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Posts for December, 2010

LGBT criticism of Colorado civil union campaign as incrementalist

A commentary

Daniel Gonzales

December 23rd, 2010

Senator Pat Steadman recently announced a campaign for civil unions in the 2011 legislative session.  The first opposition from within the LGBT community appeared today in this Denver Post guest commentary:

We were legally married in San Francisco on Sept. 25, 2008, and we introduce ourselves as each other’s husbands. We are appalled that anyone, especially members of the gay community, would be willing to settle, much less offer to settle, for anything less than full marriage equality.

[snip]

…we are putting our Lakewood home on the market to finance our efforts and we plan to take our fight back to federal court if necessary.

First bravo to Carllon and Martinez for the sacrifices they are making to fight for marriage equality.  This isn’t mentioned in their article but Carllon was among those arrested for blocking the entrance to the Episcopal Church national convention at a Denver Soulforce event in July of 2000 according to local organizer Chris Hubble.

However as an activist myself I don’t expect everyone in the community to make the same sacrifices I choose to.

LGBT Coloradans and their families will benefit immediately from protections that civil unions would provide.  I try not to think about how long we will wait until Colorado voters are prepared to overturn the state’s marriage amendment or until Carllon and Martinez’ lawsuit might bear fruit in a glacial federal court system.

In One Colorado’s 2010 statewide LGBT survey more than one quarter of respondents earn less than $25,000 per year (source).

Consider for example my friend and fellow activist Christine Bakke who is getting married next month.  After reading the Denver Post commentary Christine reacted:

[Colorado's] Designated beneficiaries and the Denver domestic partnership cost us I think $50 to file.  We’re on a limited budget and can’t easily pick up and go to another state to get married when it won’t be recognized here. Nor can we pull money out of our pocket to pay for a lawyer to put in place the stuff that a civil union or marriage would give us.

Jessica Woodrum, Communications Manager at One Colorado, provided comment by email about the real prospects of full marriage equality in Colorado currently:

The path to marriage equality in Colorado is difficult.  Unlike other states that have achieved marriage equality, our state constitution contains an amendment that bans marriage for same-sex couples.  Until this amendment is overturned in the courts or by a ballot vote of Colorado voters, full marriage equality is not possible in Colorado.

One Colorado supports full marriage equality, but we believe that same-sex couples need the critical protections that civil unions provide right now.  Especially in these tough economic times, we must ensure that all Coloradans have the tools they need to provide for the ones they love.

Are you sick of the financial argument at this point?  Moving on…

Carllon and Martinez assert that incrementalism will impair progress to full equality:

So what will a civil unions bill accomplish other than to cede the fight for full equality?

There can be no substitute for equality and it cannot be achieved incrementally, as we have learned from the failed “don’t ask, don’t tell” law. If the gay community is willing to accept the crumbs off the marriage table, they may never see the cake.

This is grossly inaccurate and the last decade of LGBT rights legislative action across the nation is proof.

Vermont, Washington DC, California, New Hampshire and Connecticut all had some form of civil unions or domestic partnerships before making a move to full marriage equality.  Maryland which currently has domestic partnerships appears ready to legislate full marriage in 2011.

And nearly half the states that currently have trans-inclusive nondiscrimination laws achieved them through incrementalism. (i.e. passing sexual orientation protection one year and later adding gender identity) Here’s the data.

.

I don’t believe any LGBT leader in Colorado finds civil unions to be an acceptable final or permanent solution.  Nor do I believe civil unions will delay the path to full equality. Instead civil unions will prime Colorado voters to accept full marriage equality.  A significant portion of Colorado’s LGBT community (including people I care about) are tremendously vulnerable, and civil unions would go a long way to help improve their lives. But it seems to me unfair and perhaps unintentionally out of touch for Carllon and Martinez to ask the most vulnerable Coloradans to sacrifice for the activist ideals of another person.

Former Ex-Gay Women Speak About Their Experiences

Jim Burroway

August 6th, 2008

The ex-gay movement is very male-centered. Relatively speaking, there are quite a bit fewer women who go through the experience. Consequently, the experiences that lesbians go through are largely unknown and overlooked.

Tomorrow, two women ex-gay survivors will host a conference call open to the public to talk about their experience as lesbians in the ex-gay movement. The featured speakers will be Christine Bakke and Darlene Bogle. Christine Bakke is a co-founder of Beyond Exgay, a web site dedicated to providing resources for those who have left the ex-gay movement. Darlene Bogle is a former Exodus ex-gay leader. She was one of three former leaders to publicly apologize last summer for their leadership roles in the movement.

You can listen live and be a part of the conversation with Darlene and Christine tomorrow. Here are the details:

Thursday, August 7th, 5pm Pacific/8pm Eastern
1. Dial-In Conference Number 1-218-486-1300
2. Access Code: 807282

You’re invited to participate by asking your own questions. Email your question in advance to info@godandgaysthemovie.com. During the call, use Yahoo! IM: godandgaysthemovie@yahoo.com

Ex-Gay Exposé – Response To NARTH’s Denver Convention Announced

Daniel Gonzales

July 6th, 2008

NARTH is holding it’s annual convention in Denver the weekend of November 7-9. Christine Bakke and I both happen to live here so we’re heading up the response. For details about what we have planned and how you can join the fun watch our promo video and then sign up to help out.

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Denver Marriage Sit-In Particpants And Ex-Gay Survivor Activists To Speak Sunday At Soulforce Event

Daniel Gonzales

May 29th, 2008

Denver residents Kate Burns and her partner Sheila Schroeder will be speaking Sunday at MCC of the Rockies about last year’s sit-in at the county clerk’s office. Since the focus of the gathering is on Soulforce activism also speaking will be ex-gay survivor activists Daniel Gonzales and Christine Bakke.

MCC Of The Rockies
(10th & Clarkson in Denver)
Sunday, June 1st from 1-3pm

This forum is after the normal Sunday service so there won’t be any religion for those of you averse to such things.

APA Symposium’s Critical Flaw: What About The Ex-Gay Survivors?

This commentary is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the opinion of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin.

Jim Burroway

May 13th, 2008

Don’t you hate it when you know that people are talking about you and you’re not there? And don’t you hate it even more when they’re talking about something that’s directly relevant to your experience, and that the whole point of their conversation is to arrive at conclusions about how to deal with you in the future? And you’re not invited to be a part of the conversation?

I know I do. But the now-canceled American Psychiatric Association Symposium “Homosexuality and Therapy: The Religious Dimension” was about to do just that.

The symposium, as the title suggests, was intended to discuss the intersection of faith and therapy, with special consideration to issues surrounding homosexuality. One particular topic was likely to dominate the discussion: efforts to change sexual orientation through therapeutic means. After all, this panel’s formation came as a response to the APA’s decision to form a working group to review its stance on ex-gay therapy.

The panel was organized by Dr. David Scasta, past president of the APA’s Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists. Also participating would have been Dr. Warren Throckmorton, who defends sexual reorientation therapy for those who want it, while recognizing that some forms can be harmful. Together they were to have covered the “therapy” aspects of what might have been a interesting exchange (although it would have been grossly incomplete for reasons I’ll get into in a moment).

But the panel was doomed from the start with the participating of two starkly polarizing figures representing the “religious dimension” of the panel. Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Rev. Albert Mohler was to be one participant. He has been a stridently vocal advocate for sexual reorientation therapy, so much so that he even approved of prenatal therapy if such a thing were to exist — which, of course, it doesn’t. What contribution he might have had to a symposium which was supposed to bring “scientists and clinicians” together is very unclear.

Providing “balance” for the other side would have been Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Anglican community. He too is a very odd choice. Bishop Robinson may be famous for his groundbreaking position in the church, but there’s no indication that he has any background for speaking about sexual reorientation therapy. Against Dr. Throckmorton and Rev. Mohler (who often speaks in support of reorientation therapy), Rev. Robinson would have been very much out of his element. No wonder Focus On the Family was so excited to mischaracterize the event as a “debate” between Robinson and Mohler to validate their position on sexual reorientation therapy.

That would have left Dr. Scasta as the only one who would have had even a remote possibility of speaking knowledgeably about reorientation therapy as an LGBT-affirming advocate. But unlike Throckmorton, Scasta has not published anything himself concerning sexual reorientation therapy that I’m aware of. With his background as editor of the Journal of Gay and Lesbian Psychotherapy, he may have been able to hold his own just fine, but I’ve not been able to find anything which speaks to his knowledge on this particular subject.

We were about to hear a lot of people talking about people who tried to change their sexual orientation, but it wasn’t clear that we were going to hear a lot of informed people talking about them. And worse, in setting up the symposium they left out the most important perspective: ex-gay survivors. This seems to happen all too often. Christine Bakke, ex-gay survivor and a Beyond Ex-Gay organizer, put the problem this way:

What got lost was the actual people who were doing [the ex-gay ministries]. It’s like a kid in a custody battle.

Well they’re definitely not kids anymore. Over the past year, we’ve seen hundreds of former ex-gays come forward in something that is beginning to resemble a movement. Before now, we all knew they existed — we certainly talked about them a lot — but we are just now starting to hear from them directly in pretty significant numbers — as well as from former ex-gay leaders and spokespersons. The days when they were seen but not heard are clearly over. Their experiences in ex-gay therapy are far too compelling to ignore, and their rapidly growing numbers in just a few short years suggests that many more will follow.

But so far, their existence was been largely overlooked or, worse, dismissed as a stunt. When survivors organized their very first conference in Irvine, California, more than two hundred people showed up. But Exodus International president Alan Chambers responded with snide comments while Focus On the Family spread bold-faced lies about the gathering. Even Dr. Throckmorton cast doubts on the ex-gay survivors motives during their historic, first-ever meeting.

Clearly this new movement has touched a nerve. Before now, the ex-gay movement and their defenders have had a free hand in defining the parameters of debate with very little effective opposition. Beginning in the 1990′s they embarked on a massive television and billboard campaign to convince the world that “ex-gays do exist” and “change is possible.” Exodus International took out full-page ads in national newspapers, and ex-gay ministry leader Michael Johnston appeared in television commercials. This, of course, was before his downfall in 2003 when it was learned that he had been hosting orgies, taking drugs and practicing unsafe sex without disclosing his HIV status.

Dr. Throckmorton himself has contributed to this publicity effort. In 2004, he produced the video “I Do Exist,” which he encouraged churches and schools to show as a counter to National Coming Out Day. In it, he described studies which he claimed documented cases “of people who had changed from completely homosexual to completely heterosexual.” The video featured several ex-gays including Noé Gutierrez, Sarah Lipp, Joanne Highley, and Cheryl and Greg Quinlan. All of these were presented as though they were ordinary, run-of-the-mill ex-gays who had an interesting story to tell.

But Sarah Lipp certainly isn’t an ordinary humble ex-gay picked at random. Her segments were filmed in Chattanooga, where she happens to be the women’s ministry coordinator for the Harvest USA ex-gay ministry, having founded several ex-gay support groups throughout the mid-South. Joanne Highley also leads an ex-gay ministry in New York. She’s an especially interesting character. She describes her lesbian past as having been “under demonic oppression.” She has also said that she heard a voice telling her that she would be “ministering to homosexuals and Jews.” That, of course, is not on the video, where she instead appears as a nice, kindly, and perhaps even a timid older lady.

Also not on the video is Greg Quinlan’s exuberance for manufacturing public confrontations while representing PFOX. He does that when he’s not acting on behalf of his own Dayton-based Pro Family Network. He and his wife Cheryl were very active in promoting Ohio’s anti-marriage constitutional amendment, which is just one example of how ex-gay leaders routinely leverage their own marriages for political causes against LGBT citizens.

In fact, of the five ex-gays appearing in that video, four of them had a personal vocational stake in promoting ex-gay ministries. Not surprisingly, this fits a well-known pattern. In Spitzer’s famous 2003 ex-gay study of people who claimed to have changed, he reported that “the majority of participants (78 percent) had publicly spoken in favor of efforts to change homosexual orientation, often at their church,” and that “nineteen percent of the participants were mental health professionals or directors of ex-gay ministries.” Exodus president Alan Chambers and vice-president Randy Thomas were just two of those participants.

The only person featured in “I Do Exist” who was not an anti-gay activist was Noé Gutierrez. He proclaimed himself to be “entirely heterosexual” in the video, but after the video’s release he announced that he regretted that his story became a part of “the divisive message of the ex-gay movement.” In a later update to his web site, he described how quickly Exodus International banned him from their annual conferences after he expressed doubts about ex-gay ministries, and some of the harms that he experienced as a fallout from his participation in ex-gay ministries — harms that are remarkably familiar to many ex-gay survivors I’ve talked to over the past year.

Nevertheless, “I Do Exist” is still available for sale on Dr. Throckmorton’s web site.

So yeah, we’ve all heard a lot from ex-gays. They’ve had free reign for nearly two decades to use their lives as examples to argue against advancing the civil rights of their fellow LGBT citizens. And until now, they’ve enjoyed something of a monopoly on the public square. Sure, there have always been activists who argued against sexual reorientation therapy, but many of them — as well-intentioned as they may have been — were often demonstrably uninformed about the movement, and that has diminished both their credibility and their effectiveness.

But now we have real live former ex-gays who, in concordance with their faith, tried to change their lives to fit the only mold their faiths allowed them — only to find themselves outside the false promise of “change” and, worse for some of them, feeling as though they were beyond reconciliation with God. These are people who really tried to bring their lives into congruence with their faiths, and yet this is where their ex-gay experiences left them. Ex-gays and their supporters have been speaking for decades now; it is way past time now for survivors to have a place at the table.

Talking is good, but this forum would not have included the very people who most needed to be heard. Ex-gay survivors really do exist, to borrow a phrase. And until these survivors are invited to speak to those who would presume to speak about them, a critical part of the conversation will remain unheard. And that won’t do anyone any good.

Today In History: BXG!

Jim Burroway

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.

“Refried Freud” — Psychoanalysis and Ex-Gay Therapy

Jim Burroway

March 30th, 2008

Christine BakkeBeyond Ex-Gay co-founder Christine Bakke is truly a delightful woman. I got to spend a little bit of time with her again last February in Memphis during the Beyond Ex-gay Mid-South Regional Gathering. Not nearly enough time though — she was exceptionally busy putting together the art show for the weekend.

Last Friday, Christine posted a very thoughtful essay inspired by Peterson Toscano’s comments that ex-gay ministries are still depend on the developmental theories of Sigmund Freud — “Refried Freud” he called it. Which, when you think of it, means that the ex-gay movement is stuck in a very peculiar time warp. Most of their operating theories are founded on some rather ancient Freudian theories that the rest of psychology has largely abandoned.

Sigmund FreudSome of us are old enough to remember when Freudian psychoanalysis was all the rage back in the 1950′s and 1960′s. Everyone who was anyone, it seemed, was seeing an analyst. And everyone who was anyone was just as messed up after seeing their analyst as they were before. It’s no wonder that Freudian psychoanalysis has largely fallen by the wayside. As a discipline, they remained too wedded to a narrow set of untested and untestable theories, while the rest of psychology and psychiatry honed their methods and understanding over generations of research and observation, throwing out old theories when they were disproved and adopting new ones as they came along.

Meanwhile, Freudian analysts and their ex-gay therapy counterparts, undeterred by the march of time, continued to press forward with their oft-parodied opening gambit: “So now, tell me about your mother.”

Christine Bakke knows where that leads all too well:

The fishing expeditions (a friend started to believe he didn’t feel his father’s love after being badgered with, “did your father say he loved you? It doesn’t matter if you knew; did he say it? He didn’t say it? Then you didn’t really know it, did you? Of course you didn’t know it; didn’t feel it. How can a child know it if they’re not explicitly told it?” and so on) and leading questions and suggestions (one pastor’s wife suggested I make up abusive things that might have happened to me, so that I could break the curse of satan, just in case I didn’t remember specific things that might have happened to me in my life. I forcefully refused.) I was even told that sometimes women can be gay because they have not been able to grow out of the stage of penis envy.

I knew one women whose therapist gave her assignments to flirt with men. An ex-gay guy who went on several dates to try to learn how to be with a woman (without disclosing that he identified as ex-gay), on the recommendation of his therapist. A woman who was counseled by the leader of the ex-gay group that women should wear makeup (“need to put some paint on the side of the barn”). A man who changed his last name because his ex-gay therapy led him to believe that his parents were to blame for him being gay. A woman who insinuated that she had been abused because she felt like her story didn’t “fit” the ex-gay model without some kind of a root cause. A young man who said that after he got out of the ex-gay movement and was finished with reparative therapy, that’s when the real repairing began. He had to repair the relationships with his family after buying into the belief that they were distant from him and made him gay.

The American Psychological Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in 1973. In doing so, they relied on non-psychoanalyitic studies like those of Evelyn Hooker. But the American Psychoanalytical Association dismissed non-psychoanalyic studies as “superficial.” This created a strange closed-off echo chamber where evidence that ran counter to a theory was thrown out because it didn’t fit the theory. In fact, the APsyA remained hostile to homosexuality until 1991, when openly gay candidates were for the first time allowed to apply for acceptance by the APsyA.

Since then, the APsyA has begun to consider the implications of research in a whole host of mental disorders like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, which today are regarded as being at least partly physiological disorders. This would have been anathema to psychoanalysts a mere generation ago. Last year, the APsyA issued a statement supporting same-sex marriage. That’s quite an improvement since 1991.

But ex-gay therapies continue to rely on the same outdated theories that once threatened to make psychoanalysis a historical footnote. While the APsyA are allowing nonpsychoanalytic research to inform their work, ex-gay ministries remain stuck firmly in the past. But the problem with relying on untested and untestable theories is that they are no more scientific than any other folk remedies or superstitions. And some of these remedies may be damaging. Christine Bakke contrasts her experience with therapists and misguided religious-based lay leaders, and concludes:

Of course, like in my case, even licensed therapists who have an ex-gay mindset and agenda can be just as damaging as the lay leaders. Sometimes I can’t decide which is worse. Counseling by a therapist we think should know the best because we think they’re the experts and we trust them more, or lay leaders who we think love us more because we are not paying them. No matter what, ex-gay counseling done by therapists or lay leaders, many poorly equipped through books, Exodus conferences, Living Waters training programs (one week long), Love Won Out day-long conferences, on-the-job training, or for some, nothing more than being ex-gay themselves, mixed with refried Freud, is a recipe for disaster.

I highly recommend you read her entire essay.

Ex-Gay Survivors Talk About Love In Action and other Ex-Gay Ministries

Jim Burroway

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:

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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:

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Brandon Tidwell went into Love In Action six years ago, soon after coming out to his parents:

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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:

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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.

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Good Stuff On TV And Radio Tonight (Tuesday)

Daniel Gonzales

November 13th, 2007

Ex-gay survivors Peterson Toscano and Christine Bakke will be on a gay radio show called Strictly Confidential tonight starting at 9:00PM (eastern time). The program can be streamed online right here. Also, I’m told it’s a call-in show.

If I don’t call to harass Peterson during his interview then I’ll be watching NOVA which is doing a program tonight on the Dover school board’s promotion of intelligent design and the ensuing trial and election.

Watch a preview here.

Over The Weekend

Daniel Gonzales

October 28th, 2007

Christine Bakke and I were interviewed by ONE TV Show, a local gay program here in Denver. Once the episode is online I’ll post a link.

The Tennessean Follows Up On Ex-Gay Movement

Jim Burroway

August 17th, 2007

The Tennessean from Nashville had some very extensive follow-up to last week’s appearance by ex-gay survivors Darlene Bogle and Christine Bakke in front of the Southern Baptist Convention’s headquarters. We briefly mentioned Jack Drescher’s op-ed piece which probably got the most notice.

But I’d also like to direct your attention to the Tennessean’s editorial calling the SBC to task for “perpetuating old stigmas,” an opposing op-ed which says the church is “obliged to help those who feel trapped by lifestyle,” and an opinion piece by Bob Stith, the denomination’s first national strategist for gender issues, which gives us a good idea of where the SBC is going with this. And don’t miss the lively Reader Views section which indicates that quite a few middle Tennesseans are skeptical of the SBC’s latest initiative.