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Posts Tagged ‘wayne besen’

Crazy week. Over at the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) Lisa Ling provided a view into the world of Exodus International, the world’s largest organization that attempts to…well…not exactly cure homosexuality…basically, they demonize gays and a gay orientation. From having been involved with Exodus programs for almost 20 years, I can say that their goal is to annihilate gayness in themselves, their “clients” and the world around them.

Through what looked more like a PSA for ex-gay programs than actual reporting, Ling asked if it were possible to Pray Away the Gay. Sadly Ling failed to put on her journalistic glasses, and asked all the wrong questions. With faulty vision this episode of Our America with Lisa Ling misinformed the public and overlooked reality. I blogged about it earlier here.

I guess crazy brings out crazy, because Zack Ford and I interviewed “Anthony,” who recently left the heterosexual lifestyle, joined the Metropolitan Community Church, and is now a former heterosexual. Take a listen to Queer and Queerer Ep. 43 Lisa Ling, Our America has Ex-Straights.

Perhaps Apple is trying to bring balance into the world after so much gay cruising through the popular Grndr app (which recently went Android and will soon be available for straight cruising.) That or they just did not do their homework.  Apple currently offers the Exodus International ex-gay/anti-gay iphone app.

Maybe like Lisa Ling, Apple was duped into believing that Exodus simply offers an alternative to wild gay living. Sadly that is the only kind of gays Exodus seems to know about and goes out of their way to paint non-heterosexuals as depraved, sick people. We have had enough of that message. Not only is it incorrect, it is harmful. If Exodus wants to spew that stuff, they have their venues to do so; Apple does not need to give them a larger platform.

A petition that currently has over 19,000 names on it was created by Truth Wins Out. Please take a look and consider signing it. In the following video Wayne Besen explains why the app must go.

To learn more about the plight of the vast majority of people who once signed up for Exodus programs, take a look at Beyond Ex-Gay.

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Recently Lisa Ling misinformed the public through an episode of her new program on the  Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN.) In regards to gay reparative therapy and ex-gay ministries, like many journalists before her, Lisa Ling asked the wrong question– Can You Pray Away the Gay? Instead she should have asked the more essential questions:

  1. Why do people seek to change or repress their sexual orientation?
  2. And at what cost? What potential harm comes to those who attempt to change or repress their sexual orientation?

Exodus International and Alan Chambers admit that genuine change from gay to straight does not happen. People simply change some of their behaviors and change their identities. They still have desires for people of the same-sex, and for most who claim they are ex-gay or former homosexuals, they cannot successfully partner with someone of the opposite sex. Also, according to Exodus, the VAST MAJORITY of people who enroll in these programs ultimately fail and come out gay. What happens to those people? Does Exodus know? Do they care?

Over at Beyond Ex-Gay, the on-line resource for ex-gay survivors, we address the two questions I mention above.  In the article, Why I Went Ex-Gay, I outline the many factors that influenced me in my own failed 17 year quest to de-gay myself. While seeking a “cure,” I believed I was a Christian struggling with homosexuality. I have since unearthed plenty of non-religious reasons for why pursued a course that ultimately brought great harm to my life. In the following video I talk about some of those reasons.

As to the harms that have come to those who have attempted to de-gay myself, they are many and at times devastating. In the article, Ex-Gay Harm–Let Me Count the Ways, I outline nine different areas of harm I have identified after speaking with over 1,000 ex-gay survivors.

  1. Psychological
  2. Emotional
  3. Spiritual
  4. Relational
  5. Financial
  6. Vocational
  7. Developmental
  8. Physical
  9. Sexual

In the article I provide descriptions  of each, and based on the list ex-gay survivors provide specific examples from their own lives.

The other day I presented a workshop called Homo No Mo?!? Orientation, Gender & the Ex-Gay Movement. In preparation I asked  my friends at Facebook,

From your experience and knowledge, what are some of the harms that come from trying to change or suppress sexual orientation or gender identity/expression?

I received over 20 responses within an hour. Below I list some of these:

Shelley As a psychologist and gender therapist, I have seen the damage first hand. Trauma is the most significant. Clients often experience chronic PTSD after receiving “treatment.” Many have difficulty with self-acceptance. Relationships suffer. The guilt is difficult to resolve. The list goes on …

Joseph My first thoughts are the very real and big harms that come when people who are suppressing such things choose to marry, and then, perhaps, have children…..those marriages and parenting relationships are under an incredible incredible amo…

Michael (a former ex-gay leader) Sense of failure, guilt, loss of faith, wasted time…The list goes on and on.

Aaron Suppression ultimately leads to lies. You are forced to lie to yourself or those around in order to feel safe. It’s horrible to feel like you are living a lie. If one can’t live authentically they may start to question. Their entire existence which can/has led to depression and sometimes suicide. Personally, I felt trapped and alone. I even quit going to church because I knew I was living a lie by suppressing the real me.

Mark Compartmentalization leads to lying as a way of life. Not exactly a prescription for good mental health and goes against God’s injunction to not bear false witness.

James I think, in my own experience, it has actually had a detrimental effect on my brain, even though I probably can’t prove it. Compartmentalization of thoughts and memories has become so ingrained that most of my own past feels like it happened to somebody else. Also, it took me a long time to be able to build personal relationships.

Eric Nightmares about burning in Hell for all eternity for looking the wrong way should definitely be at the top of the list.

Sally …from my experience one harm that came from it was in trying to suppress who I was I was unable to be all I was meant to be within the church aswell as outside. I hated myself for who I was, it is only since I have accepted who I am and have begun to love myself that I have been able to be released into serving God with the gifts and calling he gave me.

David We only have one life to live. It should be an authentic and genuine experience. If it’s a false life…what would be the point? Gosh this goes for all sorts of True Self suppression. So sad when people are not who they truly are.

——————————————————————————————–

Lisa Ling attempted to present a human interest story. Sure she presented some positive portrayals of gay folks, even gay Christian folks, but ultimately she ultimately she failed in her public responsibility as a journalist to highlight the risks to health and well-being the religious-based ex-gay programs pose.

In my blog post Outrageous Displays of Ex-Gay Misinformation I write about a misguided radio program that also got the ex-gay story wrong. In the post, I point out the mistakes journalists make when they try to present “both sides of the story.” It’s not that simple and instead of informing  they end up misinforming the public.

Wayne Besen over at Truth Wins Out provides detailed analysis of the Lisa Ling piece. It is well worth watching. Besen reveals that TV program is naive and inaccurate in its presentation of Exodus. He also gives helpful information to journalists who might want to cover Exodus in the future.

Bottom line, Lisa Ling gave loads of airtime to providers and promoters of gay cures and no time at all to the victims of these programs.

 

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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.

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A story has been going around the blogs and hopefully into the mainstream press more and more about an organization disseminating literature that promotes gay to straight therapies (ex-gay) to high school students and their families.

What did some students in Maryland bring home to their families along with their report cards? Oh, just a little literature from Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays, which wanted high school students to know that homosexuality can be cured through therapy. And there’s nothing you can do about it.

Unless you can convince a judge the fliers constitute “hate speech.” That’s because, based on a 2006 court ruling, public school districts are required to distribute, four times a year, any literature from a registered non-profit. Which makes PFOX’s material qualify for mandated distribution. Even if America’s leading psychological groups think such “therapy” isn’t just ineffective, but harmful.

I’ve been staying out of the ex-gay fray for over a year now as my focus has shifted to highlight and challenge the oppression of transgender, transsexual and gender non-conforming people–oppression outrageously practiced by lesbian, gay, bisexual as well as straight non-transgender (cisgender) people.  The work of countering the ex-gay claims and the many ways proponents of ex-gay theories and treatments attempt to insert themselves into society (even contributing to the anti-gay political climate in Uganda with a death penalty legislation for gays) has been expertly carried out by Jim Burroway and his writers at Box Turtle Bulletin, (who have done a stellar job of covering the Uganda story) Mike Airhart and Wayne Besen at Truth Wins Out, the writers over at Ex-Gay Watch, journalists Patrick Strudwick and Adrian Tippetts, scholars like Christine Robinson,   and many other bloggers, activists, and ex-gay survivors who speak out in multiple venues.  So many great minds and hearts have passionately taken on the ex-gay movement. After over eight years focusing on it myself and contributing to the conversation, I feel I can confidently move on to other issues.
Not that I don’t keep my eye on what’s happening and work behind the scenes consulting and working with others in the midst of their activism to help people understand that ex-gay treatment:
  1. Does NOT work (no one really changes from gay to straight–they simply alter their identity and some behavior often by suppressing whole parts of themselves)
  2. Is NOT necessary
  3. In most cases is destructive
These theories and treatments do not arise in a vacuum. We live in a world that regularly insists that it is far more valuable to be heterosexual and gender normative than to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or gender non-conforming. We see institutionalized oppression of non-heterosexuals and gender non-conforming people–oppression that affects every part of society–legal, religious, educational, neighborly oppression of a significant minority 0f the population.
That is what makes PFOX’ actions so outrageous. This is not an ex-gay movement–it is an ANTI-gay movement designed to demonize and destroy homosexuality in the world. It is militant, predatory and grounded in fear and ignorance. That the school district allows this sort of madness (supported by the legal ruling) boggles my mind. This is NOT about free speech at all. This is a matter of public health and safety. It is also a matter of using state and local funds to push religious teachings. These programs are always religious-based, even the ones that parade as secular.  These anti-gay teachings wrapped up in a thin film of love and compassion undermine young people and their sense of self. They also give faulty information and false promises to parents who may then take that information and force their child to pursue an ex-gay course.
For years anti-gay Conservative leaders warned against the Gay Agenda, a shadowy plan by militant homosexual activists designed to snatch up our unsuspecting children in order to recruit and convert them to embrace The Gay Lifestyle.  Seems the real predators are folks over a PFOX and Focus on the Family and other organizations that target youth, their parents, their teachers, their ministers in hopes of infecting them  with psychologically damaging messages and practices.
Teach the Facts has an article up which includes the copy from the PFOX flier that went out to parents along with an analysis of it.
This is not funny any more. Some students are going to get this flyer and believe, for instance, that there really are people out there who have decided not to be gay any more. Amanda Hess at the Washington City Paper advertised for weeks, trying to find one ex-gay person in the DC area, and couldn’t find one. But Montgomery County Public Schools is distributing flyers to thousands of schoolchildren, convincing them that there is an “ex-gay community” that is persecuted and treated unfairly, and making gay students believe that they can stop being gay by hooking up with this pitiful group of hucksters.

The assertions in this flyer are the exact opposite of what the district teaches in its health classes, which are based on current knowledge as it is understood by the major scientific and medical organizations.

Folks there is work to be done in Uganda, London, Washington, DC and in your own village or city.  We each have various areas where we may feel led to do work, to educate ourselves and others. It’s so easy for some of us of a certain class to be lulled to sleep with trips to Target and fun Super Bowl Parties and that project at home, and our lives should be full and rich so that we do not burn out. But we also need to engage. For you it may not be around what’s happening in Uganda, or in Montgomery County, Maryland. It may be about transgender issues or environmental issues or literacy or the disaster in Haiti or the on-going work in New Orleans. The thing is to ask ourselves, in the words of the poet Audre Lorde,
Perhaps … I am the face of one of your fears. Because I am a woman, because I am Black, because I am a lesbian, because I am myself — a Black woman warrior poet doing my work — come to ask you, are you doing yours?”

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Gay & Lesbian ReviewThe current issue of the Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide, an LGBT journal that comes out Of Harvard University and which provides “a forum for enlightened discussion of issues and ideas of importance to lesbians and gay men” has in it an article I wrote about the Ex-Gay Survivor Movement and the role of the Internet.

OVER THE PAST EIGHT YEARS, new voices have entered the public discourse over anti-gay ideologies. One of the loudest and most hostile toward us is the “ex-gay” movement, which attempts to de-homosexualize homosexuals under the pretext of saving souls in the name of Jesus. On the Internet and in the press, we are increasingly hearing the stories of ex-gay survivors, people who attempted and failed to alter their sexual orientation through programs such as Exodus. Although these survivors have been around pretty much from the moment the faith-based movement launched itself in the early 1970’s, it is through the Internet that these former consumers of ex-gay theories and treatments have been able to connect with each other and speak out. In so doing, they have rerouted the media and refocused the ex-gay debate.

I go onto mention Mike Airhart, Wayne Besen, Daniel Gonzales, Steve Schalchlin, Christine Bakke, Morgan Jon Fox and more as I outline some of the history of ex-gay survivors and the role of the Internet from social networking to organizing of protests and beyond. You can read the whole article here.

The Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide is well worth getting. Although I hope they they expand to be far more inclusive of transgender and bisexuals. I’m sure they have included pieces about the trans and bi experience, but from their mission statement they seemed focused on the G and L part of the community. By looking at transgender and bisexual issues and concerns, non-trans gays and lesbians will gain valuable insights into their own experiences and the cycles of oppression that too often emergee among oppressed people.

Check out some of the on-line articles here. You can subscribe here.

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ex-gayandthelaw-150x195Last month at the NY screening of Chasing the Devil in the Ex-Gay Movement, Wayne Besen handed me a copy of his new booklet, Ex-Gay & the Law. On the train ride home I leafed through it and found helpful  information, especially for those just learning about ex-gay issues and for those recently out of ex-gay programs.

For years ex-gay survivors, journalists, gay activists and concerned straight citizens have asked, Can’t these programs be taken to court for the harm that they have caused?

Ex-Gay & the Law helps survivors of ex-gay programs explore their legal rights if they believe they have been harmed,” said Wayne Besen, Executive Director of Truth Wins Out. “This groundbreaking publication offers practical legal advice so important questions can be answered.”

“We are pleased to help support this publication and to be a part of this effort,” said Hayley Gorenberg, Deputy Legal Director of Lambda Legal. “Groups that proclaim to ‘cure’ gay people of their sexual orientation lack any legitimate medical backing, cause harm, and sometimes operate unlawfully and unethically. If you have experienced any of the scenarios outlined in the last pages of ‘Ex-Gay & the Law‘, we welcome you to contact or Legal Help Desk.”

In the section entitled,  What’s Wrong? (b), after quoting ex-gay leaders speaking about change and how it does not really include a change in orientation, Wayne writes,

What so-called “ex-gay’ ministries advertise, “Freedom From  Homosexuality Through Jesus Christ” is not what clients often report receiving. Many clients say that after “ex-gay” therapy they feel more depressed, anxious or that they were sold false hope.

Wayne suggests that if someone should choose to go into an ex-gay program, “it would be wise to ask your ministry leader or therapist up front what they actually mean when they promise ‘change,’ ‘liberation,’ ‘freedom’ or that you can be ‘ex-gay'”

Download Ex-Gay & The Law pdf

In the past month I have heard from two different men who are considering going into ex-gay programs.  They contacted me to learn a little bit in advance of going into their programs about what they might expect. Thank goodness for the Internet that people can have some informed consent about ex-gay programs, especially that they can turned to people who have been there and understand the many reasons why someone would go ex-gay. Back in 1996 when I was prepping to go into the Love in Action program, there was no way to connect with former clients.

We have many more resources, deeper discussions and more information available to us today. It’s great that we have this new resource to add to the growing list.

For those considering going into an ex-gay program, over at Beyond Ex-Gay we asked five people with personal experience regarding these programs, What would you tell someone is they were thinking of attending an ex-gay program? You can read their answers here.

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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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