02 January 2008

Spiritual Sadism (Part One)

Abu Ghraib

In my previous post, I talked about how derogatory names like "f*ggot", "queer" and "d*ke" were murder weapons directed at Gay identity. Slurs aren't the only instruments of violence our oppressors use against us! There are entities called "ex-Gay" ministries that are even more brutal. You may recall that I've discussed them before (see my essay series "Authors Of Confusion").

Exodus, Love In Action, Courage International and other so-called Christian, so-called ex-Gay organizations exist solely for the purpose of snuffing out Transgender expression! This is impossible to do, of course, but they ram their heads (and ours!) against that brick wall as hard as they can. They lure vulnerable LGBT Christians into their heterosexist clutches with Old Testament doctrine (Bibliolatry). Then they perpetrate spiritual sadism on them using Scriptural distortion, various kinds of aversion therapy, gender role indoctrination, coerced heterosexual marriage and/or celibacy, and even phony exorcisms. They have no shame! Their objective is to terrorize Gay people into denying their true gender identities and sexual orientations.

For Lesbians, Gay men, Pansexual and Transsexual people of faith, these wicked groups amount to western Abu Ghraibs! Just like at that infamous Iraqi prison, sadistic jailers visit unspeakable cruelties on their inmates. Yet unlike the Abu Ghraib jailers, "ex-Gay" torturers commit their crimes under the premise of saving souls for God. In my opinion, that makes them the worst kind of criminals: Those who dare to do evil in the name of the Lord!

I can discuss "Ex-Gay" ministries as an observer of the carnage they leave: Shattered lives, broken families, suicide. Unfortunately, many people have been victims of that carnage, and can speak of them with an insider's knowledge. Peterson Toscano is one such person.

Peterson is an actor, poet and playwright. His horrendous past experiences inside the "ex-Gay" nightmare inform his current work as a Gay Christian activist. For years, he gave spiritual sadists permission to torture his psyche, confuse his sexual expression and pervert his understanding of Christianity. It took him nearly 20 years to realize that pursuit of heterosexuality was not the way to reach Heaven! In 1999, he was finally able to break free; God granted him courage to leave behind the fraudulent existence hetero-bigots had imposed on him.

Peterson poured his pain into several satirical one-man plays, one of which, Doin' Time In The Homo No Mo' Halfway House, he has performed to great acclaim throughout Canada, Europe and the USA. However, he was carrying around a lot of anger as well as pain, and he needed to channel it in a constructive way. He did so by starting an online support group for recovering "ex-Gay" victims. Co-founded with Christine Bakke in the summer of 2007, it's called beyondexgay.com.

It was there that I recently found an essay titled "'Ex-Gay' Harm: Let Me Count The Ways." Peterson wrote it, and while I don't agree with everything he says, it's still one of the most powerful testimonies I've ever read! With his permission, I've cross-posted it today on Christ, The Gay Martyr; the text has been edited for clarity. Please read it. Learn from it! Believe me, it will tell you everything you need to know about the blasphemy known as "ex-Gay" therapy:

In the past 4.5 years, I have been in contact with over 1,000 "ex-Gay" survivors. These are people who pursued "ex-Gay" experiences, either on their own, or more often, assisted by others like a therapist, minister (or) "ex-Gay" program. They attempted to change or suppress their sexual orientation, and may have referred to themselves as "ex-Gays" or simply strugglers, or by some other name.

Through hearing their stories . . . and in unpacking my own "ex-Gay" journey, I have begun to understand the many ways people can be harmed by their "ex-Gay" experiences. Many of us also received certain benefits from our "ex-Gay" experiences, but in most cases, the harm outweighs the good.

I realize that the "ex-Gay" experience is not the only culprit in bringing harm. The anti-Gay church and a homophobic society, and in many cases, one's own family contribute to the damage. But what the "ex-Gay" experience does is deepen that harm by offering hope for some sort of change or freedom. Led by sincere and caring people, our "ex-Gay" programs, therapists and ministers encouraged us, and because of their kindness and sincerity, we often pressed on long after we realized (that) it was not working. Only afterwards did we begin to understand the trauma we introduced into our lives as a result of submitting to "ex-Gay" experiences.

"Spiritual Sadism" continues with Part Two.

01 January 2008

Spiritual Sadism (Part Two)

Abu Ghraib

"Ex-Gay" experiences can harm us in several ways:

Emotional Harm . . . evidenced (by) feelings of shame, fear, stress, disappointment, exhaustion and rejection (especially when one is shunned).

Psychological Harm . . . manifested in the forms of depression, (the) suicidal tendencies, (the) post-traumatic stress, and in some cases, the triggering of a psychotic break.

Spiritual Harm . . . in the form of chronic discouragement, fear of God (Blogmaster's note: Here Peterson means terror, not respect) . . . loss of faith communities, and even of faith; distrust of spiritual leaders (and) a spiritual crisis of integrity and incongruence (due to) the constant message that you cannot be Gay and Christian.

Relationship Harm . . . through the loss of vital relationships or damage to relationships with parents who, believing change is possible and necessary, reject children who will not choose to be "ex-Gay" (and) who, through "ex-Gay" teachings, get blamed for their child's sexual orientation, thus creating tension between the child and parent (and also causing deep pain and shame for parents).

(Also) spouses/partners (are hurt) . . . partners of the opposite sex that we dated and married because we believed (heterosexual) life was possible, but found (that) it led to divorce and pain and loss for our spouse, ourselves and others, including children. (A) relationship with a current same-sex partner (can be) hindered, (too,) because of the shame and fear drilled into us by our "ex-Gay" experiences.

(Then there are) friends who we kept/keep at a distance . . . for fear that we (would) develop an emotionally dependent/enmeshed relationship or romantic/sexual relationship, (friends) who we rejected once we became "ex-Gay" (because) they represented a risk to the "ex-Gay" lives we pursued, (and friends) who rejected us because (of) the conditional nature of the friendship. Once we no longer identified as "ex-Gay" and a struggler, they ended the relationship.

Financial Harm . . . hundreds of dollars to tens of thousands of dollars (spent) on "ex-Gay" treatment, at seminars and conferences, and on books and tapes. Some parents refused to pay for college or even basic living expenses when a child would not attend an "ex-Gay" program.

Career Harm . . . some (of us) left careers considered "unsafe" for a struggler. (Others) interrupted school and careers to take a diversion into "ex-Gay" treatment.

Physical Harm . . . in the form of health issues triggered by stress and depression, leading to back problems, skin conditions, etcetera.

Sexual Harm . . . in the form of damaging sex education. Sexually naive people (many [of whom] never even had sex) learned about "Gay sex" from sex addicts who expressed their sexuality through risky and even illegal behaviors, often because of the shame and self-loathing they felt. ("Ex-Gay") program leaders, therapists and "testimonies" (transmit) negative messages about sexual expression between people of the same-sex, which can hinder people from enjoying . . . healthy, satisfying (sex lives) even after leaving "ex-Gay" treatment.

Developmental Harm . . . because of stunted growth in key areas while we focused our efforts on our "ex-Gay" experiences. Many of us stopped living our lives and diverted our limited energies into the "ex-Gay" process, thus hindering personal growth at vital developmental moments.

Those of us who have suffered and still suffer harm from "ex-Gay" experiences need not be victims. The process required to face the pain and loss and (to) unpack our "ex-Gay" experience takes time and support. It requires grieving and forgiveness . . . we (especially) need to forgive ourselves for the times we subjected ourselves to harmful "ex-Gay" conversion therapies and ministries.

We need not be stuck, though. Many have moved beyond their "ex-Gay" experiences and the damage (done) to embrace life afresh and forge new paths. They even have been able to salvage the good they gained from the "ex-Gay" experiences as they recover from the harm. For some of us, part of the process means looking at the list above in order to acknowledge and validate the damage we suffered.

When I feel discouraged about the many losses from my nearly two decades of "ex-Gay" living, I remind myself that I allowed myself to go through much of that mess. If I could get myself into all that trouble, I have the power and resources to get myself out.

Peterson Toscano has clearly been tortured! He exhibits signs of long-term abuse. When I read his essay, I could tell he thinks the charlatans who brutalized him had his best interests at heart! He can't see that it was their own best interests they were concerned with (for instance, those hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars in fees he mentioned)! I also discern that he blames himself for having fallen prey to quackery when it's clearly the quacks who were at fault!

At the same time, he blames himself for not converting to heterosexuality under the "kind" and "sincere" mistreatment he endured.  WTF?  As if that weren't bad enough, the man is desperately trying to find a silver lining in the fabric of his own victimization. What "benefits" and/or "good" could anyone possibly derive from having been confined in a torture chamber?

Peterson also hasn't yet come to grips with the fact that the word "queer", which he embraces, is a torture device! It was invented by bigots and it belongs to them, no matter how hard we may try to "reclaim" it. Whenever a Gay person calls him or herself "queer", but especially when an "ex-Gay" survivor does so, he or she commits an act of self-flagellation!

So now, instead of struggling to overcome homosexual desire, Peterson Toscano struggles to overcome internalized shame (as do we all, to some degree). Judging from this essay, though, he's definitely on the road to recovery. Maybe it will come sooner than he expects!

I'm sending out a Scriptural antidote to him in the form of the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 19, along with the Apostle Paul's powerful letter to the Galatian churches, with instructions to read both texts in a good modern translation. (Got that, Pete?) An extended visit to Faris Malik's Born Eunuchs website would probably do him good, too.

1: a sexual perversion in which gratification is obtained by the infliction of physical or mental pain on others (as on a love object)
2: (a) delight in cruelty (b) excessive cruelty
Definition taken from Merriam-Webster's online dictionary

Sadism + Bibliolatry = Spiritual Sadism! It's far worse than the ordinary kind! To put a cruel face on Christianity is to block the path souls must take on their way to Divine salvation! Self-identified Conservative Christians with a yen to abuse Gay people would do well to remember what the Savior taught:

MATTHEW 18: 6, 7, 10
If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of stumbling blocks! Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to the one by whom the stumbling block comes . . . take care that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I tell you . . . their angels continually see the face of my Father in Heaven.

Spiritual sadists can't hide their perversion from God, and on some level, I'm sure they realize as much! However, with help from sympathetic Right Wing media outlets, they've been fairly successful at hiding it from almost everyone else. Too many people nowadays are buffaloed by bogus Bible scholarship and fake piety! Yet thanks to crusaders like Peterson Toscano, Christine Bakke and their ever-expanding group of fellow survivors, they're finding it much harder to pass off "ex-Gay" ministries as benevolent institutions. Soon, everybody's going to know that they're nothing but Abu Ghraib prisons designed for LGBT souls!

Let's do all we can to stamp out this kind of torture! We don't need Congress to pass a new law; we just need the Gospels to be delivered in pure, unadulterated form. Anyone looking for resources to cope with "ex-Gay" trauma should visit Peterson Toscano's website:

Your healing process can begin there. Regardless of where the process begins, it will end at the feet of your benefactor, Jesus Christ.