Beyond Ex-Gay

Christine Age 11Christine Bakke

I am a woman on a journey. I am making my own acquaintance after many years of trying to be many things I am not.

I grew up in a conservative, fundamentalist Christian family. Most of my education came from small Christian schools and church. My education about sexuality, and homosexuality in particular, came from the various Focus on the Family books and publications by the American Family Association. Understandably, I was not able to accept the attractions I had for women.

Following high school and a year of junior college, I attended one year of an intensive discipleship training school where our only subjects were God and the Bible and how to live in a way that would please God and bring others to a relationship with Christine in 88Christ.

After a year, I couldn't continue to maintain the facade needed to live that life, and when that year was over, I was a mess inside.

Painting of Christine's during 1994-1995: Coming Out A painting I did in 1994/1995 when I was trying to accept my sexual orientation.

It was when I graduated and left this college to attend University that I began to be able to face the truth about my life. In 1994, three years after my graduation from the one-year Bible college, I came out of the closet with all that "coming out" entails. Predictably, my family was upset, unsupportive, and (quite understandably given their religious framework) they grieved this news. In their grief I felt rejected. I also experienced rejection from Christian friends as well.

Image of Christine moving to CO in 1998In 1998, because I believed the the ex-gay movement’s slogan that said, "Change is Possible!" I moved to Denver, CO to take part in an Exodus-affiliated ex-gay ministry. I believed the half-truths that were told because I wanted to find a way to reconcile faith with my sexuality. I mistakenly thought the only way to do that was to work to change my orientation.

After five years of ex-gay ministries (including Exodus and Living Waters), deliverence (what some might call exorcisms), reparative therapy, and many hours at the altar and in prayer, I began to realize that in spite of many other positive changes, my orientation had not changed. It was easy to ignore this fact because on the surface, so many things looked "ex-gay." I'd healed from significant childhood abuse. I discovered my feminine side. I became comfortable in my own skin. But I was still attracted to women. And finally I had to face this truth.

In 2003, after ex-gay people I’d known were no longer ex-gay, after John Paulk had spent his evening in the gay bar, and when I could no longer live with the lies, I started to slowly peek my head back out of the closet.

Then I began two years of feeling in limbo, caught between two worlds. I was stuck in the aftermath of my ex-gay experiences and didn’t know how to move beyond it.

Peterson's Homonomo posterIn 2005 I saw Peterson’s one-man show, “Doin’ Time In The Homo No Mo Halfway House.” I wrote him shortly after:

"[Your show] made me see how much being in the ex-gay world both helped and harmed me. I saw before that there were ways in which it helped me, but what I didn't realize until just this week was how much shame I've taken on from that whole world, and how I feel like I lost my sense of who I am.

"Before I started the ex-gay path, I used to know who I was, and so did other people. I was proudly queer, out, didn't care who knew. Now I struggle with the shame of my being gay...when I'm around folks who feel I've failed, and my shame in being around "out" folks who haven't questioned all this and wasted time and money on something that wasn't meant to be.

"Sometimes I feel like being involved in ex-gay ministries is like an incomplete sex-change operation or something. It changes you enough that you can never go back, but it's damn hard to go forward too. And where do you fit after that? I feel sort of forever marked. Forever ashamed at the wasted years and the damage I've done to myself. Forever changed on some levels that make me not fit very well with the gay community, but not able to fit in the straight world either."

That show was the impetus for me to move into life beyond being ex-gay and caused me to reflect in depth on my ex-gay years.

I've lived many years being vague about my life, being ambiguous and asexual. And that’s just not good enough for me anymore. Now my desire is to be real and authentic. I want to live my life and be who I am, and be proud of what I've come through and what I've learned. So now it's time to step out of the dark and into the light. And in the process, I hope to illuminate some of the dark places in the ex-gay movement as well. Truth will always rise above. Of that I'm convinced.

Christine is an artist, sometimes blogger, and co-founder of along with Peterson Toscano. When she's not working full-time as a graphic designer/production artist/retoucher, she's busy making art exploring her ex-gay experiences, or telling her story of the harm in attempting to change her sexuality.

She's appeared on Good Morning America and her story has been told in Glamour Magazine. One of her favorite written interviews online is Fractured Faith, a two part series by The Colorado Independent (read both part one and two). She's been interviewed on podcasts and radio shows, including the Colorado Public Radio show, Colorado Matters. Christine, Peterson Toscano, and The GLBT Center at UC Irvine worked together to create the first ever "Ex-Gay Survivor Conference" in 2007, followed by The Survivor's Initiative, a series of press conferences across the United States that served as a witness and a warning about the harm caused by ex-gay programs.