Last year, I heard several times (not many, about 3 separate occasions) that leaders in the LGBT+ community were giving other leaders grief for allowing me to work with them on different projects. It hurt to hear this but I understood and don’t blame them. If all they know of me is my past, I can see why they would be concerned.
These LGBT+ community members didn’t trust my motives. They believe that I don’t deserve a public platform in the community because of my past conservative Christian ex-gay advocacy work. Even though I have changed my mind, life, and actions to refute and renounce ex-gay conversion therapy/ministry and anti-lgbt+ policy, they believe my past disqualifies me from being utilized in a public way.
I understand why some people would feel that way. Sometimes I feel similarly. I still have a hard time forgiving myself for some of the really messed up things I used to believe, say, and do.
For example, every once in a while I have this weird sense of guilt about marrying Dan because of all the years I lobbied, taught, and spoke out against gay marriage. Even though a person is allowed to change their minds like I have and even though I will marry Dan for many good and life-giving reasons, every once in a while I feel like I deserve punishment and isolation, not marrying the man I love.
Other times, I have survivors’ guilt and depression of having made it out of that world when many, like my Beautiful Michael, did not. There are times when looking at my past false self, I see a villain. I know I was also a victim, ignorant, and naive. But, I can see why others wouldn’t know that and assume the worst.
I don’t have a large public profile but there are times when I want to just go off and live a quiet life. My pay the bills job has nothing to do with these issues. I have friends, family, a whole world where if I didn’t do any advocacy or speak publically … it would be ok.
Yet, it wouldn’t take long for someone in this world to point out that being a stay at home “quiet” person is not my true self. That is not my truth. My truth is, I have the credibility of 23 years of participation and leadership in that abusive/cult-ish world. I know how it works, the toxic theology, the stigmatizing ideology, and all the major players in it. I know it all personally and thoroughly. I can’t watch the former abuse I was once a victim of, I was once a proponent and leader of, continue without lending my voice in efforts to stop it. I cannot sit idly by without actively trying to replace stigma with empathy, replace toxic theology with humanizing reality, and to end conversion therapy in every form including ex-gay ministry.
I don’t believe I am terminally unique and I am not needed in many situations. But whenever and wherever I can make a positive difference for our community, I want to help. I am not going to chase anyone down or defend myself except to say, I know better and my true self will do better in whatever way (publically, privately, personally) I can.
Over time I hope these fellow advocates would see my heart is true and my head is in the right place to seek and serve our greater good. Either way, I will continue to speak up and out on issues I care deeply about.