The Folly of Ex-Gay Therapy

When I was a teenager, I was Christian.  I was very Christian.  I read the Bible frequently, if not exactly on a daily basis, attended the Assembly of God church with my father and stepmother and occasionally attended a Baptist church, because they allowed me to practice piano there after school.  I had a constant dialog going on in my head with Jesus and I felt close to Him.

I wasn’t perfect, of course.  My need to please my friends kept the “Jesus-talk” to a minimum, when I was around them (evangelists seem to believe that you aren’t truly worshiping the Lord, if you aren’t talking about Him constantly) and eventually turned a 16-year-old who couldn’t say anything more severe than “hell” or “damn” into a 17-year-old with an absolutely foul mouth.

And then there was sex.  At seventeen, I was still a virgin.  Worse, I had no interest in girls, at all.  I certainly masturbated — a lot — but when I did, all I could think about was seeing certain male friends naked or touching them.  I tried to force myself to think about girls, but it just didn’t get me aroused.

However, I was a good Christian.  I loved Jesus.  I hadn’t killed anybody or done anything particularly sinful, at this point.  (I still haven’t killed anybody, in case you’re wondering.)  I hadn’t actually been raised to believe that masturbation was a big deal — thank God.  It was inconceivable to me that I could be truly “evil” or “sinful” at the core of my being.

There had to be some mistake.

Perhaps I was a late bloomer.  Or perhaps this was some sort of test that God had come up with for me.  But then, why me?  The very thought that God was testing me, struck me as ego-centric and therefore sinful, as if I were thinking that I was somehow favored by God and deserving of His special attention.  But I could think of no other reason for God to put me through this anguish.

And anguish it was.  I was so lonely that I often cried myself to sleep, longing for someone to hold and be held by.  Other teenagers were lonely, of course — perhaps even most — but they could hold onto the fantasy of a happy life someday with somebody they loved.  I saw nothing but a future of loneliness and self-loathing, stretching ahead of me for decades, until I finally died, never having been loved.

Now, the standard response to all of this is that God doesn’t make mistakes, of course, and regardless of whether it was a “test” or simply something I happened to be burdened with, faith in God would help me overcome it.  After all, people are able to overcome alcoholism, drug addiction, sexual addiction, infidelity and a host of other “problems” through prayer and devotion to God.  Certainly, God would help me overcome homosexuality!

So I prayed.  And I prayed.  And I prayed.  During this time I kept journals, documenting my struggle, analyzing sexual dreams and struggling to find hope in them — some sign that the prayer was working.  There were times when I thought I saw it, when I convinced myself that it must be “working.”

But it didn’t really work.  What it did was increase my despair, because the longing for another boy to love was constant.  It never lessened, no matter how much I prayed.  I knew that, if I got into a relationship with a girl, it would feel terrible.  Deep down in the pit of my stomach, the thought of being in a straight relationship nauseated me — as much as the thought of being forced into a gay relationship probably nauseates a straight person.

We know, at the core of our being, when something feels…wrong.

And the absurdity of it all was that the people who said heterosexuality was what was right for me…they were all heterosexual.

They.

Didn’t.

Know.

They were all people who would be unhappy if they were forced into a gay relationship.  Of course.  So they could state with “authority” that gay relationships lead to misery and despair, because that’s what was true for them.  But the thing is, they didn’t know that it would lead to misery and despair for me.  They couldn’t possibly know that, because they had no idea what being gay was like.

One of the greatest things that ever happened to me was when I gave up the fight against my own nature — when I stopped listening to people who had never experienced what I was feeling, yet had the unbelievable arrogance to claim that they knew more about what I needed than I did.

“But wait!” you might be thinking, “What about those people who were gay, but did find a happier life after praying to Jesus and rejecting homosexuality?”

Well, it would be hypocritical of me to insist that they’re wrong.  If they say they’re straight now, then I can’t say they’re not.  On the other hand, it has certainly not worked for a lot of people.  Several people who have had so-called “reparative therapy” have later stated that they did not feel that it worked for them.  Worse, many have attempted suicide, as a result.

One of the earliest “success stories” of reparative therapy involved subjecting a young boy to beatings and a cruel system of rewards and punishments to discourage his “effeminite behavior” (which was equated with homosexuality).  As an adult, he behaved in a “manly” enough fashion for supporters of the study to claim that it was successful and use it to back their claims that homosexuality could be cured.

Unfortunately, that was far from the case.  The young man in question did, in fact, turn out to be gay and he had sex with men off and on over the years.  But the guilt he felt over it eventually led him to take his own life, and his family now feels immense guilt about the cruelty they subjected him to at the recommendation of his therapist.

Recently, Alan Chambers, the president of Exodus International, the largest organization in the “ex-gay” movement, recently admitted that he still feels same-sex attraction, despite his marriage to a woman, and said that the organization would no longer support reparative therapy:

“As the president of Exodus International and, even more than that, as a Christian leader who is out in front of people all the time, it is my responsibility to lead honestly and transparently and to share with people that, just because you become a Christian,…your struggles don’t always go away.  You don’t get to a place where you’re never going to be tempted again.”

The American Psychological Association released a position statement in 2000 that basically stated that 1) there has been no actual proof that reparative therapy works, apart from isolated anecdotes, and 2) the theories behind it are highly questionable.

I cannot say with certainty that it is impossible for a gay man or woman to become heterosexual through prayer and devotion, anymore than I can say that it is impossible for prayer to heal someone of an illness.  I cannot say with certainty that miracles cannot occur.

But miracles, by their nature, are extremely rare.

Advertisements