Exactly The Opposite of What The Ex-Gays Told Me

Jim Burroway

June 14th, 2008

This Father’s Day essay is from Jason Cianciotto, Executive Director of Tucson’s Wingspan LGBT Community Center. You can also read Fathers Day essays from Tony K. and Garrett and Ben. If you’d like to share your Fathers Day memories, please send them to Superdad@boxturtlebulletin.com. The best entry gets a free T-shirt or other gift (up to $35, which is just about everything) from our BTBStore.

I vividly remember sitting in the therapist’s office hearing him slam my dad yet again for “not being there for me” when I was a kid. This was just one of the reasons why these experts determined that I liked boys instead of girls. I was 16, depressed, embarrassed, ashamed, and desperate to be the young man that my Christian family wanted me to be. Among the most incredible destinations in my personal journey of acceptance was that it was ultimately my father who rescued me and provided a safe and welcome space for me to become the man I am today.

My parents divorced when I was 2½ years old, and shortly afterwards my mother became a born again Christian. I saw my father every weekend, but the faith I was raised in created a sharp divided that lasted well into my teenage years. I remember hearing my father and stepmother share how heartbroken they were when they had to bring me back home to my mother one weekend because I was afraid of them after I heard they they were going to hell because they weren’t Christians. Though he doesn’t talk about it, I know that my father held back a lot of frustration and anger against my mother because of how her faith created a separation between us.

Growing up, I remember a lot of fun times with my dad and my “other” family, my stepmom, brother and sister; vacations at the Jersey Shore; wresting matches with my father on the living room floor; boxing matches with me wearing my kid gloves and standing on the bed while he stood on the floor and pretended to be knocked out by my glancing blows. These memories run counter to the reasons I was told why I was gay — a child of divorce with the the distant father who chose not to be a “man of the lord.”

By age 19, I was desperate to find the answer to the questions inside of me. Years of therapy and prayers in the basement of my house with my head covered with a towel in submission to God while listening to contemporary Christian music had failed to divert curious glances at my male classmates from high school through my freshman year of college. My father and siblings had already moved from the east coast to Tucson years before and our time together was relegated to phone calls I don’t really remember. My “new” father, the man my mother married when I was 11 years old, was distant and hardly spent time with me. I remember an awkward conversation with him over pizza at that time in my life. I realized that the man my mother determined the Lord had brought into her life was really just for her, not for me.

That became all too clear the day I came home from work and found most of my personal belongings in black garbage bags on the porch of my house. My mother had found the secret stash of gay porn given to me by a new friend I had made in the LGBT support group at the local community college I was attending. They reached the end of their rope with me and felt that the only way they could protect their family from me was to exorcise me from their lives.

When my father realized the extent to which my life had fallen apart, he invited me to drive cross-country and live with him in Tucson. He encouraged me to go to college at the University of Arizona after establishing state residency. I arrived after my 2,000-mile drive, traumatized by the years before and still thinking I was a straight guy with a gay mental health problem. After I found the youth group at the local gay community center and finally came out to myself and my family, I remember him sharing with me how his only concern was that my life would be harder than others because of the discrimination I would face because of my sexual orientation. This was a sharp contrast to the response of my Christian family, who, after I came out to them via telephone, barely spoke to me for three years.

As I approach my 33rd birthday, I look back in awe — the thing that I needed most to heal and become a whole, healthy human being was exactly the opposite of what the therapists and the faith I was raised in told me. I have a superdad because, in him, I have a friend who was really there for me when I needed him most. Thanks dad, and happy Father’s Day.

Jason Cianciotto
June 13, 2008

Do you have something you want to share for father’s day? Please send it to Superdad@boxturtlebulletin.com.

Ben in Oakland

June 14th, 2008

Wonderful story, Jason. It once again underlines how often ‘good’christians are very willing to talk the talk, but seem to have forgotten their shoes when it comes to doing the actual walking.


June 14th, 2008

This is a really touching story Jason – and I am so pleased you found the genuine love of a parent – I am just regretful that I have add to that – eventually!

Without wishing to take anything away from this piece – I feel that I must suggest that the abuse and harm you suffered in therapy is unethical and actually contrary to the way most contemporary and informed therapists operate. I am sorry that you suffered these experiences – but I am optimistic that psychoterapy is ‘wiser’ nowadays.


June 14th, 2008

My father was the one who was loving and understanding when I came out. My mother ranted, raved, assaulted me mentally and emotionally, threw me out of the house and didn’t speak to me for over two years.

I can’t tell you how many gay people I know who tell the same story of a loving supportive father and a bitch of a mother.

I really don’t understand the commonly repeated myths about how mother’s are ALWAYS loving and supportive of their children or why people refuse to acknowledge that MANY mothers are their children’s worst nightmares and MANY fathers are awsome parents.

Too bad our family courts and our society in general don’t seem to notice.

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