Karen Ocamb

The Shame Peter LaBarbera Promises to End

Filed By Karen Ocamb | September 12, 2007 7:47 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Peter LaBarbera, spirituality

For just $50 bucks and a flight to Illinois for an Oct. 5 banquet in Lombard, Illinois – somewhere west of Chicago - Peter LaBarbera promises to end the shame and loneliness of my life as a lesbian.

Or at least that’s what I got from his email invitation and from watching the video of “ex-gay” Charlene Cothran on Pat Robertson’s 700 Club that LaBarbera provided.

I was particularly interested in how he juxtaposes Cothran’s “shame” with God’s exclusive truth and love for non-gay people.

LaBarbera writes:

Note how God turned her “pride” into shame: her transformation began when she felt ashamed at a “gay pride” event for African Americans, in Chicago! At the end of the video you can watch Pat Robertson’s heartfelt prayer for people caught up in homosexual sin. I don’t see any “hate” in this man who so many liberals love to … hate. Nope, instead I see the love of Christ for people who are going down the wrong road of homosexuality. In fact, none of the people of faith I know ”hates” homosexuals; we simply disagree with them and want them to know the that same indescribable joy that lights up Charlene’s face, as you can watch on the video!

Charlene tells me that part of her new life is meeting all the pro-family leaders like Pat Robertson — people she once despised as a homosexual activist — and learning that they are kind-hearted folk who just believe the Bible and sincerely want men and women to find freedom through Jesus Christ.
It is a privilege to welcome Charlene back to Chicago, and this time without that sense of shame! I hope you can join me in hearing her God-glorifying testimony of COMING OUT … from homosexuality.”

Good As You has been tracking this story so I won’t wax forth on that specifically.

But with all the back and forth about Larry Craig and the shame of the closet – I was prompted to think about the effects of that shame.

I am a suicide survivor. During the late 60s and throughout the 70s, I used alcohol and drugs and the sexual liberation movement to cover my “evil” secret and the shame and fear it spawned. I felt like an alien in my own family and society. I tried numerous times to kill myself because – I told myself – I couldn’t stand to live in a world with so much pain. Obviously, I failed. One time, however, my overdose worked; I experienced the warm love of that White Light – and was ‘sent back.” Because I was only 20, I was committed to the local mental institution for several months – until I talked my way out. I blamed the whole thing on Acid and stopped taking it.

Anyway – thoughts of suicide became as much of an addiction as drugs and alcohol. I covered my shame and fear with various forms of rebellion – anger became a friend.

In 1980, my boss at CBS News told me that if I didn’t get sober, I’d be fired. My identity was by that time intricately connected to my job so I agreed. I’ve been clean and sober ever since.

Ending that existential loneliness and finding a spiritual connection to a personal Higher Power – an imperative to staying sober – was not easy. I am still a seeker after Something.

But as I became more honest with myself, I fessed up to that deep secret and the shame started to lessen. And as my eyes were opened, I became enraged as AIDS hit and the government and the society that created the shame in the first place, used it to deny medical help, love and support to people with AIDS – IN THE NAME OF CHRIST!

Where was God when my friends’ lives slipped through my fingers like water? If God was the God of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell – what kind of a God was that? Certainly not the Father of the Jesus I’d been taught about in Sunday school.

And yet – there at the bedside, smoothing out the wrinkles, putting the straw in my friend’s mouth for one of his last sips of water – there was the God of “goosebumps,” the fullness of unconditional love, the spiritual connection between one ordinary person with another, asking nothing but the knowledge that we are there for one another.

There is no shame in that space, no matter what Peter LaBarbera says. There is no fear, no loneliness. Just love. A love I experienced and witnessed over and over again in the LGBT community. And that, I think is what Jesus intended us to grasp.


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What a spectacular post, Karen. I applaud your ability to open up like that about your own experiences; that's a very brave thing to do.

This really puts some things in perspective, what people are doing, what their priorities should be, what's the outcome of statements like LaBarbera's, etc. Thanks for sharing, Karen.

Thanks. I wrote this not only in angry response to LaBarbera but also thinking of WeHo Mayor John Duran’s remarks at the Equality California dinner a few weeks ago where he compared the outcome of the beating our community has taken to the spiritual beauty and splendor of stalactites in caves and the Grand Canyon. What doesn’t kill us makes us splendid.