have been monitoring ex-gay/reparative/conversion therapy leaders,
organisations and activities for nearly two decades. I've seen,
heard and experienced a lot in that time.
- Do people get help from ex-gay/reparative/conversion
- Has anyone suicided because of an ex-gay/reparative/conversion
- What is your attitude towards 'former' homosexuals who get
- Why are you so committed to seeing all
ex-gay/reparative/conversion organisations close in Australia?
- Aren't you working against freedom of choice and speech?
- Do you hate ex-gay leaders? It appears you attack them.
- Are you glad to see "ex-gay" leaders "fall"?
these people and organisations went pretty much unchallenged regarding their
claims, concepts and practices. Indeed,
when these organisations were founded (Exodus commenced in 1976), they were
essentially aligned with much of what society thought about homosexuality. At
that time, in most western countries, it was illegal for two people of the same
gender to have an emotional/physical relationship. Even though homosexuality
had been de-classified as a mental illness in 1973, societal attitudes had not
shifted significantly. Christian ministries took on what mental health
professionals decided to leave alone (page
struggled myself for over 22 years to come to terms with my sexual orientation,
promised on many occasions that God could change me to straight and lived with
the false hope, I determined that I would do all I could to ensure that others had
a different experience.
"I don’t want one person to live one day in the
unnecessary internal torment I lived in for 22 years". Anthony Venn-Brown
ex-gay/reparative/conversion therapy concepts and holding leaders and
organisations accountable has not come without a degree misunderstanding,
criticism and even hostility.
Case in point below.
the comments section of The Saturday Paper article Australia's
anti-gay churches shift focus to Asia Pacific, PeterSalt12 wrote
(click here to read comment online)
"A V-B, before denouncing those who try to help people who want out.
Just because you failed to resist the temptations and gave to them does not
mean it is impossible. That impossible message you and others promote is what
causes many to suicide. It is not the message of hope and the help Ron Brookman and
Shirley Baskett and others have given so many over the years. You claim you
were born that way - for which there is NO scientific, genetic, or medical
evidence whatsoever, - and you know it. Which is why you protest so much
against those who tell the truth and who try to help others.
should apologize to everyone you have campaigned against, or assisted to
campaign against, who help people deal with unwanted same-sex attraction,
Anthony, not just Ron Brookman. You won't accept that anyone can overcome their
homosexual feelings - you suggest they are just hiding from them as I
understand you did to Ron. You have done it again on this page by stating
those that choose straight marriage as the final solution are left with
not only their own trauma to deal with but the devastation their hope
created in the lives of others." That is so unkind to the many who
have successfully beaten something you could not. Failure by one person to give
up smoking does not mean that everyone who does is really hiding behind
something, any more than someone who marries after sorting out the sexual part
of their brain. You just can't accept that people like Ron can really turn
their lives around because it reminds you that you have failed do so.
would be a good time to make sure that people REALLY understand my beliefs and
intentions and to answer the common questions I am asked.
course they do, there is no denying that. Some even say they saved them from
Do people get help from
Imagine this for a
You are a young person in a church, you
have a Christian family, your life revolves around church, and all your friends
are Christians. You may even go to a Christian school.
have you heard about homosexuality and gay people?
- "It's an abomination"
hates their 'sin', but loves the sinner"
- "God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve"
- "Homosexuals have an agenda to destroy God's
blueprint for society by destroying the traditional family model"
homosexuals live a debauched 'lifestyle' of endless sexual encounters, drugs
you begin to become aware of your attraction to the same gender. That means you
'might' be gay. You may have dabbled. You might have gone online and found gay
porn. You are tormented and there is so much shame attached to this that you
daren't tell anyone. It's your dark
secret. But not with God. You pray. You pray with every bit of faith you
can muster over and over again for God to change you but it doesn't go away. You
ask for forgiveness over and over again and promise God it will never happen
again. You plead and bargain with God saying things like "If you deliver me from this
then I will dedicate my whole life to your service". But nothing
Has anyone suicided because of an ex-gay/reparative/conversion
answer NO. Before a person gets involved in these ministries, either through
one on one counselling, group meetings or conferences they have already been on
quite a journey. No Christian person wakes up one day and says, "I
have same sex attractions I'll head of the nearest ex-gay organisation immediately".
As mentioned above this has been their dark secret and struggle for some time.
The pattern of self-hatred and self-loathing is already established. The gay self is the dark self that must be destroyed. The
problem that arises now is that this becomes an even stronger focus and the
cognitive dissonance increases. The
conflict between their faith and sexuality in now paramount and MUST be
overcome. So to answer the question. These organisations don’t cause suicide
but contribute and at times magnify its potential. This can happen not only during the program
but more likely afterwards.
On top of years of negative conditioning
about yourself, then focusing totally on your homosexuality for a few months,
or years, you leave the program/counselling unchanged. You now have more to deal
with; a reinforced sense of shame and failure because you've been constantly
reminded that others like Sy
Rogers have "changed". You believe that you are a really bad and
weak individual because you haven't overcome your "same sex attractions".
these experiences above do not contribute to a healthy sense of well being. In
fact, totally the opposite. Depression and other mental issues develop. We will
actually never be able to count
the cost this has had on individuals or how many have actually been lost through suicide.
What is your attitude towards 'former'
homosexuals who get married?
wish them well. It's their life and their choice and I have to respect that choice,
as I would expect them to respect mine to live as an out and proud gay man. I have
seen a few of these marriages work. But only
with complete honesty. On the outside, they appear to work. I have no idea
what goes on in the home or bedroom. Nor do I want to know. It's none of my
business. If ever I was asked by someone if I'd encourage or recommend it, the
answer of course would be no. History tells us very few mixed
orientation marriages are sustainable lifelong. Is the other partner aware of what challenges lie ahead for them marrying a partner with "same sex attractions"?.
Why are you so committed to seeing all
ex-gay/reparative/conversion organisations close in Australia?
if I didn't have this goal then it would happen anyway. I am just one of the
people who have spoken up about the harm these organisations have caused. In
addition, number and impact wise, these organisations are diminishing.
Considering societies acceptance of gay relationships, the number of people who
have gay family members and friends they love, the exponential growth of the gay
Christian movement and the increasing number of affirming churches, the ex-gay/reparative/conversion
organisations message "you are
broken and God can heal you" is becoming increasingly irrelevant.
blame my autobiography for creating this mission. Since 2004, when "A Life of Unlearning" was released, I have
been the first contact point for 1,000's of LGBT people from Christian backgrounds. Many of those had been impacted
by the ex-gay philosophy "homosexuality is a sin, you are broken, God can
heal/change you". It’s a like my inbox became a microscope into a hidden
world as many isolated and alienated people found someone they relate to; often
for the first time. This was also one reason why we founded Freedom2b and I dedicate 6 years of service to developing it. I would challenge anyone to sit
down and read the 100's
of emails I have received and not be deeply moved by the pain, harm and
regrets many of these people have. Having
discovered the harm and suffering of so many individuals, it would have been inhumane and irresponsible for me to sit back and do
nothing. Whilst there are stories out there of 'change', very few ex-gay
leaders have been exposed to the vast numbers of stories like this. Alan
Chambers, former president of Exodus listened and then apologised
to the LGBT community.
Aren't you working against freedom of
choice and speech?
I am working for freedom of speech and choice.
Now people have more information to make informed/rational choices. What
many in the ex-gay world have failed to realise is that the western world has
had a massive shift in their understanding on many things over the last forty
years. One of those has been the basic human rights of each individual. When I
was growing up in the 50's and 60's, racism was a pretty much a part of culture and people rarely
responded negatively to racial slurs or jokes. Try that today in your workplace
or sport and see where that gets you. Thankfully, we are a better, more
tolerant society today where people are treated equally no matter. It is now illegal to discriminate. The same could be said
about sexual orientation. Once ignorance on these issues was accepted but today
we are more informed. That is why there is such a backlash when people make
anti-gay jokes, demeanour LGBT people or the community. Or when religious leaders or organisations suggest
there is something wrong with us and that we can change. Churches need to catch
up. Ex-gay ministries are peddling an extremely outdated message and modality. It's sad they need to be reminded of that
Do you hate ex-gay leaders? It
appears you attack them.
It would be hypocritical of me to hate people because they currently believe something
I believed myself for decades. It's a journey. As for attacking, I can see that
some people might perceive that. When an ex-gay leader has made false or
misleading statements then I have challenged or corrected them. Particularly
when those misleading statements have been made before
parliamentary committees speaking against marriage equality being passed in
Australia. I stand by what I have said and written as the truth. That is open
to challenge at any time.
I hated ex-gay leaders then I would not have flown to the USA this time last
year to attend a conference full of them. When I was invited by Alan Chambers
to attend the Exodus conference I had no idea that this would be the final and
I would get to witness the historic moment it was announced that America's
leading ex-gay organisation was closing down. I am enormously grateful for
Alan Chambers trust by allowing me into that space.
Are you glad to see "ex-gay"
are I know, but not me. I have compassion for them. I
personally have lived through a very
public scandal and I know how traumatic that is and the dark places it can
take you to as well as the potential for tragic results (Read Gay
Mormon, excommunicated from his church, commits suicide).
I know of ex-gay leaders
here in Australia who, let's say, have not always lived up to what they have
publicly portrayed. If I was the nasty and vindictive person, out to destroy people as some have suggested,
I would have passed that information on to my media contacts or publicly
exposed them myself. I wouldn't wish a
public scandal on my worst enemy, let alone be the initiator of it. I
still live by the rule "treat
others as you would like to be treated yourself".
I have always endeavoured to reach out in
dialogue with ex-gay leaders. Sometimes that has been completely rejected.
Others have been willing
to sit down at the table and talk. Maybe it's the potential
outcome that worries some.
door is still open.
© Anthony Venn-Brown
Anthony Venn-Brown is the co-founder and former leader of Freedom2b, 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 was one of four finalists for the 2011 ACON Community Hero Award. He is also the founder and director of Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International.
Labels: alan chambers, ex-gay, exodus, exodus global alliance, Living Waters, reparative therapy, Ron Brookman