Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘gender’

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.

<<———————————————————————>>

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

Read Full Post »

This week, Zack and Peterson welcome to the show Carl Siciliano, founder and executive director of The Ali Forney Center in New York City, which provides shelter for LGBT homeless youth. Since its founding nearly ten years ago, The Ali Forney Center has been on the forefront of addressing the epidemic of homelessness that impacts young LGBT people at absurdly disproportionate rates. Still, in 2011, the center only can offer 57 of the 200 beds available nationwide for the thousands of LGBT youth living on the streets and fights for the funds to provide even that. Carl shares with us the history of the center and the uphill battle to save our community’s young people.

Carl Sicilano

The Queer and Queerer Podcast!

Listen to this week’s episode:

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

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

» This week’s erotic poem: Sublimation Point by Jason Schneiderman.

» Donate to The Ali Forney Center.

» Sign the Change.org petition to protect LGBT homeless youth in NY.

» Read Carl Siciliano’s open letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo.

» Read more stories from LGBT homeless youth in California (PDF).

Read Full Post »

Zack and Peterson are still getting along, don’t worry! This week, after listening to a ranting voicemail from the ineffable Marvin Bloom about Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, they talk about the mysterious concept of “promoting homosexuality.” From the UK’s Section 28 to hands-off bullying policies in United States schools, the idea of erasing gay people from society has been a signature strategy for anti-gay opponents, with deadly consequences. The enshrined invisibility of gay people continues to foster not just homophobia, but gender norms and expectations. Join another rousing conversation with your own comments on the post and on our Facebook wall!

The Queer and Queerer Podcast!

Listen to this week’s episode

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

» Zack’s posts about the DADT decision and recent teen suicides.

» Key findings of GLSEN’s latest climate study.

» Chronicle report on the higher ed climate survey.

» Learn about the UK’s Section 28 law.

» Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation on Amazon.com.

» Check out Peterson’s new play: “I Can See Sarah Palin From My Window,” premiering this weekend in Allentown!

Read Full Post »

So much is happening in ex-gay world I thought I would update folks with some links and excerpts.

Maria M offers an insightful post about bisexuality and the ex-gay industry. For my part I have seen the erasure of bisexual identities by both the Ex-Gay Movement and in the larger LGBTQ “community.” Along with gender policing so prevalent in both worlds, bi people’s experiences are invalidated, ignored and denied by both ex-gay leaders and by many lesbians and gays. Maria M raises the critical question, How would paying attention to bisexuals change the face of the “ex-gay” industry? She writes:

A question I’ve heard asked time and time again is: how do bisexuals figure into this whole “ex-gay” business? You almost never hear about bisexuality in regard to the “conversion” process. It’s all about being gay and going to straight. The“ex-gay” industry mostly acts like bisexuality doesn’t even exist (unfortunately not too different from the rest of society), and mostly talks about “gays and lesbians”. Every once in a while when bisexuality is brought up, it’s often used by both sides to bolster their arguments of “gay people can change” vs. “they can’t change”. I’ve also seen bisexuality mentioned one time when someone was writing about how they thought that some of the “success stories” presented by “ex-gay” organizations were actually bisexuals who just were not acting on their same-sex attractions. I had hoped this would be elaborated on, but that turned out to be the only thing mentioned about bisexuals.

Poz magazine Sept 2010

In its September issue Poz Magazine has included a detailed article, Thou Shalt Fear AIDS, which explores the role the Ex-Gay Movement has had in using of HIV/AIDS epidemic to further its cause with disastrous results.

It’s ironic then, that the ex-gay movement puts everyone—regardless of sexual orientation—at a higher risk of HIV. On the surface, the movement teaches that homosexuality is a choice. But it really pathologizes gay people as threatening the family structure, harboring mental illness, spreading disease and molesting children. And it actively promotes discriminatory laws.

Society responds by denying gay people their civil rights (if it’s a choice, you don’t deserve protections or equality), and by ensuring that schools and federal programs don’t “promote” homosexuality—or basic information about sexual health, including HIV.

All of which fuel the epidemic. It places the LGBT community—and those in ex-gay treatment—in physical and psychological danger.

Trenton Straube interviewed Ex-Gay Survivor, Daniel Gonzales and me for the piece. The article also includes great quotes by Wayne Besen and a historical overview referencing Zach Stark, the 16-year old forced into the Love in Action Refuge program in 2005 and the recent anti-gay legislation in Uganda that was inspired by US promoters of ex-gay treatment. (Over at Box Turtle Bulletin you can see video of some Ugandans’ response to the proposed legislation. )

There’s been lots of buzz about two well-known crusaders who recently publicly announced they are gay. The first is David Yost who played the Blue Power Ranger. Advocate magazine announced that it will publish a long interview with Yost in which he discusses the homophobia he experienced on set and how he ultimately left his career to pursue therapy to straighten himself out. No surprise, that ended badly.

“There were times when I would call prayer hotlines like Joyce Meyers prayer hotline or Pat Robinson’s 700 Club prayer hotline and instead was condemned over the phone.”

Instead of helping, all the prayer ultimately led to a mental breakdown and a five week stay in the hospital — and because his parents didn’t know he was gay at this point, they assumed it was the pressure of having not worked in a while.

Blue Ranger comes out

Yost states that part of his reason for coming out because “he’s tired of hearing stories about teenagers still taking their lives and committing suicide because of who they are and not understanding that there are resources for them to get help.” (see video with Yost telling his story here)

How refreshing to see an Ex-Gay Survivor take responsibility to turn the ugly machine around. I understand why some people disappear to sort themselves out, but it is essential that some ex-gay survivors come forward to tell their stories. This is especially true for those who served as leaders and promoters of this movement that has attempted to eradicate gays, a movement Dr. Christine Robinson reasons is a form of genocide.

Which brings us to the other “crusader” to come out this week, Ken Mehlman, the former GOP/George W. Bush operative who worked tirelessly for the Republicans which employed a staunchly anti-gay strategy in the 2004 and 2006 elections. According to an article in the Atlantic Monthly:

He said that he “really wished” he had come to terms with his sexual orientation earlier, “so I could have worked against [the Federal Marriage Amendment]” and “reached out to the gay community in the way I reached out to African Americans.”
Mehlman is aware that his attempts to justify his past silence will not be adequate for many people. He and his friends say that he is aware that he will no longer control the story about his identity — which will simultaneously expose old wounds, invite Schadenfruede, and legitimize anger among gay rights activists in both parties who did not hide their sexual orientations.
At Truth Wins Out, Wayne Besen offers an analysis of the Atlantic article and raises the question about redemption, particularly for those who have stood in the way of LGBTQ equality and liberation. He also outlines what a path to redemption might look like for Mehlman if he hopes to become a friend and advocate of the LGBTQ he is responsible for harming.

To sumarize, Mehlman has three steps to take before he is warmly welcomed:

1) Repent for past sins
2) Be honest with the LGBT community
3) Work tirelessly to undo the damage and propel the LGBT towards equality

I have seen some former ex-gay leaders walk through these steps and make proper amends. I admire people like Jeremy Marks, Darlene Bogle, Anthony Venn-Brown who have worked for years to undo the damage they caused as Ex-Gay leaders. Others like Michael Bussee have also begun to speak out about the harm of ex-gay treatment.

Warren Throckmorton, who had at one time promoted the idea of change therapy through a video he produced, has begun to be critical of some of the more extreme forms of reparative therapy and ex-gay ministry. As far as I know Dr. Throckmorton still advocates for his own kinder, gentler version of change therapy, albeit one that makes minor attempts to address the reasons people may have conflict with their own sexuality and faith as well as the potential harm of pursuing therapy to alter one’s sexuality to fit into an anti-gay religious context. I have found in the past that Dr. Throckmorton can be defensive about his work and reasonable questions that some of us have raised. As a former oppressor, he needs to understand the suspicions that some of us still feel towards him. His motives and goals are not clear, and while he has been quick to criticize his fellow Evangelicals, he has not provided much critique of his own past efforts. In other words, there is room for redemption.

John Smid & Peterson Toscano LIA graduation March 1998

Perhaps not on the same level as the completely unrepentant ex-gay leaders like Alan Chambers and Randy Thomas, who continue to misinform parents and the public about sexual orientation, bisexuality, transgender issues, “success rates” of change therapies and the potential harm of ex-gay treatments, one oppressor still has a lot of redemption work ahead of him. John Smid, former director of the Love in Action program, recently offered an apology of sorts. Some may see his words as light years from where he was back in 2005 when he justified holding Zach Stark and other teens against their will, but in light of the thorough apologies by his peers followed up by real action, Smid’s words remain hollow and pointless.

The more these ministers of the Gospel realize that the “Ex-Gay Movement” is really an anti-gay movement designed to annihilate anything that does not conform to heterosexuality and gender normative identity and presentation, the quicker they can clear their brains out from all of the smoke and mirrors that keep them oppressed and as oppressors. Heterosexuality and gender normative behavior have their privileges, and these ex-gay leaders have cashed in on these for years through both their salaries and the warm welcome they get from fellow Evangelicals.

Many of us have expended so much energy in denying reality for ourselves and others. Besides a colossal waste of time, these attempts to suppress, contain and alter one’s sexuality almost always prove destructive to oneself and family. I have heard from current ex-gay leaders who feel miserable because they cannot live up to the standards they preach. I know of at least one whotook  his life because he could not conform his sexuality to his chosen religion. I know some stay in limbo because they fear the loss of family, friends, careers. Instead of coming clean, they continue to soldier on, sometimes living a double life or else they end it all tragically. What a world of woe with so many victims.

How grateful to see people like Daniel Gonzales and so many other ex-gay survivors reclaim their lives, challenge their former ways of thinking and find peace and joy in authenticity.

Read Full Post »

Back in December I wrote a blog entry Remembering Jorge While Forgetting What Binds Us, a commentary how some gay activists ignored, misrepresented or actively denied gender variance in the horrific murder of Jorge Steven López in Puerto Rico.  About the case and the reaction from some gay activists, I wrote,

Questions and controversy have abounded as to what Jorge was wearing the night of his murder. Some reports claim the suspected murderer told authorities that Jorge was dressed as a woman. These questions will hopefully be answered during the investigation and trial where we hope Jorge, his family and the queer community in Puerto Rico will see justice done. Respected activists like Pedro Julio Serrano, who has spoken out passionately in the past about transgender inclusion, have gone out of their way to spell out that Jorge was not transgender.  I understand that Jorge did not self-identify as transgender, so it would be inappropriate to assign that identity to him, but I believe that his murder, in part, was the result of transphobia. If at the time of his murder he presented in a gender non-conforming manner (dressed in drag, wearing a wig, etc), than this may well be both yet another horrific transphobic crime and a gay bashing.

Today my friend Abby, a transgender woman living in Arizona reports that Pedro Serrano is once again speaking erasing the role of transphobia in the case. Over at her blog she writes the following:

Pedro Julio Serrano, Communications Manager for The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, is again doing his best to erase the role of transphobia in the murder of Jorge Steven López Mercado in Puerto Rico last fall.  Pedro had this to say in today’s article in EdgeBoston on the run-up to the trial of Jorge’s murderer:

“Jorge Steven’s murder was an eye-opener for a lot of folks on the island and many people who either didn’t think or want to believe that homophobia is pretty much alive and affecting so many people in Puerto Rico,” said Pedro Julio Serrano of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force. “I have never seen such a wide array of support and tangible solidarity in Puerto Rico.”

(All emphasis in the quotes from the article are mine.)  Of course, that didn’t stop Pedro or others from invoking the “T” when it serves their purposes:

“The Jorge Steven López Mercado case has allowed LGBT activists and organizations to shed light to a long-time problem of violent crimes for LGBT individuals in Puerto Rico and the overall United States,” said Jorge Cestou, the Chicago-based co-chair of Unid@s, a national Latino LGBT rights organization.

* * *

Illinois state Rep. María “Toni” Berrios [D-Chicago,] who also traveled to the island with the delegation, conceded she remains unsure whether anything has actually changed in Puerto Rico since the teenager’s death. She added, however, it galvanized LGBT Puerto Ricans.  “Jorge Steven López Mercado’s murder brought together all of the LGBT groups and has made them work even closer together to try to combat hate crimes towards their community,” said Berrios.

* * *

[Ada Conde Vidal, president of the Fundación de Derechos Humanos (Human Rights Foundation,)] was instrumental in the addition of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to the territory’s hate crimes law in 2002, but  authorities have rarely implemented it.

* * *

[New York City Councilmember Melissa] Mark-Viverito, who was born in San Juan, told EDGE there remains “qu[i]te a lot of work to be done” in Puerto Rico, but Serrano stressed López’s murder changed the conversation about LGBT rights on the island.  “It’s no more a debate of whether there is homophobia,” he said. “Now the debate is how we are going to stop it; how are we going to end it. People are more aware of the importance of respecting everyone; regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

It seems that the idea that gay men may be feminine in some way is so distasteful that, while it’s OK to acknowledge that gay men exist in Puerto Rico, the idea that they may not be as “macho” as every other man must be avoided at all costs.  That, of course, does not stop anyone involved from claiming support from the “T” portion of the LGBT community or showing how inclusive they are by mentioning “gender identity” protections in Puerto Rican law. What blatant hypocrisy!

And, yes, it really pisses me off.

Read Full Post »

In this last month I have bopped around the US landing in PA, GA, NC, TN, MD,DC, IL (for a brief layover) and AZ! My body has finally landed home. I expect that like errant luggage, my soul will show up in a day or two just in time for my trip to Indiana starting Friday 🙂

Scene from Transfigurations

Scene from Transfigurations

At the Gay Spirit Visions conference (a spiritual event for male-identified people love men w/out excluding bisexuals) at the opening ceremony we were asked that  since it was the 20th anniversary of the gathering,  each person should think of a word that would describe them 20 years ago and one that describes them today. (22 year old Ryan suggested something like “toddler” for 20 year ago word.) For me words came immediately and stuck while we went from person to person sharing their words. As the talking stick came my way–a delicious phallic number replete with feathers–I said,

20 years ago? Delusional! Today? Mischief. 😛

Yeah, 20 years ago–1989 I was thinking about getting married to a woman. I lived as an ex-gay in New York City trusting God on a daily basis to keep me on the straight and narrow path only to find it to be a slippery slope of confusion, depression and despair.  De-gay myself seemed a noble course at the time and my only option. I deluded myself (society and in particular church leaders colluded with me or I with them) to believe that change from gay to straight was possible and most necessary or else all hell would break loose in my life. Over 10 years later I came to my senses and began to embrace reality and subsequently mental,  emotional and spiritual health.

To recover from years of church-sanctioned psychological torture, I came face to face with various taboos. I remember the first time I took Holy Communion with a group of gay Christians at the Integrity day long retreat in Memphis, TN. I felt certain I sat at the devil’s table and was about to further seal my fate of a life apart from God. I also remember another taboo,  when I intentionally had sex with a guy, my boyfriend at the time, so different from the deluded forays into cruisy parks as an ex-gay when I told myself and others, “Oh, I am just going for a walk in the woodland trails to enjoy the outdoors.” (yeah a regular squirrel searching for nuts!)

In my post-closet life I proclaimed in word and deeds that I rejoiced in the touch of a man and in sharing intimate sexuality with him. I rediscovered my faith and integrated it with the rest of me including my sexual orientation.  I also struggled with finding my way, of developing a moral code of conduct when for so many years my keepers insisted to me  over and over that gays could never live moral, self-controlled, responsible lives. I have had to undo lots of damage.

I came out and out day by day but not just gay. I came out as me–an artist, someone passionate about so many things in the world like veganism, feminism, anti-racist work, mystical spirituality in the tradition of the Quakers and the perfect Massaman curry. I came out artist and activist and ally and much more.  And I still come out. Most recently I encountered the sissy boy I had once been that for too long languished bound and gagged in the closet that once held so many of the parts of me that I have since liberated.

This past month has felt like a leg on what one may call The Magical Mischievous Tour. The stage serves as a faery venue where we enter alternate worlds, transform and dive deep into archetypes and in doing so face parts of ourselves suddenly revealed larger than life and tender as baby skin.

Tonight on my long trip across the country I received a message via Facebook from a man who attended the TransForm Arizona event and attended my performance of Transfigurations–Transgressing Gender in the Bible. (See the GREAT photo above taken by Lori!) In his message he admits that he approached my work with caution,

To be honest, I really mostly avoid the Bible at this point in my life. Partly because of years of conservative Christian cultural influence on my life, and because of my personal history around not fitting into the boxes presented to me. So, it took a lot for me to sit through the beginning of the performance, however I was hopeful.

I imagine many folks, both transgender and cisgender (non-trans) approach my work with similar trepidation and doubts. When it comes to issues of sexuality, gender identity, variance and expression, not only have Christian church folks most often gotten it wrong, they aggressively attack sexual minorities and gender outlaws (as Kate Bornstein calls gender “transgressors”). In many ways I set myself up for derision and rejectionj–a non-transgender person doing a play about transgender Bible stories? Yeah, way to offend EVERYONE!

Instead I perceive I live and move in a magical theatrical space. Together my audience and I create a space where we drink deep from an ancient hidden well. The water is sweet and fresh. With the audience’s permission and participation, we create a magical moment. The man who attended Saturday’s performance wrote,

It was silent, but beyond silence. It was magic, but beyond that. It was a sacred and profound moment.

Magic. But mischievous too–this magic serves to undermine, subvert, and  challenge binaries and the religious-inspired war against all that some people declare perverted and wrong.  As performer and engaged audience we expose the perversion and wrongness of that misguided and costly war. With a few scarves I do mischief, well and with a lot of help from my friends both in the audience and the many transgender people who inform the emotional narrative of my piece. Strange how little opposition I get from some of these anti-queer religious folks who spew so much confusion and ugliness. Perhaps they see a gay guy flitting about on stage slathered with make-up, telling jokes, and they assume they have nothing to worry about.Little do they understand the insurrectionary nature of stories.

After a month of Mischief and Magic, I need to dwell in a more mundane place of laundry, bill paying and dust mites. After absorbing so many stories profound, tragic and triumphant, I need to find myself again, and for a time let the magical mischievous sprite rest a bit too.

Read Full Post »

Ex-Gay Survivor Daniel Gonzales recently visited his childhood church to reflect on the lessons he learned about sexuality, particularly homosexuality and heterosexism, lessons that led him to try and “de-gay” himself.

In this one Daniel talks about the messages he received about gender conformity and giving into peer pressure.

See Daniel’s ex-gay survivor collage here (designed by Christine Bakke)

Here is an ABC news report on Rev. David Weekley, the United Methodist minister in Portland who after decades of living as a man with a transgender history that he kept private, came out to his congregation as a man who transitioned (female to male) many years before. I will perform at the church he pastors in November 🙂 His wife Deborah is a real sweetie too!

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »