Below you will read some extracts from the many 100's of emails I have received from readers of my autobiography 'A Life of Unlearning' and others who contacted me after coming out of 'ex-gay' programs or reparative therapy or were a part of my Yahoo ex-gay survivors group I ran since 2000. Many of these people were seeking help and support as they dealt with the aftermath of their experience. Extracts below are from people who have been involved in either one or a number of the approximately 270 individual ministries globally that sit under the umbrella organisation Exodus International (also known as Exodus Global Alliance).
This includes ministries such as Living Waters, Liberty Christian Ministries, Liberty Inc., Door of Hope (Setting Captives Free), Beyond Egypt, Exodus Asia Pacific. Love in Action, On Eagles Wings to Asia, Choices Singapore, Choices Sydney, Purple Heart (formerly Exodus South Melbourne) .....to name just a few.
If you have been through and 'ex-gay' program it's important that we tell our stories as ex-gay survivors so that others don't waste precious years of their lives in self-hatred and unnecessary internal torment.
Please feel free to email me firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks.
Mum requested that I go and see Christian counsellors about my homosexuality. They swiftly blamed my Dad. Oh, I wanted to change. Almost every Friday night I spent the entire night in prayer, hoping that if I became spiritual enough my sexuality would change. I got ex-gay counselling. Only one thing kept me from sticking with it. I couldn't change my sexuality.
Gay Male 34...
I spent three months listening to a series of talks given by a man who had been about to undergo a sex-change operation before God intervened and spoke to him. He has since changed his life and become married with kids and leaves you with the impression that changing your orientation is possible. We also talked about our attractions amongst others in the group but not wanting to disclose personal information about my sexual life to a group of strangers did little to help me understand more about myself. Most, if not all, of the other men in the group found repressing their feelings and not acting out almost impossible, as they would confess to being attracted to other men every week. Some men who were married also confessed to cheating on their wives with other men. After going through the program, no change had taken place and I longed to try and understand why. I went through the program again in case I missed something the first time through and also talked to counsellors who specialized in same-sex attraction. I did all the things the man from the talks had done but no answers came.
During that time I Felt paranoid and guilty; it could have contributed to 2 different psychiatric ward visits. I also had a sense of loneliness (because I really couldn't talk about it to anyone outside of the group).
Jeffrey USA spent 3 years in ex-gay programs
I have to say that my time in Eagles Nest included physical, psychological, spiritual and emotional torture. It was a total waste of time and money.
Kenneth - Eagle's Nest USA 6 Months
Fortunately had a realistic counsellor who said one time 'I don't want to rain on your parade, but the feelings you have won't go away - you may just be able to suppress them'. Helped me become a stable happy gay man. Left hetro marriage with 3 (now adult) children. Have great relationship with ex-wife after 10 years of working through hurts. Am in a stable 10 year relationship with a wonderful guy.
I was forced to go by my parents after I came out at age 16. Tried for a few months to change who I am to please my parents, then ran away to Melbourne and stayed with a friend and his family for a month (lovely people) I stayed in contact with my mum over this period in Melbourne and she said she wanted me back. I set some ground rules, and she accepted them so now I live with my parents in Sydney. Now I even have my boyfriend over for family dinner :P Kudos to my parents for having a complete turnaround
Ryan - went to see a counsellor at his Christian School
While attending the group I cried a lot. Got quite depressed when my "tendencies" didn't become any less real. I wasn't severely wounded by the experience, and don't really hold any bitterness. At the same time I am very suspicious of anyone who says their sexual attraction to people of the same sex is diminished by attending such a group. Marriage is no proof that someone is no longer intrinsically gay.
Stephen - Liberty Christian Ministries for 6 months
but...over 30 years of deliverance, inner healing prayer, speaking out "I'm healed" in faith, counselling, conferences, seminars, ongoing prayer, etc. My orientation did not change ....through those years I was terribly suicidal. I tried to commit suicide once and cut myself up quite badly a 2nd time. I've nearly overdosed on pills another time. I started out with hope that I would change one day, and as the years went by lost it all and so tried to kill myself. Not like that now tho! I...love Jesus, love spending time with God, and I'm gay! (My tagline: I don't do straight very well!)
Stephen - Living Waters 21 weeks and Toronto Exodus affiliated group for 6 months. Also at Bundeena Christian Fellowship live in program.
Whilst trying to change I experienced severe spiritual and emotional abuse. loss of everything. therapy, near suicide. battling depression, despair. loneliness. kicked out of the church. loss of friends, partner, no local support groups. no family locally, but 1 teen daughter only with me 1-2 days per week. very sad and alone, .....but trying to heal. have accepted who I am and who God created me to be, yet very grievous now at all the losses.
Johnson at the Vineyard USA
I was taught that I was mentally ill and sinful which resulted in severe depression. Starting to work through now, and beginning to accept myself
Warren went to Choices in Sydney
I tried for 18 yrs to change. Suicidal for many years, found it hard to accept myself , hated myself but finally I found Honesty, Love and Acceptance in 2005.
Johann went through Liberty Inc (div. Exodus) / Living Waters (CIMP) 4 years all up. Two years in each.
The only people who claimed they’d changed were the leaders and I happen to know they haven’t. When I went and joined Exodus after a suicide attempt, legally they should have referred me on to a qualified health professional to make sure I was fit to make the decisions I was making. Instead, they just took me on in that place of weakness and self destruction.
Exodus has blood on its hands, definitely. I was seventeen and I was very screwed up and was attempting suicide because I was confused. I am only alive now because I am rather inept at killing myself. I know others who have harmed themselves and in the states there are numerous cases of people coming out of the program and committing suicide. I’ve been pretty much in psychiatric counselling for last five years because of this. I’ve had numerous suicide attempts because of this. Some people I know have gotten away more lightly. The more determined you were, the more you got hurt. I wanted to make this work, I was celibate for eight years, I did everything I was told.”Adrian Exodus Melbourne
Consider finding yourself with a same sex attraction orientation as a Christian, and being asked to change that. It took years for me to even discover the ex-gay movement, and after trying that, psychotherapy, counselling, programs, prayer & accountability over 6 years, nothing essentially shifted. I used to blame myself for not “making it” – but these days I accept myself & believe God loves me, as much as he does the rest of his creation. I’m one of the fortunate ones who stayed around to find these things out. Many, many young men & women take their own lives, believing they are unloved by others, family, christians, society, peers. My prayer is that young people who feel so isolated, rejected, unworthy as believers WILL find the reality that God loves you as much as he does ALL of his creation
I spent a year seeing a private councillor in an attempt to discover the reasons for my homosexual feelings with no real progress it was then suggested that I approach Living Waters. I spent the next year discovering a whole new meaning to the word depression. Living Waters in their attempt to discover the key element to my ‘brokenness’ had only managed to make me even more aware that there was no ‘brokenness’… I had not been raped, molested, abused, abandoned, not one iota after a year made me think, ‘yeah that’s what caused it’. This caused my depression to increase…
My parents, true to form, responded in love as best they knew how. They had already had contact with the Brisbane branch of Exodus, called Liberty, and knew its leader, Peter Lane, personally. Within two days, Peter visited our holiday accommodation and a six-year counselling relationship began. Most readers will know the general tenor of the teaching I came into contact with there. Homosexuality was a disordered attempt to achieve affirmation in and intimacy with your own gender, something that had been thwarted with your same-gender parent and/or peers. Healing in these areas, and breaking the “habit” of sex with men, should lead to the “recovery” of your innate heterosexuality. Despite it all, I never went longer than six weeks without a “fall”. And I dreaded the meetings with Peter in which I had to confess in explicit detail everything I had done.
I came out of a church two years ago where i had been for five years. They had Exodus teach the "homosexuality" module in their Bible school and used the Exodus model in their own teaching and ministering to the "sexually broken". It caused me to contemplate suicide for the last couple of years within that church community. The only reason i allowed it was not that i wanted to be not gay, but rather i believed it when they preached it was a sin of idolatry and i wanted nothing in my heart that would keep me from an intimate relationship with God. I endured the name calling and the humiliation until they also devastated a "sexually broken" friend of mine. After leaving, i became fully comfortable with my sexuality very quickly as it came hand in hand with an increasingly beautiful, surprising and wondrous intimate relationship with Jesus. No doubt in my mind what Jesus thinks of me and no doubt how damaging this churches agenda and methods were....
I became a Christian at the age of 15 and entered full time christian ministry after leaving theological college. For too many years I tried to deny who I was by trying to change my sexuality. I was exorcised, prayed for and attended to ex-gay programs but I only felt more worthless as my sexuality didn't change. I then came crashing into the gay scene in the mid 90's being extremely promiscuous and reckless.....leading to an HIV+ diagnosis in 1996. Its really only been in the last couple of years I have begun to accept and like myself. Reading your book has really challenged me further and I want to thank you for your honesty and candor. It’s made a huge difference to me. I am now moving on to greater resolution.
My folks are very homophobic and they hate gays. I tried to come out to them, and they threatened to disown me, take me out of their will, etc. So under extreme pressure from them, I decided to renounce my homosexuality and seek help. I was introduced to Tom Cole of Reconciliation Ministries in Detroit, Michigan. I attended the weekly meetings for 7 weeks, then had to give it up. It depressed me so badly that I attempted suicide and spent a full week in a psychiatric ward. I felt that I NEEDED to change what I was, and I've wrestled with this so much. I just want the struggle to end. I know that I'm gay, but accepting it is proving to be hardest thing I've ever encountered. I am 31 now, will be 32 next month and still struggling with this issue. I am no longer a christian; it's too painful for me to even reconsider returning to god. However, I was deeply moved by your story Anthony.
I went to an ex gay group called Dominion which was part of a mega church in Perth. It involved one on one 'therapy' with a counsellor. It was very Christian focused with a sprinkle of psychology concepts brought in. If one was successfully progressing in the one on one sessions, there was a group component to the program however I FAILED and never made it to this part. In addition I also saw a number of Christian psychologists over the years. This built up a lot of self hatred. This caused so much depression and self destructive behaviour.
I started to realise that change wasn't always an option and that being gay is an orientation and not a choice. When I lost my mother to cancer (3 weeks and 3 days after her being diagnosed) I decided that I had to be true to myself and realise that the only choice I have is in what to believe, not who I am.
I sought information through the internet and GLBT support groups. Lastly I sought the assistance from a Christian Psychologist who was current with her understanding on sexuality. She helped me to see that I could identify as gay. I developed a plan for coming out which included leaving my employment with my denomination and moved me on a journey to face a number of demons in my life. I now have less depression, an inner peace and confidence in who I am I'm now focussed back on my goals and dreams without the baggage that held me back .I know I don't have to justify who I am and that no one can tell me that I'm not what God created.
One thing I do regret though is that while other people my age were out enjoying themselves I was living in torment. I LOST a DECADE of my life.
My Catholic family always spoke of these people as abominations. As a teenager I converted from Catholicism and attended a charismatic church where I was informed demonic spirits caused homosexuality. I was commanded to undergo exorcisms. The first two didn’t work as apparently I had unconfessed sin in my life. I was assured the third worked. Sadly I soon realised nothing had changed. I hated myself for years and believed God hated me also. I pleaded with him constantly to heal me and make me straight. Eventually I was commanded to go to the Exodus endorsed program Living Waters. The program left me feeling suicidal and more unworthy than ever. After 3 suicide attempts I came to the conclusion I was an abhorrent and detestable human being unworthy of anyone’s love. Your book was like a ray of sunshine. The first time I read it was in a city bookstore and I was in tears and couldn’t put it down. The next day I went back and bought and have devoured it ever since. Thanks to God and people like yourself I have come to understand and accept who I am and that God does love me. …and that I am a gay man equal to every human being on the planet. Worthy of the same respect and love."
At 16 years old, I entered my first ex-gay program called ‘Door of Hope’. This was a 60 day mostly-online course where you were ‘cured’ from homosexuality. I didn’t tell anyone except some church leaders and when my parents asked where I was going I responded by saying ‘a friends place’.
I was given a mentor. He was 42 years old and married with a family. He always sounded so sure of himself as if he knew 100% that he was no longer gay. His marriage he said was testament to this. Each day it would take about 2-3 hours and I would sit through the constant lessons about how being gay is a sin and that only God can heal you from this terrible affliction. I had to confess everything, whether I had thoughts about men, if I had had sex or masturbated, whether I had looked at pornography. If we failed in one area we were told that we had to put more effort into this and try harder. I was told to pray and ask for forgiveness and told that this demonstrated my lack of faith. I persevered and I finished 45 out of the 60 days before I couldn’t take it anymore. My school marks were failing and I could no longer deal with the immense pain I went through every day.
After about three months, I entered into another ex-gay program. The same one with the same rules and same hardships. Except this time they were harder on me because I had failed the first. I needed to have more faith or so they told me. After 53 days (better than last time) I gave up once more. I just stopped going. I didn’t believe anymore in changing or in God but still the shame, confusion and damage remained.
After almost three years of these programs and the intense reparative therapy and reading almost every book from well known ex-gay authors like Sy Rogers, Joe Dallas and Alan Chambers, something finally hit me and I realised that even though I had given my all that nothing had actually changed.
A few years ago I was a part of an ex gay ministry called Exodus, and another course called Door of Hope. The teachings of it and the churches screwed up the best years of my life. I was taught that homosexuality is a big sin and no one who is homosexual is truly happy. I really thought homosexuality was curable and was told that by the ex gay organisations I was with. However everyone I knew in the organisation was never cured from homosexual desires, and deep down they were not being really true to themselves.
Even before I began the ex gay programs I tried to change my sexuality and hated the idea I was gay. I never had any positive gay role models when I was a child or teenager or when I was in my 20s. If I ever had any positive gay role models then it would spare me so much depression and mental problems, as I thought something was very seriously wrong with me due to my sexuality.
I only began to accept my sexuality at a slow process starting a few years ago, after I turned 30.
When I was going ex gay organisations I was failing university and did not really feel good about myself. Since I began to accept myself as gay my university performance gradually went better. I still have self esteem issues but now I feel more at peace at myself and happier than when I was in the closet and thought that being gay was so wrong.
I knew at a young age of my attraction to men which was confusing and in society it was wrong and being in a small town made it worse. I became a Christian at 13 and thought the attraction would go away. I attended Church for quite a few years hiding this secret and not just asking but crying out to God to take this away and make me normal and be acceptable to him. I tried serving and getting involved in church as much as possible, did mission trips, leadership roles, bible college. I guess my thought pattern was serve and cry out to God.
I was so desperate to be acceptable to God that I found ex-gay programs to attend. I had so much hope that this was the answer, this will make me normal, " Look God can' u see, arn't u listening, am I not good enough".
I got to the point in having suicidal thoughts and depression, so I walked out on God and told him he didn't exist.
After a few years I went back to church but same old story and at the moment I do not attend.
Labels: correspondence, ex-gay, exodus, reparative therapy, unwanted same sex attraction