Why many ex-gays go to ex-gay ministries
August 2nd, 2010
It can be hard to understand the reasons why someone would go into the ex-gay movement. Those who are less familiar with the phenomenon tend to think that it is a matter of guilt or shame that drives gullible people to try and change their orientation. Others think that it is oppressive parents and family, a culture that is homophobic or a church that puts pressure on an impressionable youth.
And, yes those are reasons. There are otherwise happy people who are so subjected to pressure or guilt that they believe that they must go through ex-gay ministry or they will lose their families and friends and burn in Hell forever.
But it isn’t just that simple. There are others who go looking for help from an ex-gay ministry in desperation because their life is in chaos and they don’t know what else to do. Their own personal circumstances are so out of control that they need help.
It is only natural to look for a cause for our unhappiness. It’s my job or my girlfriend or my financial situation and if only it would change then I could really be happy. For some gay people they look at their chaos and think “if only I weren’t gay!”
This week I heard from one such person. I won’t use his name – though he’s given me permission – because I see his story as an illustration of so many ex-gay stories that seem to have this theme.
My friend has been in and out of ex-gay ministry for quite a few years, never finding either within the ex-gay community or within the gay community exactly what he needed. Here are his past few years in his own words.
I am sure by now you heard that about two years ago I went back into the ex-gay lifestyle and closed myself off from the “gay world” I had pretty much gotten ride of all my gay friends and turned my back on people that loved me. In the last year I have come out again. For the final time and took some time off to do some reflecting as to what God wants to see me doing.
Here is a synopsis of what happened.
… for many years I was a sex addict till this day I am a recovering sex addict. By the grace of God I am sober. The sex addiction kept me in chains and I wasn’t able to experience true freedom until I dealt with that subject. I thought that being gay I had to sleep with as many men as possible, but that wasn’t the case. I thought it was what all gay men wanted and that’s not how I wanted to live. So I kept going back and forth from being ex-gay to gay. I would get tired of being gay because of the addiction and I would then run to the church. When I couldn’t stand trying to be straight I would give up get depressed and end up in the hospital for suicidal thoughts and depression.
I entered rehab this past year and it was the best thing for me. I was able to really face the addiction and can happily say that I have been sober for over 90 days. When I refer to being sober for me it is not having anonymous sex. Sex sobriety is such a fine line and everyone must define their own bottom line behavior. Mine is no sex out of a committed loving relationship.
I’m writing this because I am hoping that someone can benefit from my story. That someone can be saved from the heartache and pain that I went through. I am currently writing a book as well. It is my autobiography hopefully to be completed by the end of the year. I am hoping you can share this with your readers to give hope to others that being gay is ok. That being Christian is ok too. Its how we live our lives that makes a difference.
My friend is finding help. For perhaps the first time he’s looking at his life and seeing the problem and not the symptoms. And for that I am very happy.
But I can see why it has taken him so long.
One of the memes of ex-gay ministry is that the ‘homosexual lifestyle’ is destructive, demeaning, and damaging. My friend’s story of sexual addiction did not seem peculiar or out of the norm, it was just what it’s like ‘in the gay life.’ At his ex-gay ministry, he was bound to hear confirmation of this idea.
But we should not assume that his ministry was lying to him or trying to deceive him; local groups do believe what they say. These scary stories about the homosexual lifestyle full of misery and despair are not created for the consumption of gullible youth – these scary stories are the real lives of real people who really experienced life that way.
And it makes sense. If you are living a life full of contentment and meaning and you have someone to love and who cares for you, you aren’t as likely to go looking for a way to become heterosexual. If you aren’t miserable, then you aren’t looking for something on which to blame your misery. So naturally, “life of desperation” is the norm as experienced for many ex-gays.
But we as a community play our part in the confusion. Far too often we act as though getting the next hot guy is what it means to be gay (women do this less) and confirm these ideas.
Yes, I know that there are plenty of couples, but they are home barbecuing and walking the dog. And there are bowling leagues and ski clubs and church groups and social networks. But if it’s Saturday night and you’re single and may do what many gay and straight singles do, go out looking for love. Or, you go online where there is no pretense of even socializing; no one is on Manhunt looking to meet up for coffee and talk about the news of the day.
And yes I know that heterosexuals do it too. Go to any bar in any town where young people congregate and you’ll see plenty of indiscriminate straight sexual behavior. Or watch a reality TV show. We have no monopoly on “having to sleep with as many people as possible” in order to feel good about one’s self.
I don’t know the solution. But I hope we as a community of individuals can mature to where we provide more messages of substance and meaning – find a way to more frequently remind ourselves and the more vulnerable members of our community (including those still in ex-gay ministries) that sex really isn’t what defines us.
Being gay is not where you put your penis, it’s where you put your heart.