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spring in Cambridge

spring in Cambridge

spring in Cambridge

Sunday morning I took an early train from London to Cambridge (and on the Underground had to navigate through many London Marathon runners wearing nothing but tight spandex. Distracting!)

After attending Quaker Meeting for worship and then lunch with my good friend Esther and her girlfriend (who is adorable and wonderful), I gave a presentation at the Quaker Meeting House,  a highlights show of sorts where I did bits from several of my plays.

Quaker Meeting Houses are not designed for theater (although much theater and drama sometimes occur during our time of worship and especially business meetings), but I like to present there as a way of both in-reach to the meeting about LGBTQ concerns and out-reach to the community in hopes of introducing folks to Quakers (who can be pretty cool).

spring in Cambridge

spring in Cambridge

Last night I spoke at Cambridge University about the Ex-Gay Movement.  Lots of people who know little about the ex-gay experience may assume that it is just something that uneducated and unintelligent people choose to do.

My primary goals were to help the audience members (a packed house by the way!) understand the basics of the very complex ex-gay world and more importantly to comprehend the many different reasons why someone may choose and ex-gay route for themselves. I speak about some of those many reasons here in a YouTube Video.

The whole ex-gay thing may seem utterly illogical and irrational. But many of us who pursued such a course had what seemed highly logical reasons. Many of us were college educated and have at least average intelligence.

spring in Cambridge

spring in Cambridge

Sadly fear, guilt and shame clog the brain making it nearly impossible to think clearly. That with a load of anti-gay messages coming at us from all corners increased the shame and fear. We then found “therapists” who offered “treatment” in Jesus’ name and with what initially sounded like solid science. Many of us folded under the weight of it all and succumbed to a path that kept us running in circles in some cases for years.

tulips in Cambridge

tulips in Cambridge

What surprised me were the number of students at Cambridge who are still fairly closeted about their own sexuality. It seems as I travel to campuses around the US most students are open about their orientation and gender identity with friends, families, church, etc.

From what the students told me here and from what I have heard from both teachers and students on previous trips, seems that secondary schools are really dreadful for LGBTQ students and teachers and children of LGBTQ parents.

With the Gay Straight Alliances we have in the US, it seems that we have a little more to offer. When some of the students heard about these sorts of LGBTQ-affirming organizations in state-run schools in the US, they just marvelled.

spring in Cambridge

spring in Cambridge.

Yes, things are so much better, safer, legally secure for LGBTQ people (especially in the UK), but putting these protections into place, helping people grow in their own understanding, undoing the damage of Section 28 and other laws that silenced teachers and students in school, this will take work to unravel.

As you can tell from my photos, I have been taken by the amazing spring flowers here in Cambridge. I will end this post by posting the most beautiful. (Enjoy Sheria!)

Esther outside her college

Esther outside her college

spring in Cambridge

spring in Cambridge

spring in Cambridge

spring in Cambridge

spring in Cambridge

spring in Cambridge

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I’m sitting here at St. Edmund’s College in Cambridge where I will give a “talk” tonight about my experiences when I spent nearly 20 years attempting to de-gay myself through a variety of therapies and treatments.

Since this weekend’s ex-gay conference and subsequent protest against it, I have heard many British express shock and disbelief. Speaking with my friend Esther today I calculated that I have personally met over 200 people in the UK who have at one point in their lives pursued an ex-gay course either on their own or through ministries or therapy. (And those of you from Great Britain with ex-gay experiences who read this blog please feel free to tell some of your story in the comment section.)

Speaking with five different people who attended Saturday’s protest in from of the Emmanuel Centre, it sounds like the protest was a success in many ways. (check out photos here and a blog account here.) For one there were nearly 150 people who showed up, some of whom had never done any sort of campaigning or activism of this sort before. The lead organizer, Nicolas, confessed that this is the first time he ever organized something like this. He put up a Facebook event page last Tuesday and within four days he assemblied many protesters (including the Sisters of Perptetual Indugence) and lots of press coverage.

Ekklesia, a British religious think tank, had a reporter there who shared what he heard and saw–Christians Protest at Sex and the City,

Over 100 protestors, including both gay and heterosexual Christians, gathered in London on Saturday to demonstrate peacefully against a conference promoting ‘cures’ for lesbian and gay people.

Protestors carrying placards with Bible verses and religious slogans such: “gay and Christian” and quoting Psalm 51 “God desires truth in our inward being” demonstrated peacefully outside the event organised by Anglican Mainstream and CARE at which speakers advocated methods of ‘treating’ homosexuality.

‘Sex & the City’ was billed as a Judaeo-Christian conference “with a special focus on how religious professionals, friends and relatives can respond biblically and pastorally to those struggling with unwanted SSA (same-sex attraction)”. Anglican Mainstream’s website stated: “We are very worried about the continued progress of the gay – and in fact, the LGBT – agenda across the board in the UK. Social, cultural, political and religious sectors are all being targeted and most of them are capitulating.”

What I find exciting and successful about the buildup to the protest and the event itself is that people who previously did not get involved with any form of activism did take action and this put them in contact with people who regularly take a stand on a variety of issues. This sort of community building leads to a stronger LGBTQ community that is engaged in the process of making the world a better place, not just for us, but for all who need justice.

Now that more and more rights and laws favor the lives and welfare of LGBTQ people in the UK (and yes, there is still much work to do in schools, churches and elsewhere) organizations that have traditionally focused exclusively on LGBTQ rights and concerns can now broaden their work to include other areas such as immigration, prison reform, homelessness and such, areas where LGBTQ people are directly affected and often areas other organizations have done long term work, organizations with which we can partner.

Alright off to do final preparation for my presentation tonight. If you want to see where I will be over the next four weeks in the UK, check out my presentation schedule. (I may add a new performance in Lincoln, England soon!)

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On the Eve of a Protest

Tomorrow loads of people (50-100 or more–how many people make a load?) will gather to protest in front of the Emmanuel Centre in London where inside an ex-gay conference is happening.

I actually sat outside of the Emmanuel Centre for about three hours today. Two hours as I waited to meet a journalist stuck in traffic, and then I returned to eat my lunch later in the day. The Centre is directly across the street from the Home Office Building (which has these lovely multi-colored panels on its roof that at about 4:00 washed the Emmanuel Centre in rainbow light).

When I arrived four burly bouncers (I found out later hired just for the event) and a police officer stood at the entrance. I saw a few participants enter, mostly white males in their late 20s-30s. At one point a taxis pulled up with older men with what looked like boxes of literature. All in all it was a quiet scene, but organizers were clearly on high alert.

Having noticed me after I returned, one of the organizers alerted two police officers (their numbers had grown to three ) who came over to check on me. We had a cordial chat about why I was there (eating my lunch at that moment), and they asked me if I knew what was happening inside. I told them, “Oh yes, I lived it.” It was all pleasant as they told me about gay police officers who have a large presence at the annual London Pride. I talked about the ex-gay movement in the US and my two years in the Homo No Mo Halfway House. They laughed and were appalled.

They seemed prepared for the protest tomorrow (two stacks of metal barriers stood across the street from the Centre). They said they only hope it doesn’t get out of hand and that people will be respectful and act with dignity. (code for: we don’t want any trouble here.)

Throughout the day and as I spoke with them I thought about why a protest/action/witness is important. Sure this is a tiny event, and as far as I know the people who attend it are all adults who want to attend it, some of who feel profoundly unhappy with being gay. I guess folks could have just let them have their conference and not make a stink about it. Perhaps if there was not a long history of anti-gay oppression by religious leaders as well as in the mainstream society, we could let this one slide.

The reality is that young people today suffer tremendously at the hands of bullies all around them. In the US  the number one cause of death among queer and questioning youth is suicide. That is not true of their heterosexual counterparts. They get the message that they are not wanted and sadly some take that bitter message to heart and take action.

Sitting there this morning one of the participants came by to say hi. I will not post his name or any other identifier other to say that he was not Bristish but had come from the continent for the conference. He read my blog recently and wanted to meet the human behind the words.

Yeah, there are humans behind the words on both sides. Although many of us feel disgusted with people like Joseph Nicolosi, who has made a career out of trying to straighten out gays and has propagated misguided and faulty theories he got from the British ex-gay counselor Elizabeth Moberly, (theories that directly affected my family in tragic ways), there are more people involved than just these practioners. Along wth the human leaders of this movement are other humans, mostly men, who feel profoundly unhappy about being gay. They have several reasons for this discontent.

One topic came up in our conversation is the desire of this one man to be less passive. He feels it will help him in his work and in his life. That took me back to NYC in the early 1980’s when I attended LIFE ministries. They taught over and over how men need to be assertive and decisive while women had to be submissive and meek. (What a riot whenever a group of us tried to all go to a restaurant together. The women would ask, “So where do you want to go?” aiding the men in our quest to be assertive, while none of us wanted  to be pushy, “really wherever you want to go. I don’t have any preference.” Finally one of the women would explode, “Oh for Xxxxxx sake, let’s go to Dallas BBQ!”)

Of course none of this had to do with us being gay or lesbian. This is about gender and gender roles, gender expectations. It reinforces the heirarchy that exists in the world and the church that insists that men are superior to women. Men rule the roost. This is taught as if it were natural law (hang out with Bonobos to see a different construct in nature!).

Much of the Ex-Gay Movement is an anti-feminine/anti-woman movement. Even their core teaching states that boys become gay when they have an overbearing mother and a passive/absent dad. In other words a strong woman is SO dangerous, she can even alter her son’s sexuality by taking too strong of a role in the house. The message is loud and clear–women stay in your place!

If a man finds that he is a feminized male–because of the ways he talks and walks, his interests, his tastes, etc suddenly he finds that the world around him devalues him (we even see this in the gay world). Sadly because of these negative messages coming at many gay men and effeminate males, they get the idea that they would be more valuable and of greater worth if they were more masculine (based on whatever current model the society has set for what that looks like).

The conversation I had with this man at the conference got me thinkng about the protest tomorrow too. I remember how under siege I felt during my ex-gay years of nearly 20 years. On the one hand I felt I could not possibly be gay, in large part because of my faith in Jesus, but also because of how unacceptable being gay was in so many places in my life. On the other hand I felt that the world around me was changing and becoming and more accepting of gays. People I knew wanted me to just accept myself. They didn’t seem to recognize the desperation I felt, the terror I had that if I were gay and accepted that I was gay that I felt certain I would live a horrible, lonely existence, end up with HIV/AIDS, die and go to hell. I believed that with all my heart, and that belief compelled me to seek out ex-gay treatment in North America, the UK and South America. Ultimately I spent over $30,000 in pursuit of the cure.

Back when I was ex-gay, if I were at a conference and a large crowd gathered to protest it, I would feel under attack. “Why can’t they just leave us alone???” I would notice any outrageous behavior in order to reinforce the assumptions I had that gays were godless and perverted, rude and unreasonable. I would feel invaded and violated. The very voices I was trying to drown out found their way to the very place where I fled to for escape and salvation.

Perhaps some folks inside the conference will feel likewise when they see the protesters outside. They may mistake the reasons why many of us feel the need to stand up as witnesses to what many of us have learned are faulty and even potentially destructive practices.

To those who will gather tomorrow (I can’t be there myself because I will be presenting at a conference during the same time) I understand that you may feel anger towards the organizers of this event. They come with a message that at its heart claims that there is something wrong with us for being gay, a message that we had drummed into our ears since childhood, sometimes by our very family. It’s a cruel and hurtful message. It is a lie.

It’s tempting to take a lifetime of anger and disgust at injustice and use it to fuel a protest against this one group. Tempting but not appropriate and not helpful. This is only one cog in the machine, and many of the people  running the show inside the conference are oppressed by the very system that supports their work (and will only support it as long as they continue to take an anti-gay stance). There are also humans in there desperately believing that there is something wrong with them, hoping for a cure. I am sure many of us can relate to that, even those of us who never went ex-gay.

Those people, fellow gays who have signed up for this conference looking for answers and a way out of being gay, do not deserve our pity or our rage. They deserve and need to see our hearts, our humanity, our diversity. They need to understand that “gay life” does not simply happen at some big loud club somewhere. We come in all shapes and sizes with all sorts of interests, some religious, some not, poets and hikers and gardeners and rugby players and parents and so much more.

Some folks who are attending the conference may feel unhappy with a part of themselves, unable to integrate this gay part of them with the rest of their lives. Railing against them does not serve them or us.

As the protesters gather let’s remember those harmed by violence–physical, verbal, religious violence. Let’s remember those who harmed themselves because they ingested the false message that they were less valuable than their straight neighbor. Let’s remember the misery that many ex-gay survivors  and closeted men and women, in some cases for decades, suffered with a desperate need to feel normal, to feel okay,  a desperation  that drove them seek out a cure.

A few ex-gay leaders gathering to say that some people “changed” and can change does not threaten me or my life. Even if it were possible to alter one’s orientation, which is not the case, I now find that unnecessary for me. I am profoundly happier and healthier today then during those desperate ex-gay years. I never would have imagined it were possible. I never would have dreamed that I could still love and serve God and be gay. I never believed I would see the fruit of the Spirit in my life like I have since I came out. I was walking around in darkness. It took some time for my eyes to adjust to the light.

Have a great protest filled with hope and light, understanding and truth.

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Back in 2005 when I first traveled to the UK with my play Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House, several British people without any ex-gay or ex-ex-gay background responded,

Well,  that’s ever so entertaining, but very American. We don’t have anything like that here.

I admit that ex-gay treatment and conversion therapy is an American export (from the people who brought you McDonalds and a Global Economic crisis) but the Ex-Gay Movement has operated out in the open and under the radar in the UK for years.

According to a recent study, a shocking fact, one in six British psychiatrists and therapists have tried to “cure” patients of homosexuality. That doesn’t even take into account the many Christian counselors, youth pastors, ministers and ex-gay ministries that have attempted to change and suppress orientation and gender differences. Fortunately former ex-gay leader Jeremy Marks changed his Courage ministry into an LGBT-affirming group some years back and has since issued a public apology about his role in promoting and providing ex-gay treatment. (He also has a new book out about his experience)

This weekend a group of American ex-gay practioners will set up shop in the UK at an ex-gay conference held in Central London to share their views about gays (the “sexually broken” to use their words) and offer treatment plans. The event is sponsored by a group called the Anglican Mainstream Organisation (AMO). Slated to speak are Joseph Nicolosi and Jerry Satinover and no doubt others.

In response a grassroots effort has come together to counter the misinformation that gets propagated at these types of conferences and is being organized by Nicolas Chinardet aka Zefrog. According to Nicolas’ blog,

The AMO’s position can, in my view, not be left unchallenged and therefore I and a growing number of others will be protesting this Saturday between 1 and 3pm outside the venue of the conference. We sitll have to make sure of the venue (it was not published on the AMO’s webpage for the event) but it seems that it is going to take place at the Emmanuel Centre, 9-23 Marsham Street, London SW1P 3DW (www.emmanuelcentre.com).

I am thinking of making it a silent, peaceful and dignified protest simply to show these people that they can not just say and do what they want. That we are here, happy with who we are and more importantly vigilant and not willing to be mistreated any longer.

I will be busy with the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement’s annual gathering on Saturday but hope to see about being part of a smaller action on Friday. Read more at the Aimless Ramblings of Zefrog blog. You can join the Facebook Group if you are able to attend.

On Saturday evening I will offer a pro-LGBT message coming from a Biblical perspective at the North London Metropolitan Church ( Saturday April 25, 2009 8pm, Camden URC, Buck Street & Kentish Town Road
Camden Town. FREE!) There is a Facebook event for that (can’t figure out the link) or you can find more details here.

Also on Monday at University of Cambridge I will offer a talk Homo No Mo?!? Orientation, Gender and the Ex-Gay Movement. I will give a similar talk at University of Bradford on Thursday May 12. For full details see my performance schedule.

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Lass week Omar Hassan, a writer in the UK,  contacted me with some questions about my ex-gay experiences for an article that appeared in today’s Pink News. I imagine the article came about in response to the news that an ex-gay conference will be held in Central London this weekend.

I especially appreciate Hassan’s questions that help get to some of the deeper issues.  I have posted the questions here for other ex-gay survivors to consider answering for themselves in the comment section or on your blog (or both!) Feel free to answer any one, some, or all.

Questions:
1) Did you find reparative therapy useful? Why or why not?
2) Why were/are you trying to rid yourself of homosexual tendencies? Is it because of personal, social, religious or cultural beliefs?
3) Do you believe that homosexuality should be frowned upon, or is it something that you simply did not want to be a part of?
4) Has the therapy altered your sexual orientation? If so, have you had or are you in a relationship with a female?
5) Can you divulge some of the therapeutic practices that were used on you?
6) Why did you spent so many years in EX gay programs?
7) Do you have any final words or comments that you would like to express to Pink News readers?

My answer to the last question didn’t make it into the final piece, so I will post my it here:

Do you have any final words or comments that you would like to express to Pink News readers?

It is easy to attack and criticize those who promote and provide gay reparative therapy, and I think we need to hold them accountable for their harmful actions, but we also need to consider WHY someone would elect to detach from the LGBTQ community and run headlong into one of these “change” programs. In what ways are we not taking care of our own? What needs are not being met in our own community? Who does not feel welcome and a part of the community and why?

I am a person of faith; I am wired for God. I sometimes wish I weren’t because it complicates my life, but the reality it is being an existential type person is part of who I am, just like being gay is part of who I am. I now have found a spiritual home among the Quakers. In the past though too often I was told I had to choose one identity over another–gay or a person of faith. This happens both in many traditional churches AND in our LGBTQ spaces. In fact, sometimes it is harder to come out Christian among queer folks than it is to come out gay among church folks.

In the LGBTQ community we police gender in very much the same way traditionalist Christians do. We silence and marginalize bisexuals much like the ex-gay programs do. We dismiss transgender people in our midst much like anti-gay churches do. If we took better care of our own, we would drive these ex-gay programs out of business. I see amazing progress in the UK with vibrant growing LGBTQ populations, people coming out and living openly, and a sweep of legislative reforms protecting the rights and freedoms of LGBTQ people and providing a model for other countries.  But we still  have work to do in the schools, churches and within our own communities to make them safe for all.

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I have received over a dozen e-mails, Facebook messages and Twitter thingys alerting me to a study that reveals one out of six psychiatrist offered a form of reparative therapy to their queer and questioning clients.

From Towleroad,

A pretty astonishing rate given the outright rejection of such “therapy” by the mainstream medical community, and the warnings of its dangers.

Truthwinsout The Independent reports: “A study of more than 1,400 psychiatrists and therapists in BMC Psychiatry found that 222 (17 per cent) said they had treated at least one client to alter their homosexual feelings at some point. The researchers expected the cases to be concentrated in the past, but the 400 to 500 cases recorded were distributed evenly across the decades. ‘It is happening up to the present moment,’ [Professor Michael King, of the University College Medical School] said. It might only be the ‘tip of the iceberg’.”

A friend in South Africa also sent me the link to Treatmentshomosexuality, a new site that is gathering information and interviews and links about folks geting “de-gay” in the UK.

Over at Beyond Ex-Gay we have listed narratives of many ex-gay survivors including some from the UK. Later this spring I will travel to the UK to do several presentations at universities, Quaker meetings and conferences. In addition to performing Transfigurations–Trangressing Gender in the Bible, I will share snippets of Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House and talk about my own time trying to de-gay. You can see my schedule here (more UK gigs will be added soon once we confirm the details).

In other ex-gay news: Read the disturbing developments coming out of the Ugandan-based, US-backed ex-gay movement over at Box Turtle Bulletin.

And in good news, Morgan Jon Fox will have its official release of his documentary This is What Love in Action Looks Like on June 6th. Read about it here.

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Peterson Toscano

Peterson Toscano

And we’re off and running…

Having begun my 2009 tour in Cape Town, South Africa, I have since presented in Central PA, Portland, OR, Seattle and Spokane, WA. Having said that, the tour begins in earnest in March (this was just the warmup I guess :-p)

Below is a rough outline of where I will be. I put (pending) next to some of the performances because we are still waiting final confirmation on booking of venues, exact dates and such. Booking can be like doing a giant jigsaw puzzle.

You can get the most up to date (well relatively speaking) info at my on-line schedule.

  • Wednesday March 11 Rice University, Houston, TX
  • Friday March 13 True Colors, University of CT, Storrs, CT
  • March 17 Killingly Kids, Killingly, CT
  • March 20, 21 Rainbow Players Theater, Allentown, PA
  • March 22 UU Congregation of the Susquehanna, Northumberland, PA
  • March 28 Transgender Leadership Summit, San Diego
  • March 29 MCC, Los Angeles
  • April 2 Southern Regional Unity Conference, U of North Carolina Chapel Hill, NC
  • April 5 William Penn House, Washington, DC
  • April 8 Sidwell Friends School, Washington, DC
  • April 25 LGCM Conference, London, England
  • April 26 Cambridge, England (pending)
  • May 2 Stockholm, Sweden (pending)
  • May 11 Clergy Consultation Spring Meeting, London, England
  • May 15 Sybls Weekend, Derbyshire Peak District, England
  • May 19 York, England (pending)
  • May 23 Oxford Friends Meeting, Oxford, England (pending)
  • May 27 Belfast, Northern Ireland (pending)
  • May 29 St. David’s Uniting Church, Pontypridd, Wales  (pending)
  • June 5 Colonge, Germany
  • June 11 Arch Street United Methodist Church, Philadelphia, PA

I feel pleased that at nearly every venue above I will perform Transfigurations–Transgressing Gender  in the Bible. The same schedule last year would have mostly featured Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House. I have since retired that show. At Rice University, I will give a talk about the ex-gay movement, but now other people from Beyond Ex-Gay are doing  presentations about ex-gay issues giving me the freedom to do more around gender and transgender issues. Hopefully in Belfast I can do something around ex-gay issues since that has been a hot topic there since last June.

Vincent Cervants

Vincent Cervants

Next month I will spend time  with, Vincent Cervantes, a friend who is an ex-gay survivor and actor living in California. This young man has begun the process of learning the Homo No Mo characters and script. I will work with him for a few days to direct the production and to help weave some of his story and at least one of his characters into the piece so that he can begin to go out and perform it.

If I am coming close to where you are and you would like to see me present something at your church, school, meeting houe, community center or whatever, let me know! I always work in an extra day or two on trips so that I can add another venue (or simply hang out with friends).

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Jeremy Marks

Jeremy Marks

William Crawley of BBC Radio Ulster will interview Jeremy Marks on the Sunday Sequence program tomorrow morning (Sunday Feb 22). Jeremy was ex-gay and then the founded an ex-gay program in England. He even trained with Love in Action and ran a residential program for a time in the UK, but then he experienced a different kind of change. Over at his blog William writes,

Jeremy Marks’s story is fascinating because, by the end of the 1990s, he became seriously concerned about the long-term effects of ex-gay ministries. “I came to understand that our approach was sowing isolation, loss of faith, broken marriages, and even attempted suicides. I knew I must change our ministry approach,” he says. In 2000, in spite of opposition from the evangelical community, Marks transformed Courage UK into a gay-affirming evangelical ministry. He has issued a personal apology to “my fellow Gay, Lesbian Bisexual and Trans-gendered people … for my part in colluding with the religious right in the Western world.” Today Courage UK serves gay and lesbian Christians “seeking a safe space to reconcile their faith and sexuality”.

Jeremy recently authored a book about his experience, Exchanging the truth of God for a lie. Jeremy will talk about his story and no doubt field some thoughtful, insightful and possibly provocative questions from William Crawley who is a delightful interviewer and a serious debater. Also on the program will be Michael Davidson who recently started an ex-gay program in Northern Ireland.

You can listen to Sunday Sequence live at 8:30-10:15 AM Belfast time or through the archive. The program should be available for a week.

Auntie Doris and I have fond memories of hanging with William at Lambeth this past summer.  Actually some months before that Auntie Doris joined me in the London studios of the BBC when William interviewed me for Sunday Sequence. That day we gave William a little “pre-show” action with our crazy banter.

Speaking of ex-gay survivors in the international media, check out the Dutch TV piece about David Christie and Scott Tucker, two survivors of the Love in Action program. (It’s in English)

And don’t forget to check out my interview with Italy’s Radio Populare tomorrow (Sunday 22 Feb 11:00 Rome time) where I talk about the ex-gay movement, parents and more all in Italian! Wait but I don’t speak Italian. What sort of media voodoo is at work here? Who knows maybe Joe G will sample some of it for one his creepy podcasts (if he is still podcasting??? Joe your public needs you!)

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In yesterday’s blog, Ex-Gay in the UK, I posted quotes from a friend in England who lived ex-gay for years. He shared some of his motivation to pursue a course designed to change and suppress his gay orientation.

He wrote,

I guess seeing Homonomo made me wonder again just why you/I/we put ourselves through it all. For me a big part of it was living inside a church community with such a narrow worldview, but one that I wanted to feel accepted and approved by. That coupled with my limited choice of ‘correct’ reading matter that took such a negative view of homosexuality, and that bore false witness to the scriptures and distorted and filtered science to make it fit its own viewpoint. The shame it induced was crippling to my emotional development, and I think you portrayed that well in your Homonomo piece.

I shared some of his words over at the Gay Christian Network and several there have begun to share their reasons for going ex-gay. I also read a blog post over at Peter Ould’s site where he quotes Mario Bergner and his reasons for going ex-gay. This got me thinking about my own reasons.

For years while I was ex-gay and soon after I came out I thought my primary reason had to do with my Christian faith; it seemed the most obvious reason. But in the past few years I have dug deeper to see many other factors that had little or nothing to do with my faith in Jesus. Here is a list of some of these factors

  • Desire to marry and have children
  • Fear of loneliness as a grew old
  • AIDS and other STDs that I assumed I would get if I came out gay
  • Misinformation of what it meant to be gay
  • The desire to fit in with everyone, to feel “normal”
  • Pressure from society through virtually every film, TV show, pop song and commercial proclaiming that the heterosexual life was the idealized norm without showing any alternatives
  • Negative portrayals of LGBT people in the media
  • Fear of physical and verbal attack for being gay
  • Witnessing physical and verbal attacks of those who are gay or perceived to be gay
  • Desire to advance in the church hierarchy to become a missionary or pastor
  • Desire to please family and friends
  • Fear of losing family and friends
  • No positive gay role models
  • Having furtive sexual encounters causing me distress in a society that punishes sexual “deviance” (while an addiction to credit never seemed to bother me in a society that encouraged debt)
  • Unresolved sexual abuse issues that caused me to carry my abuser’s shame with me thus causing me to question my own gay orientation and self-worth
  • Low self-esteem
  • Self-hatred & internalized homophobia
  • Cowardice to stand against the tide and be myself
  • Living to please man and not God, bowing to man’s teachings while not actually seeking God about the matter

And the list can still go on and on. For me the faith issue was a convenient cover that distracted me from the many other factors that influenced me to seek change. Similarly some anti-gay Christian folks can use the religious argument to hide behind their own discomfort with the intimcay between two men or two women.

For me it took years to unearth the many reasons why I went ex-gay. Coming to a place of integrity and understand has led me to deal directly with these motivations and find the help I needed to address my true needs.

What about you? What led you to go ex-gay or why do you think some people elect to change or suppress their gay orientation?

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This week the Times of London’s Lucy Bannerman (along with Ruth Gledhill) contributed to a two-page spread that looks segments of the Ex-Gay Movement in the US and the UK. Bannerman traveled to North Carolina earlier this year for the Exodus (ex-gay) Conference, and in a piece, entitled The camp that ‘cures’ homosexuals, writes at length about what she experienced both at the daily sessions and through a relationship with her roommate.

She also interviewed Jeremy Marks, a former Exodus leader in the UK, who has since apologized for promoting and providing ex-gay treatment.

This month, Save Me, a small-budget fictional film about an ex-gay ministry, opens at cinemas in America. “I tried not to portray its leaders as two-dimensional monsters,” explains the director, Robert Cary. “Many genuinely believe that they are helping people to live good lives. But they believe that you’re born with your religion and choose your sexuality, when that is the opposite of the truth.”

One ex-gay leader who has come to the same conclusion is Jeremy Marks. A mild-mannered 56-year-old from Surrey, he pioneered one of the first ex-gay networks in the UK. But after ten years, the attempted suicide of a former resident led him to question the value of SSA therapy. He found that, rather than helping people, it led to depression and dysfunctional behaviour. “They stopped going to church, stopped going to work,” he recalls. “The only ones who appeared to be doing well were those who accepted that they were gay and got on with their lives.” Marks is now openly gay and runs Courage, a support group for gay Christians.

Jeremy helps put things into prospective and helps explain why the Ex-Gay Movement has gotten so much traction in a decidedly anti-gay conservative church,

“Really, what the ex-gay movement is all about is salving the conscience of the Christian leaders who don’t like to be accused of homophobia,” he says. “That way they can say ‘we don’t hate gays – look how we are welcoming them’.”

Bannerman contacted me earlier this summer since some of the ex-gay treatment I received happened in the UK. I described how in the UK ex-gay theories and treatment often get spread off the radar through Evangelical/Charismatic churches and Christian therapists.

“It is a far more subtle seduction over here,” he says. Toscano claims that therapists in Britain – who he says tried to exorcise his gay demons in Kidderminster, in the West Midlands – nearly drove him to suicide. “There is no question about that. I became severely depressed and contemplated suicide on several occasions,” he says.

Toscano, who now runs the Beyond Ex-Gay support group, believes that, far from being living proof of being a changed man, Alan Chambers is simply promoting celibacy by stealth.

“You walk out on this cloud of ex-gay glory,” says Toscano, “but you end up intimate with no one, becoming more and more isolated until it’s just you alone on this little ex-gay island … so many people are hurting and living this half-life.”

Ah, yes, how long I lived a half-life. I know there are a handful of men currently in the ex-gay movement who proclaim how content they feel in the no-longer-gay life they strive to maintain. The loudest spokesmen appear at Exodus and Focus on the Family events and show up at some church events. Perhaps they have genuinely found a healthy way to live that for them brings them happiness; the burden of proof remains to be seen in the long haul. For 17 years I also desperately tried to walk a straight and narrow path.  I believed I would see the fruits of the Spirit.

Sadly, like most of the other folks I have met during my ex-gay and now post ex-gay journey, we recognize that those ex-gay years produced a bitter harvest for us yielding doubt, shame and depression along with ruined relationships, and calamitous strains on our finances, career advancement, personal development and spirituality. We have since worked hard to undo the damage and have begun to live thriving lives as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Not only have I found that it is okay to be gay, I have moved far beyond “okay” to discover deep joy and peace in living as a gay man. For me it’s GREAT to be gay.  I live in the light without secrets, without striving to fit into man’s plan for my life (gussied up to look like God’s plan.) I experience the fruit of the Spirit in a way I always desired. (And Jesus did declare that you will know them by their fruits.)

This week I received an e-mail from a fellow ex-gay survivor, an Englishman I really respect. We initially met through the Gay Christian Network, and then hung out together at the wonderful Greenbelt Festival in England in 2006 and 2007. In conversations we discovered how our paths crossed on the ex-gay highway. He recently watched the DVD of my play, Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House–How I Survived the Ex-Gay Movement! and wanted to share some of his thoughts about how he sees things have improved for LGB folks in the UK.

I’d seen you do big chunks of the play before, but it was good to see it all again in one sitting, and it still packed a punch. Well done, and thanks again for putting it out there.

I feel that society here in the UK has moved on so much the last few years in acceptance of gay people, and I think that is only partly coloured by my own growth in confidence – coming out over the past four years or so. But then I’m no longer in a conservative church. A number of churches seem to be more accepting of gay folk, and Greenbelt this year was accepting in an even more matter of fact way than when you first visited – the new LGBT group (OuterSpace) had around 150 at their communion service, and bigger rooms this time

He continues by sharing some of what led him to change and suppress his gay orientation.

I guess seeing Homonomo made me wonder again just why you/I/we put ourselves through it all. For me a big part of it was living inside a church community with such a narrow worldview, but one that I wanted to feel accepted and approved by. That coupled with my limited choice of ‘correct’ reading matter that took such a negative view of homosexuality, and that bore false witness to the scriptures and distorted and filtered science to make it fit its own viewpoint. The shame it induced was crippling to my emotional development, and I think you portrayed that well in your Homonomo piece.

After his sincere effort to sort out the gay thing in his life, he realized how coming out gay opened the door to a richer, fuller life. He no longer adheres to a Christian faith, a fact that some gay Christians might term a tragic consequence of his odyssey, but I can envision this as a healthy outcome after years of church-sanctioned oppression. He acknowledges some of the challenges he still faces,

I feel so much the better since I came out – comfortable in my own skin for a change – I’m not sure how much, if any of that, is linked to my loss of faith. Unfortunately I still have a fair bit of anger reserved for the church, though I felt that the positive atmosphere at Greenbelt went some way to diffusing it, and I know I need to let it go to move on.

You can read the Times article here. Feel free to leave comments and especially to share your own experience at the newspaper’s site. Lots of people have already weighed. People get caught up in their opinions and arguments, but our stories carry their own weight and authority.

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