When people say they are struggling with unwanted same sex attraction and seek to be ex-gay, their minds play all manner of crazy tricks on them in order to keep the hope alive. Insidious denial, contradictions and mental gymnastics are the only way they can maintain the ex-gay facade. It's a sad and tragic reality to live in – two realities and neither of them fully real.
This experience is not limited to people in ex-gay type therapy. It is also a common experience amongst gay and lesbian people in Christian churches who are closeted and tormented about their unresolved sexual orientation.
In a BBC documentary, this young man's conversation is very common amongst people struggling with 'unwanted same sex attraction', as they call it. In one breath he talks about the cessation of his temptations when seeing an attractive guy during the day but then talks about his addiction to gay porn. Apparently he has tried to look at straight porn to overcome his gay feelings and in the hope that it might turn him on but it turns him off - 'it was kind of gross' he says. You notice how he distances himself from actually being gay by using the term 'SSA', which stands for same sex attraction. When he talks about the hope of one day marrying a woman, one crucial element is missing - actually falling in love with her. This is also common.
In Freudian psychoanalytic theory,
defence mechanisms are psychological strategies brought into play by the unconscious
mind to manipulate, deny, or distort reality (through processes such as repression
and rationalization), and to maintain a socially acceptable self-image
or self-schema. This is clearly obvious in the person who believes that their homosexuality
makes them unacceptable to God and others.
Cognitive dissonance is a term
used in modern psychology to describe the state of holding two or more
conflicting cognitions (e.g., ideas, beliefs, values, emotional reactions)
simultaneously. The theory of cognitive dissonance in social psychology
proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance by altering
existing cognitions (beliefs and reality), adding new ones to create a
consistent belief system, or alternatively by reducing the importance of any
one of the dissonant elements. E.g. 'I am
not gay or homosexual I have SSA' or 'I'm struggling with unwanted same sex
I hear this constantly when I
listen to ex-gay testimonials. In one breath they speak about overcoming, changing,
being married or having children and in the next breath they speak about the
temptations and thoughts that still exist; as if these are inconsequential. They
appear oblivious to the inconsistency and irrationality of their statements.
Often people in ex-gay programs or
reparative/conversation therapies have sort them out because they have a
tortured thought life or a sexual addiction or obsession that often plays out in
pornography, chat rooms, saunas or beats. There is never any real emotional
connection with the other person though. Because the addicted person wants to hide it
is usually brief, anonymous sexual encounters. They are afraid of intimacy as that will touch
the very heart of who they are – gay. This must be avoided at all costs.
What the person is unaware of is that
they have created a fragmented sense of self. The gay self is the secret self –
the dark self which lives in a world of shame, guilt and fear . The other self
is the public self that they believe is the one that will be acceptable and
'normal'. They live in two realities.
The other thing they fail to realise is it that the denial,
suppression and hatred of the gay self is what actually creates the addictions
Coming out, for most of us, is like an
exorcism that releases us of the darkness we have lived in for years and caused
us to believe awful things about ourselves. On the other side of the looking
glass though are freedom, light and an authentic life. :-)
Anthony Venn-Brown is the co-founder and former leader of Freedom 2 b[e], Australia’s largest
network of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people from Christian
backgrounds. He is also an educator
and consultant on LGBT/faith issues and leader in deconstructing
the ‘ex-gay’ myth. Anthony’s autobiography 'A
Life of Unlearning', details his journey from married, high profile
preacher in Australia’s mega-churches to living as an openly gay man. Anthony
has been twice voted ‘One of the 25 Most Influential Gay and Lesbian
Australians’ (2007 & 2009) and this year was one of four finalists for the
ACON Community Hero Award. He is also the founder and director of Ambassadors
& Bridge Builders International ( www.gayambassador.com ) .
Labels: article, coming out, ex-gay, Liberty Christian Ministries, Living Waters, married and gay, reparative therapy, unwanted same sex attraction, videos