Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Forced Ex-Gay Therapy

This post comes with an urgent call.   There have been reports of clergy in the Coptic Church forcing families and youth to undergo Ex-Gay or Conversion therapy.  Everything so far has been heresy and through the grapevine.  We need to know if there is anything factual about these reports.

These practices are dangerous, and in many places illegal, especially if you are a young person and are doing this against your own consent.

If you are in a situation where you are being forced either by your family or community to undergo Ex-Gay or Conversion Therapy, please reach out and let us know what is going on, because we want to help.   You can write me anonymously in a comment, or via my email which is posted on my blog.

Zach Stark: Former Love In Action Graduate

Love In Action, a Memphis-based live-in program to help cure homosexuals, has come under fire over the last few years because of their practices.  Former leader John Smid, came out with this apology and a statement that homosexuality cannot be changed or fixed.  In the years prior to this, they found themselves in a bit of a mess, because they allowed parents of minors to enroll their children in forced reparative therapy.  They called this program "Refuge".  How did the ministry become exposed for doing this? This all began with a young man named Zach Stark, who was registered by his parents in an 8-week stay at the Love In Action house in Memphis.  He wrote on his Myspace blog this cry for help:

"Somewhat recently, as many of you know, I told my parents I was gay. This didn’t go over very well, and it ended with my dad crying, my mom tearing and me not knowing what I’d done – or what to do.
It kind of … went away for about a week or two I think. … Well today, my mother, father and I had a very long “talk’ in my room where they let me know I am to apply for a fundamentalist Christian program for gays. They tell me that there is something psychologically wrong with me, and they “raised me wrong.’ I’m a big screw up to them, who isn’t on the path God wants me to be on. So I’m sitting here in tears…”"

 Many have come forward talking about the damage both psychological and emotional, through the existence of these ministries and having been subjected to them.

Since then many of the ministries are beginning to understand that they have done significant damage to people through their practices.   My question is, why now?  Why is the Coptic Church beginning to jump on a bandwagon that is not only almost dead, but is harmful to her people?

Please let us know if you have been one of those who have been forced either by your parents or others in your community to undergo this form of therapy.   It is one thing if an adult has made a choice to enroll in a program, on their own will, but another if it is something forced under the threat of being ostracized or excommunicated. This has nothing to do with whether you think homosexuality is morally right or wrong, there are other ways of dealing with the things that we deal with, and ex-gay ministries are not the way to deal.   Do not be afraid to speak out.  We love you and we're on your side.

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Question To Those Who Don't Understand

"I love you, man!"

I want you to take a moment and close your eyes. On second thought, open them again, or else you can't read the rest of this. 

Who is your best friend? Who is the person in life you love most?   Is it a friend?  Is it a parent or spouse or child or mentor?   I want you to take a moment and picture yourself and that person in a place you remember fondly where you both shared great memories together.   Where is this place and what are you doing?

Ok, have you found this place with this person?   Are you in your memory?

Now in this moment, I want you to picture this person telling you that they themselves are gay and or lesbian. Try this exercise on and really think about what it sounds like with those words coming out of their mouth. Look at their eyes as they tell you this. What do they look like?  Look at their body and how they're sitting. Look at how they are looking to you to reveal a part of themselves.

What is your honest response in that moment?   What is your response inside, and what is your verbal response?   What is your response today and your response tomorrow?

I'm not asking your response to gay people everywhere, or the gay agenda, or any of these things. What is your response to that individual who you have brought to mind?

If you're willing, please comment below and share. In a way, this will help me get to know you all much better than I do now.

Alec Baldwin - Gay Icon?

So in my last post, I decided to spill my guts out a little bit and be honest and vulnerable about some of the things I've been wrestling with in the last several weeks.  I used an image of Alec Baldwin smiling, holding a sign that says "I'm Frustrated"  Because:
  1. That picture is hilarious
  2. Alec Baldwin is awesome
The only responses I got was that it was offensive that I made Alec Baldwin out to be a gay icon. First of all we've loved Mr. Baldwin since Beetlejuice, and of course SNL's Delicious Dish.  But that aside, I'm pretty sure that people feeling the blues is a human problem, not just a gay problem, but my answer to whether or not Alec Baldwin is a gay icon or not, why not let the man speak for himself:

Sunday, August 12, 2012


I know I'm alone on this one, but do you know what it feels like to complain because life has become completely outside the expectations you've always had? :) I'm sure I'm the only one who understands this.
All joking aside, that's what the last few months have been like.   Dealing with disappointment is something that I've never quite been able to do well.   Some might say I'm a champion at it, but I know I could be better.   I'm afraid of disappointment becoming the norm, where I might lose hope for the good things that come my way.   I fear that mental pathways can become etched so deep they can no longer be repaired.  In times like this I hold onto the idea that there is a loving Christ who would even heal someone born blind.  Born blind.  It doesn't get more miraculous than that.

I want to get personal for a moment, while I listen to Amr Diab in the background of a lazy Sunday afternoon.   

Life hurts.  If you haven't been hurt, you haven't walked outside of your house.  But life is not about being defined by our pain, but sometimes things can seem overwhelming.   You try your best, you try to do best by the ones you love, and the ones who love you, but sometimes we miss the mark: sometimes by a little, often times, we're not even in the ballpark anymore.  
I'm wearing my mistakes on my sleeve, looking for redemption.    Forgiveness is the only way out.  Someone has told me once that holding onto anger is like holding a hot coal with the intention of throwing it at the object of your anger, but the only one who gets burned is you.   This would explain the callouses on my palms, when all this time I thought it was from weightlifting (see image for example)

It's ridiculously hot lately, and while I'd normally be at the beach, today I'm enjoying basking in my air conditioned house with a cold glass of iced tea, and trying to think about healing.  So what is bugging me?

  1. My past:   Betrayal from some of the closest of loved ones I thought I have forgiven, but in reality I have not. 
  2. My present: Navigating relationships and the bullshit of life, when I know there are greater things I want to be a part of.
  3. My future: I often ache for the gay community.  I see the unhealthiness around me.  Sometimes I want to join in, because I don't want to be alone, but I do not want to carve out a future for myself that I will look back and say I should have been stronger.
I have deleted Grindr, because I am tired of looking for a rose among weeds. I am looking at making peace with those I have been disappointed by.  I'm sure I will find in the process that I have disappointed many of them equally, if not moreso.   
I am looking forward for a time of peace, being able to be self-expressed, and radiating the kind of love that is world changing. 

This is my goal.  I will think about this today. Blessings to you all.

Gay Orthodox Christians

Spent a good part of the late morning reading through this blog:

You should, too.  It's a thoughtful, sober, and insightful collection of writings by a clergy member who gets it.  Thank you, Father, for taking the time to put this together.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Leftmost Few: Why Can't The Orthodox Church Deal With...

My friend at Leftmost Few is at it again, with some great thoughts on the subject of why the Orthodox Church is still struggling to understand and speak to the "issue" of homosexuality.  This is a must read:

Grindr and the Death of Romance

It's Saturday Night at 2AM, and you're rolling in from a night out with friends, and suddenly you feel something:  silence and quiet.   After a whole night of socializing, as tired as you are, you're not sure if going to bed and letting your body and liver rest is exactly your cup of tea at the moment.   In fact a cup of tea, bland and watery, is the furthest thing from your mind, as your senses crave something a little spicier.   Imagine you had a magical way to see if you could continue the socializing, the flirting, and the rubbing of elbows without having to leave the comfort of your own bed.   Imagine you had a magical way to see if there were any cute strangers within a 3 mile radius that you could chat with.  Imagine you had a way to flirt from the safety of your mobile device without having to actually truly engage with another human being, where you can get your fill of attention while having the safety net of your bag of potato chips and comfort pants.

Enter: Grindr.

Many may find this post judgmental, and I'm very much okay with that.   We hate being judgmental, we deplore it, society judges us all the time  <brief pause/>  ever been on Grindr?

This is not a rant about Grindr...  Fine, it is a rant about Grindr.  It's a brilliant idea with 1 million served.   It's the ultimate gaydar. But, I think the convenience that such apps provide, can do serious damage not only to individuals but to our community at large.   I've been on there, here and there, installed, uninstalled.  The attention is great, and can be somewhat addictive.   There's a rush you get when someone reaches out and says whispers sweet nothings so softly, that it is completely silent, while the deafening yellow and blue text bubbles that glow brightly against a black background, making your eyes squint in your dark bedroom.  And of course when someone reaches out with something more explicit, your self righteousness kicks in so much so that with an air of self-satisfaction you relish the fact that you're not as much of a pervert as they are, yet for the right kind of guy, you may bend your own rules a little bit and engage in a way your normally wouldn't on the street.

Grindr is killing romance.   It is taking a knife, stabbing romance in the heart, and turning the handle faster than you can click that X button and block that guy who just won't take no for an answer.

Technology is evolving faster than humans are.  Hundreds of people, in your own neighborhood, are now at your fingertips to interact with, to flirt with, and to make connections with.  Not only that, they're available to talk to right now.  Our human capacity isn't as rich as what is available to us to engage with.  We can only handle so much before we can no longer give the best of ourselves to the people we meet.   You can talk with someone, and before you know it you just got messaged by someone else.  You have to make quick decisions about who is worth more to you, at this very moment.  You see unlike meeting people in real life, you don't have eye contact, you don't have the physical presence of the human soul in front of you. You don't have the social expectations to be a decent human being.   In fact, in your reality, you're just sitting there in your comfort pants eating that bag of potato chips, why the hell should you be expected to be decent?

Grindr = Fast Food
When dealing with other humans as digital figures, we become a giant in Lilliput, where the biggest thing in our presence is our own egos among tiny faces that love and hate us.   It is not sharpening our skills, it is not helping us grow, and it is not getting us anywhere near to the kind of intimacy that is fulfilling.   No, I do not think we are just mammals with immediate needs.   I believe we are humans!  At the end of the day we all want and need the same things: to love and to be loved.  We each want respect and care.    Yet ironically many of us will strive to perfect our bodies by avoiding fast food and eating whole and nutritious food, we don't care as much for our psyches that we're regular patrons in the biggest fast food chain of human interactions.  And like fast food, there is a devaluation of the product, i.e. fellow humans, and this value decreases so fast, that such habitual behavior can leave permanent scars.

And yes I'm sure you've met some great connections and even made some friends, and for those who do not know where to start meeting people, this may be the easiest way, but let's be real, how much crap do you have to deal with in order to get there?   I remember seeing someone's caption once "Looking for a reason to delete this app."  People know they don't want to be on there, but feel they don't have a choice.

Oh, but they do.

There are so many ways to make friends in real life, there are so many ways to date, even online that are much more humanizing than some of these quick fixes.  There are community organizations, there are gatherings, parties, church fellowships, volunteer work.  It's the simple act of putting yourself out there and overcoming the fear of connection, where you will be left feeling whole and loved.

For example:

I may be the odd man out.  I've been told by other conservative gay guys that I need to chill out on my views on these mobile apps, but I'm okay with being a little different here.   We're fighting for gay marriage in our society, and yet at the same time as we want the world to acknowledge our growth, where is the movement to grow from within?   I know it goes hand in hand, but we really need to start focusing on the strive for a more mature and loving way of relating to each other.

Luckily there are many gay men out there who have not fallen into this trap, and yes I call it a trap, because it is one of those things that makes it difficult to let go of.

So kids, don't bother.  It will skew your world view of others.  It will make you forget the good in people.  It will make you devalue intimacy and connection.  When you finally meet that special someone, you may find yourself wanting to hold onto the safety net of a digital singles bar in your front pocket.  Make friends of flesh and blood. You'll be thankful that you did.

Now on a completely different topic, I just turned 30 a few weeks back, and after a small mid-life crisis, I think I'm ready to pull up the blinds and wash my face again (slight exaggeration).  If you have any advice for someone who has just said goodbye to their 20s, please let me know!

It's great to be back here.