You may have read the article by Katrina Fox in today's Sydney Morning Herald and The Age about the Living Waters 'ex-gay' Conference that was on last weekend. If not then you can read it here.
Because of editorial limits with the story much of my comments and also Ben's were not able to be included in the article. I've had a number of people contact me about this so thought it might be helpful to put it up on my blog.
Questions asked by Katrina and my written responses are below.
If you want to know more about the 'ex-gay' movement please go to here. You will read former 'ex-gay' leaders confessions and I'm collecting 'ex-gay' survivor stories. So if you are an 'ex-gay' survivor please write to me and I'll put your story up as well. If we don't come out and tell our stories then the insanity and unnecessary suffering will continue for another 40 years.
The Living Waters ministry are adamant that you can’t be gay and Christian, that the two are mutually exclusive. What is your response to this?
- The ex-gay message is becoming more and more redundant. Many thousands of gay and lesbian Christians have come out around the world. I call it the ‘second coming (out). In the 70’s’, the gay rights movement gave many the courage to come out. Forty years later there is a steady stream of Christians coming out and declaring that their faith is real and their sexual orientation is not a sin or illness. It’s called the Rainbow Revival. There are an enormous amount of Christians in churches who have already done a shift in understanding about sexual orientation and no longer hold the outdated beliefs about homosexuality. Probably the most encouraging is to find this shift also happening amongst church leaders as well.
- My morality is a choice – my sexual orientation however isn’t.
- In 20 years time we will look back both in laughter and sadness that ex-gay ministries existed and that people actually thought there was something wrong with them because they were gay. Unfortunately though, in the meantime, people and families are being damaged by ignorance and false hope.
I believe you went through some ‘ex gay’ therapies and treatments. Can you describe briefly what it entailed and some of the emotions you experienced?
Ex-gay therapies can include exorcisms. Mostly it involves lots of prayer and bible reading. Suppression is constant as you try to do the impossible. That is, not be attracted to the same sex. Just as it is impossible for a heterosexual not to think about the opposite sex. It’s the way we are wired, psychologically and emotionally. Ex-gay ministries try to masculinize the males and feminize the females. I was not allowed to do any work in the kitchen but had to do handyman and outdoor work, my wardrobe was censored and I was given a male minder who I was supposed to emulate his behaviour and mannerisms. This approach is based solely on a false assumption that all gay men are feminine and all lesbians are masculine. We know now this is only a stereotype. Try telling Ian Roberts he’s a girl.
Trying to be someone I wasn’t caused great stress, a sense of failure and shame that eventually led to depression. This is common amongst people in ex-gay programs and for some leads eventually to suicide attempts. We can’t actually count the cost of those who have succeeded.
There are people in Living Waters who argue that they have been able to ‘recover’ from homosexuality, in the same way people recover from drug and alcohol addiction, even though they still ‘struggle’ with the process. What are your thoughts on these people?
You can’t recover from your sexual orientation. You can deny and suppress it but you can’t change it. Some get married and believe this is now evidence of their new found heterosexuality. This is what I call ‘situational heterosexuality’. It is the same as heterosexual men who have sex with men in prison. It’s called ‘situational homosexuality’. When they come out of prison they are not gay. It was just the situation. Unfortunately there are still people in our society who naively believe having a wife on your arm means your straight.
After ex-gay ministries, exorcisms and 16 years I had to be honest with myself and others. I was still gay.
Why, in your opinion, do ex-gay reparative therapies not work? Ex-gay reparative therapies don’t work because they are based on an outdated false premise. In the 50’s and 60’s mental health professionals believed that homosexuality was an illness and caused by improper development or sexual abuse. Since the early 70’s research has repeatedly proved how wrong these assumptions were. Being same sex attracted does not impede your personal growth or success in life. Except of course if you deny, hate or suppress it. Almost everyone in “ex-gay” programs live tormented lives of sexual addiction, have self destructive behaviours or been sexually abused. Heterosexuals have the same problems but don’t blame their sexual orientation for this. Also ……..while we discuss these things in the media I have to deal with the dark side of ex-gay ministries. When someone leaves an ex-gay ministry they never leave empowered. They leave with a sense failure and shame. They don’t go back and no-one follows them up. I have to deal with the anger, the mental health issues and I hear of the suicides. One young man attempted suicide three times while he was going through the Living Waters program. Ron probably is totally unaware of the ongoing trauma. I talk about him and others in the last chapter of my autobiography.
The people who run these programs, in most cases are totally unqualified to work in these areas of sexual orientation, addiction and abuse. There is also a important issue of duty of care.