Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Apology Accepted

As former leaders of ex-gay ministries, we apologize to those individuals and families who believed our message that there is something inherently wrong with being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. Some who heard our message were compelled to try to change an integral part of themselves, bringing harm to themselves and their families. Although we acted in good faith, we have since witnessed the isolation, shame, fear, and loss of faith that this message creates. We apologize for our part in the message of broken truth we spoke on behalf of Exodus and other organizations.

We call on other former ex-gay leaders to join the healing and reconciliation process by adding their names to this apology.

We encourage current leaders of ex-gay programs to have the courage to evaluate the fruit of their programs. We ask them to consider the long-term effects of their ministry.
— Darlene Bogle
— Michael Bussee
— Jeremy Marks

Today I witnessed and accepted this unprecedented apology from three former ex-gay leaders.

Darlene Bogle was the founder and director of Paraklete Ministries, an Exodus referral in Hayward California. She was also the assisting pastor of the Foursquare church where the ministry was based. As an Exodus leader, she traveled the country, speaking and appearing on many national television shows.

Michael Bussee was one of the originators of the ex-gay movement. In the mid-1970s, he co-founded the Ex-gay Intervention Team (EXIT) and later hosted an unprecedented conference of ex-gay ministries at which a handful of ministry leaders, along with approximately 60 delegates, voted to form a loose coalition called EXODUS.

Jeremy Marks is a British evangelical Christian who founded an ex-gay ministry called Courage UK in 1988. He eventually became the President of Exodus International Europe and served on the board of Exodus International.

All three of them are now living out and proud, and all have concluded that while they always had the best interests of those who struggled with unwanted homosexuality at heart, they have never personally witnessed anyone change their orientation. Jeremy Marks took steps to transform his change ministry into one of support and love for GLBT Christians.

Today they made history by gathering in Los Angeles at the GLBT center for a press conference where they issued the above statement after telling their stories. It’s the first time that former leaders have publicly come together to apologize for their part in the ex-gay movement.

Peterson, Eric, Dan Gonzales and I received and accepted the apology on behalf of former ex-gays who feel that their ex-gay experiences caused more harm then good. As we stood next to the former leaders, we witnessed them each sign the apology. They turned and presented it to our group, and we accepted the letter.

What I didn’t count on was the emotion I felt when I reached out to accept the letter. Sometimes these kind of symbolic gestures can feel staged, but it made an emotional impact on me and I felt myself tearing up as we shook hands and hugged Darlene, Michael and Jeremy. It was moving and healing to hear an apology for the harm and damaging messages that I received. I hope the healing will continue as other former ex-gays read this apology. My hope is also that other former ex-gay leaders will start to step forward as well. Thank you, Darlene, Michael, and Jeremy.

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.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Up-to-the-minute conference news

Quick Newsflash: We are continually updating our conference information and news page. Everything you wanted to know, and then some, including media coverage and blogtalk.

And it's your lucky day, because below you'll find a real post from me, with no pictures of half-naked straight men!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Projecting, hmmm?

I'm interrupting my regularly scheduled non-blogging programming to post about a Focus on the Family article that addresses the Exodus Conference and our conference.

Focus' editorial precedes Randy Thomas' statement below:
Just a mile down the road, gay activists, co-sponsored by the University of California - Irvine, have scheduled a counter-conference at which some people will claim they were hurt by ex-gay organizations.

Thomas said the message of that counter-conference denies people hope.

"We live in a great country where people can have freedom of assembly," he said. Unfortunately, the organizers of the counter-conference will "try to project their experience onto all of us, when in fact thousands of people, myself included, have overcome homosexuality."
[emphasis mine]
I think it's interesting the perspective that our personal stories deny people hope. Beside the fact that we cannot control anyone's feelings, I think our message is one of hope for many people who are despairing and suicidal because of having "failed" at an ex-gay life.

Our message that there is healing and wholeness for those who have felt alienated from their faith, from God, and from family because of a lack of change in orientation is a message of hope. We're saying that those who have suffered because of their ex-gay experiences are not alone, and a wonderful life and healthy relationships can be theirs, in contradiction to what many of us have heard from Focus on the Family and Exodus.

The kicker, though, is the statement that we are trying to project our experiences onto ex-gays. This coming from a group of people who have consistently projected their experiences of drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, and abuse histories onto the gay community at large. This coming from an organization that has time and time again mischaracterized and slandered a whole segment of the population.

It also shows that Randy has not taken the time to familiarize himself with the website, where we say (on the front page, no less),
We believe that ex-gay experiences cause more harm than good. Certain people who currently identify as ex-gay say they are content as such. We don’t seek to invalidate their experience. For us such a lifestyle was not possible or healthy.

Not that it was all bad: Some of us received positive help through our ex-gay experiences. We grew to understand our sexuality better and in some cases even overcame life-controlling problems.

But for most of us, these experiences brought us inner turmoil, confusion, and shame. We are still in a process of recovery from the damage. Through sharing our stories with each other, we find wholeness and healing.
I'm pretty certain that the use of "us" makes it fairly clear that we are talking

While Exodus and Focus on the Family like to assert that the gay lifestyle is filled with hopelessness, despair, addiction, dependency and made up entirely of people who have all experienced sexual trauma, we are merely telling our stories. Peterson and I have been careful not to make blanket statements about ex-gays. I even get into hot water sometimes because I refuse to say that it is "impossible" for someone to experience a shift in orientation.

This seems to be a pretty clear-cut case for the introduction of a certain pot to the kettle.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Open Letter to Exodus

The upcoming Ex-Gay Survivor Conference is pulling together, and is now only a week and a half away. As most of you probably know, our conference is happening in the same city and at the same time as the "Exodus Freedom Conference."

As the media are getting wind of this, they are interested in the idea of whether change is possible. The Orange County Register says, "Dueling conferences this month in Irvine explore whether homosexuals can go straight."

But I agree with Peterson when he writes, "In regards to same sex attractions, the question has been debated over and over, Is Change Possible? but for many of us who attended Exodus programs, in some cases for years, the more important question is not about the possibility of change but the costs involved in pursuing that change. Change at what cost?"


Because of the opportunity we have being in close proximity to so many Exodus leaders, and because some of them have expressed an interest in hearing the stories, we have issued an open invitation for an evening to get together so they can hear some of our stories–stories that they may have never heard before.

We have sent an invitation letter to Alan Chambers and a few other leaders that we know personally, and we are trying to get the word out to other Exodus leaders of the opportunity they have to hear our stories. Please feel free to share this open letter to any Exodus leaders or ministry leaders who will be in Irvine for the Exodus conference.

An Open Invitation to Exodus International for Dinner and Dialogue

Dear Exodus Leaders,

It is no coincidence that we scheduled the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference at the same time and in the same city as Exodus’ Freedom Conference. Although we do not wish to interrupt your gathering, we do long for the opportunity to connect with you. Many of us have spent months and years under your care in your ministries. We turned to you for help and received some good from our time under your care. Sadly our ex-gay experiences caused more harm than good, and for many of us we have needed years to recover.

We understand that this was not your intent. From knowing quite a few of you personally, we know that you have a heart to help people and to serve God. You meant to bless us.

Too often once we leave your programs, you never hear about our lives and what happens to us. Most ministries do not have aftercare programs or any formal means to follow-up on participants. Some stories you do not get to hear. If you do, our stories can be simplified by the press or infused with anger or hurt. In hopes of giving you the opportunity to hear about our experiences and the harm that we felt came to us as a result of our pursuit of an ex-gay life, we would like to invite you to join us for a private dinner on Friday, June 29, 2007.

The purpose of the dinner is to give you an opportunity to hear our stories. We do not wish to bash you, attack you or shame you. We simply desire to share our stories with you. No members of the press will be allowed into the dinner and it will not be recorded or filmed. We are hoping for a small gathering with a few ex-gay leaders and some ex-gay survivors. At the dinner a few of us will tell you our stories.

If you are interested in attending this dinner, please RSVP to


Peterson Toscano and Christine Bakke

Ex-gay survivors and co-founders of

Please feel free to download the jpg and send it on to other folks.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

No more naked cowboy!

Instead, I give you the ultimate Denver Bronco's fan; a superfan, the "Barrel Man." Rumors are that the suspenders are the only clothing item he used to wear (he just retired), but I can neither confirm nor deny this. Another casualty of that decadent "straight lifestyle."

So, in other news...ummmm....I was a guest Chellew's Whosoever Godcast where, upon listening just now, I realize I say the word "um" about mmm, 50 times (it's still weird for me to hear my voice, so I get really't mind me).

It was a lot of fun chatting with Candace, the founder of, the first online magazine for LGBT Christians. She started this ten years ago when there were hardly any resources online for Christians who were lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (too bad I didn't pay attention to it before I moved out to Denver to start my ex-gay life, huh). She did a lot of ground-breaking work during a time where it was not OK to identify as Christian and gay, in almost any circle (thanks Candace!).

We talk about the conference, who it's for, what it'll be like; and a bit about my story. Toward the end, she shares some thoughts on tolerance, the ex-gay movement and Christians. Definitely worth a listen. Just promise you won't hold all those "ums" against me.

In other news, I got an e-mail from Kevin Moss that my story somehow made it onto a gay Russian site. Kevin is a professor of Russian studies (and gay studies and gay Russian studies) at Middlebury college in Vermont. Here's the translation:
A 35 year old American woman has challenged "Reparative therapy" which supposedly cures the homodemon.

35 year-old American Kristina Beykk wanted to escape from homosexuality with the aid of the program of the so-called ex-gays, who promise to cure the "misguided souls" through the word of the Lord, the lesbian journal "Pinx" reports.

After Beykk realized that all this is nonsense and charlatanism, she became one of the first women in the United States to openly challenge "Reparative therapy", which affirms that sexual orientation can be changed.

When she was 27, Christina decided to "put an end to vice" and to go to church.

There a preacher laid his hand on her head and began to fervently pray that "the demon of homosexuality leave this woman."

For five years Beykk desperately tried to "be cured", sincerely believing that salvation is just around the corner.

"The only person I fooled all of this time was myself," she says today.

That is why Christine has decided to tell her story to other doubters to convince them: You can be happy only if you are true to your own nature.

It's actually kind of amazing that Kevin was able to link me to the story, since my last name was spelled phonetically (although erroneously, as my last name rhymes with hockey) and I think they were trying to cover all the bases in the spelling of my first name. Thanks, Kevin!

That's about all I've got for right now. Well, no, that's not actually true. I have so many things to blog about, just not enough time for now. I'm doing a lot of work for our upcoming Ex-Gay Survivor Conference (it's not too late to register!) and so I'm having a hard time keeping up in blogland. I'll try to do better. If only so you don't have to see a picture of the Naked Cowboy at the top of my blog...

P.S., I'm not 35 anymore (thanks Eric!) :)