Former Ex-Gay Spokesperson: “I Was Disowned”
May 11th, 2008
Noé Gutierrez has experienced quite a few twists and turns in his young life. He originally appeared in the gay-affirming video “It’s Elementary,” which teaches school children the importance of respecting diversity. Later, he entered the ex-gay movement and was featured in Dr. Warren Throckmorton’s 2004 video “I Do Exist.” In early 2007, he issued a statement regretting that his story became a part of the “divisive message of the ex-gay movement.” Now he talks about how quickly the ex-gay movement has disowned him, an experience that has an eerily familiar ring among other ex-gay survivors I’ve talked to.
In a long but fascinating statement posted on his web site last month, Gutierrez describes his first-hand account of his involvement in the ex-gay movement. He recounts that while the ex-gay movement preaches about love and compassion toward the ex-gay movement, he found little evidence of it:
Forgiveness and reconciliation were a promise held at the far end of a road filled with sacrifice, self-discipline, and a commitment to never practice anything related to homosexuality. The amount of mental/emotional stress these ministries place on their members is insurmountable. Everyone seemed to manage the stress through various coping strategies. The most successful coping strategy seemed to be for someone to remain immersed in ex-gay ideology. You could accomplish this by becoming a member of a weekly support group or joining a ministry team as a volunteer or staff. The more active you were in a ministry the less likely you were to doubt your ability to achieve change. In short, you would have to eat, live and breathe ex-gay ministry.
Other coping mechanisms that Gutierrez observed included same-sex “couples” who were in ex-gay ministry together doing “God’s work,” and others who married an opposite sex partner in relationships which tended to remind him of the “‘best girl friend’ dynamic of the gay community.”
And of course, there was Noé’s own coping mechanism: his big splash as a spokesperson for the ex-gay movement through Dr. Throckmorton’s 2004 video. But as he grew more famous as a result of the documentary, he began to have doubts about what he had done. That’s when he got the full flavor of how quickly the ex-gay movement can turn on its own:
As I began to sever ties to ex-gay ministry I was shocked to see how quickly people turned away their friendship and camaraderie. It was as if overnight my name had been erased from the hearts and minds of all those who supported and “cared” for me. There was no outreach and no attempts at reconciliation. I was for all intents and purposes “disowned”. Since no outreach was made in my direction, I reached out to Exodus International. I signed up to attend their annual conference because a part of me still held the hope that what they believed could be real. After registering for the conference I got word that the leadership of Exodus had serious concerns that my attendance would do “harm” to the progress of other attendees. I could not believe how my change of heart was treated as though it were leprosy with others around me shouting “Unclean!! Unclean!!”
Following his being cast out, Noé struggled with a very serious depression as a result of the isolation and rejection he experienced from those who were his friends. This, too, is a common experience according to other ex-gay survivors I’ve talked with:
…[T]heir acceptance had in my mind been associated with my own sense of being loved and accepted by God. Therefore I not only felt like a failure in the eyes of Exodus but also in the eyes of God. The weight of this burden is one that I do not wish on anybody, but also one I am glad to have experienced because now I know what harm can come from setting people up for this type of failure. If we instill in men and women that their only way to heaven is to repent and commit to a lifelong pursuit of heterosexuality cloaked under terms of “purity” and “holiness”, what will these men and women do when they find the pursuit is never ending? Is it fair to make such an unattainable goal the key to personal and relational success in love and faith? Will they ever truly feel forgiven by God? Can they then ever experience the freedom in the gospel of Jesus Christ? Or are we committing them to a life of shame and chains for which there is no end?
Noé concludes his statement with a beautiful testimony of a faith that was strengthened, not shattered. In many ways he describes a faith that is similar to my own, although I would never have been able to put it into words as beautifully as his. It is a very inspiring statement for everyone who has ever had to face the seemingly impossible task of reconciling their faith and their sexuality. It’s difficult, but not impossible. What’s more, it’s definitely worth it. After all, “we do exist” also.
Meanwhile — and despite all this — “I Do Exist” remains available for sale on Dr. Throckmorton’s web site.