There are moments in a survivor’s life that come in as if they are part of a volcanic eruption – but it’s a complicated and inward experience – an emotional implosion of hot lava and broken rock, filling our insides with ash and dense, unbreathable air.
All that can be done, in those moments is for someone to come alongside and see that a past life or an archived moment has suddenly and most likely without welcome, become all that the survivor can feel.
When you are witnessing this (and it helps if the survivor can throw out a flag that says, “I am triggered right now”), you have only a few options and mental dispositions that will be useful to you and the survivor at that time. Do you touch them? Do you give them space? Do you offer to listen? Do you ask them if they want to call a different person? None of this matters until you resolve your own angst over the following 3 realities:
Reality 1: There isn’t anything you can say – the trauma happened.
You can try to remind us that we are better off now, or grass is greener in real time, but that is like offering a distraction, not a solution. The intensity of a trigger REQUIRES no distractions. It has come up because the survivor is ready. If you aren’t, that’s on you – so get ready. Release the expectation that you are going to heal this, stop this, or have magic words. You don’t. This is a moment for a genuine, “Shit, this is ugly. This happened and I’m here with you right now in it.” Those are the closest you will get to magic words, if you feel like you must speak.
Reality 2: There isn’t anything you can do – the past cannot be erased.
It’s awkward. Your loved one is transported to another place, another life, another hour of suffering that is unrecognizable to you. But you cannot undo this – you truly weren’t able to save them then and you won’t be able to save them now. You can’t minimize it by reminding them how long ago it was – yes it is past. But this is a trigger and trauma, for all of its complications, is incredibly astute at avoiding all sense of time. In that volcanic hour, the trauma could have happened an hour ago. Remember, that feeling is not insanity – that’s just trauma.
Reality 3: There isn’t anything that feels right – the wrong committed is unforgettable.
Finally, you aren’t going to be able to “make this feeling go away.” Nothing feels good… the survivor may actually only have words like, “I don’t feel good.” Literally, as a statement of value, he or she probably feels un-good. You can’t argue with this feeling and you can’t bring a pro’s and con’s lists to the table and expect to make a difference. The survivor is reprocessing their memories of trauma in real time – you are witnessing a sacred and brave act of self-care and genuine badassery. Time to stand in awe as we reconcile that what was past is unforgettable not because we aren’t forgiving or moving on, but because again… that’s just trauma. Trauma doesn’t “Live and let live.” Trauma… lets you learn not to die as you try to live sometimes!
So in those moments – it may feel like an awkward scene at a grave site or worse, a scene from a genocide or battle ground… But that is all it is – it is a scene.
If you are ever there for that implosion within, I ask you with all my heart, as a survivor and survivor advocate… Just show up for reality.
Expect nothing but for the scene to change when the flow has slowed… the air has cleared… and coolness of your presence empowers us to move through the past and return to our current time and place.
Speaking for survivors, as messy as this experience is, we do come through most of our triggers with more wisdom and more acceptance – we come through better prepared for the life we are choosing because of the patience we have learned to have with reminders of the trauma we did not choose.
I share this post as a woman who is a two-time survivor of sexual assault and a survivor of a over a decade of conversion therapy… and as a woman who advocates for other survivors as a volunteer for organizations like Beyond Ex Gay and RAINN. Some of us find the words for our experiences and some of us do not – but most of all, ALL of us define for ourselves the paths we must take to endure the intrusive guilt, shame, and fear that can erupt within our memories without warning. If you choose to love us, you choose a reality that is not always pleasant, but is always honest…
And as a survivor now 25 years removed from the first trauma, I simply know no other way to say it – surviving trauma is not something I wish on anyone, but I do not wish it away from me because I am a softer, gentler and more open-hearted person to all I meet because I have seen a darkness in the human condition that most are spared. It makes me stronger… even when there are volcanic moments when I remember, it did almost kill me.
Namaste, survivors… and namaste to our loved ones who are learning of our brave and tenacious paths to wholeness.
Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose new book, Enlightened-ish chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Her first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News,SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.
“Too often the timid are taken advantage of because we will not compete with the cruel… somehow it is our commitment to strength in gentility that makes us a target. Nothing bothers those trapped by internal conflict more than the peace others have because it cannot be bestowed OR taken away… When their weapons of jealousy, projection, misrepresentation, self-hate, or greed head in your direction, remember that it is a distraction. Nothing more – nothing less.
The gentle are mostly annoying to the harsh… because even if their words bring us to tears, they call us names, they threaten our integrity, or they push us aside like we do not matter, the gentle do not succumb and the gentle will not be made hard in our hearts.
Soften yourselves and be with peace… then, we will proceed toward justice, as it includes a brand of gentle indignation.”
Aho and Namaste.
~ Turtle Whisperer, 8.17.15 ~
Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose book, Enlightened-ish chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Her first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News, SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine, Blue Mountain Arts, and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.
I’ve been working on a new writing project which dives into survivor experiences, as a means of highlighting what we understand about resilience, grief, and the healing journey after trauma. As I partner with other survivors, advocates, and psychologists, I notice that there is a sense of “strength” in this work. I’m preparing to launch the project as an e-book and it will hopefully highlight our experiences, educate the media, and provide support to those who are finding their way through the healing process. The project has been called “brave” and “powerful” by those who have reviewed the outreach approach and the content… yet…
We need to be transparent about our emotional resilience and its source.
I’m not brave.
I am not even strong.
I just evolved under changing and traumatic circumstances.
When my father emotionally abused my family, I learned to be responsive to change.
Home isn’t safe? I will evolve.
When my neighbor abused my body, I learned to be responsive to change.
My body isn’t safe? I will evolve.
When my church abused my mind, I learned to be responsive to change.
Spirituality isn’t safe? I will evolve.
When my peers abused my spirit, I learned to be responsive to change.
Being me isn’t safe? I will evolve.
To all of us, who have evolved from every unsafe environment and emerged each time as a new species within our own emotional ecosystem, know that I see you.
Others may think we are on the top of the emotional food chain and can handle anything.
And we can… and we will.
But sometimes rather than being viewed as the person who will “always survive,” we know we want to be viewed as the small and cuddly chipmunk, lower on the food chain, but adorable and cute too. We want to be seen as the butterfly, magnificent in her transformation, but fragile in flight. Sometimes… we are just a koala… looking for a tree branch and a soft place to call home.
Pay close attention to why some people are so “strong.” It may be simply because a tragic evolution required them to learn to stand alone…
I am fortunate because I finally met a woman who could walk this journey with me – recently, when my wife read through the survivor project, she did the unthinkable as a response – she put down the pages, said nothing, and simply hugged me – for those moments, I didn’t have to explain anything.
I didn’t have to describe my writing process.
I didn’t have to rehash anything I wrote.
I didn’t have to outline my plan for publication or my next steps as a writer/survivor advocate.
Before the editing, feedback, questions, or encouragement in the project, there was only the hug.
The best hug ever, honestly.
Because without words, she told me, “I see your resilience is because you weren’t safe…”
And with that, I knew…
I am safe now.
My home, my body, my spirituality – me.
It’s safe to be me.
Evolve well, my friends. We are not alone. Namaste.
Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose book, Enlightened-ishchronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Her first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams”was published in 2004. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News, SkyNewsandOur America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivorsand young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine, Blue Mountain Arts, and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.
When I wrote Enlightened-ish, I knew I was taping into something unusual… looking at spiritual awakening through the lens of a raw, complicated and emotional grief process was just plain weird. I mean, who writes from a place of vulnerability? Who writes and publishes words that are part of a process? Who dares put in print what will potentially fade with age and healing?
Responses to Enlightened-ish vary, but almost all of my readers so far use words like, “floored” or “brave.” I don’t feel very brave and I didn’t write it to shock anyone… I wrote it because it wasn’t written and I wished that someone would have spoken to me as freely as I spoke to myself, honestly. Grief was intense and separating from suicidal ideation, toxic spirituality, unhealthy relationships and aligning myself with psychic intuitions and energy healing all within a period of a few months was… well, it was weird!
What remains though is that the book is involved in saving lives, namely my own.
And now, as I have considered what to write about next, I look at the pain in my body (Managing chronic pain since May 2013,) I realize the same thing that happened with my father’s death and the face-to-face experiences with death – the book I want to read hasn’t been written.
No one talks openly about pain in a way that feels real. There are affirmations designed to make it go away, medications pushed in order to silence it and plenty of belief systems orchestrated to diminish or mystify its value.
I am embarking on a vulnerability series that will start as a blog, but as you can expect… will end in another book.
Because like grief… pain matters.
And it matters now…
Not 3 years or 2 months from now, when I am finally out of pain.
It matters now, while I type uncomfortably from my couch, between treatments… now, while I am on medical leave… now, while I can barely walk in the mornings and now, while I learn to celebrate pain’s meaning without demeaning my spirituality, relationships and dignity.
It is my highest goal to write what has not been written… and while I expect to do mighty things for my online friends and loved ones once the royalties catch up to the investment of self-publishing, do not be mistaken.
I write these weird things for myself.
It does not make me selfish and it does not make me a narcissist.
It makes me a writer and a person who becomes the change she wants to see in the world.
I want to see more transparency.
I want to see people share their stories.
I want to see people own their shit, establish their dreams and become a part of the whole that is our human condition.
I do these things because pain matters… because we matter… because I matter.
Namaste, my friends. Please share the links to the book and stay tuned… because if you think Enlightened-ish was raw, just wait and see what will come out of physical pain…
To buy Enlightened-ish, click here. Feel free to follow the process here on Facebook.
Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. She has appeared in FOX DC News, SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Her new book, Enlightened-ish became available April 25, 2013 and chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.
This essay comes after my involvement with the House of Representatives Subcommittee in Virginia on Thursday, January 30th, where I, along with other survivors, represented the truth of conversion therapy. (Audio links to the entire event at end of this post. You’re welcome) After the party-line vote of 4-1, to “gently table” a bill that speaks up for those who cannot represent themselves, I opted to speak to Christopher Doyle, a supposed beneficiary of and proponent for conversion therapy. I figured, if I can face Alan Chambers, what could this guy say that would surprise me?
When I walked up to Christopher Doyle, I thought, “Okay, what’sthisguy’sreal story?” What I said to him, verbatim in that moment was, “So, youguystryingtobethenewExodusInternationalorwhat? I mean, wesawhowwellthat turned out…” We half-laughed at my statement and he went on to say how little he cares for Chambers because he (Chambers), isn’t an educated man. So, refreshing as the moment was, to agree on Chambers’ lack of education on sexuality, religion or psychology, what was more disturbing than Chambers’ misguided heart was in fact, Doyle’s larger-than-life ego. We spoke for no more than 7-10 minutes, as I probed him (not in the way he would have liked, don’t be dirty), about topics related to psychology, adolescent development and the differences between actual abuse survivors and those who are in fact, homosexual without disease or disorder for being so! He didn’t seem to want to bend on his position that there are those who can change their sexual orientation but what became most interesting was how he spoke about “unwanted same-sex attraction.” Unwanted SSA, as they call it, can be likened to what you call a straight or bisexual person who would really like to have some support in making their choices regarding sexual identity. It’s a person with mommy/daddy issues who unfortunately, sexualizes those issues. Anyway, let’s get back to this ego thing because it was a bizarre encounter and folks who know me will understand why this was so entertaining, yet disturbing.
We spoke about his ethical duty as a licensed psychologist to treat anyone who came through his doors… and so I, out of some sick curiosity said, “Well, wouldyoutreatsurvivorsofconversiontherapy? Would you treat, me, perhaps?”
Would you believe the guy said, emphatically, “Yes!” Furthermore he stated that he could “first start by helping me deal with my anger.”
Awe… my silly, silly anger… anger, for being told that my father must have molested me and made me gay.
My silly, silly anger, for standing up for other survivors who have experienced suicidal thoughts, self-mutilation, depression and isolation because of their exposure to conversion therapy.
My silly, silly anger, for how the church and state have joined together in an effort to annihilate a population, causing an underground Nazi-ish phenomenon.
He is willing to help me with that.
So, reminder – a good psychologist will not look at your anger and see a problem. In fact, a good psychologist may see how your anger fuels you, inspires others and serves you in truly healing yourself, as you learn to express rather than suppress.
And… I digress again… dammit.
So, here we have me and Doyle and my very sick stomach and his hairless face and spineless psychology…
And up walks Delegate Krupricka, the only Democrat on the committee willing to stand on the right side of history during this vote. He interrupts my private challenging with Doyle, shakes my hand and thanks me for my testimony…
And I snap out of it.
What the hell am I hoping to accomplish in talking to Doyle anyway?
Well, Mr. Doyle hands me his card and I see it all come together… is he willing to help survivors, does he bill himself first as a psychologist, a helper of the people, a voice for the voiceless? Do I get a card which says something about the voiceless and how he represents them?
And so the clarity hits me about the whole circus in which my truth is currently being manipulated.
Politics, Gail. This is politics.
I think of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (cue old movie buffs) and I picture myself collapsing under the weight of the political machine so I decide it’s time to end this conversation. I say, “Okay, Chris… it looks like I may see you again. Maybe we will talk sometime…”
But honestly, after it was all said and done and a few days later, when I finished an additional and unsuspected interview for Sky News, it occurred to me that we probably won’t talk again.
I’ve said so much. And just like the last time I spoke before a camera and investigators who were hoping to represent the truth of my story, I can say, “This is enough… for now.”
Standing firm with other survivors, I will continue to write and connect with allies and victims as they come out of that cult-like environment, but for now, the cameras are off…
Unless of course, Anderson Cooper calls. 😉 My gay male friends would never forgive me for refusing to interview with him lol
What I learned from my day on the small political stage was that magic tricks aren’t just for the professionally trained, but also the politically diabolical. I also learned… that some supposed proponents of conversion therapy are really, simply put, political consultants who operate from hatred for those not like them.
Just pain. A chronic pain that seems to come and go at various levels of awful without much cause otherwise. It is my “biofeedback mechanism” that says, “Take care of you” and it’s also my body’s way of saying, “Stay away from that!” It has many messages actually… and that is the book I am writing right now, which I’m expecting will reach an audience that has never heard pain discussed quite so openly.
But I don’t need any more “book fodder” when it comes to this pain and so… when my life goes on temporary “pause” every time I choose to bring my story forward for public consumption, I have to take it all in stride, ya know? Unlike the proponents of conversion therapy, I have a real job, supporting positive work in the world and I don’t make money on manipulating anyone to believe what I believe…
I get physically sick after being in the presence of those who twist survivor stories or misrepresent their own in order to suppress the truth of what goes on behind closed doors. When I talk to a legitimate therapist afterwards, about these public encounters, it becomes clear why I get so sick…
How frustrating it is, for example, to know that “Touch Therapy” becomes a way for would-be molesters to feed their need for power over the vulnerable.
How frustrating it is, also, to know that sometimes false allegations of abuse are made and healthy relationships with parents are threatened.
How frustrating that folks with mommy/daddy issues are claiming to be gay in the first place, let alone discussing change orientation? They weren’t gay… they sexualized their relationships with their parents for whatever reason and yes, should be in therapy… but no, that has nothing to do with being gay!
It’s similar to how a person with an eating disorder goes through the world… with a negative perception of food, nourishment and body image. That’s all these proponents of conversion therapy are – sexually starved or sexually overfed, hurting people with some unhealthy views on nourishment.
So, when a small and very strange group of extremists within my culture opt to redefine “gay” in a way that makes it look unhealthy for those of us who are just fine with who we are, I’m going to get sick, find it painful, and get angry…
Because the public deserves better out of people who calls themselves ministers or psychologists.
These conversion therapy believers do need therapy… and now because of their twisted ideas about sexuality, so did I!
So this week, I asked my therapist why survivors work with other victims. I asked, “Why does a rape survivor work in victim recovery and rape prevention?”
I can’t quote what she said, but I can come back to what I said in the question… and that was the word prevention.
That is why we do what we do…
Not because we like talking about the trauma and not because it’s easy. We aren’t “removed” from it and it’s not like it happened in another lifetime…
We just know that this stat matters…
And we hope to be a voice that ends a type of manipulative therapy which undermines a child’s ability to trust, talk to and grow with… her parent.
P.S. To the 4 republican delegates who sat in front of our stories, I wish you nothing but awareness of the shameful failure to protect our young people. Your party line and your religious beliefs will be responsible for another teen suicide today and every day, until you send a message to our young people that they are not pawns in a political game. You have your codes of ethics. I strongly consider taking a red pen to the section known as integrity.
To the 6 or 7 unnamed people who came up to me after my testimony and thanked me for sharing, I just want you to know that in that moment, you were the angels that were absent when I was 12 years old. Your kind words sustained me at that very second you thanked me for my courage. Thank you.
To Delegate Krupika and Delegate Hope – thank you for the kindness in your eyes… and to be perfectly honest, Chairman Peace… thank you, for the genuine confusion and curiosity in your eyes. May your children, Camden and Harry, always be protected from anyone who would seek to undermine your relationships with them, in the name of religion or psychology.
For more information about the bill that was “gently tabled” and the work of Alliance for Progressive Values, click here.
For more information not related to any of this political/religious nonsense, stay tuned to my blog. I didn’t come back from a sabbatical just to talk only about this stuff 😉 Love and light, my friends.
As promised… the links to the hearing, in several parts. (FYI you will need headphones to hear. Quality on upload was not the best)
Some people have found progressive communities of faith in which they feel comfortable, connected and cared for, while some of us have been so wounded by the leaders of organized Christianity, that we simply cannot and do not attend.
I’m a Bible College graduate. I was a youth minister for years and a pastor as well.
I know what they label us.
They call us the “de-churched.”
It’s always a hot topic really and the more a person surrenders their autonomy on their spiritual path, the more intense the discussion becomes! Those who have found comfort in remaining a part of Christianity or progressive faith communities celebrate that they feel comfortable in their congregations and they act as though they have stumbled upon a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
But some of us have found that each effort to engage in Christianity ends with a slammed door, a crossed boundary or a judgmental word. I have found this each time I have attempted to rejoin Christianity and either I have really bad luck finding socially and emotionally intelligent Christian groups (or leaders) or I am just not destined to be a part of any organized Christian-based community. (Or a 3rd option I have yet to discover).
I share this not only because I think it’s hard for some of us to leave… but because what complicates our recovery is how some of those who “stay” treat those of us who left.
Sometimes they talk to us like we gave up.
Sometimes they try to recruit us to reform. (Does the analogy of a bad marriage help? Not everyone is called to stay with an abusive spouse and help them heal after every beating.)
Some of us leave because we don’t want to suffer anymore.
Some of us leave because it is well with our souls to do so.
Some of us have turned the cheek too many times and now have endless scars and can’t proceed with this form of faith.
Some of us still really dig Jesus, but have been shown over and over, that Christian does not = Christ-like.
It’s a sad reality, but it is our reality.
So, let us be.
Don’t tell us how awesome your church is – that’s your story.
Don’t tell us how to forgive – that’s your process.
Don’t tell us why it’s important to be in community – that’s your value.
Don’t tell us the church needs our unique voice – that’s your cause.
Tell us it doesn’t matter where we go Sunday mornings or Wednesday nights… because we are loved, just as we are and nothing about church membership or group-based spirituality will change that.
Tell us we matter.
And then walk with us…
Like Jesus would.
And maybe that will lead some of us back to your churches…
Or maybe we will find that nature, the coffee shop, the movie theater and the community food bank feel more like church anyway…
So, in short, don’t talk to the de-churched…
Walk with the non-church goer.
Our stories are legitimate.
Our faith is real.
Our lives are whole.
We aren’t broken just because it doesn’t work for us to be in church.
And you aren’t whole because it works for you…
We become whole when we allow for differences, celebrate individuality and find cooperative ways to love mercy, do justly and walk… humbly.
Okay, look… the whole intention of the words “I’m sorry” is not to make you feel better about your awful decisions, intentional deception or guilt complex. As a survivor of Christian Fundamentalism and the “ex-gay” lie, few things bother me more than when a former leader or current leader starts blabbering about how sorry they are that their chosen beliefs and denial of human rights are something about which they are “sorry.”
So when Andrew Marin says he is “sorry” and runs around in his underwear claiming he understands the gay community because he has binders full of gays (hires gays, like Romney hired women. Samsies, yo), I finally decided to post an open letter clarifying that not all of us are buying it because he also embodies an epic fail to take a public stand on civil liberties for the LGBTQ person of faith.
When Alan Chambers, of the “former” Exodus International, issued an apology, which I was in the room to witness, I compared him to the Grace Monster – Bride of Franken-Christ even… and now, only a month later he is asking for donations, at Exodus’s site, in order to launch a “new and improved” version of social genocide. I guess they plan on making the Kool-Aid a little sweeter this time and are looking for a new recipe. It’s hard to say. I mean, if your belief is that the gay person is bad, wrong, less than, not equal, doing something that makes Jesus wag his finger at you… what are they offering – A dating platform so you can meet and marry an equally complicated headcase or sexually dysfunctional companion? Or are they offering a support group for celibate people who stand by some unnaturalinterpretation of scripture and ignore basic psychological wisdom about the harms of suppression or orientation change? (Harm? Yes. We talk about that at Beyond Ex Gay.)
See, I don’t really know what these guys are up to… in the end, I think it has to do with someone not being loved as child, but I’m not sure.
They have, ironically, made whores out of a lot of sacred things – celibacy, abstinence, grace and apologies, to name a few. These aren’t catch-phrases or political positions… Donating to organizations who make sure people get paid not to have sex is just as damaging as the alternative. I mean, is this some kind of reverse prostitution? I had to wonder this all along, when I met of one of the movement’s “fringe leaders,” Julie Rodgers, who currently states that she is celibate for Jesus, but at least speaks no half-truths about her process. When I asked if Alan would let her speak at an “Exodus-related” event if she was all cozied up with a cute lesbian, living her Jesus-light in same sex love, I felt he scoffed at the suggestion. It’s clear to me she has to be celibate to maintain ties to that area of the apologetic neighborhood. (Speaking of actual apologies, I recently took to that stage to apologize for wanting to put more than my words in her mouth or my beliefs in her heart. No, no, bad Gail. Don’t try to influence lesbians who reject their sexuality. Duh! Oh, by the way… “Why was my apology public?” you ask. Because when leaders actually own their processes, it supports others in doing the same. Vulnerability and changing our ways is what serves as proof of actual apology, ya dig? Keep reading… we will end on that…)
What these organizations/leaders have in common is how they have all cheapened these very sacred concepts! Admitting to wrong-doing or allowing the Sacred to present somehow, in our sexual/sensual relationships… how can one just blog about it but take no official action that supports full inclusion of the LGBTQ person of faith?
In short, I don’t know ultimately, what their intentions are – I mean, getting paid not to have sex seems a little creepy. Apologizing but not standing up for equality seems suspect. It’s just… getting a little weird when the lack of social and emotional intelligence urges these “leaders” to co-create an environment where what is in the heart no longer matters, but what is on the blog is Gospel. (An irony made more apparent when the Christ spoke to the issues of the heart being more important than all else.)
In light of all these slutty-sorries, I figured I would offer 5 Reasons to Stop Whoring Out Apologies and Sexual Ethics, just in case we needed it spelled out.
1. It’s annoying. No really… it is. Survivors and their actual allies are tired of it and when there are organizations that truly support the LGBTQ person of faith, who cares if you are sorry? (Believe Out Loud, to name one actual ally)
2. It’s inauthentic. Unless… you have a plan for making sure that your life doesn’t revolve around continuing to take advantage of those you hurt, then, we aren’t buying it.
3. It’s unbecoming. People are watching, ya know? Children… impressionable youth… and all you can exemplify is that you are a person of words but are afraid to stand for equality? Let us know how it feels to be on the wrong side of history, ok?
4. It’s triggering. If you actually cared about the people you harmed, you might realize that when we hear shallow apologies, it actually re-traumatizes some survivors. This goes for any apology. Feel free to apply it to real world matters, like friendships and family. (Or, you know, the ex that calls and says he’s sorry for being a jerk? No, that doesn’t make you feel better, does it? Ick, thanks for the reminder, now go away. Gross.)
5. It’s not your business. Truly. To be the change we want to see in the world, perhaps we should just be our truth, rather than blog it only, right? I mean… sexuality is a personal concern. Why should anyone make money following your example on something so personal? Moreover, why should you make a living on apologies you don’t even mean?
So, with having said all that, I’ll close by highlighting one apology that has mattered since 2007 and continues to… that of my friend and cohort in survivor advocacy, Michael Bussee.
Many of you know that Exodus International continues to operate an annual conference and while the attendance has dwindled over the last few years, as a survivor of these shaming, inaccurate and harmful messages, I often feel the need to speak the truth about what goes on behind closed doors. A few of my colleagues at Beyond Ex Gay and other survivors in various online communities also find themselves reading about conferences, blogs from current leaders and other affiliates and smacking their heads. We know from experience that what they are selling is still a storyline that involves suppressing sexual behaviors in order to “please” a heterosexually-obsessed god-figure and manipulative church leadership. In an effort to debunk the myth that these conferences/teachings offer the LGBTQ person a healthy or safe atmosphere for coming to terms with sexuality and faith, I offer this year’s Exodus Conference listing along with a translation, from a survivor’s perspective.
This note goes out to all survivors, of any fundamentalist teaching that draws you to divorce yourself from the body and creates inequities in your faith experience and communities. Namaste, my friends. Let the light shine…
2013 Workshop Listings:
“From Rejected to Accepted” – Survivor Translation: Co-dependency is cooler than you think. Try it. We will make sure you like it.
“Looking For Love in All the Wrong Places” – Survivor Translation: Your broken heart is a direct result of being gay, duh.
“If We Had to Do it Over” – Survivor Translation: Sugar-coating 101: How Exodus Got Away with Lies about Change Orientation
“The Power in the Telling” – Survivor Translation: You Can’t Pray Away the Gay, but you too can talk about it endlessly because misery and company are the match we believe is made in heaven.
“Pursuing Sexual Purity” – Survivor Translation: Have sex only if it is work. Natural sexuality isn’t pure. Ever. Sorry.
“Let’s Talk: Masculinity” – Survivor Translation: Gurl, you look great in those pants. I mean, dude, nice top. I mean… Be a Breadwinner. Done and Done.
“The Facts vs The Truth” – Survivor Translation: No, not facts about sexuality, gender or psychologically-sound facts. That’s just the Gay Agenda. We will give you the truth according to the Gospel of Exodus. Please avoid all psychological resources prior to this workshop. The only pre-reads required are books by our Savior, Paul the Apostle.
“Let’s Talk: Femininity” – Survivor Translation: Dude, let’s grab a beer. I mean, brother, I think you’re cute… I mean… I’ll have your babies. Done and Done.
“The Bible, Gender, and Personal Identity” – Survivor Translation: @$(@)&%)&!!!
“Why I Don’t Give Up” – Survivor Translation: Those activists are a real pain. Don’t be a quitter. It’s bad for business
“Celibacy and The Christian Life” – Survivor Translation: Safe sex means making out with Jesus. Got it? Unless you’re male. You should make out with Mother Mary. Wait a minute…
“Making Your Marriage Work” – Survivor Translation: Five reasons to have sex even when it doesn’t feel good.
“What I Wished My Parents Would Have Done For Me” – Survivor Translation: We still blame parents. Sorry if that totally isolates you from them but hey, more time for cult activity and isolation. Perfect.
“Help…Someone In My Church is Gay” – Survivor Translation: I have a crush on a girl in the pew next to me and she smells good. HELP!
“So, What’s Our Story” – Survivor Translation: After almost four decades of these lies, we still don’t really know and we don’t expect you to know either. Thanks for paying the conference fee. ‘Preciate it.
“Life After Your Son or Daughter Says “I’m Gay”” – Survivor Translation: Life after death? Yes that’s what it feels like as a child tells you they are gay. So sorry they did this to you after everything you did for them. Try not to mention hell though cuz that will throw them on to your scent. P.S. They may go to heaven, but here’s 3 Steps to Making their Life Hell on Earth.
“How Should the Church Respond?: A Christ-like Response” – Survivor Translation: Because the Golden Rule is too complicated.
“Improving the Relationship with Your Gay Child” – Survivor Translation: !@$(@%!
Alternate Translation: We can’t reconcile ourselves to our own sexual orientation and relationships with our friends and families but we are an excellent source for educating you on how to do it. Go figure.
“Discovering Our True Identity” – Survivor Translation: Cuz those gay couples out there are totally not real. False identities. It’s like they don’t even exist. In fact, they aren’t happy either. Don’t fall for it.
I dedicate this post also, to Michael Bussee, an original founder of Exodus International, whose commitment to seeing it disbanded inspires many survivors on their healing journey. In response to this current list of workshop titles, Michael said, “his could easily have been a list of workshops from 10 or 20 years ago. The same focus on homosexuality as some sort of addiction to overcome, a “false identity” to be denied… And Exodus claims to be changing?”
Looks like same ingredients, different label, if you ask this survivor.
Cheers, Exodus. Survivors raise their glasses to what we expect will be your last conference. Your reign of social genocide ends in 2013.
For as connected as I am, in my work and in my writing, the amount of time I’ve spent in solitude the last 9 months is more than in any other time of my life. I have a manuscript to show for it and a perspective on self-healing and enlightenment that I look forward to sharing with the world in the coming months.
However, while solitude has gifted me with many insights, what it has taken from me is just as valuable.
It has taken away my fears of being alone.
It has taken away my wonder about what the Universe wants for my life.
It has taken away my doubt about my wholeness.
More than anything, solitude has taken away the possibility that I will ever again ask if I am worthy.
I am worthy.
Of authentic love, expansive spirituality and safe friendships.
To say I am not looking forward to this series is the understatement of my year. What I thought would be 2 or 3 posts that glazed over the darker experiences about my ex-gay drama has both fortunately and very unfortunately taken on a life of its own to the point that my dreams have begun to interpret my current conflicts in Christian community through the toxic language of the ex-gays…
At 5:11 am, I awoke from a nightmare that left me gasping for air, clutching my stomach and chest and offering up an echo of dry-heaving as a morning prayer to all of the gods that would listen… and to my neighbors… to anyone within ear shot, I was sobbing and screaming because I’m now giving full voice to what this spiritual raping is all about…
As I stifled my screams into the bathroom towel, turned myself into a ball and rocked on the bathroom floor I thought, “Who is listening to this, really?”
The question went beyond the awareness of the moment and I thought about how there are now nearly a thousand readers who are witnessing this via my writing. I’m not sure I was prepared for that but as I’ve read emails and posts about how my opening up may save lives, change minds and change hearts, I am struck by how the truth has never felt so freeing.
I want to tell you about the nightmare that woke me up this morning and led to this ethereal vomit but I know that it’s going to take me another day or two to hash it out. I’m befuddled by how the “innocent” people of my current life can be portrayed as such hateful people in my dream life but the similarities between my ex-gay past and my present will reveal important trends that I believe keep us all away from Christianity at some point.
The need to be “like” them to be a part of them is ultimately the most frightful experience for anyone with a working, evolving understanding of spirit and his/her own place in this world. The language that Christianity, overall, has assumed for itself is toxic and through this sharing, I hope that is one of the ultimate transformations that some Christians undergo. Being around Christians again, in all their glory is exactly what is prompting this flashback-style process and is reminding me of the traumatic lessons I learned from the ex-gays and fundies. Specifically, I ask the Christian community to ask itself what it hopes to attain by only surrounding itself with people who are like-minded…
So I’ll share more about this nightmare and its effects very soon. It’s the perfect analogy to have woken up dry-heaving because I felt like I was spewing the nasty qi, their awful lies, with every violent exhale from the deeper part of my body. The posts and conversations are like a toxic chemical that is working out the cancer of my soul. It is uncomfortable, leaves me exhausted, turns my blood cold but is somehow killing off that which has been trying to kill me all these years.
I appreciate all of the light, love and prayer support as I unleash myself from the ex-gay lie. These attachments run deeper than I thought but I will not stop until others know that Jesus cannot be used to abuse others, lock them away from their identities or cause them to suffer. I may not arise from this any more of a Christian than I was when I started but I may truly be damned if I don’t get back a pure picture of how to love and be loved by a community of people, Christian or otherwise.
Please do continue to let this story be told and keep telling your own. Together I believe we will shut down the spiritual genocide known as the ex-gay movement.