Common Ground?

Commenter Dr. David Blakeslee suggested 8 points of possible common ground regarding sexuality policy on a recent thread. I am posting these for continued discussion. Feel free to suggest others. The idea is to discuss issues of perceived common ground rather than policy positions that are unlikely to generate commonality (e.g., Federal Marriage Amendment versus the federal recognition of same-sex marriage). As usual, it is fine to discuss the merits of any given policy position as long as it is done civilly. For this post, however, I think it would be interesting to discuss the points of commonality.

Dr. Blakeslee suggested “a short-list of proposed common ground:
1. Ethical therapeutic practices.
2. Protecting gays and lesbians in public and private settings.
3. Forbidding discrimination in employment and housing.
4. Access to quality sex education (not advocacy education)
5. Encouraging delay in sexual expression (heterosexuals also) into early 20’s.
6. Building a consensus on the scientific literature on same-sex attraction (a general title).
7. Protecting all groups (gay and straight) from sexual exploitation.
8. Encouraging the bonding of love as an expression of empathy and devotion with the behavior of sex.”

I invite those from all sides to express whether you feel you can agree to these points. Feel free to be candid about points of disagreement or concern.

30 thoughts on “Common Ground?”

  1. TO: Alan Chambers
    President, EXODUS International
    FROM: MIchael Bussee
    EXODUS Co-founder
    RE: Allies, too.

    Dear Alan:

    Scott just sent me your “Allies, Too” information. Now THIS is progress!!! This is ALL I really wanted from you all along. Too bad you waited to do it as a response to the GSA “Allies Week” announcement of October 15, 2006. It would have been cool for it to be EXODUS’s own initiative, not a reaction to the Gay Student Alliance making the move. But, hey, I will take it no matter HOW it got done.

    Why not make it apply to all of us, not just students, and announce it at the LWO conference? If you will do that, I will personally let the so-called “pro-gay” forces KNOW where exactly where you stand TODAY. Why not put these same three points on the FRONT PAGE of the EXODUS website – not just for STUDENTS to pledge, but for ALL of us (on BOTH sides of the “gay issue”) to “make the WORLD (not just schools) a safe and abuse-free place for all people” (not just students).

    Maybe put a “button” on your front page that reads: “Our Pledge for a Safe and Harassment Free World”.

    (1) Never use slurs or demeaning language against anyone.

    (2) Make efforts, when I feel it’s possible, to stop any name-calling or harassment I see.

    (3) Express my beliefs with compassion, and pursue dialog with those who disagree.

    The language is something that I think all of us could agree on. I would promote these three points in everything I say and let people know that EXODUS wrote it.

    I have printed out a copy and just signed it. Let’s all pledge to do the same RIGHT NOW. I believe it is WAY past time.

    In Christ,

  2. Unfortunately, “Dr.” Schoenwolf doesn’t know the history of Africa’s great empires back then, like the Mali, the Songhai, and the Niger that flourished western Africa. It went really well until the savage Europeans use their maxim guns in Nigeria

  3. Let’s educate NARTH and Schoenewolf: is a great place to begin to explore just how stupid Schonewolf is when he says that pre-slave-era Africa was basically a an “uncivilized, savage jungle”.

    Quote from the site: “Africa is a continent of magnificent treasures and cultures — from the breathtaking stone architecture of 1,000-year-old ruins in South Africa to an advanced 16th century international university in Timbuktu. However, for centuries, many of these African wonders have been hidden from the world, lost to the ravages of time, nature and repressive governments.”

    The website includes articles on: Black Kingdoms of the Nile, Temples of Abu Simbel, Black Pharaohs, City of Jebel Barkal, Pyramids at Giza, The Swahili Coast, Historic Gedi The Swahili People, Slave Kingdoms, Ashanti Kingdom and many others.

  4. Looks like you might need to start a new “thread” on this one. I am astonished and disgusted by the Schoenewolf comments. “Africa was savage and uncivilized”? Slaves were “in many ways better off”?

  5. Dr. Throckmorton: has NARTH responded in any way to your objections to Narth adviser’s Schoenewolf article? In the article, Schoenewolf says

    “With all due respect, there is another way, or other ways, to look at the race issue in America. It could be pointed out, for example, that Africa at the time of slavery was still primarily a jungle, as yet uncivilized or industrialized. Life there was savage, as savage as the jungle for most people, and that it was the Africans themselves who first enslaved their own people. They sold their own people to other countries, and those brought to Europe, South America, America, and other countries, were in many ways better off than they had been in Africa. But if one even begins to say these things one is quickly shouted down as though one were a complete madman.”

  6. Pam – Good to hear from you. I agree that simply saying you should be in love before you have sex has opened the flood gates. Since love in middle school is all about brain trickery, the message must be tied to something real, like responsibility and safety.

  7. Warren (and others),
    I’m writing with my “teacher hat” on now….although, as you all well-know, my experiences certainly color my opinions.

    The only point that flys right past me is #8. The words love, bonding, empathy, and devotion are abstract and difficult for educators to get a firm consensus or grasp on when relating to students from such varied backgrounds and experiences. I guess I’m assuming, maybe wrongfully so, that #4 (quality sex education) means that we’d probably hit on most of these at some point in public education…it’s got to start that early if any difference is to be made within our culture over the long haul.

    #8 makes it sound like we’re going to say it’s okay to have sex as long as you are bonded and empathetic to those you are having sex with. Heck…that would pretty much create a school-wide orgy at the middle school level!

    I’m loving this discussion!

    in Christ,
    pam whitley, a.k.a. grace

  8. Ladies and Gentleman By George I think you’ve/
    we’ve got it. God is indeed and has been “UP TO SOMETHING”! 30 plus years in the making. I had a vision about 15 years ago while driving across the Golden Gate Bridge. A healing and reconciliation and an out pouring of God’s love to everyone including the LGBT community. I am a film maker and the vision laid on my heart was a production company called Hope Unlimited Productions which came to fruition this year and the film He put on my heart 15 years ago is called “For Such A Time As This” I have been working on it for about 9 months now. I have interviewed and/or filmed all or most of the key events and all the main players on bothsides of this issue & other prominate voices including our man of the hour and fellow brother who is also fascinated with the history of the ex-gay ministries Dr. Warren Throckmorten, Michael Bussey, John Evans, Frank and Anita Worthen,Kent Philpott, Alan Chambers, Dr. Joseph Nicolosi,Wayne Besen, Melissa Fryrear, Randy Thomas, Bill Maier, Mike Goeke, Sy Rogers,Nancy Heche,Joe Dallas, Ralph Blair,Mel White,Jeff Lutes,Chad Allen, Jack Rogers,Marsha Stevens, Peggy Campolo, Tony Camplolo, and many othersfrom both perspectives …the response has been overwhelming . What seemed obvious to me back then has taken a long time to come to pass. Now there is real communication and the healing has begun! We’ve all played important roles in this story (history) that seems to be coming full circle 30 plus years later. Could it be “For Such A Time As This” that you all have been reconnected? I think so. I’m so glad we are all WAKING UP! God is ALIVE AND WELL AND WORKING IN OUR HEARTS AND CALLING US TO REACH A NATION WITH GOD”S UNCONDITION LOVE.HIS LOVE IS AVAILABLE TO EVERYONE including LGBT folks. He meets us where we are and he will make all nessesary changes our job as Christians include The Simple Basics : To Love God and to Love your neigbor as your self, to do unto others as you would have done unto you. God will take care of the rest. My favorite saying is that People won’t know what a friend they have in Jesus until they know what a friend they have in you! If you are reading this…Robbie,Ed and Jeff I would love to interview you. God is definitely doing something SPECIAL here! It’s a good thing we are all paying attention.:)

  9. Jeff, welcome aboard. And Ed, thanks for your thoughtful response. I truly appreciate the efforts you made and the resistance you received “back then”. Yes, Jeff, I also believe that Heaven IS doing something here.

    We all agree it is way past time — and now, EXODUS and NARTH do not have to depend on the “press”. They finally DO have the means to make their anti-hate/anti-bullying/anti-violence positions crystal clear — and they can do it NOW.

    It’s called “THE INTERNET”. NARTH and EXODUS both have webpages. They should sit down with their webmasters and do it TODAY.


    What’s worse that EXODUS and NARTH waitng 30 years to come out publicly against hate?

    ANSWER: Waiting 30 years and one more day.

  10. Wow, this is very interesting. After so many years of separation, we find ourselves communicating in a loving and intelligent way. I’m very impressed and also wondering if God is up to something. Prior to this summer, I haven’t stepped foot in a spirit filled Chrisitan church in 23 years. Cathy became Episcopalian and she became the spiritual head in our family. The kids both got confirmed and remain Episcoplian. I have gone to the pretty cool Unitarian Church in Mahtomedi a few times. I really love the pastor, she is amazing. However, I miss my roots. I miss having a personal and dynamic relationship with God. About 6 weeks ago I read an ariticle from the NY Times about a local St. Paul pastor, Gred Boyd, who stood up against the religious right back in 2004. He has a mega church and is a Bethel Grad and Bethel professor. He is all about love and grace. He lost 1000 members when he refused to back Bush from the pulpit and in fact preached a series of sermons about patriotism being idolitry. He will occasionally use a swear word and even talked about drinking too much wine and getting “buzzed”. He is very authentic. He doesn’t care who he offends. He welcomes all sinners and has no “rules” to follow. If you want to worship God and love Jesus your IN! He says there is no place for shame or judgement in the Church. If you want to be here, you are welcome. Nobody gets to make you stop smoking, drinking, having sex or gosipping. Its up to the Hold Spirit to lead and he may dang well lead two believers into different conclusions. I emailed Ed yesterday with all of this. I just don’t know what is getting into me. I haven’t been this excitied about anything for a long long time. I’ve gone to church and cried my eyes out about 5 times in the past two months. I actually feel accepted there. I havent met a soul, (on purpose) I just need to be in a place where I can praise God and not feel second class. For some reason, this is touching much more than an MCC church or reconciling congregation. For me if feels like a major movement of the Holy Spirit. A very conservative evangelical chruch that doesn’t have any litmus tests. I cried walking out because and saw several people lighting up cigarettes in the parking lot. Oh my God, you don’t have to pretend to be perfect?? You don’t have to hide your issues or choices? You really are free to be yourself, no strings. It’s still early and I may yet become disillusioned but for now i feel incredibly blessed. I will try to find my way into your “Common Ground” discussion. I just had to ramble about this for awhile. Google Greg Boyd, Woodland Hills Church St. Paul. His sermons are all online. I’d love it if any of you would take a listen and tell me what you think you are hearing. Thanks for listening. Thanks for the invite to join y’all.

  11. To the anonymous commenter regarding the NARTH piece: I agree that the articles recently called into question by Dr. Schoenewolf reflect poor judgement, poor scholarship and both in several instances.

    I do not know Dr. Schoenewolf but I cannot understand how he could say conditions might have been better in the slave trade versus being in Africa. How one could study the historical period and assert that is beyond me.

    I have alerted NARTH regarding my reactions.

  12. Well, not much response to the “common ground” idea. We have Ed, Robbi, Me, Dr. Throc, Jim and David — not in perfect agreement — but at least agreeing that hate is wrong.

    That’s SEVEN.

    It’s a good enough start. Lots of good ideas started with a few people.

  13. Michael,

    I do agree with you, in essence. But I stayed around a few more years and discovered that the mainstream press only seemed to be interested in us ‘as a curiosity’ and the pro-gay press, if they mentioned us at all, only picked up on our belief that the behavior was sin.

    In one memorable sermon I delivered, the fundamentalists were squirming in their seats while the pro-gays who came primarily to agitate sat there in astonishment. They couldn’t believe the lashing I applied to the church. Our main local editorial writing activist actually came up to me later and told me it was the most moving speech he’d ever heard. But, it never got any press. (And the ad we placed in the local paper entitled “Jesus Didn’t Come to Condemn” got buried in such an obscure spot that I had to go through the paper 3 times before I found it…a bit of ‘sleight of hand’ censorship in my opinion.)

    So, it’s not Waaah…it’s simply the way things are (or were). I’ve read Exodus policy statements and they always seem to include a statement of Jesus’ love and compassion for the homosexual. But that statement often gets overlooked. I think that people, from both sides of the issue, read it with their filters on.

    So, Exodus may be guilty of mis-prioritization. They have devoted much of their time and energy to trying to define and defend what they are. You claim that after 30 years they should have been able to succeed in that but I can see why it’s taking so long. They keep banging the same note…that the presence of homosexual temptation for someone who has once struggled is to be expected. And their opponents keep refusing to accept that biblical reality. I agree that it’s frustrating and counter-productive. I also believe that we’ve banged it to death here on this blog. But, I think that we can all agree, that when anyone is on the defensive, their productivity is limited.

    I agree also that, in spite of this, 30 years is too long. But, I believe that you, Robbi, Warren and I among others, now have their ear. It is my fervent hope that Exodus responds speedily.

    Another reason why Exodus might not have sensed the urgency of an ‘anti hate’ message is that, in many communities, progress seems to be happening. In Minneapolis, for example, there is a mixing of gays and straights that I’ve never seen before. Incidences of violence, discrimination, harassment, etc. have declined markedly. In my hometown, the ‘tradition’ of cruising the gay areas to bash gays appears to have faded away. In many communities, the stigma of a hidden gay bar is gone and there are openly gay bars, restaurants, coffee-houses and shops. So, on the surface, it appeared that hate crimes and harassment were waning.

    I was horrified to learn of your friend’s murder and your stabbing. Those are crimes that I naively thought were pretty much a thing of the past. In Minneapolis, we’ve had far higher incidences of both random, senseless murders and gang-related killings. The smoking ban prompted our most notorious gay bar to set up seating right on our busy main street. Harassment was expected but, apart from some random taunts shouted from passing cars, there has been little response. I believe a number of cities are experiencing the same.

    But, NO crime against a gay person is warranted. And, if Exodus has the power to convey such a message effectively, they should. I felt that they should have shouted down the hate message of Rev. Phelps and, I feel that would have been an excellent forum to make the statement and have it get some attention. To many, their silence indicates compliance.

    Thanks again for helping me to recognize my own complacency and for helping me to see that, despite all of the apparent progress, there is still a long road ahead. As I’ve said before, I’m no longer connected to Exodus or Outpost officially, but I do ‘ring their bell’ occasionally. I believe I’ll bring your challenge and this response to Alan’s attention. I also endorse Robbi’s clear comments earlier in this thread and will challenge Alan to read and/or comment.

    BTW, Jeff Ford and I just reconnected this morning. He blogged on the “APA responds” thread from late August and I’ve encouraged him to jump in on this thread. He mentioned exchanging several thoughtful e-mails with you.

    All indications are that Heaven is steering us all towards defining and conveying a ‘common ground’. By God’s mercy, may we be forgiven for our slowness to speak; by His wisdom, may we speak swiftly and effectively. I appreciate your challenges, my brother. You can bet I wouldn’t get this needed ‘kick in the seat of the pants’ in a Sunday morning sermon!

  14. Ed: I feel that times are changing too, and I am hopeful that good things will come out of the 9/23/06 confernece. It is WAY past time.

    That said, I don’t buy the excuse that EXODUS could not come up with a decent statement against hate in 30 years of trying! Nothing stopped them from putting it on their website or literature. They sure have had a lot of time to put up OTHER statements (like being against Hate Crime Laws and gay marriage.)

    You seem to be saying what a lot of EXODUS supporters say. It has a sort of whine to it — “Don’t blame US…we WOULD have done it but those pesky GAYS just wouldn’t leave us alone. WE didn’t have TIME.” (Interesting that NARTH uses these same lame excuses for having no scienitific evidence of their claims. It’s those awful GAYS that prevent them.) HOGWASH!

    You say that demands for explanations from EXODUS are “attacks”. I think they have the responsibility to make their message CLEAR. Not making it clear has actually intensified these “attacks”.

    If I had not ended up leaving EXODUS I really think that, you and Robbi and I could have had it written into EXODUS policy and had it added to all our brochures and literature in about a WEEK. EXODUS and NARTH could do it TODAY.

    You also seem to be saying “we WOULD have issued some sort of public ETHICAL statement about hate, but gay organizations twisted the comments and took advantage of them.” Should I call the WAH-mbulance?

    So what? Show some moral fortitude. Remember, “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and say all manner of evil against you for my sake?” That is PRECISELY the risk you take when you take a stand for something TRUE or RIGHT — like Jesus being LORD or denouncing violence against gays.

    Christians need to be more courageous — Jesus’s own words and actions were misinterpreted by his enemies, but He took that RISK because what He was saying is TRUE.

    When I started EXIT with Jim in 1974, it was a reaction to the HATE we saw in our own church. We We wanted to put together a more compassionate response. And we did. An EXODUS “anti-hate” polisy should be ancient history by now.

  15. Here’s another example of yet another NARTH advisor (Gerald Schonewolf) suggesting that it is not destructive to ostracize kids and that such social pressure is necessary for the survival of the species. Read the whole thing. I kid you not. Check it out.

    Are they serious?

  16. Michael: I don’t have enough background to answer you. Thinking outloud mostly. Kids who do self-identify as gay must’ve had a period of time before they put their finger on it. I only know adults who put their finger on it in their late teens. But what if we could help kids in the tween ages be comfortable with who they are? Whatever that is? I’m thinking of a friend’s 11 yr old son who’s been a victim of bullying at school, who’s self perceptions are being skewed by the fact that he has no privacy at home. His bedroom has been taken over by his mother who won’t sleep with his father anymore, and because of space limitation in the house, the son is now sleeping with the father and has been for some time. He’s sexually maturing in an environment where he has no support at home or at school. It’s a mess.

    On one hand I would like to see gay community support groups for kids, but what do you do with the ones who aren’t self-identifying gay? And what the hell do you do with the ones who are going to be on the road to identifying as a transsexual? And what the hell do you do with any of them coming from a conservative Muslim, Jewish, Christian background whose parents would never agree to them seeing a gay-friendly counselor or be in a gay-friendly group?

    Okay, I’m depressing myself here.

  17. Michael,

    Exodus affiliate agencies DID make such statements but they weren’t deemed ‘newsworthy’. I recall that Robbi and I collaborated on a piece called “A Compassionate Response To Aids” but it scarcely reached beyond our mailing list.

    There were times when we attempted ‘bridge building’ pieces but the gay community tok advantage of them. (WE would refer people to ‘gay Christian’ organizations but they wouldn’t return the courtesy.)

    I’m guessing that now that Exodus, as an entity, is making public statements, they are trying to learn from these lessons from the past. Please remember that they endure frequent attacks and demands for explanations of their methodology, beliefs, success rates, mission and goals…and, unfortunately, responding to these attacks often distracts them from other messages that they want to promote.

    Robbi and I often felt that tension and it sometimes prevented us from making the more radical statements that we wanted to make.

    But, take heart, my brother, I feel that ‘the times they are a’changin'”.

  18. Hold the phone. I am not sure what you meant in your last post, Robbi. How does one tell if a kid is “on their way to being gay-identified”? What signs would you look for? What kid of support would you suggest for these kids?

  19. Robbi:

    It’s not “gush”. It’s true. Thanks for the info on anti-bullying programs. I would love to see EXODUS and NARTH get on board with this. I know we (the original six or seven “founders”) felt this way when we started EXODUS in 1976. What has gone wrong since then?

    I don’t really understand their reluctance. Are they worried that people will see them as “soft on sin” or “agreeing with gay activists” if they come out strong against hate and bullying?

    I know that people in Jesus’ day accused him of being a sinner since he hung out with social outcasts and protected one from a stoning…

    You would think EXODUS and NARTH would have done this long ago. It would help their image a lot.

  20. Michael, goofball. Thanks for the gush. But I shall admit publicly now that you and Warren inspired me with your own “statements.”

    David: safety programs. I think in terms of prevention programs because of where I work at USC (Dept of Preventive Medicine). There’s a growing body of scholarly support for adding sexual orientation issues to anti-bullying prevention programs already in place in the U.S. Friedman et al (2006) speaks to the need for adapting such programs to include gay-identified youth issues and change policies at the school district, state and national levels to reflect same.

    I suppose this is something we could be advocating for with our state legislators. Certainly it could be addressed at school districts and PTAs, etc. Such programs are apparently vastly improved where thare are also gay-friendly youth orgs in place.

    It is not enough to wait for parents and teachers to “notice” injuries or suicidal tendencies. There should be programs that support kids who are already or on their way to being gay-identified.

    IF anyone’s interested in more reading on this, google pubmed, plug in prevention bullying homosexuality as keywords and hit search. There’s not a lot, but it’s beginning to happen.

  21. Robbi, thanks so much for your post of 9/13/06. As a victim of hate, it means a lot to me personally. And, as one EXODUS “co-founder to another” (grin), I must say that I liked you immediately the first time we met and have always thought of you as an insightful, talented and classy lady.

    I agree with every word of your post. In fact, I would like to see it adopted as POLICY and posted prominently by every “activist” and/or “religious” group interested in the “gay issue” — whether these groups are percieved as “pro” or “con” .

    Everyone knows that I am opposed to the EXODUS/NARTH idea of “repairing” or “reorienting” gays — but that is their RIGHT. They have a RIGHT to say what they believe is sin and to live in accordance with their own conscience — just as all people do. I have always believed this, even though it may make some “activists” mad.

    A statement like yours is something I have been praying for for 30 years. Your words are wise and compassionate. I think that they truly reflect what has been called “The Golden Rule”.

    Well done. Where do I sign?

  22. I think we need to get the word out that being violently reactive to either feminized men (simple term, there may be a better term) or masculinized women (ditto) in school, church, work and recreation is so wrong.

    It is not seeing people.

    I think the research is pretty clear that this is rooted in a very brittle sense of gender for the assailant…and I think that fragileness is even more likely for adolescents.

    I think that is why safety programs where adolescents congregate make so much sense.

    Gender atypical adolescents through fear and intimidation can be coerced into a false proclamation of their sexual identity before it is fully formed, before they fully know.

    I am sure this happens with proclaiming a heterosexual identity. I suppose it is possible, but extremely rare, that a gender atypical adolescent could prematurely identify as gay or lesbian in order to make sense of their “out of synch” feelings and experiences. Although, what a huge risk.

    Just some thoughts…but I think they have implications for constructing safety plans for adolescents.

    Share yours.

    David Blakeslee

  23. I think Ed may have been correct – this is long list and it may be difficult to manage the comments on all at once.

    Here it is again:
    1. Ethical therapeutic practices.
    2. Protecting gays and lesbians in public and private settings.
    3. Forbidding discrimination in employment and housing.
    4. Access to quality sex education (not advocacy education)
    5. Encouraging delay in sexual expression (heterosexuals also) into early 20’s.
    6. Building a consensus on the scientific literature on same-sex attraction (a general title).
    7. Protecting all groups (gay and straight) from sexual exploitation.
    8. Encouraging the bonding of love as an expression of empathy and devotion with the behavior of sex.”

    Interpretation of each point is key. I am not sure what #8 means. I assume it means to reunite love and sex in the culture thus is a statement against promiscuity. If that is what it meant, then I am for that. I do not think we are bettered by valuing sex as a sport.

    I am not sure an age can be applied to when sex is optimal. For myself and my family, it means until marriage but this is a value decision and cannot be agreed on for someone else. In general, I agree with public health recommendations to delay sexual debut and reduce number of sexual partners. I would like to see high schools become safety conscious where sex is concerned as opposed to permissive. Colleges too. Condom olympics doesn’t seem like it sets the proper context for delay and reduction.

    Robbi said it well: What I’d like to see stated somehow is that organizations like EXODUS, churches, civic groups make a statement that they are in agreement that it is morally and ethically wrong, not just illegal, to discriminate against, perpetrate violence against(verbal or physical), or otherwise infringe on life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, anyone who identifies as gay or lesbian or is perceived to be gay or lesbian.

    At the same time, I’d like to see an agreement that religious organizations are not prevented from continuing to say publicly that sexual behavior of any stripe is sin without being accused of hate speech.

  24. The issue of being perceived as gay has haunted me personally all my life. As a young teenager I was not very feminine and occasionally mistaken for a boy. As a straight woman in ex-gay ministry (sorry to use the X word, but old habits…) it was generally assumed by people who didn’t know me that I must be from a gay background. Then in seminary in my late 30s, it was again assumed I was gay (or ex-gay) because I was a “never married” woman. Who didn’t date. There are all kinds of subtle prejudices that come with these perceptions. They are “single women” issues that include not being taken seriously because there’s no “base,” a spouse and children, to prove that you are a full functioning human being. Men, particularly in a conservative church setting, are loathe to be seen spending time talking about professional issues let alone social/personal time because of the perception of wrongdoing. Also in a conservative church setting, for some reason it’s okay for married women to be involved in public ministry, but single women are considered a threat if they are attractive, or discounted if they are not.

  25. As most of you know, Michael Bussee and his close friend were attacked outside a Riverside, CA tavern some time ago. Michael was severely injured and his friend was killed. For being gay.

    Michael and I go way back, being COFOUNDERS of EXODUS Int’l. In advocating protection of gays and lesbians in public and private settings (and I agree with Jim that even those who are perceived to be gay need protection), we in a way double up on what laws are meant to do in protecting all citizens. It’s illegal to murder folks. It’s illegal to assault folks.

    What I’d like to see stated somehow is that organizations like EXODUS, churches, civic groups make a statement that they are in agreement that it is morally and ethically wrong, not just illegal, to discriminate against, perpetrate violence against(verbal or physical), or otherwise infringe on life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, anyone who identifies as gay or lesbian or is perceived to be gay or lesbian.

    At the same time, I’d like to see an agreement that religious organizations are not prevented from continuing to say publicly that sexual behavior of any stripe is sin without being accused of hate speech. Also protection for proselyzing and being able to publicly state that it’s possible to leave the gay life.

    An open society isn’t served by one portion of society impinging on another. The activist gay community that would like to see the conservative church silenced on these topics should be protected as well as speech from conservative society (and I don’t just mean the Christian church, but all civic and religious orgs and folks that disagree with pro-gay politics/policy).

    We have to figure out how to balance religious freedom and freedom of sexual expression in this country.

  26. Should we include some variation of Timothy’s #9? We may not be able to come together on gay marriage but could probably agree on ‘partner rights’ re inheritance, medical benefits, making long-term care choices, etc.

    Jim’s comments re #2 led me to think of broadening further into the whole anti-bullying concept. Encouraging acceptance and tolerance of individual differences OF ANY KIND. And methods for conflict resolution that don’t involve bullying. To be able to disagree without resorting to violence, name-calling or labeling.

    I recall one somewhat effective ad campaign aimed at curbing gang-related violence. It was directed at teenage girls and attempted to persuade them not to be impressed by gang bravado.

    I am personally disturbed by the fact that many teens (and slow to mature people in their twenties) now call someone ‘gay’ when they disagree with them. It has no real sexual connotation but rather is a synonym for anything they don’t like. (See real life examples all over MySpace and craigslist.)

    #3 has some problematic areas that unfortunately are often overlooked. I believe that common sense ought to play into some of the anti-discrimination thinking. I know I’m going to hit a hot button here but who better than this gang to discuss it? I honestly believe that a fundamentalist religious organization shouldn’t be forced to hire or retain an employee who is openly living a life that conflicts with the values that the organization is espousing. It just doesn’t make sense. (I should qualify this by saying that I once heard of a young fundamentalist who took a job in an adult bookstore, regarding it as a ‘mission field’. He openly read his Bible and kept it visible on the counter. In my mind, this was wrong and the employer should have been able to fire him.)

    One method for dealing with #4 would be to incorporate #8. Sex education that only deals with the mechanics and doesn’t give any weight to love and commitment is counter-productive. We could encourage love and commitment without saying what gender we think the partner ought to be or by restricting ‘love and commitment’ to marriage. People in long-term relationships, whether gay or straight, know how love and commitment actually enhance the sex life.

    Regarding #5, we need to realize that most of the media (TV, movies and magazines, in particular) are only motivated by the dollar. Year after year, they try to top whatever boundary they crossed the previous year. And, they take no sense of responsibility. Teens are having sex–unprotected–and are rarely shown to have any consequences. Wouldn’t it be something if the hot young girl who gave into her boyfriend had to quit the cheerleading squad because she got pregnant? And the young man couldn’t take advantage of his football scholarship because he had a young wife and a baby? Granted a few shows (7th Heaven and Reba are notable) show negative consequences but they aren’t the norm. In the entire run of Will and Grace did we ever hear of anyone dealing with AIDS or hear any talk of condoms? Kids are learning from the media but the messages they are learning are incomplete. As teenagers and young adults they think they know it all. They know how to ‘go after it’ but they don’t know how to protect themselves. (I’ve got a couple of nephews who fathered children while still in high school. One was in a Catholic school; the other in public.) Gay teens likely learn even less! (I guess those comments tie into #4 AND #5.)

    I agree that #6 will be tough to come together on but it and #1 seem to be the ones we discuss most on this site.

    For #7, perhaps we could address and DEFINE sexual exploitation… raise awareness of media exploitation and suggest ways to counteract its impact.

    That’s all for now. Warren: maybe we should take one point every few days. I sense this is going to get a bit wild.

  27. I think this is a very good list. None of this is easy, but I think many of them are more or less do-able.

    Not that I’m prepared to negotiate as an ambassador on behalf of the entire gay community 🙂

    My thoughts on the more difficult areas:

    2. Protecting gays and lesbians in public and private settings.

    This is an area of very particular interest to me. And I’d open the parameters a little wider, because there are problems that come into play when someone is simply perceived to be gay or lesbian. So this can even involve protecting straight people — as well as ex-gays. How’s that for common ground? 😉

    4. Access to quality sex education (not advocacy education).

    I would strike the parenthetical. I am sure that what I think is important in quality sex education might be discounted as “advocacy” by others. And I’m positive that some elements which Side B considers essential I would argue is advocacy. (If however, by advocacy, you mean “try it, maybe you’ll like it”, I’d argue that’s not quality education.)

    5. Encouraging delay in sexual expression (heterosexuals also) into early 20’s.

    Encouraging delay in sexual activity (is that what you mean by “expression”?) is generally hard to argue against. But early 20’s may not be a viable goal unless marriage is “re-defined” with regard to age. Which of course, opens the whole “abstinence until what?” can of worms.

    Although I don’t have any arguments about exploring ways to encourage the delay of sexual activity because of emotional maturity, etc. But that’s much more squishy.

    6. Building a consensus on the scientific literature on same-sex attraction (a general title).

    Uh-huh. Good luck with that one! 😉 This one’s probably the most challenging, and probably the least likely for common ground. But worth a try to see where it goes nonetheless.

    8. Encouraging the bonding of love as an expression of empathy and devotion with the behavior of sex.

    I think this may be a better restatement as a goal for #5. Or am I misreading it?

  28. Thanks for the forum, Warren. It is agreed that as part of this dialogue we will misunderstand often, but I will seek to understand.

    To add emphasis to the above items:

    I am particularly concerned with the male mind and its impulsivity and poor planning skills during adolescence.

    I think we could have a lot of agreement about how to support gays and straights during this vulnerable time to insure a long and happy life.

    David Blakeslee

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