Thrive Newsletter - Issue #25 - I Once Walked In Their Shoes Edition
This issue is about how it's time to get back in the saddle, as well as my response to a current ex-gay leader's thoughts on the "Pray Away" film.
Well, after the holidays and a cruise during the first week of 2023, I
had to have the privilege of going back to work this past week. ::: le sigh ::: While I love my work fam, I fantasized about what it would be like to live on a cruise. It was a nice fantasy, but I still got my forty hours in last week.
Anyway, it’s the weekend and time to thrive…
Last night I ran across a video from 2021 by a young man*** that spent an hour and fifteen minutes doing a stream of conscious reaction to my and other former leaders’ stories in the Emmy-nominated Pray Away film. I got angry many times during his musings but was humbled by the end of his video.
Let’s start with responding to his reaction.
This is another example of an ex-gay person who considers themself a leader reactively forcing a narrative about someone they do not understand to make themself feel better.
For example, he said that in the film Jeffrey McCall (current ex-gay leader) was made to be a villain, and the former ex-gay leaders (like myself and the others in the film) were made heroes. He also said that the whole point of the film was to make people like him look bad.
I assure you, no one, after seeing that film, considers former ex-gay leaders heroes. I would laugh at the thought, but that is a hard truth. Also, the film's point was to share our points of view now that we have come out and Jeffrey’s current point of view. After knowing Kristine Stolakis (the executive director) well after working with her for four years, she would want people to have empathy and concern for those involved (across the spectrum of belief), not make them look bad. I wouldn’t have participated if I had even caught a whiff of that being her motivation.
We all shared our experiences. Those of us who are former ex-gay leaders shared how our views changed to accept the truth that you can be a happy and healthy LGBTQ+ person of faith or not. We shared how we believe ex-gay ideology is toxic and destructive. Jeffrey thinks otherwise, which is shown clearly in the film as well. That’s it. I trust that adults can choose to learn from, apply, or not apply what is shared in the film to their own lives. We shared our reality to share our truth, not to make anyone look any particular way.
Also, it seems this young man suffers what most ex-gays I knew or know (including myself back then) suffer(ed) from, terminal uniqueness.
This young man seems to think what he is doing in promoting ex-gay ideology and stigmatizing theology is entirely different than “old” ex-gay ministries. It’s not. If we had YouTube in its current form, we would have been all over it. Plenty of people didn’t affiliate with churches and took to the streets to “march” (witness) for Jesus and “keep it simply about him.” Even Exodus organized public protests and events over the years. This young man is proud that he loves to wear makeup and wigs sometimes to do bible studies… that’s been done before, too (just not on YouTube).
Also, in his video, the young man’s estimation that we were never fully transparent or in love with Jesus is offensive. I was completely transparent with my beliefs to my “brothers and sisters in the Lord” and transparent in my church and national stage for two decades. I still love Jesus, my good shepherd, and Lord. Even more so since He led me out of the closet and revealed He is not limited to western evangelical views of what “Christianity” means.
This young man’s terminal uniqueness (just an opinion) blinds him to a simple truth; destructive beliefs will always be destructive whether you promote them in a wig or a suit. They will always be destructive whether promoted on YouTube, in the pulpit or sitting in a Senator’s office. They will always be destructive whether you allow yourself to see them that way.
It is the same damaging message regardless of the delivery and audience.
Then the young man misquoted something I said in the movie. He turned that into an opportunity to victim blame those who commit suicide. I was livid. That moment encapsulated his fear and disgust with anything that would expose the true nature of his adopted beliefs.
And while I was cussing at him on the television, a still small voice (Holy Spirit?) said, “you would have never said it out loud, but you believed the same when you were in his shoes.” I stopped cussing immediately and felt humbled and ashamed. And as I pondered that thought, I realized I used to say all the same shit this young man went on and on about for seventy-five minutes; I was watching me when I was his age.
And that hurts to consider, even after being out of that environment for a decade and out of the closet for eight years.
I share this with you because this exemplifies how being ex-gay is seriously unhealthy and blinding regardless of approach and implementation. I also write this to remind former ex-gay leaders that we are responsible for never forgetting what we were like.
If we want current ex-gay leaders to stop the abuse, we can’t forget we walked in their shoes for a long time and understand them in a way others may not see. But, of course, we do not want to affirm what they are doing but to confront the underlying ideology with genuine wisdom gained from experience.
I hope this young man gets out of that world sooner than I did and intentionally removes his blinders instead of having them ripped off because of tragedy.
*** I am not mentioning the young man’s name or linking to his video because I don’t want to promote his toxic religious views even indirectly. However, if you really must know, please message or email me privately, and I will give you the link.
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It is so freaking cold outside. This has been a very cold (for Florida) winter.
Even so, I have “coffee shop radio” playing in the background; my heart is warm and full of love for my husband. He sat with me while watching the video mentioned above last night. His love and support, his hand taking mine, helps me in transcendent ways I don’t have words for. If I hadn’t decided to leave the church closet eight years ago, I would never have met God’s gift of Dan.
I love my WonderDan.
Thank you for reading.