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.

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