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, 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 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.
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.