Thus writes a man in a personal testimonial on the website of Exodus Global Alliance, an avowedly Christian gateway to freedom from homosexuality. According to EGA, “155 million homosexuals [worldwide] need to be reached.” Of course, there are two words missing from this assertion: “… and changed.”
I can’t recall exactly when I became aware of the ex-gay movement, but its existence has galled me for years. Delving into it further led me to write Jude in Chains. Published by Dreamspinner Press, the novella is first and foremost a romance, and one with touches of humor, but it does examine the ex-gay movement via a fictitious, nonsectarian ministry. So … soapbox, meet love story. The combination proved to be a delicate balancing act.
The notion of sexual reorientation likely seems ludicrous to you. Sad to say, it doesn’t to many organizations whose sole and determined purpose is to unqueer queers. Their methods range from prayer to “reparative therapy” to, in the most extreme cases, relentless browbeating and brainwashing. I couldn’t find any statistical breakdown of how many people have successfully — at least in their eyes — adopted straightness, how many considered themselves emotionally damaged by an ex-gay group, and how many were “healed” (yes, that term is used frequently) but subsequently “relapsed.” Even more difficult to determine is how many ex-gays are struggling with ongoing repression and denial even as they strive to appear happily hetero.
Exodus is the granddaddy of the ex-gay movement. According to Wikipedia, it’s “an umbrella organization that has grown to include over 120 local ministries in the United States and Canada and over 150 ministries in 17 other countries. Although Exodus is formally an interdenominational Christian entity, it is most closely associated with Protestant and evangelical denominations.” But don’t assume Protestant fundamentalists are the only crusaders for this cause. The Jews have JONAH, Roman Catholics have the Courage Apostolate, Mormons have Evergreen International, and Muslims have the UK-based StraightWay Foundation. Homophobia has gone ecumenical.
Viewing same-sex attraction and gender fluidity as aberrant behavior did not begin with the formation of Exodus International in 1976. For decades, mental health professionals also considered non-hetero sexuality a sign of dysfunction. It wasn’t until 1973 that the American Psychiatric Association saw the error of its ways and declassified homosexuality as a psychological disorder.
But the ex-gay movement marches on. At one Internet site, I found a roster of 23 ministries and organizations devoted specifically to queer reformation. There are undoubtedly many more. They spread their word via websites and blogs, conferences, seminars, retreats, and countless publications. One of the most insidious that isn’t specifically church-related is PFOX (Parents and Friends of ExGays and Gays), an alleged advocacy group. What’s so perplexing about their particular mission is that ex-gays — who are, at least theoretically, straight — shouldn’t require advocacy any more than any other heterosexuals. What person has ever been discriminated against, persecuted, or attacked specifically because s/he is straight?
On the bright side, some progress toward reason has been made, as this article http://www.advocate.com/article.aspx?id=22549 seems to indicate. Unfortunately, for every high-profile organization that modifies its stance, a slew of other, usually smaller and even more conservative groups and churches continue to decry trans, bi, and homosexuality. These are lifestyle choices born of moral corruption and mental confusion, insist the judges, and they must be rejected. You gotta beat the Devil, damn it.
There’s no doubt many GLBT men and women, particularly young people and individuals with strong religious convictions, do indeed agonize over their orientation. But there are many affirmative roads to self-understanding and -acceptance. Following are some links if you’d like to begin exploring positive alternatives to the ex-gay message:
Peace and love,