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Posts Tagged ‘exodus’

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

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

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

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

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

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Kirk Andrew Murphy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I once forced myself down that very path.

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

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

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

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

Ex-gay survivor John Holm

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I had the privilege to write a post for Ex-Gay Watch, which has presented news and analysis of ex-gay politics and culture since 2003. They were the first to review my play, Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House, which ultimately led me to some important friends in my life today.

After surveying others like me who tried to go ex-gay or to alter their gender differences, I shared some analysis about the many reasons why someone might choose that route for themselves.

I recently began a discussion with other ex-gay survivors about the reasons they tried to alter their sexuality, gender presentation, or gender identity. To help dig into the question, I prompted them:

Think about the point in time when you began to seek out ex-gay treatment. Then ask: “During that time, if I suddenly woke up the next day 100% heterosexual/gender normative, how would my life be different? How would my relationships be different? How would my future be different? How would my career be different?”

Here is a sampling of what folks had to say to the question, Why did you try to change?

Juli–Guilt. Never cared about god (or believed), but knew my parents would be ashamed and feel responsible (and ashamed for being responsible). Forty years and three marriages, and I still have to remind myself at least once a day they were wrong.

Derek–I was always the “good kid” so the thought of being gay didn’t mesh well with who I felt I was or more what others thought I should be. Faith, family, a desire for what was modeled as normalcy were blanket reasons.

Gail Dickert–I was highly motivated by the fear of hell and the idealism of hetero-supremacy that was proclaimed in my churches and especially in Bible College (Bridal College, as it was referred to by the women in search of their perfect husbands).  [Gail is the author of Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams]

You can read my entire Ex-Gay Watch post here. Others are weighing and sharing their own reasons in the comments section.

Anthony Venn-Brown

Anthony Venn-Brown, an ex-gay survivor from Australia, reminded me through his own comment of a potent incentive that propelled me to seek “change.” The criminality of homosexuality:

simply put…when I was growing up and realised I was gay it meant society viewed me as a pervert, the law said I was a criminal if I acted on it and would be imprisoned, the church said I was an abomination. I didn’t want to be any of these things so this launched me on a 22 year journey to do all I could to change which included a six month live in program, exorcisms, 2 x 40 day fasts and marriage.

Of course nothing actually worked in the end. it was like getting of a stationary bike you’ve been peddling. You are still in the same place.

Had I been growing up today with the new understanding of sexual orientation, change in laws and new understanding of the bible verses……how different my life would be.

Perhaps with informed consent, people today will not make the same mistakes that Anthony, I, and so many others made.

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Dr. Jallen Rix, co-facilitator of Beyond Ex-Gay,  an online resource for people who suffered harm as a result of trying to change and suppress their sexual orientation or gender difference, spent a lot of time listening to former ex-gays. He shares scores of stories in his book Ex-Gay No Way! Survival and Recovery from Religious Abuse.  He recently compiled short but powerful messages from those of us who endured anti-gay therapies and ministries. He writes:

It seems that the Ex-Gay Movement continues to be oblivious to the harm they are causing. Here’s just a few tweets that came in since Friday morning. They reveal some of the harm ex-gay survivors have faced and have had to overcome. Each tweet was tagged #exgaysurvivor

Broken by ex-gay survivor Jason T. Ingram

Whenever I make a mistake, I still fight the voice in my head that tells me it’s because I’m evil and possessed by a demon –  @cylestnichole

After my gay-related exorcism, the only thing that went away was my love for myself –  @vcervantes

My family was deeply wounded by Exodus International staff –  @p2son

Has barely begun to scratch the surface of the ways they have been harmed by their ex-gay past… it is all too painful... –  @never_again4

In ex-gay ministry, I was told if I wasn’t changing to str8t then I wasn’t trying hard enough –  @gaysexpert

The twisted Emotionally Dependent Relationship teaching is an invasive species that digs into the brain. Awful –  @MJaneB65

The thing is, the silent or implied messages were often more insidious than the direct and explicit ones. – @JarredH

I became depressed and suicidal after ex gay therapy. – @jeraskew1

Never would I have considered that there was a problem with the system. I was made to believe I WAS the problem –  @gaysexpert

Being told not to form Emotionally Dependent Relationships kept me in fear of love. http://t.co/97hetHL –  @MJaneB65

It was awful because so often ex-gay leaders blamed ME for not trying hard enough or trusting Jesus –  @p2son

The only time I’ve ever felt separated from God was during my ex-gay experience – @cylestnichole

I was told that if I was gay, God would utterly reject me –  @gaysexpert

God is not the author of confusion, but of love. My time in reparative therapy produced nothing but confusion and hate –  @never_again4

They told me that I had gay demons. Then that abuse made me gay. Then my parents failed. #exgay ministers misled me -@p2son

They told me my “boy” was too much and my “girl” was not enough. I became nothing. @MJaneB65

college sent me to ex-gay therapy & all I got was a hospital bill after trying to kill myself bc they told me I was sick&sinful –  @never_again4

After 10 years of reparative therapy I was hospitalized because I was suicidal –  @MJaneB65

Actual Suicide note: “God would rather have me die now than to live with another gay thought.” –  @gaysexpert

‘Love Won Out’ came to my college. After that, I attempted suicide 3 times within one year. I never told any of my friends –  @cylestnichole

My counselors didn’t believe I existed. And, like Tinkerbell, poison and disbelief almost killed me. I do believe in fairies! –  @connoley

 

Art by Ex-Gay Survivor, Christine Bakke

Do you have experiences of ex-gay harm? Tweet yours by using the hash tag: #exgaysurvivor

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My graduation from Love in Action

I am one of the loudest critics of “ex-gay” groups like Exodus International. You see, like so many others, there was a time I turned to Exodus for help. Weighed down with fear and shame over being gay and a deep desire to please God as I understood God at the time, I heard the bold hopeful promise–Change is Possible! I wanted to be a faithful servant of Jesus, and I did not care about the personal cost if it only meant I could hear my Savior say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” But in the end I was wrong–seriously wrong.

I thought I would be more valuable to God, the church, my family, and society if I rid myself of my “unwanted same-sex desires.” Instead I learned that it was not necessary to change my orientation, nor was it possible. Exodus now agrees with this and publicly announces that they do not offer cures.

Art by Ex-Gay Survivor, Christine Bakke

What I did not count on was the terrible toll it would take trying to change and suppress my orientation and gender differences.  And when it comes to harm, I am not alone. Alan Chambers, head of Exodus since 2001, estimates that his programs have a 70% failure rate (and he is their most enthusiastic spokesperson.) What happens to the 70%+ folks who leave the ex-gay world?

Exodus does not know because virtually no Exodus member ministry or counselor have any sort of follow-up or aftercare. Once you stop attending  they have no clue what is going on in your life.

In an effort to help promoters & providers of ex-gay ministry and reparative therapy learn about our experiences, we began to blog, post narratives, artwork, and articles. We wanted to educate Exodus leaders about the negative consequences of their program (and in churches that insisted we must go to war against our gay side in order to get a seat at the table.)

In 2007 we even went to various program headquarters, individual programs, churches with our stories and framed collages revealing some of our experiences.

Any sort of successful business values any data they can collect on customer satisfaction–particularly from the disgruntled. If nothing else for the pragmatic purpose that they want to improve so they can do more business. How much more is this essential for a group of ministers who want to offer loving pastoral care? Do they care?

But we get no response. No serious consideration of our claims. Like lots of big corporations who dismiss whistle blowers, Exodus International staff and Alan Chambers avoid our claims of harm and invalidate them. They spend energy crying foul about their free speech being denied by Apple yet they block their ears to the vital messages we have to tell them.

Yesterday Alan Chambers embarked on a Twitter good will tour of sorts explaining to people that he is reasonable and willing to listen and take questions. I took him up on this (after tweeting for days about Exodus and raising questions of harm) Through my Twitter account I asked:

@AlanMChambers @ExodusIntl Are you willing to dialogue w/ critics? Former participants?

His replied?

AlanMChambers Alan Chambers
@p2son dialogue is a 2 way. You’ve been to my office, know me personally and yet continue to say things that are untrue & inflammatory.

What has likely inflamed Alan is that I recently pointed out in a blog post and on Twitter that Exodus is not only an anti-gay group. They are also exceedingly pro-straight.

They believe that heterosexual marriage is morally and spiritually superior to two men or two women marrying. They have acted on this politically to block marriage equality. They believe that a gay orientation is condemned by God while a heterosexual orientation is holy in God’s eyes. Alan Chambers believes gay Christians have fallen short yet once a former homosexual takes an anti-gay stance in his life  he is right with God. Exodus teaches and believes that lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender, and queer people are inferior. Therfore, I concluded that Exodus is a straight supremacist organization.

I can see why this might inflame Alan. But surely he can see some truth in what I am saying even if he doesn’t like the language I use.

The other point that I have been making (for years) is the one I stated above. Most of us went to Exodus to improve our lives and faith were HARMED. That may be hard for someone like Alan Chambers to hear, especially if someone genuinely meant to help. For our part, many have taken responsibility to get our lives back on track.

I have spent at least 10 years in therapy undoing the damage of the treatment I received by Exodus ministers and others in the church who insisted I had to suppress or change my gay side and gender-variant expression.

I was not forced to attend Exodus programs like some of the youth in 2005-2007 in the Love in Action Refuge program. I got myself into the mess, so I have been working to get myself out. BUT that does not mean Exodus is free of their responsibility to take our claims seriously, to take stock of what they do and how they do it, and to consider the consequences for the people they say they want so much to help.

Former Ex-Gay Leaders Apologize

Jeremy Marks was head of Exodus Europe and ran an ex-gay program in England. He stayed in touch with former clients and was shocked to learn that his group was not helping anyone. Considering what he heard, he decided that change was indeed possible for his organization and learned how to affirm gays instead of incur further damage as a result of shame and bad teaching. He has since  issued a public apology for the harm he inadvertently caused to his clients.
Exodus leaders claim they simply want to help people who come to them with unwanted same-sex attractions. What they don’t understand is that they are not qualified to do so. For the most part they are untrained and unlicensed. They have a decided prejudice against the desires, relationships, faith, and lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trangender and queer people.

Yet year after year they operate the same way and never ever consider the harm they cause and the ways they can address this harm. They change their language — “We are not ex-gay. We do not cure. We are not anti-gay.” –But they do not change their message or methods. They play the martyr and do not consider their victims.

If you are someone who has been harmed as a result of trying to change or suppress your orientation or gender differences, through a program, counselor, or on your own, we have begun to look at creative ways to recover from this harm. We also connect with each other on a community site as we learn to live new lives of clarity, health, and authenticity. Please join us.

Share your story too on Twitter. Use the hash tag #exgaysurvivor to let Exodus and others know what sort of harm you experienced, what it has taken to recover, and what your life is like today.

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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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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.

——————————————————————————————–

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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