Beyond Ex-Gay

Ex-Gay Harm--Let Me Count the Ways

by Peterson Toscano 

In the past 4.5 years I have been in contact with over 1000 ex-gay survivors. These are people who pursued ex-gay experiences, either on their own, or more often, assisted by others like a therapist, minister, ex-gay program. They attempted to change or suppress their sexual orientation and may have referred to themselves as ex-gays or simply strugglers or by some other name.

Through hearing their stories (some of which posted here at Beyond Ex-Gay--bXg) and in unpacking my own ex-gay journey, I have begun to understand the many ways people can be harmed by their ex-gay experiences. Many of us also received certain benefits from our ex-gay experiences, but in most cases the harm outweighs the good.

I realize that the ex-gay experience is not the only culprit in bringing harm. The anti-gay church and a homophobic society and in many cases one's own family contribute to the damage. But what the ex-gay experience does is deepen that harm by offering hope for some sort of change or freedom. Led by sincere and caring people, our ex-gay programs, therapists and ministers encouraged us and because of their kindness and sincerity, we often pressed on long after we realized the it was not working. Only afterwards did we began to understand the trauma we introduced into our lives as a result of submitting to ex-gay experiences.
Statue of saddened woman
Below is a list of categories outlining areas of harm along with brief descriptions for each. I invite ex-gay survivors to contact us at bXg with specific examples and further explanations for any of the categories that resonate for them. They can even add new categories.

(warning: this can be heavy stuff to look at, so before you do, make sure you feel somewhat prepared and aware that this might bring up stuff for you)

Ex-gay experiences can harm us in several ways.

Those of us who have suffered and still stuffer harm from ex-gay experiences need not be victims. The process required to face the pain and loss and unpack our ex-gay experience takes time and support. It requires grieving and forgiveness--especially we need to forgive ourselves for the times we subjected ourselves to harmful ex-gay conversion therapies and ministries.

We need not be stuck though. Many have moved beyond their ex-gay experiences and the damage to embrace life afresh and forge new paths. They even have been able to salvage the good they gained from the ex-gay experiences as they recover from the harm. For some of us, part of the process means looking at the list above in order to acknowledge and validate the damage we suffered.View of the city through a rock window

When I feel discouraged about the many losses from my nearly two decades of ex-gay living, I remind myself that I allowed myself to go through much of that mess. If I could get myself into all that trouble, I have the power and resources to get myself out.

In response to this article ex-gay survivors have written in to show what the harm has looked like in their lives.

Read these moving and powerful comments on Ex-Gay Harm.  


Please feel free to share your experiences with us.  E-mail me at or contact us through the bXg  contact form. Thank you and may you continue to find courage and support in your journey.

(special thanks to all the survivors who contributed their thoughts as I wrote this piece.)

Now that you have considered some of the harm, What Does it Mean for You?