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This special episode of the Queer and Queerer podcast was recorded on Saturday, November 6, live at the Soulforce Symposium in Philadelphia! While Peterson I milled about reconnecting with my ex-ex-gay brethren, Zack conducted two interviews.

First up is sexologist and ex-gay survivor Dr. Jallen Rix and he wants you to feel very comfortable with your body! He offers a rational and humorous reflection on how to counter the harm of ex-gay treatment with positive sexuality.

Then, we hear from JMU professor Christine Robinson, who, with her colleague Sue Spivey, has produced some compelling research about the harms of the ex-gay movement. Their most recent publication demonstrates how the tactics of the ex-gay movement constitute four of the five forms of genocide identified by the United Nations.

After these two very different interviews, I rejoin Zack for a brief reflection on the very long day.

Please leave your comments and questions!

Listen here to the Queer and Queerer Podcast!

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

» Check out Soulforce’s website (and YouTube channel) for lots of coverage (and videos) from the symposium.

» Learn more about Jallen Rix’s sexology and his book, Ex-Gay No Way.

» Citation and abstract for “Genocidal Intentions: Social Death and the Ex-Gay Movement” (Spivey & Robinson, 2010).

» The Village Voice’s feature on Dan Choi.

 

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» Our theme music is “Appalachia” by Machelli. Download his album, “Opus,” on iTunes.

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It’s National Coming Out Week, so Zack, Peterson, and guest Marvin Bloom are here to share some coming out stories. Enjoy three unique stories about coming out that don’t quite fit the usual narrative. We also discuss the upcoming NARTH conference in Philadelphia and efforts from Soulforce, Beyond Ex-Gay, and Truth Wins Out to respond to their bunk “science.” Join us in Philadelphia the first weekend in November! Oh, and you get to see what the Queer and Queerer madlib was all about. Thanks for your contributions!

The Queer and Queerer Podcast!


Listen to this week’s episode:

Listen to this week’s episode

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

» Register now for the Soulforce symposium.

» Check out the Lift My Luggage protest!

» Read the APA’s report on reparative therapy.

» Make sure to listen the The Lesbian Mafia and The Flatus Show!

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Later this month Beyond Ex-Gay, the organization I co-founded with Christine Bakke will take part in a the Anti-Heterosexism Conference in West Pal Beach, FL. Along with Soulforce, Box Turtle Bulletin, Truth Wins Out, The National Black Justice Coalition and Equality Florida, we will explore the role of heterosexism in society and in particular as a force that compels individuals to “de-gay” themselves through ex-gay ministries and reparative therapy. (Nov 20-22). On Friday the 20th Beyond Ex-Gay will host a day-long Ex-Gay Survivor gathering for survivors and allies.

People will come together from North America, Europe and Australia to meet for a series of workshops and events led by an array of skilled and informed leaders in the work of equality and understanding of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer issues. My friend Angel and Marc from Barcelona will be there after the successful conference we held in Catalonia in May of 2008. They have an exciting announcement to make about the work that has gone on since that historic gathering.

As people finalize their travel plans and work on the finishing touches to their presentations, I head off to the Pacific North West then to Boston. I will not be at the Anti-Heterosexism Conference. I fully support the gathering and the role that Beyond Ex-Gay has in it. I will not attend because in my own work and recovery from ex-gay treatment, I have moved beyond to the place where other concerns and passions fill my life.

Back in 2008 I retired my play, Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House because after five years of presenting it, I felt the play held me back in my artistic and personal growth. To tell the same story night after night caused me to relive those events over and over. I felt a drain. I put the play on DVD and focused on my newer performances, including Transfigurations–Transgressing Gender in the Bible, a play that explores the stories and lives of transgender and gender-variant Bible characters. How refreshing it felt to tell a different story, a new story!

In the past year my work with the Ex-Gay Survivor Movement has included working directly with survivors who contact us through the Beyond Ex-Gay website as well as meeting people on the road as I travel with my performances and a lively lecture I conduct about the Ex-Gay Movement, Gender and Orientation. At various conferences and universities I have presented this talk to help educate people about the ex-gay experience, the many reasons why someone may chose to “de-gay” themselves and how these reasons are directly connected to issues of power and privilege around gender, class, and race.

My role has also shifted to more of a consultant to other activists who have organized actions in the North America as well as in the UK and Eastern Europe. In dealing with the press I have sought to broaden the types of stories that the media covers regarding the Ex-Gay Movement (including the way it affects women–lesbians, wives and mothers.) I have also connected reporters with ex-gay survivors who had not yet publicly shared their experiences.

When I was invited to take part in the Anti-Heterosexism Conference, I experienced a mixture of feelings–enthusiastic along with a flat sort of feeling that I could not immediately identify. In sitting with the feeling during Quaker worship (we sit in silence for up to an hour giving me loads of time to sift through emotions and decisions) I recognized that my passion had moved towards the lives, needs and rights of transgender and gender queer individuals. I also learned that during the same weekend when ex-gay survivors were going to gather in Florida,  a group of transgender, bisexual, queer folks were going to meet for the Transcending Boundaries Conference in Massachusetts.  I knew that although many of my friends planned to attend the event West Palm Beach, dear friends who I see too rarely, I understood that “my leading” as we say in Quaker circles was to attend Transcending Boundaries.

As soon as I made that decision, I understood that by not attending the Anti-Heterosexism Conference, I opened space for other leaders and potential leaders in the Ex-Gay Survivor Movement to step forward and fill the many spots that I have inhabited during previous gatherings. Christine Bakke has been a brilliant speaker and organizer, so I knew she would do a wonderful job at heading up the ex-gay survivor gathering. With Christine,  Dr. Jallen Rix, an ex-gay survivor with a new book coming out in March, will help facilitate the many activities that we have planned for the event. Daniel Gonzales will be on hand to share some of his experience and expertise.  Jacob Wilson will also be there to help with the press conference and other aspects of the gathering. Author and ex-gay survivor Anthony Venn-Brown will come from Australia along with former ex-gay leader Darlene Bogle from California. A new leader from Toronto will attend  as will a scholar from Virgina who has done extensive research into the ex-gay and ex-gay survivor movements. In other words, the gathering is in good hands.

So I head off to Vancouver today where I will be with youth this weekend from the United Church of Canada. (and I get to celebrate my friend Doris’ 40th birthday!) On November 18 I will take part in the Transgender Day of Remembrance in Seattle, then I head to Portland, OR to perform Transfigurations on November 19 at a United Methodist Church pastored by David Weeklely, who recently publicly announced that he is transgender. I also get to enjoy a long car ride with David and his lovely partner Deborah. The evening of the 19th I take the red-eye flight to Boston in order to get to the East Coast in time for Transcending Boundaries.

Click here to read more about my leading to work on transgender issues and concerns.

Click here to read more about what happens in Quaker meetings.

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Beyond Ex-Gay along with Soulforce, The National Black Justice Coalition, Truth Wins Out, Equality Florida and Box Turtle Bulletin announce that pre-registration for the Anti-Heterosexism Conference (Nov 20-22 in West Palm Springs, FL) is now open!

Wow, that is a mouthful. In addition to the main conference, there will be a pre-conference Ex-Gay Survivor event hosted by Beyond Ex-Gay. Ex-Gay Survivors and allies are welcome to take part in a day of programming designed to better understand ex-gay experiences including the potential damages of gay reparative therapy and strategies for recovery. It will also give ex-gay survivors a chance to connect with each other, share their stories and decide how they can get involved in countering the ex-gay myths in thoughtful and honest ways.

I imagine that someone scanning this blog post or the conference website may get the impression,

“Gee this is all so negative–anti this, ex-gay that, and damage too! Lighten up people!”

The first time I heard the phrase “anti-racist” I was taken aback. I served on the board of True Colors, a Connecticut-based non-profit that advocates and provides services for LGBTIQ youth. The organization worked with many young people of color near cities where institutionalized racism daily undermined the health, well-being and futures of people of color. The organization stated that it was not enough to say that they were inclusive. Racism ran so deep in the very fabric of society, we need to become Anti-racist and maintain that position. It continues to hold a strong anti-racist stance which influences its policies, practices and programming.

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According to the Conference Page:

Heterosexism is the presumption that others are heterosexual and that opposite sex attractions and relationships are preferable and superior to those of the same sex. Heterosexism has been encoded into nearly every major social, religious, cultural, and economic institution in our society and it leads directly to discrimination and the harmful efforts by some health care providers and religious groups to change or repress the sexual orientation of those under their care.
Anti-heterosexism involves recognizing and questioning the power and privileges society confers on heterosexual people because of their sexual orientation. It involves respecting and fostering the inclusivity and diversity of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.

Take a listen to ex-gay survivor Daniel Gonzales (w/his fetching new look. Daniel, I like the chin beard 🙂 ) as he talks about his own experience and the role of heterosexism in pursuing “change” from being gay.

Daniel mentions NARTH and Joseph Nicolosi in his video. NARTH will also hold a conference in the same city the same weekend as the Anti-Heterosexism Conference. No it is not coincidence. The connection between heterosexism and reparative therapy is firm and deeply rooted. It’s not just about faith. It not even just about gay sex. It is about what is considered “valuable” and “normal” and the lengths people will go to adhere to societal demands about orientation and gender presentation.

Jeff Lutes of Soulforce posted an essay today called Let’s All Be “Anti” So No One Else Ever Has To Be “Ex”. Jeff writes,

I believe “change”, “repair”, and “conversion” are indeed possible. Millions of people have changed their minds and now believe that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender citizens deserve full equality under the law. A growing number of churches have repaired their previously broken theology and now welcome and affirm everyone in their congregations. Slowly, the religious denominations that create and enforce church doctrine are undergoing a conversion in their understanding of LGBTQ people (let’s hope the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America undergoes such a conversion this week).

But the only way things change is if you and I are willing to be “anti” so that no one ever again has to be “ex.” Focusing on the work of anti-heterosexism (undoing the notion that straightness is superior and preferable) undermines the toxic belief system that encourages so many to waste thousands of dollars and precious years trying to become “ex-gay” in therapies and programs that end up doing more harm than good.

This is going to be an excellent conference that I believe will bring the discussion about gay reparative therapy and ex-gay ministry to a deeper place–one that cuts through the muck of religious rhetoric and bogus science that is too often used to prop up ex-gay practices. We have seen a lot of aggression over the past 20 years by those who promote and provide ex-gay theories and treatments. We need to press in with an assertive stance. Being “anti” is a positive expression of our commitment to create a world that is safe for LGBTQ people without the fear of someone forcing them into therapy or insisting that they must change to belong.

Check out the Anti-Heterosexism Conference page or the Facebook Event page. Let’s build on the momentum and the surge of informed opposition to treatments and theories designed to fix transgender, bisexual, lesbian and gay people. Let’s come together to support each other in our recovery and to make the public aware of the stories of ex-gay survivors.

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With their current episode Ties that Bind the award winning US public TV program In the Life focuses on issues of faith and sexuality and in particular the Ex-Gay Survivor Movement including footage from the 2007 Ex-Gay Survivor conference and the historic apology from former Exodus leaders.

In the segment they accurately and powerfully connect the religious-based oppression of gays and lesbians with the political movement to deny LGBT people equal rights.

Believing that homosexuals have no place in the Christian Church, ex-gay ministries like EXODUS International promise gay and lesbian people struggling to live within the margins of religious fundamentalism “freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ.”  In its lead-story, “In God We Trusted,” this episode of IN THE LIFE examines evangelical ex-gay ministries that have been established around the country to “re-program” LGBT people into heterosexuals — often with tragic consequences endured by its members: guilt, desperation, even suicide.

The segment features Christne Bakke, Wayne Besen, Mel White, Darlene Bogle, Vincent Cervantes, Daniel Gonzales, Michael Bussee and me. You can view it for yourself on-line.

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Colorado-area and national groups Beyond Ex-GaySoulforce, Truth Wins Out, the Colorado Queer Straight Alliance, PFLAG, the GLBT Center of Colorado, Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, the Religious Society of Friends and more have been working the past few months to organize a public response to this weekend’s NARTH conference.

NARTH=the National Association for the Research and Treatment of Homosexuality–an anti-gay “secular” group that believes that being gay is a sickness that can and should be cured. Wait, have we traveled back in time to the 19th Century???

bxg_exposemastWe have planned a series of events under the banner–Ex-Gay Exposé–Exploring Practices and Harm in Reparative Therapy. As former clients of NARTH and NARTH-inspired ex-gay therapy, we speak directly to destructive nature of theories and therapies designed to change and suppress gay and lesbian orientation and gender differences.

In addition to standing up as public witnesses to counter the false and misleading messages of NARTH, we will meet with ex-gay survivors to explore our ex-gay experiences and look at ways in which we have creatively sought to recover from them and integrate our sexuality as part of our healthy development. We will also convene a team of mental health experts for a summit to consider treatment plans and best practices designed to help ex-gay survivors overcome from the harm we have experienced at the hands of anti-gay practioners.

Lisa M. Diamond, Ph.D., an Associate Professor of Psychology and Gender Studies in the Department of Psychology at the University of Utah, speaks out in this video about how NARTH distorted and misrepresented her work in order to push their anti-gay agenda. (hat tip to Wayne Besen and Truth Wins Out)

Weekend Schedule

Friday, Nov 7th

7pm: Doin’ Time with Peterson Toscano. Well-known ex-gay survivor Peterson Toscano, as seen in The Advocate and LOGO’s “Be Real,” will be on hand to perform excerpts from several plays inspired by his years spent in the ex-gay movement. Location: Our Savior’s Lutheran Church (915 E 9th Ave, Denver. An affirming congregation)

Saturday, Nov 8th

8:45-10am: Rally at NARTH Conference site, Renaissance Hotel (3801 Quebec St, Denver). Meet outside to the south of the hotel.

11-4pm: Ex-Gay Exposé Gathering. Gathering for ex-gay survivors as well as allies who wish to learn more about the ex-gay movement. Location: Moutain View Friends Meeting(2280 S Columbine St, Denver)

6-8pm: Mental Health Professionals workshop, part 1 (What is the ex-gay movement? What are common needs of ex-gay survivors?). Location: GLBT Community Center(1050 Broadway, Denver)

Sunday, Nov 9th

9am-12pm: Mental Health Professionals workshop, part 2 (Exploring best practices for treating ex-gay survivors). Location: GLBT Community Center (1050 Broadway, Denver)

7 pm: Transfigurations: Transgressing Gender in the Bible. Written and performed by Peterson Toscano. Location: Our Savior’s Lutheran Church (915 E 9th Ave, Denver. An affirming congregation).

If you’re interested in attending any of these events, please fill out the information on this signup page and we’ll email you as needed.

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Good Financial News

Okay, we don’t see headlines like that much these days. With the Stock Market falling over 700 points and lots of fear and uncertainty, I feel pleased to report some good news. 🙂

Yuki Choe, a transgender woman in Malaysia has experienced her own financial crash in recent weeks. People have contributed from the US, Malta, the UK and Australia and helped her through the most immediate crisis. She writes on her blog,

I have an unusual feeling today. I suddenly am able to pump some petrol into my car, reload my almost out of credit handphone and fix my two pair of shoes at the cobbler. I also finally went to the clinic to check on the bruising blood clot I got on my right thigh since a month ago.

Now she has the means to get to work and take care of the essentials. She is not out of the woods yet. You can find out details about her story and learn how you can help when you visit her blog. Dollars and Euros stretch a lot farther in Malaysia than they do in the States.

Last week the Soulforce Equality Riders also faced a major crisis. In speaking directly with Jarrett and Katie, the organizers of the rides, I heard first hand out they nearly had to cancel the whole venture when a major donor pulled out in order to put his funds into the election. They also are not out of the woods, but the rides will go forward for now.

According to Ex-Gay Watch (XGW) Liberty University agreed to let the riders come on campus and meet with students. In the comments section at XGW Emily K writes:

What I can understand: That a gay person would share the same kind of conservative Christian beliefs as a straight person, exempting the conservative beliefs regarding homosexuality. However, beliefs on women preaching, abortion, divorce, speaking in tongues, the status of the unbaptized, whether people are “saved” – these beliefs have nothing to do with people’s sexual orientation, and I can understand a gay person taking conservative stances regarding them. I can understand wanting to attend a school that shares these conservative religious stances, to be around people who believed as they do.

What I cannot understand: Attending a school such as Liberty University if one is gay, where such a poisonous attitude toward LGBTQ folks exists.

I think I understand her concerns, but I don’t believe it is that simple. The LGBT folks who attend schools like Liberty do so for many reasons. Some because they want to minister in their churches and get an education recognized by the churches they attend. Without these credentials, the doors close (and when they find out you are LGBT the doors slam in your face!)

When I went to Nyack College, I did so because I wanted to become a missionary AND I didn’t want to have to deal with being gay. The oppression around me rotted me from the inside. I chose Jesus over being gay, or at least I tried. I needed someone to come on campus to help me see through my confusion. Sadly the only people talking about LGBT issues at Nyack when I attended were ex-gays. I needed to hear a different story.

These Equality Riders do so much for the whole community at the school. Mostly straight folks will meet them and hear their presentations. Most of the administration will turn a deaf ear, but these young students, the future leaders of their churches, communities and Christian schools, will get all kinds of new information. They will see Christians who also happen to be transgender, lesbian, bisexual and gay. They will also meet people in the Equality Rides who are not Christian and who have a passion for social justice and morality (something that seemed foreign to me when I went to Nyack College and believed we had the monopoly on morality).

Who knows what LGBT people already exist in the lives of the students who attend schools like Liberty and what LGBT people will pop up in their lives on their jobs, their communities, churches and even in their own families. We need to address the spiritual violence against LGBT people in churches and schools in the US and elsewhere. The Equality Riders get to face that violence head-on and respond in love, truth, non-violence, clarity and sanity. In when that happens, the world changes bit by bit.

To send a donation to the Equality Riders, go to the Soulforce site.

Today I head off to Vancouver, BC. Ooo, I’ve always wanted to visit that city and the surrounding areas and thanks to Doris Kizinna from the United Church of Canada I will be there for a little over a week doing some shows, workshops, etc.

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