Sunday, July 22, 2007

The cat/dog kinsey scale

On my previous post, Kellie commented
I hear you sister! Do you identify as a cat lover? I myself am bi-animal- 2 cats, 4 dogs. You have some beautiful babies!
My response:
Yes, I do identify as a cat lover, although I've not always been able to admit it so readily in such a public forum.

On a dog-cat Kinsey scale (O=cat and 6=dog), I am probably a 2 (the reverse of you). Now, it should be noted that I had a very horrible experience with a dog as a young child, and so in this instance it may have been nurture over nature.

However, since identifying as being a cat vs. dog lover in this society is seen as morally neutral, I've not had therapy for this or spent a lot of time trying to change. I just have my kitties and we're a family. The dog owners of this country have so far not felt threatened in their dog ownership just because I have two cats.

Thankfully there have also been no legislative attempts thus far to deny me cat ownership just because it's possible I could change with enough prayer, faith, and therapy.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

On a lighter note

I'm taking a break from all things ex- or ex-ex-gay today!
(oh, and I finally found my card reader so I could upload pics from my camera).

This is my Sophie girl who decided that the walk upstairs to the water bowl was apparently just too much to ask of her. (And once she did this, it became her water; mine no longer. Just in case you were wondering. I love my babies, but not that much!)

Here's what happens when you leave bird seed sitting outside. This industrious squirrel managed to make a large hole in order to climb in and eat. It was like TV for the cats...I don't think they left the window for hours.

It really is such hard work keeping up with the squirrel population.

This was a bit of my flower garden in early spring. Our heavy snowfall and wet spring gave me the most gorgeous columbines I've had since I planted these native flowers.

These pictures have been brought to you by the committee for a fair and balanced life.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

When hate wears boots

I just got off the phone with a friend who was violently gay bashed this weekend. It hurt and scared me to hear some of the details, but the short story is that he was hanging out with some friends, having a quiet conversation at a bar. Apparently they mentioned being gay in the course of their conversation, and three men starting yelling that they were fags. The men got thrown out, but when my friend went outside the door a bit later, he was attacked.

He was on the ground, being kicked in the sides, while one of the men had their boot on his head, which was pressed into the sidewalk. Thankfully it appears they just wanted to scare him (into what? being straight? not leaving his house? butching up?) and weren't seeking seriously bodily injury. At least, this is what the police said when he reported the hate crime.

I wrote in a recent post: "When people think that we can choose our orientation, or we can "overcome" it and be healed (as in, made straight), they are less likely to be tolerant and loving and much more likely to be lacking in both respect and grace. Some even seem to be more likely to resort to violence. In their mind, if you don't like abuse, then you should just change."

This is the danger that I see in Exodus and others not being clear about what "change" really means. This is why I think Dr. Dobson's rhetoric about gays is so harmful, even beyond the obvious of how we hurt when we hear some of his words.

I've never been gay-bashed, thankfully, but I have experienced some mild discrimination and verbal abuse. It's ranged from being totally ignored at restaurants (to the point that other patrons notice it and sometimes say something), to outright harrassment.

I've had the stares and rude comments, and while in Santa Cruz I'd been yelled at by people driving past me (the word "dyke" was used, so I don't think they were taking issue with my driving). I spent a tense evening in a restaurant one night where my friend and I were under close observation by a table of young men. Apparently we were the subject of a lot of conversation and hilarity, but also some threatening looks. I remember trembling as I left the restaurant and ran to my truck, locking the door almost before it was closed. Another night, a friend and I were walking hand in hand downtown in Denver. We were surprised by a group of thuggish-looking young men who had suddenly turned the corner. They gave us hostile, silent looks as they split apart so we could walk between them. I think it took a while for my heart rate to return to normal. Of course, we dropped hands immediately and walked briskly to a secure location.

When I was ex-gay, I remember driving home from a counseling session one night. I flipped on the radio to the Christian station, and heard Dr. Dobson's daily radio address. He was on with John Paulk (who was still in good graces) and he was discussing gay issues (or rather, railing against homosexual activists who were trying to twist the law to get special rights). Dobson started a rant about hate crime legislation not being needed, but being part of a larger gay agenda that was trying to push our lifestyle on the general public. He said gay activists (wow, guess that would be me now?) made more of it than was really there, and in fact, during some period of time (this was 8 years ago, so I don't quite recollect) there had only been three deaths because of gay bashing.

I was thankful to hear John Paulk finally step in and say something like, "of course, three deaths is three too many." To which Dobson responded by mumbling, "oh, um, of course" and continuing on. Listening (in mounting anger) to this program, I got the distinct impression that John Paulk was being cowed into silence and was there merely to lend some legitimacy to the issue. I don't know if this is true, but it's what I remember thinking at the time. On the other hand, I had a bit of a love affair with the Paulks then, since their book and story were so important to me, so who knows.


Even though I was ex-gay in identity (not in orientation), I was so incensed at that radio show and at Dr. Dobson. Even though I was actively working to change my orientation, I still felt gay and looked gay, and I knew I could be discriminated against just as easily as someone who was not ex-gay. Even though I knew no one in my church would agree with me, I thought that sexual orientation should be included in hate crime legislation. Especially since it is not chosen, whereas even religion is something one can choose. I had come from Santa Cruz where we had anti-discrimination laws for employment and housing, and had moved to Colorado where I could be fired for being gay (and in fact, this was a concern for me in the truck parts place I worked. I did everything I could to be seen as straight there, short of running around singing, "I'm straight! I'm straight! Straight is what I am! Yippeeeee!")

Back to my friend.

The physical damage is scrapes and bruises, but the emotional and psychological damage is usually worse than anything that can happen to our bodies. Even for me, I felt horror when hearing his story, and a sense of terror that still lingers. I have been fighting off tears for him. He's someone I care about deeply. Someone I connected with in Orlando during a conference and have seen several times since, even though we live in different states. He's someone who cared enough about me and the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference to make the trek to the conference although he is not a survivor of any formal kind of ex-gay experiences.

A hate crime bill is going to be voted on soon by the Senate. Although there are differences of opinion about it even in gay circles, I am inclined to think it is needed. Jim Burroway of Box Turtle Bulletin has put together a lot more information about hate crime legislation. If you are opposed to such legislation, will you do me a favor and at least read his post? If you are ex-gay, I want you to know it is really OK for you to support hate crime legislation, even if you are in the minority in your circles. At least give a thought to your former (or current) friends who still identify as gay. I talked to an ex-gay friend a while back who said that he faces discrimination all the time because he comes across as gay. Nobody checks your identity card when they bash ("oh, you're ex-gay? Well, never mind then!")

A little-known fact: hate crime legislation does not just cover gays, or other minority groups. The FBI’s own hate crime statistics count 935 anti-White, 58 anti-Protestant, and 23 anti-heterosexual hate crime incidents in 2005 (thanks to Jim Burroway for those stats). Those are hate crimes just as much as what happened to my friend this weekend.

I am not sure what else to say. I'm so full of emotion right now. Please keep my friend in your thoughts and prayers (he also lost his job on Monday, although not because he was gay, and then yesterday a member of his furry family died - is it true that trouble comes in threes?)

Just hold him in your heart if you can. Thanks.

P.S. FYI I asked him if I could post about this, without giving his identity. I don't want to turn people in poster children for any cause, but I really wanted to blog about this because it affected me so deeply this evening. He gave me his permission.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Speaking of Tennessee

[Update: This conference has been moved to October 19 & 20, 2007]

No, I was, really, in the previous post!

The God and Gays Conference will also be in Tennessee just two weeks after the Love In Action Survivor's Initiative event (wow, that state gets around!)

#1 reason you should go: I'll be there, and co-leading a workshop with Darlene Bogle, she of the apology to those who have been harmed by our time in the ex-gay movement.

But really, it'd be a cool conference whether I was there or not. The speaker and workshop leader lineup is pretty amazing:

• Bishop John Shelby Spong: Ally champion, Episcopalian Bishop, author
• Rev. Dr. Mel White: Soulforce co-founder, author, rock star of reconciliation
• Peggy Campolo: Christian advocate for GLBTQ people
• Rev. Deborah L. Johnson: Mentored by Rev. Dr. Michael Beckwith, author
• Darlene Bogle: ex-Exodus leader and author
• Mary Lou Wallner: Founder of T.E.A.C.H. Ministry, author, mother

And that's not a complete list of folks who will be there.

It's in Nashville, August 3rd-4th, and there's also going to be entertainment, comedy, etc. Register now, and let me know if I'll see you there!

(And I have no idea what this horse has in common with the conference, except maybe you should put on your rainbow shoes and join us)

The Survivor's Initiative

Sponsored by Soulforce, survivors are starting to tell their mostly unheard narratives.

Check out the Box Turtle Bulletin for news on a press conference at NARTH on July 2, 2007 (video here and here). 

Peterson, Dan Gonzales and I visited New Life Church in Colorado Springs Sunday, July 8, 2007 for a press conference (video here and here). Peterson explains the survivor's intiative. 

Barbara and Lester Leavitt spent July 10th in Salt Lake City, sharing their story at the office of Evergreen, the Mormon ex-gay ministry (Local Fox station video available).

A press conference at Love In Action in Memphis, TN is scheduled for Tuesday, July 17th at 10:30 am.

I've been pretty slow with the blogging lately so in the meantime, Peterson is usually blogging like mad and linking to all the cool photos and videos.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

God's grace and Alan Chambers next door

Note: the title is playing off of Alan Chamber's book "God's Grace and the Homosexual Next Door."

I'm still a bit tender from all that went on at our conference, and I'm feeling kinda "mama bear"ish about our attendees, our family. I'm tired of people enduring the heaping on of shame around this issue and I feel very protective.

Some of you may know that Alan Chambers has been quite active lately online, and many of his comments have been snarky, dismissive, and attacking.

When Alan Chambers tells Darlene, Jeremy, and Michael (the three former leaders that issued the apology) to "Move on," and calls their apologies "hollow and self-serving" it's hurtful, and it's hard not to feel that, on behalf of the three courageous former leaders, and on behalf of regular former ex-gays who attended the conference. I don't want those who are in a fragile place to feel, yet again, like Exodus doesn't care what happens to them when they leave the programs. And that if they tell their stories, they will be dismissed and put down. I don't think we need any more messages that our stories are not worth listening to.

I saw that Alan just left a comment on Shawn O'Donnell's blog and stated, "Harm? Come on, Shawn. No one is being harmed by Exodus offering people a choice. You KNOW better."

It seems like another one of his word games (like the one about the word "change"). Some of us who are telling our stories are saying that more harm than good came from our ex-gay experiences (most of which involved Exodus-affiliated ministries). The "offer" of a choice (whatever that really means) is different from the actual methodologies, ideas, and practices which Exodus ministries use. All of us telling our stories have detailed specific ideas, beliefs, and actions that caused us harm.

Now, about the "choice" issue. What choice are they offering?

Is it the choice between being kicked out of your church, or being loved as "the struggler?"

Is it the choice between a relationships with parents who believe we can and should pursue change because others claim to have done it, or living a life being true to yourself but without a good relationship with family?

Is it the choice between which state to live in because Exodus has politically backed anti-marriage equality amendments that could negatively affect your children or yourself?

Is it the choice that many women have to make whether they will stay in a marriage with a man who is not able to love them well, or whether they will leave and break up a family?

Is it the choice of having to believe that you are broken and inferior, or the choice of finding your own wholeness in a world that is all too ready to believe what they are told about gay people?

Exodus is not a benign organization that is merely saying, "Hey folks, you have a choice!" (And I notice that they don't specify that the choice is having a homosexual orientation and living your life versus having a homosexual orientation but attempting to sublimate your desires and ward off homosexual drives and impulses for the rest of your life.) Those ideas always come much later into the discussion.

In addition to proclaiming that there is a choice, they also testify before lawmakers that gays should not have equal rights under the law because "change is possible."

They have an association of ministries with virtually no oversight, who are all employing different methods for promoting change, some much more harmful than others.

They make vague statements that are cleverly coined to mislead. They are not unaware that when they say "change is possible" that most folks will believe they mean we can choose not to be gay, or that we can change our orientation. If you dig a little deeper (which many don't) we find that they mean a change in behavior, but not necessarily orientation (and only that is being recently acknowledged).

When people think that we can choose our orientation, or we can "overcome" it and be healed (as in, made straight), they are less likely to be tolerant and loving and much more likely to be lacking in both respect and grace. Some even seem to be more likely to resort to violence. In their mind, if you don't like abuse, then you should just change.

They highlight ex-gays with families and children, when the majority of ex-gays seem to remain celibate.

They participated in a Love Won Out event (Seattle) that was scheduled at the same time as a local pride event. Then we are told that they would "never" do anything like that, and find it offensive that we held our conference at the same time and location.

This list could go on, but clearly this post is long enough.

So what does all of this have to do with the title of my post? I am one of Alan Chamber's cyber neighbors. And he certainly seems to lack grace for all of the homosexuals next door to him in in the online world. While he is attempting to be more truthful (witness his recent honesty about most people not actually being ex-gay), it is only just a start.

And if Alan and Exodus really cared about people who have gone through their ministries and left (which they estimate — on what statistics we don't know — is 70% of folks), Alan would not be saying these hurtful things online. He would not tell people to just "move on." He would not call their apologies a game, and mock the significance of this for many people who have experienced harm and damage. He would not try to dismiss the legitimate concerns that many people have, while issuing statements to the press that they are seeking dialogue.

I wish he could have heard some of what went on at the conference. I wish he could have heard that we don't wish to bash them, and that the folks at the Exodus conference are our brothers and sisters. I would love for him to have heard that we know and acknowledge that Exodus and other ministry leaders have wanted to do good, and not cause harm. I wish he could have seen the chalk talk, when many of us wrote good things that came out of our experience, but acknowledged the bad things as well (and sadly, they outweighed the good by far for most people). I wish he could have met the people whose lives have been devastated. I wish he could have met people whose marriages were destroyed. I wish he could have met all of us who became suicidal, or attempted suicide because of our feelings of shame and inadequacy when we could not live up to the promise of change.

I am trying very hard to find my own grace for Alan Chambers, my neighbor, and I hope he can find it in his heart to live out the title of his book.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

From pain and destruction grows new life

Peterson has posted about the "Chalk Talk" that began the first session of "The Ex-Gay Survivor Conference." He explains,
"As we gathered in front of that large sheet of paper with the two trails of paper on the ground, we settled into what felt to be a hushed sacred silence. So much pain, so many memories stirred up and appeared on the page. Bit by bit we built this wall, which some said felt like a memorial. Our prompt "Ex-Gay Experiences—The Good/Harm" drew out responses including drawings. Many people claimed the good they received from their ex-gay experiences as well as listing the deep deep harm they experienced."

Some writing from the wall:
"I believed I was cut off from God's love"
"My family can only love the mask they give me to wear"
"If it hadn't been for the music and hymns, my God would have died"
"I could finally talk about being gay and Christian for the first time"
"John got so depressed that he ran his car into a tree"
"Hard to get rid of the sense of being broken"
"20 years wasted"
"I opened up for the first time"
"Ending friendships to go...when it didn't work...having my church "family" disown and reject me"
"My best friend (my ex-wife) is single at the age of 48."
"My parents felt like failures"
"It left me with this wound separating my faith and my sexuality"
"Dale 1954-2000"
"I can survive anything"
"I thought I was changing; in reality I walled away my sexuality"
"Learned to deal with family issues"
"I was 16 when my small group leader molested me"
"Blaming my parents, I legally changed my name"
"Randy 1963-1980 sorry"
"I made some really great friends through my experience"
"My Dad didn't make me gay, he made me REAL. I love you Dad. Rest peacefully"
"Exchanged the truth about myself for a lie"
"I've come to hate religion"
"Ultimatum received: be ex-gay or go away"

So what happened to our wall of grief, pain, remembrance, memories, thoughts and feelings? Watch the following video where we turn the pain and suffering into fodder for new growth.

(p.s., the woman in the blue shirt who speaks in the video is Pat Walsh, Former Director of the UC Irvine LGBT resource center)