The Truth about Proponents of Conversion Therapy

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) APV_Survivor_PhotoAfter 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’s this guy’s real story?” What I said to him, verbatim in that moment was, “So, you guys trying to be the new Exodus International or what? I mean, we saw how well that 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, would you treat survivors of conversion therapy? 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.

How lovely.

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?

Nope.

I get…

This…

 doyle

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.

role_physical_painNow – here’s your “coming to Gail” moment – For me, every time I engage in open/public conversations about my exposure to and recovery from Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE), I literally encounter an increase in physical pain. This started after the Our America taping in April 2013. (Not an increase in books sales, speaking gigs or new clients… because I have never used my survivor story or my volunteer work at Beyond Ex Gay as a platform through which I promote myself or my career.)

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…

thinkprogress-homeless-lgbt

 

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 about survivor stories, check out our survey results and testimonies at Beyond Ex Gay.

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)

Delegate Hope

APV Organizer

Gail Dickert

Survivor #2

Opposition #1

Opposition #2/Doyle

Vote

 

Through the Lens of Rest

DSC_0493Making quiet moments near a Volcano

A cyber sabbatical was probably the best decision I made in response to the events of 2013. It’s only been a few months, but when our cyber-worlds are full of lists, advice, stories and ongoing political bantering, it’s natural to wonder, “What would happen if there was one less blog to read for awhile?

What would happen if I didn’t post my every thought on Facebook?

What would happen if I just… disappeared from the cyber worlds until I felt better about the roller coast that was 2013?”

The world didn’t come to an end.

I didn’t implode into an artistic black hole where my words lost their power and my mind spiraled into oblivion.

No one accused me of being selfish or unconcerned with the altruism that drives my writing process.

On the contrary, I took care of my body, reinforced some boundaries about self-care, healed my heart, and lo and behold, got engaged! (No, I didn’t just meet her 😉 )

engagement_photo

That’s quite a return on investment for just a few months off from daily connecting to cyber worlds, isn’t it?

Well, it wasn’t just about what I choose to disconnect from, but what I opted to immerse myself in during this time. More specifically, because of some time away, I “saw” how the way I viewed the world was through lenses of activism, success, chaos, and healing. (Not bad lenses, from time to time, at all!)

Now, though, through the lens of rest, I look at the last few months and see how sometimes, what we think matters the most is a distraction from what we need more.

Through the lens of rest, I see how sometimes, what we need more is less

Less time with others.

Less information about what’s going on in the world.

Less awareness even, about how we can get involved with positive social change.

Less activism, less pouring out, less martyrdom and more…

More rest.

DSC_0354The lessons learned by time spent with Frogs

I share here within this piece, a few photos from my trip to Costa Rica, where I met my fiance’s mother and father and where I also feel like I met the mothers and fathers of Rest. In a sense, as I traveled these coastlines, forests and fields, I began to sense that I am a child again, not just of Charles and Irene, but of Warrior and Serenity (which is what some say their names mean).

During my time off, I became, in a sense, born again.

I am now… spawn of Rest. 😉

And I am a different person…

I can say that you will see me posting, blogging and engaging not like someone taking a blow torch to both ends of the candle and not like someone who makes a living on having opinions and experiences to share.

Rather, you will observe, at your own pace, at whatever level you are interested, a woman who is making a life…

Viewing life through the Lens of Rest…

bees

Clarity, details, pace and passion can all be viewed through these lenses.

DSC_1092

Peace, curiosity, and the gentle unfolding, all viewed through these lenses.

And beauty… not in spite of pain or because of pain, but co-existing with pain, will be as clear as a blue ocean in the Caribbean.

surfer_1Come by my page. Gaze. Explore. Breathe.

That is why I’m here.

And also then, sometimes… why I’m gone.

Namaste, my lovelies. I’ve missed you.

DSC_0821Hola from where coffee becomes fuel

P.S. During my sabbatical, I had over 40,000 hits on my website. So, I have to say… guess some of you were busy 😉

~~
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 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. 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. In late 2013, Gail launched a small business designed to support others in writing their memoirs. Teaching Memoirs is currently reviewing new client applications. 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.

A Cyber-Sabbatical… The Freedom to Heal

When I first started For Gail So Loved the World, I was searching for community.

I was searching for my voice, as a writer, as a spiritual sojourner and as an activist.

I was searching… for healing through the written and spoken word.

I was actually, searching for Jesus, believe it or not.

When I look back over the 100+ posts and dozens of vlogs on YouTube, in the last two years, I realize that I have lived my life inside out.

Exposed.

Naked.

Open.

And I’ve somehow managed to remain respected as a professional in my “day job.” 😉

We get raw sometimes and have no place to take these feelings.

We get lost sometimes and have no idea where we can admit it.

We get real sometimes and feel like no one else is trying it.

My Facebook pages and these posts have been my external process, in hopes that the boundless love that I have for the world could bloom into a community of readers and folks who share light with one another.

And that community has certainly come into fruition in many ways!

Specifically, in the last year, my online community has shared endless memories with me and I have walked with them through many life changes as well.

For me, here are a few highlights of just 2013:

121014_003* I accepted a major promotion at my non-profit.

* I said goodbye to my fur baby, Dre, of 12 years.

* I traveled to LA in order to appear on Our America, face the leader of a deceptive organization by representing survivors of reparative therapy and Christian Fundamentalism.

* My family nursed my mom through a life-changing surgery.

* I published my second book, Enlightened-ish, which discusses the awakening that came through trauma in 2011-2012. (Only to later temporarily pull it from publication until AuthorSolutions could resolve their questionable approach regarding distribution and copyright.)

And now, in only the last few months, I’ve launched a new business in order to support self-published written and spoken word artists, prepared to see my mom relocate out of the area for the betterment of her health and walked a painful path with my body that is leading to at least one surgery…

We have shared… so much.

And the truth is that my vision for my life a few years ago was that I am nothing but a “conduit” for Light and Love. I trusted that no matter how much I was putting “out” there for the world, I would always have an endless supply of creativity, hope and encouragement for others.

Love would flow through me…

Light could move through me…

And as beautiful as this vision has been, I realize now…

I deserve to contain it sometimes, not simply facilitate it.

I am human and in all of my freedoms, what I rarely do is mindfully create some space for me to heal and just ‘be’ for more than a few days.

Now, the funny part is that even in taking a cyber-sabbatical, I will still be working on Teaching Memoirs and I will also be working hard at my non-profit, which fuels my soul in dozens of ways. I will be writing and connecting with anyone who comes across my path and yet, the silence on my blog (aside from events/happenings) will feel so strange. The silence on my Facebook page, even more foreign.

But, like I said in Enlightened-ish (which will be available again soon), self-love is a key ingredient in awakening. I have loved and cared for myself and my own life, but this year has brought me to an awareness of my limits.

And I believe now, that limitations teach us what truly matters.

I am more than a conduit for light and good things – I must also receive, contain and experience fully, in my own body and mind, the pleasure that comes from Love.

pain_body_1I don’t believe we create our dis-ease… but I do believe we must be response-able to it and not simply approach all illness as a mechanical/chemical and ultimately purely physical malfunction in an otherwise healthy existence. In short, I am not responsIBLE for the way my body has processed itself in light of years of good and “bad” stress, but I am response-ABLE to ensure that my limitations are honored.

It’s time I find the Freedom to Heal.

It’s interesting then, isn’t it, that when I first started blogging, I was in search of Jesus….

Why?

Why was I searching for a martyr? A savior-figure? A Healer?

Maybe what I was really searching for, was someone who could love, be loved and still… be human.

Perhaps that is the closet description of any savior figure who has any value at all…

1234469_666161776728688_80315677_nSo instead of Jesus, I found a thirty-something curly-haired, open-hearted activist/pre-school director who tread as gently as possible in the lives of those who engaged in her writings and poetry through an online forum until…

She looked at her cross and said, “Meh, that story is tired.”

And for a few months, she put down her burdens…

And picking up the pace on pleasure.

I will see you again, soon-ish. 😉

Until then, play Cups, listen to this… and know, you are loved, just as you are, without exception.

Namaste, yo

P.S. When you’re ready to Awaken Your Best-Teller and bring your lessons to the world… you can find me here. I’ll be taking a limited number of clients in 2014…

A New Way to Talk about the Ex… An Enlightened-ish Response to Breaking Up

Let’s talk about our exes… and try not to bash their inability to accept us as we are or love us the way we needed.

Let’s talk about what it is in us that welcomed them into our lives, even when we got signs that they didn’t value our differences or celebrate our unique ways of looking at the world.

Let’s talk about how they were intimidated by us but we allowed for it.

Let’s talk about how we knew we weren’t getting our needs met either, but we stayed out of a stubborn need to try harder.

Let’s talk about how, in the end, we didn’t love ourselves enough to choose better partners, lovers, spouses.

Let’s talk about exes… and realize that what was really lost was an outdated version of ourselves that we don’t want anymore anyway.

Relationship 2.0, 4.0, 8.0… it doesn’t matter, as long as you know that the updated version involves upgrades to your emotional and psychological hardware, then you are on a path that leads to wholeness.

On your temporary path of singleness or long journey towards marriage, let’s heal by talking about these 3 things:

Break-up-lines1. It’s Complicated. It ended because it was complicated. It’s always complicated. There are no easy break-ups, even when a couple tries to remain friends. There are as many reasons as there are excuses. If love wasn’t complicated, how would it know how to prepare your coffee but forget your anniversary? How would it know just what to say when you’re crying but constantly nag you about your clutter? How would it keep you warm on a cold night but sometimes give you the coldest stare mid-day? It was love. It didn’t last, but it was… love. Complicated love. Two words that are often times, synonymous.

2. It’s human. She’s not an asshole, even if she did cheat. He’s not a jerk, even if he didn’t Break_Up_Cardsupport you in your career. She’s not a cold bitch, even if she did lack emotional intelligence with you. He’s not obsessed with himself, even if he did spend more time with his friends than you. It was human… what did we expect? Take off the rose-colored glasses. We all played our human parts to the best of our abilities.

3. It’s over, but it left a mark. Her words left a scar. Good. You won’t ever let someone talk to you like that again. His dismissal was unforgivable. Good. You will never be in a thoughtless relationship again. You will never forget what it felt like to be alone in a relationship. Good…

breakups-repeatingWe know better how to do it right.

We know better what we need.

We know better who we are…

And we know what we’re talking about now.

All is well.

Namaste, broken-hearted. We bind our wounds when we know how to talk about our exes by empowering ourselves to make better choices, affirm stronger boundaries and celebrate that we are lovable.

To have and to hold… but never too closely, because Light is designed to move faster than Love…

[youtube_sc url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8eB64pXoGU”%5D

P.S. I dedicate this to my former partners and anyone who considers themselves an ex… truth be told, you never knew me, because I didn’t know me. If I did, I wouldn’t have stayed so long. May you feel love, knowing that what was meant to be, was… for as long as it was necessary for us to learn that we deserved better in a relationship. You deserve someone who would never let herself be treated the way I allowed you to treat me. Wishing you a love without fear, with affirming boundaries and… a life far, far away from mine Seriously. No regrets… just… no repeats either 😉

The “De-churched” – How to Talk to Us

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.

church_FireBut 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…

walk_with_me_lhi_poster_1Like 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.

Understanding the “Other”

Much of my professional and personal life revolves around supporting others (and myself) different_1through a discussion of social/emotional intelligence and spiritual awakening. The convergence of these topics has quickly become one of my greatest joys because it requires me to look at the “other” as a part of me. Rather than assuming someone else is less than or even better than, I consider that I am both autonomous and somehow an integration of all things…

Why yes, this does sound like a hippie way to live. (And no, I’m not old enough to receive official hippie status. Darn 😉 ).

However, it is more than hippie talk. I call it “homospirituality” (same-spirit attraction) and truly believe that there is a way for us to engage in community and conflict without infringing upon an individual’s personal journey. (For recent footage of my vulnerable and somewhat “revealing” ownership of this process, see this post. Man, that heart of mine belly-flopped, didn’t it? Doh). My utopia is a bit frustrating, since most of the time I feel like an alien. But, I recognize that this incessant and quite adolescent need to be “different” has drawn us to degrees of separation that burn away the ability to connect deeply, meaningfully and with a level of passion and commitment that inspires.

So today, I pose the following list of “others” that we think exist in our world… consider this list while embracing your individuality while seeking to understand the “other:”

The fatherless child doesn’t understand the other child whose Dad is always there.

The Dad who is always there doesn’t understand the other child who feels suffocated by his father’s constant presence.

The childless woman doesn’t understand the other woman who grieves the birth of a sick baby.

The mother of a sick baby doesn’t understand the other woman who grieves the inability to adopt.

The infertile man doesn’t understand the other dad who yells at his son on a camping trip.

The angry father doesn’t understand the other man because he personally never wanted a family.

The working family doesn’t understand the other family who spends more on vacations than it can afford because that is the only time they see one another.

The single income family who doesn’t understand the other family who spends more on childcare than it can afford because they trust the village to raise the child.

The married couple doesn’t understand the other person whose singleness leaves them lonely.

The single person doesn’t understand the other person whose marriage leaves them lonely.

The believer doesn’t understand the other believer who doesn’t seek a savior to feel whole.

The other believer doesn’t understand… the other believer… who doesn’t believe that there is the other…

Confused yet?

Good… because the other… understands what it feels like to be outsider.

The other… understands what it feels like to be misunderstood.

And that, is what we have in common.

We. Are. The other.

And thus… understanding the other begins, when we realize, there is no other.

Separation is illusion, yet the magic is in our unique story.

Go figure. 😉

Namaste.

different_2

4 Reasons to Write your Epitaph Today… Yes, Really

It’s pretty clear that none of us are getting out of here alive, so while we have this limited amount of time to consider what kind of impressions we hope to leave in this world, perhaps a little dose of silly with our sacred will light the path this week.

Four Reasons to Write your Epitaph Today

Epitaph_Funny1. Life, as we know it, will end in death. – Yes, it’s true for every one of us, that we all die in the end and staying connected to that grave reality (of course pun intended) is one of the reasons I was able to produce and publish Enlightened-ish this year. In 2011, I saw firsthand how death affects the living, first in March when I witnessed a suicide and the second time, in September, when my father passed away. I’ll tell ya, nothing makes traffic jams, gossip, relationship trauma, church hypocrisies, and self-imposed drama look more like a waste of time than having the crushing reality of one’s mortality thrown in your face. In the end, there is an end. So why not give some thought now, to how it’s going to sound to those who are still here after you’re gone? Legacy. Think about it.

2. Life, as we know it, is sometimes very dark. – Yes, it’s true that we are all building great castles in the sky, with our dreams, books, blogs and highest intentions, but we also are equally aware of the “darker” side of the human experience. Writing your own epitaph gives you that moment to consider the “ick” and perhaps even the “negative” parts of the human condition. Indulge in it just a little bit… it won’t kill you, will it? (Damn the puns are too easy.)Epitaph_Poignant

3. Life, as we know it, requires insights. – Good heavens, we are missing the mark when we fail to reflect on our own lives. Of course, there is a balance to this and we need not become narcissistic in our self-evolution, but imagine how much easier your life would be if you could access your internal hindsight wisdom before it becomes hindsight! Reflection is good for the soul… it may not be like this “on the other side,” but as far as being human goes, the more aware we are of our own motives and obstacles to peace and self-accountability, the better!

epitaph_mg4. Life, as we know it, is meant to be lived. – Epitaphs represent the silly, the complicated, the direct and the meaningful experiences in the human condition. Ultimately, they represent that a person’s life was in fact, lived, and hopefully, with abundance and with every ounce of passion, determination and vulnerability that we can muster. So… writing your epitaph is a way of creating a mantra that can anchor you personally, in all that is going on around you so you remember what you’re all about when it’s all said and done.

Having said that… I took a stab at writing my own epitaph… and here’s what I came up with:

Gail Dickert: 1978 – ?: “She loved like her life depended on it… until it killed her.”

Namaste, lovelies 😉

P.S. (If you’re a Bible-friendly person, you will recognize my epitaph as it relates to I Peter 4:8. It’s been a personal mantra since I first read it, at age 12. I expect to go out making sure people wonder how this Bible College Grad became a hippie, lesbian Turtle Whisperin’ homospiritual 😉 )

By the way, speaking of legacies, I have the honor of sharing a review of my first book Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams, here. It’s really powerful for me, to know that my coming out memoir would make my tombstone proud 😉

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Gail Author PhotoGail is the author of Enlightened-ish and Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams. She is a hippie pre-school director and advocate, as well as spoken word artist and general badass. She also co-facilitates an online community for survivors of fundamentalist perspectives on homosexuality.

5 Reasons to Stop Whoring Out Apologies and Sexual Ethics

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.

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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 unnatural interpretation 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.

But now Randy Thomas, another leader, tosses his apology into the ring, from the comfort of his blog. (I mention the comfort of his blog because he was second in command when Alan issued his apology to a room full of survivors in April 2013. Not really sure why Randy wasn’t sorry a few months ago and couldn’t attend but is sorry now. Just sayin’). Randy, a celibate man who apparently “struggles with same-sex attraction” has stood in opposition to human rights and denied the psychological evidence of the harm of “ex-gay” therapy. Now, he issues his mea culpa and that puts this survivor over the edge.

What’s with all this whoring out of apologies and sexual ethics while asking for donations to an ambiguously gay cause? (You’re welcome for this video). [youtube_sc url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_7UnNDJ4bA”%5D

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?

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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.

real sorry1. 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.

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The former leaders involved in the Beyond Ex Gay event have turned the tide for many survivors and the survivor movement thanks them… apology accepted.

The rest of these so-called apologies and projections about sexual ethic… and bridge-building… ?

Meh, call Michael Busse and ask him how it’s done. Otherwise… thanks, but no thanks.

P.S. While you were busy feasting on your piety, gnashing your guilty teeth for having taken a bite out of the gay community, or feeling good about a life of suppression and rigidity…

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How does your sorry sound to them?

I don’t know… because they don’t read our blogs and when I meet them, the last thing I do is mention all this nonsense. Just sayin’. Maybe it’s time to get real…

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Gail Author PhotoGail is the author of Enlightened-ish and Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams. She is a hippie pre-school director and advocate, as well as spoken word artist and general badass. She also co-facilitates an online community for survivors of fundamentalist perspectives on homosexuality.

I am Strong. Scrunchie Strong.

Today, I made a striking confession that almost led to the worst thing that can happen in the first world problems of cyber community: Being un-friended on Facebook.

But I took a risk, knowing that it was more important to speak my truth, without shame or fear of judgment. I made it clear that I am my own person, I do not conform to status quo and I will not back down on my rights.

On July 19, 2013, at approximately 11 am, I let it be known that I would, in fact, wear a scrunchie today, without fear of being judged.

Cue gasp, right?

Women who wear scrunchies in public are some of the most demonized of all women. Carrie Bradshaw forever shamed us on the show Sex and the City and ever since that episode when Berger’s writing career unraveled because of her sharp and unnecessary judgment, CVS shoppers have been terrified to walk down the hair product aisle for fear that they would be mistakenly perceived as going in the direction of said scrunchies. Women have joined support groups, discussing their attraction to their former scrunchie-wearing days and some have reportedly shaved their heads in efforts to have no affiliation with hair, simply because of this cultural impression that scrunchies aren’t acceptable hair attire. (And don’t even get me started on the Levitical code regarding elastic and cotton combined.)

It’s been a tough decade, for scrunchie-wearers.

But today, I came out loud and proud about my use of said hair accessories and in honor of scrunchies and how they have served me, I’ve decided to share more about my scrunchie-affection and actual, live photos that show the more intimate details of my scrunchie and me. (Consider this a warning, as some photos will challenge your currently held beliefs about public displays of scrunchie-ness.)

In truth, my scrunchies have outlived even some of my partners and been there with me in times when not much else would hold back my hair. I mean, think about it ladies. Washing the dog? Scrunchie is there. Changing a diaper? Scrunchie in place. On a morning walk? Don’t forget the scrunchie. Random sex-capade at 8 pm after an excitable Happy Hour? Did he mind your scrunchie then? No, he did not.

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All those things aside, this evening, as I went on my nightly walk, which is designed to keep my back loose, as I work through some complicated pain issues, I started to consider my many companions on my walks. My thoughts… my concerns… my spiritual guides… my goddesses… my angels… my dreams… the pain… and… my scrunchie. As you can see from the first photo, my scrunchie was present when I made choices on my path – A loyal companion, no matter what road I go down.

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Later, my scrunchie and I were spotted by the police, who almost cited me for inappropriate scrunchie usage with a hat, but I told him I am a Buckeye fan and we exchanged the O-H-I-O chant and he let me go. After he left, I hid in the shade with my scrunchie, contemplating the deeper meaning of shade, comfort and how nutty Ohio football fans can be even in the off-season.

Scrunchie_FlowersIt wasn’t long before I thought, “A Facebook status isn’t enough. It’s time I write about this relationship that I have with my scrunchie.” So I started thinking of all the little places that we go together. Here is a photo of us stopping to smell the flowers. Go ahead, try and tell me the last time you and an actual person stopped to do that? It hasn’t happened, has it? Ahh, but a scrunchie takes risks. A scrunchie makes time for you, doesn’t it? A scrunchie doesn’t rush you because it prefers your company and can stay in the moment with you.

Later, we came upon a weeping willow tree and I thought about a childhood friend myScruncie_Willow sister and I used to visit, whose grandmother had a large weeping willow in her yard. I thought of Mrs. K and how high up her grandchildren climbed. Even my sister made her way to the thinnest branches to sit while I stayed near the bottom, no more than 4 feet off the ground, out of fear. I told my scrunchie my memories of that tree and my scrunchie listened. No reaction, no accusations – just listened. Good scrunchie.

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Finally, on my way home. I stopped and considered the simplicity of my walking exercises, the last few months. The pain seems to lessen, if I keep to a regular routine and forego things like sit-down meals, sitting down to write, or basically anything that involves the seated position. It’s a true inconvenience and while my tolerance for pain is apparently quite high, I shirked the suggestion of an epidural and until a better diagnosis is reached, I walk… I have a routine that helps, even when it hurts. Furthermore, my many companions have no opinions about my treatment plan. In fact, one companion told me today, “You are strong. Scrunchie strong.”

There’s a passage in the Bible about being “jars of clay,” and I remember that, upon further contextual analysis (Bible College Degree coming back to haunt me), the reason the “jars of clay” analogy was used was because clay jars were something usual… something ordinary. The writer wanted to send the message that something “typical” or otherwise “commonplace” could be the very container that manifests a more powerful light than anything that had been seen before. I liken it now, to a scrunchie. We, our lives, our sacred journey and yes, even our scrunchies, are “treasures” that exist to show the surpassing, expansive and inspiring Love and Light that exists for us all. (That, my friends is 2 Corinthians 4:7 done hippie Gail-style).

Scrunchie_EstateAnd so, as I gazed upon the Mount Vernon estate, which is the land of my cousin, George Washington, I sat with a mantra, “I am strong. Scrunchie strong.” May you pull it into your daily lives, so that with every ordinary thing you do, you become connected to and more aware of the light that is moving through you…

Through the pain, through the doubt, through the interpretations and through all the judgments that others have about who we are…

Be strong. Scrunchie Strong.

These are my words. Namaste, yo.

P.S. Seriously… stop judging people for how they hold up their hair. I mean… can’t you judge them on their sexuality or something else instead? 😉 By the way, my new pre-requisite for dating. Must love dogs… and scrunchies.

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Gail is the author of Enlightened-ish and Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams. She is a hippie pre-school director and advocate, as well as spoken word artist and general badass. She also co-facilitates an online community for survivors of fundamentalist perspectives on homosexuality.

A Survivor’s Last Stand: The Freedom to Say, “Enough”

In Enlightened-ish, I wrote about the Freedom to Say, ‘Enough,’ which many readers have claimed is the climactic chapter of the book. The focus of the stories I tell in the chapter is that when we come to acknowledge that we have done all we can to heal, support, process, endure or survive a situation, a powerful awakening occurs. Saying, “Enough” sets us up for establishing firmer boundaries, learning healthier outlets for our natural frustrations with life’s temporary (or permanent) disappointments and welcoming exciting opportunities for us to grow. It’s damn near the most powerful word in our vocabulary and while this freedom was pretty solidified through everything I grieved in order to even write Enlightened-ish, it is a freedom that I realize I have to exercise in another scenario this month: My advocacy work with survivors of toxic religion and ex-gay therapy.

Recovering from any wound takes time. It takes time to tell your story to yourself and it takes even more time to learn how to tell your story to someone else. Worse yet, if the limelight finds you, your ability to tell your story becomes infected by a concern about how others will perceive it, what it will mean for your personal legacy and how your life path can be defined by said limelight. (No one has a good side, in limelight). So the wounds, however fresh or well-healed, somehow remain visible and viewed as a part of our lives, if we continue to advocate for an end to the abuses. (As this post heats up, enjoy some background music that seems to match my mood when this was crafted.)

Yet a survivor as an advocate is much more powerful than an “ally” because of one simple reason: Trust. We can trust a survivor much easier than a bystander or compassionate activist because more often than not, a survivor is re-processing and sometimes re-traumatizing himself in order to tell the truth. Who would do that to themselves if they didn’t truly care and have a story worth hearing? (We can answer that but masochism is a topic for later in this post). An ally, on the other hand, is merely relating and tragically, may have an alternate agenda. (Cue gasp).

This topic comes up a lot in June, for LGBTQ people, if we attend Pride events. Often times, the inauthentic Christian leaders and wolves in sheep clothing come out in droves to “show support” for the LGBTQ community but their intent is actually evangelism. Evangelism, which is not at all what is proven to draw people into spirituality, is also not likely to be a desired connection a pride-goer is hoping to make, gay or straight! (We are there for the chaps, the eye candy and maybe some cool home-made jewelry… oh and it’s a social celebration of how far we’ve come, no thanks to the church in most cities, thanks.)

The problem, however, is that often times, there are legitimate allies who are working towards equality, full inclusion of the LGBTQ person of faith in the church and the state. These allies are worth our time, but even pausing to distinguish a true ally from a smiling jesus hatconniving poser can be a trigger for someone who is recovering from toxic spirituality. The baby, the bathwater – it’s all the same if the point is to be “recruited” to do anything that I’m not already doing. (Bottom line, if I were looking for a church community, I’m pretty sure I can google your website, but thanks for the rainbow flag with a smiling Jesus on it. Nice touch.)

For me, working to discern the “Christian allies” from the “Christian posers” has left me exhausted. I consider the teachings of Jesus to serve me well enough directly and don’t require an intercessor in my connection to those teachings. That may, in some circles, actually make me more of a Christian than anyone who goes to churches, affirming or non-affirming. Labels aside though, what is bothersome for a survivor is that we have already spent a significant time of our lives recovering from being a pawn in the church’s political war. Nobody wants to be a pawn, even if they like the people playing chess.

All this to say, I’m reflecting on all the energy I have spent the last two years, advocating for survivor voices to be heard and leaders of toxic spiritual teaching to be awakened and I think…

I’ve done…

Enough.

As a portion of my story is shared in an upcoming piece of Our America with Lisa Ling, I can wonder how the limelight will turn my way or how it could just be another passing story that leaves no impact. I could wonder if it was a mistake or if it was what I’ve been waiting to do for 12 years, since leaving toxic teachings behind in my early 20’s. I could wonder a lot of things, but I’ve decided that I have too much going on that involves moving on and thus, the episode, with Our America is, in fact, this survivor’s last stand.[youtube_sc url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rbJC3CxoKtk”%5D

It is the last you will hear about my trying to kick against the goads that the modern-day Pharisees have laid out for the church at large. They are now working with organizations like the Marin Foundation, LoveBoldly (gag me and deceive me boldly) and other prophets of false hope in order to keep the homosexual trapped in his/her own body, as they take an unapologetic stand against civil liberties and even preach celibacy as if it is the new cure to this “sinful” state of gay…

It’s sick… and they should be ashamed of themselves, masquerading as bridge-builders when their bridges are clearly to nowhere. (And some of them should be sued for malpractice and false advertising but I digress).

I could watch it all unfold and see if my having shared has any impact or…

I can let it be enough that I have spoken up for survivors the last 2 years without stopping. And when I was called upon to participate in what we hope is the final “exodus” of this sick theology, I took time off work, paid my way out to LA from DC, (got $250 back from the production company which was a welcomed gesture) and I FACED THE DEMON that is this anti-gay, civil rights obstacle known as Exodus International and the toxic spirituality it represents.

I have done my part. It is enough.

So now what happens?

Well, because of results that you see below, from our work at Beyond Ex Gay, I will remain connected as a volunteer to survivors, as they seek online resources for addressing their healing.

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It doesn’t drain me to speak to and connect with survivors because I trust it and I trust their intentions. It’s easy. They aren’t making a dime on their own healing. (Most of them, I hope!) However, when it comes to sharing my story publicly or connecting with leaders in order to see if they have a shred of social and emotional intelligence… I simply have to move on…

The ex-gay cult and restrictive spirituality are parts of an identity crisis that I’ve healed.

So I share within this post, links for new readers or old readers alike… to all the places you can access my story and perspective. If you can’t find my opinion, perspective or recommendations in my coming out book, spoken word pieces or blogs, then it does not exist.

I’ve said all I care to say on the matter…

Those who choose a religion of martyring themselves, have, in my opinion, created a wading pool of sludge where those who lack social and emotional intelligence drink or drown and call it healing. It is a masochistic and somewhat sadistic way to live. Whether they were born into it or they choose it, I send them love… light… and I release it to collapse on itself, as it will when we all awaken to a life of connection, life-affirming spirituality and gentle surrender to all that is… enough.

Namaste, to the tenacious survivors, their families, and to all who walk a path towards love, light and general badassery.

*** Updated after taping aired.*** If you want to see how I handled Alan’s apology, this is the only verbal footage that OWN used of my response. [youtube_sc url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0SZC3Azsqw”%5D