Beyond Ex-Gay


by Eugene


Recently I've been reflecting back on my story, particularly the earlier parts of my life that I haven't written as much about. I don't remember what prompted those reflections, but it's interesting to look back now and to realize that my life doesn't fit the standard Exodus stereotypes quite as neatly as I once thought.

It's true that I was always a little bit afraid of my father growing up, due to his temper (which he never took out on me directly). He was also a workaholic and frequently gone for days at a time. As such, it was always easy for me to accept ex-gay theories about the origins of homosexuality without question. But regardless of whatever validity they may hold, the full story is more complex than that.

Image of a red box standing out among whiteDespite having good reason to distance myself from my father, I still looked up to him and did more to pattern myself after him than after my mom, even though she and I had the closer relationship. In terms of personality I'm a pretty even mixture of both of my parents, but unlike the common Exodus stereotype, there was never a time when I was at all interested in being (or acting like) a girl.

I never developed an interest in sports, but then again nobody in our immediate family was interested in sports, so it's not as though anything athletic was present in my day-to-day life for me to reject. Academic achievement (which came easily enough to me) was what earned me affirmation from my father (an engineer) anyway, so a strong interest in sports would just as likely have created more distance between us than it bridged.

My major interests in elementary school couldn't be considered 'butch,' but they weren't particularly 'feminine' either (speaking still in terms of stereotypes): math, astronomy, music, board and card games and science fiction commanded most of my attention. My dad taught me to play chess when I was six, and we spent a good deal of time playing games prior to the divorce. When I got a little older political science moved ahead of astronomy on my list of interests, and eventually history supplanted math (calculus being the final straw).

There was a period of a couple years when I was into creating homemade Christmas ornaments with my mom, but aside from an off-and-on interest in cooking that didn't survive into adulthood, that's about the farthest that I ventured into stereotypically female pursuits. I had a stuffed animal collection until about the age of twelve, but they spent most of their time playing superheroes.

Although I've probably had an above average number of female friends throughout my life compared to your average American male, it wasn't because I was hiding from the other boys. On the occasions when my female friends outnumbered my male friends, it was due more to circumstance than conscious choice. Despite the barrier of having little interest in (or aptitude for) sports, it was never long before I would gravitate back toward being one of the guys.

In short, my childhood more closely matches the stereotypes of those given the label 'geek' or 'nerd' than it does the stories presented by Exodus as the universal experience of all gay men. Granted, there's still plenty that ex-gay advocates could use as ammunition to 'prove' that I'm gay because of my family environment, but there are many more gay men and women whose childhoods contained fewer (if any) of the so-called warning signs. Once the vast spectrum of human experience in the real world is fully taken into account, any strictly psychological theory would need to be so broad and generalized that it would predict a 50-70% rate of homosexuality in the general population instead of 5-7%.

In truth, nobody knows for certain what causes homosexuality (or, for that matter, heterosexuality). The evidence would suggest that biology plays a significant role, whether that be through genetic markers, prenatal hormones or some combination of the two. At the local level many ex-gay leaders would acknowledge that Moberly's theory doesn't tell the whole story, but at the national level it's apparently still more politically expedient to pretend that it's all psychological and entirely 'curable.'

photo of snow and flowersPsychology probably does play a role in sexual development, at least for some; life isn't as simple as many on both sides of the issue would like it to be. But in the end, the debate over cause is a secondary issue, as either side would ultimately assert if they were ever decisively proven wrong.

To borrow another quote from The Lord of the Rings, "...that is not for [us] to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." We may not choose our circumstances or our personalities, but we can choose whether we will make the most of what we do have to be active participants in the ever-unfolding story of God's creation, or whether we will fixate to the point of paralysis on what we think we ought to be and consequently never truly live. I've already wasted too many years doing the latter.