Why the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference Matters To Me
Feel free to contribute your own perspective via your blog or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here is what we heard back from them.
Ken — Toronto, Ontario
This conference matters to me because of the extent to which ex-gay ideology has influenced my family and myself.
Although I've never been involved in a formal program, ex-gay ideology and theology dominated my teenage years as I tried to figure out how to "cure" myself and make myself acceptable. Exodus' "theories" of homosexuality resulted in deep trauma and feelings of defectiveness. I learned that my feelings and experiences were worthless because they didn't match up to their theories, which they taught as God-given and infallible. I ended up completely devaluing myself and committing continual spiritual suicide while I tried to become acceptable to God, my family, and church.
I also have loved ones who take Exodus' ideology very seriously. Exodus tells them that God says I am sinful, sick, and possibly brainwashed… and so they treat me accordingly… all under the guise of "love." It is a warped, confusing, and heartbreaking message that makes everyone involved suffer.
Scott Tucker — New York, NY
My years of magical thinking...I borrow this idea from Joan Didion's memoir and play, The Year of Magical Thinking.
I spent so many years of my life living by "ifs": IF I obeyed these rules, IF I prayed more, IF I read my Bible for an hour a day, or IF I confessed daily that I wasn't gay, then I would find freedom from homosexuality.
When that didn't work, I went to Love In Action, one of my last big "ifs".
The result is, I'm still gay.
So, was I gay or a Christian? I couldn't be both.
The past couple of years have been a real struggle for me spiritually. I walked away from my Christian upbringing when I couldn't resolve my homosexuality, and I didn't think I would ever come back; however, I think that's all about to change.
This conference represents a new beginning for me. A chance for me to acknowledge this is the way God created me. My spirituality and sexuality can live in harmony.
David F. — Dallas, TX
I found out about the conference only last week, and immediately booked it.
I spent 8 years in ex-gay ministries, reparative therapy, and aversion therapy and finally left after a suicide attempt.
My involvement in these groups has affected every area of my life, from my belief in God to my ability to create trusting friendships and relationships. I have come a long way, but have a long way yet to go.
I'm looking forward to meeting other survivors, hearing their stories, and perhaps sharing my own story. By going to the conference, I also hope to show my support for my fellow "ex-ex-gays" and the organizations that support us.
I'll see you on Friday.
Jarred — The Musings of a Confused Man
...I look at what I put myself through during [the ex-gay experiences] of my life, and my heart aches to think that other people are facing those same struggles and choices today. And every fiber of my being cries out to help them find a better way the first time around and save themselves that kind of pain.
To me, I see the same desire motivating this conference and bXg in general. I see a group of people who wish to share their own experiences so that others might think twice about repeating them. I see a group of people who like me, are saying to those around them, "Let's find a better way together." And I find that comforting and encouraging.
There's more at his blog: Read all of Jarred's thoughts.
Jerry Lail — Irvine, CA
This conference is so important because I attended the Exodus conference in Los Angeles 19 years ago next week. I lost several very good friends once I came out of the Ex-gay movement. They told me they could not have any future contact with me; this has been very sad to me.
I hope they are okay. I told them I would be here if they ever needed me, but I respected their request that I never contact them again.
As painful as that was, part of me wonders if they will be at the Exodus conference, and part of me wants to go over there and try to find them. But, I can't... they have to find their own way out.
I am so glad that Soulforce and BeyondExGay are HERE and will be in IRVINE offering as an alternative. Who knows, if I had an alternative in 1988 in Los Angeles, I might have taken my friends and driven across town and we could have all gotten out together.
There is hope... because I survived. As long as there is love, as long as we are alive, there is hope.
Steve Boese — Hartford, CT
The Ex-Gay Survivor Conference matters to me because a few us don't survive the process of emerging from conflicted and closeted places.
In November, 2000 I lost my partner, Dale, to suicide. There had been so many ways in which he had begun discovering courage, peace, renewed faith, and support in the year we were together. But, it was also a deeply challenging time for him on multiple levels. Coming out in his mid-40s and grieving the end of his 22-year marriage to his best friend were not small tasks.
Suicide is complex, and I can't assign unitary blame to any person, group, or issue. In Dale's life, long-term struggles with depression and a roller-coaster ride with therapy and medication contributed heavily to his despair.
Also contributing to his despair was his fear that living as an openly gay man meant being controversial, either disrupting or being ostracized from faith communities he cared deeply about.
For as much as he found peace in our private moments and in affirming social environments with our friends, he struggled to make peace with the ultimatums he was given: You must either choose an ex-gay life, or you must stop sharing your musical gifts in the faith communities you have cherished.
The best messages we, as survivors, can bring to our communities are the simple ones: We are well. The journey has been fruitful, and yet more hurtful than it needed to be. As a community, we have a responsibility to change that.
I can't change the ex-gay movement. But I feel a responsibility to be a voice and a force for awareness, protection, and healing within my community which continues to be impacted by it. Participating in the conference is one step on that path.