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.