Beyond Ex-Gay

The Ex-Gay Lifestyle

By Peterson Toscano


Anti-gay conservative church leaders and politicians often cry out against the GAY LIFESTYLE, that evil, self-indulgent, promiscuous, unsafe way of homosexual living which includes seducing others to join in on our ungodliness. During my 17 years in various ex-gay programs, we often referred to our pre-ex-gay history as The Lifestyle.Page from the Love In Action's manual


Those of us who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgender, queer, genderqueer, same-gender loving often feel bafflement, amusement, annoyance, anger (or a mixture of any of these) when we all get lumped into a “lifestyle” that does not define the vast majority of us.

Sure there are gay men who do illegal drugs and anonymous sex and and insist on 400-thread count Egyptian cotton sheets (which is much more of a virtue than a vice), but I’ve also seen Sex in the City and ads for the Girls Gone Wild videos. Do these represent the heterosexual female lifestyle?

In Love in Action (LIA), I received the 374-page Steps Out Program Class Manual (bright red replete with a partial image of a studly workman on the cover), but from it I could not glean many details about the gay lifestyle. Here is the vague and confusing description from the manual:


What Do We Mean When We Say “Lifestyle”?

… Following the gay lifestyle means being involved with other gay people at various social levels. The lifestyle is quite different for gay men then it is for gay women. For gay men, it usually revolves around a gay ghetto area in an urban environment, although this is not necessarily so.


To become involved in the lifestyle means coming out of the closet to some degree. Lifestyles can be overt or covert. A gay person may be flamboyant, not caring who knows of his homosexuality, or he may be living a double life, appearing heterosexual at work and among family members and slipping away to parks or baths to engage in homosexual behavior. (Chapter 38, page 257)

(Like in most of the “ex-gay” training I received, women were barely mentioned.) The manual goes on to list reasons participants had chosen to enter the Lifestyle. Listed in order of importance they include such sinister motivations as:

The solution? A new lifestyle! According to the Program Overview, “We will seek to build a new life-style and a new identity—one based on the Word of God.”

The Ex-Gay Lifestyle as outline in the Love in Action manual explains it in detail (Click here to see for yourself) includes living as a disciple of Jesus. A big part is membership and involvement in a church. I guess not a gay church or one of those liberal franchises since the manual insists that in the Ex-Gay Lifestyle we avoid gay people and gay places--The Forbidden Zone as we termed it in Love in Action.

The NEW Lifestyle includes being a role model for others, giving back to the church community, forgiving others, letting go of hostilities, and growing in your relationship with Christ. Wait a minute! That sounds very much my current lifestyle—my gay lifestyle—my own quirky queer Quaker Christian, vegan, relatationship-based lifestyle.

In fact, there is a different lifestyle for each and everyone of us gay, lesbian, transgender, besexual wonderful people. What I think Love in Action means by an Ex-Gay Lifestyle is one free from anonymous, promiscuious sexual behavior, a lifestyle that is full of love and service and Spirit. But one does not need to be ex-gay to live this way. Many gay Christians live like this. Many queer people of other faiths and no faith live like this.

And if you are not living like this and want to, you do not have to become ex-gay to make that happen. Find a strong supportive community, seek out healing from past hurts, get the help you need to address life-controlling issues, and feed your mind and heart with writings and songs and images that encourage a healthy and self-respecting lifestyle.