My Day of Silence 2009 Post, A Year and A Month Late

May 12, 2010

Last year I was determined to write something for the DoS, about my own bullying experiences and my frustrations with common Christian attitudes on the subject.  But I had to quit working on it, because it was messing me up, as I mention below.  Mr. DM persuaded me that I had to forget about it for the time being while he worked hard to comfort me and reassure me of my worth and preciousness to him while I was drowning in memories of worthlessness.  I wonder how many hetero-married women get roses from their husbands on that day!

So what you see here was 95% written then, as were the other bullying related posts which should follow this one shortly.  I figure I might as well put them up now.  They’re melodramatic and sloppy to the point of incoherence, but I just want to get them out of my system, so I can move on to blogging other things.  (All the better that I put them up now, before anybody starts reading again!)  So…feel free to ignore!

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I’ve been reluctant to say much about the Day of Silence and bullying and gay youth issues.  I mean, I’m fourteen years out of high school.  I’m not close to any middle/high school age kids–my social circle is pretty sparse when it comes to the over-4-and-under-25 crowd. So I don’t know what it’s like today.  I hear from conservative Christian media that things have been completely upended, that gays rule the roost now while Christian students are intimidated and muzzled by teacher and fellow pupil alike, that the Day of Silence really isn’t about addressing anti-gay bullying, which apparently no longer happens, but rather about persecuting Bible-believing Christian kids.  I admit I’m a little skeptical.  I know attitudes towards homosexuality have shifted enormously, but I also remember that conservatives were complaining about the gay takeover of the schools back when I was getting my eleven-year-old ass kicked for being such a dyke.

So, with the frank disclaimer that this may have nothing to do with the lives of young people today, I’d like to talk about my experience, and follow that with some other posts offering related thoughts about conservative Christian reactions to the Day of Silence, including the Day of Truth.  Which, for those who don’t know, is a day (held around the DoS) where Christian students are encouraged to “respond” by  letting people know that Change Is Possible.  [2010 update:  Wow. Exodus, having taken over the Day of Truth  from the Alliance Defense Fund, has apparently removed the change stuff from the message, or at least toned it down!]

Also, I think my experience was pretty  average.  I know lots of people who have been through much worse.  So I’m not trying to say I’m special or throw myself a pity party.  I just want to give some background about where I’m coming from before I start tearing apart the sorts of things that Christians say on the subject.  If I seem unusually angry or irrational on certain points, there are reasons.

I know I’ve said before I don’t want to talk about the bullying because I can’t do it without shaking.  But I found that if I keep on pressing through, the shaking eventually passes.  Sure, it’s replaced by severe headaches, insomnia, panic attacks, and out-of-nowhere fleeting suicidal ideation.  But hey, my hands are steady enough to type!

So here we go…

I first learned words like “gay,” “lez,” “bi,” and “fag” in elementary school.  They were insults, but not especially serious ones, and they had an air of ridiculousness and fantastical unreality about them, like dragons or unicorns.  We knew what the words meant, but the possibility that boys could love other boys and girls could love other girls was beyond our comprehension.  I don’t think hardly any of us knew any out gay people.  There was a boy in my class who got called “fag” a lot; he was *really* annoying, lisped, sucked at sports, and had an obnoxiously protective mother.  (Like, if he pushed you or pulled your hair, and you shoved him back, he would take this dramatic spill in the dirt and start bawling, and he would run and tell her and she would be all over you!)  But I don’t think any of us seriously thought he liked boys.

I was a tomboy during those years, but nobody seemed to think this was a problem.  Nobody seemed to think it was gay.  I had plenty of male and female friends, and was on seemingly good terms with pretty much everyone.  I did get called a “lesbo” once, but it was a friendly tease from an older girl, made just because I absentmindedly held a friend’s hand for too long.  We all laughed about it together, though I suppose I did drop the other girl’s hand pretty darn quick.

But in sixth grade the world pretty much caved in on me, as it does on a lot of kids gay or not.  I went from reasonably well-liked to despised in a couple of weeks, betrayed wholesale by my friends as they realized that in the tough social environment of middle school, they could not be seen with anything other than contempt for me.  I wasn’t just excluded and ignored, I was actively harassed and bullied on a constant basis.  And the worst of the bullying centered on the fact that I was perceived to be gay.

It hurt so badly in part because I was at that time secretly coming to terms with my sexual orientation, which was indeed unmistakably homosexual, struggling with shame, fear, and confusion in the anti-gay (though not very religious) world I found myself in.  My peers’ homophobic remarks made me feel found out and exposed, as if I had “sick pervert” written in neon lights on my forehead.  I don’t know how anti-gay bullying feels to a straight kid, but to a gay kid who hasn’t come out yet, it’s kinda like living the nightmare where you show up to class in nothing but your underwear, only worse, and endlessly repeating.

I wasn’t out in the sense that I hadn’t made any declarations.  But I never bothered to deny the accusations either, partly because they were true, partly because I was butch enough (in a skinny-drowned-rat-with-a-swagger sort of way) that no one would have believed my denials, and partly because I turned beet red and stammered every time a pretty girl spoke to me.  (It was all I could do to avoid getting caught staring at her chest if she had any.)  Sometimes I would play chicken with self-disclosure, dropping hints, *almost* telling.  So, for example, in 8th grade I told a classmate who asked what I was going to be when I grew up that I was going to work for the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. (Yeah, I know, Nostradamus I ain’t!) In the middle school peak bullying years, I never bothered any girls or did anything intentional to make anyone uncomfortable.  (I did go through a little bit of a leering-and-harassing phase later in high school, after I came out.)  But it didn’t really matter what I did or didn’t say or do, because it seemed that everyone around me had decided I was a big homo.

So, what did my bullying experience entail?  I heard every insult about homosexuality that you could imagine, and many more that you probably couldn’t (adolescent and teenage boys have exceptionally colorful imaginations and vocabularies regarding these things), often accompanied by barrages of punches and kicks.  Thankfully, the effects of those never went beyond moderate bruises.  I was spit on.  I was sexually harassed (sometimes with certain male anatomical regions pressed up against me or shoved in my face) with remarks about what I really needed, along with charming sweet nothings excerpted from the lyrics of 2 Live Crew.  And I was threatened with everything under the sun, including death.  In retrospect it seems ridiculous, but at the time I took the threats seriously and lived in terror.  I was shocked by the intensity of the hatred I encountered.

At home, when I wanted to get some fresh air or walk the dog, I had to do so in the back yard, hidden behind the house, because otherwise the neighborhood kids would invariably line up along the curb to taunt and threaten me from the street, sometimes even in front of my family.  (My family, as I’ll describe below, tended to respond with embarrassment and shame.)  I loathed and feared time without adult supervision.  The bus ride to and from school, lunch, recess, the time between classes, all were a pit of endless torment.

My misery came more from the universality and constancy of the bullying rather than the intensity of any one particular episode.  I don’t have the horrific stories some have of nearly getting killed, or getting seriously injured or raped.  But day in, day out, many times a day, every day without fail, I was reminded both verbally and physically that I was disgusting, worthless, and queer, and it really got to me.

I tried to escape when I could.  I joined the art club (even though I don’t have an aesthetic bone in my body!) so that at least one day a week I wouldn’t have to take the bus home.  I set up chairs for band practice during recess time so I wouldn’t have to go out with the other kids.  I stayed inside whenever I could.  When I had to be in public, I tried to make myself disappear, become invisible.  I would hide behind the rest of my family when we went out together.  I would run from the front door to the car when we left the house, and did the reverse when we came home. I begged to stay home from school at every possible opportunity (in my defense, I did feel genuinely ill all the time thanks to the bullying) and had my wish granted often enough that my report cards were full of complaints about my absenteeism.

But only so much physical escape was possible, so I had to complement it with mental escape.  And while I’m embarrassed to be so dramatic, there’s only one way to put it:  I died inside.  Often days would go by without my ever opening my mouth to speak–I spoke so rarely that my voice felt rusty with disuse when I did.  I stopped playing even solitary games.  When I got home from school most days I would sit on the floor of my room and just stare into space, opening and closing my fists, hating myself, hating everybody, hating everything, and trying to numb out to get away from all that hatred.  And I would do that for hours and hours on end, coming out only when summoned to eat dinner or do chores.

It didn’t last forever.  Most of it stopped after three years, though there were occasional reminders throughout high school to keep me in my place, and sort of a grand finale one night at the end of my senior year, when a bunch of neighborhood guys–I’d guess about a dozen–drunk with end-of-school-year revelry came to my house, gathered underneath my bedroom window, and kept me and my family awake and trembling for what seemed like hours with a rousing chorus of taunts.  It felt almost like a lynch mob.

But by then it didn’t hurt so bad, in part because I had made some friends again and had found the strength to really come out.

Well, maybe that’s not quite right.  I liked (and still like) to picture myself as having emerged unscathed from that adolescent-and-early-teenage hell, but I probably just got a lot “better” at transmuting pain and sorrow into a slow-simmering anger.  I remember when I was 18, in the middle of an argument over who was going to use the phone, my sister called me a “f***ing bulldyke.” I beat the living daylights out of her as I yelled “There’s a lot of people I have to take that from, but I sure as f*** don’t have to take it from you!”  Which suggests I was still carrying a bit of baggage from my victim days.

I feel silly writing about this, that I’m making a big deal out of something that wasn’t, that everybody has it rough at that age, that plenty of kids, gay or not, have it a whole lot worse.  But all I can say is that the experience devastated me, however weak or oversensitive that makes me.

I think part of what made the antigay bullying so awful was the way it dovetailed with my family’s and my teachers’ attitudes.

My teachers never actively joined in on the harassment or endorsed my peers’ actions, but they made tons of gay jokes and cutting remarks about homosexuality and gay people.  The cool teachers entertained the class with their faggot impressions–homosexuality was hilarious to most adolescents, and teachers would exploit this to try to get on the kids’ good side.  They also had a field day making fun of an openly gay teacher (lesbian, girls’ P.E., surprise surprise) in the school.  In health class, when homosexuality got its sliver of curriculum time, the teachers would simply let the class have a free for all discussion, with no instruction or direction whatsoever.  I think they were afraid of getting in trouble with parents if they said anything one way or the other  But this just meant that the ignorant bigots in the class (and I don’t use those terms lightly or loosely) carried the day while I slunk deeper and deeper into my seat, wishing I could melt into the floor, while the teacher just sat there with his tranquilly neutral smile.  In high school a friend reported that one of my favorite teachers (in an unrelated subject) lectured one of her classes (not mine) on the abominableness of homosexuality.  When I tried to talk to another favorite teacher, she just laughed and told me I was just confused, that I wasn’t really “one of those people.”  (I suppose she’s having the last laugh now, but let’s set that aside.)

My parents’ feelings about homosexuality were emphatically negative.  I didn’t start coming out to them until high school, but my mom would scold me years before that for dressing and acting “like a dyke,” and for shaming her by being mistaken for a boy.  She would drag me out on makeover expeditions to the mall and complain about me to the salespeople.  Around the same time, when she gave my sister and me the “monthly-visitor”/facts-of-life talk, she warned us about lesbians, who apparently were fat, hairy, and ugly monsters who would touch and hurt innocent girls, so we should watch out for them and make sure to tell her if one of them came anywhere near us.  My dad said very little on the subject, but what little he said showed disgust.  My younger sister, bitter about the embarrassing disaster of a big sis she had been saddled with, taunted me homophobically and derided me for my failure to be a real girl.  Later on, after I had come out at school, my sister complained to my parents about the comments about me she was having to deal with in school, and my parents responded by reprimanding me for my insensitivity and thoughtlessness in refusing to hide in shame.  How could I do this to THEM?  What were THEY supposed to say to people they ran into in the grocery store?  How were THEY going to survive? My mom didn’t even want my grandparents to come to my high school graduation, despite the fact that I was giving a big speech and winning a whole slew of awards, because she thought that there would be homophobic heckling from my classmates, and she didn’t want them to suffer that humiliation.

(To be fair, my parents almost certainly did not appreciate the magnitude and nature of what was going on.   My early efforts to talk to them about my troubles at school and my sexuality seemed to make things worse and not better, so after that I tried to keep them out of the loop as much as possible.  If I had tried harder to talk to them more, maybe they would have understood better.  They can’t be blamed for that.  But I’m not trying to talk about blame here, only about what it felt like to be me back then.)

What I’m trying to get at is when it came to the anti-gay bullying, there was no refuge.  Everyone I knew seemed to loathe gays.  Not even my family was willing to be on my side!  So I couldn’t rationalize my peers’ hatred away by saying, “Well, they’re just immature, stupid, sexually frustrated, insecure boys overwhelmed by a rising tide of testosterone.”  The world agreed with them.  Most days it all ran together–the bruises from my peers, my mom’s snarky laments about my looks, the angry preacher on the TV ranting about “lezzzzbians and homoSEKshuls,” the gay jokes from a teacher, whatever the news and the polls said about the American people’s persisting disapproval of homosexuality.  Older, wiser, and with a bit of distance, I can sort out cruelty, ignorance, disgust, fear, awkwardness, and honest conviction into neatly distinct little piles.  But at the time it pretty much all felt like hate.  It felt like drowning in a sea of hate.

There was no one I could helpfully talk to.  It would have been nice to have someone affirm that I did not deserve to be treated the way I was being treated, that it was not my fault.

If there had been a Day of Silence, it would have blessed me immensely.  Just to know that someone cared.  That someone thought that what was happening to me was wrong.  And you know, it would have been especially wonderful to know that someone cared about anti-gay bullying in particular.  Because frankly, so often I was made to feel as though my sexuality made me an exception to the human race, that I didn’t really count as a person.  (Kind of like the fine-print exclusions on the back of a “30% Off Everything* In The Store!” coupon)  So I’m not sure that a generic statement of opposition to bullying or a generic affirmation of the Golden Rule would have made much impact.


Hi There

May 12, 2010

In celebration of my new two-month-old daughter’s sleeping for eight consecutive hours (yee-hah!), I shall again attempt a return to blogging.  I know in the past I’ve threatened to post more regularly even if that means writing really really badly, but I’ve never followed through.   So, we’ll see what happens this time around.  The spirit is willing, but the flesh has a full life (that doesn’t provide a lot of opportunities for ruminating on Teh Gay) and remarkably poor time management skills.

Recent commenters, I’m going to try put up a couple of posts before I reply to your comments/questions.  Just give me a day or two.



Post-Ex-Gay

October 15, 2009

I am officially no longer ex-gay identified.

Now, before anyone starts either panicking or dancing in the streets, let me say that nothing has really changed. My lifestyle, my loves, my convictions, my feelings, my views, are all pretty much where they were when I left off. I just finally realized that I haven’t been much of an ex-gay for a while now. (Which, yes, some of you have been trying to tell me for years.)

For those who are wondering why I ever snuggled up to the word in the first place, well, it did some things I needed it to do back in the day. After my religious conversion, I felt exiled from gaydom, very dyke-without-a-country, afflicted with a ridiculous traitor-guilt complex. (What a crippling loss for the gays! How will they ever get by?) I craved a new tribe to latch onto, and the ex-gays were there for me! Also, they were the folks who had been primarily responsible for bringing me to Jesus, and the folks I imprinted on as a young believer trying to figure out what it meant to walk with God, so it made sense that I would see myself as becoming one of them. And “ex-gay” allowed me to get a little emotional distance from “gay” without having to be normal. (Celibacy I could accept. Assimilation never!)

When I was going through some really difficult seasons of struggle, which was most of the time during the early years, the hardness and combativeness of “ex-gay” both reflected and reaffirmed my resolve to stay faithful to my convictions and the path that I believed most honored God, and my efforts to intentionally reject and disown “gay identity.” (No, I haven’t forgotten the series. Yep, I know I need to finish it.) Using the label “ex-gay” was my way of trying to be tough about what I was leaving behind: “Screw you, gayness! I never really liked you anyway!” And what to do about girls and my feelings for girls was, for better or worse, an issue which dominated my thought and life for years. It was my battle. “Ex-gay,” I think, did a good job of describing that. Whether or not the issue should have dominated my life so is a trickier question to answer.

I never ever thought the word meant “straight.” When a friend asked me shortly after my religious conversion what an “ex-gay” was, I replied, “Oh, that’s what evangelicals call their gay people.” It never occurred to me to consider it misleading. The self-identified ex-gays I knew were all over the map on how much attraction change they claimed to have experienced, and for the most part they all seemed honest (and obvious!) about where they were at, at least in private conversation.

I’m still unconvinced that the word is inherently deceptive. From what I’ve seen, when someone hears it for the first time, they don’t assume it means “purely heterosexual;” rather, they look puzzled and ask you what it means. In all my time blogging as an alleged so-called “ex-gay,” I’ve only had one woman mistake me for a “heterosexual,” and I wrote to her right away to clear things up, because we can’t have people thinking that!   In general, I believe that presenting ourselves and our lives with honesty and integrity and faithfulness is what matters, and I feel I’ve more or less successfully managed to do that on this blog, even though it has been infected with the dreaded “ex-gay” label for quite some time.

(There’s an interesting parallel here with evangelical hang-ups over ssa conservative Christians who have renounced homosexual sex and relationships who nevertheless call themselves “gay.” As I’ve said before, there may be issues with at least some forms of gay identity for the repentant believer. But throwing hissy fits because someone has dared to describe themselves as “gay” is missing the point completely. You have to ask what the person means; you have to discern what is going in their minds, hearts, and lives.)

Why did I stick with “ex-gay” for so many years, even as I became keenly aware of its limitations?

For a while I did it precisely because I was frustrated with and embarrassed by a lot of the stuff going on in the ex-gay movement. It seemed like a useful exercise in humility, a way of clobbering my ever-burgeoning intellectual arrogance, to force myself to identify with folks who were driving me nuts with the sorts of things they were saying and doing. Along similar lines, I kept calling myself ex-gay (at least in the blogosphere) because I didn’t want to be a coward who ran from the movement as it became increasingly scorned, pitied, and reviled. It is better for my soul for me to be counted with the unpopular, with the losers, with the fools. (Side note:  I highly recommend this Catholic prayer!) And I kept it up in part because of my dislike of the trend where more and more ex-gays insist on abandoning not only the “ex-gay” label but apparently all descriptive words for talking about our sexuality. “I’m not ex-gay, I’m not gay, I’m not straight, I’m not bisexual. I’m just me!” Or “…I’m just a child of God!” Look, I appreciate that we’re all infinitely complex and unique little snowflakes who can’t be reduced to any one label, and I appreciate that for the believer our identity in Christ is the most important thing, but I’m not cool with forsaking the use of adjectives to describe ourselves and the facts of our lives. I don’t think that’s a viable way forward.  Being a faithful Christian cannot mean that we must refuse to discuss or name any other aspect of our lives.  And honestly, I feel that this is what the anti-labelling movement among ex-gays often amounts to.  It means making coy allusions to the “possibility of being tempted again someday” and to the fact that we will “never be as though we never were.”  (And yeah I know some people argue that our same-sex attractions are irrelevant and that talking about them and answering questions about them is making too much of a concession to the world’s and the gay activists’ priorities.  But isn’t keeping silent about our same-sex attractions sometimes making too much of a concession to straight ‘phobes in the church, who want us at least to give them the freedom (by our silence) to imagine us as fully heterosexual, even if we can’t manage to actually be fully heterosexual for them?)

And I guess I also stuck with “ex-gay” because I didn’t have an alternative I preferred.

Peter Ould has been trying to introduce his concept of “post-gay” as a replacement for “ex-gay,” the fundamental idea (I think) being that we should not think of ourselves in terms of gay or straight, that we should not let ourselves or our lives or our walks with God be defined by those “un-Biblical” categories. Also, he sees “post-gay” as putting more emphasis on direction rather than position: what matters isn’t one’s precise location on the Kinsey scale, but which way one’s journey is headed. As he puts it, “I’m post-gay because I chose to leave “gay” behind. I chose to no longer accept “gay” as an explanation of who I was and instead to begin a journey away from it.” (I believe commenter “Eddy” on Warren Throckmorton’s blog has on several occasions defended a similarly directional understanding of “ex-gay,” but I don’t have a link at the moment.)  There’s some helpful stuff there, but I’m not completely sold–another post for another day. In any case, my big problem with “post-gay” is that I learned an older definition first, many years ago as a young dyke. So when I hear “post-gay,” I instinctively think of someone who doesn’t want to be burdened with gay sensibility and culture, but plans to keep on having homosexual sex. Which, if you think about it, is pretty much the opposite of an ex-gay: Camp is all we’ve got left!

As I’ve said before, “bisexual” is fine in many contexts, and I use it in those contexts, but I often found myself wanting a word that hinted at more of my story. The thing is, either I didn’t become bisexually-attracted until around my 26th birthday, or I was so stupid that I didn’t realize I was bisexually-attracted until around my 26th birthday. I had tried to find some feelings for the other half of the species on several occasions before: first as a teenager, in order to try to appease my mom and get my peers to leave me alone a little (after years of getting kicked around for being such a queer), and later as a young twenty-something evangelical convert, in order to see if I had any chance of escaping the doom of celibacy. All efforts failed dismally. So my early ex-gay years were as frustrating and scary as anybody’s, and have shaped my life, my perspectives, and my attitudes in ways which are relevant to my writing here. For example, if I had been more bisexual at the time of my conversion, and thus had an easier transition and a more hopeful attitude about the whole business, I think I would be much more pro-ex-gay than I am today, and have much less empathy with the celibate queer crowd and the former ex-gay crowd.

Some folks like “people with unwanted homosexual attractions” or some variation on that. But the thing is, I’m not sure that I “unwant” my homosexual attractions. At least, I doubt that’s a helpful way to think about it. We normally call things “unwanted” that we can at least in principle do something about. Things we can intentionally get rid of, or at least reduce significantly. Unwanted gifts, unwanted pets, unwanted pregnancies, etc. I guess I don’t think that homosexual attractions really belong with these. It’s not that we have to want them or ought to want them, it’s just that it’s not terribly helpful to dwell on whether we want them or not.

So yeah, no great ideas for a replacement.  (I have a soft spot in my heart for “failed homosexual,” but don’t really see it catching on.)  But I need to ditch “ex-gay” anyway. It just feels wrong.

Partly it’s because of an inevitable lifestyle shift and a resulting shift in spiritual focus. Gay/ex-gay stuff just isn’t my battle any more. Yes, I’m “still” attracted to women, though to be honest, what with chasing a 17 month old around all day and the nausea and exhaustion which come along with another on the way (19 weeks), I have lots of days when I feel pretty much post-sexual. But even when things are more libidinally lively, ssa just isn’t that big a deal. In fact, it’s not a deal at all. I have the utmost respect those folks who talk frankly about lifelong struggle and a need for daily prayer about this stuff, but that’s just not where I’m at. I like some girls, I like some guys, and I’m in love with my man. So the warrior-toughness of “ex-gay,” which was a big part of my motive for adopting the label in the first place, seems irrelevant now.

I’ve had people chide me for this, perhaps rightly so, but I don’t really have much interest in eradicating or diminishing my homosexual attractions. Maybe if I were radiantly holy, and the only thing that was even slightly questionable about my soul was my lingering love for the ladies. But you know, I’m not really all that sanctified. I have huge spiritual struggles with pride, greed, unrighteous anger, sloth, “fear of man,” selfishness, etc. And all of those, unlike my ssa, are a daily threat to my walking in faithfulness and obedience to God, to my enjoying close fellowship with Him, to my growing in faith. So honestly, I can’t really be bothered with growing into full heterosexual maturity and wholeness or whatever given that I’ve got all those to deal with.

But the biggest reason for ditching “ex-gay” is that my blogging journey has led me to a place of deepening alienation and confusion with respect to the broader ex-gay movement, what I have sometimes called the ex-gay mainstream, including but certainly not limited to Exodus and its referral ministries.  (I’m not suggesting that they all march in lockstep, I know there’s diversity there.  The general feel of the “movement” is what I’m talking about.)

There are two aspects to this alienation.  The first is that my dissenting views have become more fleshed out and solid.  So, for example, I think I’ve always been uncomfortable about the developmental theories and how they are used/administered in ex-gay ministry.  I’ve always thought that ex-gay involvement in the culture war and in efforts to oppose gay-rights measures was a bad idea.  And I’ve long been troubled by a tension I sense between the pursuit of healing for ssa on the one hand and the pursuit of discipleship and Christian maturity on the other.  (Of course true healing of one’s real wounds is not incompatible with discipleship and Christian growth!  But I worry that the efforts and approaches that ex-gay ministries advocate in the “healing” area may hinder and sabotage their efforts in the “discipleship” area.  My own journey had me leaving ex-gay ministry to put myself in a non-ex-gay Christian residential program in order to find meaningful growth as a believer.)  But before my blogging, my stances on these matters were relatively fuzzy, because I hadn’t taken the time to think about them.  Over these years of trying to work out my views and share them with others, these vague discomforts and worries have crystallized into strong convictions.  And this has made my sense that I don’t fit in with other ex-gays much more acute.  Whereas before my joining an ex-gay group or attending an ex-gay conference would have been fundamentally a happy and comfortable event tainted by a little awkwardness and conflict, now it would be mostly uncomfortable and perhaps even painful for me, mitigated by some sense of commonality of experience and faith.  It would not be fellowship; it would be dialogue.

The second and more serious aspect of my alienation from the ex-gay world…sigh.

I’ve written and rewritten this section of the post many times, trying to find a way to articulate my thoughts that is both charitable and gracious and gentle and yet honest about what I’m seeing and feeling.  I haven’t figured it out yet.

But maybe I can say this:  There’s a sense in which the sorts of disagreements I mention above were/are a relatively small problem.   I could understand where the ex-gays stood on those matters, and why. I could see how given their experiences and perspectives and personalities, they could arrive at the positions they did while still being fundamentally decent people and sincere lovers of Jesus.  Sure, I noticed that there were often errors in their beliefs and reasoning, and that they often put their trust in sources that didn’t deserve it, and that they were sometimes too hesitant to question things that obviously should be questioned, and that their brains would sometimes short out if someone got too close to threatening one of their sacred cows.    But these are simply intellectual foibles which afflict all of us.  I’m sure others can spot plenty of places where I am guilty of them.  Our differences didn’t used to strike me as a difference of heart.

So maybe the safest way to phrase my concern here is that I just don’t feel I understand the heart or values of Exodus any more.  I once believed that we shared the same heart, that we cared about the same things, that we cherished and pursued the same virtues, in spite of all our disagreements.  I felt that our fundamental goals were the same, even if we had some different ideas about the best ways to reach them.  That’s why I could say in my old and horrifically-out-of-date “About Me” page that I saw myself as “pro-ex-gay in the deepest, truest, and purest sense.”  Now…I just have no idea.  Sometimes I find the things they say and do so baffling that I can’t come up with a charitable interpretation.  The fault may well lie in my own lack of comprehension rather than in Exodus, but the end result is still the same:  alienation.  The confusion lamented in this post has only grown more intense.

Which brings me to the last reason for my decision to move past “ex-gay”:  I’ve found new community for thinking about these issues through this and other blogs. Yay!  I’ve encountered all these awesome gay/ssa folk who more or less share my religious convictions about homosexuality but mostly situate themselves outside of the ex-gay movement. And these are the people that especially interest me–that’s where the cool stuff is happening! These are the folks I want to think through and talk through and wrestle through these issues with.   I don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye with them all on everything, but I feel like we see the same problems and are asking the same sorts of questions.  And this is a very exciting and happy thing for me, which is why I am ending my list of reasons with it.  For so many years I felt like a minority of one, maybe sometimes part of a minority of two or three.  But mostly folks just looked at me kinda crazy when I tried to articulate my views and concerns, or worse, patronizingly assured me that I would understand someday when I had progressed further in my healing.  Now I know that while I may be wrong, I’m not crazy.  And if I’m not healed, well, I like the company I’m in!

(Gay-affirming friends and readers, please do not feel neglected by the above paragraph.  You know I love you and delight in your presence, real and/or virtual.  It’s just that I always knew that you were out there.  It was an enormous and wonderful surprise to discover that so many other people like me with my convictions exist.)

********

So where does all this leave me? Well, I don’t think I’ll be able to completely abstain from using the word “ex-gay”. It still is the most widely known expression for referring to people like me or to the issues I talk about here, and it’s certainly the easiest shorthand.  And it brings home the Google bacon, or at least it used to back when I updated this blog monthly instead of yearly. But consider this the beginning of a deliberate move away from it when possible.

This also means that I have to redo the About Me page, which is now a complete wince-fest for me anyway , given all the different ways in which my perspective has evolved.

And now I will get to work on another post.


Update / “DM-lite?”

September 23, 2008

Life seems determined to thwart my very best attempts to sit down and think and blog.  I’ve been “up to my a** in alligators” as my momma likes to say.  I could give you the list of everything that’s gone wrong, but it’s mundane and really really long and not very gay.  And of course it’s all sort of silly in light of the REAL suffering going on all over the world.  But I’m only capable of so much perspective, and right now dealing with chronic joint pain (knees and ankles and wrists and hands) and an endless parade of new-homeowner woes has been grating on me a bit.  And yes, it’s a real blessing that we own a home, and ours is a beautiful one, and yes I need to be more mindful of that and less ungrateful.  But sometimes I hanker a little for our old apartment, with the maintenance guy to keep everything barely functioning and no yard to resurrect (or fancy expensive lawn mower to keep having issues), except that there would be absolutely no place to put Baby DM.

The marriage and the baby feel pretty much like the only two things that are going right nowadays, and I suppose if you can only have two things go right, those are good ones.  Mr. DM and I have recovered from our newborn-induced squabblefest, and now that the baby sleeps through the night more often than not we’re finally quasi-consistently getting both sleep and, um, quality time together, the first being a bit of a prereq for the second, which has made ALL the difference in the world. Our third anniversary was our most joyful one yet.

Baby DM is very healthy, very happy overall, and she’s gone from cute to drop dead gorgeous, turning heads wherever she goes.  She’s very curious, wants to look at everything, wants to touch everything, wants to put everything in her mouth, wants to meet everybody.  The girl who two months ago couldn’t do anything besides swat at stuffed animals now picks up her toys and turns them around in her hands, examining them carefully, looking for the best part to chew on.  Her great-grandparents gave her an Elmo “cellphone” which makes terrible noises which she is absolutely in love with.  They also introduced her to television while we were all on vacation together, which of course she loved, much to Mr. DM’s and my chagrin.

Her talking hasn’t evolved too much.  She makes a lot of noise, but it’s basically just laughter and merry yodeling.  She can roll over from back to belly but gets stuck there and eventually gets frustrated and starts to squawk.  She also seems to have to developed some secret method of getting around–I have never actually witnessed her moving in any way besides the half-roll, which obviously doesn’t get her very far, but today when she was playing on this big blanket I have spread out for her and my back was momentarily turned, she somehow got mobile.  I turned around to find her completely off the blanket, licking one of my flip-flops.  (UGH!)  I felt like the absolute worst mother ever, but she seems okay, and I have learned my lesson.

On to the matter at hand….

So, it’s become painfully apparent that my old style of blogging doesn’t fit so well with my new style of living.  It’s not so much that I don’t have any time at all–it’s just that what time I do have generally comes in 15 minute segments.  (Baby DM has little to no interest in napping.)  And really, it takes me almost that long just to find my place in a typical DM draft and reacquaint myself with what I’ve been saying, which leaves zero time for actually writing or editing or thinking.  And yet I really do want to blog somehow.

So I’m not quite sure what to do about this.  Maybe I could do “littler” posts–both in the sense of lower word count (and all the people said, “Hallelujah!”) as well as in the sense of being less ambitious–less premeditated, more random, shallower, maybe more personal and less analytical.  I think I just need to lighten up a little.  I’d like to finish up some of the many dozens of drafts I have virtually piled all over, but I think they’re all a bit too complicated for my brain, my schedule, and my surplus energy level right now.  Maybe I should just put up the chunks I have or something.   We’ll see.  I never wanted to sacrifice quality for quantity, but this is getting ridiculous.  I figure I should just blog really badly (but more frequently) for a while, and hopefully get back into the swing of things eventually.  So consider yourselves forewarned.

Anyway, I know metablogging is really annoying, and that it’s almost all I’ve put out lately.  Sorry about that.  Just wanted to let everybody know what was up…that I’m still here, that I still care about blogging and the issues.  I just have to figure out how to make it happen.


Breeder

July 13, 2008

(This post is going to be about baby/mom stuff, and not at all gay/exgay related.  I’ll get back on track with the issues soon.  But I think some people might want to know how we’re doing.  If you don’t, just skip this.  There are no incisive criticisms or deep insights below.) 

So the big news first:  Baby DM was born almost two months ago.  :) 

She is unbelievably beautiful. I keep almost saying “perfect” and having to catch myself.  For one thing, that’s blasphemous.  For another thing, she has back hair (!), although I have been assured that will disappear with time.   She is healthy and doing well, although she’s got quite the ornery temperament,–I think she’s what people euphemistically call an “unusually sensitive” and “intense” baby.  But I can’t get too upset about that, as I myself was colicky and high-needy when I was her age, so it’s just my karma coming back to bite me.  As a man sows, so shall he reap.   She was very lanky at birth (below average in weight, well above average in height), but she has the appetite of an elephant and has been “filling out” with a vengeance.  Supposedly, they say you can’t overfeed a breastfed baby.  I’m a little skeptical about that now that she’s put on her fifth chin or so, but her pediatrician assures me that this is just marvelous.  To all those who prayed and/or wished us well, thank you. 

When she’s in a good mood, she loves to smile at me (and smile bigger when I smile back at her)  and occasionally she laughs with me too.  She’s starting to try to “talk”–i.e., make random noises at me when I’m talking to her.  She growls and squeals with delight and anticipation when she catches a glimpse of a bared breast, and lunges toward it with a gaping mouth.  (Chip off the ol’ block, I suppose.)  She’s started to pay attention to her toys, and has a favorite–a woolly mammoth that was mine when I was a baby.  She gets visibly excited when I bring him over, and she talks to him and swats him over with her hand. 

She’s awfully cute.  :)

It’s been cool to watch her evolve gradually–her hand motions getting ever so slightly more controlled, her vocal abilities getting more complex, her facial expressions getting more interesting, her eyes becoming more alert and aware and intelligent.  It’s been fun to watch her change from a completely clueless newborn, freaked out by this cold and too-bright and terribly scary world where one experiences hunger, discomfort, and pain for the first time, into a baby who has a little bit of a grip on post-womb life and seems to be starting to enjoy it!  It’s crazy to think that, Lord willing, I’m going to get to watch her progress from baby to toddler to little girl to adolescent (yikes!) to teenager and beyond.  But it’s hard to imagine that looking at this helpless little blob-person.

These past few weeks have been a bit of a rough ride.  I knew intellectually, as everyone does, that a new baby is tough.  But there’s knowing it, and then there’s living it.  In the first few weeks, I wasn’t sure how we were going to make it, and I couldn’t fathom how anyone ever intentionally has more babies after going through this once.  It was pretty humiliating to feel that I was floundering through something so ordinary, so normal– a thing that some of the dumbest and laziest of hetero underachievers manage to accomplish.  I mean, I’ve got all these achievements and distinctions, and yet I felt like I couldn’t handle this basic everyday mammalian behavior, something that billions of people have done.  I was completely exhausted, my system was thrown into shock by this new lifestyle and responsibilities, and I was frustrated by my inability to keep my baby happy.   

And it was really challenging for Mr. DM and I as a couple, the first significant challenge for our marriage I think.  Before the baby, these past almost-three years of being together were super-easy.  Mr. DM used to describe it as “a perpetual slumber party–with sex!”  It was just easy and fun, pure delight, a little slice of heaven.  I think we probably argued or fought once every four months or so, but only for like 10 minutes before laughing at ourselves and making up.  But a baby makes things tough.  Both the sex and the slumber in our sexy slumber party have gotten much harder to come by.  And our relaxed rhythm of devotion to each other and taking care of each other has been upset by this newcomer.  Before, we had a neat give-and-take equilibrium of affection going on–somehow it usually worked out that when I needed support and a little extra TLC, he had the energy to give it to me, and vice versa.  And when we were both down we could just wait for the weekend to snuggle up together all day long and retreat from responsibility and the cold cruel world outside.  But now little Baby DM is basically a vacuum sucking up enormous quanitities of energy and love, and she can’t exactly reciprocate yet.  And there’s no retreating–her needs are relentless and non-negotiable.    Stress and tiredness really brought out the sinner in both of us.  We struggled with both wanting to be listened to more than we wanted to listen, and with wanting to be comforted and cared for more than we wanted to comfort and care.  We started getting snippy and cold with each other, and we both felt abandoned, that the other person didn’t have our back like they used to.  Secretly, I was wondering what happened to the wonderful man I had married, and he was wondering whether I still loved him.

I knew the baby would be tough, which is part of why I was so quiet over the past few months.  I guess I was hoping I could figure out some shortcut to spiritual growth–that maybe if I read the right books and prayed the right prayers, that the Lord would make me a bigger and better person by the time the baby rolled in, so I’d be able to take it all in stride.  Of course that’s not how it ever works–in these ten years of Christian life, I’ve learned that growth for me anyhow always seems to come through being overwhelmed.  It never seems to come in time to spare me the overwhelming, even when I’m smart and diligent enough to pray for it in advance. 

But gradually somehow I’m sort of getting the hang of this.  I’m sure as soon as I say that, I’m going to end up in way over my head again, but nonetheless, I’m getting somewhere.  Little Baby DM is teaching this ignoramus a little more about parenting every day.  And I’m learning to just go with the flow.  So, for example, she’s usually contented when she’s in my arms, but pretty much howls everywhere else during the day.  This drove me nuts for a while, but I’ve come to just accept it, and my arm muscles after a few days of cramping have adjusted accordingly.  (And I’ve become a master of picking things up with my unusually prehensile toes.)  And yeah, this makes it hard to do a lot of things, but I’ve come to accept that too, and just relax.  If I can get her to nap briefly on a pillow in my lap (where she is right now), great; if not, fine.  She’s my priority, and if everything else falls through the cracks, that’s okay.  For the time being, no plans or agendas, except tentative ones held loosely. 

And she and I are getting to know each other, and are getting more used to each other.  That has helped enormously.  I’ve figured out how to soothe her pretty consistently, and I’ve come to understand what upsets her, so at least some of the time we can avoid a meltdown, and I know what makes her happy.  So now I can relax and enjoy her.  When I was feeling helplessly dragged along by the current of her incomprehensible emotions, terrified of the next purple-faced screaming fit, I couldn’t even enjoy her peaceful times, because of the anxiety which hung like a cloud over my head.  But now that I understand her more, and therefore have a tiny bit of a sense of control–as much as we ever have in life–I look down at her sleeping in my lap and she is just so beautiful and wonderful.  I can’t believe something so awesome came out of me!

And in the past couple of weeks I’ve started to feel great.  Don’t get me wrong, there are rough patches, especially in the evenings, but there are also lots of times when I’ve never felt better or more alive or more focused.  Baby DM has done wonders for simplifying and improving my life.  I spend less time obsessing and pondering, and more time doing, getting pulled out of my head into my flesh and my senses.  I’ve become a morning person, because she has no interest in sleeping once she’s seen daylight, and thus I have been cured of my lazy gradstudent sleep patterns. which were far less healthy.  I’ve pretty much cleaned caffeine out of my system, because I read that the half-life of caffeine in a newborn is three to five DAYS, and it just ain’t worth it.  And even though I haven’t quite lost all of the pregnancy weight yet, I’m just so thrilled to have something vaguely resembling my old body back, so that I don’t feel like a manatee.  And I’m having fun introducing all the wonderful things in the world to my daughter, seeing/hearing/smelling/touching them again for the first time with her. 

And Mr. DM and I are learning to adjust and redefine our relationship to make room for baby.  There’s no chance we’re going to get back to our perpetual slumber party any time in the next 20 years, maybe 25 as we hope to add a few more arrows to Mr. DM’s quiver before we’re done.  So we’ve got to be creative.  We’re learning that we have to be aggressive and determined in making time for us, because it’s not going to come about naturally.  And, we’re learning to accept each other, to not be angry/bitter at the other person for being as tired and frazzled as we are and therefore not in a really great position to bail us out.  Rather than expecting the other person to be the “strong” one when we need them to, we’re learning to be “weak” together, and to accommodate ourselves to each other’s weaknesses, and carry each other’s burdens.  The coldness and the snippiness are gone, and our fears are allayed.  We remember why we got ourselves into this, and it’s worth it.

And something in me just goes wild in the best possible way when I see him with Baby DM, watching him play with her, smile with her, or attempt to feed her.  (She isn’t really a big fan of bottles of expressed breastmilk, especially if she knows I’m in the vicinity with the real thing on tap, so these attempts have very mixed success.)  It stirs up something in me, and adds a whole new layer and dimension to my love for him, in a way that I hadn’t anticipated.  He is going to be a wonderful father–so gentle and patient and sensitive. 

 So that’s the personal update.  I’m sure the parts where I talk about my new life as a parent are laughable, as I’m sure I don’t really know anything yet, and that I haven’t seen nothing yet.  But it seems right to talk about how things look to me now, clueless as I am, and I suppose we can all look back on this post and laugh at me together when I am older and wiser.

And I will say something gay-related soon.  :)


Personal Update / Apology

January 27, 2008

Hi everybody,

To all the people I owe email to, I’m sorry, and thanks for being patient and understanding.  Life has been crazy lately.  I know I always say that, but it seems to be always true.  And yeah, I do realize it’s only going to get truer. 

I’m going away with Mr. DM for a few days–I’m not sure what my internet access will be like.  I hope to 1) answer all unanswered email that needs replies and 2) post something when I get back if not sooner.  If you haven’t gotten a reply to your email by the next time I post to this blog, and you would like one, please send me a gentle friendly reminder. 

And…oh yeah, it’s a girl.  :)  (NNR, I can hear you laughing from here!)  I can feel her kicking and squirming inside me, which is pretty cool.  I thought it would be freaky, but it’s not like that at all. 


Joe Dallas: “The Condition of Male Homosexuality”

December 19, 2007

(These are going to be pretty random and scatterbrained, mostly just a roughly fleshed out version of the sketchy notes I took and my reactions to them.  If you’re looking for highlights…I’d say those will be my reactions to Melissa Fryrear, Dale Dick Carpenter, and the Mike Haley / Jeff Johnston Q+A.)  

 IF you HAD to have a talk putting forward the standard developmental/reparative theory of male homosexuality, I don’t think you could get a much better talk than the one Dallas gave.

That’s a huge if, of course, but I want to start there.  This post is going to be devoted to the distinctives of Joe Dallas’ presentation on this subject.  I will deal with the developmental theories themselves separately.  It makes sense to me to do it that way, in part because I feel awkward “blaming” Dallas and Fryrear for the theories, and in part I want to address them more systematically than I can in a series of disjointed notes and comments on the speakers I heard.

 Dallas laid a decent groundwork, carefully distinguishing attraction (he used the word “orientation”) from behavior from identity.  I was pleased by this because I assumed that it meant the stage would be set for precise and honest discussions of sexuality throughout the rest of the day.  I assumed wrong, as most of the other talks suffered from the usual murkiness and confusion (exactly what about you has changed?  in exactly which respects are you no longer homosexual?)  but I don’t see that as Dallas’ fault. 

His discussion of biological vs. developmental factors was far more cautious and reasonable than what one generally hears.  He emphasized that for Christians, whether or not homosexuality is inborn shouldn’t really matter to us in deterimining our moral views on the subject.  He didn’t attempt to dismiss or refute biological/genetic theories (he called them “inborn theories”) in any way, and in fact one got the feeling he might be perfectly willing to accept that they might be true.  He did point out that in general the relevant studies haven’t been successfully replicated, and therefore so far there’s no powerful evidence that should compel us to adopt the “inborn theories.”  Which I think (I’m not an expert here) is true. 

Unlike Nicolosi, who I understand is quite big on universal generalizations, Dallas emphasized that the developmental picture is simply what they’ve frequently seen in their ministries and counseling, rather than what Science has Proven.  In this respect he came across as much humbler and saner than the “no exceptions” crowd.  He just said that he had observed the father-son relationship to be “problematic in a majority of cases.”  Of course, it’s still, um, “problematic,” to leap from this observation to an embrace of the developmental theory, but I was pleased by the display of humility nonetheless.

That’s what I appreciated most about his particular version of this talk.  Many exgays and exgay advocates I have heard often sound either indifferent to or incapable of understanding the various criticisms that have been thrown at their position over the years, in a way that generally makes me want to go bang my head against a wall.   It was great to hear from a guy who seemed aware that you just can’t run around saying that science shows that homosexuality isn’t inborn but is instead caused by a poor relationship with the same-sex parent and that anyone who believes otherwise has simply been duped by gay activists.    

The funny thing is he went on from there to simply present the developmental theory, as if none of his cautions and qualifications mattered.  I found this puzzling, and there are more and less cynical interpretations that can be put on it, but all I will say is that I found it really hard to understand.  Once you recognize that the theory probably doesn’t apply to 100% of cases, why would you devote 100% of your remaining time to talking about it?  Does Love Won Out have anything to offer the person or family who can’t find themselves in the developmental picture?  Along somewhat similar lines, I was surprised that a talk entitled “The Condition of Male Homosexuality” was devoted solely to discussing the causes of male homosexuality. 

 His particular description of the developmental factors which supposedly cause homosexuality was quite mild–nothing like the more sensational “Everybody’s been molested!” account put forward by Melissa Fryrear.  There was the usual flawed-relationship-with-Dad stuff, but none of the drama and none of the sordid tales of victimization.  You could imagine a parent wishing they’d done things a little differently after Dallas’s talk, but it would be hard to imagine them overwhelmed with horror, shame, or guilt.  I didn’t notice any absolute statments, nor did I notice him saying anything appalling about male homosexuality or gay men.  Contrast that with this report of Nicolosi’s performance.  If I were a gay man, I might have felt that some aspects of the talk were dumb, but I don’t think I would have felt insulted.

In closing, I’ll just mention two more concerns I had, places where I think Dallas was headed in the right direction but didn’t go quite far enough:

 1.  As I said above, Dallas was careful to belabor the point that the studies which suggest at least a partial biological/genetic origin have certain defects, have not been replicated, etc.  Yet he pretty much completely ignored the question of scientific support (as opposed to anecdotal support) for the developmental view.  It seems odd to me to offer a criticism of an opposing view that applies equally if not more so to your own.  To the best of my knowledge, the developmental-theory fans don’t even have a flawed, unreplicated study supporting their view yet.  (If they do, why aren’t they mentioning it?)  They dwell on the failure of science to fully support strictly biological/genetic theories, as if that in itself were support for their own theories.  Which hardly follows–the developmental theory doesn’t get to win by default!  I personally think (and this is a completely unjustified, unwarranted, unscientific, speculative opinion) that is quite likely that both the strict “inborn” and the developmental views are false. 

2.  Although Dallas acknowledged that the exgay advocates’ support for the developmental theories was based on their work with people who come to them seeking change, rather than a rigorous study, I would have gone further and pointed out some possible reasons why the self-reported childhood histories of people in exgay ministries/counseling may very well not to be representative of same-sex attracted people generally.

For one thing, it’s a self-selected group of people who are choosing to participate in ministries/counseling which are known hold to the developmental theories. I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that those who spend any time in exgay ministry or counseling are more likely to feel (or at least hope!) that developmental theories fit them.  After all, those who don’t feel they fit are likely to consider those approaches and the ministries that offer them a waste of time. For another thing, I would suggest that exgay ministries/counseling have a tendency to encourage a certain perception of one’s childhood experiences and parental relationships. Speaking personally, I know that I was coached to look at myself, my childhood, and my parents in a certain way by the exgay movement. Now, they might just be helping us to see what’s really there. Or they could be leading us to make a big deal out of all the ordinary imperfections of children and parents, and in some cases perhaps even something more unhelpful than that.  Anyway, my point is that there are excellent reasons for being skeptical of drawing conclusions about gays in general from observations of those who seek out and attend exgay ministries/counseling.  I think that being fully honest would require bringing this out clearly.


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