Sunday, June 24, 2007

Exodus dinner invitation Q&A

Since I spent a bit of time answering some questions on Warren Throckmorton's blog about our dinner invitation to Exodus, I thought I'd post them here as well.

Eddy writes,
I have trouble with this meeting for several reasons.

1) I find it in bad taste, to say the least, to invite someone to an event when you already know they have a prior committment. (Friday dinner and evening meeting are usually important parts of Exodus conference schedule.)

2) If ‘no press’, ‘no cameras’ at this newsworthy and well-hyped event, just how will we find out what transpired? Any reports on this event are doomed to be slanted–whether by Beyond Ex-Gay or by someone from Exodus who attends.

3) How many delegates (including some of rank) would it take for Beyond Ex-Gay to feel (and report) that they’d ‘been heard’?
4) From the invite, it doesn’t sound like a dialogue forum. Sounds like “you sit there while we tell you how you hurt us”. That could make the dinner difficult to digest.

Under the circumstances, I’d be suprised if ANYONE from Exodus opted for this evening’s festivities over their own.
My response is as follows:

Hi Eddy. Perhaps I can attempt to answer some of your questions.

1. I checked with two Exodus folks and their conference schedule, to make sure there were no leadership meetings that were scheduled that night (of course, we weren’t able to ask Alan or Randy about the details of their schedules, but we did take care to try to confirm that there wasn’t any kind of special event or Ex-Gay Leader meetings planned). But of course we are not privy to any “off the record” events. In addition, since our conference is only over the weekend, we are not able to meet earlier in the week. We had no desire to plan something when the leaders can not attend.

2. Both Peterson and I have private conversations with a few folks involved in Exodus at different levels, and we don’t talk about these discussions publicly. Because of that, we have all (both sides) been able to discuss our lives and many of these matters in a respectful way. Our goal is not to make this “an event”, but to just tell our stories, so they can hear what they often miss by not conducting any aftercare or follow-up on participants.

3. We have conceived this dinner with the thought that we would like to share some of our stories, because they are so seldom heard by the ex-gay crowd, but it is not about us getting an emotional or psychological need met. If there are only a few people who attend, we would still like to have the dinner. It is not about the numbers, but about being seen as real people too, and not just “protesters,” and perhaps we will make some small difference. Even Alan is now becoming public with his thoughts on what change really means, and that is definitely a step in the right direction. We are wanting honesty and some thought about certain practices or prevailing theories, so as not to cause harm to the (by Exodus’ calculations) 70% of individuals who do not succeed to consider themselves or their behavior as ex-gay.

4. I think it will not be an easy thing for leaders to go to this dinner. I don’t imagine them saying “oh goody, this sounds like fun!” I instead imagine they are not looking for a good time in attending. In our letter we state that we believe they intended to do us good, and we acknowledge that they wanted to help. Peterson and I have also been clear about the fact that some good has come out of our experiences, even though we feel on the whole that we experienced more harm than good.

I think it will be a fruitful experience, and I hope that one of my friends will be in attendance. He’s someone I care about and we have a good relationship in spite of being on different sides on this issue. With that in mind, I do not wish for this to be a dinner that will bash folks or have an angry feel. While we have legitimate hurt and concern, I would not want to treat any leader differently than I treat my ex-gay friend. I think if folks spend even a little bit of time on our site they can see the specific tone that Peterson and I have set, and it is not one of projecting (contrary to what Randy Thomas has asserted), bashing, or denigrating ex-gays. While you are worried about potential “slants” on the issue, I think that there are many who are reading into our letter a lot that is not there.

I hope this helps answer some questions.

For those who have questioned our releasing the invitation publicly, here is a response I recently sent to someone:
One of the reasons we went public with the invitation (and we did have much discussion about this) is because we feared the information would not be passed along to the leaders invited (we do not have contact information for many of the leaders, and would have had to rely solely on Exodus for forwarding the information on). We wanted to try to get the invitation into the hands of the individual leaders. And, as you can see from the recent Focus on the Family Citizenlink article, they are already trying to discount our conference by calling it a protest, and Randy Thomas has publicly stated that we are denying people hope, and trying to project our experiences onto them, which is not the case. This has been the unfortunate history of some of these communications as they get presented in a slanted manner, and we were hoping that by open access to the letter folks would see for themselves our hearts and hear the tone we are trying to set without having to rely on someone else's interpretation.

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