A Powerful Three Days: After Documentary Interview Thoughts & Reflection

Thursday

Last Thursday I spent the day with Daniel Karslake. He and his excellent cameraman Doug Candler filmed my story for his upcoming documentary “For They Know Not What They Do.” It was an important conversation. Afterward, I was completely at peace. We covered a LOT of ground from my personal story to my perspective as the last Executive VP of Exodus on various ex-gay movement (past and present) issues. I am so grateful for Daniel. What an amazing man!

This was the first time being in front of a camera since working for Exodus. Almost every single time I did an interview in front of a camera back then, I would develop a migraine. With those interviews, I would obsess over every mumble or point missed. I would literally worry about it until it would finally air and then usually get depressed once it did.

Now I know that the migraines and depression stemmed from my own heart knowing that what I was sharing was forced and contrived. I believed what I was saying but in denial that my voice in those interviews was coming from a legalistically imposed idealized version of life; a life of unnecessary religious burdens and cultural stigma. I was living life in culturally conditioned shackles while telling myself I was free. Back then, the bright lights and probing questions revealed that I was living in stigma informed idealism as opposed to a healthy reality.

I was spiritually nearsighted not realizing their questions helped expose the need to start seeing things more clearly.

With Daniel, I am able to trust him because he really is a great guy. We have become friends over the past year. But whether I knew him or not, the interview would have been the same because I am finally free, come what may to be myself. My voice is truly able to sing its own song today.

Friday

Friday, Daniel and I decided the best place to be to avoid all things Inauguration would be Disney World. So that is where we went all day Friday. We had so much fun, but at one point in the afternoon, an HRC text alert hit my phone that afternoon saying that Trump had erased all the LGBT information from the White House website. He hadn’t even been in office for 6 hours and right off the bat… we’re gone. My heart sank, and I hugged Daniel (the documentarian), my Dan, Doug (cameraman), and Sheri (producer) for comfort. It was at that moment it really really sunk in that we in the LGBT+ community have to be very vigilant and not complacent or silent for the next four years. My heart is for issues of faith and ending conversion therapy, but as a local HRC Steering Committee member, I can also easily see how that carries over into public policy as well. I will be doing what I can to help HRC in their efforts.

Saturday

Saturday happened to be the fourth anniversary of the actual day our dear Michael committed suicide. Four years ago, I would find out about it a week later, but the 21st is the actual day he passed away. Once I was reminded of Michael’s death, I cried for hours. It hit hard again this year. Love and miss him so much. It wasn’t lost on me that only two days before the anniversary I had shared with Daniel how Michael’s death had helped rip my last remaining ex-gay blinders off. It isn’t healthy to play the “what if” game, but I wish I had been able to say to Michael four years ago what I had shared with Daniel last Thursday. It is my hope and prayer that Daniel’s documentary will help others find the hope, inspiration, and help they need.

Saturday evening came, and I pulled myself together. Dan (my Dan :)) and I went to a local HRC Orlando/Central Florida Fed Club event. There I saw an amazing young leader named Gabby Hubert share from her heart in a beautiful way. We also caught up with old friends, made many new friends, and enjoyed the evening.

Looking around at the crowd that had gathered, I did feel at home. This is my community. Biblical metaphor alert: Two years ago felt like I had risen from a grave. Saturday night, I knew that not only had I entered into a fullness of life that I have not experienced before, I no longer carry or wear any grave clothes; meaning nothing hinders or falsely defines me.

At one point I pulled Dan close and got emotional with the thought that maybe Michael could see us as he looked down smiling from Heaven’s coffee house (where else would he be?) and be happy for the freedom, community, and love we have found.

Conclusion

I have a voice and will speak my truth. It’s not in my nature to not speak up. Of course, I will do my best to be careful and gracious. That said, there are truths to be spoken, resources to promote and/or develop, life-giving and affirming community and individuals to invest in, and love to enjoy and share.

I am committed, more than ever, to engage all of this where I can and am able to contribute. This post is a personal reflection but I do plan on doing more blogging soon concerning specific topics that came up during the interview as well.

P.S. The featured photo at the top is of Daniel, Sheri, myself, and Dan.

Two Imporant Documentaries In The Works

lat-times-ad

Appeared in The Los Angeles Times on July 23rd, 2004. The caption says “I Questioned Homosexuality” byline says, “and when I discovered a way out, I took it.”

This past week I got serious about moving at the end of the month. I was packing, cleaning, donating, tossing, and finding surprises! As a part of all that, I decided to filter through about 20 years worth of paperwork (receipts, bills, taxes, old condo papers, etc.) In the process of digging through all this paper, I found a hard copy of The Los Angeles Times ad I was in on July 23rd, 2004.

The weird thing about July 23rd, it is a day that just sort of pops up in strange ways. On July 23rd, 1992, I went to my first Exodus group meeting in Arlington Texas. This ad was placed exactly 14 years, to the day, later. Then, 11 years after the ad, on July 23rd, 2013, I made a public apology to the gay community for doing things like that ad. I consider that apology my last “statement” as an ex-gay leader. I would lay myself off from Exodus, as a part of shutting it down, a month later. More about why I include this tidbit later in the post.

Seasons change, and one date I do not feel trepidation over 🙂 and love is January 12th, 2015. The next 1/12 will be my two year anniversary of coming out. Interestingly I will be interviewed in mid and late January for two different documentaries that I am excited for and want to tell you about.

At the end of January, I will be interviewing with Kristine Stolakis out of San Francisco. She describes her documentary as, “a documentary film exploring the history and ramifications of conversion therapy.” Her amazing bio reads in part,

Hello! I am a BAFTA nominated documentary filmmaker dedicated to making creative and diverse stories. I am a director at Paper Bridge Films, a documentary production company based in San Francisco.

Click here to read her full bio. I have thoroughly enjoyed talking with and getting to know Kristine. Love her heart, professionalism, and vision. All that, and she’s fun! She is flying into Orlando twice to do interviews and visit local places. Looking forward to her visits.

In Mid January, I will interview with award winning documentarian Daniel Karslake. Daniel made a documentary that drove me nuts back in 2007 called “For The Bible Tells Me So.” I was not a fan of the worldwide hullabaloo it generated at the time and never actually watched it (then.)

After watching his film last winter, I was so wrong. Daniel’s documentary is powerful and good. I highly recommend watching For The Bible Tells Me So.

Daniel and I have become friends over the past year. He is an amazing man, artist story-teller, with an incredible heart. His bio reads in part:

Daniel Karslake is an award-winning American director and producer whose highly acclaimed work deals with pressing issues of national and international social justice.

Click here to read Daniel’s full bio. He is doing a sequel to his first film and has titled it, “For They Know Not What They Do.”

From the director/producer of FOR THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO comes a new film that continues the conversation about the intersection of religion, sexual orientation, gender identity and the real definition of “family.”

Daniel sent out a film update last week. Click here for the PDF report and read all about where the film is currently at in its development. Please, after reading, consider supporting this project. Daniel and I have spoken in person several times when he has been in Orlando visiting friends and a few fundraisers. We have also had many conversations online. He is a genuinely great guy. I am really looking forward to the interview and helping his project in any way I can.

I included the photo of the LA Times ad at the beginning of this post because running into it this past week caused my heart to sink. Even so, it is a timely reminder that while I believe I was wrong back then, I’ve always been passionate about what I believe. Finding this ad reminded me to not shrink back; to continue to press forward and seek to make a positive difference. If I was willing to put a face to that side of the issue, I need to continue to speak up about how true freedom includes being honest with ourselves and others. Lend my voice to the truth that being gay is a blessing, a gift even. As a person of faith, I also want to share that Christ accepts us for all of who we are, including our innate relational state of being as LGBTQ people

My story is just one of many that can and will be told. It will take all of us sharing our stories in whatever way we can to make a loving impact for the greater good. Sharing our lives is one of the many ways we manifest beauty in the world and possibly help others navigate in healthy and safe ways. Sure, I would love to help others avoid the pain and confusion I went through. More importantly, I hope they experience abundant joy, overflowing grace, honest relationships, and the treasure of personal authenticity.

I spent many years talking about “freedom.” Now that I have finally found it, I want to share it in whatever ways open up to do so.

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