So, this account will come in sections. I just returned from the Anti-heterosexism conference in west palm beach florida. I arrived on Thursday night so I could be there for the pre-conference day of A gathering for "ex-gay" survivors. This of course, is near and dear to my heart. I'll address the conference theme in part 2.
On Friday morning I went down to breakfast, and met two new best frliends...Lisa and Lisa from Florida. I was reminded once more of the importance to speaking to survivors. There are hundreds of folks, who, to done degree or another, have experienced harm from being told they are not quite worthy to be accepted as a child of God, and need to change. I wish I could say that the past 30 years have changed that message, but here it is 2009 and we are still hearing it.
I went to the meeting room, and met with Christine, Jim, Jallen, and a host of new friends with the old story.
We had introductions, then Christine prepared to lead the chalk talk. This is a powerful way to allow expression, some for the first time, of the harm that has been done to individuals, and to our community at large.
Jim, led a separate discussion on ex-gay history and messages that are still going out world wide. I went to that discussion. I was touched by the degree of research that was shared by Jim(Box Turtle Bulletin) and Christine Robinson, PhD from James Madison University. They revealed past and present harmful messages, and I realized that in my time as an ex-gay director of Paraklete Ministries, I had stood along side of so many of those hateful voices. Lou Shelton; and Paul Cameron are just two of those named, who have carried forth a hateful message. At the time, I didn't reallize their harm or my own in delivering the "testamony" of choice and change. I was grateful to once again, have the opportunity to speak forth my truth of deeper understanding of God's grace and affirm my position as a lesbian, and a Christian. Many of the speakers and attendees would not identify with the Christian position, but I realized that my voice at the table, was an important one.
At noon, we had a press conference, and I was honored to be one of the presentors who would share the apology that Former Exodus Leaders, Michael Bussee, and Jeremy Marks and I presented in 2007 in Los Angeles. that Apology is as follows.
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 acred 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.(Over 100 ministries world wide have been encouraged to sign on with us!)
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.
This time, I made it through without tears, but as I looked around the room there were many who were visibably moved. We heard from others who had gone through Reparative therapy and ex-gay ministries and were harmed spiritually and emotionally from the experlience. This was just 4 hours into a 3 day conference. Men and women came up to share their stories...and as I listened, I realized, this is why i tell my story. It helps others to tell theirs.