Open Letter Addressed to Alan Chambers, Other Ex-gay Leaders
International Conference of Ex-gay Survivors to Coincide with Exodus Meeting
SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: June 25, 2007
For Immediate Release
Contact: Paige Schilt, Director of Public Relations and Media
(Irvine, CA) — As Exodus International, the world’s largest network of "ex-gay" ministries, prepares to hold its annual conference this week in Irvine, California, two former participants in Exodus programs have issued an open letter to the organization’s leaders. The letter, which was penned by Peterson Toscano and Christine Bakke, invites Exodus leaders to attend a dinner with "ex-gay survivors" — men and women who feel that attempts to change their sexual orientation caused emotional and spiritual damage.
"Many of us have spent months and years under your care in your ministries," the letter explains. "Sadly our ex-gay experiences caused more harm than good, and for many of us we have needed years to recover."
Toscano and Bakke are the founders of beyondexgay.com, a new web resource for ex-gay survivors. They will be in Irvine for The Ex-gay Survivor Conference, which will take place on the University of California’s Irvine campus June 29-July 1. This conference, which will draw participants from as far away as Australia and the United Kingdom, is the result of a year of planning and collaboration between Soulforce, the LGBT Resource Center at UC Irvine, and beyondexgay.com.
According to Soulforce Executive Director Jeff Lutes, "Our conference features the voices of men and women who, in spite of enormous pressures, have come to accept themselves as they are. Their stories present a hopeful alternative to the Exodus message, but we will not initiate or endorse any direct protest of the Exodus Conference."
Although no high ranking Exodus leaders have yet responded to the invitation to share a meal with ex-gay survivors, on Thursday, June 21, Exodus issued a press release indicating that the organization welcomes the possibility of dialogue between the two conferences.
"We feel encouraged that Exodus has responded to our invitation for dialogue," says Toscano. "We look forward to sharing challenges we faced in our lives as a result of our time in Exodus ministries."
Full text of letter:
Dear Exodus Leaders,
It is no coincidence that we scheduled the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference at the same time and in the same city as Exodus’ Freedom Conference. Although we do not wish to interrupt your gathering, we do long for the opportunity to connect with you. Many of us have spent months and years under your care in your ministries. We turned to you for help and received some good from our time under your care. Sadly our ex-gay experiences caused more harm than good, and for many of us we have needed years to recover.
We understand that this was not your intent. From knowing quite a few of you personally, we know that you have a heart to help people and to serve God. You meant to bless us.
Too often once we leave your programs, you never hear about our lives and what happens to us. Most ministries do not have aftercare programs or any formal means to follow-up on participants. Some stories you do not get to hear. If you do, our stories can be simplified by the press or infused with anger or hurt. In hopes of giving you the opportunity to hear about our experiences and the harm that we felt came to us as a result of our pursuit of an ex-gay life, we would like to invite you to join us for a private dinner on Friday, June 29, 2007.
The purpose of the dinner is to give you an opportunity to hear our stories. We do not wish to bash you, attack you or shame you. We simply desire to share our stories with you. No members of the press will be allowed into the dinner and it will not be recorded or filmed. We are hoping for a small gathering with a few ex-gay leaders and some ex-gay survivors. At the dinner a few of us will tell you our stories.
If you are interested in attending this dinner, please RSVP to email@example.com.
Peterson Toscano and Christine Bakke
Ex-gay survivors and co-founders of www.BeyondExGay.com
Registration for The Ex-gay Survivor Conference is available online at www.soulforce.org. The conference registration fee is $40, but no one will be turned away for lack of funds.
Soulforce is a national civil rights and social justice organization. Our vision is freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance. For more information go to www.soulforce.org.