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.