About The New Job(s) & Non-Profit Development (Update)

Good morning! Working at the grocery store has been havoc on my schedule the past few weeks (Thanks, Thanksgiving :)). However, with a new full-time job coming up on the 15th I will have a fixed schedule (mostly) and can get back to regular blogging and continue to develop the new Non-Profit. I got the go-ahead this morning that the last detail needed before launching the non-profit is in place. Now I just have to build the website and work on the public presentation :).

It’s been a challenge finding my way through all the work situations, working on the non-profit, living in Mount Dora, and getting used to being a 10-year-old girl’s Fairy Godmother while in my first honest/healthy “long-term” dating relationship …lots and lots of change. Sometimes I feel like a bull in a China shop tromping around. Even though I feel that way (again, just sometimes) I look around and I’m just me, being fully honest, living the life I was created for and in the environment I am supposed to be in.

I’m not looking for others to open doors, approve of, or give permission any longer. I don’t live in fear or idealism; simple reality.

And, the reality is, life is beautiful. I wouldn’t want it any other way. Have a great day!

 

Embracing My Inner Grocery Store Stock Clerk

Kristine and crew filming Dan and I leaving the house for our 1 Year Date-Anniversary Sunday night.

A little over a month ago I started working part-time at a very well known grocery store stocking shelves. Last week and this week I have been crosstraining in cashiering, lottery and working their liquor store. I have mentioned that I got a new part-time gig on social media but haven’t mentioned the specifics until now because, quite simply, I was embarrassed.

I now realize that’s just …stupid. I have no reason to be embarrassed!

This week, when I am not working at the store I have been working on my non-profit and social media consulting (as usual.) Kristine Stolakis has been filming Dan and my one-year date-anniversary and my efforts to form this new non-profit. Of course, being a documentarian, she wanted to include my working at a grocery store. When the subject first came up I was very “NO” about it.

Why “No!”? Aside from my own vanity, there is no doubt in my mind that my former friends and now enemies in the ex-gay world will guffaw and laugh at my stocking shelves. Especially after so many years as an Executive Director of a local ministry and the EVP of Exodus. Or they will say that I have been demoted because of God’s judgment or something equally ridiculous. Indeed, even current offline and LGBT+ affirming friends have had hard to take reactions. One literally had to stifle laughter when I told them through my own derisive description. Another friend actually looked like she got angry and outright shamed me for “settling;” on a slighly different note, another told me I shouldn’t say anything publicly until “it was over” because they were afraid people would attack or judge me negatively.

Remember those last three examples are people I love and still love. But the one that was stifling laughter woke me up. I walked away ashamed of how vain I was being and how really self-loathing it was to denigrate myself for having to wear an apron and name tag. That it is an honor to have a job (I actually have three now). I have no reason to have anything but gratitude in my heart.

I am creating the non-profit simply because it is an organization that needs to exist in the world to help others… period. Whether I am ever actually paid staff or not isn’t the point… this org MUST exist. So, I need a part-time job now (along with my consulting) to free up the space needed to concentrate on getting the non-profit going in a thoroughly solid “well-built” way.

During this time in our (Dan and my) lives, we are struggling financially, big time. And, interestingly, potential employers aren’t super impressed with former “ex-gay” spokespeople and leaders. I have literally sent out hundreds of resumes to “dream jobs” or even parallel (skillset-wise) jobs and have gotten mostly crickets chirping. However, many of the interviews that did happen were just … awful. Trying to explain my management experience to dazed and confused “What the hell is Exodus?” looks is not fun.

So, to the grocery store, I go. And honestly, I actually love working at the grocery store. It’s hard work! Plus, you really do have a sense of accomplishment at the end of the shift. I get to interact with people the entire time and holy cow… something incredibly funny or weird happens every shift. If you are local and happen to walk into a grocery store and hear some really bad under my breath Mariah Carey Karaoke going on over on aisle 8…that’s probably me :).

“Randy, could you please put your apron on again so we can film it from a different angle?” was Kristine’s question as I was getting ready for my shift yesterday. I did as asked and when we were talking about it I told her something to the effect that working at the grocery store is something I simply have to do during this time in my life. It’s part of what it means for me to live an authentic life right now. I also shared that I would rather stock shelves living an honest life than flying around the country living and promoting a lie. I’d rather laugh with the “Oh, my, Gahhh…” cashier in the break-room over some silly joke her best friend told her than sit in some private conference green room stroking another hypocrite’s ego.

Since coming out, I’ve never hidden any part of my life. Not going to start now.

How long will I be a grocery clerk? As long as it is needed to help keep the lights on and my family fed; as long as I believe God wants to use it to continue to teach and guide me through this season of life. As I walked across the big parking lot and into the store yesterday, with the camera crew filming from the car in the parking lot, I honestly thought I felt the Spirit say, “There’s no shame in this walk. It’s an honor to work here. Proud of you.”

Oh and if you need help finding *anything* in our store… I got you,

The Quiet Coup: Trump Sold His Soul to The Religious Right, Not The Other Way Around

Photo Credit: NPR

From 2003 to 2008 I would attend frequent meetings of a group called “The Arlington Group.” They were the religious right leaders of the time (some still remain the main figureheads of their respective organizations.) We went to the meetings at the Family Research Council’s building about once a month and would be in the same room as Jerry Falwell, James Dobson (Focus On The Family), Charles Colson, Tony Perkins (Family Research Council), Don Wildmon (American Family Association), Ted Haggard (before his “fall”), reps from the Alliance Defense Fund and any Christian group, media outlet, or activist with a national audience. I forgot to mention that Kellyanne Conway was a part of that group, too. I met her there several times.

We also had special guests from time to time like Senator Rick Santorum (or his reps), then Senator Sam Brownback (or his reps) and other congress person’s representatives like say, then Congressman Mike Pence. When lobbying we went to Pence’s office to share our “ex-gay” stories modified to oppose LGBT+ equality. Pence’s staff weren’t as nice, honestly, as Hillary Clinton’s staff when we did the same with her office.

Last Friday, I saw Trump on the hellivision screen with all those Arlington Group members logos behind him. He was speaking at their annual Pep rally called “The Values Voters” Summit. I have been to that Summit a couple of times, and I know exactly what goes on at the conference as well as behind the scenes. When I heard Trump praising Tony Perkins, effusively, I literally had to walk out of the room. Dan got an ear full of colorful language about all of it as I did. He very sweetly turned the channel, but I was fuming.

For decades this group or their predecessor, the Moral Majority, were always trying to secure a place at the table where they call the shots in public policy. That’s what I saw when I was a part of that group. However, at the moment I walked out of the room last Friday, I realized, they aren’t trying to win a place at the table to have a say in the process, they won the whole table. The Relgious Right won. They finally got exactly what they wanted; power at the highest levels. Lots of my friends are worried about Outrageous Trump trying to distract us from Bumbling Trump. In truth, I believe the Religious Right empowered him to distract us from them and their quiet coup.

It appears they didn’t sell their soul to Trump, Trump sold his to them. Up until this moment, I thought they had compromised their values to have a seat at his table. Now I believe he was manipulated into handing the full boardroom over to them as long as he gets to sit in the big chair.

Everyone seems to think that it was Trump’s charisma that won over the blue-collar workers and rural Americans that offered him the opportunity to be in the White House. I believe he wouldn’t have had a chance with that part of our country without the Arlington Group (or whatever they are calling themselves nowadays.) It’s hard for me to believe that these conservative cultural Christians voted for Trump because of who he really is, they voted for him because of how the religious right helped Trump reframe and reposition himself to them. He went from being a filthy rich, narcissistic, abusive, New York elitist into “God’s man” for the job. None of that would have happened without this particular groups influence. Speaking of Kellyanne Conway, she is brilliant regarding stats, polling, and drilling down to impact local races in a way that affects the larger elections. People make her out to be a parroting caricature… she is anything but.

I was not a “principal” player in The Arlington Group, but I was present during quite a few arguments and many planning sessions. I know they interviewed ALL the Republican candidates in the 2008 election cycle except Romney because he declined to meet with them. If I were him, I wouldn’t have met with them either. As far as I knew, I was the only one in that room that supported him during that election cycle. They met with the candidates in these secret meetings to decide on who to unify the Arlington Group around. Their infighting over that primary season is only one of many reasons I didn’t want to be a part of that group any longer, and we (as members from Exodus) made our exit shortly after.

One big thing I learned though is this, these leaders do not think in “short-term goals.” They play the long game. However, they did it, whether a Sanhedrin council style interview or conference, I have zero doubt in my mind that when Trump agreed to hire Kellyanne Conway and make Pence his VP, he sold his soul to them and not the other way around. I am still convinced that their end game isn’t to support Trump for 4 to 8 years… they are in this to eradicate as much LGBT+ and what might be seen as socially liberal public policy as possible and for an eventual President Pence.

There are all kinds of issues for LGBT+ people to be concerned about. From the very first moments of the Trump Occupied Oval Office, they have been trying to erase LGBT+ equality and silence our voices. I am convinced that Trump really doesn’t care about anything more than Trump, but I don’t think he understands all the incremental steps needed to try and erase us from full equality in every sector of public policy and culturally. The Arlington Group does, they have been studying it for years. They initially formed the group as a response to abortion and the “homosexual agenda.” They have a track record of every “win” and “loss” from the grassroots on up for decades now. They aren’t playing, and we don’t need to write them off as self-defeating activists or underestimate their abilities and determination.

Now, from this must-read article in The New Yorker:

When the conversation turned to gay rights, Trump motioned toward Pence and joked, “Don’t ask that guy—he wants to hang them all!”

I don’t believe Pence literally wants to hang us all. I don’t think the Arlington Group would want that either. However, the environment they are crafting behind the scenes will seek to silence our voices, erase us from the culture, boot us out of churches, disenfranchise us from equal protection and standing in public policy. This, in turn, creates a pass for people to hurt and punish us like they have in the past; sometimes with violence.

The modern-day equivalent of the old Arlington Group won’t be the ones creating the nooses, but while they will be sure to put on blinders in the process, I have no doubt they would be very glad to take the votes from those who do.

Liberty Counsel And Kim Davis Now Exporting Fake Victimhood And Stigma

First, a very brief bit of history. My experience with the Liberty Counsel goes back to 2002. My very first effort as an “ex-gay” leader to enter the public policy realm was attending a meeting they coordinated to oppose the local Orlando City non-discrimination ordinance. After that, I saw them in action plenty of times because at the time I was in agreement with them; I was willing to adapt my testimony to fit their talking points and agenda. I am heartbroken each time I remember being against the very community I am now in love with; against my very neighbors. As they say, now that I know better I intend to do better. The last I heard from Mat Staver was a private message from him being “disappointed” in me and my post “The South is My Home, Too.”

I never purposefully insult or disappoint people for the sake of insulting or disappointing people. However, no one has a right to not be offended. I don’t seek to, but don’t mind offending the Liberty Counsel and those who profit from stigmatizing, disenfranchising and seeking to oppress LGBT+ people.

Enter the infamous Kim Davis. The conservative Christian government official who refused to do her job issuing marriage licenses to LGBT+ people out of “religious conscience.” She was rightfully punished as an agent of the state for abusing her position to execute her will instead of the will of the highest level of US government (the judicial branch is EQUAL in its authority to the other two branches). She abused her position by inserting her religiously stigmatized views instead of serving the people she was appointed to serve. She is not a victim as some paint her to be. She is an abuser. Anyone who reinforces stigma and dehumanizes LGBT+ love and relationships is being abusive. It’s even worse when those with government positions of power use their bigotry as a reason to prevent equality and freedom.

It’s even worse when those with government positions of power use their bigotry as a reason to prevent equality and freedom.

From firsthand experience, I know The Liberty Counsel knows exactly what to do with a negative attention seeking person who falls in line with, personalize, and regurgitate their agenda. Negative attention seeking can be very good for free earned media which then brings in more revenue to the organization.

Now it seems the Liberty Counsel is by her side in Romania stoking anti-gay fires once again. Their purpose?

Davis and Mihet (Liberty Counsel’s vice president of legal affairs and chief litigation counsel) are holding conferences in Romania’s largest cities, according to the release. The two have already met with two Archbishops of the Orthodox Church.

“Their message is simple and based upon the recent lessons learned in the United States: same-sex ‘marriage’ and freedom of conscience are mutually exclusive, because those who promote the former have zero tolerance for the latter,” the release said.

Speaking of “fake” things, this is a fake argument used to reinforce fear-based stigma against LGBT+ equality. Marriage equality is the law of the land. The United States Constitution, while recognizing God in a few places is primarily built on secular principles to provide equality for all. The Constitution does not give government workers who are Christian a “right” to pick and choose who they will serve or not. It’s not intolerant to tell any government worker they aren’t allowed to pick and choose the fair and equal application of settled law.

As a matter of conscience, if a person can’t fulfill their role as a government employee, they can and should go find another job that wouldn’t require them to subordinate their beliefs. No one is telling Kim Davis what to think. We can tolerate her right to believe whatever she wants to believe. What we won’t tolerate is the Kim Davis’ of the world abusing their government positions by disenfranchising and stigmatizing gay people.

I hope the people of Romania have open eyes to see that Kim Davis isn’t a Christian ideological martyr but a fake victim. Let’s hope they see that she chose to act in a way that is obvious bigotry and has no place in the creation and implementation of public policy. I hope Liberty Counsel’s presence there is an indication of their waning influence here. More importantly, I hope Romanian hearts open wide to the truth that LGBT+ people, our love, and our desire to be in equal standing with the rest of our community, is a way we bring God-honoring beauty into the world.

May Kim Davis and the Liberty Counsel come home from Romania to find an empty audience here, and no impact there.

Being free is good,


Photo Credit: Lexington Herald Leader

Equality Florida: “Former ‘Ex-Gay’ Leader Warns About The Dangers of So-Called ‘Conversion Therapy'”

Last week I had the honor of submitting testimony to the Miami-Dade Board of Commissioners recommending passage of a policy banning conversion therapy for minors. Unfortunately, they did not pass the ban, and LGBTQ+ youth will continue to be forced into abusive counseling that starts from a damaging and false premise that they are somehow broken. These youth deserve better and should receive counseling that is genuinely healthy in affirming them for who they are; counseling that will equip them to enter the future with healthy confidence, not closeted shame.

As a result of the testimony I submitted and read by a new friend Joey McKinnon (with Faith In Public Life), Equality Florida invited me to do a guest blog post and posted it here.

Here is the post in full but please visit Equality Florida and Faith In Public Life to learn more about these fantastic organizations. Also, thanks, Rev. Terri for making the connection for me to be able to be a part of this effort to protect LGBTQ+ youth and their families.

“Former ‘Ex-Gay’ Leader Warns About The Dangers of So-Called ‘Conversion Therapy'”

(Last) Tuesday, the Miami-Dade Board of Commissioners rejected a proposed ban on conversion therapy, a harmful practice I can speak to all too well. After 23 years in the conversion therapy and ex-gay world I tried everything to change my sexual orientation as a gay man, nothing worked. I was a respected “ex-gay” leader, an ordained minister, as well as the Executive Vice President of Exodus International and spoke out frequently about “change” and “freedom from homosexuality.”

Then the blinders were ripped off when I lost a dear friend of 23 years to suicide in January of 2013 becfause he couldn’t “pray away the gay.” I had to come to grips with the fact that even though I had tried everything, taught and spoke all over North America on the topic, what I had believed in was a destructive lie; nothing had changed my sexual orientation, and all I had accomplished was a self-destructive behavioral modification. Even worse, I spent a large part of my adult life reinforcing religious stigma against LGBTQ+ people. It breaks my heart to admit that but it is true, and today I seek to do better now that I know better.

Conversion therapy is not therapy; it is deadly religious stigma hiding behind the big smiles and open arms of licensed counselors dishonoring their profession. It’s bad enough for adults to be manipulated into thinking that being LGBTQ+ is “broken” and conversion therapy is their only option, but to inflict this stigmatized worldview on children is child abuse with devastating results to the family and possibly the child’s well-being. It is not in the best interest of this governing body to allow licensed counselors to inflict what even their peers in every mainstream medical and mental health organization have debunked.

As stated, with over 20+ years in the ex-gay/conversion therapy world, and in my role at Exodus International seeing countless numbers of people desperate to find answers, I know that what is being offered by conversion therapists is not a viable “self-determined” path. LGBTQ+ children should be affirmed and celebrated, not shamed and condemned. I plead for any and all appropriate governing agencies to ban conversion therapy for minors; it is in the best interest for Miami, any city, any state and even the Federal government to do so. More importantly, to ban conversion therapy for minors will save the lives of some LGBTQ+ youth.

In June 2013, I helped to make the case to the Board of Directors of Exodus International that not only had Exodus failed its mission. It had become a tool of destruction. The Exodus Board unanimously voted to shut down Exodus, and we did so the summer of 2013. I came back out on January 12th, 2015 and while subsequently lost my post as a pastor, I currently live with my partner and his daughter in Mount Dora, Florida. I want to continue to educate others about the dangers of conversion therapy and help those who are caught in it to leave that world and to heal.

Being free is good,

Clearing The Way for New Growth

As a senior attending Brentwood High School, we had one English teacher that loved to compare her red editing pen to an ax. She enjoyed chopping away at our essays and homework to “cut out all the deadwood.”

While her red pen nearly induced panic attacks when she handed our assignments back to us, I appreciated her wise counsel and teaching style.

I only had her as a teacher for a little while before being transferred to another teacher (I forget why). I think her class sizes were far too large. Even though the new teacher was much easier, I missed Ms. Ax. She wasn’t the nicest teacher, but she was the most helpful in explaining the importance of well-crafted words and their impact on the reader. While Ms. Ax’s edits hurt, I knew she knew what she was talking about. Every sentence she annihilated ended up giving way to something much better than before; every deleted unnecessary word, sentence, or paragraphs made room for the necessary, relevant and compelling. Rather quickly, she started having me find the “deadwood” by pointing to a sentence and saying “That’s not going to work. Cut out the deadwood!”

The photo at the top of this post was taken when I went for a jog the other night. It was one of the many huge trees that fell during Hurricane Irma. Ms. Ax’s voice popped into my head about “Cut out the dead wood!”  This thought brought up the good memories written so far in this post, but that challenge to “cut out the deadwood” can be a metaphor for cutting out shaming and condemning messages that have been grafted in or forced into our story.

For those of us leaving legalistic Christianity, there comes the point where we endured the storm to come out of the closet and find the house is a wreck! That while we have authentic freedom now, our old beliefs or someone else’s storms have left behind a lot of damage.  We might have to muster up some courage to take a good look around and assess. Perhaps it is time to remove the deadwood that is filling up our lives with the curses, or even current damage, of stigmatized words. Unnecessary and intrusive words that seek to write our story for us instead of allowing our voice to bring about authentic life and health.

We may look around and realize these examples of “deadwood” are still seeking to damage us.

  • For God to love you, you have to be celibate, go to ex-gay/conversion therapy. = Deadwood (a lie).
  • For you to be healthy and whole, you have to reject who you are. = Deadwood (a lie).
  • There is no such thing as a gay Christian. = Deadwood (a lie).

Examples of Vibrant & Lifegiving truth.

  • You are an LGBT+ Child of God whom He loves yesterday, today and forever. It’s not based on what you do but who you are. = Vibrant & Life-giving
  • To affirm who you are as an LGBT+ Child of God can be one of the healthiest actions you can take. = Vibrant & Life-giving
  • There are Gay Christians because Jesus Christ does not discriminate. Other people do not get to decide who is and who isn’t a Christian. Stigmatized views of LGBT+ people have had their say, and now it is time for us to speak up. = Vibrant & Life-giving

For some of us, it’s time to cut out the dead wood and clear the way for new growth. It is time to uproot the shaming and condemning messages, we have been conditioned to believe about ourselves. It’s time to reclaim the space within our own state of being and take back our stories. In doing so, we will find our own voice and a loving God who will help us to find the words that truly fit in with the way He created us to bring beauty into the world.

What messaging is keeping you from living a full and authentic life? Are there views and beliefs that continue to create or reinforce damage? What needs to go in order for what is life-giving, good, and true to take root?

If you need help, there are many of us willing to do so. You are not alone.

Being free is good,