Bullying Bullies & The Bullied Bullies Who Bully Them

Stephen Black and a bear…

It’s bizarre when Stephen Black, who has no problem stigmatizing and lying to gay people says he is the one being bullied (over and over again.) Mr. Black seems to think it’s ok to tell LGBT+ that they and their relationships are nasty, detestable, unhealthy, gross, demonized and that his version of god is weeping AND laughing at us as we allegedly race down the highway straight to hell. If that culturally driven (not Gospel love driven) religious stigma weren’t enough, he loves to try and brand our community and our fight for full equality as chaotic (really? “chaos”?). He minimizes our loving committed relationships as emotional idolatry, and apparently being LGBT+ will kill us.

That’s just for starters. Mr. Black doesn’t apparently know how to focus on anything other than stigmatizing LGBT+ people; well except when he is promoting how humble he is,

But he is the poor bullied one; poor bullied Stephen. Why on earth would anyone ever respond to him angrily? :::smh:::

Here’s a scripture for Mr. Black:

Galatians 6:7 – 7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.

When someone stigmatizes and bears false witness against God’s LGBT+ sons and daughters (like Stephen has), they are mocking the image of God within us and misrepresenting His love for us.  When you sow the seeds of stigma, hatred, fear, you will reap deep anger (at best) and the exact same thing you are putting out (at worst). In other words, if you see every LGBT+ person who responds angrily, forthrightly or thoroughly as a “bully,” it might be good to ask if you have brought that on yourself. If some of us respond to stigma with further stigma…why are you surprised? I don’t believe in stigmatizing Christians (or anyone) because I am one. But, considering how some culture warrior Christians treat us… I understand why they get the same thing they are dishing out.

I actually think it’s a part of Stephen’s approach to ministry to try to provoke wrath in those he apparently hates. The problem is not only the abuse he is personally dishing out, but that he is providing cover for others who believe the same to perpetuate the abuse.

Nutshell: stop bullying others, and you might not feel “bullied” by their honest (and sometimes angry) response.


The Scapegoating of Ex-gays

Image Credit: Wikipedia

Ex-gays will repeat stigma and religious bigotry to fit into the conservative church, but they are not ever going to win over fellow church-goer because their “brokenness” is seen as so completely “other” than what the average church-goer goes through. There will be plenty of platitudes about “all sin is equal at the foot of the cross” and “no sin is stronger than the blood of Christ.” But in the practical day to day, the conservative church is very quick to say, “I have NO idea what it is like to go through what you go through with… you know… THAT struggle.”

Like the “scapegoats” in the Old Testament that had the sins of Israel placed on them and turned out into the desert to take away those sins, ex-gay/conversion ministries are handed the “sexual brokenness sin” issues so the church doesn’t have to look at, accept, or deal with the gift of God’s LGBT+ Children in their midst.

Ex-gay/Conversion ministries don’t mind this at all. They benefit from this arrangement. It carves them out a niche “ministry” without much competition for attention or donation dollars. With an ex-gay ministry at the bottom of a church’s local resources directory the church can say, “Yes! We love the same-sex attracted enough to help them not be that anymore with our special ministry on Thursdays at 7pm in the back room of the education building.” And as long as The LGBT+’s don’t make a show of it on Sundays and nobody gets caught in a gay bar on Saturday, the church (in practice) has absolutely nothing to do with “that very difficult and challenging sin.” They are in affect saying, “We love you but just don’t be you anymore. And if you need to ‘deal with’ your … stuff…  do it over there and don’t distract from everything else we are doing.”

The “scapegoats” are burdned and sent away to their “groups.”

When Alan, the staff and myself started developing a church network within Exodus, some of the old-guard member ministries (now a part of Restored Hope Network) had absolute meltdowns about how “the church” doesn’t get it. I remember clearly one very agitated leader saying, “They can’t possibly do what we do because they can’t and won’t relate. People won’t feel safe there!”

But in front of church leaders, their song was sung to a very different tune. They (we) would say the church is a great place! Especially if they support The Gospel According to Conversion Therapy. The Church is a loving “home” if they let ex-gay ministries have access to that churches sphere of influence, receive affirmation from its leadership, receive validation as a unique and powerful work, and of course financially.

Early on, the church was more than happy to hand off “that issue” but in some cases toward the latter 90’s and ’00’s, churches would try to do their own thing only to have an Exodus referral leader tell them they couldn’t because of the alleged nuanced needs of “the sexually broken.” One leader in Texas was called by a good number of churches to help them start groups but he told them they couldn’t unless they hired him (at a very high “honorarium”) to come speak to and train the staff. None of them did start their own groups, but all of them did start referring to him.

See how that works? Either way benefitted that leader.

When I was a part of that world, many of us thought we were fulfilling our “calling.” We were true believers and those of us who did eventually make what might be considered a good salary was very rare. However, in a stigmatized and legalistic environment, as long as we said the right things, behaved the right way and didn’t challenge religious stigma against LGBT+ people, we had what we thought was an honored place in the Body of Christ.

Only, eventually after all the pomp/circumstance/ritual, we found ourselves all alone in the desert carrying hurt and burdens we were never meant to carry. We realized we are still LGBT+ and still Christian. That all of this religious stigma/abuse was perpetuated through closed meetings in a room at the back of the church and fueled by inauthentic affirmation and funds. We realize that we shouldn’t be treated as a scapegoat turned away from full acceptance and affirmation in the Church. We are as much daughters and sons of Christ as anyone else. We left the desert and refuse to be locked in the stained glass closet of shame and condemnation. We give our hurts to Christ, extend forgiveness when able, and take our place abiding as full members of the Body of Christ.

Life is so much better not being someone else’s goat wandering around the desert of rejection carrying systemic bigotry on our shoulders.

Being free is good,

Ex-Gay Watch 2.0?

Some background, back in the Exodus days there was a very active blog with a very high volume of traffic called Ex-gay Watch. They were a “watchdog” group of bloggers that ripped apart (at least that’s what it felt like at the time) anything and everything we, our member agencies or the “ex-gay” movement at large would do. They haven’t been posting for almost two years but in their time… whew! From their about page:

Ex-Gay Watch fact-checks political and religious movements which seek to make gay people straight.

We provide critical analysis of the political tactics, religious rationalizations, research findings, health claims, and apparent motives of organizations which claim that sexual orientation is a choice.

Ex-Gay Watch was launched in July 2002. Then and now, evangelicals and conservative U.S. Catholics lobby to jail sexual minorities, deny them protection from politically and religiously motivated violence, and promote discrimination in housing, employment, and public services.

A subset of that movement, popularly known as “ex-gays,” seeks to profit from these campaigns, charging people with “unwanted same-sex attraction” thousands of dollars to attend regular support groups, conferences, and therapy sessions led by persons with sketchy mental-health credentials. Proclaiming themselves cured, “ex-gays” rationalize discrimination, criminalization and violence as necessary tools to coerce people to change their sexual orientation…

Of course, now I am like “YES!” but back then I was like, “OH MY GOD leave us alone!” They often drove me crazy, and I am glad some of my offline reactions were never recorded and put online :).

I never actually hated the bloggers themselves. I thought they were as honest with what they knew as they could be and passionate. I will always respect the sincere and passionate. But boy did they give me headaches when they would tear apart something we or our member ministries did. We would tell people to not read their blog but, of course, they all did. As a point person for all the Member Agencies to contact the Exodus office, this would often cause me to want to drink some alcohol before noon.

Since shutting down Exodus, and especially after I came back out of the closet, there have been a few suggestions from friends that maybe I could incorporate taking on a “watchdog” role. That I could blog about the organizations that continue to operate under The Gospel According to Conversion Therapy; to do so with a similar purpose as Ex-Gay Watch. Honestly, it is very tempting because of how easy it would be. Just a brief scan of three ex-gay/conversion ministry leaders profiles today gave me enough blog material for a week!

But there is a part of me that thinks that era is over so why feed the beast? The ex-gay/conversion ministry world is fading away (it started to well before Exodus shut down). I mean consider, all the “new” RHN ministries are still coming from the list of old Exodus ministries. The RHN leaders weren’t included as initial signatories of the anti-LGBT+ Nashville Statement. Ex-gay watch isn’t blogging anymore, and the religious right isn’t turning to RHN as the “go to” resource like they once did with Exodus. It would seem they have been relegated to non-relevance; an unnecessary and unreliable distraction.

Would drawing attention to them (directly) empower the pain and hurt to continue?

However, religious stigma with horrible consequences against LGBT+ people seems to be on the rise. LGBT+ people are still being bullied, systematically stigmatized, and forced into the closet with incredibly harmful consequences. These will all be issues long after the last RHN “member ministry” folds. Plus, negative attention is their only marketing strategy. I think their current leadership truly relishes and enjoys being seen as old testament “I can be a jerk because God told me to be one” type of prophets. Again, would consistently drawing any kind of attention to the perpetuate harm?

So, obviously, I am still thinking through this. I don’t have any desire to do Ex-gay Watch 2.0, but I am considering providing similar analysis when it can be confronted and redirected toward helping people leave the ex-gay/conversion world. Any input in the comments or privately would be welcomed.

Being free is good,

“What Are We Supposed To Do?” – An Exodus Supporter’s Confrontational Email

Received this email from K over the weekend. I will post the whole message (it’s short) so you can see the full context. Then I will parse out each point they are making and respond. First, the complete message:

Randy, I cannot begin to tell you the pain, hurt, and confusion that you caused me. I went to Exodus conferences. You were my favorite speaker. I have your DVD’s from the conference. I trusted you. Now you are saying that everything you said, and all the promises you made, were all false. That may be good for you, but what about people like me? The ones that are now living with the fall out of what you did. Living daily with all the confusion and pain. What are we supposed to do? K

First off, thank you for emailing me. Given what you have written, you have been upset with me for a long time and needed to get this off your chest. I am glad you did and while my responses below may not be in alignment with your current beliefs. I hope that you will know I never intend to cause pain. Plus, the following may not be to your liking but I cannot ignore the truth; the “ex-gay” world is one I believe we all need to leave. It is possible to accept ourselves as both LGBT+ (wherever you fit in our community) and a Christ follower.

Randy, I cannot begin to tell you the pain, hurt, and confusion that you caused me. I went to Exodus conferences. You were my favorite speaker. I have your DVD’s from the conference. I trusted you.

Thank you for sharing that and believe me, I trusted what I was saying was the truth, too. It was very hard, still is, to realize that I spoke about and taught so many erroneous things.

Now you are saying that everything you said, and all the promises you made, were all false.

Not everything I said was false. God is good. I love Jesus and He loves me :). My spiritual intimacy with Him was and is true. I did overcome whole hosts of dysfunctions like emotional dependency and PTSD (through peripheral resources). I also learned a great deal about spirituality, personal responsibility, my skillset (calling) and maturing as a person (again, mostly through peripheral resources). But, saying that being gay is “broken” was absolutely untrue. Being gay is not “sexual brokenness” or sinful. Being in a loving mutually life-giving relationship with someone of the same or opposite sex is not sinful. Living out your core sense of relational being is not sinful. I no longer believe that you can find freedom from being gay because it’s not something to be freed from. It’s not something we should view through systemic stigmatized religious views. I don’t remember making any “promises, ” but I do know I said a lot of things that gave people hope that they could “overcome homosexuality, ” and I regret having passed along erroneous and harmful teaching. It’s cliche but still true, now that I know better I intend to do better.

That may be good for you, but what about people like me? The ones that are now living with the fall out of what you did. Living daily with all the confusion and pain. What are we supposed to do? K

Don’t empower the wall of noise and smiling people on stage to tell you what to think or believe. Scrutinize everything you hear. There are lots of people with lots of sharp opinions who are more than willing to tell you what to do and think. I do not have the ability to think on your behalf and tell you what you are supposed to do.

Each person comes into their authentic selves in various ways. In my own experience, the process started with being honest with God and self. After losing a friend of 23 years to suicide and being accused of all manner of evil and ill by people over my view of God’s grace it was like blinders had been ripped off. As a result, I began a search for the real manifestation of the fruit of the Spirit.

Galatians 5:22-23 New International Version (NIV)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

I discovered that the genuine fruit of the Spirit was not to be found in The Gospel According to Conversion Therapy (conversion therapy adapted for “ministerial” use.) I realized all my old “favorites” didn’t have an ounce of grace, respect, or unconditional love for those that disagreed with or questioned them.

I did, however, find that true health, wholeness, and fruit of the Spirit did exist with the LGBT+ people I started having honest and open conversations with. This led to a personal epiphany that God will never leave or forsake me. He knew that my relational sense of being (to know and be known, to love and be loved) would be as a gay man. He knows this is part of how I reflect our Creator’s beauty into the world. Once I received that truth, I realized that finding peace with being a gay man in Christ wasn’t “going back” to brokenness and dysfunction. I was moving forward with the Good Shepherd leading me out of the ex-gay/conversion world.

The freedom to embrace who I honestly am in Christ is not what I thought it would look like back when I spoke at Exodus conferences. It’s even better. And please, do not let my response add to any confusion. Who you saw on stage years ago was being as honest and free as I knew how to be at the time. I am still the same person but with eyes fully open now.

You may think I am deluded and “fallen” and that is fine. However, I hope you will hear me say that whatever honestly manifests the fruit of the Spirit, while being mindful that there is never too much grace, hold tenaciously onto and keep looking for the good evidence of the Spirit. Looking for those qualities in everything around us, and hanging onto them, was a very important anchor and helped me recenter my focus on Christ.

I trust you will find your way to peace. That you will find contentment in Christ regardless of circumstance.

Being free is good,

If you would like to message me, please feel free to leave a comment below or contact me privately through the contact form here on the blog. If you are considering leaving the ex-gay/conversion world, I have a list of resources with plenty of helpful information right here on the blog. It’s what I find helpful at least 🙂 and it is consistently being updated and edited.

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,

The Last Pedestal Falls

During Hurricane Irma’s aftermath, I learned that an ex-gay/conversion ministry leader I used to work with is taking pre-orders for his self-published book. This leader created and distributed an in-house survey. This survey had no credible objectivity or scientific professionalism and was circulated to people who had been a part of his ministry in the past and present. Then he personally compiled the results of those who chose to respond (very much doubt many of those with a horrible experience answered) and is lauding them as proof that Jesus cures the gays.

Keep in mind, this whole effort is self-created, self-directed, self-assessed, self-edited and self-published … but is somehow convincing “evidence” of “change” and “freedom from homosexuality.”

Usually, I wouldn’t say squat about this. It’s his right to believe whatever he wants to believe and create whatever fiction he wants to create. I trust folks can think for themselves. I have no doubt that people will see, quite clearly, that this is simply his attempt to justify continuing spiritual stigma and bigotry against LGBT+ people. What spurred on this post is that a very dear mentor of mine, for 9 years, wrote the forward to this self-serving book.

I trusted this mentor with information and disclosures I have never told anyone other than my therapist. By him endorsing a book that outright attacks my friends and me reveals that his current priority is bias affirmation, not a relationship. After all the investment of my heart and soul into receiving advice and wisdom from him, I feel betrayed. You can’t so publicly endorse a book seeking to humiliate former friends/associates and seeking to discredit/dishonor a former protege without it being quite clear you have completely written off that protege.

Maybe that’s how he felt when I came back out; betrayed. Perhaps he thought I had written off all his advice over the years. Maybe he thought that my coming back out without consulting him (our relationship ended during the implosion at Exodus) was an insult; that I had abandoned him. I don’t know because he hasn’t responded to my efforts to communicate with him in years and has never initiated communication in all that time.

I loved him. I still do. The door is always open to him.

He was there in so many heartbreaking situations that had nothing to do with Exodus or sexuality. He was an anchor for me during my PTSD counseling. He helped me navigate incredibly difficult waters dealing with present conflict, past abuse, and pain. I’ll never forget his laugh and voice during the many positive times as well. With a deep hearty chuckle, he lovingly said I definitely had many gifts including the “gift of provocation.” And here he is, condoning the work of a man who has publicly and privately said, numerous times, that I am damned, going to hell, and leading others there as well.

One of my weaknesses is that I idealize people and situations too much. Before and during the implosion at Exodus all those pedastels I had people on, came crashing down. Now I realize that one was left standing with this mentor on it. Now, he too is no longer held aloft as an idealized figure in my mind. Mind you, it’s not his fault I put him up there, and it is unfair of me to expect him to act any different than any other frail human being. But I never thought he would align with pure hatred until today.

I miss him, and I wish it didn’t hurt, but it does. Where I need to forgive, I do. Where I need forgiveness, I ask for it. The good will always remain while the bad is something I need to let go and not empower to be the full context of how I see this person.

I will no longer create or celebrate false constructs to prop up untenable beliefs and instead enjoy the new life and beauty rising up out of the darkness.

Even when it hurts, being free is good,