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June 30th, 2007

The Survivors

I have this really bad habit sometimes of assuming that the people who read my blog read the other stuff I do online and as a consequence I’ve been horribly remiss in blogging about the Ex-Gay Survivor’s Conference now going on in Irvine California.  You should go visit their page and witness the amazing, heartbreaking, heartlifting, incredibly powerful stories of the people there. 

For way too long now the ex-gay movement has had its own little monopoly on telling the personal stories of people who have been subjected to ex-gay therapy, and surprise, surprise, their stories have all reflected positively on the experience.  To this day, despite mountains of evidence to the contrary, various ex-gay leaders still claim treatment successes in the tens of thousands.  But ever since the story of a gay teenager who was forced into ex-gay therapy against his will became national, and then international news, organizations like Exodus have had to deal with a much heightened degree of scrutiny of their claims.  Nowadays even Exodus will admit to no more then a 30 percent or so success rate. So now the other 70 percent are having their say about it and this has been long, long overdue.

I’ve never been though ex-gay therapy myself, never had a need to even consider it.  Ever since I came out to myself as a gay teenager I’ve been fine with my sexual orientation.  And for years I regarded the ex-gay movement as little more then the silliness of right wing bigots.  I once dated a guy who gave the ex-gay life it a brief go, breaking off a relationship with me that left me sad and lonely, but fully determined to let him find out for himself that the human identity isn’t a blackboard you can just scribble anything you want on.  It pained me to watch him throw the possibility of an honest and rewarding intimate life way for the sake of the approval of his family and his church.  But you can’t take anyone else’s falls for them, and especially not your lovers’.  So I let him go.  Seven years later he came back…but that’s another long story.

But when I saw the cry for help from one scared, desperate gay teenager something deep inside of me got very, very angry, and to this day is still very, very angry.  That incident radicalized me in a way I thought I’d never be radicalized.  Time was I’d soft peddle my sexuality around people who I knew, or felt were uncomfortable.  Time was I’d tell myself to give them space, let them get comfortable dealing with it on their own terms.  I just wanted us all to get along.  No more.  Getting along should not cost me my dignity, and for goddamned sure it shouldn’t cost gay teens that wonderful time of life when you discover what it is to be in love.  My silence I discovered that summer, was giving gay hating thugs license to put a knife into the hearts of gay teens, and tell the world with a straight face that they were only trying to heal them.

In becoming active against the ex-gay movement, I began to meet wonderful, good hearted, decent people who had put themselves through hell because they thought it was the only way to make themselves right with God.  People like Peterson Toscano.  I’ve heard stories that would make stones cry.  I’ve met other gay teens, like Lance Carroll, who had been forced into the grotesquely misnamed Love In Action against their will, and came out of it even more alienated from their parents.  To walk among the survivors of ex-gay therapy is to know the essential cruelty of it.  But it had to be.  What started out in the early 1970s as a few fellowships of believers supporting each other against urges they could not reconcile with their faith, was cynically co-opted by the religious right into a propaganda tool against gay rights.  The people undergoing therapy in these ministries don’t matter anymore.  They haven’t mattered for decades now.

I really, almost desperately wanted to go out to that conference, and hear the stories, and show my support.  But work pressures prevented it…and that may be the other reason I haven’t blogged about it all that much, even when they were kind enough to link to one of my recent posts.  It’s been depressing.  So I’ve had to watch from afar.  I hope they’re having a good time sharing their stories.  I hope they’re finding the support, and the healing now that they need.

It hasn’t been without it’s amusing moments already.  Via Box Turtle Bulletin, I see that Focus On The Family claimed to know in advance how many people would be at the Survivor’s Conference

Focus on the Family Predicts the Future

Jim Burroway
June 29th, 2007

CitizenLink is just making things up. It’s like they’re not even trying to be credible anymore. I got a laugh out of this one, about the two competing ex-gay and ex-ex-gay conferences:

The [Exodus Freedom Conference], which began Tuesday and wraps up Sunday, has drawn close to 1,000 people — and no protesters so far. Across town, a counter-conference drew about 100 people. [Emphasis mine]

Drew? Past tense?

The Ex-gay Survivor’s conference doesn’t begin until this evening. The main events don’t start until tomorrow. Conference organizers haven’t released pre-registration figures, and of course we don’t know how many walk-ups will show.

But thanks, Focus, for the prediction. We’ll see how good it turns out to be.

Well of course, James Dobson is a profit…er…prophet…

And let’s bring a little perspective into this little bragging war. This is Exodus’s 32nd conference, but only the first Ex-Gay Survivor’s conference. When Exodus held their first conference in Anaheim in 1976, sixty-two people attended. They broke a hundred in 1977 at their second conference in Oakland.

You should go visit the Conference web page.  I’ve been saying for years now that the real stories of our lives are like rust to bigotry.  You’ll never see a better example of that then the stories being told there this weekend.

One Response to “The Survivors”

  1. Steve Boese Says:

    Hey Bruce… Thanks for thinking of us.

    The conference is going beautifully. The energy in this place is amazing… Broad cross section of folks in age, gender, orientation, geography, background…

    More later at the site….

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