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 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) 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)