Sunday, February 17, 2008

Thank you Wendi...and the Commercial Appeal

In this Sunday's edition of the Memphis Commercial Appeal, Wendi Thomas, who interviewed me a couple of weeks ago, wrote a article, that is not only controversial, but touching. It has been 2.5 years since I attended Love in Action, and it is great to know that since then, a movement for education on the myths and lies of the Ex-Gay movement are starting in full swing. The story published is at the following link:

I expect that there will be many people who will not be please with this article...those who are stuck in the rut of religion rather than spirituality...those who see a black and white world, but I welcome a dialogue that is healthy and constructive. I look forward to seeing other survivors in Memphis this coming weekend. I encourage anyone who reads this article who is curious or wants more information from a loving, affirming group of people to attend. Where as my views may not completely match everyone who reads this artice or my blog, I respect those who want to believe in the ex-gay movement, especially LGBT people. For me, if I would not have attended LIA, I would not have made the self-discoveries that have led me to my happiness and self-acceptance today.
Please remember in reading my blog and other ex-gay survivors blogs, that we are making ourselves very vulnerable. I just hope everyone, regardless or ideology can be civil and accepting of different vantage points.
Thanks for reading, and thank you Wendi for a well written, honest, and touching article.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

There's No Place Like Home...

While watching a fun movie, I got thinking about the Wizard of Oz, and how it seems to be a good depiction of my journey. Picture it...A young Christian child from Missouri(Bordering Kansas...FYI) growing up in a conservative home in a small, black and white town. Everything he was ever taught about love was "one day, you'll find the perfect girl for you" and the only thing he ever heard about sex is "wait until you are will be more special when on your wedding night with the perfect woman." The ideology is meet, date, fall in love, get married with a big wedding, mom cries, dad is proud, 2.5 children, lovely house, and happy everafter.
Well, in comes the tornado of realizing my attractions, thoughts, and feelings and in the whirlwind of confusion and experimenting I end up being picked up from the black and white world I knew and landed in this entirely new place.
I was in the young gay man's "Oz." Uncharted, frightening territory where I was all alone. But the difference is, this Dorothy didn't have a scarecrow to give advice, a tin man to remind me I was loved, or a lion to show me how to be brave. Well after a relationship and my first year of college, I started to find my scarecrow, tin man, and lion...friends who helped me be me and realize that it's ok.
Well, then comes the forces of black and white, convincing me that my "Oz" was fun and might feel ok, but that it was wrong, and that I need to come home. They said there was no place like home, and that's the only place God wanted me. Enter Love in Action. Slowly and continually those vibrant colors of "Oz" were fading, and I was entering into the Black and White world...the color of the Bible's text, of course. I was told the yellow bricks and emerald castles were just illusions of happiness, and that only true contentment and joy came from letting the hues of certain aspects of myself go. They took my ruby slippers(and any "False Image" with the brand name Calvin Klein or Abercrombie) away, all while telling me it was for my own good.
After 6 months of this black and white mentality and being kept in the darkness, I had to take the courage I discovered through my lion. This led me back to Missouri where my tin men were...those friends who loved me and wanted me to be happy. They were willing to do whatever it took to help.
The hardest part was putting the Ruby Slippers back on and finding my way back home, to my "Oz." Sadly, I couldn't click my heels three times, but rather I had to use them to trek through fear, pain, hurt, and the unknown. I realized that everyone I have encountered in my life wanted to be my scarecrow in one way or me their opinion on what was best for me. Finally, after months into my trek, I realized that I have to be my own scarecrow. I have to find what is best for me and choose my own path, but I also take great pride in knowing that when the wicked forces of the world try to set me on fire, my ever-supportive friends will be there to help me quell the flames.
I am happy that I have found my own "Oz" and realize that it is so much larger and more wonderful than I could have even dreamed. Truly, there is No Place Like Home!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Unexpected, Pleasant Surprise

When I moved to Iowa to work on the campaign, I left a lot behind: my job, family, friends, etc. Well, I met some great people. Co-workers, volunteers and many more. However, the pleasant surprise is my current boyfriend, Ryan.
When you work 12-15 hour work days, 7 days a week, you don't have much time, if any, for a personal life, but somehow we made it work. I talked to him a little bit before I arrived in Iowa, and quickly went on a date. I had NO intentions for a relationship...was kind of hoping for a campaign fling(anyone who has worked on a campaign knows about the Campaign Fling: you both know it is temporary, so you just have fun, go on dates, etc.) Well, the first time I met him and talked with him, I knew immediately he was different than any guy I had ever met.
Since then, Ryan has turned out to be the most romantic guy I have ever met. Being a huge lover of Romantic Comedies, I have these almost 'illusions' about what the perfect guy and relationship would be like. Well, it's fair to say our relationship is NOT like the movies...It's better. Why? Because it is so real and genuine. Having not really been in a serious relationship where the love is mutual(or present at all) since 2005, I was starting to think I was damaged goods. Having gone through Love in Action and heard so many times that gays cannot have a healthy, significant realtionships, I have been very discouraged. In reading one of Peterson's blog entries, I recently realized that I still have a lot of the ex-gay, anti-gay myths in my head. He was talking about Emotional Dependency, and how the ex-gay movement portrays ALL gay relationships as harmful, emotionally dependent relationships. Someone made the analogy tapes that play repeatedly in our heads. We hear over and over about how: 1.) Gay is wrong and a sin; 2.)Gay relationships are just superficial and only about sex; 3.) Gay men cannot be faithful. Well, after years of people feeding into these myths and lies, people, myself included, have to do a lot of work to rebuild a positive self-image and start to realize that, "Hey, I am a good person and I deserve to have a real relationship with someone who loves me."
I am very excited to be holding a roundtable at the Deconstructing the Ex-Gay Myth— A Weekend of Action & Art in Memphis, TN. This is also going to be a regional gathering for ex-gay survivors. The roundtable is geared to young adults and the effects the ex-gay movement has on our lives, including but not limited to: psychological, emotional, financial, etc. Below you will see the agenda. I would love to see a great turn out.

* Friday 2/22 Noon: Press Conference at MGLCC to provide a community statement about the Love Won Out Conference. Local LGBT leaders and those with experience about LWO and the ex-gay movement can speak. (892 S. Cooper

*Friday 2/22 noon - Sunday 2/24 6:00 PM The Ex-Gay Survivor Art Show at the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center MGLCC (892 S. Cooper) The show is hosted by the MGLCC & Beyond Ex-Gay and curated by Christine Bakke.

* Friday 2/22 8:00 PM Doin' Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House--How I Survived The Ex-Gay Movement, at First Congregational Church (1000 S. Cooper)

* Saturday 2/23 7:00 AM - 10:00 AM Welcome Station at Central Church (Love Won Out) Action showcasing a positive message of hope and unconditional love through positive signs, narratives & statements to the community. (2005 Winchester Blvd, Collierville, TN)

* Saturday 2/23 2:00-5:00 PM Beyond Ex-Gay Mid-South Regional Gathering, MGLCC (892 S. Cooper)

* Saturday 2/23 8:00 PM Preview of the Morgan Fox's film This is What Love in Action Looks Like at First Congregational Church (1000 S. Cooper)

* Sunday 2/24 10:00 AM Art, Activism and Spirit a presentation by Peterson Toscano at the Memphis Friends Meeting (917 S. Cooper)

* Sunday 2/24 2:00-6:00 Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center's 5th Anniversary Party at 892 Cooper 19 Years in Memphis, 5 Years in Cooper Young!

* Sunday 2/24 7:00 PM Memphis premiere of Transfigurations--Transgressing Gender in the Bible, at Holy Trinity Community Church (685 S Highland Street)

Also, Peterson created a great, informative sight: