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Posts for September, 2010

“Burn Qur’ans” Pastor booted from German church for ex-gay efforts

Timothy Kincaid

September 9th, 2010

It is no surprise that Terry Jones, the Florida pastor who has been getting a lot of press for his stated intent to burn copies of the Qur’an this weekend, has a history of troubled relationships with the gay community. In May his church, Dove World Outreach Center, opposed a gay candidate for mayor of Gainesville, FL, with a “No Homo Mayor” campaign.

But it turns out that Jones’ anti-gay animus is international. From Spiegel:

In the United States, Jones has already attracted attention on several occasions as an Islamophobic provocateur. What is less well known is that the pastor led a charismatic evangelical church, the Christian Community of Cologne, in the western German city up until 2009. Last year, however, the members of the congregation kicked founder Jones out, because of his radicalism.

Jones became increasingly radical as the years went by, former associates say. At one point he wanted to help a homosexual member to “pray away his sins.”

It seems that ex-gay ministries are seen as bizarre and radical in Germany, even among evangelicals.

Why many ex-gays go to ex-gay ministries

Timothy Kincaid

August 2nd, 2010

It can be hard to understand the reasons why someone would go into the ex-gay movement. Those who are less familiar with the phenomenon tend to think that it is a matter of guilt or shame that drives gullible people to try and change their orientation. Others think that it is oppressive parents and family, a culture that is homophobic or a church that puts pressure on an impressionable youth.

And, yes those are reasons. There are otherwise happy people who are so subjected to pressure or guilt that they believe that they must go through ex-gay ministry or they will lose their families and friends and burn in Hell forever.

But it isn’t just that simple. There are others who go looking for help from an ex-gay ministry in desperation because their life is in chaos and they don’t know what else to do. Their own personal circumstances are so out of control that they need help.

It is only natural to look for a cause for our unhappiness. It’s my job or my girlfriend or my financial situation and if only it would change then I could really be happy. For some gay people they look at their chaos and think “if only I weren’t gay!”

This week I heard from one such person. I won’t use his name – though he’s given me permission – because I see his story as an illustration of so many ex-gay stories that seem to have this theme.

My friend has been in and out of ex-gay ministry for quite a few years, never finding either within the ex-gay community or within the gay community exactly what he needed. Here are his past few years in his own words.

I am sure by now you heard that about two years ago I went back into the ex-gay lifestyle and closed myself off from the “gay world” I had pretty much gotten ride of all my gay friends and turned my back on people that loved me. In the last year I have come out again. For the final time and took some time off to do some reflecting as to what God wants to see me doing.

Here is a synopsis of what happened.

… for many years I was a sex addict till this day I am a recovering sex addict. By the grace of God I am sober. The sex addiction kept me in chains and I wasn’t able to experience true freedom until I dealt with that subject. I thought that being gay I had to sleep with as many men as possible, but that wasn’t the case. I thought it was what all gay men wanted and that’s not how I wanted to live. So I kept going back and forth from being ex-gay to gay. I would get tired of being gay because of the addiction and I would then run to the church. When I couldn’t stand trying to be straight I would give up get depressed and end up in the hospital for suicidal thoughts and depression.

I entered rehab this past year and it was the best thing for me. I was able to really face the addiction and can happily say that I have been sober for over 90 days. When I refer to being sober for me it is not having anonymous sex. Sex sobriety is such a fine line and everyone must define their own bottom line behavior. Mine is no sex out of a committed loving relationship.

I’m writing this because I am hoping that someone can benefit from my story. That someone can be saved from the heartache and pain that I went through. I am currently writing a book as well. It is my autobiography hopefully to be completed by the end of the year. I am hoping you can share this with your readers to give hope to others that being gay is ok. That being Christian is ok too. Its how we live our lives that makes a difference.

My friend is finding help. For perhaps the first time he’s looking at his life and seeing the problem and not the symptoms. And for that I am very happy.

But I can see why it has taken him so long.

One of the memes of ex-gay ministry is that the ‘homosexual lifestyle’ is destructive, demeaning, and damaging. My friend’s story of sexual addiction did not seem peculiar or out of the norm, it was just what it’s like ‘in the gay life.’ At his ex-gay ministry, he was bound to hear confirmation of this idea.

But we should not assume that his ministry was lying to him or trying to deceive him; local groups do believe what they say. These scary stories about the homosexual lifestyle full of misery and despair are not created for the consumption of gullible youth – these scary stories are the real lives of real people who really experienced life that way.

And it makes sense. If you are living a life full of contentment and meaning and you have someone to love and who cares for you, you aren’t as likely to go looking for a way to become heterosexual. If you aren’t miserable, then you aren’t looking for something on which to blame your misery. So naturally, “life of desperation” is the norm as experienced for many ex-gays.

But we as a community play our part in the confusion. Far too often we act as though getting the next hot guy is what it means to be gay (women do this less) and confirm these ideas.

Yes, I know that there are plenty of couples, but they are home barbecuing and walking the dog. And there are bowling leagues and ski clubs and church groups and social networks. But if it’s Saturday night and you’re single and may do what many gay and straight singles do, go out looking for love. Or, you go online where there is no pretense of even socializing; no one is on Manhunt looking to meet up for coffee and talk about the news of the day.

And yes I know that heterosexuals do it too. Go to any bar in any town where young people congregate and you’ll see plenty of indiscriminate straight sexual behavior. Or watch a reality TV show. We have no monopoly on “having to sleep with as many people as possible” in order to feel good about one’s self.

I don’t know the solution. But I hope we as a community of individuals can mature to where we provide more messages of substance and meaning – find a way to more frequently remind ourselves and the more vulnerable members of our community (including those still in ex-gay ministries) that sex really isn’t what defines us.

Being gay is not where you put your penis, it’s where you put your heart.

Mean-Spirited Tweet of the Day

Jim Burroway

July 23rd, 2010

You know a counterfeit is a counterfeit when the happiness and freedom it initially promised ends up leading to deeper bondage.

– Exodus International president Alan Chambers

“Counterfeit” is ex-gay code-speak for gay people getting together, falling in love, forming families, and living the American dream. “Bondage” is ex-gay code-speak for just going about your life — that is if you’re gay. If you’re straight, then the term is just “living.” But whatever.

Alan Chambers will spend next week taking his counterfeit message to Brazil. He will be speaking for six days at a Summer Institute next week at the Igreja Bautista Central in Magé, near Rio de Janero. Here’s the Google translation:

We are glad to realize another Institute. This time, in partnership with Exodus International. Exodus International is the largest evangelical institution that works to restore and evangelization of the world’s homosexuals. Together, we are bringing the topic: “Grace That Makes Reborn.”

Our purpose is to show the grace of God as the unconditional and sole agent that enables a real transformation in the lives of those who struggle with homosexuality and who are often marginalized by society and the Church of Jesus Christ.

The instrument used by God to bless us in these days will be Mr. Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International. He will minister every day talking about the emotional and spiritual causes of homosexuality, will speak about the myths we create about homosexuality, the importance of a Christian attitude toward homosexuals, and speak of the structure of this ministry to be applied in the Church to bless the lives of people living this conflict.

We have no doubt that these days will mark our history and our lives, for this reason we invited you to join us. We believe that, as a church, or simply, individuals must have an attitude of love and compassion for those who also loved Jesus. After all, the cross of Christ is not for a privileged few but for all, including homosexuals. God has no favorites when it comes to saving people from their sins. His love and grace are the essential ingredients for a sinner can be reborn. Therefore, we believe this can make FREE qualqur again sinner.

Sign up and receive this blessing.

Exodus Co-Founder: “There Were No Real Standards For Training Or Methodology”

A multi-part video interview series with Michael Bussee, co-founder of Exodus International turned critic.

Daniel Gonzales

June 29th, 2010

Even today Exodus ministries are somewhat of a free-for-all.  Operating under the guise of “pastoral counseling” lay ministry leaders at Exodus programs are free to engage in pseudo-therapy as well as a slew of religious exercises from distributing testimonials at gay bars to exorcisms.

In today’s video Exodus International co-founder Michael Bussee explains that at the time of Exodus’ founding he had the most formal mental health training of anyone in the organization… he was in a masters program.  Bussee admits his program at Exodus was successful at creating a safe, confidential, therapeutic environment but he never successfully found the secret to making people straight.

Lastly, Bussee details what he believed went on at Exodus’ various other member ministries across the country.

[full transcript after the jump]

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Latest twist in the observant gay Mormon debate

Timothy Kincaid

June 24th, 2010

Last September we discussed an interesting debate taking place within the Mormon faith over the role and response of same-sex attracted Mormons.

Some, like NARTH past president Dean Byrd, argued that Mormons must strive for reorientation in order not to “limit the atonement.” But Ty Mansfield, a same-sex attracted observant Mormon, argued that orientation is unlikely to change and that he shouldn’t be expected to take up an impossible task.

But now there appears to be a new twist. Mansfield appears to have married on May 22 to a lovely young woman (that was the scheduled date, I assume it happened). And, in what must be a first, someone put up a website called “Danielle Don’t Do It” to try and change Danielle’s mind. It seems that they deduced from Mansfield’s writings that their love was lacking in romantic and sexual attraction.

I’m not sure what to think about this. Some men do find this sort of arrangement to be adequate and it certainly seems to be expected within Mormon circles. But last weekend I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Amity Pierce Buxton, founder of the Straight Spouse Network, who detailed the pain and trauma that can result from a straight woman marrying a gay man.

But I guess Danielle went into this marriage with her eyes open.

Exodus Co-Founder: We Were Both Fascinated And Scared By Gay Activists

A multi-part video interview series with Michael Bussee, co-founder of Exodus International turned critic.

Daniel Gonzales

May 24th, 2010

Yesterday Michael talked about how he perceived what it meant to be gay, which was based largely on his own experiences with being closeted.

Today Michael talks about Exodus’ early interaction with gay activists who not long after the group’s founding became a concern.  Surprisingly at the speaking event where Michael announced he was leaving Exodus there happened to be a group of gay activists in the back of the audience.  I’ll let Michael take it from here and tell the rest of the story.

On Monday we’ll look at what happened in Michael’s life when he finally renounced his attempts to change and came out as a gay man to his family, friends and fellow ministry leaders.

(transcript after the jump)

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“Michael Bussee, You Have Blood On Your Hands”

A multi-part video interview series with Michael Bussee, co-founder of Exodus International turned critic.

Daniel Gonzales

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)

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Exodus Co-Founder: We Didn’t Know There Was An Alternative For Gay Christians

A multi-part video interview series with Michael Bussee, co-founder of Exodus International turned critic.

Daniel Gonzales

May 20th, 2010

One of the most common reasons people go ex-gay is because they don’t believe a meaningful community exists in the gay world and fear losing their current church community.  In today’s video I ask Michael how he viewed “the gay community” while he was still at Exodus.

Don’t miss the part where Michael talks about how Exodus viewed the Metropolitan Community Church.  I had to bite my tongue to keep from laughing when he surprised me with that during filming.

(transcript after the jump)

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Exodus Co-Founder: I Regret Teaching If You Had Enough Faith You Would Be Changed

A multi-part video interview series with Michael Bussee, co-founder of Exodus International turned critic.

Daniel Gonzales

May 17th, 2010

My question to Michael, is there anything specific you regret teaching, produced an answer with two separate and distinct parts.  (We’ll have a video up tomorrow of the other half of his answer.)

First we look at the idea that if you worked hard enough in an ex-gay program you would be changed.  Michael now believes the only thing being a loyal Christian guarantees in life is sharing in Christ’s sufferings.  To teach otherwise Michael says is heresy.

Yes, heresy, you don’t hear that word thrown around on this blog very often.

(transcript below jump)

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Exodus Co-Founder: When People Left Our Program They Just Disappeared

A multi-part video interview series with Michael Bussee, co-founder of Exodus International turned critic.

Daniel Gonzales

May 13th, 2010

As notable ex-gay survivor Peterson Toscano wrote in 2007, ex-gay programs and Exodus have absolutely no sort of after-care or follow-up when a participant leaves a program:

Never once has an ex-gay program I attended ever done any sort of follow-up. I mean I can’t buy a soy latte these days without having to fill out a survey about my coffee experience. Yet folks can spend tens of thousands of dollars on reparative therapy and nothing–no aftercare, no reflections on what worked and what didn’t work.

I’m admittedly curious about what goes through the mind of an ex-gay leader when a participant stops coming.  Do they assume the person is cured?  Have they gone back in the closet? Are they living the dreaded homosexual lifestyle?

It’s not an easy thing to confront as you can tell by Michael’s body language in this segment and that I had to ask the question three times before we got into the meat of the issue.

(transcript after the jump)

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Does the Ex-Gay Movement Equal Genocide?

Jim Burroway

May 7th, 2010

That’s the provocative question raised by a new paper by Sue E. Spivey and Christine M. Robinson in the April edition of the journal Genocide Studies and Prevention called “Genocidal Intentions: Social Death and the Ex-Gay Movement.” I had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Robinson last fall at the Anti-Heterosexism Conference in West Palm Beach, where she gave a talk based on her then-forthcoming article. Let’s just say I was extremely skeptical of her premise that the ex-gay movement has within it several characteristics consistent with the U.N.’s four-part definition contained within the 1948 Untied Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, articles II(b)-(e), which includes definitions which are not limited to mass murder.

I heard her out, and came away with the understanding of where she is coming from. It’s not so much that the ex-gay movement wants to round us up and kill us (although some have been complicit in such proposals which have been denounced as genocidal), but when you get to the heart of what the ex-gay movement wants to do, they truly envision a world in which there are no gay people. I still contend that using the word “genocide” is a most unhelpful hyperbole, but I can’t deny that at the same time it presents an illuminating metaphor — as long as you keep a level head and remain cognizant of the many limitations of the connections. And I think we do have to recognize that some won’t do that. That said, I don’t think we should shy away from the comparisons either. Heading these comparisons will be very important, especially as the American ex-gay and anti-gay movements move to extend their reach overseas.

Ex-gay survivor, therapist and author Jallen Rix looked at Spivey & Robinson and was particularly impressed with two elements of the paper which dealt with two characteristics of genocide as defined by the UN’s 1948 Convention:

For example, here are just two points: (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; and (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group. Sound familiar?

…To further connect the dots, Spivey and Robinson have used the work of James Waller, who “synthesized a large body of social and psychological scholarship, organized as a general model, to explain how ordinary people commit extraordinary acts of brutality.” Some of the processes are “Us Verses Them Thinking,” “Moral Disengagement,” and “Blaming the Victim.” For example, “Ex-gay leaders socially distance themselves from their victims … they do this by defining homosexuality as behaviors, attractions, identities, or more insidiously, as a sinful ‘lifestyle,’ a mental illness, or a menacing social ‘agenda,’ thus denying the personhood, indeed the existence — and the victimization of gay and lesbian people.” As Joseph Nicolosi, one of the most outspoken reparative therapists (he coined the label), has said about a gay teen who had the courage to come out of the closet, “He is designed for a woman. … He is heterosexual but he may have a homosexual problem.” [Hyperlink added]

Rix is the author of the recently published Ex-Gay No Way: Survival and Recovery from Religious Abuse. He was raised in a conservative Southern Baptist household and was sent off to ex-gay therapy at a young age. In the book, he describes the serious mental harm he experienced as a result, and compares what he observed in the ex-gay world with the phenomenon known as Religious Abuse. Much of his therapeutic work involves helping former ex-gay clients recover from their experiences in the ex-gay movement.

Exodus Co-Founder: I Never Saw One Of Our Members Become Heterosexual

A multi-part video interview series with Michael Bussee, co-founder of Exodus International turned critic.

Daniel Gonzales

April 27th, 2010

Today’s video is short and concise.  I asked Michael point blank if he believed anyone in his program at Exodus ever changed.

(transcript after the jump)

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Exodus Co-Founder: We Were All Still Struggling Silently As We Promised Change

A multi-part video interview series with Michael Bussee, co-founder of Exodus International turned critic.

Daniel Gonzales

April 21st, 2010

In today’s video Michael talks about an evening in New York City with another ex-gay leader that caused him to begin to question if anyone in the ex-gay movement was really changing. After talking to other Exodus leaders Michael finally came to the conclusion:

“[T]here were very few of us, if any, who were completely celibate, and we were all still silently struggling with out own sexuality, at the very same time we were promising change.  And that lack of integrity, that psychological and spiritual split just got wider and wider and wider until I couldn’t take it any more.”

(transcript after the jump)

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Exodus Co-Founder: The Inherent Harm In Ex-Gay Programs

A multi-part video interview series with Michael Bussee, co-founder of Exodus International turned critic.

Daniel Gonzales

April 15th, 2010

Dawson McAllister

Last Sunday gay blogger Greg Kimball pretended to be a questioning 16 year old teen and called the syndicated radio talk show  “Dawson McAllister Live” and was directed to Exodus International for “help.”  This is little surprise as McAllister’s “partners” page includes a link to Exous’ website.  A support operator at McAllister’s program told Kimball’s fictitious 16 year old “They [Exodus] will talk to you, they will counsel you, they will not condemn you, they will not make you feel little or anything.”

Convincing supporters of exgay programs that said programs can cause harm is one of the greatest hurdles ex-gay survivor activists like myself face.  Like McAllister’s operator, supporters believe they are truly doing their God’s work and the idea that exgay programs are inherently harmful is often too much to comprehend.

When survivors of exgay programs like myself and Michael Bussee tell our stories of harm we’re often met with the response that no, exgay programs aren’t harmful, our individual program was just in need of a minor correction.

In the first of my video series, Exodus co-founder Michael Bussee addresses that common misconception:

(Video transcript after the jump)

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Exodus to Ex-Gay Survivors: I’m Just Not That Into You

Jim Burroway

June 22nd, 2007

We reported earlier that Peterson Toscano and Christine Bakke, cofounders of Beyond Ex-Gay, invited Exodus leaders to a small private dinner to talk about some of the experiences of those who are no longer ex-gay. Since it’s a private dinner, Exodus officials may respond privately — I don’t know — but their public stance doesn’t bode well.

Exodus issued a press release saying they “welcome dialogue on homosexuality” at their national conference June 26 to July 1 in Irvine, California. But it seems that this dialogue will only be on their terms and at their venue.

Chambers responded to the news that local groups are planning to protest the Exodus event by holding a conference of its own, “Dialogue on this issue only benefits the community and the culture at large. It is a topic worth discussing and I am happy to share my experience as a part of a much-needed exchange of thoughts on this issue.”

Exodus bills the Ex-Gay Survivor’s Conference as a “protest” and indicates that the only “dialoguing” that will take place will be within the confines of the Exodus conference. Exodus offers people like Rev. Ken Hutcherson for this “dialogue”. Hutcherson claimed last spring to speak under a “special commission” from the White House when he traveled to Latvia to stoke anti-gay sentiments there. (The White House denied this connection.)

Exodus’s “dialogue” will also feature Joseph Nicolosi (“We advise fathers, if you don’t hug your sons another man will.”), Nancy Heche (mother of actress Anne Heche, who is still bisexual despite her mother’s account of successfully “blessing” her) and Melissa Fryrear (“I never met one woman who had not been sexually violated”).

Exodus does a lot of talking and not much listening. It’s a shame, because there really are a lot of things to talk about. Exodus recently has claimed a 30% success rate, without any proof to back it up. But even if we accepted that figure, that means 70% fail. These ex-gay survivors know the pain that comes from that failure. They have a lot of important things to say, and the least Exodus could do is acknowledge them with civility instead of dismissing their stories as “protest.”

See also:

Randy Thomas Projects His Experiences Onto All Of Us

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