese restaurant. Ah, how rich we are with friends here! What a diverse and eclectic group too! Poet Karla Kelsey was there and religion scholar Carol White and radical rabbi Nina Mandel along with our travel partner to South Africa Jenna Fredricks and her soon to be husband Dave Antoniewicz and other dear folks who celebrated us with kind words and lovely gifts (although we insisted no gifts but hey gifts are fun and Nina’s vegan chocolate was AMAZING–the third vegan cake in this year’s Birthday season.)

Glen and I head out on Friday to present at Homo og trans–Meningsløse kategorier? a conference in Oslo (and where I will do some performances) but first we have a 2.5 day layover in Paris meaning Glen will be in Paris AND Oslo on the same day for his birthday! Hm, I wonder if I can brush up on my French AND learn Norwegian by the weekend 😛

Lots of venues coming up in March and April in Hartford, Providence, Boston, Tacoma and beyond. You can see the full schedule here.

I so valued my time at Warren Wilson but especially time with students, so many who mean a great deal to me–Erin and Zoe and Jamila and Morgan and Renee and Liz and Rey and Leah and Hannan and Michael and Lacey and Ilinca and Sabrina and Laura and Meghen and Robin and Katherine and Brandon and Hillary and Shane and well MANY.

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On a snowy day (one of many since I arrived in Asheville over two weeks ago) as I was about to slip into the campus swimming pool to do my laps, one of the lifeguards say, “Hey, you’re the radical in residence!” Actually my official and quite pretentious title is Activist in Residence.  My most radical achievement that cold and blizzard day was stripping down to my bathing suit and getting into the pool at all.

The Homo No Mo Halfway House

My second week at Warren Wilson College was PACKED (you can read about week one here. ) It included a Religion class discussion about integrity and honesty, particularly in relation to honesty about oneself and one’s identity. I mentioned that as a matter of integrity I still identify as a Christian. It would be dishonest to deny that reality as my faith and practice have been so deeply influenced by the teachings and life of Jesus (as we have it recorded) and my time in various Christian communities. Integrity is an important feature of Quakerism where we have a Testimony of Integrity that has greatly shaped our history and actions.

Advice/Query 37 of Britain Yearly Meetings Faith and Practice (see the whole list here) raises questions and provides guidance for Quakers:

Are you honest and truthful in all you say and do? Do you maintain strict integrity in business transactions and in your dealings with individuals and organisations? Do you use money and information entrusted to you with discretion and responsibility? Taking oaths implies a double standard of truth; in choosing to affirm instead, be aware of the claim to integrity that you are making.

I also took part in a creative non-fiction class where we discussed my piece Lazarus and his Grave Clothes. In addition to provided quotes from John Henson’s delicious version of the New Testament, I weave in the story of Lazarus’s liberation from his grave with my own coming out narrative. I also get to make zombie references! In the class we discussed how we can use existing stories as metaphors for our own experience. Cathy Reid, the professor of the class, explained a super exercise to do this. She said write out a brief narrative of your life. Then write up the details of another story from literature (or I guess history too) that serves as a metaphor for your narrative. Then physically cut up the two narratives and paste them together. Weave the two stories together to construct a personal essay.

I then led the class in a theater game that proved successful last year in a workshop I co-led with Allyson Robinson. I instructed the class to close their eyes and let their minds travel to a character either in their own lives or in literature. Once they settled on one, I then guided then through a process of imagining being that person physically. I had them morph their own bodies to conform to the body of that other person, to explore the character’s physical being. Then I had them stand, walk, talk and eventually interact with others as that character. When it was done we discussed what we discovered about the characters we inhabited and about ourselves.

Last week I also got to share some of the memoir I am writing, including much of a chapter I had never read publicly before called In the Lion’s Den with Only a Tuba. I felt particularly nervous and vulnerable as my voice in memoir is very different from any other voice I use when I tell my story on-line or in my play. I seek to strip away several layers of self. Although humorous in part, I do not seek to make people laugh. The humor comes off more as shocking and revealing creating a deadly serious tone. The 20 or so people assembled seemed to enjoy what I shared, that or they were just being polite.

During the week I also did some BRAND NEW presentations that I hope to share again elsewhere. One was a workshop which I then also did as a lecture later in the week at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC. The topic? Sex & Spirit–a lively look at the intersection of faith and sexuality. In addition to sharing how I developed a personal sexual ethic, I also talked about the Bible, (FUN FACT: Did you know that there is no verse in the Bible that condemns sex before marriage? Also some of the most important Bible characters got rewarded for having multiple sex partners) the proven need to physical intimacy and a probing expose of the sin of Sodom.Grrr.

Another presentation that was well-attended and received covered how to use technology and new media with our work for Social Justice. In Wired for Activism I provided ideas and case studies for how to effectively use Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogs, on-line comments and podcasts for ways to get new allies, inform and engage existing allies, and  organize actions. We also looked at ways we can counter arguments while inserting new language in the public discourse. To make the presentation even that much sweeter, Cale, one of the young activists responsible for organizing a creative and highly effective action in the summer of 2005 in Memphis, was present to talk about the work they around the Love in Action Refuge program and the teens forced to attend this “straight camp” against their will. You can check out this amazing video to see how they used technology to effect real change. (FYI, the young man, Zach, who first alerted his friends of the Refuge program I hear is doing very well in his life today)

I met with a group of male-identified people to discuss porn. Sadly some guys didn’t want to come after they heard the topic. I fear they expected a judgmental, shaming atmosphere. Shame because I wanted to have an open non-judgmental chat about our own personal histories with porn. (When was the first time you viewed porn?) and the purpose(s) it has served or seemed to have served in our lives. (Why do you or have you looked at porn?) For the few men who gathered, we had a thoughtful and fun discussion that got beyond opinion into personal reflection. Always a good place to start.

During the week I also offered a few public presentations that included lots of performance. I offered my lively lecture about ex-gay treatment and reparative therapy. In it I also talked about the nature of abuse, how if we are abused as children it can brand us, mark us with our abusers own shame and shameful behavior resulting in a complicated relationship we maintain with our own bodies and sexuality. In addition, I talked about trauma, and how those of us who have experienced it (be it at the Homo No Mo Halfway House, in our own harms or wherever) that we need to tell our stories with self-care in mind knowing that if we are not careful, we can re-traumatize ourselves. I also traveled off-campus to the UNC Asheville campus to do a variety show of sorts. They laughed, they cried, and it evening got very tender and personal. In this presentation I had some ideas of what I wanted to present, but through audience questions, I allowed myself to be flexible and present scenes that I had not intended to perform.

For the Religious Life and the Peace and Justice crews I led a workshop called, Slow Dancing with the Enemy–Effective Strategies for Engaging Your Opponent. One point I stressed is that when we engage with an “opponent” someone who stands on the other side of a particular issue who we hope to engage in thoughtful discussion leading to deeper understanding of the issues, we need to remember a key point. They will most likely not remember much of what we tell them, but they will also remember how they felt in our presence and how we treated them. If we allow our part of the exchange to be vulnerable, respectful, thoughtful–human–that may do more to influence people than any brilliant talking point we present (not that we should be shoddy in our presentation and facts.)

Peterson Toscano

As I mentioned above, I did go to Greensboro to present at Guilford College, but because of the snow nearly did not make it! On Friday I organized an escape from Witch Mountain, well the Wilson campus, where once the snow started to settled the roads got downright treacherous. I spent the night with friends closer to the bus station, only to find that there were NO buses going out on  Saturday morning. Disregarding the advice from my mother to my child self, I got into a stranger’s car and hitched a ride to Greensboro. It almost seemed as I stepped into a joke after we got to talking about our diverse faith backgrounds–A Conservative Roman Catholic, a Canadian-Egyptian Coptic Christian and a Queer Quaker get into a van together…  I sensed that the two folks in the front of the car viewed LGBTQ issues differently than I did. I actually even felt a pang of panic that once they heard my story and of my identity as a gay man doing a play about transgender Bible characters (which resulting in lively conversation) that they would dump me off at the side of the road. But hospitality trumped attitudes and beliefs that may have arisen from the greater culture wars swirling around us like the snow in the air. I believe we all learned something during that 3 hour+ journey and grew deeper in our understandings of “the other.”

I am certain I have left something out of the many activities of the week, but it is lunch time and Cow Pie Cafe will be serving up some amazing vegan wonder that I must not miss!

Perhaps the best parts of the past week included those one-on-one discussions with folks from Belfast to Birmingham (Alabama that is).  Although I am introverted in many ways (I lose energy and get off-balanced around a lot of people and need to be alone to find myself and my center again) I value and grow enriched by the personal exchanges I am privileged to have with the many people I meet on the road. Each day I learn something new, get challenged in my thinking and my living and see so much beauty and courage in the people around me. All that and vegan treats! I am one happy princess 😀

To get a listing of some of my talk, check out my talks and lively lectures page.
TONIGHT at 8 pm in Canon on the Wilson campus, I will perform Doin’ Time with Peterson Toscano, a variety show with a bunch of excerpts and never before seen material. I may even do a Russian Folk-Pop Interpretive dance!

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If you speak Spanish, check out the Don Francisco Presenta program on Univision tonight (10pm ET/9PM CT) for a discussion about gay repartive therapy that includes a number of guests including me 🙂

Yesterday on Facebook and my Twitter feed I asked the following question:

Have you ever tried to de-gay yourself or suppress your gender differences? Why did you do it? What were the consequences?

Some Twitter answers I received were:

firefaunx @p2son yes. I had trouble w/ both of those. ended up w/ too much drinking, too much weed, too many bad choices. WAY better now.

verycarla @p2son Suppressing my gender differences lead to a lifetime of misery and self-hatred. Hard to unlearn that behaviour now.

kitty_burger @p2son I did because I was scared. I felt like I’d be rejected if I showed people my real face. And it turned me into a mean, lying weasel.

xiomberg @p2son Yes suppressed my gender in middle school lead to deepening clinical depression 2 much drinking & self destructive habits

xiomberg @p2son Years of therapy and nearly killing my marriage to get back to a semblance of health

Without revealing their identities, some of my Facebook friends wrote:

  • i tried to hide the fact that i am ftm for well over a year and i also ended up trying to commit suiside i finaly had to come out and be myself to save my life and coming out did save my life
  • Caleb, same here. Yes. Cause i loved my straight partner. made me suicidal. <_<
  • Oh, yeah… Tomboys not allowed in Catholic school… and I also got shit in my family, even though my then-mom was supposedly a feminist. Ugh.  Also, even to this day, more femme-y women are looked down on in lesbian/queer circles; more butch-ish women are more honored. This makes me sad. :(Apparently I was closeted to myself about my gender identity for quite a while. I’ve been really dealing with issues over the past year, but it’s intensified over the past 4 – 6 months. It was the reason my girlfriend at the time broke up with me, or at least one of the reasons.
  • But right now I’m having a very hard time because when you try to lock that stuff up, pretend like it doesn’t exist, or de-gay or de-trans yourself, it’s only gonna come bursting out all the more loudly when you can’t keep the charade up anymore. It’s just not worth it. Not for the sake of anyone. Sometimes it ultimately comes down to what’s right for YOU and building a support system out of it of people who are willing to accept this newfound real you….
  • I did the opposite- sometime way back when I came to the realisation that I fit into people’s ideas of what a straight man was much more than their idea of what a gay man was. I wasn’t going to change who I am and be nelly when I’m not, or try to supress any masculinity, so I decided to make a conscious effort to never suppress any of my more feminine/”gay” attributes if I had any. this leads to where I am now- people from work/etc that haven’t known me for long are surprised to hear I’m gay while people who are closer and have known me for longer find it hard to believe that anyone could think I’m NOT gay.

I also got an e-mail from a self-identified “Mexican friend” who shared at length some of his journey. He is still in the midst of the coming out process, so he wrote, you can share it but just do not put my name yet-or make a fake one, like Juan, or Pedro, or Chihuahua dog =) Gracias hermano por tu mensaje.

To answer your question about why do people choose ex-gay therapy & what are the consequences? I will say it is one of the most complicated answers I will ever give and one that I am still trying to answer myself.

When you have been raised with the no idea of homosexuality (because it is a taboo) you grew up with the idea of there is something wrong with me but may be will pass and one day I wont ever remembered, or at least nobody talks about it and you will discover this journey by your own means (I am talking knowing I was different while living in Mexico).

The other and most dangerous of any, is when your homosexuality is seen as SIN, or as an ADICTION, or an ILLNESS most of time these definitions of homosexuality are coming from the church of the self-righteousness Christians. Then not only you know you are different, but also you are wrong, you are dirty and YOU DO have a problem.You can not be part of this body of believers until you give up this ugly part of yourself to Christ. There is no way to ever pronounce the word “ACCEPTANCE”, because the moment you do, you will deny the all powerful quality of God.

So in a way you are convinced that your wrongness is part of the devil’s work to destroy the greatest plan God has for your life.So in order to help you overcome this addiction, illness and sin, you go to a cleansing house. A place where you are told that in one moment of your life(may be due to a trauma, or lack of relationship with dad etc) we made the decision to be–judged, criticized, seen as a second class people, some will be killed, laugh about them, tease about them, condemn them, live a life of animosity, a double life full if depression, that is our fault for hurting, our parents, our siblings, our spouses-(who would ever in their right mind decide to live like this)-and a place where we needed to overcome it and become the men and women God always intended for us to be. What I do not understand is if God give us free will, why the word acceptance is never in the vocabulary of the Church of the self-righteousness Christians?

My own consequences of going to an ex-gay ministry was to fell into a cycle of self- destruction, depression, not acceptance, guiltiness, and emotional instability. so my question will be? Is this cycle of emotions, destructions, depression and non-acceptance better than to be homosexual? Is it better to deny who you are and live a pretended life just for the sake of sanity, wholeness and “holiness”?(holiness is not what you do or do not do, but who you are) is it not wholeness the acceptance of who you are in God’s eyes and live like that?

Because for me coming out saved my life, and took me out from this so unhealthy cycle into a search of my true self. I know that finally I am who I am as person, and as a child of God.

Ironically all my family who once considered this a taboo has given me the full support, understanding and love, but I also know that staying in this spiritual journey I will have to face many of the questions, wonders, doubts, and judgments of the members of the self-righteousness Christian Church; but this time I will have my family and friends with me.

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A story has been going around the blogs and hopefully into the mainstream press more and more about an organization disseminating literature that promotes gay to straight therapies (ex-gay) to high school students and their families.

What did some students in Maryland bring home to their families along with their report cards? Oh, just a little literature from Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays, which wanted high school students to know that homosexuality can be cured through therapy. And there’s nothing you can do about it.

Unless you can convince a judge the fliers constitute “hate speech.” That’s because, based on a 2006 court ruling, public school districts are required to distribute, four times a year, any literature from a registered non-profit. Which makes PFOX’s material qualify for mandated distribution. Even if America’s leading psychological groups think such “therapy” isn’t just ineffective, but harmful.

I’ve been staying out of the ex-gay fray for over a year now as my focus has shifted to highlight and challenge the oppression of transgender, transsexual and gender non-conforming people–oppression outrageously practiced by lesbian, gay, bisexual as well as straight non-transgender (cisgender) people.  The work of countering the ex-gay claims and the many ways proponents of ex-gay theories and treatments attempt to insert themselves into society (even contributing to the anti-gay political climate in Uganda with a death penalty legislation for gays) has been expertly carried out by Jim Burroway and his writers at Box Turtle Bulletin, (who have done a stellar job of covering the Uganda story) Mike Airhart and Wayne Besen at Truth Wins Out, the writers over at Ex-Gay Watch, journalists Patrick Strudwick and Adrian Tippetts, scholars like Christine Robinson,   and many other bloggers, activists, and ex-gay survivors who speak out in multiple venues.  So many great minds and hearts have passionately taken on the ex-gay movement. After over eight years focusing on it myself and contributing to the conversation, I feel I can confidently move on to other issues.
Not that I don’t keep my eye on what’s happening and work behind the scenes consulting and working with others in the midst of their activism to help people understand that ex-gay treatment:
  1. Does NOT work (no one really changes from gay to straight–they simply alter their identity and some behavior often by suppressing whole parts of themselves)
  2. Is NOT necessary
  3. In most cases is destructive
These theories and treatments do not arise in a vacuum. We live in a world that regularly insists that it is far more valuable to be heterosexual and gender normative than to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or gender non-conforming. We see institutionalized oppression of non-heterosexuals and gender non-conforming people–oppression that affects every part of society–legal, religious, educational, neighborly oppression of a significant minority 0f the population.
That is what makes PFOX’ actions so outrageous. This is not an ex-gay movement–it is an ANTI-gay movement designed to demonize and destroy homosexuality in the world. It is militant, predatory and grounded in fear and ignorance. That the school district allows this sort of madness (supported by the legal ruling) boggles my mind. This is NOT about free speech at all. This is a matter of public health and safety. It is also a matter of using state and local funds to push religious teachings. These programs are always religious-based, even the ones that parade as secular.  These anti-gay teachings wrapped up in a thin film of love and compassion undermine young people and their sense of self. They also give faulty information and false promises to parents who may then take that information and force their child to pursue an ex-gay course.
For years anti-gay Conservative leaders warned against the Gay Agenda, a shadowy plan by militant homosexual activists designed to snatch up our unsuspecting children in order to recruit and convert them to embrace The Gay Lifestyle.  Seems the real predators are folks over a PFOX and Focus on the Family and other organizations that target youth, their parents, their teachers, their ministers in hopes of infecting them  with psychologically damaging messages and practices.
Teach the Facts has an article up which includes the copy from the PFOX flier that went out to parents along with an analysis of it.
This is not funny any more. Some students are going to get this flyer and believe, for instance, that there really are people out there who have decided not to be gay any more. Amanda Hess at the Washington City Paper advertised for weeks, trying to find one ex-gay person in the DC area, and couldn’t find one. But Montgomery County Public Schools is distributing flyers to thousands of schoolchildren, convincing them that there is an “ex-gay community” that is persecuted and treated unfairly, and making gay students believe that they can stop being gay by hooking up with this pitiful group of hucksters.

The assertions in this flyer are the exact opposite of what the district teaches in its health classes, which are based on current knowledge as it is understood by the major scientific and medical organizations.

Folks there is work to be done in Uganda, London, Washington, DC and in your own village or city.  We each have various areas where we may feel led to do work, to educate ourselves and others. It’s so easy for some of us of a certain class to be lulled to sleep with trips to Target and fun Super Bowl Parties and that project at home, and our lives should be full and rich so that we do not burn out. But we also need to engage. For you it may not be around what’s happening in Uganda, or in Montgomery County, Maryland. It may be about transgender issues or environmental issues or literacy or the disaster in Haiti or the on-going work in New Orleans. The thing is to ask ourselves, in the words of the poet Audre Lorde,
Perhaps … I am the face of one of your fears. Because I am a woman, because I am Black, because I am a lesbian, because I am myself — a Black woman warrior poet doing my work — come to ask you, are you doing yours?”

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Rarely does a narrative capture so many of my passions as the one I read yesterday and wish to share with you today. Having spent 17 years as an ex-gay and then over 10 recovering, then moving into the arena of exploring gender, transgender issues and the Bible all the while dating a dishy South Africa writer, I was so pleased to read a South African, Christina Engela her piece about her own transition along with a reflection of the US-based ex-gay movements affects on South Africa.

Over the past few months a war of words has been raging over the activities of “ex-gay” groups in the USA and around the world wherever they have set up affiliates or branches of their own – including in my own country, South Africa. The ex-gay” movement operates on a purely religious basis and claims solely out of a misinterpretation of religious dogma, that gay (or trans) people can and should either deny their nature – or “change“. They claim all sorts of “studies” and “proof” exist to support their theories, but the truth is that no such evidence exists – and that every reputable medical, scientific and psychological institute, authority or body asserts that “conversion therapy” – IE attempts to change sexual orientation by “ex-gay” industry, is dangerous, risky and harmful to those it affects.

Christina Engela Age 27

All this has prompted me to look back – and inwards, to a time when I was struggling for self-acceptance, and to find my own identity.

The very first thought I can remember which indicated to me that there was something “different” or “abnormal” about me (those are increasingly dangerous and stigmatized words these days) was when I was three years old and sitting on a potty, looking at my genitalia and thinking “that shouldn’t be there”. I am sure it is no coincidence that many of my best ideas since then have also come to me under similar circumstances. *Grin*

I had a t-shirt which was a bit large for me that I used to parade around in at home, that was my “dress”, when I tramped around the flat in – or rather on – my moms shoes. And later I had a pair of pink shorts I loved so much I wore them out in record time!

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