Beyond Ex-Gay

Survivor Narrative


Adrian Lovel-Hall


Image of boy sitting on benchI came from a family of very devout Christians. I was born in Zimbabwe and we moved as a family to South Africa when I was 11. It was a very sheltered upbringing with my parents being much older when my sister and I were born. South Africa was under an oppressive and closed regime of apartheid and we were even more sheltered. In all this, my parents prayed at every occasion and as a family we did not do much without prayer and God.

Throughout High School, I spent a lot of time knowing God and searching for a belonging, joining societies and attending Church. After I finished school in 1987, I unsuccessfully attempted to get into Law school and instead joined a local bank in Johannesburg. My Dad had been in banking his whole life so this job came naturally for me and was my Dad’s push for me to get a business background.

During my time in the bank my compulsory military service came up and with great fear and misgivings I was conscripted in 1988. This was a time of great torment for me as I had to engage with other men on a physical level, on a mental level and I was scared. This was when my narcissism started raising its head. It was going to be about 15 years before I knew what narcissism was and what that meant to me and my self-centredness.

I had, during High School, been for treatment for scoliosis and also for a pain in my hands. Surgery on my right hand led me to a neurologist and without a full diagnosis I did not partake in school sports. My army stint was delayed by a year because the SA Defence Force did not want the responsibility of a medical uncertainty. I felt rejected – or at least my narcissistic ‘I’ did. A year later I was given the lowest medical classification, assigned to the Medical Corps and ended up doing radiography in the Military Hospital in Pretoria. I was an outsider, alone, and felt condemned. The other guys would play sport; go to bars and generally do “men things”. I would read, spend time with the few friends I had, and generally not feel “normal”. The SA Defence Force was very macho, very ‘male’. The apartheid regime was anti-gay. This all added to the pain and fuelled the narcissism.

Despite all this, the incredible desire for men which had been growing through High School reached a pinnacle in the army. I never did come out during this time as I was scared of what would be said. Life was difficult.

Image of Adrian Lovel HallAt the end of the army I returned to the bank. My mother had cancer by then and I continued a major introspection which would lead me through the following 15 years. In 1991/2 however we had a great time as a family, visiting Europe and spending time together. For the first time I really got to speak to my Dad as an adult. It seemed like although my life was not what I wanted and I was still not out I felt I was pretty “normal”.

Then in 1993 my life was turned upside down. My Dad suffered a massive heart attack and stroke, and died three weeks later. My mother died of cancer a year later. I had given up work and my sister worked part time in her nursing. I felt rejected, alone, sad.

I became more introspective and went to study Theology from 1995 in search of God. I needed to prove to myself I could do this. I studied with the Presbyterian Church of Southern Africa and spent three years of my life in Grahamstown, in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, studying God. I somehow missed the purpose of me being at university, which was to “heal myself from being gay”, and explored homosexuality and bordered on Buddhism in a way.

Due to the searching for what I believed God was saying and the rejection of homosexuality in the church, I did not formally “come out”, and eventually ended my ministry career in 1998. I felt rejected again. I felt that no-one in the Church had come to stop me leaving, even though most of them knew I was gay. We never openly discussed me being gay, and it appeared that I had to mould into the Church and become ‘straight’. The months following the end of the 1997 academic year took me down a really hard and painful road. No money, no job, no parents, no partner. I changed churches and eventually found work, changing my career back to banking.

18-months later I went into missions so I did not have to come out. But in searching so deeply into myself, I also found that I had a deep respect and compassion for other peoples in the world – especially minority groups. I went to North Africa and South East Asia, but there was something missing - I was gay and I was not out.

On September 11, 2001 I went for an interview with another mission company to be able to work in North Africa, and that was the moment my life changed. The Twin Towers collapsed in New York due to the terror attack, and my life collapsed – at the same time. I was declined by the mission and went on a deep search for healing, changed churches and joined “Living Waters”.

My narcissistic, introspective way of being came fully to bear during 2002 and I rapidly moved up to leadership in Living Waters, found a lady on a conference with whom I fell in love – or so I thought - and I ministered against homosexuality. This lasted until I was asked to present the lecture in the living Waters week on “Narcissism”!

At the end of June 2002 I finally left the mission. Huge debt; no income; no money; no job; no partner. But this time was different. I came into contact with pain which I knew and I could see in others. Beyond this, I knew God was close to me. Thinking that God was leading me into a ministry to those who were healed from being gay I looked to the Church for answers.

Image of outdoor water featureA month later I shared with the group about my experiences with Living Waters, my unemployment and pain. Two weeks later I was employed as a project manager and had the first real income. This new work grew exponentially, and together with that my narcissism and introspection I was rather challenged.

Living Waters was supposed to “heal” me from homosexuality but through my new-found life I found that I was becoming a healed homosexual. Living Waters helped me forgive others and be who I was – gay!

I loved my new life – my freedom of being able to come out, the work and me. I have since spent 2 years in the USA. I also know that being gay is who I am. Living in Johannesburg I find it hard as a gay white man in South Africa. South Africa is not as open and accepting to homosexuality as the Constitution states and I have found it harder to be accepted here than in America at times. I still live with my sister and we speak – although she doesn’t really understand the gay life. We are closer now than we’ve ever been.

To give up narcissism and introspection is immense and hard, but the journey to God as white or black; man or woman; gay or straight; fat or thin; deaf or hearing - is the sight I need to hold on to. I am forgiving those who tried to change me. I am forgiving God for taking my parents. I am forgiving those at school, the army and university who spoke against me being different. I have accepted being gay. I am accepted and loved.

And the journey continues …


Read other ex-gay survivor narratives.