Beyond Ex-Gay

Question 10. If you feel that you were harmed, please check the below boxes that describe the kinds of harm you experienced:

384 out of 417 participants answered this question.

Harm Description Chart

Note that the top three selections from the options which are far above the rest are Shame, Emotional Harm, and Depression. A number of written responses said they developed drug and/or alcohol abuse as a result of their ex-gay experience, sometimes with the idea that “since I was told that gay people were sinners, I was going to be the best one ever!” Also, a number of written responses made reference to their sexual development being harmed because of their ex-gay experience. Similarly, a number of the written responses acknowledge the difficulty to develop intimacy in any kind of relationship because they had been taught by their ex-gay leaders to avoid and distrust any kind of closeness in same-sex connections (sexual or otherwise).

Written Responses:

Below are as many responses as could be included. For the most part, these responses were left exactly as written. If they were edited or removed it was a result of protecting anonymity, improper grammar to the degree that the statement was significantly hard to understand, or the response was just too long.

Spiritually, the anti-gay rhetoric was appalling. No real caring. Just more of the "our way or the highway" methodology, even to the point of getting involved in a shouting match with a so-called "leader" in a church. Also hypocrisy of the church (mostly independent Fundies) was truly appalling, as they preached "you can be free" from the pulpit, however, in private, they told me "you WILL act out again."

It elevated sexuality from being part of life, to being the central fact of my life; everything revolved around it and my fear of it and being discovered.


I think the most damaging piece was the reinforcing of the sexual binging and purging. It has made it difficult in my current relationship at times. I continue to fight old patterns although that continues to lessen over time.


I feel I lost a good part of my development life in late 20s early 30s. Now in Mid 40s I’m learning that I can trust myself and judgement. I feel I’m having a hard time believing and having relationship. I never had issues in my early 20’s but now I’m having to relearn the basics. Im seeking help to begin trusting people and yes I do want to be in a relationship but If I can’t enjoy myself how can I real expect someone else to.

As an intersex bodied person I was constantly pressured into having “corrective” surgery on my genitalia so I could fit into a certain gender role as a heterosexual. I also developed an eating disorder.

Harmed my friendships, not really my family relationships though because my family relationships were already crummy and my family has no idea that I was gay or that I ever was a part of an ex-gay community

Induced alcohol and drug abuse from this group to reinforce the idea that being gay only leads to isolation, death, and loneliness.

I would have come out and been happy years ago if I didn't take part in the ex-gay ministry. I would have accepted myself a long time ago.

Multiple suicide attempts, two psychiatric hospitalizations. Diagnosed severe type 2 Bipolar disorder and moderate PTSD by multiple doctors in two different states. Ex-gay therapist had told me the symptoms from these illnesses were caused by my "sexual confusion." After ex-gay, I dealt with substance abuse, impulsive and dangerous behavior, and unsafe promiscuity. Entered several unhealthy relationships, including one physically abusive one.

I gave up a huge portion of my life... there was a time when I was attractive to other men and I could have actually stepped into a relationship, but because of all this didn't. Now I'm much older, still single, and not enjoying physical contact with another human being.

Parents, spouse, children, siblings turned against me, and shunned by them.


My whole life fell apart when my marriage failed. My whole 8 years of marriage was a scam. My ex-wife and I were the "model" marriage. I spoke at seminars talking about the "freedom" I had from homosexuality and how wonderful my marriage was. My now ex-wife and I are friends and we developed a good friendship over the years, but our marriage was a fraud. I didn't think it was though. I was still thinking the "healing" would come over time. It didn't. And I hurt my ex-wife in the process. Very damaging.

I feel that the ex-gay movement caused me harm by screwing up my sense of love and intimacy completely. I became very promiscuous, because I felt that if I am going to be sinful, I might as well go all out. I also came to believe that there is no such thing as romantic love between men, only lust. In other words, it pushed the exact opposite values that should be placed on sex and love. To this day, I find it hard to have romantic relationships with guys that go beyond physical, let alone commitment! Lastly, I'm surprised you do not have substance/alcohol abuse on your list, because I did that as well because of my experiences.

I was exposed to a lot of information about where to act out s*xually and how to do it.

Between the PTSD from the church boys sex assault at thirteen years old; and the ten years of trying to let God make me straight, only to fail: I feel that deep, lasting harm resulted from the negative beliefs my faith community held (and my religious extended family held) in connection with my being a gay youth/man. One of my later adult failures is that I cannot maintain intimate partner connections beyond a few years at a time, though I am grateful that no relationship violence occurred in these various attempts to maintain a steady relationship, and I am grateful that all my relationship splits were mostly without rancor. Self-hatred, isolation, depression, and flashbacks continue to be mental health issues, though I am getting health care to try to work things through, again. Sixth time in serious therapy, hopefully a charm.

I lost formative years of my sexual development, where I could have been learning to manage my emotions and sexual drive toward men (e.g., learning that "butterflies" and "crushes" were natural, and pursuing them).

I believe that as my sexuality developed, even before beginning participation in an ex-gay ministry that my window to try heterosexual sex was closed: the constant preoccupation with the binary "sinful slips/purity for marriage" closed off a lot of opportunity possible for a young and very sexually capable man.


Self-hatred, isolation, depression, and flashbacks continue to be mental health issues, though I am getting health care to try to work things through, again.

I abandoned my faith b/c I could not find a way to live with being both gay and Christian

Not just harm to myself, but also harm to my husband who is asked (by his wife) to not undress in front of his wife, who is asked not to touch his wife sexually, who is asked not to be a heterosexual man and husband. I am not the only victim here. How about my husband and all the spouses of the "ex-gays"??? Exodus and others don't want to address that...

Still felt a sense of shame and isolation, not with other people who were same-sex attracted, but with straight Christians, especially when the same-sex attraction didn't go away.

The ex-gay experience was an extension of and a continuation of the discord between the LDS religious teaching and the need for human intimacy and love. The deep denial cost me many years that could have been devoted to developing healthy relationships. But more serious, the subconscious disharmony and discord was the primary drive underlying my sexual addiction and dysfunctional behaviors. So, I would say that it was the whole religious experience that contributed to the harm, and the specific ex-gay experience was simply a culmination of that.

I lost 20 years of living to the lies of the ex-gay crowd, and never once saw a single person become straight. I wish I could sue for fraud. I want those 20 wasted years back. I was miserable because of the lies from Churches that I was told from the time I was a little kid.

I have had a lot of gastric reflux as a result and have lots of surgery for it. Since leaving the church, I have been able to reduce the amount of medication I am taking and the side effects from it have reduced significantly. Going to church was a real health hazard for me.

Delayed transition until early 30s. Parents, spouse, children, siblings turned against me, and shunned by them. Alliance Defense Fund intervened in divorce case.

I really lost touch with myself all those years, because I was so busy trying to be someone else. I am now confused about nearly everything - God, faith, where I belong, where I should go from here. I have lost friends. I often feel hopeless. I am trying to get my life back on track.

My situation is difficult to determine harm or reward. I suffered from low self-esteem before sexuality developed. I did have to withdraw from college because of Scientology experience, and I did attempt suicide twice - once directly because I feared my orientation would be discovered. I would add that Evergreen was somewhat helpful as a first step of coming to self acceptance.

My experience with Exodus was spiritually abusive and I no longer believe in God as a result.

Distracted me from school

Internal fighting against being gay - this was before joining and after. Had to work through this.

I just believe that if my church had been affirming then, and had a better grasp of what it is to be gay, I might have been in a long term relationship before now. In Oct I ended a 16 month relationship with a good Christian man. Also was my longest relationship so far.

Had a friend that was ex-communicated by the church - thought this was extreme. Biggest disadvantage was that I missed out on a year of college fun.


Developed sexual addictions in a way to try to fit the mold of ex-gay "healings" Before ex-gay ministry, I didn't have any sexual experiences at all.

While all of the things above which I checked as "harmful to me" are in fact true about me, I do not think that they are directly due to my involvement with Love in Action or other attempts I made to reconcile my homosexuality. I think rather that these are deep character/emotional/psychological wounds accrued over my lifetime. I grew up in a severely dysfunctional home.

Many people did not understand why I did not identify as a lesbian but would acknowledge my sexual attraction to women. It didn't help me feel comfortable with myself or move forward psychologically.

But (pause) I really *did* find some of the counseling beneficial, in terms of getting over some fears. I know that appears to contradict all the statements in the boxes I checked, but it's true nonetheless. Go figure!

Buried myself in work for the better part of ten years so I could avoid/smother my personal life.

Not a loss of faith, but a season of re-evaluation and alienation from God

Giving a moral inventory (sharing a very personal experience related to a sexual encounter) in front of all the parents at a friends and family weekend caused embarrassment and a look on my parents' faces that I will never forget.

I was told that I was never truly born again to begin with.

It reinforced my choice to stay in an abusive hetero marriage. Maybe with different counseling, I would have left my marriage sooner.

Lack of faith that a same gender relationship can really work, the ideas that gays don't communicate and are not honest to one another...

I started to equate homosexuality with sexual addiction since I was going through a twelve-step program at Love in Action. I started to believe that homosexuality was the result of a lack of intimacy with same-sex friendships, connected to parenting, and possibly sexual abuse (and I continue to struggle with these ideas to a degree). I started to believe that I was promiscuous and had emotionally co-dependent relationships which I later realized were not the case. Giving a moral inventory (sharing a very personal experience related to a sexual encounter) in front of all the parents at a friends and family weekend caused embarrassment and a look on my parents' faces that I will never forget.

The things I was taught in therapy still linger with me to this day. While I don't agree with those philosophies or reasoning, they are still engrained into me and cause me to still question, "am I the way I am because it's who I am or a result of outside influences in my development." While I don't consider this harmful I do consider it a distraction for me.


I had to re-construct my whole identity with precious little support. For years I felt like walking swiss cheese, like I had left my guts on the road.

I didn't have the right incentive to shape up. I wanted my marriage to succeed and last. I want this latest relationship to do likewise.

I have severe depression and social anxiety disorder which prevents me from working long-term. Much of the harm done by my experience was magnified by the fact that I was already vulnerable. I was physically and psychologically abused at school, so the ex-gay program I went through made an already bad situation immeasurably worse. It also delayed me realizing and accepting that I am genderqueer rather than cisgendered gay.

When I came out I was dropped by everyone I knew, including my own family. It was nearly a decade before my parents started talking to me again. I had to re-construct my whole identity with precious little support. For years I felt like walking swiss cheese, like I had left my guts on the road.

Felt I needed to apologize for my existence

Eleven years later, I still sometimes get nauseous when touching another man. It is difficult (possibly impossible?) to maintain a long term sexual relationship. I used to have an incredibly good memory, but can no longer keep most short term tasks in mind - which has severely affected a number of jobs.

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