Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Exodus International’

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.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

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.

———————————–

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. 

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »