3. The internet
The influence of the
internet to gain information and connect people cannot be overestimated re the downfall
When I resigned from the
ministry and came out in 1992 internet usage was in its infancy and not the
commonplace entity it is today. I am a little embarrassed to say that for
years, I really believed that I was probably the only Pentecostal minister in
the entire world who had resigned because he couldn't "overcome" his
homosexuality. It wasn't until after 1996 when www.PlanetOut.com
was launched and I joined the internet that I actually found someone just like
me. Searching various criteria on PlanetOut I found an African American
Pentecostal preacher who was gay ....and out. I was over the moon. Then I
found Jallen Rix,
the first former ex-gay person I'd ever met. Talking with others who had
similar experiences was reassuring. No longer did I feel so alone or like I
was a freak. Probably a similar
feeling that young people got when they finally connected with an ex-gay group
(point 1 in this article).
the 70's 80's and 90;s, before the internet, where did the 1,000's of gay men
and women who'd "failed" and left ex-gay programs and anti-gay
churches go? They went into another closet.
few found love like Michael Bussee and Gay Cooper (Exodus originals)
Love changes everything. Those who found love
realised that their homosexuality was not a sin but an orientation which
created the most beautiful human experiences of love, intimacy, affection and
finding a partner for life. Others left the ex-gay programs with an even
greater sense of failure and shame. Years of conditioned internalised
homophobia continued to play out in self destructive behaviours. They had been
told for years about the "homosexual
lifestyle" and assumed this was how they should live once they
accepted being gay so went straight to the tip of the iceberg. Many had been traumatised
and developed mental health issues like post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). To
go back to these experiences reminded them of the pain of some of the darkest
days of their lives so they just kept quiet. Some just wanted to move on and
forget about it.. For others it all became too much. They'd failed to become
straight, rejected by family and friends, disillusioned by their experiences in
the tip of the iceberg; they choose suicide. The horrendous toll that ex-gay thinking and
organisations have had on individuals lives can never be fully documented.
The ex-gay survivor movement grew in the underground cyberworld of online
forums in the late 90's. I commenced Australia's only ex-gay survivor group in 2000 which quickly grew
to 400 people. It was here, listening to tragic story after tragic story
that my passion to see change ignited.
the features of the internet developed, ex-gay survivor stories moved from the
secrecy of online forums to other platforms like blogs, websites and YouTube. They
were now sharing their stories in public spaces, speaking of the harm and the
ongoing impacts their years in ex-gay/reparative/conversion therapy and
programs had on them. For the 1,000's Exodus and others were claiming had been
'cured' we were now hearing from 1,000's saying it's a lie.
Then the apologies began. Apologies from three former Exodus leaders
Darlene Bogle, Michael Bussee (one of the founders of Exodus), and Jeremy Marks
(from the UK who'd been in the International board of Exodus). I released five Australian ones in 2007. One of those was from the leader of Exodus in
Australia. I've added more since. It was out there for anyone searching for
information.. When I first searched "unwanted same sex attraction", I
couldn't find one positive link on the first eight pages on Google. All said I
was broken, sick, and dysfunctional and that God could "heal" me. I
determined to change that. Now on the first page several of my articles appear. So
when a young troubled Christian person is secretly searching for answers in the
privacy of their bedrooms at least the get an alternative perspective. Thank
God for the internet I say. It's saved people unnecessary torment and wasted
years. And saved lives.
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© 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 CEO of Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International.
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