Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Glamorous Christine

I first met Christine Bakke at the 2nd GCN Conference in Florida in January 2006. We were a group of four who went out for dinner and I remember falling in love with her smile.

Now THAT's a woman.

She's got an incredible story - a testimony of a woman who's faith has been through fire as she desperately pursued changing her sexual orientation. She saw the things she held dear in her life deconstruct yet she rose from the ashes - whole.

I suppose the irony of her experiences in ex-gay (Side X) ministries, as with so many of our own stories, is that in going to these places to "heal" us of our "brokenness", they actually broke us further. But as Christine says, "There's nothing to cure."

I agree with her in that our wholeness has more to do with authentically living out our faith as complete and God-loved yet imperfect human beings and less to do with simply being (or rather, acting) heterosexual. Wholeness is not about being gay or straight. It's about being reconciled to God through Christ. I think our task is to explore what that looks like in every aspect of our lives - emotionally, physically, spiritually, mentally and sexually. As whole individuals, it doesn't mean we are straight. It means we love in more healthy ways. That's the point.

Christine was interviewed for Glamour magazine. It was an arduous process as she wrestled with having to accept anonymity for a long season (until the article was ready) for the sake of eventually being more known. You can read the article here.

She was also interviewed yesterday by Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America. You can watch her here. You can read about it here.

She's got a blog at "Rising Up Whole" here. She's also the co-founder of Beyond Ex-Gay. I mentioned before about the Ex-Gay Survivor's Conference at the end of June. I've already registered. You should consider going - even if you haven't been a part of a designated "ex-gay" ministry. If you've ever been a part of a church or religious climate that condemned people simply because of being gay and understand the heart-wrenching experience that is, then the conference is for you! And you'll get to meet Christine! (hehe, and me!)

Monday, April 23, 2007

Second Place Trophy at Division Speech Contest

I won the 2nd Place Trophy at the Division Speech Contest this past Saturday morning! Woo hoo!

I also had the support of some awesome SoCal GCN friends, not to mention members of my local Toastmasters club! Gosh, it meant so much to me to have them all there, especially since they all came from cities all around Southern California. They are such a blessing!

A fellow club member, Dana, competed in a different category and she won first place! So she gets to advance to the District Conference! As for me, I serve as the alternate in my category representing the district so in case *something happens to the 1st place winner* (grin), I've gotta be ready to go!

Afterwards, we went out for a celebratory lunch in Redondo Beach at a really great restaurant.

I had alot of fun competing in the contest! It was great being able to share my message of community and citizenship with an audience full of public speakers. My goal was not to focus on winning the contest, but rather to effectively communicate the very same message that I have been giving to people in my community. If some of these awesome speakers can take something of what I shared with them and incorporate it into their own speeches, then the message can continue on way past me. I think I was able to do this so I consider myself successful! Plus, i'm very pleased with how I delivered the speech. =)

Be sure to check out the pics in the photo loops at the top of the right column!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Day of Remembrance

I just wanted to join the Virginia Tech campus along with Blacksburg, Virginia and the rest of the country in taking a moment to remember the victims of the tragic event this past Monday, April 16, 2007.

I've been watching and thinking and praying and processing all week. On Wednesday morning, I cried. I had planned on writing a post earlier but couldn't. For now, I'll take a moment to honor the heroes and to consider the survivors - family, friends, neighbors, classmates.

Go to Virginia Tech's Website here to check out their memorials, photos and news. You can also view various media, video and podcasts here.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Connect and Affect

I won my first speech contest in Toastmasters last Saturday morning! Woo hoo!!!!

(Scroll down to the bottom of this post to hear the audio of my speech and/or read the text.)

It was an Area contest which means that representatives from our club, Speak Out! Toastmasters, were competing against people from other clubs in the area. I was competing in the International speech competition and my friend Dana (in the photo) was competing in the Tall Tales competition.

As you can see in the photo, both of us won in each of our categories!

The International speech is supposed to be motivational/inspirational . . . .

A person who advances up the levels of this competition eventually competes at Toastmasters' International Convention at the end of summer where people from other countries will come to compete for the World Champion of Public Speaking title. LOL - wow, just typing that seemed super ambitious. How about for now, I focus on the next level of the contest which is competing at the Division level. There I'll compete against the winners of the 5 other area contests in our division. That's a bit intimidating for me because I know that the quality of competition will be so much better.

I was pretty happy with the response that I got from the audience. During the speech, I noticed people teary eyed, others smiling, and yet others giving me 'way-to-go' nods. I was really surprised at the way the speech was affecting people. I guess for an inspirational speech that's the kind of response I want, right? So i'm happy about that. Plus I got my first kewl little trophy for Toastmasters! I'm stoked about that!

Afterwards, me and my friends that came to support me all went out to Claim Jumper for a celebratory lunch. Fun times! It meant so much to me that they came and saw me but also that they celebrated with me afterwards.

I noticed later that day that it triggered weird feelings in me from my elementary years about the times that I was always sad when my parents missed out on awards nights or events or concerts or competitions that I was involved with. I was always wanting to make them proud but whenever I did well enough to be recognized, my family never got to see it and so I always felt like they never knew my real potential. I guess in many ways, I've felt that way most of my life. Hmm...maybe that's one reason why I'm an overachiever.....I'm still trying to make other people proud as if to validate myself. (Whoa, wasn't expecting that thought!)

So where was I? Oh, so I was very happy that these friends of mine came out to demonstrate their support. It really meant so much to me! (Thanks guys!)

Dana recorded our speeches and created an mp3 file of my speech for me. Even though I may be happy with the response I got from others about my speech, the perfectionist in me isn't so happy with hearing myself. After hearing the audio of it, I realize that I paused a lot during the speech. Some times, it was because of dramatic effect but other times it was because I was trying to remember the prepared speech. I know that I have much more work to do before the Division contest in two weeks. There are lots of places in the speech that can use some polishing up. I debated about whether or not I wanted to post the audio of the speech here for you to hear. I guess I'm doing it but just keep in mind that i'll be practicing much more. Plus, i've only been in Toastmasters for less than a year. =)

Either press the play button below or right click the link and 'Save As' to download the mp3 file:

Right Click Here to Download the Speech

Below is the text of the speech too in case you'd like to follow along. I don't think i'll be revising it too much for the next phase of the competition. I chose a topic for this contest that I could speak from my heart about. The message of "Connect and Affect" is one that I have been trying to live out myself while at the same time encouraging others to do the same. Hope you find it helpful and inspirational!

"Connect and Affect" by Eric Leocadio
Speech Delivered at Toastmasters' Area E-2 Contest in Long Beach, CA
April 7, 2007

Good morning - Toastmasters, distinguished guests, friends and family.

It was the Summer of 2006. I was in San Francisco for the first time and I had this bright idea of finding the Golden Gate Bridge all by myself. I drove around without a map. I just figured that I’d follow the signs to the “GG Bridge”. It seemed simple enough. I saw the bridge in the distance and headed toward it. I thought to myself, “I should be a tour guide! This was so easy!” I saw a pier with a really great view so I had my photo taken with the bridge prominently featured behind me as I posed like Superman after just conquering an incredible task.

I was so excited to show the picture to my friends and tell them about what a cinch it was to find. Then a friend told me, “Hey Superman, I hate to be the one to tell you this but – the Golden Gate Bridge – it’s orange not blue.”

You're kidding me! I was SO sure! I was telling everyone that this was the Golden Gate Bridge when it was actually the Oakland Bay Bridge! I was shocked and embarrassed.

Sometimes, I feel like I’m expected to be this red-caped super hero leader who knows exactly where we ought to go, but much of the time I feel like a Clark Kent stumbling through life just trying to figure out how to matter.

The prospect of changing the world can be overwhelming. So who am I to attempt such a feat? The vision is too lofty and the world is too big. I’m no Superman! I can’t do it alone. I need you! We need each other! We may not be able to change the entire world but perhaps we can simply strive to affect our own personal world – the place we live and the people we come in contact with. Together, we need to become the very heroes for which we cry out. We can be a community of heroes - simply trying to help in what ever way that we can.

Can you imagine what it could be like to see a formerly fragmented community working together towards a common cause greater than them? Imagine a community of such diversity that began to understand one another.

We can reinvent our world. How? With a campaign to connect and affect. We can be the catalyst for our community by bringing people together and developing meaningful relationships in meaningful ways.

Connect and affect.

We can start by investing in the relationships we have now. If we honestly nurture meaningful relationships among our own personal social circle by finding ways to regularly connect with them, then we will begin to establish history with each other and trust for one another. As we earn trust, we earn the privilege of speaking into each other’s lives. Thus, we are presented the opportunity to mutually affect one another.

While investing in the relationships we have today, we can also invest in our community. We live in cities that have needs. Why shouldn’t we serve those needs? We are citizens. It is our home. Let’s consciously and intentionally connect with our neighbors and local organizations, work to identify their needs, and find ways to mobilize support for them. We can take advantage of the opportunity to affect our community.

Once a month, I enjoy gathering a group of friends to participate in a 30-minute beach clean up with about a hundred other volunteers. There are men and women, fathers and mothers, children and dogs, school groups and youth groups – all coming together with a shared desire for a cleaner beach. It’s a fun way to see my neighbors!

We may not achieve the level of historical impact as heroes like Martin Luther King Jr. or Susan B. Anthony. Some of us may not even be able to find the Golden Gate Bridge without getting lost! But as we connect and affect with each other and with our community, we are making a difference!

Imagine what you could do in your city! Gather some friends together and adopt a street or beach to maintain. Help a widow by mowing her lawn or painting her home. Partner with a storefront business and sweep up their sidewalk. Be a mentor or tutor for a single-parent child. Feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, love the lonely or care for the sick.

Maybe we can’t change the entire world. But we CAN change our own personal world - our family, our circle of friends, our communities, and our city. A hero is just a regular person who acts upon the belief that he or she can contribute to this world.

Take off the glasses, Clark. YOU are Superman.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Collision at Work

So a crazy thing happened at the job Thursday morning. I was the first one in to work and began my routine of opening up the office. I turned off the alarm, turned on the photo copy machines, turned on the lights, turned on my computer, went to the front and opened the window blinds, unlocked the front door, stepped outside to grab the newspaper, went to the back of the office where the staff lounge is and sorted out the newspaper while preparing my morning oatmeal and banana.

Then I heard a car crash. We've had car accidents in front of our building before so I thought no big deal. Then I heard a second and much louder crash.

Uh oh. That didn't sound normal.

I left the staff lounge, turned the corner, and looked into the front office where I was just two minutes before when I unlocked the front door and opened the blinds. Lo and behold, I saw a steaming blue volvo where the front wall and door used to be.

Apparently two cars collided which sent one of them smashing through our front lobby. My desk faces the front door behind a counter. Had I been sitting at my desk, I would have looked up and saw this car heading straight at me! I can only imagine the shock of what it would have been like. Fortunately, I was neither at my desk nor in the front lobby at the time.

The funny thing is that when the fireman said that he was sorry that this had to happen at my work place, I told him that this was nothing compared to the kind of craziness that normally happens in this office.

There is way too much drama at work!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Beyond Ex-Gay and the Survivor's Conference

Today marks the launch of a new web site called Beyond Ex-Gay (bXg). It was started by my friends Peterson Toscano and Christine Bakke as an on-line community for those who have survived ex-gay experiences.

Yours truly also has the honor of being featured in April's question of the month: What sort of ex-gay experiences have you had? You can read my response on this page. (I'm third down on that page).

Next month's question is: How has a book, movie or web site helped you in your ex-gay recovery process? I encourage you to submit a response on this page.

bXg has also partnered up with Soulforce and the LBGT Resource Center at the University of California in Irvine (UCI) by hosting the Survivor's Conference on June 29-July 1, 2007 here in Southern California. It'll be an interactive, community-building conference featuring the powerful stories of those who have had ex-gay experiences, but now understand that their sexual orientation or gender identity can be lived in ways that are loving and life-affirming.

Peterson Toscano will be performing his show "Doin' Time in the Homo Nomo Halfway House" for FREE and there will also be a FREE concert by Jason & deMarco. It's going to be awesome! I've already registered for the conference. I encourage you to do the same. Click here or also here for more info about the Survivor's Conference and to register.