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Posts for May, 2013

Ex-Gay Survivor Survey Shows Harms, Lasting Impacts Of Sexual Orientation Change Efforts

Jim Burroway

May 30th, 2013

Beyond Ex-Gay, the online forum for former clients of ex-gay ministries and therapists, has released the results of a wide-ranging survey of the experiences reported by 417 ex-gay survivors. To date, there has been little effort to examine this particular group of people. Conducted by Jallen Rix, therapist, ex-gay survivor, and author of Ex-Gay No Way: Survival and Recovery from Religious Abuse, the survey is by no means definitive. Due to its convenience sampling techniques, is not capable of describing the experiences of all those who have participated in ex-gay programs and therapies. Nevertheless, it adds an important component to our overall understanding of those who have attempted to undergo a change in sexual orientation because the voices of those who have participated in these programs have mostly been absent in the debate. As Rix explain:

All too often, the public eye is drawn to the “squeaky wheel” in terms of the reparative therapy/ex-gay debate. Usually this means the people that make the craziest claims, and the most outlandish presumptions get most of the attention. Indeed, those who happen to be leading such “ministries” are often looked to as so-called “experts in the field” when they rarely have any real sexuality education or training. Unfortunately, those who have been damaged by these organizations are left as a footnote, or don’t get mentioned at all. This gives the public a skewed view of what’s really going on in the ex-gay movement.

Because of the nature of the convenience sample in this survey, the numerical results should be taken as illustrative rather than quantitative. But the picture that emerges is that the motivation for entering ex-gay programs is predominately religious. The top three results for why people tried to change their sexual orientation included “To be a better Christian,” “I believed it was what God wanted me to do,” and “I feared I would be condemned by God.” After that comes such responses as a general desire to fit in, cultural pressures to conform, and a desire to please family and friends. But beyond the numbers lie the written responses of survey participants which illustrates the huge variety of their experiences:

I so wanted to be “normal.” I didn’t believe that God could possibly accept me the way I was, given that I myself couldn’t. Conventionally “feminine” religious women who focused their entire lives around being a “good wife and mother” seemed to be happy and at peace (unlike me); they were respected and valued. I thought that if I could only be like them that everything would be fine.

Because I have a messed up childhood filled with emotional, mental and some physical (but no sexual) abuse, and I saw connections between my experiences and the experiences that the ex-gay community claims cause homosexuality.

I was a student at a Bible College and saw no ministry future if I was “tainted” by this situation. Some of my motivations were self and then it was forced by family and church.

After coming out and becoming a GLBT activist, the GLBT community bullied the living Hell out of me for seven years prompting me to re-enter ex-gay therapy.

I was told to be gay was sinful, and Exodus was promoting “are you gay and not happy” – check out Exodus Int. That it was my gay life style that was making me sad and depressed. That to label oneself as gay would mean a life of promiscuity, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, AIDS. I heard about Matthew Manning through the 700 Club, later to find out he was a fraud and was removed from the 700 Club website.

I was told I had demons, and even had someone “name” those demons who were “tormenting” me.

No one forced me, and even my pastor said that I didn’t need Exodus, that if I was in Christ I was a new creation, and all the rest was, is, and will be forgiven by God.

My pastor at the time implored me to deal with this. I had no desire to change my sexual orientation. This was upon his insistence.

It’s these written responses that I find to be more informative than the numbers. Question 8 asked why they quit the ex-gay movement. The top answer, by far, was that they failed to become straight. But one disturbing answer given by nearly a quarter of respondents was that they had had a nervous breakdown. Again, the written responses are more interesting:

I saw that NOBODY was being changed, and some of those other guys had a lot more faith than I did. The only ones I ever met who claimed to have been changed were the leadership. And one of them was always hitting on me.

I watched the movie Latter Days, and cried heavily as I saw how much I desired homosexual love, how repressed, self-loathing and judgmental I had become, and how much I may need to give up to live honestly.

found all the therapy didn’t work. I wasn’t changing my orientation. My desires did not change even into my forties. I started being sexually active and found the world did not come to and end.

Over time, I began to feel like the people involved in the ministry were on some level deceiving themselves. I appreciated their desire to draw nearer to God and resolve conflict from our past, however, beyond that, I felt like my local church community was far more effective in growing me spiritually – not to mention the fact that I wasn’t becoming ‘straight.’

I tried to kill myself

My “exorcism” scared me so much, I did everything to prove my “change” and get away from those people.

Contemplated suicide as a next logical step in measures to keep my gay feelings in check. At that point I realized I needed to change to make being gay a friend rather than an enemy.

Once I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to become straight, I started hoping that I would get in an accident or get a disease or something so I could die because I was so unhappy but didn’t want to go to hell for suicide. Eventually I didn’t care if I would go to hell and I was suicidal. I knew that something had to change.

Basically, the nagging pressure that my relationship with my dad made me gay, and because I was believing that, my actually good relationship with my dad started to fall apart because of it…. and also, the main reason, if it was so wrong, why didn’t God heal me?

I saw Brokeback mountain which showed exactly how bad it could be if a gay man married a woman.

Our denomination underwent a drastic reformation out of legalism; and, in accepting the reality of grace, discovered that I was still gay. Grace didn’t change my orientation. I had to admit my negative preconceptions about being gay and Christian were wrong. I realized I could be a gay Christian without regrets.

I was taken to a deliverance service by well meaning Christian relatives – and had what I can only describe as a true deliverance experience, on the other side of which I quit believing that changing my orientation was necessary.

I was in Love in Action and they told me my time in the program was up. It didn’t work and I finally gave up trying to change.

Only a relatively small minority of this particular sample, less than ten percent, say they weren’t harmed by their participation in the ex-gay movement. Nearly half said they were “harmed a lot” or “devastated” by the experience. Nearly half said that they were still effected “a lot” or “all the time” today by their experiences. The kinds of harms respondents described were all over the map:

I think the most damaging piece was the reinforcing of the sexual binging and purging. It has made it difficult in my current relationship at times. I continue to fight old patterns although that continues to lessen over time.

As an intersex bodied person I was constantly pressured into having “corrective” surgery on my genitalia so I could fit into a certain gender role as a heterosexual. I also developed an eating disorder.

Multiple suicide attempts, two psychiatric hospitalizations. Diagnosed severe type 2 Bipolar disorder and moderate PTSD by multiple doctors in two different states. Ex-gay therapist had told me the symptoms from these illnesses were caused by my “sexual confusion.” After ex-gay, I dealt with substance abuse, impulsive and dangerous behavior, and unsafe promiscuity. Entered several unhealthy relationships, including one physically abusive one.

I feel that the ex-gay movement caused me harm by screwing up my sense of love and intimacy completely. I became very promiscuous, because I felt that if I am going to be sinful, I might as well go all out. I also came to believe that there is no such thing as romantic love between men, only lust. In other words, it pushed the exact opposite values that should be placed on sex and love. To this day, I find it hard to have romantic relationships with guys that go beyond physical, let alone commitment! Lastly, I’m surprised you do not have substance/alcohol abuse on your list, because I did that as well because of my experiences.

I abandoned my faith b/c I could not find a way to live with being both gay and Christian

Not just harm to myself, but also harm to my husband who is asked (by his wife) to not undress in front of his wife, who is asked not to touch his wife sexually, who is asked not to be a heterosexual man and husband. I am not the only victim here. How about my husband and all the spouses of the “ex-gays”??? Exodus and others don’t want to address that…

Developed sexual addictions in a way to try to fit the mold of ex-gay “healings” Before ex-gay ministry, I didn’t have any sexual experiences at all.

Giving a moral inventory (sharing a very personal experience related to a sexual encounter) in front of all the parents at a friends and family weekend caused embarrassment and a look on my parents’ faces that I will never forget.

My situation is difficult to determine harm or reward. I suffered from low self-esteem before sexuality developed. I did have to withdraw from college because of Scientology experience, and I did attempt suicide twice – once directly because I feared my orientation would be discovered. I would add that Evergreen was somewhat helpful as a first step of coming to self acceptance.

The second-to-last response above hints at a possible participation in Love In Action’s “Friends and Family Weekend.” I can’t imaging undergoing the appalling shaming that went on at that event.

The last response above leads to another question I find interesting, and it’s one I’ve heard  asked at a couple of ex-gay survivor gatherings: “What good, if any, came out of your ex-gay experience”? About a fifth of respondents in this sample declined to give an answer, and another tenth answered that there was no benefit. But of the rest, most say that they are now better able to accept themselves, talk openly about sexuality (after all, that was a key component of the ex-gay experience), and they felt that they were part of a community of similar people:

Surprisingly, I was able to finally accept myself. I spent several months during therapy thinking of how much of a failure I was. Once I began to realize that all that it had been doing was making me hate myself, I said “Enough is enough. I refuse to spend anymore time like this.”

I suppose that I needed to see for myself that changing my sexual orientation was not possible, nor was it necessary. In other words, I had to try everything that I could find before I ‘gave up’ and admitted being gay, and ‘give in’ to living the “lifestyle” of a gay man.

I learned that I couldn’t pretend, I couldn’t “act” my way through the world 24 hours a day. I learned that there had to be somewhere that I could be real. I met a lot of really broken, but beautiful disasters. It was my first community and I liked living with others in intentional community. I have something of substance to say on this subject and actively participate in the ex-ex-gay movement.

Out of my ex-gay experience came motivation to further pursue a career in counseling and psychology to ensure other youth and young adults do not have to experience what I experienced.

I thought I was the only gay Christian, so when I found out about Exodus, I was relieved to not be so alone. I enjoyed many friendships!

Nothing- well, I did get married and have 2 wonderful children because of all of this- so I am very thankful for my children.

I witnessed first hand how privilege works in church and society. The more others believed I was a masculine heterosexual, the more valuable they treated me and the more doors opened socially, professionally, and religiously for me to serve and be a full fledged member of the group. Seeing this play out, helped me to get glimpses of similar oppression/reward systems for many group. I understand the world better because of the oppression I faced.

I learned valuable discipline. Not to mention that to keep it up, I had to dive into some pretty deep theological waters. It forced me to develop my intellectual faith.

For the first time, I met other GLBT Christians and we could talk about what it’s like to be Christians with same gender attractions.

My friend, trained in healing therapy, specifically through Living Waters and Andy Comisky himself, did help me identify problem areas in my life and places of brokenness that needed addressing. Contrary to what she taught me, however, the problems weren’t centered in my being gay.

I met some other guys who were also having the same issues I was, and it was nice to know I was not alone.

For the first time I was able to talk openly about my sexuality.

it helped me coming out of the closet and develop more mature friendships – growing spiritual intimacy with God

It provided my first contact to others who I knew certainly were also “gay”. Although they may not have been the best representations of what gay men should be, at least I didn’t feel alone. It also forced me to confront my sexuality (which I had really been avoiding) and come to terms with the issues between it, my faith, and my family.

It was the stepping stone that allowed me to come out to myself.

My group leader, was very understanding and accepting about other issues in my life, in ways that helped me *a lot*.

To a degree, it provided a sense of community, and diminished the sense of isolation.

Met other gay people and started dating in a safe space

Many of these responses illustrate what I’ve said before: they are us, and when you go to an ex-gay conference, you are attending one of the gayest events in that locality. For many of these people, being in an ex-gay ministry, ironically, is their first introduction to other gay people and the intentional community, as one respondent described it, that they formed. I think that this is what makes their stories so compelling to me. It’s not to say that their experiences weren’t all that bad after all. But the idea that ex-gay ministries can actually be a stepping stone for many toward their full acceptance of themselves as LGBT people can’t be a comforting thought to very many of those ex-gay leaders.

Dr. Drew Renders Ex-Gay Survivor Invisible

Jim Burroway

June 5th, 2012

In all of the debates over ex-gay therapy, there is one voice that is too often ignored, and that is the voice of the ex-gay survivor. A perfect example of what I’m talking about took place on HLN’s “Dr. Drew” last night. Once again, we have a not very well informed talking head — despite the “Dr.” in the name — providing a platform for someone who has a personal, financial, and political motivation to get her point of view across in offering the false hope that gay people can (and, implicitly, should) change their sexual orientation.

Pinsky’s guest last night was Janet Boynes, who runs an ex-gay ministry that is is closely associated with Marcus Bachman’s clinic. She appeared in her role as a “former lesbian” among the “thousands of former homosexuals” in the country. She also compared those who try to change their sexual orientation but fail (and evidence shows that this is very nearly everyone) to addicts who don’t want to change:

Boynes: There are thousands of people out there that are living the heterosexual live that are no longer homosexuals. And if you don’t want to change, as you well know Dr. Drew, you work with people that are on drugs, alcohol, pornography, and you know and you’ve said this before and I’ve heard you kn many of your shows, if you don’t want to change, you’re not going to change. If your heart is not right to change, you’re going to stay the same way.

Dr. Jallen Rix, an exgay survivor and author of Ex-Gay No Way: Survival and Recovery from Religious Abuse, had originally been booked as a guest on the program, but was later demoted at the last minute to a “call-in” from California. Boynes clear voice and face was made available via video remote from Minneapolis, a technology that also exists in the San Francisco bay area, but once again we have the sharp disparity in visibility — literally — beween a polished, politically saavy ex-gay advocate and an invisible voice over a low-fi phone line. In one last symbolic insult (albeit perhaps an unintentional one) Pinsky fumbled Jallen’s name despite his program having originally booked Jallen before changing their minds and going with Boynes exclusively:

Rix: As an ex-gay survivor myself, and now as a sexologist, who has studied the damaging effects of reparative therapy and ex-gay ministries, I can tell you that I have been inside these ministries and they are hotbeds of religious abuse. I have really never seen anyone truly change their orientation and what I’ve experienced there has been great shame, great depression, and others feeling hopelessness, having suicidal tendencies, heightened fear, all these things not because they’re trying to work the process but because the process did not work for them.

And as a result, they felt like a failure. You know, you’re talking about pain. I think we need to look very carefully at the messages that reparative therapies and ex-gay ministries put out. Because essentially they are saying that homosexuality does not really belong in their society. If there was a real perfect society, everyone would be heterosexual. How close is that message to what the bully says, when he says, “Well, you know what? I don’t think you, as a homosexual, belong around, and I’m going to do something about it.” …

Rix got about a minute and a half before Pinsky cut in to say that he was running out of time. But Pinsky still had another minute to give Boynes the last word. And I can think of no better example of Boynes’s lack of self-awareness than the fact that she took up much of that time complaining that Dr. Drew and others never put ex-gay advocates on their programs so they could further promote their “change is possible” mantra — after having had an entire segment to herself on Dr. Drew’s program. Meanwhile, ex-gay survivors remain invisible.

“Beyond Ex-Gay” Seeking Ex-Gay Survivors For Online Survey

Jim Burroway

October 28th, 2011

I’m on travel today, so I won’t be able to blog much (unless my flight happens to have WiFi). But I wanted to be sure to pass along this message from Dr. Jallen Rix, author of Ex-Gay No Way: Survival and Recovery from Religious Abuse, with an important invitation.

Dr. Jallen Rix of BeyondExGay.com seeks participants in a new survey of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people who endured therapies designed to change their orientation and gender differences.

“In order to gather details about the often harmful effects of reparative therapy, ex-gay theories, and the plight of thousands of people who received these treatments, we want to hear directly from them.” says Rix, a sexologist who earlier in his life submitted to programs and religious counselors that promised to change him from gay to straight. The survey will be available through www.BeyondExGay.com, a web support group for “Ex-Gay Survivors.”

“While every major medical association has denounced the treatments as ineffectual and potentially harmful, providers of the treatments persist in their practices,” says Peterson Toscano, co-founder of BeyondExGay.com who spent 17 years and over $30,000 on three continents attempting to suppress and change his sexual orientation and gender differences. “News that Michelle Bachman’s husband runs a client that offers gay-to-straight therapy got reporters talking about ‘those wacky treatments,’ but the many people who have survived the psychological and religious torture provide firsthand testimony of the harm they experienced and the work needed to reclaim their lives.”

Christine Bakke-O’Neil, a lesbian who received 5 years of ex-gay treatment and co-founder of Beyond Ex-Gay, says, “Along with this survey we are introducing creative new ways for Ex-Gay Survivors to receive peer support and share resources to help recover from all types of conversion therapy.”

In the past ten years leaders of the ex-gay movement have repeatedly asserted that ‘thousands’ of people have been cured of their homosexuality yet never provide any statistical evidence to back their assertions. “We know from experience that the vast majority of people who receive these treatments ultimately realize these leaders offer false promises and misleading information. Survivors can now go on record to state that ‘change’ was not possible or necessary and pursuing it caused damage.” say Rix, who notes that the anonymous participants of the survey will have the opportunity to share details about the type of treatments they received, why they desired change, the outcomes they experienced, and methods they discovered to undo the damage.

All those who attempted to alter their orientation or gender differences through the aid of one of these programs, a religious counselor, or on their own are urged to take the survey and tell others about it. Go to: BeyondExGay.com

Iowa Man Describes the Horrors of Home-Grown Ex-Gay Therapy

Jim Burroway

October 7th, 2011
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Samuel Brinton, a student at Kansas State University, describes growing up under his Southern Baptist missionary father, who beat him, burned him and shocked him with electricity to try to change him from being gay after Samuel came out at the age of twelve. The video is compelling.

We first heard from Samuel about a year ago when he first talked about his experiences for an “It Gets Better” video for the web site I’m From Driftwood.

Update (10/10): Wayen Besen at Truth Wins Out posted this comment yesterday on Towleroad:

Truth Wins Out has tried verify this story for more than a month. Our phone calls have gone unanswered. We hope that the full range of facts can come to light. For example, who was the specific therapist who performed these abusive actions?

We are always pleased when “ex-gay” survivors are brave enough to come foward and share their experiences. We look forward to Samuel providing further information in the very near future.

It Gets Better: From Perry, IA

Jim Burroway

October 20th, 2010

If you’ve never seen the web site I’m From Driftwood, you really owe yourself a heart-warming visit. The site is made up of stories submitted by people from all over. Each story’s title says where they come from — “I’m from Sheboygan Falls“, “I’m From Lake Charles“,  you get the picture — and they talk about what it was like growing up there, before they were out and as they were coming out. In many ways, it could be seen as a forerunner to Dan Savage’s It Gets Better Project, which was begun in response to the rash of LGBT suicides we saw in September.

In a few of the I’m From Driftwood posts, you can see considerable overlap between the two projects. This one, “I’m From Perry, IA”, begins with Samuel describing his harrowing experience with a brutal and punitive ex-gay conversion therapy experience. Watch it:

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Samuel’s experience is not altogether rare. If his story ended there — conditional love as long as he pretended to be straight — we would see the perfect setup for a life of torment. But there’s another ingredient involved that, for now, is making the story’s ending different from where it could have gone. That ingredient is Sam’s fortitude. Things still aren’t any better with his parents — they still insist that he “change” before they allow him back into the home. But now that he’s in college at Kansas State, things have somehow started to get better for him. But in a very different way and on his terms:

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…But, I do recognize that I will give them that chance. What my parents did was part of what they believed. They thought they were losing their child and they wanted to help him, so I have to forgive them, I have to move forward. But I think the reason why I was so excited to be able tell the story was that if there’s other people who have gone through conversion therapy, who are having those feelings of, “I’m the only one alone”, you need to know that there are people who have made it through and, you can’t change what I never chose.

The sad tragedy to all of this is that Sam’s story is both unique and not uncommon. There’s hardly a month that goes by that I don’t get an email from someone asking for advice. Either they are trying to recover from an ex-gay experience or, more commonly, a friend or relative asks what they should do when someone they know enters some kind of “treatment” program. These are hard stories to deal with, but one good resource is Beyond Ex-Gay, a network of ex-gay survivors. It’s not only for survivors themselves, but also their families and friends. I know that they have provided valuable support to those who are coming out of the ex-gay experience.

Blue Power Ranger talks about leaving show, going through ex-gay ministry

Timothy Kincaid

August 25th, 2010

David Yost, the Blue Power Ranger in the 90’s Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers discusses leaving the show due to blatant homophobia and struggling through ex-gay ministries.

From nopinkspandex:

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“Michael Bussee, You Have Blood On Your Hands”

A multi-part video interview series with Michael Bussee, co-founder of Exodus International turned critic.

Daniel Gonzales

May 21st, 2010

I expected my interview series with Michael to generate a lot of emotion, but in recent days the reader comments have taken a dramatic shift to questioning why Michael did not come out publicly against or make amends for his involvement in Exodus sooner.  One expression that’s particularly common in YouTube comments is that Michael somehow has “blood on his hands,” hence the title for this post.

In today’s video Michael explains his delay in speaking out against Exodus.  Of all the things Michael wanted to address on the day I interviewed him, this was foremost on his mind.

But before we get to the video let me personally address all the work I believe Michael has done for the ex-gay survivor community:

  • Whenever the activist community has called upon Michael, he has been happy to volunteer himself.  This includes a Love Won Out counter protest in Palm Springs (near his home) and the public apology of former Exodus leaders organized by Beyond Ex-Gay in 2007.
  • As one of the most visible ex-gay survivors myself, I am constantly contacted by media and documentary filmmakers.  When appropriate, I refer these people to Michael who is happy to speak with them One Nation Under God, filmed prior to Gary’s death (Michael’s partner), only marked the beginning of his speaking out.  Since the film’s release in 1993 Michael has continued to fight the ex-gay myth for 17 years now.
  • How many other former leaders from the early days of Exodus have since dropped out and said nothing? Remember, Michael was just a co-founder, there are plenty of other lapsed Exodus leaders out there.
  • If you believe Michael needs to do more to speak out or atone for his past transgressions then why don’t you contact him about a project he can take part in.  That’s exactly what I did. I was home in LA for a week and picked up the phone to see if Michael wanted to spend a day in front of the camera.  Michael answered every single question I put to him, even when things got painful, as you’ve seen in previous videos in this series.

But enough of my opinion.  Here’s Michael on the delay in speaking out against Exodus:

(transcript after the jump)

Read the rest of this entry »

Does the Ex-Gay Movement Equal Genocide?

Jim Burroway

May 7th, 2010

That’s the provocative question raised by a new paper by Sue E. Spivey and Christine M. Robinson in the April edition of the journal Genocide Studies and Prevention called “Genocidal Intentions: Social Death and the Ex-Gay Movement.” I had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Robinson last fall at the Anti-Heterosexism Conference in West Palm Beach, where she gave a talk based on her then-forthcoming article. Let’s just say I was extremely skeptical of her premise that the ex-gay movement has within it several characteristics consistent with the U.N.’s four-part definition contained within the 1948 Untied Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, articles II(b)-(e), which includes definitions which are not limited to mass murder.

I heard her out, and came away with the understanding of where she is coming from. It’s not so much that the ex-gay movement wants to round us up and kill us (although some have been complicit in such proposals which have been denounced as genocidal), but when you get to the heart of what the ex-gay movement wants to do, they truly envision a world in which there are no gay people. I still contend that using the word “genocide” is a most unhelpful hyperbole, but I can’t deny that at the same time it presents an illuminating metaphor — as long as you keep a level head and remain cognizant of the many limitations of the connections. And I think we do have to recognize that some won’t do that. That said, I don’t think we should shy away from the comparisons either. Heading these comparisons will be very important, especially as the American ex-gay and anti-gay movements move to extend their reach overseas.

Ex-gay survivor, therapist and author Jallen Rix looked at Spivey & Robinson and was particularly impressed with two elements of the paper which dealt with two characteristics of genocide as defined by the UN’s 1948 Convention:

For example, here are just two points: (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; and (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group. Sound familiar?

…To further connect the dots, Spivey and Robinson have used the work of James Waller, who “synthesized a large body of social and psychological scholarship, organized as a general model, to explain how ordinary people commit extraordinary acts of brutality.” Some of the processes are “Us Verses Them Thinking,” “Moral Disengagement,” and “Blaming the Victim.” For example, “Ex-gay leaders socially distance themselves from their victims … they do this by defining homosexuality as behaviors, attractions, identities, or more insidiously, as a sinful ‘lifestyle,’ a mental illness, or a menacing social ‘agenda,’ thus denying the personhood, indeed the existence — and the victimization of gay and lesbian people.” As Joseph Nicolosi, one of the most outspoken reparative therapists (he coined the label), has said about a gay teen who had the courage to come out of the closet, “He is designed for a woman. … He is heterosexual but he may have a homosexual problem.” [Hyperlink added]

Rix is the author of the recently published Ex-Gay No Way: Survival and Recovery from Religious Abuse. He was raised in a conservative Southern Baptist household and was sent off to ex-gay therapy at a young age. In the book, he describes the serious mental harm he experienced as a result, and compares what he observed in the ex-gay world with the phenomenon known as Religious Abuse. Much of his therapeutic work involves helping former ex-gay clients recover from their experiences in the ex-gay movement.

Anthony Venn-Brown discusses situational heterosexuality

Timothy Kincaid

April 5th, 2010

In a new commentary, Anthony Venn-Brown, an Australian survivor of ex-gay efforts, discusses the emotions and thinking behind a gay man living heterosexually.

We may wonder why ex-gays (for a while) joyously testify of their recovery. Anthony discusses how a deeply religious same-sex attracted man can convince himself of “change” and honestly believe that he is living the best possible life.

It’s not uncommon for men who have suppressed, denied and hated their same sex orientation to develop a sexual addiction or obsession. When they get married they have a sexual outlet which is free of shame and guilt and much more socially and religiously acceptable. This is a great relief for them to finally feel ‘normal’, ‘wholesome’ even ‘pure’. As one research project clearly pointed out they had had sex with 100’s men once and sex with one woman 100’s of times. It is easy to see how they and others confuse this new found experience with the opposite sex as evidence of change. They do however conveniently ignore the fact that any infidelity within the marriage would never happen with another female, it would only ever be with a man.

Ex-Gay Survivors To March In Sydney’s Mardi Gras

Jim Burroway

February 4th, 2010

Anthony Venn-Brown, of Australia’s Freedom 2 b[e] is organizing a group of ex-gay survivors to march in the February 27 Sydney Mardi Gras Parade. Sydney’s Mardi Gras is the perhaps the largest gay pride celebration in the world, and Anthony explains why participating can be such a healing experience for former ex-gays:

People who are same-sex-orientated often feel societal and family pressures to resist, reject or deny their true feelings. This pressure to conform and live as heterosexuals is much more intense for those who come from faith backgrounds and Christian churches, as the belief system says that acceptance or rejection of their sexuality has eternal consequences. Struggling to change can be private and internal, through one on one personal counselling or support groups. Some of us have even gone to the extremes of exorcisms, ‘ex-gay’ programs or marrying, believing this will solve our ‘problem’. The journey to find resolution and self–acceptance for gay men and lesbians from Christian backgrounds can be torturous and even traumatic.

…Marching in the Mardi Gras parade or a Pride march is often an empowering experience and an opportunity to put the shame and the ‘demons’ of the past to rest by publicly declaring that we are out, proud and love being who we are; lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

Our message is a positive one; celebrating our journeys to resolution and self-acceptance. By marching together we also send a positive message to people in churches who are still locked in a prison of self-hatred.

If you’re interested in marching with Freedom 2 b[e], you can find more information at their web site. I know I would give my eye teeth to be there.

Ex-Gays And The Law: Truth Wins Out and Lambda Legal Offer Legal Advice

Jim Burroway

February 21st, 2009

Truth Wins Out and Lambda Legal have released a booklet, Ex-Gay & The Law (PDF: 1.4MB/12pages), which provides an excellent overview by Wayne Besen of the ex-gay movement and its practitioners. The booklet aims to educate ex-gay survivors who believe they were harmed by their experiences about their legal options. From TWO’s press release:

Ex-Gay & the Law helps survivors of ex-gay programs explore their legal rights if they believe they have been harmed,” said Wayne Besen, Executive Director of Truth Wins Out. “This groundbreaking publication offers practical legal advice so important questions can be answered.”

“We are pleased to help support this publication and to be a part of this effort,” said Hayley Gorenberg, Deputy Legal Director of Lambda Legal. “Groups that proclaim to ‘cure’ gay people of their sexual orientation lack any legitimate medical backing, cause harm, and sometimes operate unlawfully and unethically. If you have experienced any of the scenarios outlined in the last pages of Ex-Gay & the Law, we welcome you to contact or Legal Help Desk.”

I’ve looked over the pamphlet. While it is definitely an advocacy piece, it certainly matches what I’ve witnessed first-hand from personally attending Love Won Out conferences, the week-long Exodus Freedom Conference in Irvine, CA., the Family Impact Summit in Florida (where Exodus International president Alan Chambers described gays as following an “evil agenda”), and by talking with survivors of the Love In Action live-in ministry.

In fact, if anything I think Wayne might have soft-pedaled some of what goes on at the Love In Action live-in ministry on page 6. The worst abuse I learned — and this was confirmed by three separate people who attended Love In Action — occurred at the so-called “Friends and Family weekend.”

It goes like this: during the “client’s” stay at Love In Action, they are required to undergo an exhausted “personal inventory” in which they recount in explicit detail each and every sexual “sin” they have ever committed — whether it was detailed descriptions of sexual acts, or if they had been celibate then detailed descriptions of their sexual fantasies. Over the course of weeks and months, they revisit their personal inventory and add to it anything else that they may remember.

During the “Friends and Family Weekend,” friends and family members are invited to come to the Love In Action campus to visit with their “struggling” loved one. After a counseling session beforehand, they are ushered into a room and are seated on one side. The clients are then brought into the room and made to stand before their families and friends. They are then ordered to read aloud from their personal inventory — with complete details over their most humiliating sexual act or fantasy. This, they read aloud in front of their parents, friends, siblings — whoever happens to be there for the weekend.

Now I mentioned the counseling session beforehand. That is key. Visitors are advised ahead of time that they will likely hear something very disturbing from their loved one, and that a key component of this “therapy” is that they are not to offer any approval for their client. They can’t say, “we love you anyway”, they can’t say “we forgive you,” they can’t say anything positive. Instead, they are instructed to condemn their loved one, to tell them how disappointed they are, how disgusted they are, and so forth. The effects of this encounter have often been devastating to clients and family members alike.

As I said, I have independent corroboration from three different former clients. Some have been able to repair their relationships with their parents.  But I do know that this isn’t always the case. The ruptured relationships between some and their family continues to this day. For too many fathers and mothers who heard their own son describe the intimate details of a sexual hook-up, they simply cannot look at him the same way again.

Lambda Legal advises:

Anyone who may have been harmed by any sort of counselor or therapist should contact Lambda Legal or a local lawyer as soon as possible. All states have a “statute of limitations” which limits the length of time for filing a lawsuit. These periods vary greatly, and may have exceptions if the patient is a minor. To best protect your legal rights, it is very important to consult an attorney sooner rather than later.

Whether or not someone can take legal action against an “ex-gay” counselor or facility will depend on factors including the law of the state where you met with the practitioner and the specific facts. There are many reasons “ex-gay” programs or practitioners may be liable for harm. If representatives of an “ex-gay” program make false claims, they may have committed fraud, breach of contract, or violated state laws against unfair business practices. If a practitioner does not adequately describe the potential harms of an “ex-gay” program, he or she may be liable for violating the duty to get consent from a person seeking care. If a practitioner is not qualified to provide therapy for a specific mental health condition and fails to refer to a qualified doctor or psychologist, he or she may be liable for negligence or violating rules governing professional licenses. If a counselor threatens to “out” you to your community if you decide you do not want to continue therapy, he or she may be liable under state law. If a practitioner tells third parties about details of your life or your same-sex attractions, that could violate your right to privacy. It is impossible to list all of the factors that might be important in evaluating whether or not someone harmed by an “exgay” program or practitioner may be able to sue in court or take other legal actions, so it is important to consult an attorney. Minors as well as adults have legal rights, including the right to consult with an attorney.

You can call Lambda Legal toll free at 866-542-8336.

Christine Bakke: Dreams Of A Daughter

Jim Burroway

February 17th, 2009

Ex-gay survivor Christine Bakke recently discovered a post that her mother wrote for PFOX, an ex-gay organization. While Christine has left the ex-gay life behind, her mother, quite obviously, is still clinging to the hope that Christine will someday cast aside her integrity to live in the pretend world of the ex-gay movement.

Understandably, Christine’s relationship with her mother is strained, although she points out that her living as a lesbian isn’t the only issue. While Christine doesn’t want to play out the details of their estrangement over public blogs and web sites, she nevertheless recognizes that “my parents didn’t have a choice in me going public with my story. So they’re well within their right to write about me.”

I’ve often wondered how I would respond if my own mother had spoken out publicly against me. I hope that I, too, would recognize that she has the right to do so. But it’s hard to imagine what sort of interpretations I’d put on her motivations. Rejection? Certainly. And fear, probably. But I do think I’d see a misguided love underneath all that. I don’t know whether it would make it easier to understand (she does love me, after all, no matter how misguided) or harder (sensing a love with conditions will never be easy to deal with). But mostly, I think my reaction would be anger — at those who are encouraging her on the path of estrangement, people who have neither her nor my best interests at heart

But I don’t know what my reaction would be. Fortunately, I haven’t had to deal with that situation. Perhaps that’s because I didn’t try to go through the organized ex-gay route. There wasn’t anyone there to hold out false hope to my mother that I could change.

Every family is different. And in Christine’s case, while she has left the ex-gay movement and has become an outspoken critic of it, her mother is still fully ensconced in one of the more rejecting and confrontational expressions of that anti-gay movement. She is still being encouraged to look for magic signs and snow angel wonders to show that someday Christine will forget all she knows and go back to a life of denial and misery.

I’ve known Christine for more than two years now, and I have always found her gentle heart to be filled with thoughtful consideration for other people. So I couldn’t help but be moved by how she responded to her mother’s post.

Although saying that they love me unconditionally, in the Glamour article my mom said, “When you rock your baby in your arms, you never think one day my daughter will be homosexual and want to have sex with another woman, never have children. No one holds their baby and says maybe they’ll grow up to be a rapist, or this or that. You have dreams for your children.”

Well you know what? Children have dreams for their parents, too. You don’t lay in your parent’s arms and think that you’ll have to defend yourself from them thinking you are lost and damned eternally. You don’t cuddle up and think that one day you’ll find out that they believe that who you are is synonymous with being a rapist. I certainly didn’t have those dreams for my parents. What I did dream instead was that I might be able to express my concerns and be heard. I dreamed that I would be always cherished and deemed worthy of their love and respect, no matter my beliefs. I dreamed that I would be supported in living a life that was truly authentic and truly mine, without the haunting thoughts about what a disappointment I am to them. Those dreams have had to die.

Christine is willing to meet her parents where they are. “I’ve often told people that I don’t mind if they think I’m going to hell, just treat me with respect, love and dignity and we can have a relationship regardless,” she wrote. Obviously, that’s not enough. For many ex-gay survivors, the only route to reconciliation is total capitulation. If only her parents — and the ironically dubbed “pro-family” anti-gay forces which are sustaining a key component of this estrangement — could meet her where she is. If they did, they would find an amazing daughter that any parent would be proud of.

Why must that be so hard?

Do Ex-Gays Hook Up In Ex-Gay Programs?

Jim Burroway

February 1st, 2009

Peterson Toscano spills:

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