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James Stabile Update

Timothy Kincaid

August 18th, 2009

In December 2007, we presented a few commentaries about the 700 Club testimony of James Stabile about his miraculous cure from homosexuality – and his subsequent flight from ex-gay resident group Pure Life Ministries.

Dallas Voice has a follow up article providing more detail and discussing what James is doing today.

Along with 45 other men, Stabile says he spent more than three “horrible” months in the conversion therapy program at Pure Life, until they finally kicked him out for being an “unteachable spirit.”

“They teach you to hate yourself,“ Stabile recounts, “and you think everyone else must hate you, too. … I had turned my back on who I was.”

Stabile says he felt trapped at Pure Life, and that they would not let him leave. He says in order to get expelled from the program, he and another young man staged a kiss in their support group.

“We couldn’t leave, so we made out in our therapy session to get kicked out,” he says. “They held you there by force … in the middle of nowhere.”

But he came out of the experience as a stronger person. “I am a straight camp survivor,” he says, “and I’m proud to be gay now.”

Currently, James seems in a much happier place. He has “found salvation and God’s love” through his participation at Cathedral of Hope, a UCC mega-church with a primary outreach to gays and lesbians. Stablile wants to take his experience of recovery from Pure Life and use it to help others who may be disoriented and feel out of place when they leave. He is starting a new ex-ex-gay organization called Love Actually.

“I thought, there has to be a place you can go if you have been in straight camp,” he says. “Somewhere you can be brought back into who you are and feel loved.”

It was an experience he really needed because, although Stabile identifies as gay, he says he felt like he didn’t quite fit in with the community after his experiences in reparative therapy, and after announcing he was straight on the Christian Broadcasting Network’s “The 700 Club.”

“I didn’t feel like I fit in the gay community, but I was not straight,” he said.

He says he found an online home at BeyondExGay.com, where he first started to realize he was not alone, that there are many others like him who’ve been through the same process and “came out gay all over.”

“Love Actually is a place people can come to and know they are not alone, they are loved and loved by God,” Stabile says.

I wish James well on his venture and hope that he can be helpful to others who are seeking to find themselves again after their experiences in ex-gay ministries.

Comments

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Burr
August 18th, 2009 | LINK

And another strike against “therapy”..

AdrianT
August 19th, 2009 | LINK

A really important question arises from this: why did James not feel at home among the gay community? Why did he feel excluded?

Ultimately, he wasn’t able to build a support network from the gay people he came across.

I don’t know about his background – it could be simply that his community was too small for him to come across enough gay people.

All the same, it’s worth asking, is the gay community doing enough to make people feel more welcomed, less likely to run to ex-gay camps in the first place?

I think James’ experience is a good opportunity for the gay community as a whole to look at itself in the mirror.

Burr
August 19th, 2009 | LINK

FWIW, I don’t feel like I fit in the gay community either, at least in the RL sense, so I can understand what James is saying.

But it’s mostly me, not them. I’m just not your typical gay guy I don’t think and don’t share many of the stereotypical interests. I’m also not much of a political activist. Perhaps that’s just a matter of me misunderstanding what the gay community is about, however. I tend not to associate with any group just because of one trait. Friendships that cross boundaries matter more to me.

Regan DuCasse
August 19th, 2009 | LINK

Fair question Adrian, but I’m going to take a flyer at the question and analogize it with say, how black folks gather.
It’s no stretch that heteros actively work against gay folks collecting in support of one another. Look at the lack of support and active bans on GSA’s in schools, look at how parents overly control their gay children’s social contacts.
A gathering of gay teens was the target of a violent attack in Tel Aviv. Extreme, but it’s difficult enough to form important social bonds during the most formative and vulnerable years.

No wonder that by the time someone gay decides to come out or reach out, the conditioning to NOT feel trusting or connected is well established.

Speaking for myself, I’ve worked in professional situations where are are very few other black people. If I bond with the only other black person, we’re always asked why we’re talking, what we’re talking about, why are we hanging together?

So rude, and impossibly insensitive. Why isn’t it suspicious or doesn’t raise any questions when two white people are doing exactly what WE are?
So if people know that the ONLY two gay people are innocuously socializing in any given situation, some people do go out of their way to be intrusive.

And a gay person is also conspicuous by being a singularity. Such as in being unescorted and unmarried, while or, NOT attending functions that bring people together like company picnics and weddings.

If one is made to live like that, it’s harder to form the important bonds that keep one well protected, balanced and connected.
Black people were kept from being educated, collecting socially or supporting each other economically and politically.

And look at the indictiment of black people as morally and socially threatening and diasporic towards one another, while forgetting the legacy of the aforementioned.
It’s no wonder there are similar difficulties for gay people. There is a legacy of divide and conquer that has worked against them for a long time.
And overcoming it, isn’t impossible…but it’s just sad how difficult it is still.

Chris McCoy
August 19th, 2009 | LINK

I am glad to see more support for ex-ex-gays, but at the same time, I agree with Adrian. What we are lacking, at the present moment, are support groups for pre-ex-gays.

I think we have come a long way since Stonewall, but I think one area that the “gay community” has failed is in providing a wide enough view of what it means to be gay.

I think for “average Joe”, just coming to terms with same-sex attraction, there aren’t very many positive, middle-of-the-road role models. Most of the role models we have provided in the past are over-the-top Hollywood stereotypes.

I think many people have a view that if they are gay, they have to undergo a drastic lifestyle change to “fit the mold” of a what society assumes a gay person is like.

How many of us, when we first came out, camped it up, because that’s what we assumed it meant to be gay.

As time has passed, as more people have come out of the closet, society has a larger sample size, so to speak, of what it truly means to be gay.

I think we should capitalize more on this phenomenon, that gay people aren’t all “freaks on the fringe” of society, that same-sex attraction doesn’t mean that you have to stop being who you were and suddenly become someone completely different (and the darker side, the assumption that that is who we really are on the inside).

I think we also need to remind people that while being freaky and fringe isn’t bad, it’s also not the exclusive territory of gays either. There are plenty of straights that prefer the fringe. Fringe is fringe. Fringe does not have to be gay, and gay does not have to be fringe.

Priya Lynn
August 19th, 2009 | LINK

Insightful and well said Regan.

Christopher Waldrop
August 19th, 2009 | LINK

Chris McCoy already touched on what I’m getting at, but when Burr says, “I’m just not your typical gay guy” it makes me wonder, what is your typical gay guy? I’ve known plenty who–superficially–fit recognizable stereotypes, but at least as many who didn’t. Maybe the smallness of the GLBT community makes it easy to stereotype. People assume that if they’ve seen one they’ve seen ‘em all, so any minor commonality (or perceived commonality) becomes magnified.

Regan, that’s a very instructive and thought-provoking analogy. I’m probably not typical, but if I notice a couple of black co-workers in my office talking, I assume it’s for the same reasons I’d talk to them or to any other co-worker. Maybe it’s a work-related conversation, maybe it’s not. Regardless it’s none of my business why any two co-workers are talking–unless I happen to be one of them.

Timothy Kincaid
August 19th, 2009 | LINK

There are some really thoughtful comments on here.

Ben in Oakland
August 19th, 2009 | LINK

Chris– you’re quite correct in your assessment. The reason is obvious. As gay people become more and more assimilated, the gay community becomes what people see, not what they DON’T see, if you catch my drift. The neighborhoods and institutions become the community, not the people like me who live in the burbs, don’t go to bars, or really belong to gay anything. (Though I was quite visibile in propH8.)

When I first came out in the ’70’s, the bars were what there were. When I moved to San Francisco in 1975, I fully began to experience the “band of brothers” (and sisters, too) idea of gay liberation. It was exhilirating, and helped me find my path as a gay man.

I still feel that way– sometimes. but the reality now, if not then, is that the “band of brothers” is a myth. The brothers are there to be had, but not everyone in Castro Village is one.

Our young people still have to find their way, whether in the gay world or in the straight world.

It would be nice if we could just give it to them as a gift: “Here is your band of brothers, awaiting your arrival to give you love and support and your perfect gay life.”

But we can’t, and we couldn’t give it to them even if they were straight.

If we want to help these young people, then the best thing we can do is to be out and visible as happy gay people, in every sphere of our lives.

As I have said before, the enemy is not the Christian right and the garden variety homobigots. The eneme is, and always has been, the closet.

Jarred
August 19th, 2009 | LINK

Maybe I’m just lucky due to where I live (Rochester, NY), but I see all kinds of people in our gay community here. I also see all kinds of possible activities (bowling, movies, card games, social mixers, coffee meets, walking/running, activism, religious observances, etc.) around here. I’m not saying that there’s a place where every single person might find his niche here, mind you. But I am saying that there’s a lot more diversity represented than some comments seem to imply.

Even at the pride events I’ve attended have shown a great diversity of people attending and groups and organizations represented. Sure I saw the guys in leather getup and the drag queens. But I also saw people in jeans, shorts, and even the occasional business suit. At our local pride picnic, I saw couples wandering around with their dogs and their kids.

Maybe the gay community needs to be a bit more welcoming. And maybe “average Joes” need to be a bit more visible in offering something beyond the “fringe show” everyone seems to know about. But at the same time, I do sometimes wonder if those who seem to think the “fringe show” is all the gay community has to offer them have spent much time exploring that community. Because I’ve found that where I am at least — and again, maybe Rochester is somehow unique — there’s certainly a lot more to be seen by anyone who gives the community more than a cursory glance.

Of course, I’ll also admit that one of the informal groups that offers a serious number of social opportunities was created by a couple of people who simply got tired of there being nothing they were interested in doing. So they threw out a few ideas among friends and started something. And sometimes, that’s what it takes, too.

Jason D
August 19th, 2009 | LINK

“I’m not your typical gay guy”

I don’t think there is such an animal. There are the more vocal, more visible gays, but that’s not to say the rest are all closet cases.

The problem is obvious. Regular, run of the mill people don’t stand out. It’s one of the defining characteristics of regular people — they’re either not exhibitionists, or not much of an exhibitionist — so they blend into the background of everyone else.

It’s not fair to blame hollywood, entertainers are drawn to the limelight, it’s where they live. If they weren’t interested in being out, proud, and big — they wouldn’t be in the public eye, period. If we took Ellen or Elton down a few notches — their careers would end immediately, because no one would pay attention to a mild-mannered person of any orientation.

It’s also a self-fullfiling cycle. Gay guy feels like he’s not “gay enough” (or whatever way you wish to put it). He attempts to participate but is too self-conscious to really have fun and be active. He retreats from the gay community, perhaps he finds a likeminded partner and they move far from gay life — and also far from impressionable mild-mannered gay youth as well. Who will then grow up, see no gays-like-me, and repeat the process of feeling self conscious, retreating, and removing themsleves from the gay community.

You can’t really fault someone for not liking drag queens, showtunes, dance clubs, or any of the other popular gay interests, but I think it’s myopic to think that’s all there is to the gay community.

Having been to the pride parade in Chicago almost every year for the past 9 years, I can tell you the community is much more diverse than you’d expect. I mean, the rainbow is our flag for a REASON. The marchers in the chicago pride parade aren’t just the usual bronzed gymrats, leathermen, dykes on bikes, and drag queens — no sir — there is a plethora of religious, political, social, fraternal, athletic, non-profit, and even, professional groups marching. Surely there’s a group for every gay person? There’s even two GOP gay groups, for pete’s sake! I discovered last month a website for gay video game enthusiasts! In the pride parade there were gay jews marching, and gay nurses, and gay firemen, and gay police…etc. If a gay group doesn’t exist for you, perhaps you’re not looking hard enough…or perhaps you should step forward and make one! The only reason these groups exist is because gay people decided to give it a try…..and they found they weren’t so completely different and alone in the gay community as they originally thought.

And that’s our answer, in my opinion, to the dilemma of the mild-mannered LGBT person. Instead of looking around and seeing nothing you want to do, bring what you DO want, what you DO like into the gay community. I wonder how many youths were saved from attempts at therapy by seeing a gay fireman and saying “oh…so I can be gay and be a fireman.” That fireman might have been scared or self-conscious, too, but at some point he stood up in his own way and made a difference.

Priya Lynn
August 19th, 2009 | LINK

the enemy is not the Christian right and the garden variety homobigots. The eneme is, and always has been, the closet.

Ahhh, no, the enemy is the christian right, homobigots, and the closet.

Burr
August 19th, 2009 | LINK

I discovered last month a website for gay video game enthusiasts!

I check it out all the time if you’re talking about the one I’m thinking of, but websites only go so far, though far enough for me usually.

Most of my gay friends I’ve met sort of tangentially as a result of my primary interests, not the other way around where I knew they were gay first.

I do think it depends on the city as Jarred alludes to. Where I’m at doesn’t seem very active and consequently not very diverse.

Like I said, it’s probably mostly me, and I’m not extroverted enough to put those suggestions to motion, though they’re great advice.

Ben in Oakland
August 19th, 2009 | LINK

Jason– you gave a much more nuanced version of what I was trying to say. thanks.

Priya– the closet is what gives them their power. They would have far less to work with if they didn’t have the active participation of gay people– and their friends and relatives– by means of the closet.In other words, we participate in our own oppression if we do not stand up for ourselves, as ourselves, and if necessary, by ourselves.

But other than that, you’re right. :)

Chris McCoy
August 20th, 2009 | LINK

Christopher Waldrop said:

…it makes me wonder, what is your typical gay guy? I’ve known plenty who–superficially–fit recognizable stereotypes, but at least as many who didn’t. Maybe the smallness of the GLBT community makes it easy to stereotype. People assume that if they’ve seen one they’ve seen ‘em all, so any minor commonality (or perceived commonality) becomes magnified.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard “But you don’t act gay.”

I think we still have alot of work to do to overcome the public perception that all gays act a certain way, namely, that all gay men are effeminate, and that are lesbians are bull dykes.

Jason D said:

It’s not fair to blame hollywood, entertainers are drawn to the limelight, it’s where they live. If they weren’t interested in being out, proud, and big — they wouldn’t be in the public eye, period. If we took Ellen or Elton down a few notches — their careers would end immediately, because no one would pay attention to a mild-mannered person of any orientation.

I disagree with this assessment. I would offer The Cosby Show, a series showing an African American family being “normal” and “mundane”, as being a huge catalyst for overcoming anti-black stereotypes in average joe white America.

I think Will and Grace was a start in that direction, but it pandered to stereotypes, and it took 7 seven seasons to show the title character in any kind of relationship with anyone other than his fag-hag.

I agree with Ben in Oakland that coming out of the closet is our best weapon in overcoming stereotypes. The more of us there are in the public eye, the more difficult it will be for the anti-gays to say “all gays are perverts and child molesters, and they all die from aids before they’re 40.”

I think we owe it to ourselves and our community, and to future James Stabiles to be out in public.

I don’t mean that should all be marching down Main Street every day shouting “I’m here and I’m queer.” I have had alot of success with every-day things like going to a restaurant and instead of saying “both of us on the same check please” saying “we’re together”.

I’ve also been recently trying to increase my support for businesses that are gay friendly, and when I go there, I mention that I saw their add in the local gay paper, or something like “thanks for supporting our community.”

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