Beyond Ex-Gay

Frequently Asked Questions

Quick Links: 

What is an ex-gay experience?
Why do people seek ex-gay experiences?
Do only Christians have ex-gay experiences?
What does it cost to have an ex-gay experience?
Do you need to be a participant in an ex-gay program to have an ex-gay experience?
Can any good come out of an ex-gay experience?
How does one recover from ex-gay experiences?
How come you don't think gays can change?
Isn't it true that most gays and lesbians have been sexually abused?
Why do you hate ex-gays so much?
So are you saying that someone has to be either gay or ex-gay?
What if someone is not happy with being gay or lesbian?
What about trans and genderqueer people?
Is this a Christian site?
What is the purpose of this site?
Who is behind this site?
Where do I start?


image of a Q on a typewriter What is an ex-gay experience?

It can be as simple as gay guys trying their hand at football and lesbians sitting in on a Mary Kay Makeup makeover to something as serious and severe as electroshock therapy.

The idea is to find change from unwanted same-sex desires and gender differences. In some cases the experience is religious-based, but not always. It can be done within a group, in one-on-one sessions or solo.

Photo of onrampAn ex-gay experience seeks to change desire and/or gender presentation. People have tried multiple methods including

  • counseling (with a trained counselor or pastoral counseling with a minister)
  • attendance in an ex-gay support group or a residential program
  • dating (or marrying) someone of the opposite sex in hopes of experiencing change in desire
  • dressing and acting according to the heteronormative standards in one’s society
  • reading books and narratives by people who say they changed
  • attending ex-gay conferences
  • submitting to prayer, fasting, exorcism, aversion therapy, hug therapy, same-sex heterosexual mentoring, and twelve-step programs.
See our Survey Results for more ways people have tried to change.


image of a Q on a typewriter Why do people seek ex-gay experiences?

Loads of different reasons and combinations of reasons. Many say it is because of their religious beliefs and a desire to please a God who they assume prefers straight followers. But typically other pressures factor into the choice to pursue an ex-gay experience.

Some folks wish to have children and family. Only recently with the emergence of marriage equality and gay adoption (and that in only select locations) virtually the only way to establish a family was through heterosexual coupling. In order to succeed in such a relationship, people have pursued change from their unwanted same-sex desires.

A list of others reasons compelling people to seek ex-gay experiences include—

  • unresolved sexual abuse
  • pressure from family members to change (or else be kicked out of the home in some cases)
  • pressure from religious leaders who insist that you must change to be a full member of a faith community
  • desire to overcome addictive behavior
  • a negative and inaccurate view of “gay culture” and the “gay lifestyle”
  • troubles maintaining healthy and fulfilling social and romantic relationships
  • the need to connect with other same-gender loving people and gender variant people of faith
  • a hunger to feel normal
See our Survey Results for individual responses from ex-gay survivors that illustrate why they sought out an ex-gay life.


image of a Q on a typewriter Do only Christians have ex-gay experiences?

Nope. People from every nation, every tribe, every tongue, faith and non-faith (well, you get the idea) have attempted to alter their same-sex attractions and gender differences. It seems that wherever a heteronormative standard exists, some people will attempt (and even fight) to conform to it—even if it kills them. Conservative protestant Christian groups do back many ex-gay programs in the US and abroad. Most public spokes-ex-gays hail from an Evangelical born-again Christian background. But secular, Jewish, Catholic, Mormon and Muslim approaches exist. You can see some of the variations of those who answered our survey questions, but we know that there is more diversity than what is represented in our survey here.


image of a Q on a typewriterWhat does it cost to have an ex-gay experience?

Sign of cashAh, let me count the ways…

It costs money—up to tens of thousands of dollars in some cases. It can cost time—years of our lives. It costs energy, peace of mind, careers we give up in order to pursue change. It costs relationships we dismantle out of fear and self-containment. It costs creativity, integrity, and sometimes, even life itself. People young and old, attempting to rid themselves of unwanted same-sex attractions and gender differences in a world that rejects them, have ended up killing themselves.

To consider some of the other costs read Peterson's article Ex-Gay Harm—Let Me Count the Ways

See our Survey Results, and especially the answers on Question 10,  to hear directly from survivors the harm they experienced.



image of a Q on a typewriter Do you need to be a participant in an ex-gay program to have an ex-gay experience?

Nope, it is also done solo or with a counselor. Many of us start out trying to change on own, altering the ways we dress, talk and walk so that we can fit in. We try to curb and contain our desires, which is harder for some than others. When we fail in our efforts and suffer the consequences by those around us who find our desires and differences to be taboo, we may then seek help from friends, religious leaders, medical professionals and ex-gay programs. In fact, the results to Question 1 of the Ex-Gay Survivor Survey show just how varied the experiences are.


image of a Q on a typewriter Can any good come out of an ex-gay experience?

To some people who have had ex-gay experiences, that's like asking "Can any good come out of a car wreck?" But even with the pain and confusion that many of us have felt from our ex-gay experiences, some good can come of it.

Image of churchIn ex-gay programs, some of us have discovered people who became life-long friends and fellow travelers as we integrate our sexual desires and identity with the rest of our lives. Some of us have learned about how to address issues of addiction and unhealthy relating.

Many of us entered into an ex-gay program feeling isolated by society and at times even by the people who love us most. Afraid to identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, we found the ex-gay experience to be a middle ground in the coming out process.

For those who struggle with same-sex attractions and their faith, going through an ex-gay experience often helped to ultimately realize that the desired change was not possible, enabling folks to move on to accept themselves and even in many cases to integrate their sexuality with their faith.

Sometimes we even learned new activities and skills that we grew to enjoy. We explored “gender appropriate” sports, crafts, and hobbies as part of some ex-gay experiences. For some we ended up excelling in some of these activities that we previously avoided.

Ex-gay experiences vary. The programs people attend and the methods the program leaders use can be more or less harmful, and some positive learning and experiences happen. In most cases though, we have found that these ex-gay experiences cause more harm than good for the majority of participants. Question 12 of our survey asked people to list the good that came from their ex-gay experiences, and you can see the responses here.


image of a Q on a typewriter How does one recover from ex-gay experiences?

It depends on the person and the experiences. Some of us choose counseling with professionals who affirm lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Some find relief and comfort from progressive faith communities and community organizations. Many of us read books, search the web, watch movies and attend LGBT-affirming events.

Most importantly many of us found relief and recovery through connecting with others. We have discovered that through sharing our stories, and hearing each other’s stories, we find healing and clarity. In part that is what this site is all about, a forum to share our ex-gay experiences, to validate the pain and the journey and to discover ways of finding peace and reconciliation with our ex-gay past. See the answers to Question 13 of our Ex-Gay Survivor Survey to see some of the things people have done to help themselves recover. You can also check out a list created by a group of survivors who met in Memphis.


image of a Q on a typewriter How come you don't think gays can change?

Image of a rockWait, we totally believe gays can change—lesbians too! They change their sheets, their brand of moisturizer, and some can even change the oil in their cars and trucks.

But OK, we'll be serious for a minute. There's some divergence of thought on this issue, even among those of us who no longer identify as ex-gay. For instance, Peterson doesn't believe anyone can change their sexual desires no matter how hard they try. He believes that someone can decide to no longer engage in same-gender sexual activity (that’s called celibacy), and they can decide to no longer identify as lesbian or gay and even marry someone of the opposite sex, but realistically, they will always experience same-sex attractions for the rest of their lives.

Christine has a slightly different take on this issue. She feels it is impossible to know if people who claim to have experienced a change in orientation have or not. She doesn't want to say that anything's impossible (but then again, she doesn't like true/false questions and answers everything with, "well, yes, sort of, maybe, in a way.") However, she believes that most people do change their behavior as opposed to their orientation, but are not making that distinction when they speak of being ex-gay. She also believes it might be possible for some people who have had homosexual thoughts, feelings, and actions, who may, as a result of working through traumatic issues, possibly experience a shift in their primary desires. In her experience and in talking to others she finds this a very rare occurrence, but does not rule out scenarios where this could occur. 

Peterson also adds, "If someone is truly oriented as a lesbian or gay, I do not believe they can change. Now some of us are a little bit more bi than others, as the Kinsey scale illustrates. If someone wants to experiment with dating the opposite sex and they are open about their gay or lesbian side with their prospective partner, then I say, go for it. If you are wired to be romantically and sexually attracted to the opposite sex, then it will kick in naturally. But if it doesn't, going to a program or praying prayers or putting ourselves through therapy is not going to change anything." (Christine nods her head...and our thoughts again have converged; carry on.)


image of a Q on a typewriter Isn't it true that most gays and lesbians have been sexually abused?

In trying to figure out what makes a same-gender loving person feel that way, lots of ex-gay leaders and proponents assert that sexual abuse is a key factor and that most, if not all, same-gender loving people have been sexually abused. Often these leaders have access to only a tiny percentage of the lesbian and gay population. Drawing on erroneous studies and/or experiential knowledge from ex-gay programs, they hold and share wrong assumptions about lesbians and gays.

Dead end signPerhaps it is more accurate to say that a high percentage of gays and lesbians who have been abused subject themselves to ex-gay experiences. When someone has been sexually abused, they can experience a negative image of themselves—shame and even self-hatred. If people also have same-sex attractions, these feelings only intensify when they hear messages from society saying that these attractions are unhealthy, wrong and evil. They can develop a desire to change, to be cleansed from all that they see and feel wrong in themselves. Bundled together with the shame and pain of unresolved sexual abuse can be their negatives views of themselves as same-gender loving people who live in a society that sees such love as taboo.

No studies have yet been done on this, but from our experiences in ex-gay programs, it seems these places serve as magnets for individuals who have been sexually abused. Sadly, instead of dealing directly with the horrors of the abuse, some people have wrongly assumed (and been told) that sexual abuse leads to unwanted same-sex attractions. This only adds to the confusion and shame they feel, thus keeping them trapped in the pain that much longer.

Read more about this in the article, How Sexual Abuse Made Me Gay


image of a Q on a typewriter Why do you hate ex-gays so much?

We don’t hate ex-gays. In fact, some of our best friends…

We don’t wish to bash or invalidate anyone’s experience and we don’t hate ex-gays. Some methods used and assumptions made by certain ex-gay leaders trouble and anger us, but for the most part, we feel compassion and kinship with people engaged in a struggle surrounding their sexual desires and gender differences. After all, many of us used to identify as successful ex-gays, and most of us still maintain friendships with those who consider themselves ex- (or post-) gay. We seek to respect the different life experiences that people have, and for some, being ex-gay has been (sometimes literally) life-saving for them. And that's OK! 

If someone is genuinely happy in pursuing an ex-gay life, then we wish them the best. Such a life is not possible for much of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people we have met, and pursuing that has caused more harm than good for most of these folks.


image of a Q on a typewriter So are you saying that someone has to be either gay or ex-gay?

No, but someone has to be the guy in the gorilla suit. (Okay, that was random.)

Identity is a tricky thing; terms and names do not fully capture our essence. Some people avoid the term gay and prefer to be known as “same-gender loving” or just whatever.

Putting people into boxes of gay and ex-gay promotes conflict and distance. The reality is that the people who identify as gay (and lesbian and bisexual), and those who identify as ex-gay, all experience same-sex attractions. Some choose to be celibate, some pursue committed same-sex relationships, a very few partner with someone of the opposite sex, and some are not yet sure. By talking to each other honestly about our experiences, while staying away from a political agenda, we can grow to understand ourselves and each other better.


image of a Q on a typewriter What if someone is not happy with being gay or lesbian?

The big question we would ask is "why"? Why is there a problem?

Often people say it is because of what some religious leaders teach about homosexuality, but when we look at it carefully, we see that people often have the very same prejudices against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals even without the Bible.

We'd ask the person who is struggling to spend time exploring their unhappiness.

  • Does it come from within, a true desire to be something different?
  • Does it come from without because of pressures and prejudice and closed doors around them because of a sexuality that looks different from the mainstream?
  • We'd ask them to consider where change needs to occur within themselves or within society.
  • Perhaps they do wish/need to change some behaviors in their lives (i.e. anonymous sexual encounters, drug or alcohol abuse, destructive relationships, etc.), all of which are not “gay” issues, but human issues that can affect anyone regardless of sexual attraction and gender identity and presentation. Separating that out from the desire to change being gay is something important to consider.

Also, we'd ask them to share their assumptions about the "gay community" and the "gay lifestyle." Perhaps they do not see themselves represented in the popular gay press and feel frightened that they will have to adopt a culture that is foreign to them.

Often many factors have influenced us in our desire to change from gay to straight, and distracted by that goal, at times we have missed the real cause(s) for our distress.  


image of a Q on a typewriter What about trans and genderqueer people?

Male/Female sign(cricket, cricket)

In the ex-gay world not much is said or done about trans folks (sometimes neglect has its privileges). But many trans folks experience pressure to change and “act normal” by parents, faith communities, schools and neighborhoods.

A big part of our ex-gay experiences have had more to do with gender than actual sexual activity and desire. Act your gender! is the message we heard directly and indirectly.

But it’s not so simple. Sometimes the outside doesn’t match the inside, and in the case of intersex folks, one’s sex is not easily discerned.

The relentless push from society for trans and genderqueer folks to “change,” to conform or to just disappear remains, even among many gays and lesbians who express transphobia through words, action and inaction.

To read more about a gay man with a trans experience, read Alex's Narrative.  


image of a Q on a typewriter Is this a Christian site?

You mean is this site created by Christians for Christians? No, this site is for everyone of all faiths or no faith or uncertain faith. We hope you find the site to be faith-friendly, knowing that many of us came to our ex-gay experiences because of our religious beliefs and faith in God.

Many ex-gay survivors are in a place of questioning long-held beliefs about their faith and what that has looked like in the past and what it will look like for the future. Probably an equal number have much the same faith as they did going into the ex-gay movement, although many do report that it has changed for the better, and their experience of God has deepened and grown in a positive way.

Still others have moved on to entirely different faiths, or no faith at all. For most, this is a positive outcome for them, and is a product of much soul-searching and, for many, serious research. Some ex-gay survivors (or others) who are Christian bemoan this outcome and sometimes unknowingly shame these folks by talking about how sad it is that some people have lost their faith or "thrown out the baby with the bathwater." This is not helpful and only serves to alienate people who have already borne the brunt of shame for not successfully changing in the first place. In this way, some people of faith have become another version of an oppressor and these ex-gay survivors who have experienced a shift away from their faith feel as though they have failed twice—once in not being able to change, and once again in not having the faith that others expect.

Because of this, it has become very important to us to create a safe space for people of faith, but equally for those with no faith, or different faiths where they find themselves a minority. We expect all of our members (especially those active in our online community) to respect this goal. See the results from question 16 of our survey to get an idea of some of the religious diversity among our respondents and members.


image of a Q on a typewriter What is the purpose of this site?

The purpose is to create an on-line community of ex-gay survivors. We hope to acknowledge and validate our ex-gay experiences, explore what led us to seek out these experiences and share ways of recovery from the harm we may have encountered.
As a secondary purpose, we seek to educate about and bear witness to the harm experienced by many ex-gay survivors. There is often the perception that attempting to change one's orientation and gender expression are harmless or neutral experiences for people, and for many folks, that's just not the case. For some it has not been particularly harmful, and perhaps it's even been helpful to some degree, but we find that many could have gotten the same benefits from seeking out qualified therapists who could affirm their faith (if applicable), help them live in congruity with their sexuality or gender expression, and still address very valid areas of concern (abuse or addiction issues). So because there are so many people whose negative and harmful experiences outweigh the good, we want to get the word out that this is not a benign practice or pursuit and for many the damage can be life-altering and sometimes lead to suicide.

image of a Q on a typewriter Who is behind this site?

A giant liberal conglomerate of gay soldiers financed by our as-yet-unnamed gay and lesbian masters from outer space with the aim to fully implement the “gay agenda.”

Well, actually, originally it was just Christine Bakke and Peterson Toscano, two ex-gay survivors who have found comfort and support in sharing our experiences with others. As we grew and evolved, we were joined by Dr. Jallen Rix and Gail Dickert, two ex-gay survivors who share our mission and vision, and bring unique perspectives along with them. We are self-funded and do this as an independent project to promote truth and reconciliation through storytelling. Steve Boese has provided our web hosting, architecting and technical assistance. See an expanded history of Beyond Ex-Gay.


image of a Q on a typewriter Where do I start? 

There is a lot on this site. Check out some ex-gay survivor narratives here. We have art and poetry by ex-gay survivors and TONS of links. We also have an extensive and growing number of articles (even some in Spanish & Swedish). 

We have also released the preliminary results of our Ex-Gay Survivor Survey and show reponses from the first 400 participants here. 

If you are an ex-gay survivor, we'd love for you to take our survey, tell your story, join our community, or get involved in some other way.


We love to hear from you, so please feel free to contact us.