Gail Dickert knows a thing or two about the world of gay reparative therapy. She not only survived it, she has taken a stand as a witness about how harmful it has been for most of us that got lured into it. She also provides wisdom and sensible guidance to fellow ex-gay survivors. Over at Beyond Ex-Gay and at her own site with the awesome name, For Gail So Loved the World, she shares her story, her insights, and at time her justified rage.
This week she composed an excellent post, 10 Things to Know about Ex-Gay Survivors. I won’t reproduce the whole list here; visit the post to see the whole thing. I will highlight two that really spoke directly to me and explain why they mean so much to me.
2. The ex-gay survivor is a person who may not want to discuss the obstacles that he still faces when it comes to sexuality because the cult-like logic used to shame him still travels sensitive neuropathways in his brain. Be aware what you can trigger for him.
At a recent performance where I stripped down to my underwear, an audience member asked me why I didn’t go all the way. I told her that I had some practical considerations. If I got totally naked, then there would have to be a warning about that for children, etc. Also, the play would then mostly be known as the show where this guy gets naked on stage. That sort of shocking display actually distracts from the revelation that I am hoping to share with the audience.
I went on to explain that as an ex-gay survivor I have had to learn how much to share from my personal story and the challenges that come to me when I share too much. I experienced trauma, and even though I chose to be a public witness about that trauma, that does not mean I am required to share every intimate detail of my life. Some things are too painful; others are too precious. Some things I need to keep for myself. Also, I need to tell my story at my own pace and on my own terms. Being forced to divulge information never works well for me. As a trauma survivor, I need to be careful that I do not re-traumatize myself in the telling of my story.
7. The ex-gay survivor is a person who knows more about her own identity development that the average person because she has been placing it under a microscope since a very young age. Self-awareness and self-deception are sometimes intertwined and require patience from anyone who would seek to unravel it with her.
I love this one so much, because it validates the hard long work of self-discovery that’s been a necessary part of my recovery process, while it also acknowledges the risk of self-deception. Like anyone coming out of an abusive relationship, for that is what many of my relationships with church and ex-gay leaders turned out to be, my sense of reality got skewed. I’ve needed to detox and fight to obtain a liberated brain. But this work does require patience, as it does with anyone coming out of oppression or privilege or a cult.
As we used to say in church, I need to no longer be conformed to a faulty pattern but be transformed by the renewing of my mind. Reading Walt Whitman, Audre Lorde, Doris Lessing, Bayard Rustin and Constantine Cavafy has helped me to renew my mind and to replace lies with beauty.