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After Exodus

Jim Burroway

July 27th, 2006

The Advocate has a heartbreaking story by David Luc Nguyen, a former ex-gay (an “ex- ex-gay,” you might say) who emerged from a very difficult attempt to go straight. He was forced by his parents to undergo counseling after he came out to them. When he finally dropped out of Portland Fellowship, an Exodus affiliate where he underwent counseling, his parents kicked him out.

Many of the damaging aspects ex-gay ministries comes from the fact that they are not certified competent counselors:

But even they admit they’re not really counselors. Before writing this, I contacted Ron Shaw, who works with Metanoia Ministries, an Exodus group in the Pacific Northwest. A disclaimer at the bottom of Shaw’s e-mails states: “Ron Shaw is NOT a state-licensed counselor. All advice given is based on spiritual principles contained in the Bible.” …

The advice Shaw gives sounds a lot like science. One of the more dangerous aspects of “reparative therapy” is that it often uses pseudoscientific language, says Matthew Brooks, a mental health professional in Seattle. “This can make it appealing to young people,” Brooks says. “This therapy is based on religious and political prejudices. It robs people of the chance to strive for happy productive lives, friendships, and families as healthy gay men and lesbians.”

Not only do these ministries rob people of the chance to strive for happy and productive lives, their persistent message is that it is impossible to be gay and happy. Virtually all of the ex-gay testimonials speak of sexual addictions, prostitution, violence, drugs and alcohol, and promiscuity. All of these are blamed on homosexuality itself, and not on the poor life choices that these individuals made. Blaming it on homosexuality allows them to dodge the hard questions about their own responsibility for their poor choices in behavior.

Fortunately — and perhaps miraculously — David has come out the other side to offer a very poignant look inside the ex-gay experience and what it does to many of those who go through it.

Still, Exodus is with me. I know this may sound crazy, but somewhere deep inside I felt like God was going to punish me if I wrote this piece and spoke out against the church. Fortunately, I’m a lot like my parents. I’m stubborn and determined.

You can read David’s story here.

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