In Enlightened-ish, I wrote about the Freedom to Say, ‘Enough,’ which many readers have claimed is the climactic chapter of the book. The focus of the stories I tell in the chapter is that when we come to acknowledge that we have done all we can to heal, support, process, endure or survive a situation, a powerful awakening occurs. Saying, “Enough” sets us up for establishing firmer boundaries, learning healthier outlets for our natural frustrations with life’s temporary (or permanent) disappointments and welcoming exciting opportunities for us to grow. It’s damn near the most powerful word in our vocabulary and while this freedom was pretty solidified through everything I grieved in order to even write Enlightened-ish, it is a freedom that I realize I have to exercise in another scenario this month: My advocacy work with survivors of toxic religion and ex-gay therapy.
Recovering from any wound takes time. It takes time to tell your story to yourself and it takes even more time to learn how to tell your story to someone else. Worse yet, if the limelight finds you, your ability to tell your story becomes infected by a concern about how others will perceive it, what it will mean for your personal legacy and how your life path can be defined by said limelight. (No one has a good side, in limelight). So the wounds, however fresh or well-healed, somehow remain visible and viewed as a part of our lives, if we continue to advocate for an end to the abuses. (As this post heats up, enjoy some background music that seems to match my mood when this was crafted.)
Yet a survivor as an advocate is much more powerful than an “ally” because of one simple reason: Trust. We can trust a survivor much easier than a bystander or compassionate activist because more often than not, a survivor is re-processing and sometimes re-traumatizing himself in order to tell the truth. Who would do that to themselves if they didn’t truly care and have a story worth hearing? (We can answer that but masochism is a topic for later in this post). An ally, on the other hand, is merely relating and tragically, may have an alternate agenda. (Cue gasp).
This topic comes up a lot in June, for LGBTQ people, if we attend Pride events. Often times, the inauthentic Christian leaders and wolves in sheep clothing come out in droves to “show support” for the LGBTQ community but their intent is actually evangelism. Evangelism, which is not at all what is proven to draw people into spirituality, is also not likely to be a desired connection a pride-goer is hoping to make, gay or straight! (We are there for the chaps, the eye candy and maybe some cool home-made jewelry… oh and it’s a social celebration of how far we’ve come, no thanks to the church in most cities, thanks.)
The problem, however, is that often times, there are legitimate allies who are working towards equality, full inclusion of the LGBTQ person of faith in the church and the state. These allies are worth our time, but even pausing to distinguish a true ally from a conniving poser can be a trigger for someone who is recovering from toxic spirituality. The baby, the bathwater – it’s all the same if the point is to be “recruited” to do anything that I’m not already doing. (Bottom line, if I were looking for a church community, I’m pretty sure I can google your website, but thanks for the rainbow flag with a smiling Jesus on it. Nice touch.)
For me, working to discern the “Christian allies” from the “Christian posers” has left me exhausted. I consider the teachings of Jesus to serve me well enough directly and don’t require an intercessor in my connection to those teachings. That may, in some circles, actually make me more of a Christian than anyone who goes to churches, affirming or non-affirming. Labels aside though, what is bothersome for a survivor is that we have already spent a significant time of our lives recovering from being a pawn in the church’s political war. Nobody wants to be a pawn, even if they like the people playing chess.
All this to say, I’m reflecting on all the energy I have spent the last two years, advocating for survivor voices to be heard and leaders of toxic spiritual teaching to be awakened and I think…
As a portion of my story is shared in an upcoming piece of Our America with Lisa Ling, I can wonder how the limelight will turn my way or how it could just be another passing story that leaves no impact. I could wonder if it was a mistake or if it was what I’ve been waiting to do for 12 years, since leaving toxic teachings behind in my early 20’s. I could wonder a lot of things, but I’ve decided that I have too much going on that involves moving on and thus, the episode, with Our America is, in fact, this survivor’s last stand.
It is the last you will hear about my trying to kick against the goads that the modern-day Pharisees have laid out for the church at large. They are now working with organizations like the Marin Foundation, LoveBoldly (gag me and deceive me boldly) and other prophets of false hope in order to keep the homosexual trapped in his/her own body, as they take an unapologetic stand against civil liberties and even preach celibacy as if it is the new cure to this “sinful” state of gay…
It’s sick… and they should be ashamed of themselves, masquerading as bridge-builders when their bridges are clearly to nowhere. (And some of them should be sued for malpractice and false advertising but I digress).
I could watch it all unfold and see if my having shared has any impact or…
I can let it be enough that I have spoken up for survivors the last 2 years without stopping. And when I was called upon to participate in what we hope is the final “exodus” of this sick theology, I took time off work, paid my way out to LA from DC, (got $250 back from the production company which was a welcomed gesture) and I FACED THE DEMON that is this anti-gay, civil rights obstacle known as Exodus International and the toxic spirituality it represents.
I have done my part. It is enough.
So now what happens?
Well, because of results that you see below, from our work at Beyond Ex Gay, I will remain connected as a volunteer to survivors, as they seek online resources for addressing their healing.
It doesn’t drain me to speak to and connect with survivors because I trust it and I trust their intentions. It’s easy. They aren’t making a dime on their own healing. (Most of them, I hope!) However, when it comes to sharing my story publicly or connecting with leaders in order to see if they have a shred of social and emotional intelligence… I simply have to move on…
The ex-gay cult and restrictive spirituality are parts of an identity crisis that I’ve healed.
So I share within this post, links for new readers or old readers alike… to all the places you can access my story and perspective. If you can’t find my opinion, perspective or recommendations in my coming out book, spoken word pieces or blogs, then it does not exist.
I’ve said all I care to say on the matter…
Those who choose a religion of martyring themselves, have, in my opinion, created a wading pool of sludge where those who lack social and emotional intelligence drink or drown and call it healing. It is a masochistic and somewhat sadistic way to live. Whether they were born into it or they choose it, I send them love… light… and I release it to collapse on itself, as it will when we all awaken to a life of connection, life-affirming spirituality and gentle surrender to all that is… enough.
Namaste, to the tenacious survivors, their families, and to all who walk a path towards love, light and general badassery.
*** Updated after taping aired.*** If you want to see how I handled Alan’s apology, this is the only verbal footage that OWN used of my response.