Peterson Toscano's Blog

ruminations of a queer performance artist

Peterson Toscano

Peterson Toscano
Hartford, Connecticut, USA
February 17
p2son productions
Musings of Peterson Toscano, a quirky queer Quaker where he writes about sexuality, gender, faith, veganism and so much more! Peterson is the creator of Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House. An actor, playwright and activist his other works include Transfigurations, a play about transgender Bible characters


Editor’s Pick
MAY 14, 2010 9:35AM

Failed Ex-Gays Speak Out. Rekers and Smid can learn something.

Rate: 25 Flag

Sometimes it’s a good thing to be a failure, particularly when one tries to destroy their personality and sexuality (or assist others in destroying theirs.)  The vast majority of people who have attempted to “de-gay” themselves through reparative therapy, straight camps and ex-gay ministries ultimately come out gay. Sadly many of these come out psychologically disheveled and need therapy to recover from the therapy. With stories flying around about George Rekers, a strong proponent of treatments to “cure gays” and legal actions to deny LGBT people rights (all the while using some of his anti-gay earnings to fund European vacations with a gay rent boy while asserting “I am NOT gay!) I thought it might be useful to hear from some folks who took part in some of these failed treatments.

Dr. Jallen Rix is an ex-gay survivor. He has already told his story through his widely read sex column and in the feature length documentary film Fish Can’t Fly. He now has a new book, Ex-Gay No Way! Survival and Recovery from Religious Abuse.

Jallen Rix, as a young Southern Baptist, joined an ex-gay ministry when he discovered his same-sex attractions. Although the ministry did not make him heterosexual, it did manage to destroy any sense of stability and self-esteem.
Ex-Gay No Way is Dr. Rix’s journey through the ex-gay world and what he did in the aftermath to reintegrate positive sexuality with healthy spirituality. Further, he demonstrates that the tactics used in these oppressive environments are many of the same damaging schemes used everywhere in power-abusive religious organizations today.

Jallen along with singer/songwriter Melissa Etheridge will appear on LA Talk Radio today May 14, 2010 from 6-8 PM PST. Check out the Tony Sweet program and learn more. Also check out this video of Jallen talking about his book.

Unlike ex-gay leaders like George Reker’s and others caught out there failing to live a life that they demanded of others, Micheal Bussee, one of the original founders of Exodus International, left the anti-gay ministry and chose to come out with his ministry partner (and then life partner Gary Cooper.) You may remember that Michael was one of three former Exodus officials who issued a public apology in 2007. This apology can serve as a model for people like John Smid, the former director of Love in Action, who has struggled to come up with a clear statement that reveals why he is apologizing and the steps he is taking to undo the damage.

In Michael’s personal apology he issued the same day as the group apology, he talks about the early work of offering “alternatives” to gays, and how it did not work, and more importantly it caused great harm.

I need to say that some had a positive, life-changing experience attending our Bible studies and support groups.  They experienced God’s love and the welcoming fellowship of others who knew the struggle.  There were some real “changes”—but not one of the hundreds of people we counseled became straight.

Instead, many of our clients began to fall apart – sinking deeper into patterns of guilt, anxiety and self-loathing.  Why weren’t they “changing”?  The answers from church leaders made the pain even worse:  “You might not be a real Christian.”  “You don’t have enough faith.”  “You aren’t praying and reading the Bible enough.” “Maybe you have a demon.”  The message always seemed to be:  “You’re not enough.  You’re not trying hard enough.  You don’t have enough faith.”

Some simply dropped out and were never heard from again.  I think they were the lucky ones.  Others became very self-destructive. One young man got drunk and deliberately drove his car into a tree.  Another (a fellow leader of the ex-gay movement) told me that he had left EXODUS and was now going to straight bars – looking for someone to beat him up.  He said the beatings made him feel less guilty – atoning for his sin.  One of my most dedicated clients, Mark, took a razor blade to his genitals, slashed himself repeatedly, and then poured drain-cleaner on the wounds—because after months of celibacy he had a “fall.”

In the midst of all of this, my own faith in the EXODUS movement was crumbling.  No one was really becoming “ex-gay.”  Who were we fooling?  As one current EXODUS leader admitted, we were just “Christians with homosexual tendencies who would rather not have those tendencies.”  By calling ourselves “ex-gay” we were lying to ourselves and to others.  We were hurting people.

Over at the blog Box Turtle Bulletin, ex-gay survivor (in a very sexy This American Life voice) Daniel Gonzales has begun to post a series of short videos where Michael talks about his role in Exodus, his regrets and the terrible things that happened in a ministry that set out to help the struggling homosexual.

In this video Michael talks about the the inherent harm that comes from ex-gay treatment and comments on John Smid’s “apology.” Bussee makes it clear that:

It’s the message that’s destructive, it’s the overall message.


As that message sinks in to your sense of self that you’re damaged, you’re broken, you’re in need of repair… that’s the damage.

There are people that don’t become aware of that damage until years later.

(Transcript here)


In this video Michael talks about what happens after people LEAVE ex-gay treatment and reveals how they never offered any kind of after-care or even checked in to see how people where doing. (Read full transcript here.)



And in this video Michael Bussee, who has known LOTS of ex-gays in his life reveals that NO ONE including the leaders actually changed in spite of what they publicly said. We Were All Still Struggling Silently As We Promised Change (Transcript here)


Tagged: bXg, Daniel Gonzales, ex-gay, ex-gay survivor, exodus, gay, George Rekers, Homosexual, Jallen Rix, lesbian, Love in Action, media, NARTH

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What a sad state, when just being Christian isn't enough(loving G/d with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength), but we have to erase our own personalities to suit this cultural loathing of homosexuality. Nothing Christian in loathing. I hope this is the end of the anti-gay movement, outing the superstition that gays are broken and in need of fixing.
madhuri, well said. So much of what is taught as Christian teaching is really a shaming controlling loathing abusive mess. I too hope that by having folks like Micheal and Jallen speak out that it will shed much needed light and sanity on these issues.
Excellent post, highly rated._r
Joan H. thanks!
Gee, and I got an Editor's Pick too. Delicious. I am especially pleased because both Jallen and Michael's voices need to be heard to counter the madness and to expose the typically misleading message of the anti-gay/ex-gay folks offering a "cure" in Jesus' name (cures also available in Jewish, pseudo-science, and Mormon flavors!)
Melissa Etheridges brother?!

Who ever thought this would work?
My daughter is a journalism student who chose this topic for one of her projects. I am going to e-mail this to her. Congats on the EP too!
Flatly, only people who also believe things like a magi flew over Rome till God smote him from the sky at the request of the first Pope could possibly believe teh gay was anything other than natural physiology.

Old Testament: local ruffians announce their intention to rape male "angels", only to be given second class citizen daughters to placate them. One sentence telling not to "lie down", one among the thousands forbidding a-z, shellfish and so on ... ad nauseum- to use this as a guide in the time of genome research and epigenetics is to show one's own place in natural selection overall with a spotlight- defined by credulity and idiocy.

Having lived in Waikiki, Lahaina, the Castro, Chelsea aaaannnnddd West Hollywood, I can tell you these boys were just born this way, as in time immemorial, Polynesian culture has always included our Mahu, interestingly, the Native Americans of the Houston area were well known for Gay Marriage.

No one knows where life leads. Someday I may run into a man that makes me want to do things differently. Not very likely, but possible. We are all just human beings who love human beings. People who insist on everyone being one way or another are missing the boat entirely. The causes and reasons for how I live my life are varied as they are for all of us. MY life is richer because I keep my eyes open.
I'm glad to see you getting some publicity, for your own good work and that of others striving to heal the harm caused by ex-gay programs.
I get so angry when I think of the abuse these ex-gay ministries inflict on innocent people. Teaching self-hatred instead of acceptance is just wrong. And letting anyone think they can change for real and forever is also wrong. It's like telling someone they can change their eye color permanently.

Closets are for clothes, not people. And abuse is just abuse. I pray for an end to homophobia and for acceptance and understanding. Nobody deserves to feel "less than" because of who they love.
These people are insane! I don't understand how a religion supposedly based on love can teach so much hate. These preachers or what ever they are have their own issues!
There is NO CURE for homosexuality because it is NOT A DISEASE! Oh grow up, damn morons. Come out of the dark ages.

Brilliant post, congrats on the EP!
Nice job, Peterson. It might interest you to know that Christoph Cardinal Schonborn, who was a papabile at the last conclave, recently told a reporter that marrying, for gay people, beats promiscuity. Since this is exactly the same endorsement St. Paul gave marriage for straight people, the cardinal's statement represents a big, and very bold, step forward.

After reading your article, I'd add that marriage also beats depression, social isolation, substance abuse, and hacking away at your dick with a razor. If Schonborn had read this, he might well say the same thing.
Max, brilliant stuff!

Thanks all for the comments.
Thank you for posting this. It's infuriating that mainstream media seldom point out the hypocrisy of the ex-gay movement, which leads many young people to make really sad choices to fight who they are. From the most recent unveiling of George Rekers hiring a "traveling companion" through a site called RENTBOY, to Ted Haggert, Larry Craig, and on and on, I don't understand how anyone can buy into what these people are selling. They just keep lying and lying and lying, it would be funny if it weren't so destructive. Go to to read about some of these people. My favorite is Matthew Manning, super ex-gay who was banned from the gym for hitting on guys. Oh, yeah, except that he's straight now. What do these people think "straight" means, anyway? I always thought it meant if you were a guy, you liked women. Guess I need a new dictionary.
Attempting the De -Gaying of America is so amusing to me.I love to watch those interviews with the "ex"gays.....who do they think they are kidding.Great job with this!
How sad that so many men have struggled so hard and achieved only unhappiness because they were told i>they were at fault, not the people who were trying to "cure" them of something natural and wholly outside their control.

Intolerance, fear and homophobia have really twisted Christianity into something ugly and harmful.

Excellent post.
There is no such thing as "ex-gays" just like there are no ex-straights, ex-mammals, or ex-birds. There are, however, ex-Mormons, ex-Catholics, ex-Baptists, ex-Jehovah's Witnesses and others who have given themselves permission to escape abusive mind control cults.