Beyond Ex-Gay

Question 8. What significant experience motivated you to quit the ex-gay movement?

393 participants out of 417 answered this question.

Quitting the Ex-Gay Movement chart

Way out in the lead of all the other options (by 100 people) is that the SOCE did not make them heterosexual. 85 people (22% of the participants who answered this question) said they had a nervous breakdown. Whether or not all of these were actual physiological diagnoses is not clear, but it is disturbing to think that SOCE brought on so many of these kinds of severely negative experiences. Also, it’s supremely important to point out that four different comments below mention being sexually abused by their “ex-gay therapist.” It would be nice to think that the “significant experience” that motivated survivors to quit SOCE’s would be happy or inspiring occasions, and some of them are. Unfortunately, all too often it is the dark, deeply wounding, devastating experiences that finally brings survivors to their senses, and some of the stories below are no less than gut-wrenching.


Written Responses:

Below are as many responses as could be included. For the most part, these responses were left exactly as written. If they were edited or removed it was a result of protecting anonymity, improper grammar to the degree that the statement was significantly hard to understand, or the response was just too long.

The theology practiced by the ministry I was attending did not seem Biblical, unrelated to homosexuality. Also, they were not qualified to practice anything but Biblical discipleship, but they were practicing outdated psychology.

I decided to be honest about who I am.

My ex-wife cheated on me.

I saw that NOBODY was being changed, and some of those other guys had a lot more faith than I did. The only ones I ever met who claimed to have been changed were the leadership. And one of them was always hitting on me.

For other theological reasons, I joined a different denomination. I found they welcomed everyone regardless of orientation. Up to that point, I thought that practicing Christianity meant I HAD to become heterosexual, or at least not talk about failing to re-orient.

Literally broke down and couldn't take my hate for myself.

I was tired of submitting to a life of being alone. Watching my friends meet their mates and marry them was bittersweet. I was happy for them, but more lonely every time a new set of vows were said and 2 more became one.

I watched the movie Latter Days, and cried heavily as I saw how much I desired homosexual love, how repressed, self-loathing and judgmental I had become, and how much I may need to give up to live honestly.

I felt like I was more messed up than before. I felt like I was trying to be someone that I wasn't- no matter what I knew I was gay.

I found all the therapy didn't work. I wasn't changing my orientation. My desires did not change even into my forties. I started being sexually active and found the world did not come to and end.

I got married and had 2 children. We have been married for 7 years and during that time I have struggled with depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. I attribute these mostly to leading a life that is a complete lie. My husband knew I was a lesbian from the beginning but it didn't change the fact that I am a lesbian married to a man. Sex is painful. I reject my husband's advances daily, which hurts his self-esteem. I am lonely for the emotional and physical needs only a woman can fulfill. I am miserable but there are now 3 people who are suffering, not just me. I am also angry at the Christian people who told me this was what God wanted for my life. I am at a breaking point and am trying to figure out if I should leave my husband or not. He did nothing wrong and feels like I am abandoning him. I have extreme guilt but also I feel like I cannot go on any longer like this. I have not been with a woman in 10 years--I have never cheated on my husband. I love him and would never want to hurt him and would never be dishonest to him about this. But I honestly cannot live this lie of a life anymore.

Over time, I began to feel like the people involved in the ministry were on some level deceiving themselves. I appreciated their desire to draw nearer to God and resolve conflict from our past, however, beyond that, I felt like my local church community was far more effective in growing me spiritually - not to mention the fact that I wasn't becoming 'straight.'

I tried to kill myself

Did a lot of reading - specifically local newspapers with gay events - met some great gay friends, hooked up with one of the other ex-gay program participants

My "exorcism" scared me so much, I did everything to prove my "change" and get away from those people.

I realized that aside from having believed I "should," I had no real understanding of why it was wrong to love someone of my own sex.

The death of my father and the death of a friend (about two years apart). I realized that life is short and fragile and decided that I needed a new path.


Contemplated suicide as a next logical step in measures to keep my gay feelings in check. At that point I realized I needed to change to make being gay a friend rather than an enemy.

It didn't work at all...after everything I had done and tried, so I realized I had been lied to by my religion and by God.

I wasn't seeing any kind of change, so I just started doing my own research (of the Bible and of the “science”) and realized what I'd been “taught” by the ex-gay movement was just patently false. I also was able to grow closer to some LGBT Christian acquaintances I had.

My brother, who had verbally and physically assaulted me because I'm gay, had passed away. After his passing, I gradually became less afraid to acknowledge my true orientation.

I worked in mental health for a few years and became a leader and just saw people hurting and - I felt as if God stated to me, “Don’t you think I’m bigger than your sexuality? - I love you - Talk with me, walk with me - I want to hear your own voice.”

I was worn out pretending to be straight in my marriage. My husband and I fought all the time about sex because I didn't like it.

When I quit, I felt it had done all it could for me.

One morning, I broke down and was really honest with God about how my greatest desire was to marry a woman (I am a woman, too), have children, and have my marriage blessed by Him. I begged Him to help me reconcile my faith with my sexuality, because I couldn't go on living my ex-gay life of intense paranoia, fear, self-hate, and overall lack of humanity. That morning was one of the most honest moments I have ever had in my life.
I was voluntarily disowned from my family in order to remove myself from constant persecution and to live a happy and successful life.

Once I realized that I wasn't going to be able to become straight, I started hoping that I would get in an accident or get a disease or something so I could die because I was so unhappy but didn't want to go to hell for suicide. Eventually I didn't care if I would go to hell and I was suicidal. I knew that something had to change.

How many times can a person hear that being gay is an ungodly belief and that it's a lie straight from the pit of hell? After over a decade of deliverance ministry, special programs, live-in program, etc. I was told by an Assembly of God pastor that if I went through THEIR program called Restoring the Foundation I WOULD be straight. That's when I was finished with it. I haven't been to church in over five months.

Left the ex-gay group about the same time I left Scientology, was fully disillusioned by then.

I did not believe in change of sexual orientation anymore so I turned to celibacy for life. I tried to convince myself that I was happy and satisfied about it. I came out as a "post gay life" celibate christian and was applauded by christian friends. But after a while I realized that I could not really believe that all gay people were called to be single for life. Then I found another alternative and learned more about what the Bible really says (or not says) about homosexuality and being a gay christian. I had tried to make celibacy an orientation but I realized gay is my orientation, and it does not have so much to do with sex but with love.

2 years ago I took an honest look at myself, at pro-gay theology, and at my life. I stopped everything Christian (church/prayer/bible study/fellowship) and looked at the "gay world" without fear. I am still celibate but into gay porn and masturbation. I feel this is in conflict with my faith, but not ready to stop... I can't find any church in which I can be honest, transparent, and authentic as a homosexually constituted phallic-centric Christian man.

My reparative therapy counselor initiated "holding therapy" with me, which progressed into intimate physical activity between us. It was my first experience with a man (at age 26), I was in an extremely conservative Christian community, and the counselor knew I would be hesitant to tell anyone. After 3 months of this, I became angry at the hypocrisy, left therapy, met strong, healthy LGBT people for the first time, and came to realize that my perspective on homosexuality was wrong. In a way, I see the experience with my counselor as the final straw that broke the camel's back; that is, I realized in my intimacy with him that I was actually gay, and stopped trying to futilely pursue a heterosexual relationship. At the same time, I was furious that he had used my vulnerable state to draw me into a physical relationship (under the guise of Bible-based reparative therapy) and ultimately went to the local District Attorney and let him know what had transpired. After sharing my story with the D.A., he shared I was the 12th man who had brought the same story to him. I agreed to testify in a trial later that year, and the counselor was convicted of abusing a 16 year boy using the same tactics he did with me. I was obviously not the only man he took advantage of. It was a tremendously difficult journey for me to come forward, but I know ultimately, it helped end the horrific abuse this man had devised - using his position of authority to prey on vulnerable men in order to satisfy his own repressed homosexuality. I'm happy to say I am now in a wonderful relationship, part of a thriving community of faith, and extremely fulfilled in my vocation.

I am a clergy person and I met a fellow clergy who told me his experience of loving his son even though he was gay. This helped me to love myself.

I realized it would be ridiculous for God to send me to hell for something I had no control over.

Basically, the nagging pressure that my relationship with my dad made me gay, and because I was believing that, my actually good relationship with my dad started to fall apart because of it.... and also, the main reason, if it was so wrong, why didn't God heal me?

1. I started dating one of the other members 2. The campus leader of Campus Crusade for Christ, whom I was discipled, began attending HA also and I learned that about half of the top male student leaders for CCC were also gay and in HA.

I was sexually molested by an ex-gay "councilor"

I saw Brokeback mountain which showed exactly how bad it could be if a gay man married a woman.

The answer I felt I received whenever I prayed about it was to stay with my same-sex partner.

For me, it took speaking to a Jewish Lesbian. She told me I could have both. Judaism was very important to me, so the fact that she was uncompromisingly Jewish and Lesbian and had been through shock therapy, was very helpful. She also asked me what I wanted and when I told her she wanted a girlfriend, she told me doing what I was doing wasn't going to help me get there.


I tried to kill myself and ended up on the psych ward.

I gave up on Christian Fundamentalism

Went to an open group of males who were totally miserable trying to be heterosexuals...i felt so bad for them i decided it just wasn't right to try to make someone into someone else just because of religious people's ideals etc.

It wasn't enough to simply continue to go through therapy on the off chance that, having repented of all sexual sin, I would be able to be ordained.

I became frustrated with what I found to be contradictions in Mormon theology and religious doctrine generally unrelated to GLBT issues. Reconsideration of religion caused reconsideration my decisions about being gay.

Without my intention, and while attending private Ex-gay meetings, there were members of the Ex-gay meetings who made sexual advances and/or made it known that they were attracted to me. Many assertions were made that Homosexual desires would go away, and that's not what happened.

Prop 8 in CA motivated me to come out of the closet and begin to accept myself.
As an RN, I had nothing much good to say about Love Won Out - the theology was slanted ALOT and made no sense scientifically, and psychologically. I found it to be more a way for Exodus to spread hate.

I stopped struggling with the temptations to be gay. I learned to control them, so I didn't think I needed the intense therapy any more.

At some point I think the group disbanded. Our church has since come to be affirming. I came out only two years ago. Group met close to 20 years ago.

I don't think I am out of the movement since it is hard for me to trust anyone now. I cannot tell who is part of the system and who is not. Which my mother pointed out to me, "if you were to move how would you know who to trust anyway"

I learned that I was responsible for the meaning that I was assigning regarding the validity of my identity and orientation, and that I was free to choose to be myself, fully self-expressed. I learned that I was not broken, but rather perfect, whole and complete. I learned to accept all aspects of my sexuality and allowed myself to seek a committed same sex relationship after my wife succumbed to Alzheimer's. My initial attempt at a committed same sex relationship as an ex ex-gay was unsuccessful, but the next man that I dated became my life partner and we have been together now for almost nine years (since 2003).

I found peace, through God, and my faith, in my sexuality.

I did not "give up" on "religion", I came to the belief that Christianity, as I understood it, was untrue, and was I incapable of continuing to believe in it. Ceasing to believe is not the same thing as giving up. And I did not give up on "religion", just that religion. I am now Pagan and Unitarian.

I felt like I was bleeding to death, and no progress was being made.


It made me feel even worse - especially as a Christian (since they said it was impossible to be a Christian and gay at the same time). They said that I/we were disrespectful to God and didn't love him since we could choose that way of life.

Although I never cheated, my wife felt sexually unattractive leading her to cheating repeatedly. Our marriage ended & I realized I was still gay

I began to be surrounded by positive examples of people from the LGBT community. I also received a sheet called "facts about youth" from the group I was going to. This sheet was produced by the American College of Pediatricians, whose sole mission is to make gay people's lives miserable. They are hoping to be mistaken as the real group the American Academy of Pediatricians. It said 85% of young people who experience same sex attraction will see it go away if not encouraged and that the "homosexual lifestyle" was dangerous, among many other outright lies. I had seen a Rachel Maddow special on this very sheet and the ACP, I told myself my group was not that crazy. When I left I told the group leader that giving that to parents of gay teens was a bad idea because it would cause untold harm if a parent who already believed being gay was a sinful lifestyle choice got a fact sheet from an apparent medical group saying 85% of LGBT youth could be cured. He ignored me and I assume is still giving it out.

The fact that I never changed caused me to question, and eventually abandon, my Christian faith altogether. Even to the very end, I couldn't unite being gay and being a Christian, so I abandoned Christianity, thinking it must be flawed.

Our denomination underwent a drastic reformation out of legalism; and, in accepting the reality of grace, discovered that I was still gay. Grace didn't change my orientation. I had to admit my negative preconceptions about being gay and Christian were wrong. I realized I could be a gay Christian without regrets.

Following ten years and failure, I was such a mess that college friends suggested I see if regular secular therapy could do anything to help me pick up the pieces of my life. At that time, even secular therapists often believed you would be better off and more wholesome as a straight guy, but were willing to help you adjust as well as possible to being gay if being straight was just not very viable. I also felt a deep lasting shame and guilt about having to pretend I was a regular straight guy when I dated girls (who often got sincerely interested in me, and even hinted around about marriage and kids.). I got kicked out of ORU for missing regular chapel services, got yet another job in health services, got an apartment, and started Coming Out. Then I realized that I was not necessarily in tune with habits and manners in the underground local LGBT culture, such as it was. I more or less languished until I returned to Southern Illinois Univ to finish my degree, and ended up getting involved with the founding of the very first SIU gay student group. I spent years after that studying alternative views and scholarship to the closed, strict ideas about God, human nature, and LGBT folks with which I was so familiar from church and childhood. I believed I had changed/corrected much of my thinking about being a gay man myself.

I was open minded and wanted to experiment with leaving community.


Following ten years and failure, I was such a mess that college friends suggested I see if regular secular therapy could do anything to help me pick up the pieces of my life.

I was taken to a deliverance service by well meaning Christian relatives - and had what I can only describe as a true deliverance experience, on the other side of which I quit believing that changing my orientation was necessary.

It began to feel weird and stifling and it didn't seem to help. And I was warned away from it by my then pastor. It seemed to focus on forcing any individual to conform to a set of outward codes and create a certain image, but... I noticed that all the men I met (associated with the ministry) seemed unchanged. I felt like peoples' personalities were not accepted and that all of us were being forced (more or less) to live a lie. (I went to a ministry that counsels a lot of straight people, not just LGBTQ folks.)

It made me feel even worse - especially as a Christian (since they said it was impossible to be a Christian and gay at the same time). They said that I/we were disrespectful to God and didn't love him since we could choose that way of life.

I started dating guys; I considered the lives of the gay people whom I knew personally, instead of the hearsay from ex-gay groups.

I actually just checked it out, after a "Love Won Out" workshop (all of which I deemed to be lunacy) the one meeting I went to was dismal, everyone was complaining about how sad it was for them to be gay. I already knew we had the victory no matter what our orientation, and I couldn’t abide these self-loathers, the lies, etc so I never went back, and my pastor (Calvary Chapel) told me he saw no value to the "ex-gay" movement because when people come to Christ they are new creations, and there should be no need to go to such things, that once saved always saved, and unless I was engaged in constant "sin" in the sexual arena, just accept that God loves us completely, and perfectly!

I became suicidal and sought counseling with a non "ex-gay" counselor.

I was in Love in Action and they told me my time in the program was up. It didn't work and I finally gave up trying to change.

I did the LifeSpring Training and the Advocate Experience and learned to accept myself as I was.


I realized that following God the best I could was more important than whether I was sent to hell

The counselors I went to were flakes and clueless about the etiology of transsexuality. They thought it was the same as homosexuality, and just HAD to be caused by abuse somewhere.

Why did I stop trying to force myself into a straight, feminine mold? I came to realize that it wasn't working. I went back to school as a mature student, and encountered some gay, out Muslims. Two gay Muslim men became good friends of mine. I was very moved by how much they obviously loved their (male) partners. I realized that I had never experienced that sort of thing, and that I didn't know what love is, that my heterosexual marriage of over 20 years had never really been functional. There was no emotional connection (and barely a physical one either) between myself and my then-husband. I couldn't believe that God would approve of such an empty marriage like mine, and condemn those loving gay couples. It seemed utterly absurd. I also couldn't believe any longer that God wants us to lie about who we are and pretend to be something that we are not. Comparing those gay Muslims who were out and proud with myself (and others like me)--immersed in shame and in deep denial, always chasing after the fantasy of being someone else instead of being ourselves--I couldn't believe that God wanted me to keep doing what I had been doing. It seemed to me as though someone had turned on the lights.

I realized that being gay is an immutable part of me and that trying to change reality was the source of many of the conflicts I experienced, not the fact that I am gay.

Got involved with friends and groups who were pro gay Christian. It wasn't a quitting. It was more a redirection and choice to act out in honesty and integrity as a Christian.

It became clear to me that the people in leadership were often less "changed" than they portrayed themselves to be. I also undertook education that exposed me to scientific literature on sexual orientation that caused me to rethink my position.

The group that I was attending held me captive in a room when I came out about my first kiss with a person of the same gender. It became clear that this behavior was not out of love.

I left the pentecostal church and became a minister for the LGBT community.

I realized I was always going to be gay. At that point, I decided that I would just be gay but not act on it. So the ex-gay programs then seemed irrelevant.

My therapist treated me for depression first, and once I was no longer depressed, I was able to accept myself as I was.

A friend killed himself, which had a deep impact on me.

It finally hit me that if I could undergo therapy to turn me heterosexual, then any heterosexual should be able to go through therapy to become homosexual. When I realized that heterosexuals didn't seem to feel a need to change, why should I?

I was married and finally decided to come out and tell her that I was gay. My ex-gay counselor abused me sexually. That was the catalyst that made the light click in my head.

There was an enormous disconnect between the reality I was experiencing and what the Christians were telling me my experience was supposed to be. The more questions I asked, the more circular was the reasoning used to answer me. Moreover, Christian interpretation of my distress trivialized and demeaned my whole experience. None of them were ever interested in hearing about MY experience, they were too busy telling me what I should feel.

I had several panic attacks.

I accepted that I really was gay, and it wasn't going to change

I was confronted by a gay man that challenged my core beliefs

After the 11th electro-shock session (there were meant to be twelve), I attempted suicide.

I felt that those who were counseling me, encouraging therapy and change, didn't allow me to make that decision for myself. I was tired of being told what a bad person I was and how wrong I was. I knew that God still loved me no matter what and I grew tired of hearing the opposite from those around me. Towards the end of my ex-gay experience I was given the ultimatum to either go to a residential ex-gay program or to leave my position on a church staff.

Was sexually active with the leader of the ministry

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