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Ex-Gay Harm–Let Me Count the Ways

(NOTE FROM PAM: In his other diary, Peterson notes that Beyond Ex-Gay is celebrating its first birthday. Props to BXG for working toward positive change.)

In the past 4.5 years I have been in contact with over 1000 ex-gay survivors. These are people who pursued ex-gay experiences, either on their own, or more often, assisted by others like a therapist, minister, ex-gay program.

Most were adults when they attempted to change or suppress their sexual orientation. (Most ex-gay programs are actually for adults. Very few programs take in  teens. Fortunately one of these, Love in Action’s Refuge program closed last spring)

Through hearing their stories, some of which are posted at Beyond Ex-Gay (bXg),  and in unpacking my own ex-gay journey, I have begun to understand the many ways people can be harmed by their ex-gay experiences. Many of us also received certain benefits from our ex-gay experiences, but in most cases the harm outweighs the good.

I realize that the ex-gay experience is not the only culprit in bringing harm. The anti-gay church and a homophobic society and in many cases one’s own family contribute to the damage. But what the ex-gay experience does is deepen that harm by offering hope for some sort of change or freedom.

Below is a list of categories outlining areas of harm along with brief descriptions for each.  Ex-gay experiences can harm us in several ways

* Emotional Harm

* Psychological Harm

* Spiritual Harm

* Relationship Harm

* Financial Harm

* Career Harm

* Physical Harm

* Developmental Harm

* Sexual Harm

Those of us who have suffered and still stuffer harm from ex-gay experiences need not be victims. The process required to face the pain and loss and unpack our ex-gay experience takes time and support. It requires grieving and forgiveness–especially we need to forgive ourselves for the times we subjected ourselves to harmful ex-gay conversion therapies and ministries.

We need not be stuck though. Many have moved beyond their ex-gay experiences and the damage to embrace life afresh and forge new paths. They even have been able to salvage the good they gained from the ex-gay experiences as they recover from the harm. For some of us, part of the process means looking at the list above in order to acknowledge and validate the damage we suffered.

When I feel discouraged about the many losses from my nearly two decades of ex-gay living, I remind myself that I allowed myself to go through much of that mess. If I could get myself into all that trouble, I have the power and resources to get myself out.


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