Symposium dinner & performance announcement

We are pleased to announce that as part of our Soulfroce Symposium Dinner on Saturday, November 6th in Philadelphia – Peterson Toscano will be performing excerpts from his ground breaking one-man shows in a new segment entitled:  

 Doin’ Time with Peterson Toscano – Just When You Thought it was Safe to Laugh

Peterson Toscano performingSome comedy is so hilarious & insightful that it should come with a Surgeon General’s Warning. Presenting scenes from his acclaimed comedies along with outrageous and probing insights, this variety show with Peterson’s brilliant character portrayals promises to thoroughly entertain as it artfully instructs and invites deeper thinking. The creator of such plays as Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway HouseI Can See Sarah Palin from My Window! and Transfigurations, a play about gender non-conforming Bible charcters,  comically wrestles with privilege, sexism, gender, homophobia, the environment, foreign policy and family values. He may even slip in a dance number!

This performance is included with the dinner fee of only $35! Also, when you purchase a ticket to the dinner, you gain entry into the rest of the Symposium schedule free! Register for the dinner here!

Our three course meal and dinner theater will be held at the Juniper Ballroom in the Historic Dowtown Courtyard by Marriott. Even if you can’t make it to Philadelphia to attend, please pledge your support to this and other Soulforce programs, by donating here!

Symposium location, speakers, and more!

Soulforce is pleased to announce our primary location, keynote speakers, and other participants for our upcoming symposium to be held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania!

Exterior evening photograph of the Marriott Hotel in downtown PhiladelphiaOn Saturday, November 6th the symposium will take place at the Historic Downtown Courtyard by Marriott. The hotel is adjacent to City Hall and offers some of the best views of the city. Participants of the Symposium may book rooms at the hotel for the rate of $99 per night, which is a nearly 70% discount! To book a room you may either call the hotel directly, at 215-496-3200, or call central reservations at 1-888-236-2427. Be sure to mention our code: SOULFORCE in order to receive the discounted room rental rate. Rooms with a king bed, or two queen beds are available.

 

 We are pleased to welcome Jay Bakker and Daniel Helminiak as our key note speakers for the symposium.

Jay BakkerJay Bakker is a pastor who grew up witnessing both the good and bad of the church. His parents are Jim and Tammy Faye, ministers-turned-TV-hosts, who helped start both the Trinity Broadcasting Network and the 700 Club in the 1970’s, and later founded the PTL (Praise The Lord) Club. At the height of their popularity, they pastored the largest church in the country – until their lives were changed by one of the biggest scandals in American history. For the first time, Jay was exposed to the dark underbelly of religion; an experience that would stay with him to this day. In 1994, Jay, along with Kelli Miller and Mike Walls, started Revolution Church in Phoenix, AZ, to minister to those being ignored and rejected by the Christian church. He started a Revolution Church in Los Angeles, CA, and Atlanta, GA, before moving to New York and starting a church there in 2005. Jay has been an ally and friend to the LGBTQ community.

 

Daniel HelminiakDaniel Helminiak teaches psychology and spirituality as Professor at the University of West Georgia. He is also a psychotherapist, Catholic priest and theologian, author, and lecturer. He holds a PhD in psychology from The University of Texas at Austin and a PhD in theology from Andover Newton Theological School and Boston College, where he was teaching assistant to Prof. Bernard Lonergan, whom Newsweek magazine called the Thomas Aquinas of the 20th Century. He is certified as a Fellow of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors and is licensed as a Professional Counselor in the state of Georgia. His book, What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality (Alamo Square Press, 1994, 2000), is an international best-seller.

 

Our other presenters and participants include, but are not limited to:

Peterson Toscano
Christine Bakke
Christine Robinson
Darlene Bogle

More information: Bios & photographs of speakers and presenters | Register for the symposium

Even if you are unable to attend our symposium, you can still help Soulforce with this event, and the ability to hold future events: Donate here!

Soulforce Symposium Speakers, Presenters, and Contributors

KEYNOTE SPEAKERS

Jay BakkerJay Bakker is a pastor who grew up witnessing both the good and bad of the church. His parents are Jim and Tammy Faye, ministers-turned-TV-hosts, who helped start both the Trinity Broadcasting Network and the 700 Club in the 1970’s, and later founded the PTL (Praise The Lord) Club. At the height of their popularity, they pastored the largest church in the country – until their lives were changed by one of the biggest scandals in American history. For the first time, Jay was exposed to the dark underbelly of religion; an experience that would stay with him to this day. In 1994, Jay, along with Kelli Miller and Mike Walls, started Revolution Church in Phoenix, AZ, to minister to those being ignored and rejected by the Christian church. He started a Revolution Church in Los Angeles, CA, and Atlanta, GA, before moving to New York and starting a church there in 2005. Jay has been an ally and friend to the LGBTQI community.

 

Daniel HelminiakDaniel Helminiak teaches psychology and spirituality as Professor at the University of West Georgia. He is also a psychotherapist, Catholic priest and theologian, author, and lecturer. He holds a PhD in psychology from The University of Texas at Austin and a PhD in theology from Andover Newton Theological School and Boston College, where he was teaching assistant to Prof. Bernard Lonergan, whom Newsweek magazine called the Thomas Aquinas of the 20th Century. He is certified as a Fellow of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors and is licensed as a Professional Counselor in the state of Georgia. His book, What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality (Alamo Square Press, 1994, 2000), is an international best-seller.

 

PRESENTERS & CONTRIBUTORS

Vincent CervantesVincent Cervantes is a queer Chicano, speaker, writer, and activist. His work explores discussions around the intersections of religion, theology, gender, sexuality, and race. Since 2006, Vincent has traveled throughout North America to share his own personal story as an "ex-gay" survivor. His story has been shared through Details Magazine, The Tyra Banks Show, and other various media outlets. He is currently a graduate student at Harvard Divinity School, focusing his research on the areas of religion, gender, and culture. He has authored and contributed to several publications and has presented conference papers that highlight religious discourse surrounding the "ex-gay" movement. He recently completed an autobiographical memoir that is expected to be released next year. For more information, visit Vincent’s website, www.vincentcervantes.com.

 

Peterson ToscanoAs a gay man, Peterson Toscano‘s journey out of the closet has been long and complicated. After years of submitting to reparative therapy through counseling and even three exorcisms, in January of 1999 he finally came OUT and fully accepted himself as a gay man. Peterson began writing and performing one-person comedies shortly after this including  Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House–How I Survived the Ex-Gay Movement. In 2007 he and Christine Bakke launched Beyond Ex-Gay (www.BeyondExgay.com). Through a partnership with the US non-violent social justice organization, Soulforce and the University of California at Irvine, bXg organized and ran the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference June 29-July 1, 2007.Peterson has broadened his focus to include gender and transgender issues (Transfigrations–Transgressing Gender in the Bible) as well as racism, privilege, the environment and sexism (I Can See Sarah Palin from my Window! Lessons Before the Second Coming.) A member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers,) Peterson lives in Sunbury, PA with his partner, writer, Glen Retief. For more information see www.petersontoscano.com

Christine BakkeChristine Bakke is an ex-gay survivor who spent over four years trying to change her sexual orientation. In 1998 she started on her ex-gay journey and participated in an Exodus program, Living Waters, the "casting out of demons", and private reparative therapy. In 2003, she realized that while she had changed in many areas, her sexual orientation remained the same. She found that telling her story through words and art to be cathartic and healing. She has told her story in the pages of Glamour magazine, Good Morning America, and other media venues. Along with Peterson Toscano, she founded Beyond Ex-Gay, and is excited about journeying with other ex-gay survivors to find healing and true wholeness. For more information, visit Christine’s website, Rising Up Whole

Kevin Trimell JonesKevin Trimell Jones is a public health advocate who combines his passions for history, urban communities and social justice to promote dialogue and change. For the past ten years, he has organized around community and public health issues, and has worked with various individuals, communities and organizations locally and abroad. Professionally, he serves as a behavioral researcher at the University of Pennsylvania’s HIV/AIDS Prevention Research Division where he designs recruitment and retention strategies for clinical HIV vaccine trials. Additionally, Kevin is a national trainer with the Gay Men’s Health Leadership Academy, a co-founder of the Black Gay Men’s Leadership Council and the founder of the Black LGBT Archivists Society of Philadelphia, an organization that strives to provide opportunities for creating, documenting, preserving and exhibiting Philadelphia’s Black LGBT history. He holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and Masters-level graduate degrees from the University of Massachusetts — Amherst and the University of Pennsylvania. Kevin was born in Saginaw, MI, grew up in Detroit, MI and currently resides in Philadelphia, PA.

Darlene BogleDarlene Bogle was an assistant Pastor in the Foursquare church, while leading an Ex-gay ministry for almost ten years. She was asked to resign both positions when God changed her heart and overwhelmed her with His unconditional love. She has appeared in the film documentary, God and Gays-Bridging the Gap; has authored or contributed to 5 books, dispelling the message that change is required or desired from God to be a healthy member of the faith community. She has partnered with Soulforce; Beyond Ex-Gay, and other Christian ministries with a message of God’s love and acceptance. She stood with Michael Bussee and Jeremy Marks three years ago to issue an apology to the Gay community for their harmful message as Exodus leaders. Darlene is active is social justice work around the country and works with her Partner Becky to further the message of God’s unconditional Love for all His children. They live in San Jose California and attend the First Congregational Church-a UCC fellowship. Darlene can be reached at Turtlehrt@aol.com

Christine RobinsonDr. Christine Robinson is an Associate Professor of Justice Studies in the Department of Justice Studies at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. She holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Kansas. She has published peer-reviewed articles, presented conference papers, written an outline article, and published a scholarly book review on issues related to the ex-gay movement. She is a 2009 recipient of the Monette-Horwitz Trust Award, honoring individuals and organizations for their significant contributions toward eradicating homophobia. She has also been honored with the 2009 Christopher L. Gatesman Service Award, the 2009 Faculty Diversity Enhancement Award by the Office of the President at James Madison University, and in 2007 the blossoming Professional Award by the society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality.

Gloria CasarezGloria Casarez never planned to work in government, but in 2008 she joined forces with Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter to handle lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) affairs on behalf of the city’s residents. In 1995, Casarez began work at the LGBT Center of the University of Pennsylvania. In 1997, she moved on to a position at the Gay and Lesbian Latino AIDS Education Initiative (GALAEI), where she ran a program for LGBT youth. Two years later, she took over the reigns as executive director, where she increased the organization’s outreach, tripled its budget and created the first transgender-led services in Philadelphia as part of its peer-based programs. As a government director, Casarez continues to work on various projects to improve the lives of LGBT people in Philadelphia, including ensuring that municipal agencies provide services fairly and equally, advancing pro-LGBT legislation and training school faculties on how to support queer-identified students. 

J MasonJ. Mason is a highly engaging Black/Gay/Trans/Queer facilitator and performer based in Philadelphia. Having been doing work as an educator since their first job as an assistant instructor, while still a freshman in high school, Mason has been conducting trainings on various topics for over 10 years. Combining multiple learning styles, a social work model and the sheer sense of joy invoked from sharing information Mason believes that in order for an audience to internalize the information you are presenting, they must understand how it affects them and the networks they are a part of personally. Holding a B.A. in Multicultural Relations from Arcadia University, Mason is currently serving as the Education Specialist for The Bryson Institute of The Attic Youth Center. To date, Mason has trained thousands of providers and community members on various issues concerning LGBTQIA youth in spaces such as church communities, elementary schools, domestic violence shelters, medical agencies, juvenile justice organizations, foster care programs and others as part of a quickly growing list of expertise.

Amanda Lee GenaroAmanda Lee Genaro is a 25 year old, Hard-of-hearing, bisexual, sober woman from Indiana. A respected Bi activist, she currently resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Amanda Lee had her first run in with Soulforce during the first Equality Ride in 2006 when they came to demonstrate at North Central University. After the  Ride visited Amanda Lee came out, and was expelled from North Central, just two months before graduation. Amanda Lee participated in the 2010 Equality Ride, where she led the stop at Southwest Baptist University, and also a direct action at the Assemblies of God headquarters in Springfield, MO resulting in a first-ever meeting between Soulforce and the Assemblies of God leadership. Amanda Lee works to raise awareness around issues of Bi-phobia and Ableism (among other topics), serving on multiple committees and panels in both Indiana and Minnesota. 

Jallen RixJallen Rix, Ed.D. ACS, is Associate Professor at The Institute for Advanced Studies of Human Sexuality in San Francisco. He is a Board Certified Sexologist by the American College of Sexologist. He teaches and maintains a private practice in San Francisco and Palm Springs. Growing up as a Southern Baptist, he was taught that spirituality was heavenly but sexuality was from the devil. While obtaining a B.A. in creative arts and a minor in theology, he also went to great lengths attempting to change his sexuality from gay to straight in an ex-gay ministry — to no avail. Jallen’s first book, Ex-Gay No Way: Survival and Recovery from Religious Abusewas just published by Findhorn Press and it tells of his journey out of sexually oppressive religion and reparative therapy to find heath wholeness and happiness as a gay man.

 

Sponsored in part by
COIL Foundation
COIL Foundation

Soulforce Releases Video of Visit to New Life Church

Survivors of Ex-gay Ministries Visit Ted Haggard’s Former Church to Tell of the Harm Caused by Message that Gays Should Must Change

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: July 9, 2007
For Immediate Release
Contact: Paige Schilt, Director of Public Relations and Media
Cell: 512-659-1771
paige@soulforce.org
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(Colorado Springs, CO) — Today Soulforce released video of an action outside New Life Church. To view the video, go to: www.soulforce.org/article/1281

On Sunday, July 8, three survivors of "ex-gay" ministries and counseling — Christine Bakke, Daniel Gonzales, and Peterson Toscano — traveled to New Life Church to speak out about the emotional, financial, and spiritual harm caused by the message that lesbians and gays can and should change their sexual orientation. They told their stories just outside the west entrance of the church and then walked to the church’s World Prayer Center to present framed collages depicting their experiences.

Once inside the World Prayer Center, the three former ex-gays spoke with two New Life pastors who greeted them cordially, listened to their concerns, and indicated a willingness to engage in further discussions.

"I think that things really shifted when we explained that this is not about politics, this is about pastoral care," said Toscano.

In November 2006, former New Life pastor Ted Haggard was dismissed from church leadership after allegations that he purchased drugs and engaged the services of a male escort. At that time, the church’s board of overseers recommended that Haggard submit to Dr. James Dobson, and megachurch pastors Tommy Barnett and Jack Hayford for a program of "healing and restoration." Dobson demurred and was replaced by H.B. London, Assistant Vice President at Focus on the Family.

The New Life board’s prescribed treatment reinforced the message that gays and lesbians can and must change their sexual orientation.

In her Sunday statement, Bakke, a Colorado resident, explained how similar messages motivated her to try to change her sexual orientation.

"I believed I had to change my orientation so that I could be considered holy and acceptable by God and those in church communities just like the one here," she said.

For seven years, Bakke single-mindedly pursued change. She tried prayer, support groups, reparative therapy, and pastoral counseling. She even attended a weekend seminar at New Life Church and met with two women in Colorado Springs who attempted to heal her by casting out demons.

In the end, Bakke "felt betrayed by the knowledge that many of the people who had talked about change actually meant a change in behavior but not in orientation….I walked away feeling damaged and broken."

As part of her healing process, Bakke co-founded beyondexgay.com with Toscano. The site, which went live this April, provides a space for ex-gay survivors to connect and share their experiences.

Twenty-six year old Gonzales spoke about his experiences with secular "conversion therapy." His experiences underscore the position of the American Psychological Association, which warned in 1998 that reparative therapy puts patients at risk for "depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior," because "therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient."

Sunday’s press conference was organized by Soulforce and is part of a national campaign to highlight the stories of "ex-gay survivors" — men and women who believe that attempts to change sexual orientation did more harm than good.


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.

Video from the Press Conference Outside New Life Church

The Ex-Gay Survivor’s Conference took place June 29 – July 1 in Irvine, California.

Survivor’s Initiative – New Life Church Action – Part 1 of 2

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Survivor’s Initiative – New Life Church Action – Part 2 of 2

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Survivor’s Initiative Explained

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Get Flash Player (required to play)

"Survivor’s Initiative – New Life Church Action" video by Daniel Gonzales.

Photos from the Ex-Gay Survivor’s Conference


LGBT Resource Center at the University of California – Irvine

Jeff Lutes speaks to the group

Jallen Rix performs

Peterson Toscano in Doing Time The Homo No Mo Halfway House

Paige Schilt directs the media

Kara Speltz handles registration

Registration

Jeremy Marks welcomes a friend

Mike Airhart and Ken

Gathering for the Chalk Talk

Discussing Registration

Jeff Lutes and Mel White

Sharing Ex-Gay Experiences

Peterson leads the Chalk Talk

Phil Lawson and Sylvia Rhue

Sharing Ex-Gay Experiences

Sharing Ex-Gay Experiences

Sharing Ex-Gay Experiences

Sharing Ex-Gay Experiences

Sharing Ex-Gay Experiences

Sharing Ex-Gay Experiences

Jim Burroway

Michael Bussee

Dee talks with a film-maker

Lisa and Anthony

Conference participants

Peterson, Christine, Pat, Paige, and Jeff

Students and Pat from the LGBT Resource Center at the University of California

Wayne Besen

Jason & deMarco

What a cute couple

Having a great time at the Ex-gay Survivor’s Conference

Christine Bakke at the ceremonial tree planting

Cutting the paper from the Sharing Ex-Gay Experiences into pieces to plant with the tree

Bill Carpenter

Rev. Steven Kindle

Cutting the paper from the Sharing Ex-Gay Experiences into pieces to plant with the tree

The tree is a Heavenly Bamboo

Cutting the paper from the Sharing Ex-Gay Experiences into pieces to plant with the tree

Mixing the pieces of paper with the soil. The tree will be planted on the campus of the University of California – Irvine

Soulforce Announces Line-up for Ex-Gay Survivor Conference

Participants Include Rev. Dr. Mel White, Peterson Toscano, Christine Bakke, Rev. Nancy Wilson, Jason Cianciotto, and Rev. Phil Lawson

June 29-July 1, at University of California-Irvine

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: April 27, 2007
For Immediate Release
Contact: Paige Schilt, Media Director
Cell: 512-659-1771
paige@soulforce.org
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(Irvine, CA) — This summer, on June 29-July 1, former "ex-gays" and their allies will have an unprecedented opportunity to meet, share resources, and add their voices to a growing social movement. The Ex-gay Survivors’ Conference, which will take place on the University of California’s Irvine campus, is co-sponsored by Soulforce, beyondexgay.com, and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Resource Center at the University of California, Irvine. A complete conference schedule is now available at www.soulforce.org/article/1252.

Recent events have brought national attention to the existence of programs intended to modify same-sex desires, which continue to multiply in spite of the consensus of the major medical and mental health organizations that sexual orientation is not a disorder and is, therefore, not in need of a cure. The Ex-gay Survivors’ Conference will focus on the personal stories of "survivors" — people who feel they have experienced more harm than benefits from ex-gay programs.

"We feel that the voices and experiences of survivors are the most powerful answer to the Exodus conference, which will be happening in Irvine at the same time," says Paige Schilt, Soulforce Media Director. Exodus International bills itself as the largest network of ex-gay ministries.

Facilitators at the Ex-gay Survivors’ Conference, which will feature interactive workshops, include Soulforce co-founder Rev. Dr. Mel White, former Exodus leader Darlene Bogle, and beyondexgay.com co-founder, Christine Bakke, who recently shared her story on Good Morning America and is featured in this month’s Glamour magazine.

Performance activist Peterson Toscano, who has recently appeared on the Tyra Banks and Montel Williams shows, will open the conference with his one man show, Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House on Friday evening, June 29 in the Crystal Cove Auditorium. On Saturday, Toscano and Bakke will co-facilitate a workshop titled From the Chat Room to the Talk Show: Processing and Sharing Our Stories.

"The ex-gay experience is unique in many ways. Creating a communal space for ex-gay survivors to tell their stories allows us to share what led us into an ex-gay lifestyle and ways we have been able to recover from it," says Bakke.

Soulforce Executive Director Jeff Lutes, a licensed psychotherapist, will co-facilitate a Saturday session titled Building Healthy Relationships After an Ex-gay Experience. The American Psychological Association identifies "depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior" among the possible risks associated with ex-gay therapies.

For those who have not had an ex-gay experience but would like to stand in solidarity to confront ex-gay ministries and reparative therapies, the conference will also feature an ally track, with workshops such as Ex-gay 101 and Becoming a Powerful Ally. The latter will be facilitated by Rev. Phil Lawson, a civil rights leader and affordable housing activist.

Saturday’s events will culminate in a concert and film forum in the Crystal Cove Auditorium. The evening will feature singer/songwriters Jason and DeMarco, as well as excerpts from the documentary God and Gays and works in progress by filmmakers Lisa Darden and Morgan Fox.

Friday and Saturday evening events are free and open to the public.

Registration for the 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.

Speaker Bios

The Survivor's Conference: Beyond Ex-Gay

Peterson Toscano

Peterson ToscanoAs a gay man, Peterson Toscano’s journey out of the closet had been long and complicated. After 15 years of submitting to reparative therapy through counseling, ex-gay support groups, and even three exorcisms, Peterson enrolled in the ex-gay residential program, Love in Action. He graduated successfully from the program nearly two years later, but in January of 1999 he finally came to his senses and accepted himself as a gay man.

In 2000 he interviewed scores of LGBT folks in Memphis, TN in order to write and direct a performance poem for Judy Sheppard during her historic visit . Drawing on his experience in the ex-gay movement and as a result of interviews with others including his parents, in 2003 Peterson wrote and premiered his one-person comedy, Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House — How I Survived the Ex-Gay Movement! (www.homonomo.com) and has since presented it widely throughout North America and Europe.

In 2005 he was featured in the film Fish Can’t Fly — Conversations about God and Struggling to be Gay. His other works include Queer 101 — Now I Know My gAy,B,C’s, How the Indians Discovered Columbus and The Re-Education of George W. Bush. He is currently working on his latest play, Transfigurations, which explores the stories and lives of transgender people in the Bible and in the world today.

He has served on the board of True Colors, which annually organizes the nation’s largest GLBT youth issues conference. Peterson currently lives in Hartford, CT where he worked as an infusion teacher at the Watkinson School (2001-2004). He is currently on an official leave of absence so he can perform and write.

Peterson, a Christian, is a member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quaker) in West Hartford, CT.

His web site is www.petersontoscano.com


Christine Bakke

Christine BakkeChristine Bakke is an ex-gay survivor who spent over 4 years trying to change her orientation. She moved to Denver in 1998 to become ex-gay and participated in an Exodus program, the Living Waters program, the "casting out of demons", and private reparative therapy. In 2003 she realized that while she had changed in many areas, her sexual orientation remained the same. She started the process of re-coming out in 2004 and found that telling her story and connecting with other ex-gay survivors to be cathartic, freeing, and healing. After she told her story publicly for the first time on Coming Out day in 2005, she was contacted and asked to tell her story for Glamour magazine, which will appear in the May issue. She also volunteers with a GLBT speaker’s bureau at colleges in the Denver area and enjoys being able to share her story and talk to students of all backgrounds about what it is like to grow up in a fundamentalist, evangelical Christian home, come out, become ex-gay, and come out again. Along with Peterson Toscano, she founded Beyond Ex-Gay, a website for other former ex-gays to connect and share their stories, and is excited about journeying with other ex-gay survivors to find healing and true wholeness.

Glamor (May 2007 issue): "They tried to cure me of being gay"


Jason and deMarco

Jason and deMarcoJason and deMarco are living proof that art imitates life, and that music can also be inspired by the best that life has to offer on its many levels, sometimes mystical and at times, even euphoric. Their passionate and hopeful lyrics exemplify a spirit that is reflected in both their lives and music, attracting audiences everywhere, and creating instant fans wherever they go. States deMarco, "We want to create music that is very inclusive." With such an attitude, it is not surprising that the duo’s music and performances have been received with critical acclaim and that this represents just the beginning of what is sure to be a long and prosperous career.

Jason Warner is the oldest son in an entertainment family. He grew up traveling with his mother in music ministry, and eventually joined her. Jason toured with the professional contemporary recording group, Truth, in 1996, and then with the group, The Sound, in 1997 and 1998. He gained valuable experience traveling with the groups and learned about management, directing, production and booking, getting hands-on experience in The Sound’s office and studio based in Houston, TX. Jason graduated from Lee University in Cleveland, TN in 1997 with a BA degree in Music and Sociology. He decided to go solo in 1998 to form his own independent recording label, RJN MUSIC!, a sole proprietorship of Jason Warner, originally based in Nashville, TN.

deMarco DeCiccio , a native of Canada, discovered his love for music and theater at an early age studying at the Etobicoke School for the Performing Arts, later graduating with a B.A. degree in Music and Languages from York University in Canada in 1999. deMarco’s debut album was a series of love songs, sung in Italian, called "Melodie." Since relocating to the West Coast from Canada in 1999, deMarco has performed in concerts and at festivals and clubs throughout Los Angeles and across the country. deMarco has been in several theatrical productions, and his face has also been seen on several National commercials. Before launching their duo act, deMarco was the lead in a musical entitled "California Dream Men", touring Italy.

The Ex-Gay Survivor’s Conference

Schedule

The Survivor's Conference: Beyond Ex-Gay

Press conference on Wednesday, June 27th or Thursday, June 28th (date, time, and location to be announced). The following schedule of events is subject to change:

Friday, June 29th

4:00pm

Pre-Conference Book-Signing

  • Wayne Besen, author of Anything But Straight
  • Darlene Bogle, author of A Christian Lesbian Journey: A Continuation of Long Road to Love
  • Mel White, author of Religion Gone Bad and Stranger at the Gate
6:00pm Early Registration & Check-In (Crystal Cove Auditorium)
7:00pm Doing time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House: How I survived the Ex-gay Movement
– By Peterson Toscano (Crystal Cove Auditorium – Free & Open to the Public)
www.homonomo.com

Saturday, June 30th

8:00am Registration & Check-in
9:00am Welcome – Pat Walsh, Director, LGBT Resource Center, UC Irvine & Jeff Lutes, MS, LPC, Executive Director, Soulforce
9:15 – 10:30am Chalk Talk: Reflections on the Ex-Gay Experience
Peterson Toscano & Jallen Rix, Ph.D.
10:30 – 10:45am Break
10:45am – 12:00pm

Morning Concurrent Workshops

Workshop 1:
From the Chat Room to the Talk Show: Processing and Sharing Our Stories
Peterson Toscano & Christine Bakke

Workshop 2:
What the Bible Says & Doesn’t Say About Homosexuality
Rev. Nancy Wilson & Rev. Dr. Mel White

Workshop 3:
Ex-Gay 101
Exodus? NARTH? Courage ? Dos Equis? This workshop will look at the history, ideology and evolution of the Ex-gay Movement.
Presenter: Jim Burroway, the creator of Box Turtle Bulletin, writes extensively about the Ex-gay Movement including his multiple-part series on the Love Won Out Conference sponsored by Focus on the Family in Phoenix earlier this year.

12:00 – 2:00pm Lunch & Community Building (Art Room and Exhibition Hall open, a reading by Regan DuCass from her play "Shepard/Till-The American Verses" is also available as an optional activity)
2:00 – 3:10pm

Afternoon Concurrent Workshops

Workshop 1:
Impacting the Media: Successful Strategies for Sharing Your Story with Confidence
Paige Schilt, Ph.D. & Jason Cianciotto

Workshop 2:
Building Healty Relationships after an Ex-Gay Experience
Jeff Lutes, MS, LPC & Darlene Bogle

Workshop 3:
Becoming a Powerful Ally
Rev. Phil Lawson & Alyssa Harrad, Ph.D.

3:15 – 3:30pm Break
3:30 – 4:45pm Telling Our Stories Creatively: Writing, Blogging, Video, etc.
4:45 – 5:00pm Wrap Up: Set Your Intentions & Commit to Action
5:00 – 7:00pm Dinner & Community Building
7:00pm

Conference Gala & Closing Festivities!
Featuring music by Jason & deMarco and a film forum by directors, including:

Sunday, July 1st

Morning

Optional worship at a welcoming and affirming church of your choice.

2:30 – 3:30pm

Optional Workshops

Workshop 1
Courting Justice: Ex-Gays and the Law
Wayne Besen

Workshop 2
Mental Health Professionals Round Table: Best Practices from the Ex-gay Survivor’s Conference

 

The Ex-Gay Survivor’s Conference

Survivors of Ex-Gay Programs Reach Out to Other Survivors; BeyondExGay.com Launches Today, Conference Set for June

Survivors Believe Programs Do More Harm Than Good

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: April 2, 2007
For Immediate Release
Contact: Paige Schilt, Media Director
Cell: 512-659-1771
paige@soulforce.org
Peterson Toscano, BeyondExGay.com
Cell: 860-680-0639
peterson@petersontoscano.com
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(Austin, TX) — Survivors of ex-gay programs can take advantage of two new resources this week. BeyondExGay.com, an online community for those who are healing from ex-gay experiences, will go live today. Simultaneously, online registration will begin for The Survivor’s Conference: Beyond Ex-gay, a face-to-face event scheduled for June 29-July 1, and sponsored by beyondexgay.com and Soulforce.

Recent events have brought national attention to the existence of programs intended to modify same-sex desires. While much of that attention has focused on whether sexual orientation is subject to change, BeyondExGay.com and The Survivor’s Conference are the first efforts to move beyond that debate in order to focus on the community of "survivors" — people who feel they have experienced more harm than benefits from ex-gay programs.

"We use the term ‘survivor’ because we want to emphasize the very real psychological trauma that these programs can cause, and also because we want to highlight the strength of the men and women who, in spite of enormous pressures, come to accept themselves as they are," says Jeff Lutes, a practicing psychotherapist and Executive Director of Soulforce.

The creators of BeyondExGay.com, Peterson Toscano and Christine Bakke, talked to hundreds of fellow ex-gay survivors. What they heard, again and again, was that ex-gay experiences brought inner turmoil, confusion and shame.

Many survivors acknowledge that some good came of their ex-gay journey. "We grew to understand our sexuality better and in some cases even overcame life-controlling problems," says Toscano, but he is quick to point out that the harm most survivors experience far outweighs the help they receive. The consensus of the major medical and mental health organizations is that homosexuality is not a disorder and, therefore, does not need to be cured. The American Psychological Association identifies "depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior" among the possible risks associated with ex-gay therapies.

Toscano spent 17 years and over $30,000 on three continents attempting to change or at least contain his unwanted same-sex attractions. He ultimately endured two years at the Love in Action residential ex-gay program in Memphis, TN.

"In the end I was still very gay, but also depressed, isolated and nearly faithless," he says.

Toscano, now a Christian Quaker, has since created a one-person comedy about his ex-gay experiences and has presented Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House and his other work throughout North America, Europe, West Africa and the Caribbean. In spring 2005, Bakke contacted Toscano after attending one of his performances.

Bakke herself spent more than 4 years trying to change her orientation. She moved to Denver in 1998 to become ex-gay and participated in a program affiliated with Exodus International, the largest network of ex-gay ministries. In 2003 she realized that while she had changed in many areas, her sexual orientation remained the same. Bakke’s story will be featured in the May issue of Glamour, which hits newsstands April 10. Toscano will be a guest on the Tyra Banks show April 12.

Bakke and Toscano continued to dialogue, and last spring they decided it was time to reach out to more ex-gay survivors through the Internet. Together with assistance from their friend, Steve Boese, they form the perfect team: Bakke — a graphic designer, Toscano — a writer, and Boese — a web guru and founder of MyOrgHost.

BeyondExGay.com currently features diverse narratives from ex-gay survivors. It also provides an array of resources, including original articles and art by survivors, as well as links to other sites. Soon survivors will have the option to join the community and create a profile. Through an on-line form, they will document and share their own ex-gay experiences. Their responses will then be added to a database that will track the variety and scope of ex-gay experiences endured by survivors.

"The ex-gay experience is unique in many ways. No one understands it better than those of us who have been through it. Creating a communal space for ex-gay survivors to tell their stories allows us to share what led us into an ex-gay lifestyle and ways we have been able to recover from it," says Bakke.

Creating a space for survivors to come together and share their stories was also the impetus behind The Survivor’s Conference: Beyond Ex-Gay. The conference, which will take place June 29-July 1 at the University of California-Irvine, is co-sponsored by the LGBT Resource Center at UC Irvine.

"We chose Irvine because the annual Exodus Freedom Conference is coming to Irvine that week," says Lutes. "For Soulforce, BeyondExGay.com, and the LGBT Resource Center at UC Irvine, it is very important to provide a positive response to the Exodus message that our community is sinful and disordered."

Registration for the conference, which will feature workshops led by ex-gay survivors, is available online at www.soulforce.org/article/1226. The conference registration fee is $40, and some scholarships are available. A Friday night performance of Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House and a Saturday night concert by the musical duo Jason and deMarco are free and open to the public.

Conference organizers hope to attract a broad audience to the conference. According to the Soulforce web site, "If you want to stand in peaceful solidarity to lovingly confront the damaging consequences of the ex-gay movement – this conference is for you. If you have ever been through an ex-gay experience or been damaged by the message that God does not love and affirm you – this conference is for you. If you are confused about the Bible and homosexuality, currently in an ex-gay program, or thinking about trying to change who you are – this conference is for you."


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.