For the decade since it was co-founded by the religious-rightist Family Research Council, Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays has criticized the more mainstream Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays because P-FLAG’s parents love their children unconditionally — and because P-FLAG parents refrain from bullying and cajoling their teen and adult children into seeking discredited forms of “therapy” from disgraced ex-gay therapists such as longtime P-FOX chairman Richard Cohen.
P-FOX encourages parents to blame one another — not biology — for their children’s sexual orientation. The organization warns its antigay parents (few of whom have ex-gay children) against trusting mainstream mental-health professionals to treat what is often the underlying cause of their children’s struggles: Depression and low self-esteem. Depression is viewed instead as a tool to make people unhappy enough with themselves to submit to abusive ex-gay programs.
P-FOX also dissuades parents from listening to their teen and adult children who have survived spiritual and emotional abuse under unprofessional and judgmental ex-gay counselors. Instead, P-FOX encourages parents to make life more difficult for ex-gay survivors, in the hope that escalating ostracism from family will force the survivor to resubmit to ex-gay abuse.
Some of these tactics are evident in P-FOX’s latest stunt: An article written by Jeanette Bakke, the antigay mother of former ex-gay Christine Bakke. Christine is co-founder of Beyond Ex-Gay, a support group for survivors of ex-gay abuse.
The mother protects P-FOX readers from exposure to her daughter’s experiences, by refraining from linking to Bakke’s extensive online writing and support work for survivors. Instead, she writes of her own self-pity and of her prayers that her “lost” daughter will one day be “found” by the source of the family’s spiritual abuse.
Christine is much more factual and objective in her response.
My parents and I are estranged. I can certainly appreciate that being gay, and my lack of salvation (who determines that, anyway?) are important things to them, but the truth is that we are estranged because of other equally important matters. They know what these matters are and what they could do to improve the situation, and I’m not making that public. They have thus far been unable or unwilling to do what needs to be done to restore any semblance of a relationship. And these issues have nothing to do with me being gay.
Clearly the fact that I’m gay (and unrepentantly so) and no longer a Christian is painful to my mom. It is hard to see her obviously hurting. I do love my parents and I always will. But I also refuse to accept love that is conditional upon me being straight (or ex-gay; since those aren’t the same thing) or a Christian.
All too often, P-FOX parents strive to transform Christianity into a religion of abuse, of gracelessness, of superficial “love” with political strings attached, of self-satisfaction and harsh judgment. Perhaps worst of all, they strive to make Christianity a religion that ignores and suppresses any ideas or facts which are contrary to religious-rightist political correctness. They tell themselves that they are just obeying the Word of God, but their tactics and their disrespect for facts — and for loved ones — are strangely absent from the Bible that they claim to follow. Furthermore, many P-FOX parents seem not to have even read the book that they assert is the sole source of truth.
Christine is an intelligent woman, and she appears to have grown emotionally and spiritually over the years through learning, contemplation, and observation of the suffering of her friends in ex-gay programs.
I’ve come into my own after much struggle and I reject the notion that I am lost or broken or need to be restored. There is something really disturbing about this idea that I am fundamentally flawed and need salvation in order to be a “good girl” in this world. I already am good, whole, and the only thing I’ve ever needed restored to me was my sanity after the years in the ex-gay movement.
I remember what it was like to be so distraught that others weren’t going to heaven with me. I know all the tears I cried for people I loved. I remember all the teachings about how not telling people about Jesus was like giving them a ticket to hell. It was our responsibility to make sure people knew about Jesus. In their minds, there’s nothing more tragic than eternal life without all of their children.
P-FOX and other groups like it have perverted the Christian gospels into a message of hate, conformity, self-defeat, and deliberate denial of plain truths.
As has become typical of conservative evangelicals, when they claim to love people unconditionally, P-FOX parents attach huge conditions:
Although saying that they love me unconditionally, in the Glamour article my mom said, “When you rock your baby in your arms, you never think one day my daughter will be homosexual and want to have sex with another woman, never have children. No one holds their baby and says maybe they’ll grow up to be a rapist, or this or that. You have dreams for your children.”
Well you know what? Children have dreams for their parents, too. You don’t lay in your parent’s arms and think that you’ll have to defend yourself from them thinking you are lost and damned eternally. You don’t cuddle up and think that one day you’ll find out that they believe that who you are is synonymous with being a rapist. I certainly didn’t have those dreams for my parents. What I did dream instead was that I might be able to express my concerns and be heard. I dreamed that I would be always cherished and deemed worthy of their love and respect, no matter my beliefs. I dreamed that I would be supported in living a life that was truly authentic and truly mine, without the haunting thoughts about what a disappointment I am to them. Those dreams have had to die.
Dreams die when parental employ blame games and closed hearts to destroy their families in the hope of saving them; when people promote ignorance, misinformation, and ostracism in the name of love and truth; and when followers of Jesus of Nazareth practice war in the name of peace.
Beyond Ex-Gay co-founder Peterson Toscano remarks that perhaps P-FOX should rename itself “The Disgruntled Parents of Unrepentant Gay and Lesbians.” I agree.