In this feature, we ask the same question to five different ex-gay survivors. We have had a diversity of experiences and backgrounds, and we hope that these answers will help to demonstrate some of those differences.
Question 3: What would you tell someone if they were thinking about attending an ex-gay program?
Angel Celeste Collie — North Carolina
I say you can’t change who you are naturally attracted to or your comfortable gender presentation. Ex-gay therapy won’t change it and prayer won’t change it because it’s not meant to be changed. You can only pray “God take this away” for so long until you realize maybe it is Gods will and that you have to let go and allow that will to be done. If God isn’t changing you then maybe you shouldn’t be changed. You are who God created you to be.You are walking down the path God has called you down even if it isn’t the one taken by the majority of society.
If you are transgender and God calls you to transition then I believe God has called you to experience your journey in different way. A way that gives you wisdom to understand both masculinity and femininity so that you can understand the experience of societies gender perceptions and thus more intimatley relate to the experience of more individuals. Not every society understood gender as we do today.
In Native American cultures transgender people were highly reguarded and seen as teachers and spiritul leaders. I believe there is a reason transgender people are suppose to experience what it is to walk through life as female and also experience what it is like to walk through life as male. The secret is to love yourself and have confidence in exactly who God made you. I think absolute acceptance and absolute pride are key and to do that you have to truly embrace yourself and move into a place of full acceptance and self love for exactly who we have been led to be. Ex-gay therapy will only teach you to deny who God has made you to be and attempt to break your beautiful spirit.
Angel participated in Soulforce's 2006 and 2007 Equality Rides.
Anthony Venn Brown — Surrey Hills, AustraliaBefore you invest the time, money, emotional energy and possibly years of your life trying to go from gay to straight, ask the ex-gay leaders what guarantee they can give you that it will work. If they are honest with you, the best they will be able to offer you as a degree of ‘heterosexual functionality’, but the gay never actually goes away. Then ask yourself what would be the best way to spend your time, money and emotional energy…..rejecting yourself or accepting yourself. After 22 years of trying to change including ex-gay programs, exorcisms and 16 years of marriage, I came to the realisation that loving myself was far healthier than hating and rejecting my true self. Like 1,000’s of others today, I finally discovered that I can live a wonderfully fulfilling, moral life as an openly gay man and still have my faith.
I would tell them about this site and I would direct them to other sites such as Steve's or Christine's or Peterson's. I would tell them from there they will be able to access countless other stories of people that have been harmed by ex-gay ministries. I am pretty sure this would be adequate since it worked for me.
I wrote to a big name minister affiliated with Exodus when I was struggling to reconcile my being gay and Christian. I poured out my heart and commited to fasting for 21 days if he would only answer. I prayed that God would answer my prayer and give me the answers I sought. At that point if this man had answered and directed me to an ex-gay ministry I would have jumped at the chance to cure myself. But God had other plans and the irony is when I didn't receive an answer I went looking on the net for ex-gay ministries and came across an article about Exodus that actually linked to Beyond Ex-Gay! From there I was able to correspond with Peterson and Steve and read Christine's and their blogs and read other survivor stories.
To tell someone they could be harmed is not enough, it must have a personal face and until you read the personal stories you can't quite believe that you're not alone. I would also direct them to GCN, as Steve Boese did for me, because you also need to offer an alternative. Too bad there's not a Christian ex-ex gay ministry that offers residential treatment and therapy(hint). I don't think I would personally need that service because the Lord directed me here first. The "witness and the warning" worked for me and I would and will definitely pass it on.
Vincent Cervantes — Merced, California
Being in a conversation where someone expresses that they are considering an ex-gay program places me personally in a difficult position, because there is usually so much that I want to do to help them and there's so much I want to say to them—an overload of emotions and feelings rush through me. As much as I want to go into the "how ex-gay therapy is wrong" conversation, I know that I need to approach them in a loving and embracing way. I've been in this conversation before with many people. Creating common ground with them is important to me. I understand their emotions and their feelings, because I once experienced them, I experienced that same feeling of wanting to seek "help."Sharing my personal ex-gay experiences and testimony allows me to share with them the harm of conversion therapy programs in a real and vulnerable way. Most of what I know about ex-gay programs comes from my own personal experience and the testimonies of many others. Sharing real lives and real experiences allows me to come from a place a love and care; thus providing the comfort and a safe place for people who are discovering their own personal identities.
Anna — London, EnglandI was asked to contribute to this question, although I am not sure I have anything to say that isn't simply common sense. I am a straight woman living in England. I have stood alongside several people who have made their journies through their struggles with reconciling their faith and their sexuality. I have seen their pain and struggles, wept with them, laughed with them and stood with them. As much as they have been sidelined by the church community, I have also been marginalised because of my belief that God calls people to himself, regardless of their sexuality.
If someone came to me saying that they were thinking about joining an ex-gay programme I would have lots of things to say to them! The first one would be to caution them to examine why they wanted to do it in the first place. I work a lot with people who want to go to residential rehabilitation for drug and alcohol problems and in my experience the individual themself rarely wants to go. It is usually their friends and family who are putting pressure on them to make changes. I see that reflected with the ex-gay programmes. How many people really, truly want to go and how many would choose to go if they did not have pressure put on them by other people? So, my first question would be about their motivation.
I would also ask them to consider whether they feel that they could be completely happy if they were incongruent. That is, thinking, dreaming, hoping and feeling one thing, but having to display the exact opposite feelings, emotions and behaviours. I would do everything I could to encourage that individual to accept who they are and to address their sexuality in the “real world” and to face-up to things honestly. It seems to me that the ex-gay ministries actively promote deceit, dishonesty and lies, none of which I truly believes encourages personal development and growth.
However, I am still unconvinced that saying anything will make a big difference to someone who is convinced that an ex-gay programme is the right place for them to go. I believe that actions speak louder than words. Standing alongside individuals during the rocky road of their journey says more than a thousand late-night conversations. Being there in the middle of the night when it is all going pear-shaped, listening, comforting, sharing in the tears and binding up the “wounds”. Sometimes, those are the things that make the biggest difference.
Anna blogs at Auntie Knows Best.
Why did you seek to change or suppress your sexual orientation?
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