Monday, November 17, 2008

Neither

I read the following note posted online today by a friend and wanted to share it with others.
Just over a week after moving into my new home with my fiance, Katie, we were blessed with a little reminder outside our door of the ignorance and intolerance that thrives under laws like Proposition 8. The note read as follows (punctuation added):

"Thank God for Proposition 8#. Fags can't get married. Oooh, that must be a hate crime. Tough shit fags."


I was at work when I got the word, via phone call, from my very frightened fiance. While I had experience with this kind of hatred before, Katie had lived a life almost entirely free from discrimination. She was terrified-- afraid to do the laundry or take out the trash- counting down the moments until I could return from work to be with her.

We filed a report with both the police and the managers of our apartment complex. Now we just have to wait. I catch myself looking out the window every time someone walks by. For about 12 hours straight, I had a horrible ache in my stomach. Every once in a while, I will catch myself thinking that I am overreacting, or that I am thinking too much of it... but then an image of Matthew Shepard pops into my head and I remember the tragic consequences of this kind of ignorance.

~

Proposition 8, and other laws like it, fuel inequality because they create the idea that some people are more deserving than others. They allow [straight] people to believe that they are above LGBT people. Better than. Worth more. Holier than. Prop 8 allows straight people to feel superior over gay people in the same way that racial inequality allowed white people to feel superior to black people.

The effect of superiority is displayed in the letter that Katie and I received. People who feel better than, or worth more seem to also feel it is acceptable for them to belittle. To crush. To humiliate. To do verbal harm. To do physical harm. To kill.

"Separate but equal" is neither. Remember that.

They'll see how beautiful we are...

The video of Peterson speaking at the Colorado Springs "Join the Impact" protest is below, courtesy of Loring Wirbel, for his blog Icono-Curmudgeon-Clast. See the post directly below for my reflections on the protest.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

News from this "Bakke" girl

On Saturday, November 15th, transgender, bisexual, lesbian and gay people in every major city in the United States held a protest against the passage of Prop 8 and similar constitutional amendments. Our message was simple: everyone should be allowed the right to marry. Peterson and I happened to be in Colorado Springs that Saturday morning, so we participated there.

Peterson spoke forcefully and eloquently at the rally (they had an open mic), stating that we already have the right to marry whomever we choose, and it's insulting that we have to ask permission. He also said that we are being treated shamefully, but ended with a quote from Langston Hughes' poem, I, Too,

"Besides,
They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed--"


And the crowd cheered as we saw how beautiful we were.

The following photos are courtesy of Gina Richards.




In other news, Dan Gonzales and I were quoted in an interview by the Denver Daily News. I particularly enjoyed the comment below the article where I'm referred to as 'this "Bakke" girl.'

On Tuesday, I'll be giving a talk at the Women's Circle at the local GLBT center. The first time I ever told my story was at this group, three years ago, so I'm coming back now to tell it again, but more importantly, to talk about the Ex-Gay Survivor movement that has been launched in the last few years. If you're in Denver and want to attend, email me for more information.

I'll close with another quote by Langston Hughes (who was also gay):
"We younger Negro artists now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame. If white people are pleased we are glad. If they aren't, it doesn't matter. We know we are beautiful. And ugly too... If colored people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, their displeasure doesn't matter either. We build our temples for tomorrow, as strong as we know how and we stand on the top of the mountain, free within ourselves."

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Ex-Gay Exposé = Hope

I'm happy but so tired. I've been preparing (along with Dan Gonzales) for the past 4 months for the Ex-Gay Exposé weekend, and it's so nice to see it come together!

Last night we kicked off the weekend with Doin' Time with Peterson Toscano. Peterson performed excerpts from 4 of his plays, read poetry, danced, and generally behaved in a somewhat crazy way. Shocking, I know.

Today was the longest day by far. Protest/rally from 8:45-10:00. So great to see tons of folks out there, that early on a Saturday morning. We had *tons* of community involvement and support and must have had about 2 people per each available sign. Way to turn out, Denver (and Boulder...and Fort Collins...and Seattle...and San Francisco....and Iowa). We'll post pictures as soon as they're available.

Then we jumped in our cars and headed off down to the Mountain View Friends (Quaker) meeting house (from 11 to 4) for the Beyond Ex-Gay Denver Gathering. There we had ex-gay survivors from 4 different states and a wonderful group of allies as well. We did tons of exercises in small and large groups to tease out the answers to some questions. What kinds of ex-gay experiences did we have? What caused us to become (or try to become) ex-gay or to suppress our sexuality and/or gender differences? What harm did we experience? What have we done to recover?

After a quick dinner, Peterson and I headed over to the GLBT center to meet with mental health professionals about the ex-gay movement, its survivors, and the harm and damage from which ex-gay survivors have to recover. It was a very productive evening session (6 til 8), and we'll meet again tomorrow during the morning (9 to 12).

A very full twelve-hour day. So worth it.

I'm sitting here on the couch (with a cat on my shoulder) reflecting on the day's events and feeling so grateful for the people who are with me on this journey. The allies who show up to rally with us, my fellow ex-gay survivors (who have experienced so many of the same things), clinicians who want to learn how to help. I feel really full emotionally.

I promise, pictures soon! :)

Re: the art on this post...I see a lot of hope under that baggage!

Friday, November 07, 2008

NARTH's Gay Agenda

Below is a press statement that I gave today at our Ex-Gay Exposé weekend press conference.

My name is Christine Bakke. I’m a 37 year old Denver resident. I have been negatively affected by the anti-gay message that NARTH has spread through churches and religious leaders. I believe that NARTH’s practices and teachings undermine healthy psychological and emotional development.

Growing up attending Conservative churches on the West Coast, the most trusted religious source in my family was James Dobson, or Dr. Dobson as we called him, the founder of Focus on the Family. Through his books and radio programs Dobson spoke with authority about child rearing, faith, family life and sexuality. Mixed in with his folksy wisdom and heartwarming stories, Dobson quoted scientific sounding facts and figures that enhanced his authority. Although showing up in our home as a friendly presence, over time his anti-gay messages affected me personally.

By my late teens I had figured out I was a lesbian, but Dobson taught that being gay was wrong and that lesbians could change. I did further research and stumbled onto NARTHs website where I read scientific sounding articles punctuated with references to research that lended credibility to their message. As a result, I eventually pursued the promised change and moved to Colorado to receive ex-gay treatment.

I began to attend religious-based ex-gay programs, and for a time I even believed that I was experiencing some kind of change. What I failed to realize was that I had walled off an essential part of myself. With regard to attractions I felt nothing inside but a growing numbness. I grew discouraged and depressed.

After more than four years, I had to face reality that change was not possible, and in fact, pursuing it threatened my mental health. I have spent the past five years in recovery from the ex-gay treatments I received and have come to a place of acceptance, stability and growing joy. I have also met hundreds of others negatively affected by ex-gay theories and treatments, and together we have helped each other in moving beyond this troubled time in our lives.

When I heard that NARTH planned to hold its annual conference in Denver, I knew I had to come forward today to tell my story. NARTH and Focus on the Family work in unison to spread a message that threatens the healthy development of young people who are gay and lesbian.

Over the years NARTH has developed its faulty theories and anti-gay treatments all under the banner of offering hope and help. Focus on the Family, using its extensive media arm, has disseminated NARTH’s message of “change” to millions of homes; to families much like mine that looked to Focus on the Family for reliable information.

In addition, for the past 10 years Focus has aggressively provided a platform for NARTH leaders and other ex-gay spokespeople to speak to tens of thousands of parents and pastors through an event they call Love Won Out. This day long conference held around the country, and now even overseas, targets people looking for answers.

Sadly, attendees leave with misinformation and false promises. Ministers and parents head back home to pressure the young gay and lesbian people under their care to pursue a treatment that the APA and every major US medical association states is unnecessary and harmful.

I know firsthand about this harm and that is why I stand here as a witness and a warning against the unsound messages that NARTH promotes.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Hair you can straighten. Gays? Not so much.


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--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)

Weekend Schedule


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.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Doin' Time With Peterson Toscano

I'm heading off to Nashville today to see Peterson and participate in the Our Family Matters conference. Newly-out Ray Boltz will be performing in concert on the last night, but the whole conference is well worth checking out. Peterson, Darlene Bogle and I will lead discussions with ex-gay survivors and other interested folks on Thursday night, and will also lead breakout groups on Saturday. If you're in the neighborhood (and even if you aren't), check it out! We'd love to see you.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Ex-Gay Survivor Interview

Dan Gonzales, Rev. Nori Rost and I were recently interviewed by KGNU radio about ex-gay experiences and the response that some good citizens of Colorado Springs are launching to counter the Love Won Out message that will be heard in Colorado Springs next weekend. Have a listen here: Audio interview.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Happy National Coming Out Day!

I just realized today that it's been three years since the night that I told my ex-ex-gay story for the first time. I had just started this blog a week or so before and I was so nervous about speaking in front of this group of 20 women. I had only met Peterson six months before and we'd only spoken three times at that point. At the end of the post where I told about the evening those three years ago, I wrote, "I'm amazed at who I'm becoming." Telling my story, my truth, was a big step for me, and one that ended up being life-changing.

Now I look back on the three years and so much has happened. Beyond Ex-Gay, the Glamour article (it will be three years ago tomorrow that I connected with Stephen Fried for the Glamour article), the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference, and all of it.

For all my friends and readers who are "out" - thank you. Keep telling your stories. For those who are yet to be, I can say that for me it's made all the difference.

And I'm still amazed at who I'm becoming.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Dan's Big Gay Choice

In response to some comments by Sarah Palin about the "choice" of being gay, Dan Gonzales created the following video.



Dan Savage also offers his services as a "gay friend" for Palin. (I know, I'm sorry, I've tried to remain neutral, er, silent, on this blog as some of my dear friends and family will vote for McCain/Palin, but I just have to blog this...forgive me!)

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Twisted love

A week or so ago over at Beyond Ex-Gay (bXg) we received a feedback comment on our website from Anthony Falzarano (an ex-gay leader and the founder of the anti-gay PFOX organization, shown in a PFOX ad at right) addressed to Darlene Bogle. I forwarded the letter to Darlene.

Yesterday I received this email from Darlene (shared with permission). You can read her story at Beyond Ex-Gay in which she writes about her journey out of Exodus. Part of her story is that her partner of twelve years, Des, passed away from breast cancer in 2005.

Dear Christine!
Thank you for sending the feedback email from Anthony Fazarano addressed to me at the bXg website!

It reads:
Darlene, I'm glad I ran across your blog. I still miss you. I am sorry to hear that your lover died of breast-cancer. Darlene is God sending you a message? Please consider coming back to Exodus. You are loved and missed. Why would God call you back to lesbianism, give you a lover and then take her away. I'm sorry that you are going through this. My heart is breaking right now but I believe that you belong to the Lord and "He chastizes the one's that he loves". I believe He is calling you back. If you want to talk I am here to listen. Please call me at [removed] if you want to talk. May God Bless You, Anthony Falzarano
I was appalled when I read his words, which on the surface seem so compassionate. It was such a strong reminder of why I left Exodus and could never consider going back under their "umbrella of faith." How arrogant of Anthony to send such a condemning statement as to ask if God was sending me a message! God sends me messages all the time to remind me of His love and acceptance of me as a lesbian daughter! He has brought a wonderful Christian woman into my life immediately after losing Des. We walk together in faith and love and serve those in our community as a blessed lesbian couple.

To say I am loved and missed (but not accepted) sounds great until he adds the judgmental statement that suggests that Des got breast cancer and was taken away as some sort of punishment for our lesbianism!

Apparently he feels that if you follow God, nothing bad will ever happen to you. Des and I had 12 years together and she was a special gift of God to me. I stood at her bedside the night she entered heaven, and saw her sweet smile as she met her Lord face to face. Would God give us 12 years together, then take her to heaven as a judgment? No, but through the life she lived, and that we shared, I came to know His love in deeper ways, and to be a more caring, compassionate and kind human being. I wouldn't change it for any experience. Serving God does not insulate you from death. I think we are all going to keep that appointment that was established by God before we were ever born. (Psalm 139)

Anthony says he believes I belong to the Lord. I know that I am God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works! If Anthony believed that I was really the Lord's..he would not be trying to heap guilt and shame on me for the loving relationship I shared with Des, and continue to share with Becky.

Then he pulls scripture out of context...Revelation Chapter 3 and Hebrews 12 talks about God chastising those whom He loves, and haven't we pulled this out to beat people into obedience of not the Scripture, but of what we want them to do to be acceptable? What a crock.

Anthony believes God is calling me back? To what? The judgmental teachings of Exodus that say you have to change your orientation to be acceptable to God. Long ago I committed myself to acknowledge God in all my ways and allow Him to direct my path. How can I go where God isn't?

To then offer a listening ear if I want to talk? That is the major malfunction of Exodus leaders...How can they listen when their mind is made up? Thank you Christine for being one of the survivors who showed me the harm that is done by just this type of thinking! I thank God for you because I see your face and pray to God that I will never be guilty of such rejection of a human soul again! I realized when I met you and Peterson, that I had been so busy talking---my mind was already made up and I had no room to listen with my heart!

I would be happy to have Anthony's email be revealed for what it is, and my response published for the world to read. Anthony and Exodus have had over 15 years to tell me of their loving acceptance, and have not done so. I will not be responding to Anthony directly, but thanks for sending it on to me.

Darlene Bogle

www.DarleneBogle.com
Author of A Christian Lesbian Journey

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Another

I just got the following email from a gay straight alliance here in Colorado:

On Thursday, July 17, Angie Zapata, an 18-year old Latina transwoman was murdered in her home in Greeley, CO. She suffered two severe fractures in her skull. Her family believes that she was murdered by her boyfriend or members of her boyfriend’s gang because of her gender identity.

The Greeley Tribune, a local newspaper reporting on this case, continues to use an incorrect name and pronouns for Angie. Her family has been very supportive of her and are both angry and upset at this lack of accuracy and sensitivity in reporting. Please let the Greeley Tribune know that this is not acceptable and their lack of appropriate reporting is contributing to an environment where violence against transgender people is continuing.


Last year a Christian friend told me that they felt Christians were the most hated minority in the United States. While there's so much wrong with that statement, I think if you're staging a competition of minority groups in our country, the "winners" would be our transgender brothers and sisters. I'm so disgusted by this latest murder, and how as of today, the Greeley Tribune was still referring to Angie by her birth name, instead of her chosen name (they since have reported that the victim "lived as a woman" and have made their pronouns neutral, but only this evening, and the murder happened last week). I'm sickened by one more violent act in a world of violence (whether of fist or of heart) against the transgender community. I don't even have any more words.

UPDATE: 8/30/08 - The suspect has been caught and has confessed to "killing it". I hope that he will be the first person in Colorado to be charged with a murder with a hate crime enhancement against a transgender person. I'm sorry we have to have hate crime legislation, but I'm glad that as a state we've added transgender identity to our hate crime laws.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Pride

Today was Denver's annual pride parade and festival. I showed up fashionably late after a night out (my second visit this year to a lesbian bar where I'm working on my mad dance skills).

I always enjoy pride because it's the one time of year when everywhere I look I see people who are like me. I have heard gay Christians who are uncomfortable with the word "Pride" - thinking that we shouldn't be proud of anything. But I view it more like people having been beaten down, heads hung in silence and shame, and now a hand is held out, chins are brought up, faces shown the light, and we're told, "you have just as much right as anyone else to walk with pride in who you are."

One of the things I noticed again today is the diversity in our community, and the beauty of seeing those who aren't mainstream, or who don't "fit" for whatever reason. I'm always a sucker for the PFLAG moms too. I remember my first pride parade in 1995 and I saw a woman holding the classic " I love my gay child." Having never seen anything like that before, and not knowing it was even possible for parents to love their children even though they were gay, I couldn't hold back my tears. PFLAG mom hugs are still one of the best things in the world for me.

But maybe my favorite thing was seeing the older gay and lesbian couples, those who look at today's Pride celebration and probably shake their heads at what we take for granted. Meanwhile, I look at them and am grateful for their roles in the community and for paving the road for today's parade.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Still sorting myself out

I guess sometimes I forget I have a blog. Sorry for the lack of posting. I've been really caught up with some major work situations. Long story short, I am back to freelancing full-time again. It's been hard for me to figure out what's going to work best for me and the extra jobs and bXg work that I do. I think it's the right decision, and I seem to function best as a freelancer instead of a regular employee. So I've taken that path again. Now if I can just get a steady flow of work...

While I was gone sorting out my life (Peterson loves to say "sorting out" so that's just for him), a few things happened that I probably should have blogged about. Although if you follow Peterson's blog, you're already in on all of it. For most of you, I'm imagining it's old news...still, here it is.

Peterson was recently featured on Logo's Be Real show. It follows Peterson as he retires his play "Doin' Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House–How I Survived the Ex-Gay Movement". He talks about survivors coming forward to tell their stories, and bXg member John Holm is featured telling his story for the first time. (I have a few brief appearances as well.) Take a look (Peterson's story is in clips part 1, 3, 5 and 7).

The Advocate magazine published a long article about ex-gays and ex-gay survivors and the changing landscape of the ex-gay movement in the June 2008 issue (the Pride issue). They mention the apologies, beyondexgay.com and quote both Peterson and me. The printed version has a photo of our Irvine Chalk Talk too.

Dan Gonzales and I did a presentation about the Ex-Gay Survivor's Movement to a group of folks here in Denver, where we also presented alongside local Soulforce sheroes Kate Burns and Sheila Schroeder (who refused to leave a local city clerks office when they were not given a marriage license), and two amazing student activists. It was great to present to people who were engaged with what we had to say, and also to present alongside other committed activists.

Beyond Ex-Gay has also announced a future gathering in Denver (hmmm, how convenient for me!) over the weekend of Nov. 7-9th. Stay tuned for more announcements!

Lastly, I had a birthday a week ago, and I'd say I feel older but for whatever reason, I thought I was already this age for most of last year. Probably because last year seemed like one of the longest years of my life, so maybe at some point I just decided I was a year older. Anyway, I turned a year older, but I'm the same age I've been thinking I was for a while. It's good to know I've practiced up.

That's about it for now. Hopefully I'll have more time in the future to blog as I get myself and my work sorted out.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Happy Birthday bXg!!



On April 2, 2007 we launched Beyond Ex-Gay and announced the 2007 Ex-Gay Survivor Conference.

We're taking a few minutes to share the BXG love and look at all that's been accomplished:

June 20, 2007: Beyond Ex-Gay (bXg) and Soulforce invite Exodus leaders to dinner.

June 27, 2007: Former Exodus leaders issue a public apology for their roles in the ex-gay world.

June 29, 2007: Dinner with three Exodus leaders.

June 29-July 1, 2007: Ex-Gay Survivor Conference; Reflections from survivors who attended.

July 2 - August 3, 2007: The Ex-Gay Survivor Initiative
Ex-Gay Survivors told their stories in front of places that promote and provide ex-gay therapy/ministry.

August 17, 2007: Three former ex-gay leaders in Australia add their names to the apology from June 27.

Fall 2008: Dozens of ex-gay survivors come forward to tell their stories through bXg, blogs, video and in the press.

February 22-24, 2008: Deconstructing the Ex-Gay Myth—A Weekend of Action and Art, Memphis, TN.

Upcoming April 6, 2008: bXg meeting with therapists to discuss treatment plans for ex-gay survivors.

Upcoming October 23, 2008: Ex-Gay Survivor Regional Gathering in Nashville, TN (part of God and Gays Conference).

Upcoming, date and location TBD: 2009 Ex-Gay Survivor Conference.

Stats: 125+ pages of content on bXg, 65,000+ unique hits, hundreds of contacts and emails, many lives influenced.

What's Next for us?


Beyond Ex-Gay has been a labor of love. We have accepted (with much gratitude) donations and have at times been able to partner with other organizations, but we need to pursue non-profit status to continue this important work.

It costs money to become a non-profit organization as well as to fund our upcoming projects. Any donation would be appreciated (although please note, it is not tax-deductible at this time). We invite you to be an active part of the ex-gay survivor movement. Donate using any major credit card or e-check through paypal. If you would like send a check or a money order, please contact us and we will give you further contact information. Thank you for your generosity.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Refried Freud

I'm listening to Peterson on Radio Catskill and he's talking about, wow, I don't know what anymore (he's moved on and I'm still listening and my attention span is short) but he said something like..."the ex-gay movement is all about these theories that are basically refried Freud..." and I thought yup, ain't that the truth.

My previous post dealt with the way that the ex-gay movement doesn't see or understand that they are not seeing a real representation of all folks queer. Jeff's video and the therapist's immediate inquiries into his family made me think about the therapy I had, and the therapy I knew that other folks went through.

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.

I myself sought out about everything that was available in the therapy realm, spending thousands of hours and dollars grasping for any kind of healing available. I began with therapy with a licensed therapist (one of the worst experiences I ever had in therapy) who did theophostics with me (a special kind of Christian therapy: guided visualization with Jesus) and she eventually came to believe that I was so oppressed by Satan that seeing me oppressed her as well and she had to have friends pray for her and do deliverance work with her after seeing me (what a self-esteem booster there!). I had group counseling and prayer through Living Waters, and we spent time going back through several generations to identify generational sins that might be influencing my life today. I renounced and declared victory over all sorts of sins from previous generations (talk about a fishing expedition - boy howdy).

I spent hours having deliverance work done, and I still can't talk a whole lot about it to this day, some of it was so confusing, upsetting and at times, traumatic. I was counseled by at least four different pastors and wives over the years. I was also prayed for and discipled by numerous people in various churches, to whom I confessed so much and let them into so many areas of my life (which also unfortunately meant that they could do greater harm to me emotionally and mentally). I attended conferences and had so much healing prayer that if anyone should have been healed, one would think I would have at least been a good candidate.

That's not to say that some of us don't get help from our therapy. I know that even in spite of all of the horrible therapeutic experiences I had, some good came out of it. However, I believe I could have gotten the good through other means without going through the trauma of all of these experiences and the years as ex-gay and seeing everything through the ex-gay crazy psychological lenses. At any rate, I am now actively recovering from these years, and the bad therapy and damaging and sometimes completely backwards Freudian ideas (oh, and by the way, I'm quite happy being a woman).

I do need to say that all of these people meant nothing but good for me. They gave so many hours of their lives to me, listening and talking (mostly listening) and praying. So much praying for me. I can't fault their intentions. But they just are not equipped. And one day sessions like Love Won Out, and outdated theories do not equip people to deal with ex-gay folks. In many cases I fear that it just gives them enough information so that they have a sense of false confidence about being able to handle these issues, and they know just enough to be dangerous.

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.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The one that got away

Today at Box Turtle Bulletin, Dan Gonzales posted video of Jeff Williamson talking about being sent by his parents to see a reparative therapist. He didn't want to go because he was OK with being gay, sure of his sense of self and theology and knew he didn't want anything to do with the ex-gay movement, but went to the appointment his mother had made for him.
[From Dan Gonzales — Update 03/26/08: After realizing the ramifications of having certain aspects of his story in the public domain Jeff has requested I pull his video with the intent of re-shoot a more focused version of his story this weekend. My editorial concerns with pulling content are far outweighed by my desire to respect Jeff’s right to control the way in which his own story is told.]



[The video briefly told of Jeff going to a reparative therapist here in Denver who initially tried to fish for any problems with Jeff's family, then had the tables turned a bit while Jeff and he discussed the Bible and homosexuality, and what Jeff thought about it his feeling that reparative therapy didn't work - my synopsis from memory - 3/26/08, Christine]

While watching the video, my mind wandered (as it will do) to how Jeff's story illustrates just why the ex-gay movement gets it so wrong about queer folks and the people who make up the lesbian, gay, bi and trans community. They don't ever ask themselves, who are the people who don't go into ex-gay ministries?

They're people like Jeff Williamson. They're the many LGBT folks who do not have unresolved sexual abuse/trauma. They're folks who have (or had, before coming out), for the most part, good relationships with their parents. They are those that aren't running from a wounding and broken relationship or a bad experience. They're the ones who don't dull some sort of pain with alcohol, drugs, or sex and call it all "gay." And they too exist.

But they don't spend time in the ex-gay movement. They don't fit the theories, the theories don't fit them, and they don't waste any time there. So the ex-gay leaders don't see them.

I've long maintained that ex-gay ministries think the gay community is made up primarily of abuse survivors (I've heard from some ex-gay leaders that they think 90% of all gays have been sexually abused; Melissa Fryrear claims 100%) because that's what they're seeing inside their programs.

I think those of us who have survived childhood abuse are particularly drawn to ex-gay ministries (Peterson writes about this very eloquently in his article "How Sexual Abuse Made Me Ex-Gay.") We already feel broken, ashamed and often dirty. We, maybe more than most people, seek out the promise of wholeness and healing.

We see a "what caused you to be gay" checklist and nod as we mentally correlate the unfortunate events of our lives to our "unwanted same sex attractions" today. We sign on the dotted line.

The ex-gay leaders see all the abuse victims who flood their groups and extrapolate that out to the gay community and proclaim that almost all of us have been sexually abused, had bad relationships with our parents, or same-gender relatives, and label all the troubles in our lives as having to do with being gay. Alcoholic? "Gay." Drug addiction? "Because you're Gay." Sexually compulsive? "Super Gay!" Unhealthy relationship? You guessed it! "Gay, gay, gay!"

It's refreshing to see someone like Jeff Williamson tell his story. He's obviously got a strong sense of self—strong ego strength—to reject a therapy he knows won't work. But this video is more than refreshing. It also is a witness to the many who don't last long enough in the ex-gay movement to even get counted or factor into an estimate from a ministry, a therapist or a pseudo-scientific study.

Because I spent so much time in the ex-gay world, rarely did I have the privilege of meeting someone as well-adjusted and sure of himself as Jeff. Which makes me think that at our next ex-gay survivor gathering, in addition to those who have been negatively affected by their ex-gay experiences, we will benefit from the presence of people like Jeff who never felt compelled to pursue them.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Lotsa cool, new stuff over at BXG

Since I took a part time job (downgraded from my full-time job as of a few weeks ago to make more time for my activism "lifestyle"), I've had some time to devote to my bXg life. The result of that was the weekend in Memphis and some updates to the beyondexgay.com website (yay!) and, as some of you have noticed, more blogging (yay again).

As of yesterday, we added a whole bunch of new stuff onto the bXg website.

John Holm, an ex-gay survivor who told his story for the first time in Memphis, has a newly-created collage up on the site. He gave a framed copy of the collage to Melissa Fryrear at Love Won Out in Memphis. We'll be posting his narrative very soon. Box Turtle Bulletin has also just posted video by Dan Gonzales of him telling some of his story outside of Love Won Out.


We also posted a new collage for a wonderful guy named Tom O'Toole, Jr. Tom's narrative has been on our site for a while, and we've posted two really great articles he's written (Hope Deferred and Loving Dissonance), but we had not yet posted his collage, which is viewable here.

We also created three new pages to cover our memphis weekend. One is our photos page, the other is the video for the weekend, and last (but certainly not least) is the detailed page about the chalk talk, which includes text from the wall and some commentary. If you only have time to watch one video out of the five, I'd recommend watching Jacob Wilson's video about his time at Love in Action. It moved me to tears.

One of the workshops we held at the Beyond Ex-Gay Mid-South Regional Gathering (wow, who came up with that title? – what a mouthful, Peterson, er, I mean, anonymous person) was about recovery, and all the ways we can recover from the harm. As a group, we came up with lots of different ways, and have turned all of the ideas into an article called "Ideas for Recovery from Ex-Gay Harm".

We've also highlighted a new narrative, Randy Baxter's story. Randy writes,
"...after three years as a counselee and over a year in ministry leadership, I'd observed and prayed with hundreds of sincere sisters and brothers in Christ who, like me, had diligently read the Bible, led exemplary lives of faith and submitted themselves to God in every way possible for years and years — all without any change in sexual preference."
Read all of Randy's story

The other new page on the site is a narrative by Marcus Lira. Marcus's narrative begins,
It starts with a desire.
And it ends with conflict.
That’s why it’s called the Struggle.
Read the rest of his story about his time in Love In Action (the pre-Memphis version).

Dan Gonzales, a frequent writer and filmmaker for Box Turtle Bulletin (as well as filming wonder for bXg) produced a powerful piece of art for the Ex-Gay Survivor Art Show in Memphis. See a larger version of his work on our Visual Art page, and while you're at it, check out our other artists, too.

So take a look at all the great new stuff at bXg. And if you want to be on our mailing list so you're alerted when we make major updates, please send us an e-mail at bxg (at) beyondexgay.com with "subscribe" in the subject line.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

From Peterson: Lovely Shifts and Dramatic Changes

Note: This is a direct cross-post from Peterson's blog entry about some exciting updates in the Ex-Gay Survivor Movement.

by Peterson Toscano

I keep having to remind myself that it is not even a full year since Christine Bakke and I launched Beyond Ex-Gay (bXg) and the Ex-Gay Survivor Movement. That was in April of 2007 after an all night crazy session where we posted nearly 30 pages of content in eight hours. Now we have over 120 pages of content with loads of narratives, art work, articles and resources. Soon we will have a recap of what happened in Memphis with photos, video and more.

After the launch of bXg, we partnered with Soulforce and UC Irvine's LGBT resource center to organize the first ever Ex-Gay Survivor Conference in Irvine, CA. By choosing to have it in the same city and the same week as Exodus' annual conference, we saw the beginnings of a deeper sharing that previously had not taken place between ex-gay leaders and ex-gay survivors.

By telling our stories through art, in the media, over dinner, in a chalk talk, apologies, through video and written narratives, our message has been that for many of us, our ex-gay experiences caused us more harm than good. In telling our stories we have sought to understand what happened to us and to stand as a witness and warning about some of the harm that can come from trying to change and suppress our orientation and gender differences.

People began to listen. Others felt encouraged to speak out. In less than a year dozens have come forward, not to attack ex-gays, but simply to share how the ex-gay life was not possible or healthy for them, and that they found a better way for themselves.

Some discussions we held were very public, others very private, and will remain private. And we have begun to see shifts and changes.

Love Won Out has since revamped their web site and now presents a slightly more realistic picture about change than they have in the past. Ex-gay leaders attended some of the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference events and blogged about how moved they were by what they saw and heard. People have begun to use the term ex-gay survivor in the media and on their blogs. Recently Wendy Gritter, a leader of an Exodus affiliated program in Canada, specifically referred to the stories at Beyond Ex-Gay in her keynote address to Exodus leaders earlier this year. Wendy has since published a piece over at Ex-Gay Watch outlining some changes she would like to see take place at Exodus.

And today we learn from Ex-Gay Watch that Alan Chambers announced that

In August, 2007 after a lot of prayer, deliberation and listening to friends and critics alike — but mostly the Lord — we decided to back out of policy issues and our Director of Government Affairs took a position with another organization.

This is good news indeed and comes after much work on the part of folks both within and outside of Exodus to help the leadership to consider backing away from getting tangled in debates about LGBT rights.

Back in July during the Ex-Gay Survivor Initiative sponsored by Soulforce, ex-gay survivors shared their stories around the country with a recurring theme about harm, but also with a call to ex-gay leaders and church leaders to consider pastoral care and people's lives before politics.

John Corvino, a philosophy professor and wonderful lecturer about LGBT issues recently wrote an excellent article about ex-gay issues. In it he says,
People often ask me what I think about ex-gay ministries. I have no objection to them in principle, but serious problems with them in practice.

I have no objection to them in principle because I believe we should give others the same respect that we ourselves demand. That includes giving people wide latitude about living their lives as they see fit. If you really believe that you’re heterosexual deep down, and you want to take steps to help realize that identity, far be it from me to insist otherwise. I’ll let you be the expert on what you feel deep down, as long as you show me the same courtesy.
You can read the rest of the piece here.

Lovely shifts and dramatic changes are happening. Thank you to all ex-gay survivors who have stepped up to share their lives and their stories. Later this week along with Box Turtle Bulletin we will release more video of ex-gay survivors who recently began to speak out. We cannot underestimate the power of telling our stories honestly, vulnerably, not out revenge or malice but out of concern for others who may not know the other side of the story.

(posted here by Christine, written by Peterson Toscano. I'm thrilled by all the progress made and by Exodus' willingness to listen, but busy putting our post-Memphis recap pages together so we can show them soon!)

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Memphis Chalk Talk

A few folks have asked about our Chalk Talk at the Beyond Ex-Gay Mid-South Regional Gathering that we had in Memphis last weekend. Thanks to Dan Gonzales we have a video of the Chalk Talk wall. I'll also post still photos and quotes from the wall in a few days. But in the meantime, here's the video. My comments are below (I'd recommend watching the video before reading my comments that relate to it).



I wrote a number of things on the wall during this exercise. It was a really interactive time, probably because we had a much smaller group and smaller space. We really took time to take in what each other was writing/drawing, and we responded to what everyone else was writing, and I noted more connecting of ideas and thoughts. Like I said in a previous post, this weekend was something that I really needed, in part because I wasn't able to experience much of our Irvine conference because of my organizational role. I was able to feel like I could take part in this, and I did. So many things touched me deeply, that I can't even isolate one or two things that were written, but I'll try.

I've still been struggling mightily with the emotional dependency/enmeshment idea and trying to figure out relationships. Ironically, because of how this weekend has rocked my emotional boat, I've had to reach out to my friends a lot this week, and I've seen that they're there for me, and I see that I've been better able to accept their help and friendship without being as afraid of needing or being too dependent. So I think I have made progress there and I am so glad for the friends I have, and especially for a few who have hung in there while I've kept my distance out of my own fear.

(Thanks for the photo goes to Bruce Garrett)

I had a huge emotional reaction to the idea of failure and "you didn't try hard enough" and I wrote the response "or you tried too hard." Since the Glamour article I have had both of those sentiments directed at me way too many times to count. (I know, sometimes I think I'm too sensitive a soul to be doing this work) But that has hurt me a great deal. I just can't win. And while I know this isn't about convincing the unconvinced, it still hurts to always feel the failure, especially with people I used to be close to.

Which leads me to the locked church (seen in video), and the idea of those whose lives I used to be such a part of, who welcomed me into their homes with open arms, as long as I was Christian and ex-gay. Actually, two of "My House of Cards" playing cards related to this so I thought I would post them here. They're about finding a church with welcoming and open arms, and sinking into those arms that just exuded feelings of unconditional love, which turned out to be conditional, even though I believe they did love me. Still, it hurts to have so much loss when you come out again. (click to enlarge the cards)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Advocate of the Impossible

One of the pieces of art I showed at the Memphis Ex-Gay Survivor's Art Show was called "My House of Cards" and consisted of a huge number of collages on playing cards that together became a collapsed house of cards. The collages contain bits and pieces of my ex-gay story and encompass everything from the highs and hopes to the lows and the devastation, including some of the aftermath.

I've been thinking about posting some of the cards here on my blog periodically. Here's the first one. (A note: these cards reflect my experience only...your mileage my vary.)

Ooooh, this reminds me. If you check out bXg or read Peterson's blog (and really, who doesn't?) this is way old news, but anyway...there's video up of the press conference we held at the art show location on Friday. It's in 5 parts and all can be seen here (including some wonderful information about ex-gay issues by Jim Burroway of Box Turtle Bulletin and Jacob Wilson sharing for the first time ever his heart-wrenching Love In Action story). The gallery walk part is on video 5 (but I haven't seen it yet - can't stand watching myself on video. I am pretty sure there is footage of the house of cards piece). So check out all the video and the art show. Special thanks goes out to all the participants and to Dan Gonzales for his super videoing skills.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

More Memphis

Our weekend of Action and Art in Memphis is almost over and it's been an amazing success.

Today we had, among other events, the Mid-South Regional Gathering for Ex-Gay Survivors and Allies. At the conference in Irvine, I was so busy doing the behind-the-scenes work I didn't really have the ability to participate in the conference. This afternoon, though, I was able to take part in the activities and workshop we'd planned. I really needed it. I've been heavily processing a lot of stuff the last 6 months or so and it really helped to get together with a group of folks who know exactly what I'm talking about, and just really "get" me. It also felt good to be able to communicate with my art.

We did another chalk talk. We'll post photos of it soon. It moved me deeply and I participated by writing a lot of thoughts on the paper wall, and then crying and processing during the debriefing. I really appreciate everyone else's comments and input, as well as the understanding nods as we all talked about our experiences. It is so wonderful not to feel alone with all of this.

I also enjoyed the workshop about practical ideas for recovery. It was good to see just how much work I've done, and also to get ideas from others for healthy ways to recover. I'll be working with Peterson in the next couple of days to get that up on BXG.

Thanks to everyone who attended today's gathering. It was very special for me. Thanks to everyone who helped support us (and who continue to support us) over this weekend. This work is not easy, and it's been a hard weekend for me, as I strive to be real with what's going on with me, protect myself in some cases (know my limits), and yet try to maintain committed to the responsibilities I have on the organizational side of things (limited as they are; thanks Peterson).

It's so good to know that even though we are just fragile human beings with fragile psyches and hearts, together we can heal, and perhaps together is where the true healing begins.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Walking in Memphis


I know, what an obvious title. I'm out of inspiration. I'm using it all for the art I'm finishing up for the upcoming Memphis show.

Speaking of Memphis (how convenient!)...

There's a great article in the Memphis Commercial Appeal about Jacob Wilson, a former Love In Action participant who attended the program as a teen, and a participant at our weekend of action and art. Local memphis folks might consider adding to the comments to show that not all memphis folks agree with some of the comments that have been initially left there.

Since we're on the topic of Memphis, here's a schedule of the upcoming events this week:
  • NEW!  Friday 2/22 noon Press Conference (Press only) at the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center MGLCC (892 S. Cooper). Ex-gay survivors, local leaders and experts release statements about the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered community in response to Focus on the Family and Exodus promoting an inaccurate picture about LGBT people.
  • Saturday 2/23 2:00-5:00 PM Beyond Ex-Gay Mid-South Regional Gathering, MGLCC (892 S. Cooper)

Watch the informative and stylish video ad created by Daniel Gonzales.

If you can join us for any or all of the Memphis events, please do. If you can't, please keep us in your thoughts that the weekend will be exactly what it needs to be for all involved.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Call to Artists!


Beyond Ex-Gay (bXg) and the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center will host an art show with works by those 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.

In the summer of 2007, at the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference in Irvine, Beyondexgay.com organized a similar art show that helped to communicate how for many of us ex-gay experiences caused more harm than good. Beyondexgay.com also features art by ex-gay survivors at its online gallery.

Submissions of all types of visual art are welcome including drawings, painting, collage, mixed media, photography, or multimedia. Please send photos of your work, along with dimensions, a brief statement about the work, and any other information by February 13th, 2008 to bxg (at) beyondexgay.com

We cannot guarantee that we will feature your artwork, but our panel will review your submission and contact you with further details.