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Posts Tagged ‘ex-gay’

Wow, I feel like I woke up into an alternate reality–a mind bending Inception-like film.  Nothing new for me. I am an ex-gay survivor. I spent 17 years in what is known as the Ex-Gay Movement. As a gay teen I falsely believed I would be more valuable to God, the Church, my family, and my country if I were heterosexual–or at least “less gay.”

So I signed up for string of Exodus programs starting in New York City where I attended support groups nearly every Saturday night for three years. (Exodus International is the group who had an Iphone App that Apple removed after a successful petition pointed out that the app was objectionable and violated Apple’s policies.)

Rejected Exodus Iphone AppAt the NYC ex-gay program they tried to cast out gay demons and insisted, “If any man be in Christ Jesus he is a NEW creation! The old is gone. Behold, all things are made new.” Ultimately I spent over $30,000 on three continents pursuing an elusive cure. The treatments differed from program to program, but the message remained the same. In so many words they taught—“Gays (lesbians and the rest) are immoral. You are broken and need to be fixed. You are sick and need to be healed. We will help you.”

What a surprise when yesterday I read the following statement from one of Exodus’ spokespeople:

“In no way shape or form is our message about trying to cure or do we try to promote that type of methodology or message,” Jeff Buchanan, Exodus International’s Senior Director of Church Equipping & Student Ministries, told The Christian Post.

So I turned to a sexpert, Dr. Jallen Rix, co-facilitator of Beyond Ex-Gay and author of the book Ex-Gay No Way: Survival and Recovery from Religious Abuse. Jallen, was I caught in the Matrix all those years? Is Jeff Buchanan saying that thousands of ex-gay survivors were dupped into believing something Exodus didn’t actually offer?

Jallen shared with me the words of Sean, a fellow survivor interviewed for Jallen’s book,

Living in an isolated area of the country, I relied heavily on the integrity of my group’s literature to help me decide whether or not to join their ministry. I read their promises of “freedom” and “change” with great hope and decided to move to California to join them. Once there I endured months of painful struggle to deny my sexual orientation with no favorable results, and even more disappointing was the fact that no one, no matter how long they had been there, could look me in the eye and say they had really changed. Only then did I realize that the Ex-gay promises were false. Their literature creates an illusion of freedom that does not exist, and they know it.

Jallen adds,

“Cured,” “healed,” “changed,” “heterosexually challenged,” — There’s no end to the lingo ex-gay leadership coins to infer that homosexuals are damaged goods. They’ll find another term as long as heterosexuality remains supreme. All the while, the leadership ignores the harm it causes in their attempts to enforce their views.

Now perhaps Exodus has a communication problem. I know that some of the folks in the organization struggle over words. For instance, they don’t always know what to call themselves—ex-gay, former homosexuals, post-gay, straightish?

Alan Chambers, the head of Exodus since 2001 particularly struggles to get his point across. In the following clip he wrestles with Montel Williams over the words freedom and liberate. He also insists he doesn’t urge youth into ex-gay treatment (yet his number one goal this year is to reach out to middle school and high school programs)

 

 

Only after 15 years of attending a variety of Exodus-member programs, I finally heard one of their leaders admit that actual change in orientation was not a realistic goal. During my first week at the Love in Action ex-gay residential program in Memphis, TN (what would become a two year stint) the director informed us that we would never be heterosexual. Wait! What about the big fat slogan on their website and brochures–Freedom from Homosexuality through Jesus Christ? Turns out it’s just PR. They have a public message and then a private reality.

Still the staff at Love in Action (LIA) insisted that I was malformed, misshappen, sinful, addicted, unwell and desperately needed to be healed; they had the cure. If I endured their therapeutic  program, walked through their steps, spilled my guts, allowed myself to be humiliated, than just like the heterosexually-married former ex-gays who led the program, I too could experience “change.”

And I did. Sadly not the change they promised. In fact, I wished I had been warned that as a result of demonizing my desires and going to war against my sexuality and personality with the weapons that they supplied, I would change into a confused, depressed, self-hating, and suicidal mess. The “cure” was awful. During my time in LIA one client attempted suicide and another, during a psychotic break, was stuffed into a strait jacket and carried out by the police.

If you read Exodus’ literature, attend their conferences, follow their links to organizations they endorse, and buy the books they sell, you will hear over and over again that “there is hope for the homosexual. Change is possible” and similar messages worded in clever, misleading ways. And when they say Change, they don’t mean two 10’s for a 20. They target gays and lesbians weighed down with the burden of a family that rejects or may reject them, a church that says “come as you are—except queer,” and a legal system that consistently values heterosexuals over anyone else. Ripe for the picking Exodus offers hope, a way out—a cure.

I have no idea which Exodus International Jeff Buchanan works for. Perhaps he should review the About Us section of the Exodus site.

Christ offers a healing alternative to those with homosexual tendencies. Exodus upholds redemption for the homosexual person as the process whereby sin’s power is broken, and the individual is freed to know and experience their true identity, as discovered in Christ and His Church. That process includes the freedom to grow into heterosexuality.

Being an ex-gay survivor myself and personally speaking with over 1,500 fellow survivors, I can say that Buchanan is correct on one point—Exodus has no cure to offer. Instead they issue a curse for those who submit or are forced to submit to their teachings. They offer harm—psychological, emotional, and spiritual damage. They tamper with their clients’ relationships, careers, personal development, and finances. They make a mess of our lives in Jesus’ name.

So what exactly does Exodus do? They now publicly admit that no one changes from gay to straight. They claim they don’t offer a cure. They say they don’t therapize. What services do they provide? Basically they will undermine your sense of self as they reinforce the notion that you are not good enough as a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer person. They will demonize your desires, and will not even be satisfied if you choose to be celibate yet insist on honestly calling yourself lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer. To add insult to injury they have fought to deny happy homosexuals and transgender people legal rights and protections. They malign LGBTQ people, our relationships, our desires, our dreams, and then they export this message to Uganda, South Africa, Croatia, Singapore, Costa Rica and beyond.Peterson with his partner, Glen Retief

It took me nearly 20 years to understand that Exodus’ vague promise, “Change is Possible” was false and to discover and embrace that Authenticy and Integrity are possible and well worth pursuing.

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Scene from Transfigurations

In September I met Drew, a fellow ex-gay survivor attending the progressive seminary where I performed my  transgender Bible play. Like me, Drew once enrolled himself into the notorious ex-gay residential program Love in Action (LIA.) What I call the Homo No Mo Halfway House–gay rehab where gays try to get straightened out in Jesus’ name.

Drew attended the program for a time in the late 1980’s when it was housed outside of San Francisco while I spent two years in the program a decade later under a harsher regime in LIA’s new home in Memphis, TN.

As we spoke about our experiences, Drew insisted that his time was far less severe than what I went through. Compared to the rules and madness of the Memphis-based LIA, his was a holiday camp of sorts. At one point in the conversation Drew almost seem to defend the LIA program and staff even though he had since come out gay. I have seen some ex-gay survivors side with ex-gay programs at times when they feel that the media, activists, and other ex-ex-gays paint a dishonest portrait of the programs.

I understand that no two ex-gay programs are alike. One may advocate “casting out homosexual demons” while another would NEVER condone an exorcism and instead uses a bastardized  version of the 12-Steps in hopes of curbing the gayness in clients. The methods may differ, but the primary beliefs are the same–they insist and infer that it is wrong to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, and you must annihilate your sexual orientation, queer identity, and gender differences.

The Homo No Mo Halfway House

Something else these programs have in come is the potential harm they bring to their clients.  Facing that we were harmed and still may suffer from the damage is difficult and painful. It is an acknowledgment of abuse for some of us.

Drew purchased a copy of my DVD Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House, a one-person 90 minute comic exposé of my time in LIA including scenes I reenact of my mom and dad at the now infamous Family and Friends Weekends. (You can see a trailer here)

Yesterday Drew posted a review of my play over on a Facebook note which immediately caught the eye of a famous ex-gay who was once a poster child of the movement until he was caught hanging out at a Washington, DC gay bar. First here is some of Drew’s review:

I watched Peterson Toscano’s Doin’ Time at the Homo Nomo Halfway House tonight. It was difficult to watch, challenging and delightful and heart-rending all at the same time. And although it wasn’t “totally” reflective of “my own” personal experience of Love in Action (mine seemed to be a much “kinder” and “gentler” version when it was in San Rafael, CA under the auspices of Frank Worthen and supported by a small church called the Open Door in comparison and before the ministry was absorbed into a mega-church with lots of fundamentalist money), it really opened my eyes to what the ex-gay movement turned into after I was outcast in the late 80’s/early 90’s, put God on the shelf and swore like Norma Desmond that “if I was going to be a homosexual, then by God, I was going to be a HEALTHY homosexual” (although at the times in my heart I still wondered if that wasn’t a contradiction in terms).

Looking back, and due to Peterson’s marvelously crafted work, I can now see just what kind of bad fruit the seeds of an idea that we witnessed planted in our time (Love in Action 1988) manifested into a ravenous beast sucking the life and joy out of, and even causing the deaths of many of, my brothers and sisters.

-snip-

As Peterson states at the end of the DVD, our stories need to be told and we need spaces, opportunities and platforms to tell them.My prayer tonight is that God would liberate all those who toil under the weight of an oppressive theology that denies them the happiness of an abundant and fulfilling life. Bring them freedom in all aspects of their humanity and in every act and expression of their divinity. May we find ourselves becoming more and more ourselves and more fully responsive to the God within as S/He is manifest. And may we resoundingly give voice to the call of that Spirit to once again return to the garden; naked and unashamed…After all…We are the only expressions of God upon this earth.

Thank you Peterson for having the courage to tell your story.

I am so glad I decided to use art and comedy to tell my story. Good art can move people in so many different ways.

Within the hour a well-known ex-gay chimed in. He has long since lost his position as a national spokesperson, but he comments from time to time about the issue. I was shocked by his comment:

WOW….I had no idea you felt that way, Drew. It’s ironic how you and I went through the exact same program, the same year, led by the same people and our impressions and outcomes ended up so differently. I am happy, content with my life and choices, marriage of almost 20 years, three sons, and a life that is fulfilling and at peace.

I reeled at the hubris and insensitivity of his statement. In response I wrote:

WOW, you sound like the skeptical sibling when a brother or sister admits that a parent had been abusing them throughout childhood. “But I grew up in the exact same home as you?! Look, I turned out okay, and you really need to not be …so hard on dad.” I am sure you are aware that the vast majority of people who attended LIA ultimately came out gay. Many of these had to work hard to recover from the damage done. I will not invalidate your happiness. If you are genuinely happy lving a straight life, great for you. But for the majority of us, such a life was not possible or healthy. The theories and teachings of Exodus programs caused many of us psychological, emotional, and spiritual harm (as well as tampered with our relationships, development, and finances.) My story should not invalidate yours. Neither should you experience invalidate the experiences of the majority of people who claim ex-gay treatment caused more harm than good.

To help deepen the conversation, Anthony Venn-Brown, the excellent LGBTQ rights activist and ex-gay survivor from Australia suggested the famous ex-gay take a look at Anthony’s article about Situational Heterosexuality, which includes a section about homosexuals in heterosexual marriages.

There is lots of news going on right now about the Ex-Gay Movement including a petition for Apple to dump an Exodus International iphone app. Lots of people get confused about the Ex-Gay Movement, and ex-gay leaders do not help. They massage their message for the public so they almost sound like they are doing gays a favor. But they are not. They insist that heterosexuals and heterosexuality are superior to anything else. I argue that they are straight supremacists. And sadly their efforts to “help struggling homosexuals” has mostly hurt us.

Need to laugh? Need to cry? Need to better understand the ex-gay world? Check out Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House for yourself.

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Are programs that tell people they need not be gay simply silly, misguided throwbacks? Surely the media has gotten a lot of mileage out of covering the “ex-gay” phenomenon.  It can be a sexy and entertaining story. But the portrayals of the people who run these programs run counter to the aims and ideology behind the treatments they offer. It’s time to see these “ex-gay” programs for what they are–Straight Supremacist groups.

Two leaders of the Ex-Gay Movement, Alan Chambers and Janet Boynes, recently received a sympathetic treatment on Lisa Ling’s Our America episode Pray Away the Gay? And some have asked, “Why not? It was not a ‘hard’ news story, rather a portrait of overlooked Americans on the fringe.” Hmmm, if it were that simple.

Another story getting buzz has to do with an Apple iphone app. A petition (with over 30,000 signatures) demands that Apple must remove an Apple approved app linking people to Exodus International, the world’s largest ex-gay group which for a long time has claimed people can find freedom from homosexuality through Jesus Christ. Alan Chambers, the man prominently featured in a positive light on the Lisa Ling program, has headed Exodus since 2001.

Why all the fuss? Why not let these folks have their freedom of speech even if what they have to say is wacky, antiquated, and panned by proper medical folks?

In the case of Exodus, here’s why we fuss. For one, we are NOT talking about a freedom of speech issue. Exodus is free to say whatever they want on their blogs and pulpits. No private company like Apple has to use their resources to promote Exodus’ message. Apple has the right to say, no.

Exodus spokespeople  paint themselves in the media as kindly folks who simply want to help those who are unhappy with being gay. They don’t force anyone to do anything against their will. They do not want to interrupt the lives of happy homosexuals who are content with their sexuality or identity. That’s what they say, but that’s not what they mean. They are being wise as serpents and gentle as doves. They are duplicitous.

Exodus is a Straight Supremacist group that believes that heterosexuality, straight marriage, and gender normative behavior are superior to anything lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) people have going on in their lives. At Exodus conferences, in their books, through their many local programs they state that LGBTQ people are inferior to heterosexuals. They say over and over that LGBTQ folks are morally, spiritually, developmentally damaged. Just last week Alan wrote that even celibate gays who still identify as gay “fall short of God’s best.” In fact, he makes it clear that God’s best is for people to be heterosexually partnered, even if they are not heterosexual. They do not seem to consider the needs of a straight person who may well suffersas a result of this union (which is often the case.)

Under Alan Chamber’s leadership of Exodus, the group has made aggressive moves to target young people–in the words anti-gay Christians have often used concerning gays–Exodus has attempted to recruit and convert queer youth to a straight lifestyle. Exodus came under fire in 2005 when their flagship program, Love in Action, began to take teenagers against their will into their youth program, Refuge. A young man by the name of Zack cried out to his friends for help before he was cut off from the world and forced to attend a straight camp.

Under Alan Chamber’s leadership Exodus has taken over the Love One Out conferences, a day long event that assures parents and church youth workers that their queer youth need not stay that way. They offer testimonies of people who claim they have changed, and project photographs of former homosexuals now heterosexually partnered surrounded by spouse and children. They provide false hope and leave out important information–namely that the vast majority of people who attend their programs (70% by Alan Chamber’s own reckoning) find that a straight (or straightish) life is not realistic or healthy to pursue. At Love Won Out they do not mention the psychological, emotional, and spiritual damage many of us experienced as a result of going to war against our sexuality and identity. They do not mention that ever major medical association has denounced reparative therapy and ex-gay treatments saying they do not work and may likely damage those who try them.

And what is Exodus’ big goal for 2011? To reach out to youth in middle school and high school with a message of hope! You don’t have to be bullied for being gay because you can chose the superior identity of being straight. They have a new iphone app in large part to reach out to the younger generation with their straight supremacist message. In essence they say, “The bullies are right. You are a worthless piece of shit, but we can bring value to your life. We can help you leave all that gayness behind and become holy and valuable to the world around you.”

Apple does not find the message of Exodus objectionable. Lisa Ling’s Our America also did not find fault with the message. Perhaps they do not know enough about it. Perhaps they have mostly heard from Exodus which has developed a slick public persona over the years while politically opposing pro-LGBTQ legislation, while trying to eradicate gayness in themselves and the world around them.

Over at Beyond Ex-Gay, the site created by ex-gay survivors, we state,

We believe that ex-gay experiences cause more harm than good. Certain people who currently identify as ex-gay say they are content as such. We don’t seek to invalidate their experience. For us such a lifestyle was not possible or healthy.

If someone like Alan Chambers wants to live a straight life and he is happy with that life, that’s fine. But that he insists that his lifestyle choice is superior to the lives and identities of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer people is objectionable. Perhaps he has not yet allowed himself to meet happy, well-adjusted queer folks. Once we leave his programs and sort ourselves out, he wants nothing to do with us and his discounts our stories. But ultimately this is not about Alan Chambers or even Exodus, it is about a message that gets sent out by churches that make it clear that queer folks are not allowed at a seat at the table unless they conform to the heterosexual, gender-normative pattern of the world around us. In that light, perhaps some can see Alan Chambers as a victim of a system that in turn transforms him into a victimizer of others. And why would Lisa Ling or Apple want any part of that? Why not call it what it is and stop pretending or ignoring reality.

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And why do I care…

Peterson Toscano protesting Love Won Out

For me the Ex-Gay story is a personal one. I spent 17 years, and over $30,000 on three continents attempting to change and suppress my gay orientation and gender differences. I spent much of that time in Exodus programs including two years at the infamous Love in Action residential facility (gay rehab?) in Memphis, TN. Through the years I have met over 1,500 people who have been through these programs and heard first hand the damage their time in these programs has caused. In 2003 I began to tell my story through comedy in the one-person play, Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House, and in 2007 co-founded Beyond Ex-Gay with fellow ex-gay survivor, Christine Bakke. I’m currently writing a memoir about my experiences trying (and failing) to go straight and the many reasons I did it. 

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Crazy week. Over at the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) Lisa Ling provided a view into the world of Exodus International, the world’s largest organization that attempts to…well…not exactly cure homosexuality…basically, they demonize gays and a gay orientation. From having been involved with Exodus programs for almost 20 years, I can say that their goal is to annihilate gayness in themselves, their “clients” and the world around them.

Through what looked more like a PSA for ex-gay programs than actual reporting, Ling asked if it were possible to Pray Away the Gay. Sadly Ling failed to put on her journalistic glasses, and asked all the wrong questions. With faulty vision this episode of Our America with Lisa Ling misinformed the public and overlooked reality. I blogged about it earlier here.

I guess crazy brings out crazy, because Zack Ford and I interviewed “Anthony,” who recently left the heterosexual lifestyle, joined the Metropolitan Community Church, and is now a former heterosexual. Take a listen to Queer and Queerer Ep. 43 Lisa Ling, Our America has Ex-Straights.

Perhaps Apple is trying to bring balance into the world after so much gay cruising through the popular Grndr app (which recently went Android and will soon be available for straight cruising.) That or they just did not do their homework.  Apple currently offers the Exodus International ex-gay/anti-gay iphone app.

Maybe like Lisa Ling, Apple was duped into believing that Exodus simply offers an alternative to wild gay living. Sadly that is the only kind of gays Exodus seems to know about and goes out of their way to paint non-heterosexuals as depraved, sick people. We have had enough of that message. Not only is it incorrect, it is harmful. If Exodus wants to spew that stuff, they have their venues to do so; Apple does not need to give them a larger platform.

A petition that currently has over 19,000 names on it was created by Truth Wins Out. Please take a look and consider signing it. In the following video Wayne Besen explains why the app must go.

To learn more about the plight of the vast majority of people who once signed up for Exodus programs, take a look at Beyond Ex-Gay.

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Recently Lisa Ling misinformed the public through an episode of her new program on the  Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN.) In regards to gay reparative therapy and ex-gay ministries, like many journalists before her, Lisa Ling asked the wrong question– Can You Pray Away the Gay? Instead she should have asked the more essential questions:

  1. Why do people seek to change or repress their sexual orientation?
  2. And at what cost? What potential harm comes to those who attempt to change or repress their sexual orientation?

Exodus International and Alan Chambers admit that genuine change from gay to straight does not happen. People simply change some of their behaviors and change their identities. They still have desires for people of the same-sex, and for most who claim they are ex-gay or former homosexuals, they cannot successfully partner with someone of the opposite sex. Also, according to Exodus, the VAST MAJORITY of people who enroll in these programs ultimately fail and come out gay. What happens to those people? Does Exodus know? Do they care?

Over at Beyond Ex-Gay, the on-line resource for ex-gay survivors, we address the two questions I mention above.  In the article, Why I Went Ex-Gay, I outline the many factors that influenced me in my own failed 17 year quest to de-gay myself. While seeking a “cure,” I believed I was a Christian struggling with homosexuality. I have since unearthed plenty of non-religious reasons for why pursued a course that ultimately brought great harm to my life. In the following video I talk about some of those reasons.

As to the harms that have come to those who have attempted to de-gay myself, they are many and at times devastating. In the article, Ex-Gay Harm–Let Me Count the Ways, I outline nine different areas of harm I have identified after speaking with over 1,000 ex-gay survivors.

  1. Psychological
  2. Emotional
  3. Spiritual
  4. Relational
  5. Financial
  6. Vocational
  7. Developmental
  8. Physical
  9. Sexual

In the article I provide descriptions  of each, and based on the list ex-gay survivors provide specific examples from their own lives.

The other day I presented a workshop called Homo No Mo?!? Orientation, Gender & the Ex-Gay Movement. In preparation I asked  my friends at Facebook,

From your experience and knowledge, what are some of the harms that come from trying to change or suppress sexual orientation or gender identity/expression?

I received over 20 responses within an hour. Below I list some of these:

Shelley As a psychologist and gender therapist, I have seen the damage first hand. Trauma is the most significant. Clients often experience chronic PTSD after receiving “treatment.” Many have difficulty with self-acceptance. Relationships suffer. The guilt is difficult to resolve. The list goes on …

Joseph My first thoughts are the very real and big harms that come when people who are suppressing such things choose to marry, and then, perhaps, have children…..those marriages and parenting relationships are under an incredible incredible amo…

Michael (a former ex-gay leader) Sense of failure, guilt, loss of faith, wasted time…The list goes on and on.

Aaron Suppression ultimately leads to lies. You are forced to lie to yourself or those around in order to feel safe. It’s horrible to feel like you are living a lie. If one can’t live authentically they may start to question. Their entire existence which can/has led to depression and sometimes suicide. Personally, I felt trapped and alone. I even quit going to church because I knew I was living a lie by suppressing the real me.

Mark Compartmentalization leads to lying as a way of life. Not exactly a prescription for good mental health and goes against God’s injunction to not bear false witness.

James I think, in my own experience, it has actually had a detrimental effect on my brain, even though I probably can’t prove it. Compartmentalization of thoughts and memories has become so ingrained that most of my own past feels like it happened to somebody else. Also, it took me a long time to be able to build personal relationships.

Eric Nightmares about burning in Hell for all eternity for looking the wrong way should definitely be at the top of the list.

Sally …from my experience one harm that came from it was in trying to suppress who I was I was unable to be all I was meant to be within the church aswell as outside. I hated myself for who I was, it is only since I have accepted who I am and have begun to love myself that I have been able to be released into serving God with the gifts and calling he gave me.

David We only have one life to live. It should be an authentic and genuine experience. If it’s a false life…what would be the point? Gosh this goes for all sorts of True Self suppression. So sad when people are not who they truly are.

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Lisa Ling attempted to present a human interest story. Sure she presented some positive portrayals of gay folks, even gay Christian folks, but ultimately she ultimately she failed in her public responsibility as a journalist to highlight the risks to health and well-being the religious-based ex-gay programs pose.

In my blog post Outrageous Displays of Ex-Gay Misinformation I write about a misguided radio program that also got the ex-gay story wrong. In the post, I point out the mistakes journalists make when they try to present “both sides of the story.” It’s not that simple and instead of informing  they end up misinforming the public.

Wayne Besen over at Truth Wins Out provides detailed analysis of the Lisa Ling piece. It is well worth watching. Besen reveals that TV program is naive and inaccurate in its presentation of Exodus. He also gives helpful information to journalists who might want to cover Exodus in the future.

Bottom line, Lisa Ling gave loads of airtime to providers and promoters of gay cures and no time at all to the victims of these programs.

 

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I don’t often get heated in media appearances, but when faced with the outrageous, one needs to express outrage. Last night I appeared as one of several guests on Wellness for the REAL World with Dr. Veronica Anderson, an Internet program on Blog Talk Radio. It aired live, and is available on demand here. The topic? When a Straight Couple finds out One is Gay. Here’s the show description:

Former Forbes Magazine writer Kiri Blakeley, author of Can’t Think Straight: A Memoir of Mixed-Up Love, drolly details the emotional fallout after her fiancée announced he was gay. Not wanting to deceive her any longer after a 10-year relationship, he tearfully admitted he’d been questioning his sexuality for the past two years. Dr. Veronica discusses the stages of her emotional journey, and other guests share their own stories when a straight couple discovers one partner is gay. Do they inevitably split? Or do some decide love really does conquer all, and they stay together despite a need for separate sex lives? Other guests include Bonnie Kaye, host of BTR’s Straight Wives, Peterson Toscano, who spent 17 years and $30,000 trying to become straight, and Arthur Goldberg, who runs a service that helps gays become straight.

Kiri Blakeley talked about her 10 year relationship with a man who ultimately came out gay. Bonnie Kaye, who discovered her husband was gay, has also written about that experience. On the show Bonnie spoke pointed out the unnecessary pain and suffering many couples face because of an unworkable marriage pressed on them by homophobia and the imbalanced value society places on heterosexual marriage. Similar to my own story, Joseph Knudson also shared about living as a gay man in a straight relationship.

Arthur Goldberg, co-director of JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality) and a supporter of other anti-gay* groups like People Can Change, also appeared. And this is when I felt outrage. Goldberg was a last minute addition to the program. The producer told me that they wanted to get all sides of the story. That may sound reasonable particularly if the topic is a political issue with opposing opinions, but in the case of gay-to-straight conversion, having guests who represent “both sides of the issue” creates a false dichotomy as if we are looking at two equal sides of an issues.  In this case the sides are reason and madnesshealth and harmsound medical practice versus quakery performed by unlicensed and untrained religiously motivated bigots.

Imagine this scenario. A local school has been rocked with an epidemic of drug abuse resulting in the hospitalization of students because of unknown dangerous chemicals added to the drugs. Parents suffer as their children live at risk of exposure to drug dealers selling a potentially life-threatening substance. A local TV chat program decides to air an episode to highlight the issue. They bring in parents, children directly affected, and a teacher. Then to show all sides of the issue–they also bring on one of the drug dealers to talk about how happy his customers are with his product and allude to studies that suggest that his drugs help people. I don’t think so. For the health and well being of the community and the listeners, a drug dealer selling dangerously laced drugs does not get a public platform to push his junk.

See this is not about “airing all sides.” It is about responsible and accurate reporting. Theories and treatments that suggest it is wrong to be gay and that some sort of “cure” is possible put people at risk of real harm. As the program last night highlighted, one of the risks comes to straight people, particularly women, who marry gay men trying to be straight. The harms to bisexual, gay, lesbian, transgender, and gender non-conforming individuals are great. For this reason the American Psychological Association and ever major medical association have denounced ex-gay treatments.

Arthur Goldberg

After hearing Kiri, Bonnie, and me speak about the real suffering we experienced, the devastating situations we endured, Arthur Goldberg made no reference to any of it. He simply launched into a string of misinformation about supposed studies that prove “thousands of people” have changed their sexual orientation. To add insult to injury, one of the co-hosts asked Goldberg to share in greater detail his faulty theories and practices. After which Arthur Goldberg disingenuously tried to convince the hosts (and perhaps himself) that he was not anti-gay, that he took a neutral stance on the issue all the while explaining that gays are gay because of emotional misshaping.

Broken by ex-gay survivor Jason T. Ingram

Exodus International, the large anti-gay organization just put out a video commercial advertising their Love One Out conference, an event that serves to reinforce the harmful notion to parents and pastors that it is wrong to be gay (or bi, lesbian, or trans) and that gay people can and should change. As Evan Hurst has pointed out, the Exodus ad offers up images of sad homosexuals looking forlorn and tragic. The message they attempt to portray is that being gay sucks. But juxtaposed to the sad queers  they display images of happy homosexuals like Neil Patrick Harris with his partner and their children, and out and proud gay Christian singer Ray Boltz. Exodus undermines its own message. In fact, the message they are inadvertently communicating is that being ex-gay sucks. Trying to suppress your gay side, living to please others, engaging in an inauthentic life filled with self-loathing and violence towards one’s desires result in pain and suffering.

Like Arthur Goldberg in last night’s program, Exodus and its leader, Alan Chambers, have never directly addressed the suffering of the majority of their former clients who experienced harm at the hands of ex-gay ministers and reparative therapists. Even by Exodus’ own rosy estimation, at least 70% of people who go through the doors of their ministries come out gay. The treatment fails.

But what happens to these people? Does Exodus know? Do they care? They do know because we have communicated to them directly and on-line (see Beyond Ex-Gay) about the devastating results of  their “care.” Former Exodus leaders have publicly renounced the work of Exodus and offered apologies.

Renewed by Jason T. Ingram

Many of us have suffered for years needing expensive therapy to undo the faulty treatment we received at the hands of misinformed ministers and counselors. Wasted years, wasted dollars, lost opportunities. Most of us have worked through the pain and confusion and ultimately came out and reclaimed our lives. But it takes work and sadly there are also many casualties that experience the negative psychological, emotional, and spiritual affects of Chamber’s and Goldberg’s teaching for the rest of their lives. With work, proper care, and a willingness to embrace reality, we grow healthy, well-adjusted, and yes, happy–content in being authentic.

Dr. Veronica Anderson and her co-host, Russell Cook failed by bringing Arthur Goldberg onto a program ironically called, Wellness for the REAL World. Fortunately the other guest spoke with clarity, knowledge, and truth. I guess one might say that by hearing the madness of Arthur Goldberg, listeners will only get more convinced that ex-gay treatment is a bad idea. Perhaps, but Goldberg, like Chambers and other dishonest propagandists for the anti-gay religious movement, expertly weave in falsehoods into every sentence. They have been proven unreliable witnesses who do not deserve invitations to public platforms. They have their blogs and conferences to share their message to those with itching ears to hear it. I say leave the rest of us out of it.

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*  “anti-gay” because ex-gay is a misnomer. Really groups like Exodus, JONAH, NARTH, Living Waters, etc seek to annihilate gayness in individuals and in some cases in society by supporting anti-gay legislation. As someone who lived 17 years in that “ex-gay” world and in religious groups that feared gay rights, I understand that the basis of much of the ex-gay theories and practices are really anti-gay.

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I have returned safely home from South Africa (see photos below!) only to find that I was a busy boy on-line while away.  In addition to a video interview, I at last appeared on the Flatus Show for a two part interview.

The Flatus Show!

In Part One Kentie and I chat about my sordid Christian Fundamentalist past and the ex-gay movement including the often unseen reasons why I tried to de-gay myself. Anyone who tells you that they went gay for Jesus is full of shit. I also reveal my sudden flight from Zambia after messing around with guys when I was a missionary. Sodom, Abs,  Focus on the Faggot, tops, bottoms, and so much more. Have a listen here or download from iTunes.

In Part Two I discuss transgender Bible characters, and the complicated feelings I felt (and feel) towards my former wife. Marvin Bloom makes a cameo appearance and trashes me and Kentie. Discover Marvin’s back story and wild gay past. He also dishes about romance with his partner who is a transgender man.  You can listen here or download on iTunes.

Speaking of Marvin, he appears in a video interview conducted by Robin Hankins for Just as I Am. In classic Marvin fashion he sounds crazy, says some profound things, then insults the host. Gay man or creepy gnome? Marvin reveals all. Check him out.

Robin then interviews me via video about my ex-gay past, Beyond Ex-Gay, my performance work. South Africa, and a bunch of other stuff about faith and queer identity. Watch it here.

Apparently South Africa is Gayer than Hollywood, well, at least that is the conclusion Zack Ford and I come to in our most recent Queer and Queerer podcast.

This week we discuss the public perception of LGBT people nationally and globally and particularly in the media. There are a ton of links below that inform our conversation, so check them all out, and of course, enjoy this week’s erotic poem!

Check it out here.

And now some photos from South Africa

Beach Goats. Seals?

Smirking at Cape Point

Mdumbi Village, Transkei Wild Coast

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