Exodus Co-Founder: Celibacy And Admitting You’re Not Changing
A multi-part video interview series with Michael Bussee, co-founder of Exodus International turned critic.
May 10th, 2010
One of my favorite questions to ask former ex-gays is how in their own minds they came to the realization change isn’t possible. In today’s video Exodus co-founder Michael Bussee talks about the convergence of factors that lead him to abandon his attempts to change.
Even today when someone in the ex-gay movement finds their sexual orientation is not changing they are told that a lifetime of celibacy is the best they can hope for. Michael concludes the video by discussing celibacy and why it wasn’t a viable path for his life.
(transcript after the jump)
I’m Michael Bussee, I’m one of the original co-founders of Exodus International. I left the program in 1979 and have since reconciled my spirituality and my sexuality and now I’m a vocal critic of reparative therapy programs and of Exodus International.
[title: “Celibacy And Admitting You’re Not Changing”]
What eventually lead me to stop trying to change?
[voice of interviewer:] Yeah.
There were a number of things that kind of converged, sort of the perfect storm that lead me to decide to give up effort to change.
The first one was the realization that I really wasn’t developing any heterosexual feelings even after years of marriage and years of being involved in the ministry. I knew deep down that I was still gay, I knew what my feelings and attractions were and that experience of having to present yourself one way when you know deep down that you really are something else is a terribly destructive internal sort of struggle, I call it schizophrenic-genic, it’s crazy making.
It absolutely splits you down the middle. There was the realization that I wasn’t becoming heterosexual, at the same time noticing that the guys in our ministry and the other exgays I talked to were also not changing.
And not only were they not changing, they were becoming worse. They were becoming more and more depressed, more and more self-loathing, self destructive, and I saw that happening in my ministry.
We had a Tuesday night Bible study and boy that initial excitement of the first two years when we all thought that we were changing gradually giving way to depression, despondency and the self destructiveness was a terrible thing to watch. I had to keep up the strong front because I was the group leader, I had to encourage them to keep going but I felt the same thing they were feeling, I wanted to say “Me too, what are we doing to ourselves? Why are we hurting ourselves this way? Why don’t we just quit? Why don’t we just admit the facts that we’re still gay, we’re Christian and we’re gay.”
Would that be so bad to admit?
But we couldn’t admit it because you’re taught that you’re one or the other, you’re Christian or you’re gay, you can not be both and if you chose to be gay, if you chose to give up the effort to change you’re giving up your faith, you’re giving up your salvation, you’re committing yourself to eternal damnation basically.
[voice of interviewer:] Was celibacy ever a viable option?
Celibacy was never a viable option for me.
I think the longest period of celibacy I had was about three months and I’m including in that masturbation to gay fantasy, things like that. I remember saying to myself if I could just overcome that if I could get to the point where I could… to not have gay fantasies, to not masturbate to gay fantasies that maybe that would be the breakthrough if I could overcome that… I remember I went on a 40 day fast from food and sex just to see if that would break through whatever this demonic oppression was that was weighing heavily on me.
Some guys in our group practiced celibacy and were able to keep that up for some time. One of the guys in our group eventually fell after a long period of celibacy and became very very self destructive. And I saw that in the group a lot too that these periods of celibacy would be followed by a fall and then tremendous guilt and some people pull away from the ministry entirely and some came back to the group over and over again trying to get delivered.
But celibacy was never really a viable option for me. I’ve come to believe since that God created me with a fully functioning sexual system… that God created me a whole being and that includes my sexuality that sexuality is a gift from God, not something that I’m personally supposed to be celibate from. I think that maybe some guys are able to do that and I’ve met guys who say that they are gay and Christian but they just choose to be celibate because they believe that’s what the Bible expects of them and they say that they are content with that.
I had to find integration with all of those things, I couldn’t be non-sexual. That would be a dis-integrating experience for me.