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"Ex-Gay" and in absolute denial

This is a long read, but hopefully interesting for folks…

House Blend reader and ace DKos contributor Pastordan forwarded me two articles from Christianity Today that were deeply disturbing. Both involve people that have felt such self-loathing about their sexual orientation that they have created tortured arguments about what is to blame, and what is the solution. These folks have experienced dysfunction in their families or were in the grips of addictions that overwhelmed them, but they point the finger at their orientation as the root cause or an outgrowth of their negative emotional experiences.

If I’m not gay, it will all get better.

These are people that the religious Right and the discredited “ex-gay” ministries exploit and endanger. They seek to take in gay people that have been so beaten down (by those that purportedly love them) about how wrong it is to be gay. People in that level of emotional pain and confusion are convinced that giving themselves over to someone that can teach them how to be “normal” or “ex-gay” is their salvation.

Read these excerpts and you will see why gay people are two to three times as likely to attempt suicide than the general population. It’s clear the problem isn’t who they are, but the world of intolerance and religious damnation around them. They cannot see that — they are full of pain.

Article #1.

My Path to Lesbianism: It was hatred of women that drove me there, and Christ in community that led me out.

Both my mother and father favored my brother. He excelled in athletics and was an above-average student. It is said that children are the best recorders, but the worst interpreters, of information. I interpreted this favoritism to mean that my brother-and not me-was the one who was supposed to succeed. As I watched my parents pour their hopes and dreams into him, I felt like I was on the sidelines. I could either cheer him on or sit back and watch. I chose to cheer.

Cheering for him meant that I gave up on myself. I developed patterns of not following through with commitments and giving up on anything that was difficult. I was never taught how to persevere, how to handle pressure, or how to set and achieve a goal. I didn’t learn how to compete, how to win, or even how to lose. I lived in a vacuum I created with self-destructive behavior that included drugs, alcohol, and self-mutilation, and I have battled the effects of depression for many years. Over time, misogyny eats away at the core of women’s souls and leaves them feeling unprotected, ashamed, vulnerable, and frightened. That’s how it left me.

Mary Beth Patton, a psychologist, counselor, and researcher of same-sex attraction who is on the board of Portland Fellowship, an Exodus International-affiliated ministry, so described what happens to women like me: “Women who deal with same-sex attraction often possess a history of dis-identification with their mothers, and therefore with their femininity. This leads to a longing for connection with the feminine that becomes sexualized in adolescence.”

…I’ve had to surrender those past hurts to God. I’ve had to confess my weakness, self-hatred, and my hatred of women. I’ve had to choose to keep myself present to the larger body of Christ and be willing to enter into transparent relationships with people. Healing comes in community and by being in fellowship with other believers. Isolation is one of the greatest enemies of the soul. We kid ourselves into believing that we can meet our own needs, but the truth is, we don’t have that much power. My healing continues, but the healing that’s already occurred has come through inner-healing prayer, professional Christian counseling, and participation in a program called Living Waters, by Desert Stream Ministries, and run by Regeneration of Northern Virginia, an Exodus International-affiliated ministry. I have put off the labels of victim and lesbian and betrayed. I have had to be willing to let God define me as a woman and to show me how to be comfortable with my true femininity. Whereas once I dreaded women’s fellowship groups for fear that everyone could see the little girl I felt I was in a grownup body, I am now learning to participate confidently, as a woman. I’ve had to ask God to break the power of those vows I made to protect myself. I’ve had to grieve a lot of what happened in my past. I’ve had to let God into some deep places of pain.

This is a sad story. What does it have to do with being gay? As far as I can tell, not much — but it is clearly a cry for help. If you read the entire article, you come to the conclusion that yes, she had a f*cked up childhood and parents that were screwed up, but how many families might that describe? Not all of these kids turn out to be gay. Someone that has experienced such dysfunction needs to be in therapy — and I don’t mean the kind Exodus International is offering. Can faith and religion help this woman put her life in perspective? I have no doubt that it can for some people, but in reaching out to outfits like Exodus or Regeneration will only make her more dependent on their cult-like isolation from the real world.


“Ex-Gay” mill Regeneration is endorsed by James Dobson and Chuck Colson.

In the next case, the author blames the “Affirming Church” for allowing him to embrace homosexuality before he “saw the light”. It’s clear that his despair was caused by an addiction to porn — something that he had no idea how to address except to blame it on his orientation and to frame it in fundamentalist religious terms.

Article #2:

Cheated by the Affirming Church: Contrary to what some churches teach, it is homosexuality-and not its suppression-that enslaves people like me.

Like many other Christians, I have struggled for years with same-sex attraction. By God’s grace I know freedom from a way of life that still holds too many others captive. Yet many within the so-called affirming church would deny us that freedom. They say homosexuality is God’s plan for our lives, even though the Bible clearly says that homosexual behavior is a sin. It is not my intention to prove it; many conservative theologians have already done so. Instead, let me highlight, on a practical level, the negative effects of affirming this sin.

…Twenty-five years ago, God blessed me with the gift of being attracted to the wonderful woman who is now my wife. Because of fear and lack of faith, I hid my struggle from her for 23 of those years. I am told by many of my ex-gay friends that I am “lucky.” While I had two boyfriends in my teen years, God, in his grace-not to mention my fear of discovery-kept me from engaging in explicit homosexual activity. My experience was limited to simple physical affection and the indulgence in homosexual pornography.

But I don’t feel lucky. I wanted to believe the message of the affirming church-that I was born this way, that I couldn’t be happy without ac
cepting my homosexuality, and that I couldn’t change. I had the occasional fall to gay porn bought at an “adult” shop on business trips. Then I discovered online pornography. Suddenly, I could indulge myself whenever I wanted. Unlike many of the “straight” porn sites that charge fees, many gay sites operate at no charge. I was quickly hooked.

I spent several years in bondage to lust. Over and over, I would quit, shamed beyond measure. But the message that I should embrace my identity as a “gay Christian” continued to entice me, and I would return to my self-made prison. My sin separated me from God, and I lost the joy of my salvation. My conscience didn’t side with the affirming church.

After so many years of stimulation, my senses became dulled. I no longer could get the rush I needed so badly. Encouraged by the message of the affirming church, I was “embracing” my homosexuality. But as I fell deeper into sin, my marriage grew increasingly boring, and my wife’s love seemed more and more distant.

An article by a fellow struggler, “No Easy Victory” (CT, March 2002), gave me the courage to come clean to my wife. By confessing my sin to God, my wife, and a few others within my local church, I began the journey to true freedom. In the end, I was set free thanks to a combination of accountability and an internet course called Door of Hope at www.settingcaptivesfree.com.

I unlearned the lies that the affirming church propagates. I admit my responsibility for believing them, and for my actions based on them. But the damage continues to reverberate.

Do these people seem free from the pain in their lives? It doesn’t sound like it, and it begs the question – what are these “ex-gay” ministries doing for these people? The “ex-gay” movement has no way to prove that they’ve “cured” anyone of homosexuality. In fact, the leading British pastoral counseling movement to steer self-loathing gays to psychotherapy or religion, Courage, no longer attempts to “cure” people of homosexuality.


The cover of Besen’s book; the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Gordon B. Hinckley on gays: “We know they have a problem. We want to help them solve that problem.”

Wayne Besen’s excellent Anything But Straight exposed the hypocrisy, scandal and lies perpetuated by these ministries, including details on a professed “cured” leader of the movement photographed by the author cruising in a gay bar. The irony is that two of the founders of Exodus, Gary Cooper and Michael Bussee, actually fell in love, divorced their wives, and eventually held a commitment ceremony.

And it’s not just Exodus and the evangelical Christian movement in the game…the Mormon church endorses a variation of ministry called “reparative therapy.” Though the church says it is not directly affiliated with organizations responsible for the mental and emotional torture of vulnerable gays and lesbians, they are threatened with rejection by both their church and their families if they do not submit to “treatment.” Here is an account of the type of “treatment” self-loathing homosexual Mormons put themselves through to avoid being rejected by both their church and their families.

“I dreamed that I was in a fairly erotic situation with another man, and then midway through, I would just be electrocuted.” Jayce Cox says he doesn’t have the dream on a weekly basis any more, and he’s relieved. Now it’s just every couple of months that he bolts up, startled and shaking, in the middle of the night. He attributes this recurring dream to the aversion therapy administered at Brigham Young University.

Jayce tells his story:

It’s 1995. He is sitting in an office on the campus of BYU, where his counselor has attached electrodes to his hands, arms, torso and genitals. His Mormon Bishop gave him a referral to the counselor. Jayce is shown pornographic images of men having sexual encounters. Then, ZAP! His body tingles, then aches from the electrical shock administered by his trusted counselor. He is scheduled for twice-weekly sessions for four months. “Toward the end of the program I could press a button and it would stop the shock and then a picture of a woman would come on.”

But Jayce is 19 years old and he willingly goes back for more. He gives them his college savings — $9,000 — for the treatments which are promised to cure his homosexuality.

They promised me it would work, and who doesn’t want to live a life that’s normal and acceptable in your society and have your family embrace you?” he asks rhetorically.

Therapist Ron Lawrence of Community Counseling Center in Las Vegas says this “reparative therapy” is “equivalent to what I would call the kind of torture that people experienced in Nazi concentration camps.”

This is why the Christianity Today articles seem so tragic to me. It makes you wonder if these people will ever truly feel “saved” emotionally and spiritually.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding