Ex-Gay Survivor Survey Shows Harms, Lasting Impacts Of Sexual Orientation Change Efforts
May 30th, 2013
Beyond Ex-Gay, the online forum for former clients of ex-gay ministries and therapists, has released the results of a wide-ranging survey of the experiences reported by 417 ex-gay survivors. To date, there has been little effort to examine this particular group of people. Conducted by Jallen Rix, therapist, ex-gay survivor, and author of Ex-Gay No Way: Survival and Recovery from Religious Abuse, the survey is by no means definitive. Due to its convenience sampling techniques, is not capable of describing the experiences of all those who have participated in ex-gay programs and therapies. Nevertheless, it adds an important component to our overall understanding of those who have attempted to undergo a change in sexual orientation because the voices of those who have participated in these programs have mostly been absent in the debate. As Rix explain:
All too often, the public eye is drawn to the “squeaky wheel” in terms of the reparative therapy/ex-gay debate. Usually this means the people that make the craziest claims, and the most outlandish presumptions get most of the attention. Indeed, those who happen to be leading such “ministries” are often looked to as so-called “experts in the field” when they rarely have any real sexuality education or training. Unfortunately, those who have been damaged by these organizations are left as a footnote, or don’t get mentioned at all. This gives the public a skewed view of what’s really going on in the ex-gay movement.
Because of the nature of the convenience sample in this survey, the numerical results should be taken as illustrative rather than quantitative. But the picture that emerges is that the motivation for entering ex-gay programs is predominately religious. The top three results for why people tried to change their sexual orientation included “To be a better Christian,” “I believed it was what God wanted me to do,” and “I feared I would be condemned by God.” After that comes such responses as a general desire to fit in, cultural pressures to conform, and a desire to please family and friends. But beyond the numbers lie the written responses of survey participants which illustrates the huge variety of their experiences:
I so wanted to be “normal.” I didn’t believe that God could possibly accept me the way I was, given that I myself couldn’t. Conventionally “feminine” religious women who focused their entire lives around being a “good wife and mother” seemed to be happy and at peace (unlike me); they were respected and valued. I thought that if I could only be like them that everything would be fine.
Because I have a messed up childhood filled with emotional, mental and some physical (but no sexual) abuse, and I saw connections between my experiences and the experiences that the ex-gay community claims cause homosexuality.
I was a student at a Bible College and saw no ministry future if I was “tainted” by this situation. Some of my motivations were self and then it was forced by family and church.
After coming out and becoming a GLBT activist, the GLBT community bullied the living Hell out of me for seven years prompting me to re-enter ex-gay therapy.
I was told to be gay was sinful, and Exodus was promoting “are you gay and not happy” – check out Exodus Int. That it was my gay life style that was making me sad and depressed. That to label oneself as gay would mean a life of promiscuity, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, AIDS. I heard about Matthew Manning through the 700 Club, later to find out he was a fraud and was removed from the 700 Club website.
I was told I had demons, and even had someone “name” those demons who were “tormenting” me.
No one forced me, and even my pastor said that I didn’t need Exodus, that if I was in Christ I was a new creation, and all the rest was, is, and will be forgiven by God.
My pastor at the time implored me to deal with this. I had no desire to change my sexual orientation. This was upon his insistence.
It’s these written responses that I find to be more informative than the numbers. Question 8 asked why they quit the ex-gay movement. The top answer, by far, was that they failed to become straight. But one disturbing answer given by nearly a quarter of respondents was that they had had a nervous breakdown. Again, the written responses are more interesting:
I saw that NOBODY was being changed, and some of those other guys had a lot more faith than I did. The only ones I ever met who claimed to have been changed were the leadership. And one of them was always hitting on me.
I watched the movie Latter Days, and cried heavily as I saw how much I desired homosexual love, how repressed, self-loathing and judgmental I had become, and how much I may need to give up to live honestly.
found all the therapy didn’t work. I wasn’t changing my orientation. My desires did not change even into my forties. I started being sexually active and found the world did not come to and end.
Over time, I began to feel like the people involved in the ministry were on some level deceiving themselves. I appreciated their desire to draw nearer to God and resolve conflict from our past, however, beyond that, I felt like my local church community was far more effective in growing me spiritually – not to mention the fact that I wasn’t becoming ‘straight.’
I tried to kill myself
My “exorcism” scared me so much, I did everything to prove my “change” and get away from those people.
Contemplated suicide as a next logical step in measures to keep my gay feelings in check. At that point I realized I needed to change to make being gay a friend rather than an enemy.
Once I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to become straight, I started hoping that I would get in an accident or get a disease or something so I could die because I was so unhappy but didn’t want to go to hell for suicide. Eventually I didn’t care if I would go to hell and I was suicidal. I knew that something had to change.
Basically, the nagging pressure that my relationship with my dad made me gay, and because I was believing that, my actually good relationship with my dad started to fall apart because of it…. and also, the main reason, if it was so wrong, why didn’t God heal me?
I saw Brokeback mountain which showed exactly how bad it could be if a gay man married a woman.
Our denomination underwent a drastic reformation out of legalism; and, in accepting the reality of grace, discovered that I was still gay. Grace didn’t change my orientation. I had to admit my negative preconceptions about being gay and Christian were wrong. I realized I could be a gay Christian without regrets.
I was taken to a deliverance service by well meaning Christian relatives – and had what I can only describe as a true deliverance experience, on the other side of which I quit believing that changing my orientation was necessary.
I was in Love in Action and they told me my time in the program was up. It didn’t work and I finally gave up trying to change.
Only a relatively small minority of this particular sample, less than ten percent, say they weren’t harmed by their participation in the ex-gay movement. Nearly half said they were “harmed a lot” or “devastated” by the experience. Nearly half said that they were still effected “a lot” or “all the time” today by their experiences. The kinds of harms respondents described were all over the map:
I think the most damaging piece was the reinforcing of the sexual binging and purging. It has made it difficult in my current relationship at times. I continue to fight old patterns although that continues to lessen over time.
As an intersex bodied person I was constantly pressured into having “corrective” surgery on my genitalia so I could fit into a certain gender role as a heterosexual. I also developed an eating disorder.
Multiple suicide attempts, two psychiatric hospitalizations. Diagnosed severe type 2 Bipolar disorder and moderate PTSD by multiple doctors in two different states. Ex-gay therapist had told me the symptoms from these illnesses were caused by my “sexual confusion.” After ex-gay, I dealt with substance abuse, impulsive and dangerous behavior, and unsafe promiscuity. Entered several unhealthy relationships, including one physically abusive one.
I feel that the ex-gay movement caused me harm by screwing up my sense of love and intimacy completely. I became very promiscuous, because I felt that if I am going to be sinful, I might as well go all out. I also came to believe that there is no such thing as romantic love between men, only lust. In other words, it pushed the exact opposite values that should be placed on sex and love. To this day, I find it hard to have romantic relationships with guys that go beyond physical, let alone commitment! Lastly, I’m surprised you do not have substance/alcohol abuse on your list, because I did that as well because of my experiences.
I abandoned my faith b/c I could not find a way to live with being both gay and Christian
Not just harm to myself, but also harm to my husband who is asked (by his wife) to not undress in front of his wife, who is asked not to touch his wife sexually, who is asked not to be a heterosexual man and husband. I am not the only victim here. How about my husband and all the spouses of the “ex-gays”??? Exodus and others don’t want to address that…
Developed sexual addictions in a way to try to fit the mold of ex-gay “healings” Before ex-gay ministry, I didn’t have any sexual experiences at all.
Giving a moral inventory (sharing a very personal experience related to a sexual encounter) in front of all the parents at a friends and family weekend caused embarrassment and a look on my parents’ faces that I will never forget.
My situation is difficult to determine harm or reward. I suffered from low self-esteem before sexuality developed. I did have to withdraw from college because of Scientology experience, and I did attempt suicide twice – once directly because I feared my orientation would be discovered. I would add that Evergreen was somewhat helpful as a first step of coming to self acceptance.
The second-to-last response above hints at a possible participation in Love In Action’s “Friends and Family Weekend.” I can’t imaging undergoing the appalling shaming that went on at that event.
The last response above leads to another question I find interesting, and it’s one I’ve heard asked at a couple of ex-gay survivor gatherings: “What good, if any, came out of your ex-gay experience”? About a fifth of respondents in this sample declined to give an answer, and another tenth answered that there was no benefit. But of the rest, most say that they are now better able to accept themselves, talk openly about sexuality (after all, that was a key component of the ex-gay experience), and they felt that they were part of a community of similar people:
Surprisingly, I was able to finally accept myself. I spent several months during therapy thinking of how much of a failure I was. Once I began to realize that all that it had been doing was making me hate myself, I said “Enough is enough. I refuse to spend anymore time like this.”
I suppose that I needed to see for myself that changing my sexual orientation was not possible, nor was it necessary. In other words, I had to try everything that I could find before I ‘gave up’ and admitted being gay, and ‘give in’ to living the “lifestyle” of a gay man.
I learned that I couldn’t pretend, I couldn’t “act” my way through the world 24 hours a day. I learned that there had to be somewhere that I could be real. I met a lot of really broken, but beautiful disasters. It was my first community and I liked living with others in intentional community. I have something of substance to say on this subject and actively participate in the ex-ex-gay movement.
Out of my ex-gay experience came motivation to further pursue a career in counseling and psychology to ensure other youth and young adults do not have to experience what I experienced.
I thought I was the only gay Christian, so when I found out about Exodus, I was relieved to not be so alone. I enjoyed many friendships!
Nothing- well, I did get married and have 2 wonderful children because of all of this- so I am very thankful for my children.
I witnessed first hand how privilege works in church and society. The more others believed I was a masculine heterosexual, the more valuable they treated me and the more doors opened socially, professionally, and religiously for me to serve and be a full fledged member of the group. Seeing this play out, helped me to get glimpses of similar oppression/reward systems for many group. I understand the world better because of the oppression I faced.
I learned valuable discipline. Not to mention that to keep it up, I had to dive into some pretty deep theological waters. It forced me to develop my intellectual faith.
For the first time, I met other GLBT Christians and we could talk about what it’s like to be Christians with same gender attractions.
My friend, trained in healing therapy, specifically through Living Waters and Andy Comisky himself, did help me identify problem areas in my life and places of brokenness that needed addressing. Contrary to what she taught me, however, the problems weren’t centered in my being gay.
I met some other guys who were also having the same issues I was, and it was nice to know I was not alone.
For the first time I was able to talk openly about my sexuality.
it helped me coming out of the closet and develop more mature friendships – growing spiritual intimacy with God
It provided my first contact to others who I knew certainly were also “gay”. Although they may not have been the best representations of what gay men should be, at least I didn’t feel alone. It also forced me to confront my sexuality (which I had really been avoiding) and come to terms with the issues between it, my faith, and my family.
It was the stepping stone that allowed me to come out to myself.
My group leader, was very understanding and accepting about other issues in my life, in ways that helped me *a lot*.
To a degree, it provided a sense of community, and diminished the sense of isolation.
Met other gay people and started dating in a safe space
Many of these responses illustrate what I’ve said before: they are us, and when you go to an ex-gay conference, you are attending one of the gayest events in that locality. For many of these people, being in an ex-gay ministry, ironically, is their first introduction to other gay people and the intentional community, as one respondent described it, that they formed. I think that this is what makes their stories so compelling to me. It’s not to say that their experiences weren’t all that bad after all. But the idea that ex-gay ministries can actually be a stepping stone for many toward their full acceptance of themselves as LGBT people can’t be a comforting thought to very many of those ex-gay leaders.
“Beyond Ex-Gay” Seeking Ex-Gay Survivors For Online Survey
October 28th, 2011
I’m on travel today, so I won’t be able to blog much (unless my flight happens to have WiFi). But I wanted to be sure to pass along this message from Dr. Jallen Rix, author of Ex-Gay No Way: Survival and Recovery from Religious Abuse, with an important invitation.
Dr. Jallen Rix of BeyondExGay.com seeks participants in a new survey of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people who endured therapies designed to change their orientation and gender differences.
“In order to gather details about the often harmful effects of reparative therapy, ex-gay theories, and the plight of thousands of people who received these treatments, we want to hear directly from them.” says Rix, a sexologist who earlier in his life submitted to programs and religious counselors that promised to change him from gay to straight. The survey will be available through www.BeyondExGay.com, a web support group for “Ex-Gay Survivors.”
“While every major medical association has denounced the treatments as ineffectual and potentially harmful, providers of the treatments persist in their practices,” says Peterson Toscano, co-founder of BeyondExGay.com who spent 17 years and over $30,000 on three continents attempting to suppress and change his sexual orientation and gender differences. ”News that Michelle Bachman’s husband runs a client that offers gay-to-straight therapy got reporters talking about ‘those wacky treatments,’ but the many people who have survived the psychological and religious torture provide firsthand testimony of the harm they experienced and the work needed to reclaim their lives.”
Christine Bakke-O’Neil, a lesbian who received 5 years of ex-gay treatment and co-founder of Beyond Ex-Gay, says, “Along with this survey we are introducing creative new ways for Ex-Gay Survivors to receive peer support and share resources to help recover from all types of conversion therapy.”
In the past ten years leaders of the ex-gay movement have repeatedly asserted that ‘thousands’ of people have been cured of their homosexuality yet never provide any statistical evidence to back their assertions. “We know from experience that the vast majority of people who receive these treatments ultimately realize these leaders offer false promises and misleading information. Survivors can now go on record to state that ‘change’ was not possible or necessary and pursuing it caused damage.” say Rix, who notes that the anonymous participants of the survey will have the opportunity to share details about the type of treatments they received, why they desired change, the outcomes they experienced, and methods they discovered to undo the damage.
All those who attempted to alter their orientation or gender differences through the aid of one of these programs, a religious counselor, or on their own are urged to take the survey and tell others about it. Go to: BeyondExGay.com
Iowa Man Describes the Horrors of Home-Grown Ex-Gay Therapy
October 7th, 2011
Samuel Brinton, a student at Kansas State University, describes growing up under his Southern Baptist missionary father, who beat him, burned him and shocked him with electricity to try to change him from being gay after Samuel came out at the age of twelve. The video is compelling.
Update (10/10): Wayen Besen at Truth Wins Out posted this comment yesterday on Towleroad:
Truth Wins Out has tried verify this story for more than a month. Our phone calls have gone unanswered. We hope that the full range of facts can come to light. For example, who was the specific therapist who performed these abusive actions?
We are always pleased when “ex-gay” survivors are brave enough to come foward and share their experiences. We look forward to Samuel providing further information in the very near future.
It Gets Better: From Perry, IA
October 20th, 2010
If you’ve never seen the web site I’m From Driftwood, you really owe yourself a heart-warming visit. The site is made up of stories submitted by people from all over. Each story’s title says where they come from — “I’m from Sheboygan Falls“, “I’m From Lake Charles“, you get the picture — and they talk about what it was like growing up there, before they were out and as they were coming out. In many ways, it could be seen as a forerunner to Dan Savage’s It Gets Better Project, which was begun in response to the rash of LGBT suicides we saw in September.
In a few of the I’m From Driftwood posts, you can see considerable overlap between the two projects. This one, “I’m From Perry, IA”, begins with Samuel describing his harrowing experience with a brutal and punitive ex-gay conversion therapy experience. Watch it:
Samuel’s experience is not altogether rare. If his story ended there — conditional love as long as he pretended to be straight — we would see the perfect setup for a life of torment. But there’s another ingredient involved that, for now, is making the story’s ending different from where it could have gone. That ingredient is Sam’s fortitude. Things still aren’t any better with his parents — they still insist that he “change” before they allow him back into the home. But now that he’s in college at Kansas State, things have somehow started to get better for him. But in a very different way and on his terms:
…But, I do recognize that I will give them that chance. What my parents did was part of what they believed. They thought they were losing their child and they wanted to help him, so I have to forgive them, I have to move forward. But I think the reason why I was so excited to be able tell the story was that if there’s other people who have gone through conversion therapy, who are having those feelings of, “I’m the only one alone”, you need to know that there are people who have made it through and, you can’t change what I never chose.
The sad tragedy to all of this is that Sam’s story is both unique and not uncommon. There’s hardly a month that goes by that I don’t get an email from someone asking for advice. Either they are trying to recover from an ex-gay experience or, more commonly, a friend or relative asks what they should do when someone they know enters some kind of “treatment” program. These are hard stories to deal with, but one good resource is Beyond Ex-Gay, a network of ex-gay survivors. It’s not only for survivors themselves, but also their families and friends. I know that they have provided valuable support to those who are coming out of the ex-gay experience.
Exodus Co-Founder: We Were Abandoned When We Left Exodus
A multi-part video interview series with Michael Bussee, co-founder of Exodus International turned critic.
May 25th, 2010
Leading up to now we’ve had videos discussing Michael’s fear of the gay community and fears about what would happen if he left Exodus.
Today Michael talks about what actually happened when he finally did renounce Exodus and came out as a gay man. What did Michael’s church do? What did his relatives do? What did his wife do? What did his fellow leaders at Exodus do?
One person in Michael’s life even graphically warned him of the flames of hell that await him.
Lastly Michael closes with a warning that even today people still fear the consequences and rejection when they try to leave Exodus.
(transcript after the jump)
“Michael Bussee, You Have Blood On Your Hands”
A multi-part video interview series with Michael Bussee, co-founder of Exodus International turned critic.
May 21st, 2010
I expected my interview series with Michael to generate a lot of emotion, but in recent days the reader comments have taken a dramatic shift to questioning why Michael did not come out publicly against or make amends for his involvement in Exodus sooner. One expression that’s particularly common in YouTube comments is that Michael somehow has “blood on his hands,” hence the title for this post.
In today’s video Michael explains his delay in speaking out against Exodus. Of all the things Michael wanted to address on the day I interviewed him, this was foremost on his mind.
But before we get to the video let me personally address all the work I believe Michael has done for the ex-gay survivor community:
- Whenever the activist community has called upon Michael, he has been happy to volunteer himself. This includes a Love Won Out counter protest in Palm Springs (near his home) and the public apology of former Exodus leaders organized by Beyond Ex-Gay in 2007.
- As one of the most visible ex-gay survivors myself, I am constantly contacted by media and documentary filmmakers. When appropriate, I refer these people to Michael who is happy to speak with them. One Nation Under God, filmed prior to Gary’s death (Michael’s partner), only marked the beginning of his speaking out. Since the film’s release in 1993 Michael has continued to fight the ex-gay myth for 17 years now.
- How many other former leaders from the early days of Exodus have since dropped out and said nothing? Remember, Michael was just a co-founder, there are plenty of other lapsed Exodus leaders out there.
- If you believe Michael needs to do more to speak out or atone for his past transgressions then why don’t you contact him about a project he can take part in. That’s exactly what I did. I was home in LA for a week and picked up the phone to see if Michael wanted to spend a day in front of the camera. Michael answered every single question I put to him, even when things got painful, as you’ve seen in previous videos in this series.
But enough of my opinion. Here’s Michael on the delay in speaking out against Exodus:
(transcript after the jump)
Let’s All Be “Anti” So No One Else Ever Has To Be “Ex”
August 20th, 2009
Note from Jim Burroway: I am very excited to be a co-sponsor of an exciting conference scheduled for November 20-22, 2009 in West Palm Beach, Florida. I will be there, as will BTB contributors Daniel Gonzales and Gabriel Arana. I hope you will too. Here’s Soulforce Executive Director Jeff Lutes to tell you all about it.
Two weeks ago a task force from the American Psychological Association released a ground breaking report after a two year analysis of the research on sexual orientation change efforts. Based on a rigorous review of 83 studies conducted between 1960 and 2007, the APA advised psychologists to avoid telling their clients that therapy or other treatments can change them from gay to straight.
Not surprisingly, NARTH (National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality), Exodus International, and a slew of other religious groups immediately denounced the APA report. They claimed, as they so often do, that any research affirming the goodness and wholeness of queer people is bogus and only their twisted belief that we are sick, sinful, and second-class (and therefore in need of “change”) has any credibility.
In my view, the conversation about whether gays can change is a distraction from the much more important question; which is “Why do those in power encourage change in the first place?” The answer, of course, is the rampant heterosexism that infuses nearly every aspect of our culture.
Heterosexism is a system of attitudes, behaviors, and practices that subordinate queer people on the basis of their sexual orientation. In the same way that racism keeps whites in power over people of color and sexism keeps women subordinate to men, heterosexism keeps those who are straight dominant over those who are not. Heterosexism is the prejudice that only heterosexuality is normative, combined with the power to enforce that privilege across every spectrum of society. Heterosexism is advanced by nearly every tune on the radio, sitcom and commercial on television, print ad in the newspaper, film at the box office, and institutional policy within our government and work place. In innumerable ways each day, our society idealizes straightness and ignores or devalues the existence of any person or family who identifies otherwise.
When was the last time you heard a debate about whether therapy and prayer can change a straight person to gay?
I believe “change”, “repair”, and “conversion” are indeed possible. Millions of people have changed their minds and now believe that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender citizens deserve full equality under the law. A growing number of churches have repaired their previously broken theology and now welcome and affirm everyone in their congregations. Slowly, the religious denominations that create and enforce church doctrine are undergoing a conversion in their understanding of LGBTQ people (let’s hope the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America undergoes such a conversion this week).
But the only way things change is if you and I are willing to be “anti” so that no one ever again has to be “ex.” Focusing on the work of anti-heterosexism (undoing the notion that straightness is superior and preferable) undermines the toxic belief system that encourages so many to waste thousands of dollars and precious years trying to become “ex-gay” in therapies and programs that end up doing more harm than good.
So, I’m proud of Soulforce, Beyond Ex-Gay, Box Turtle Bulletin, Truth Wins Out, Equality Florida, and the National Black Justice Coalition for coming together to sponsor the 2009 Anti-Heterosexism Conference in West Palm Beach, Florida (November 20-22, 2009) during the same weekend and in the same city where NARTH will hold its annual conference. Early registration begins today at www.anti-heterosexismconference.org and the conference features powerful keynotes by Dr. Sylvia Rhue, Dr. Jack Drescher, and Rev. Deborah Johnson, plus an exciting line-up of concurrent workshops that will be announced in September.
It’s our moral obligation to be “anti” and resist, oppose, and prevent the systems of power that oppress and discriminate. Join us this November in West Palm Beach as together we learn effective tools for undoing heterosexism in communities across the globe.
Warning: At this conference, you will most likely change . . . into your bathing suit!
Hope to see you there.
Christine Bakke: Dreams Of A Daughter
February 17th, 2009
Ex-gay survivor Christine Bakke recently discovered a post that her mother wrote for PFOX, an ex-gay organization. While Christine has left the ex-gay life behind, her mother, quite obviously, is still clinging to the hope that Christine will someday cast aside her integrity to live in the pretend world of the ex-gay movement.
Understandably, Christine’s relationship with her mother is strained, although she points out that her living as a lesbian isn’t the only issue. While Christine doesn’t want to play out the details of their estrangement over public blogs and web sites, she nevertheless recognizes that “my parents didn’t have a choice in me going public with my story. So they’re well within their right to write about me.”
I’ve often wondered how I would respond if my own mother had spoken out publicly against me. I hope that I, too, would recognize that she has the right to do so. But it’s hard to imagine what sort of interpretations I’d put on her motivations. Rejection? Certainly. And fear, probably. But I do think I’d see a misguided love underneath all that. I don’t know whether it would make it easier to understand (she does love me, after all, no matter how misguided) or harder (sensing a love with conditions will never be easy to deal with). But mostly, I think my reaction would be anger — at those who are encouraging her on the path of estrangement, people who have neither her nor my best interests at heart
But I don’t know what my reaction would be. Fortunately, I haven’t had to deal with that situation. Perhaps that’s because I didn’t try to go through the organized ex-gay route. There wasn’t anyone there to hold out false hope to my mother that I could change.
Every family is different. And in Christine’s case, while she has left the ex-gay movement and has become an outspoken critic of it, her mother is still fully ensconced in one of the more rejecting and confrontational expressions of that anti-gay movement. She is still being encouraged to look for magic signs and snow angel wonders to show that someday Christine will forget all she knows and go back to a life of denial and misery.
I’ve known Christine for more than two years now, and I have always found her gentle heart to be filled with thoughtful consideration for other people. So I couldn’t help but be moved by how she responded to her mother’s post.
Although saying that they love me unconditionally, in the Glamour article my mom said, “When you rock your baby in your arms, you never think one day my daughter will be homosexual and want to have sex with another woman, never have children. No one holds their baby and says maybe they’ll grow up to be a rapist, or this or that. You have dreams for your children.”
Well you know what? Children have dreams for their parents, too. You don’t lay in your parent’s arms and think that you’ll have to defend yourself from them thinking you are lost and damned eternally. You don’t cuddle up and think that one day you’ll find out that they believe that who you are is synonymous with being a rapist. I certainly didn’t have those dreams for my parents. What I did dream instead was that I might be able to express my concerns and be heard. I dreamed that I would be always cherished and deemed worthy of their love and respect, no matter my beliefs. I dreamed that I would be supported in living a life that was truly authentic and truly mine, without the haunting thoughts about what a disappointment I am to them. Those dreams have had to die.
Christine is willing to meet her parents where they are. “I’ve often told people that I don’t mind if they think I’m going to hell, just treat me with respect, love and dignity and we can have a relationship regardless,” she wrote. Obviously, that’s not enough. For many ex-gay survivors, the only route to reconciliation is total capitulation. If only her parents — and the ironically dubbed “pro-family” anti-gay forces which are sustaining a key component of this estrangement — could meet her where she is. If they did, they would find an amazing daughter that any parent would be proud of.
Why must that be so hard?
Hair You Can Straighten, Gays Not So Much
November 6th, 2008
Colorado-area and national groups Beyond Ex-Gay, Soulforce, Truth Wins Out, the Colorado Queer Straight Alliance, PFLAG, the GLBT Center of Colorado, Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, the Religious Society of Friends and more have been working the past few months to organize a public response to this weekend’s NARTH conference.
NARTH, the National Association for the Research and Treatment of Homosexuality, is an anti-gay “secular” group that believes that being gay is a sickness that can and should be cured. Wait, have we traveled back in time to the 19th Century???
We have planned a series of events under the banner, “Ex-Gay Exposé: Exploring Practices and Harm in Reparative Therapy.” As former clients of NARTH and NARTH-inspired ex-gay therapy, we speak directly to destructive nature of theories and therapies designed to change and suppress gay and lesbian orientation and gender differences.
In addition to standing up as public witnesses to counter the false and misleading messages of NARTH, we will meet with ex-gay survivors to explore our ex-gay experiences and look at ways in which we have creatively sought to recover from them and integrate our sexuality as part of our healthy development. We will also convene a team of mental health experts for a summit to consider treatment plans and best practices designed to help ex-gay survivors overcome from the harm we have experienced at the hands of anti-gay practitioners.
Lisa M. Diamond, Ph.D., an Associate Professor of Psychology and Gender Studies in the Department of Psychology at the University of Utah, speaks out in this video about how NARTH distorted and misrepresented her work in order to push their anti-gay agenda. (hat tip to Wayne Besen and Truth Wins Out)
Friday, Nov 7th
7pm: Doin’ Time with Peterson Toscano. Well-known ex-gay survivor Peterson Toscano, as seen in The Advocate and LOGO’s “Be Real,” will be on hand to perform excerpts from several plays inspired by his years spent in the ex-gay movement. Location: Our Savior’s Lutheran Church (915 E 9th Ave, Denver. An affirming congregation)
Saturday, Nov 8th
8:45-10am: Rally at NARTH Conference site, Renaissance Hotel (3801 Quebec St, Denver). Meet outside to the south of the hotel.
11-4pm: Ex-Gay Exposé Gathering. Gathering for ex-gay survivors as well as allies who wish to learn more about the ex-gay movement. Location: Moutain View Friends Meeting. (2280 S Columbine St, Denver)
6-8pm: Mental Health Professionals workshop, part 1 (What is the ex-gay movement? What are common needs of ex-gay survivors?). Location: GLBT Community Center. (1050 Broadway, Denver)
Sunday, Nov 9th
9am-12pm: Mental Health Professionals workshop, part 2 (Exploring best practices for treating ex-gay survivors). Location: GLBT Community Center (1050 Broadway, Denver)
7 pm: Transfigurations: Transgressing Gender in the Bible. Written and performed by Peterson Toscano. Location: Our Savior’s Lutheran Church (915 E 9th Ave, Denver. An affirming congregation).
If you’re interested in attending any of these events, please fill out the information on this signup page and we’ll email you as needed.
Beyond Ex-Gay Gathering in Barcelona
May 20th, 2008
Wherever there are ex-gay groups, there are ex-gay survivors recovering from the experience. Exodus Global Alliance has been trying to make inroads into Spain for quite some time. Beyond Ex-Gay, in conjunction with local LGBT groups, will be holding an ex-gay survivors gathering at the University of Barcelona on May 30.
Conference speakers include Jordi Petit, Honorary President of la Coordiandora Gai-Lesbiana de Catalunya (the Gay-Lesbian Network of Catalonia), Noemí Domínguez, Clinical psychologist and Master’s in sexual and couple therapy (University of Barcelona), and Peterson Toscano, ex-gay survivor and co-founder of Beyond Ex-Gay.
Today In History: BXG!
April 2nd, 2008
On April 2, 2007, one year ago today, Beyond Ex-Gay was founded. And what a year it’s been. It has been my pleasure to play a very small part in this young group’s activities over the past year. They’ve accomplished a lot in a very short time. Happy birthday, BXG!
Image from Peterson’s blog.
Ex-Gay Survivors Talk About Love In Action and other Ex-Gay Ministries
February 22nd, 2008
It’s been a very long day here in Memphis, where several of us have gathered for the Beyond Ex-Gay Mid-South Regional Gathering taking place this weekend. Earlier today, we had a press conference to talk about the experiences of those who had participated in ex-gay ministries and therapies, and to talk about the Love Won Out ex-gay conference taking place here on Saturday.
I’m posting the videos of that press conference a bit out of order because I really want to highlight Jacob Wilson’s comments. Jacob was a client at Love In Action, the residential ex-gay program in Memphis made famous by Zach, the sixteen-year-old blogger who was forced into the program against his will. Listen as Jacob describes his experience there, especially the infamous “friends and family weekend,” which was an integral part of the program. If you don’t watch any other video in this post, you must at least see this one:
I was standing near another former client of Love In Action as Jacob spoke. He described his experience at a different “friends and family weekend” which was very nearly identical to Jacob’s. I cannot imagine a more outrageous form of abuse short of physical abuse than to force anyone to speak like this in front of their parents. Coupled with Love In Action’s bizarre rules, we would be calling this outfit a brain-washing cult if it weren’t being operated as a “Christian ministry.” Christians everywhere should be outraged.
Other videos from the press conference, in order of appearance:
Yours truly, talking about what was said at Love Won Out, and how real live parents who were attending responded to what they said:
Brandon Tidwell went into Love In Action six years ago, soon after coming out to his parents:
After Brandon and Jacob spoke, John Holm talked about the collages which ex-gay survivors put together to describe their personal experiences which they will share tomorrow morning at the Love Won Out conference:
And finally, the hardest working woman in the whole program, Christine Bakke took reporters on a tour of the art show that she oversaw at the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center.
My Submission For The Memphis Ex-Gay Survivor Art Show
February 17th, 2008
Acrylic paint and Sharpie on wooden block and parchment craft paper
Nikon D70 @ 50mm, multiple exposures at 1/20 f8, ISO 400
Natural illumination supplemented with halogen work lamps
Just a reminder “Deconstructing The Ex-Gay Myth, A Weekend Of Action And Art” is next weekend in Memphis. For a full schedule of events click here.
Memphis Commerial Appeal on Ex-Gay Survivors
February 17th, 2008
Jacob Wilson was just nineteen when he was involved with Love In Action’s residential adult program at the same time that Love In Action was in the national spotlight. A few years ago, LIA gained notoriety when a teenager named Zach wrote on his mySpace page about being forceed by his parents into LIA’s now-closed Refuge program for youth.
Zach’s supporters protested outside of LIA, but Wilson says the men and women inside were told not to make eye contact with the protesters and not to read their signs.
After Wilson left LIA, he found out what the protesters had wanted him to know.
“These people weren’t doing it to be activists, they were doing it to show that we weren’t alone, that we were loved … It crushes me that that message was cut from us.”
The Memphis Commercial Appeal reports this morning on Jacob Wilson’s experience at Love In Action as he struggles to pay off the huge credit card debt from that failed effort. There’s also more information about this week’s Beyond Ex-Gay Mid-South Regional Gathering on Feb 22-24 in Memphis.
Deconstructing The Ex-Gay Myth, A Weekend Of Action And Art
February 4th, 2008
Focus on the Family’s “Love Won Out” ex-gay conference is coming to Memphis on February 23rd. Beyond Ex-Gay and the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center are teaming up to respond with “Deconstructing The Ex-Gay Myth, A Weekend Of Action And Art.” Have a look at the video which outlines all the cool stuff planned:
A full schedule of events and details can be found here on BXG’s website. If you have friends or loved ones in the Memphis area please send them this 4-minute video and help get the word out!
A Call To Artists
January 30th, 2008
Beyond Ex-Gay and the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center have announced plans to host an art show, featuring works by “whose lives have been negatively affected by the ex-gay movement. This could include former ex-gays, as well as spouses, children, parents, and friends of former ex-gays.
Organizers will accept submissions of all types of visual art: drawings, paintings, collage, mixed media, photography, or multimedea. They ask that you submit photos of your work to bxg (at) beyondexgay (dot) com for consideration. A panel will review your submission and contact you with further details if they’re interested in accepting your work. The deadline is Wednesday, February 13, 2008. The exhibition will be held in Memphis from February 22 to 24.
Video of 2007 Ex-Gay Survivor’s Conference
November 13th, 2007
Filmmaker Brian Murphy has just posted a wonderfully produced video of last summer’s Ex-gay Survivor’s Conference held in Irvine, Califormia. The thing that struck me while watching this video is the balanced representation of views at the conference. Alan Chambers dismissed the conference as a “protest” against the ex-gay movement, but in reality the conference wasn’t that at all. Pay attention to the “chalk talk” portion of the video. You’ll find positive expressions of experiences in the ex-gay movement mixed in with the negatives and harms.http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6813300738108451537
This video reminds me that there are stories to be told on both sides of the issue. I had the privilege of speaking to strugglers at the 2007 Exodus Conference as well as speaking to ex-ex-gays at the Survivor’s conference. There are very poignant stories on both sides. The zero-sum game played by culture warriors has little to do with the people on the ground, and yet it ends up touching everyone all around anyway. Unfortunately, its the ordinary stories of ordinary people which gets lost in the shouting.
Hat tip: The lovely and talented Peterson Toscano.