Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Ex-gay panel discussion in Tallahassee


This evening, I attended a panel discussion titled:
All God's Children: LGBTQ Members of Faith & the Ex-Gay Movement
jointly organized by the Pride (the on campus student version) and Seminole Christian Life, a very conservative christian student body. I have taped the whole conversation, and I am currently making a backup to my webserver so that the file cannot get lost. I will upload the video in sections to YouTube in the coming days. Uploaded to YouTube here Before the panel started, two of the ex-gay members asked me to refrain from making the video, because they were afraid that the message would be distorted by selectively cherry picking pieces of the video. So, I told them that if I would upload the video to YouTube, I would upload it integrally. I personally think the complete video is much more powerful, so that is not an issue. Internally, I was actually quite appalled by it, knowing that the ex-gay movement has a reputation of distorting the information of others.

What follows is my personal impression.

First of all, I think it was incredibly stupid of Pride to provide a platform to these people in the first place. As expected, they deliberately distorted what we know about homosexuality based on scientific research. Two of them claimed that there is no genetic component to homosexuality, which is bullshit. I know exactly what gene (frutty oops, the political correct version is fruitless) needs to be manipulated to make a male fly court other male flies, or a female fly to court other females. But heck, what can you do once they have made the blunder? Well, document. So, I went to the meeting, with my laptop and web-cam, and recorded the whole discussion.

Ok, the panel consisted of five members. Three representatives were representing the ex-gay movement, Frank Carrasco & Christine Sneeringer, from Exodus and ex-felon and con-artist Arthur Goldberg, from JONAH. The other side was represented by two local clergy, Rev. Mark Byrd of the Gentle Shepherd MCC and Cantor Tanya Greenblatt of Temple Israel.

The evening started with personal introductions by the panel members, and I will provide a short impression of those introductions:

Frank Carrasco
Frank appeared to me as genuine about himself, realizing that he still has feelings for men, but he has chosen Jesus over his own feelings. I think that he in due time will find peace with Jesus and being gay, and that he will follow the many former ex-gay's that have left the ex-gay movement before him.

Christine Sneeringer
Christine is a different story. Based on her story, I am sure that a major reason she found love in the arms of a woman was her abuse past. That happens, and it sucks. I am glad that she has found herself and has realized that she has attractions to men. However, she didn't say whether she still has or not has feelings for woman, but I would not be surprised if she did. She at least still makes blips on the gaydar of at least some of the females in the audience.

Arthur Abba Goldberg
Arthur is an Orthodox Jew, convicted fellon, dis-barred attorney with a criminal record for financial crimes. Spend 18 months in jail. He is still a con-artist based on what I saw of him this evening. Glib and skilled, lies between his teeth. He gave me the creeps, similar to psychopaths I have met.

Rev. Mark Byrd
Mark told us about his journey from being raised in a church that considers the Southern Baptists as too liberal (sic) to finding peace in being gay and Christian. ADDED in response to the first comment: Tried basically the ex-gay path (he was married, has a daughter), was miserable, to the point of being suicidal, till his wife finally told him to be true to his feelings and amicably divorced so he could find peace. You could see his eyes shout fire when the ex-gay people claimed to do no harm.

Cantor Tanya Greenblatt
Tanya is a member of the Reform Judaism branch, heterosexual, married and very open towards gay people. She explained a lot about the context in which the Torah was written, and tackled head on the cherry picking of Bible/Torah verses to proof ones point.

And now about the content of the discussion. I think there were a few good things and the expected and obvious bad things.

A major discussion point was about respect. Especially the ex-gay members stressed this point, and within qualified limits, I agree. I think that if someone chooses Jesus over his or her sexual orientation, that is that persons personal choice, and whether or not we believe it is healthy or not, something we should respect. But as I say, this is within qualified limits. The limit is honesty. Telling your personal story is one thing, distorting the facts is another. For example, Christine claimed that there is no genetic component to homosexuality. Really? No, wilfully distorting important facts results in less respect. If you want respect, you better become honest and stop distorting the facts. And no Christine, NARTH is not a reliable source for that kind of information.

But there is another point that I would like to bring up. And that is the question of change? Basically, can people change their sexual orientation? My answer is neither yes or no, because I think that in rare cases, some people can change their sexual orientation. And those numbers are far less than what the ex-gay movement want you to believe. Also, I suspect that most of those cases are either bisexuals who have a somewhat stronger attraction to individuals of the same sex, or people who have for example experienced trauma or something related. However, most of the people that claim to have been heterosexualized are pretending.

I have far more respect for those in the ex-gay movement who actually honestly say they still have feelings for the members of the same sex, but make an active choice between God and their sexual orientation. There is nothing wrong with it, as long as it is their own choice.

And that brings me to the next item that I want to address here tonight. Recruiting. This was brought up, and all ex-gay members said they did not recruit. However, nothing was said about youngsters that are singed up for their programs by their parents. O wait, the parents sign the release, so they are not recruited.

And that brings me to the last item to be discussed. Harm. They claimed they did no harm. Whow. The APA disagrees. The survivors disagree.

UPDATE in the morning
Ok, I am going to bed. Tomorrow more.

And let me finish my last thoughts. If you are really interested to do no harm, you only can achieve that when you are honest, and means that you represent the research accurately. When you claim that you can change, but that the research indicates that it is a very rare thing, you give people false hope of a solution that is not there. If you REALLY want to help people without harming them, you say that. You say, we can help you, not with changing your sexual orientation, but with finding a way to deal with your generally unchangeable sexual orientation that is compatible with your believe. For more information about professional standards of helping people, see here.

4 comments:

petersontoscano said...

Thank you for sharing your personal impressions. Shame that there was no ex-gay survivor on the panel, someone who attempted to go ex-gay and came to the realization that it did not work, it was unnecessary and that it ultimately caused damage emotionally, psychologically and spiritually.

That this voice was not represented troubles me as the vast majority of people who once lived ex-gay have since come out. I have met nearly 2000 of them and the destruction to their lives because of ex-gay treatment in the midst of anti-LGBTQ churches and families has been colossal. It took me 10 years to recovery from reparative therapy and ex-gay ministry.

You can learn more about ex-gay survivors and how we recovered from the often tragic ex-gay existence at www.beyondexgay.com

Siglind said...

Peter, Mark Byrd tried the ex-gay thing, not so much with the help of a ex-gay ministry, but he was in deep denial for a long time. He was married and has a daughter. His wife must have truly loved him when she was the catalizer to him accepting that he couldn't continue to life that way

sharinglightinthemidstofdarkness said...

I have been an ex-gay, then ex-ex gay and now just satisfied as a member of the Body of Christ as a celibate person.

I believe with all of me that God set the standard for sexuality in Genesis 2:24 and 25 (which Jesus verified in the gospels). I believe that all sex outside of a covenanted male/female relationship is not God's plan.

I didn't always believe this... and nearly lost my soul.

I choose God... and His standard. Nothing is more important to me than my relationship with Jesus - Who is the way, the truth and the life.

We all have hard choices in life - and my sexuality is one I willingly surrender to the cross of Calvary. God's plan is the best plan. What I THOUGHT was right (due to my feelings) was leading me down the path to destruction.

I praise God for His mercy!

Siglind said...

Sharing light, I am glad you want to surrender your sexuality to your specific branch of Christianity. I think you are more honest than most by admitting that you have homosexual feelings, that they cannot be changed and that you make an active choice to not act upon them because Christ is more important. I can respect that. What I cannot respect, is the members of the ex-gay community who lie about the reality of homosexuality. As far as I know, lying is a sin in the bible.