Special Feature Question 2: How has a book, movie or web site helped you in your ex-gay recovery process?
During my ex-gay recovery process, there have been many different sources from which I have drawn strength, comfort, wisdom, and guidance. Of course the Bible is the book I have gone to, and continue to go to the most. I continue to experience new interpretations of the Scriptures as I grow in my own personal faith and spiritual journey. There have been other resources that have been especially helpful during my ex-gay recovery process. A book that has really helped me is Grace Walk: What You've Always Wanted in the Christian Life by Steve McVey. A copy of this book was given to me at a very critical point in my life. I had read the book once before, but this time, it had a new relevance. Grace Walk focuses on moving from a faith based on works, or legalism, into a faith walk of grace.
Another important resource was the website for the Cathedral of Hope, located in Dallas,Texas. The Cathedral of Hope's primary ministry is to the LGBT community. The website has devotions, podcasts, and articles included on it. The article on Homosexuality and Christianity by the Dean of the Cathedral, Rev. Michael Piazza, really helped me during an especially difficult time.
Soulforce, Rev. Mel White's ministry, has also been very helpful. The article Homosexuality and the Bible by Dr. Walter Wink has probably had the biggest affect on me, primarily because it was so well done and is theologically sound. This article is a must read for anyone that is struggling with the reconciliation of their sexuality and their faith.
Finally, I have to now include Beyond Ex-Gay in this list of very helpful resources. This ministry, this community, has already helped tremendously in my continuing journey to recovery.
Eric—Long Beach, CAI can identify two things that helped me in my ex-gay recovery process. The first is a web site called GayChristian.Net that helped me to discover the spectrum of beliefs about faith and sexuality. The second is the blogosphere. Both helped me to experience my own journey.
One year after completing the six-month Living Waters program, I was no less same-sex attracted than I was before the program. In fact, I was even lonelier because we were encouraged not to keep in contact with other people in the program. As I continued to live out my faith despite the attractions that I had, I was a part of (leading) prayer groups from throughout the city where we would often pray against the “spirit of homosexuality” and against gay people. It was then that God began to prompt my heart, “Why are you praying against a people that you don’t even know? Why are you praying against them when you are one of them?”
I realized that I shouldn’t pray for someone I can’t love and I can’t love someone I don’t know. Therefore, with God’s leading, I began to pursue people’s stories so that I could begin to understand them better. When I discovered GayChristian.Net (GCN), I found an online community of people with similar stories. They were all same-sex attracted (or identified with gender differently) and they all loved God (or had a background of religion or faith). I also discovered that they didn’t all believe the same things about faith and sexuality. Some held a perspective called Side A that suggested that a person could be both gay and Christian in the context of monogamy, commitment, and covenant. Some held a perspective called Side B that suggested that a person may acknowledge the reality of being gay (having the attractions) while also being Christian but that we ought to be celibate and shouldn’t act upon our same-sex attractions because it is still a sin. Consequently, Side X would be the perspective that one cannot be both gay and Christian because it is a sin in any form or expression and that we should and can be transformed to be straight (ex-gay).
In addition to GCN, I also discovered the wonders of the blogosphere. It was an intricate web of personal stories chronicled on a blog – a web journal that linked to other blogs. It was a great way to read about the journeys of so many people who were just like me. I even started my own blog to tell my story and to explore authenticity. I gained a sense of community through the blogosphere because commentary, feedback, and encouragement (or criticism) was freely given. It really is a great way to get to know people. Through our common stories and mutual links, I developed actual (albeit virtual) friendships.
Discovering the diversity of what people believed about homosexuality in the context of genuine faith helped me to realize that there is a difference between various truths and the interpretation of truth. My ex-gay recovery process took some time. I had been conditioned to believe that being straight was part of the holiness equation. It was okay to question that. At the end of the day, I realized that my faith was intact. Perhaps, my sexuality could remain intact as well.
Eric maintains the blog--Two World Collision and is the founder of Catalyst, a movement that sees a culture in Long Beach that embraces meaningful relationships, community partnership, and resident ownership of the city. Read all of Eric's story.
Christine Bakke—Denver ColoradoWhen I was trying to detox from the ex-gay world, I found that for me it was linked with a fundamentalist, evangelical Christian worldview. The two things were so entwined that I needed to be able to step away from all of it and start to sort through the pieces. I had to turn everything upside down, shake it up a little, and see what held for me.
Like Eric, I too was (and still am) involved at gaychristian.net. I initially joined thinking that I would eventually reconcile my faith with my sexuality and be a gay Christian. While this did not happen for me, I found a wonderful community, and many who had ex-gay experiences. Even though my current faith journey is not Christian, GCN is still a welcoming place for me; a rare place where there are people who understand my upbringing, my ex-gay journey, and the faith tradition in which I was raised and had lived as an adult.
One website I read occasionally is Leaving Fundamentalism. Many of the articles have been a great help to me, and also have provided a window for me into why charismatic and pentecostal circles both drew and repelled me.
A friend suggested I read Leaving the Fold, by Marlene Winell. Another friend purchased it for me as an early birthday present, and I found that the book tugged at so many places in me, that I had to read it slowly (for someone who reads multiple books a week, this is a novel experience) and ingest it a chapter at a time. It's been almost a year since I read it, and I'm due for a re-reading.
A movie that really helped me deal with some of the pain of my ex-gay experiences is The Shipping News. All the characters move slowly to a new view of their lives and what is possible for them. Another film was Trembling Before G-D. A documentary about gay Orthodox Jews, it was one of the first times I'd ever seen something so similar to my life. I was not raised as an Orthodox Jew, but I was raised in a strict Fundamentalist family, and it seemed that most people I'd connected with did not have an understanding of what that world was like. This film helped me to see some of the problems that I was having in adjusting to my new world and reality from a different perspective. The special features were just as valuable to me as the actual documentary.
Scott Tucker—New YorkThere have been three books that have really had an amazing impact on my life. I read The Prince of Tides in 1992. At his point in my life I had no intention of coming out or going to an ex-gay ministry. The leader of the ex-gay support group I attended in Knoxville suggested I find out more information about LIA, but I knew I could not do that. If I did, my secret would be out. I had no idea how reading The Prince of Tides would affect my life.
I grew up in the South in a family that could keep a secret. We didn't talk about our problems. We just gave them to God and buried our heads in the sand hoping they would disappear...let go and let God. I heard that mantra an infinite number of times. I said it, too. My parents seemed able to do it, so why shouldn't I? The Prince of Tides allowed me to observe a fictional family from the South that kept secrets. The secrets of this fictional family were tearing them apart. In order to survive, the children detached, but that detachment didn't protect them as adults. In fact, it crippled them. The daughter was a brilliant poet, but in and out of the psychiatric ward. She attempted suicide.The protagonist had walls made of steel around his heart. No one would ever be able to penetrate that fortress. Not only did this book move me to tears, but it made me realize that I could not keep the secrets I had been harboring from my family anymore. I was that character. I had to come out. I made the decision, and then I attended an Exodus conference. Every piece seemed to be falling into place. I had never been surrounded by so many people who felt exactly like me. I met several people from Love In Action (based in San Rafael, CA initially), and at that moment I decided that I had to go California, so I could become straight. I would not allow my secret to keep me bound up any longer. I was hoping that if I confessed my deep, dark secret that my parents would find freedom, too.
It all seemed so simple. If I shed light on all of my secrets, my problems would disappear. In August 1993, I went home to visit my parents. I took a friend with me for support, because if I had gone by myself I would have chickened out. With her support I managed to
come out of the dark closet. I'm sure my parents thought I was going to tell them that Kathy and I were getting engaged or that she was pregnant. They didn't expect the words, I'm gay, BUT...that was when I went into my whole speech about Love in Action (LIA). Thus began my year in exile…
Fast forward 14 years...I'm living in New York. I've met the man who I think is the love of my life. We move in together, and I start having major anxiety attacks. I thought I had dealt with all of these issues. I came out. I quit going to church. I walked out on God. I was a sinful creature, so I decided to leave Him, before he had a chance to leave me. It was a similar pattern of all my former relationships. How could anyone possibly love me? So, I left my boyfriend.
At this point I picked up Stranger at the Gate by Mel White. Why didn't I read this book ten years ago? I was blown away. I've known so many people who have shared my struggle, but this was the first time I actually related to someone who had successfully merged homosexuality and spirituality. It was possible. I couldn't put the book down. I was completely broken, but after reading his book, I realized that I could be put together again. It was going to be a process, but I could do it. I then read Straight to Jesus by Tanya Erzen. I was a little worried that reading the book might put me into a downward spiral. I often felt like I failed, because I didn't leave LIA fixed. I wasn't sure if reading her book would take me back to that same place. If anything, it had the opposite affect on me. I realized that the entire program helped set me up for failure. It's not real life. It's a gay ghetto. I couldn't stay in the ghetto the rest of my life, living in denial. What kind of life would that be? Guilt, fear and shame have been my constant companions for most of my life. How can you live when you always feel like a disappointment? The answer being…you cannot. I didn't realize that reading The Prince of Tides so many years ago would start me on this very long journey.
One other major source of encouragement has been Peterson Toscano's blog, A Musing. I don't know what I would have done if I had not stumbled upon his site. I am thankful that he took the time to reach out to me when I e-mailed him almost two years ago, and that he got me involved in the Ex-gay Survivors conference in Irvine. I am excited to be moving out of the closet for the last time into a glorious light, and I want to help others do the same.
P.S. One other book that helped tremendously is Swinging on the Garden Gate by Elizabeth J. Andrew.
Peterson Toscano—Hartford, CT
Funny...I came up with this question and now I find it hard to answer. Once I came to my senses, then tenuously came out of the closet, I had so much to learn and relearn. Some books really helped me but mostly poetry. The poetry somehow got to a part of me that counseling and reading of non-fiction "self-help" books couldn't get at.
Some poets who reach me:
-Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass
One book that helped a great was was Christian De LeHueta's Coming Out Spiritually: The Next Step. This book helped me look at the many spiritual roles LGBTQ people have taken throughout history. Reading about these roles and great people of faith gave me faith about my own future as a spiritual person who also happens to be gay.
If someone you knew was thinking of attending an ex-gay program, what would you tell them?
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