A Self-Proclaimed Ex-Gay SuperStar (Book Excerpt)

When Tony called the office, and on hold waiting to talk to me, I have to be honest; I did not want to talk to him … at all!

I mean not at all. Tony was an ass.

Not just an ass but a high maintenance let’s throw down in front of the whole country kind of an ass. Tony, not his real name to protect the mean, had been thrown out of our Exodus conference several years before because of yelling at and interrupting workshop teachers, plus being an ass to just about every person he met.

And now, after a few years here he was on the phone wanting to talk to Alan, at that time the new President of Exodus, but ending up talking to me.

I cannot remember the exact prayer before I picked up the line, but it went something like this:

Dear Jesus, please help me to not see Tony as an ass and for me to have the grace to not treat him like one either. Amen.

After taking a deep breath, I picked up the phone and said,”Tony, how are you?”

Tony talks fast, and he doesn’t need you to verbalize words to feel like he is having a conversation with you. Not only did he want permission to come back to our conference that summer, but he also proceeded to tell me we “needed” him to do a keynote address.

I was stunned. Tony is a man who insulted and threatened almost all of his peers. He burned every bridge imaginable and was now expecting us to make him a keynote speaker at our biggest yearly event.

I resisted the temptation to call him on the carpet for all the awful unresolved situations he created over the years and told him a truth that I hoped would get me off the phone faster. I said,”Tony, there are some issues we would have to resolve before that could ever be a possibility. Regardless, we have already confirmed all of our guest speakers.”

He replied by saying that we needed to make room for him to do something and to utilize him more often.  He took ten minutes to communicate that, but that is the essence. I told him, “again; we have some serious unresolved issues with you and how you treated many of our leaders. If you would like to work through all of that to reconcile our differences, that we can do, having you as a speaker of any kind at the conference is not something we can do.

Tony got mad.

He proceeded to recite to me his ex-gay leader resume. On and on about all the amazing things he had done to counter the evil gay agenda. I took a deep inaudible breath as he just kind of went berserk.

Randy I was an EXPERT in this field for years! I was one of the top ten ex-gays in the world for over a decade.

I laughed out loud. Like belly laughing. It was not even an option. It just struck me as extremely funny to think of a top ten ex-gay list.  Then my mind started coming up with all these criteria, and I just cracked myself up even further.

My guffawing response did not improve Tony’s disposition in the slightest.

Over my eventually stifled chuckling as I tried to stop laughing Tony asked angrily, ” WHAT are you laughing ABOUT?” I replied, “Top ten ex-gays? That has got to be one of the stupidest things I have ever heard. If you are going to be in the top ten of anything, why would you pick THAT list?”

He went off, and I apologized for laughing. When the conversation finally calmed down somewhat, I stuck to my boundaries of needing to resolve past conflicts before entertaining ideas of working with him again. I even convinced him to set up another phone call with me to try and do that.

The truth is that being “ex-gay” is such a rare novelty that even as an operationally defunct dysfunctional 47-year-old movement (at the time of this writing) we never really figured out what “ex-gay” actually means.  Plus, what being “ex-gay” did imply, you want to be in the top ten of that?

To go from 1976 when the founders of Exodus were simply trying to find their way to somehow Tony thinking he is some kind of ex-gay superstar is an incredible leap not based in reality but a product of what Exodus had become. Exodus was a niche ministry with cultural oppression and stigmatization of sexuality buried in its foundation. For all our smiling and hugs, Exodus was not a pure grace based approach to understanding the gospel for LGBT+ people.

As the culture shifted toward blessing the LGBT community as the morally acceptable and a beautiful expression of love it is, the voice of those with a stigmatized religious view of LGBT+ would prop up the Christian ex-gay worldview as the testimony de jour on Sunday or public policy battles. Ex-gay/Conversion ministry testimonies provided cover for ongoing systemic hatred within organized religion.

The church is waking up to the fact that it is not and never was acceptable to shun those of us who are gay.  That while there are nuances and a few unique issues that arise from being gay, the truth is that LGBT+ people can come to Christ, walk out our salvation as LGBT+ people in loving relationships and receive His Atonement and blessing.

Being gay and understanding how that plays out, and what it means in my life, through and through does not make me forever unique. The gay community for all its bravado and flair isn’t that different than the community at large. Humanity is humanity, frailty is frailty, strength is a strength, dignity is dignity, and love is love.

Remembering Tony while writing this has brought some sadness.  He passed away suddenly a few years ago and died way too young. I hate that my interactions with him were so contentious and I hate that he was used to stigmatize the LGBT+ community and found that a noble cause. I hate that he was in a place where he enjoyed thinking he was doing good by hurting himself and us.  I hate that he was propped up, rewarded by the activist right in the church, and validated for living an inauthentic life; that he went to the grave never having known peace with his Creator and sexuality in this life.

Mostly, I hate that the Exodus “product” was to produce false experts who could tell good stories that wrought so much hurt and devastation. It became about us, our projected idealizations being declared as facts and our carefully crafted message instead of God’s love and grace to LGBT+ people.

Confronting Ex-Gay Messaging: The Problem With “I Understand And Love You Because I Was One Of You…”

One of the reasons legalistic Christians support ex-gay/conversion ministries is because these ministries present themselves as “loving” and “kind” to the gay community because they have “been there.” Many directly state that they have an understanding of the “lifestyle” because they were once a part of it. The culturally driven church, not known for jumping at the chance to deal with the LGBT+ community directly in loving and kind ways, are more than happy to allow the ex-gays handle that for them. Especially if they do so in private meetings on a non-busy weeknight in the back of the church. These type of churches feel relieved to let someone else deal with “them” and try to convince themselves they are loving by supporting a ministry that does deal with “that challenging and complex issue” so they don’t have to do so.

The problem with the ex-gay trope, “I understand and love you because I was one of you…” is simply not true. If they understood us, they wouldn’t impose their narrative and experience on us. What they “understand” is how to convince themselves it’s ok to explain away our lives and experiences via their own beliefs and life experience. That works for their own bias affirmation and convincing the church they know more about the issue than they do. However, no one who has found congruence with their faith and sexuality believes for a moment that ex-gay/conversion ministry leaders have walked our walk or “lovingly understand” our experience with empathy.

Also, because of their experience among or around us, many of these ex-gay leaders honestly believe they know more about us and our spiritual state of being than we do. That’s not empathy, kindness, and compassion, that’s arrogance. And I say that as someone who used to say the same ex-gay/conversion mess for over two decades.

In my 20+ years experience in the ex-gay world, I rarely, if ever, met a person who had come to Exodus under good circumstances. Most were deeply conflicted from being raised in the systemic stigmatization of gay people, abuse, dysfunction and incredible emotional pain. Many felt forced into ex-gay/conversion ministries because of the threat of hell for eternity or hell on earth (lost relationships) or both. They may have had anonymous sex or flirted with gay bar party mode, but very few had ever actually had any semblance of a healthy relational LGBT+ affirming world-view before ditching it all and going the ex-gay route. Some, very few, actually had what might be considered long term loving and committed relationships. If we did recognize some good in past relationships and friendships, we were taught to minimize that as just “God being good even in our brokenness and darkness.”

The people who did have some sort of balanced and healthy perspective always left the ex-gay/conversion world quickly dealt with their real issues and went on to live as mature and healthy LGBT+ people today.

Ex-gay/conversion leaders are taught to present and see themselves as honest and loving examples of what the average gay person experiences and could/should look like. In conservative religious circles, they are given authority, moral support and sometimes a lot of money to impose their personal experience on the LGBT+ community as a whole. These ex-gay leaders are willingly scapegoated (by others and themselves) into representing all of the gay community’s “sins.” They are propped up as examples of how God views the LGBT+ community through the filter of this non-affirming person’s experience; in other words, they say God wants and will do for everyone in the LGBT+ what the ex-gay/conversion ministry leader says He did for them.

Here is an example of why that is a huge problem. I know of one woman who has written books, has gone on a lot of television programs, has plenty of speaking engagements and the backing of a high profile congressperson in Washington DC. She presents herself as an ex-lesbian who was once “gender confused.” She presents herself as a leading “expert” (her words in a video I watched) on sexuality and homosexuality in particular.

  • Did she ever go to college and earn degrees relating to human sexuality and relationship? No.
  • Does her brief stint, a long time ago, as a gender questioning lesbian make her an expert on male homosexuality? Bisexuality? Trans issues? Queer Theory? Etc…? No.
  • Do even her few years as a young adult with a dysfunctional relational approach to a few people make her an expert on lesbianism? No.
  • Does her experience as a Christian make her an expert on theology, church history, pastoral counseling? No.

The only thing she is an expert on is being able to tell a story the conservative church wants to hear, believe, and scapegoat. I have seen the trail of pain and hurt she and other ex-gay/conversion ministry leaders have left in their wake. I am still seeking to make amends for the hurt and suffering I caused during my years doing the exact same thing. They, we, were empowered to do so with a false sense of moral authority and the air of being “experts.”

In my own experience, I went around saying I had lived a gay life (even then I wasn’t thrilled with the word “lifestyle”) and Jesus had “saved me from brokenness and self-destruction.” I then imposed on that the belief that all of LGBT+ life was pointed in that same broken and destructive direction.

Yes, my experience before coming to Christ was horrible. It was an absolute nightmare in many ways. I OD’d on drugs, I got in terrible violent fights, I was abused, assaulted and used. But now I know that was not because I was gay. It was because I was a very hurt and lost soul. If I had been straight, I might not have suffered some of the assaults by strangers I experienced but the drug abuse and abusive relationships would have been with women and not men.

Today, I am an openly gay man again, and it is NOTHING like what I went through in the 1980’s. Also, getting out of the Ex-gay myopic version of the “lifestyle” has also shown me that the LGBT+ community is amazingly vast, complex, and as different from person to person as the rest of humanity is.

So, when an ex-gay/conversion ministry leader says, “I understand and love the gay community because I have been there…” Thank them for trying to understand but imposing their understanding of who we are and our experiences because of their own beliefs is not the same. It’s not an automatic pass on genuine empathy or even sympathy. Until you affirm me and my standing in Christ as one of His LGBT+ children, you do not understand me or what I believe.

If you consider yourself an ex-gay person, while I am sure we don’t agree on plenty of important issues, I am not condemning you for trying to find your way and honestly sharing your story from your perspective. My problem is those that are making a living off of false leadership/expertise on these issues; the ones trying to convince others that their story is everyone else’s filter on how to see and experience God.

The longer ex-gay/conversion ministry leaders are empowered by culturally driven conservative churches to impose their bias (bear false witness) on the LGBT+ community, they do not compel anyone to the grace and love of Christ. They will only continue to go on empowering religious stigma, cultural hatred, and public policy inequality.

The Treasure Is You, You Are The Treasure

I want to be in church right now, I don’t want to be in church right now; that’s the great ambivalence.

Plenty of people, myself included, detest the institutionalized and “branded” church for many good reasons. Yet, it’s The Treasure within those churches that I yearn for. I am not talking about the personal bank accounts funding the budget, beautiful modern or ornate fixtures, and trappings of this or that program or amenity.

I am talking about the real Treasure within the Church; you. I miss being with *you* on Sunday.

It’s worth repeating for emphasis, the Treasure is you. You are the Treasure. You are a Treasure to me.

Jesus didn’t die on the cross and rise from the dead to create an institutionalized fan club of alienated members singing in harmony while their hearts are in discord. His Atonement didn’t clear the way to the Father yet call us to obstruct fellowship, objectify heartache with cliched answers, and judge each other with worldly “us vs. them” thinking.

That’s why I as an openly gay man am not with you this morning. I am not able to get beyond the label placed on me of being one of “them,” today. My hurt and anger have led me to respond in kind in some ways; making it all the more hurtful.

When some think of the treasure within the church they quickly, and rightly, point to the parable of the “pearl of great price.” That’s all true. It is heartbreakingly awesome that we have a Savior who would go to such lengths to lead us Home. Also, if you have been a Christian just a short time, you know that parable also works in other ways as well. Including how it can be seen as showing us that the Treasure we have in Christ is worth everything as well. This post cannot be written without mentioning that; it’s of primary importance.

However, The Treasure I see is in you, as a peer; you’re worth transcends estimation. If I were looking you right in the eyes, I would say, with full belief and conviction, I *know* you are a treasure to this world and to the people you are in a relationship with. I love the song of your life. You are a Treasure regardless of what any of us, or maybe even yourself, see. Even favorable judgments of you aren’t enough, you are a magnificent mystery; a person even a God fell in love with.

When Jesus looked out at the people torturing and killing Him, He didn’t see a failed, murderous and hypocritical church; He saw The Treasure, His Bride.

You.

I am not Jesus. Thank God, literally, or we would have all been doomed during my first three-year-old tantrum. If we made it past that we definitely would have seen hellfire and brimstone the first time I tried to drive in Los Angeles traffic! I am not anywhere close to the suffering and pain Christ went through. Not anywhere near that, but the hurt and suffering that keeps me from wanting to sit next to you in a church today are something I need to take His lead in looking past. My past is checked with trying to live out something I wasn’t, but when I fell in love with the real Treasure within the Church, His Bride, that was genuine. I miss Her. I miss us.

I miss you.

My Spiritual Home is with Christ in my heart, but if He could see beyond His heart to the Treasure of you, I yearn to take my place next to you on Sunday mornings again.

Evangelical Political Idolatry Is A Threat To LGBTQ+ People: The Case of Roy Moore

The other day I was having a discussion with a friend about how LGBTQ+ people are deeply concerned about the political climate in America and how it will affect us now and in the quickly approaching future. What Roy Moore just said is a perfect example, a flashpoint, of why this is a dangerous time for our community. Here are some quotes from The Guardian article, “‘Maybe Putin is right’: Republican Senate frontrunner (Roy Moore) on Russian leader.”

In an interview with the Guardian’s Anywhere But Washington series, Moore also said that Ronald Reagan’s famous declaration about the Soviet Union being “the focus of evil in the modern world” might today be applied to the US.

“You could say that about America, couldn’t you?” he said. “We promote a lot of bad things.” Asked for an example, he replied: “Same-sex marriage.”

When it was pointed out to Moore that his arguments on gay rights and morality were the same as those of the Russian leader, he replied: “Well, maybe Putin is right.” He added: “Maybe he’s more akin to me than I know.”

Moore, who was forced from his job as chief justice after the Ten Commandments controversy in 2003, was later re-elected to serve as chief justice. His second stint as Alabama’s most senior judge also ended in controversy, after he was suspended in 2016 for refusing to obey the supreme court’s ruling on same sex marriage.

In his interview with the Guardian, Moore repeated his belief that Trump was put in the White House by God. “Everybody else thinks it’s the Russians,” he said. “I think it was the providential hand of God.”

For some context, the Russian “gay propaganda” law was passed in June of 2013. Since then, violence, kidnappings, and murder against LGBTQ+ people in Russia dramatically increased. They say the bill is to “protect children” Which is hogwash. The bill was meant to threaten and intimidate LGBTQ+ people into silence and appeal to social conservatives and religious activists. Because of this law and the oppressive systemic homophobia that produced it,  our brothers and sisters in Russia literally face the threat of death.

This is the public policy/leadership induced anti-lgbtq climate Roy Moore feels akin too.

In the late ’80’s I was violently attacked by two homophobic men. If it weren’t for two lesbians coming to my rescue, I am not sure what would have happened. The first time I was out in the ’80’s and early ’90’s I had guns pulled on me as I left gay bars. While not nearly as bad as decades before, I do know what it is like to live with a pervasive sense of fear outside our little gay safe havens. The LGBTQ+ community has come a very long way in 30 years, but there are plenty of people like Roy Moore who believe that stigmatizing my core relational sense of being is ok. They believe it is more than appropriate to disenfranchise us from the public and political realms because of who we love. They demonize (literally) my relationship with my partner, our future, and feel like it is ok to describe our relationship and family as a force of evil in the world.

And these addicted to power evangelicals are the people in power, bending the ear of the President, right now.

Roy Moore and evangelicals like him won’t be the ones who round us up for jail or worse, but they will create an environment I had experienced before, where I was sitting bleeding into the snow being comforted by my roommate and two lesbians while the police took my attackers word saying I had “hit on them” romantically (not true.) The police then laughed at me saying “I deserved it (the beating).” When you stigmatize, demonize, and disenfranchise, evil is the result.

When you stigmatize, demonize, and disenfranchise, evil is the result. When you prioritize political power and idolize government over loving your neighbor as yourself, evil is the result.

We cannot and will not let Roy Moore help usher in the environment where LGBTQ+ people have to live in silence and fear. I pray that good hearted people of Alabama will not elect him to the Senate and that we start right now with plans to overhaul Capital Hill in 2018.

Please also continue to support, love, and pray for our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters in Russia.


Hat tip: Eva Kendrick and Photo Credit to NPR.

An Extra Seat At The Table (Memoir Excerpt)

(Excerpted From Chapter 3, Memoir)

At one time in my young adult party years, I was renting a couch (not a room, or apartment, a literal couch) for $40 a week. That’s when an unusual situation arose.

“Randy, you GO to that bible study!” was the somewhat loud and earnest voice coming from the phone. It was my Mom. She had called to see if Bruce had called me yet. Bruce was a guy I used to work with at the grocery store when I was sixteen. He is a stoic kind of quiet guy. He was built like a tank, awesome laugh, and would do just about anything to help anyone out. I had a crush on him for a while when we worked together. The reason my Mom was calling is that he looked her up in the phone book and called her asking about me. Apparently, he had prayed, and I was “on his heart.”

Bruce is SO Christian; so very Baptist-y Christian… bless his big ‘ol handsome heart!

So as my Mom was exhorting me to go to the Bible study, I told her, “sure, I’ll go.” She thought that was a good thing. I was thinking of Bruce’s good looks and only wanted to go so I could hit on him.

It’s true. I was only willing to go because of Bruce’s blue eyes, dimples, and straight up lust.

Bruce did call. I can even remember his voice all these years later. He did invite me to a Bible Study/potluck dinner he was having and offered to pick me up since I didn’t have a car.  The first few times we arranged for me to attend, I stood him up. Either I was still passed out from the night before or higher than a kite and couldn’t manage myself much less a conversation. He never got impatient, and I did eventually go to a couple of his group gatherings.

Nothing I did would sway him from his peaceful demeanor or get him to notice my flirtations. Oh and I tried! He would just laugh or joke around. When I went to the first dinner, I drug along one of my nonbinary gender friends. He was quite nervous, at first, about the whole thing. I told him, “NO wear your makeup. Let’s freak them out and laugh about it later.” He was game, so we went.

Don’t forget, this was the ’80’s.

After pulling up to the house, Bruce went ahead while we walked slower to the door. I extra Duran Duran’ed my hair. Got a larger hoop earring with a cross on it and while I didn’t prance or skip … I was as stereotypically gay as I could get on purpose. I hated Christians at the time, I wanted to shock them, and was only there to hit on Bruce.

I opened the screen door; the main door was already open. There were clanking dishes and about 15 to 20 adults and kids around. I was kind of hoping the women would shriek and run to gather their children in horror as the men formed a protective barrier between their tribe and us.

I was SO full of stereotypical expectations.

What happened was … nothing. My friend put his purse and coat down with the others at the front door. I decided to keep my jean jacket on. The kids went screaming by, and there was the sound of laughter as they tackled one of them, more dishes clanking, and soda pop being opened.

Then the lady of the house came up to us and said, “WELCOME! So glad you could make it. Randy! Right?!  It is nice to meet you finally. Bruce told me you both worked together at one time. Come on in and blah blah blah; We are going to pray for the meal and blah blah blah.”

As I sat there eating my not that bad spaghetti and garlic bread, I watched my gender fluid friend, the only black person in the house and the only male wearing bright blue eyeshadow and lip gloss. He was having a great time talking to everyone. I began to think that maybe I had misjudged these Christians.

Later, we circled up in the living room where the Bible Study began. They started reading a chapter from the bible. They passed the bible around from one person to the next. We were to read 1 to 3 verses. I thought for sure they would skip us. I am not sure why I thought this, but when the teen girl next to me handed me the bible, I was a bit shocked. I have no idea what I read, but I do know I read three verses … with extra enunciated eloquence of course. I then passed the bible to the friend who came with me, and again, he looked like he was thoroughly enjoying the whole thing.

After the reading and the teaching we prayed. Well, they prayed, and I watched them through my squinted eyelids.  During one prayer, one of the women referred to God as “Abba.” Not being raised in the church (except for 6 months of trauma with Brother Paul), I went up to her later and said, “Why did you call God ‘Abba’? The only Abba I know is the 70’s disco group…You know, ‘Dancing Queen?’” And she just laughed. Thank God she was honest and comfortable enough to laugh. With sweet eyes full of merriment she said to me “I call God, our Father, Abba because it’s a term of endearment. Abba is like saying, daddy. God loves us like a daddy.”

Right then her eyes turned from merriment to genuine compassion, and my heart was pierced through with that concept. I had never had a “Daddy” or at least one I would be “endeared” to. I credit this event, Mella’s compassion, and the Christians in Daytona as being the tipping points for my coming to Christ a few years later. I didn’t come to know Jesus that night, but I did come to know a different side of His people than I had ever thought was possible.

They were life-giving people, not shaming or ashamed of my “lifestyle” people.

Imagine a three-story high heart made of moss-covered stone and 100 feet in diameter. This stone heart battered by howling winds and driving rain. Many earthquakes have threatened to shatter this invincible hard heart, and yet it always remained, unmoved. Now imagine lightning hitting that hard heart as the teen girl next to me passed the bible; a tiny crack runs down the middle and burns away the moss. Then, at eye level to the ground, a chunk falls away. If you were to walk up and look into the now visible hole and squint, you would see in the distance a small light carrying the promise of the new creation I would become. … and the echo of a soul crying.

That night freaked me out. I now see it as a positive but back then I didn’t know what to think about it except I did pray my first honest prayer afterward. It consisted of one short little sentence to God, “Help me, please.” My friend who went with me, of course, thought it was great, that they were friendly people with good food.

Most importantly, this group of Christians allowed God to love them so they could love my friend and me without any strings, and without any pressure. I somehow knew then that they trusted and loved God, that they cared for strangers. They were hospitable, open, and funny. I was safe to receive their fellowship without fear or hostility. It made a big difference and opened my heart to consider the issue of Christianity differently.

Regardless of where you are on the spectrum of belief concerning God’s LGBTQ+ children, do you have an extra seat at your table?

Unexpected Grace Comes To Visit: The Parents

The knock on the door was surprising. It was the middle of the day during the work week. I was in the back of the house so couldn’t see who was at the door through the living room windows but I expected it to be Jehovah’s witnesses or maybe the postman dropping off a package from Dan’s Mom. She likes to send care packages.

I was in my huge baggy shorts, Chewbacca style hair and “Straight Outta the Closet” super gay t-shirt.

I opened the door, and there stood my Mom. My socially conservative Mom. My Mom that I haven’t talked to in a while because of her reluctance to want to see or acknowledge Dan and that I am gay.

Her beautiful brown eyes, “Hi Honey! Surprise!”

I was floored, and the house was a level 4 wreck, Plus, just greeted my Mom while wearing a super-gay t-shirt. I told them to come in, forgive the mess and I would go change my t-shirt.

“Don’t you worry about it…” was their response. “We didn’t call so don’t you worry about a thing…”

And while I refused the temptation to flip the photo of Dan and I smooching over on the table by the door, I did go change my t-shirt.

They visited, asked me about work, and we did actually talk about Dan and Autumn a bit. They spent a LOT of time telling me how great my paintings were and how much they liked “Life Flow.” Then they took me to Jeremiah’s bar and grill for lunch. Over not the healthiest but definitely excellent food, we caught up with their health, hobbies, and family. The most awkward thing was how not awkward it was.

For reasons I won’t get into here, I *never* expected them to ever want to visit Dan and my home; yet here they were sitting in the living room talking about how nice the house is. I almost pinched myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.

Unexpected grace, indeed.

As they pulled out of the driveway to head back to Lakeland, it was my turn to stand on the porch waving as they left. I was holding Mom’s other half of her French Dip sandwich she gave me to have for lunch today. It was a warm feeling that accompanied my walk back into the house; it empowered the smile on my face.

It’s tempting to want to analyze the visit. To read something into what happened and figure out “what it means…” Maybe it’s my age and experience, but I want to just enjoy it. To store it away as a charming and pleasant visit. When they say they love and are proud of me, I believe them.

Maybe next time I won’t change my super gay t-shirt. 🙂


  • The featured photo in this post is an older one of my parents and me taken about a month before I came back out in January 2015.