Beyond Ex-Gay Mail Bag

Every week Christine Bakke and I get e-mails and messages from people who visit the Beyond Ex-Gay Website. We answer every one with a personal response. For some people this is their first attempt to reach out to someone since leaving the ex-gay movement or since they began to accept themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex. Recently I received this message that got me thinking and praying and talking to friends before I responded,

I am a Christian. I believe homosexuality in a sin. I have read all the pro-gay and anti-gay books i can find, including Boswell’s. I have gone to MCC the gay church. Nothing feels right. My mentor keps talking about “the gay Lifestyle”. I tell him there is no such thing….just as there is no “straight lifestyle”. Two suicide attempts and I chickened out of both. Guilt overwhelms me when I attempt to meet a guy or have sex. Dating women makes me feel like a liar. Damned if I do and damned if i don’t. I do not want to go against the Bible and sin and I do not want to live a lie and try to “go straight”. I am one of millions I am sure, but this is my life. I just do not know what to do.

I was actually at the annual gathering of Friends General Conference (Quakers) when I received this message. Without revealing the person’s identity except to say his name is Steve, I shared the e-mail with the high school students in the workshop I co-facilitated (Xtreme Quakerism!) We held meeting for worship with attention to Steve. In the stillness of worship I read the message and we held Steve in the Light and prayed for him. If during our worship they had something they wanted to say to Steve, they spoke it out. Based on their ministry, I wrote Steve the following response.

I have thought of you several times since getting your initial message through www.beyondexgay.com. Without sharing your full name, I read part of your e-mail to the high school students in the workshop I led last week. They are young Quakers, mostly straight, and they felt moved to pray for you and to encourage you. One thing that rose out of our worship was a message about fruit. One of the Quakers asked, “Where is the joy in the journey?”

In looking at the fruit of the Holy Spirit, we have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, humility, self-control, etc. I remember my ex-gay years and how I longed for the gift of self-control. But I found for the most part most of the gifts did not grow, especially joy. In fact, I experienced quite the opposite. I grew sad and depressed even suicidal. I grew impatient with God, myself and others. I begged, demanded, implored God to help me straighten myself out or at least help me to control my desires. It seemed the more I pursued this path the worse things grew. There were moments when I thought I “got it figured out” only to discover that I was back in the same place I started. The depression and impatience only grew.

I realized that I was coveting my straight neighbor’s life. I wanted God to do something that God clearly had no intention of doing. I didn’t see the gift in being gay. I thought it must be a curse. But God was so very patient with me. When I finally succumbed to the reality that I am gay and that I will not change, and that if I pursue this course much longer it would destroy me and my faith, I suddenly found peace and a growing joy. In fact, I have experienced a whole garden of growth of the fruit of the Spirit. Yes, I lost some friends though it all, but I realize now they loved me conditionally. They loved me as long as I struggled to kill off a part of myself, but once I accepted the reality of who I was, even though I was happier and closer to God than ever before, they didn’t want anything to do with me. But God is good and I have developed new friendships, deep and thoughtful ones. Family and friends who have known me for a long time say that I am so much more solid and present than ever before. They feel love from me and see I am in a healthy place in my life.

We hear many lies spoken about gay people. We have been programmed to hate ourselves. We have conformed to the negative patterns of this world, patterns that some large parts of the Church have taken up as a fundamental cause as if these causes came from God. But we can be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we can begin to understand God’s will for us. Like you I grew to distrust both pro-gay and anti-gay theology. But I trust God, and through being still and laying things out before God, I have found a clear and solid path and much much fruit.

Christine and I are beginning to seek out people who could serve as part of a team in helping us respond to the many e-mails we get at bXg. We get so many that we will not be able to respond to them all. If you are interested in being part of this team, let us know.

This post has 8 Comments

  1. paul on July 14, 2008 at 12:19 pm Reply

    I think probably one of the most damaging things about ex-gay thinking is how it isolates people. So much of my healing started when I realized, “hey, this guy has the same story,” and realized I wasn’t alone.

    The other thing that helped was when I stopped trying to serve other peoples “God.”

  2. Auntie Doris on July 14, 2008 at 12:29 pm Reply

    “But I trust God, and through being still and laying things out before God, I have found a clear and solid path and much much fruit.”

    I don’t think I have ever seen such a clear statement of faith from you. Beautifully measured and clear response to that email.

  3. seithman on July 14, 2008 at 2:07 pm Reply

    I loved your response, Peterson.

    I’m also absolutely ecstatic that you brought this up with the group of high school students you were working with and asked for their input. Too often, such youngster’s are not valued for the insights they can offer. It’s nice to see that you are one that does see value there.

    — Jarred.

  4. KJ on July 14, 2008 at 10:17 pm Reply

    Wow! Right on, Paul and Peterson!

    I LOVE the “joy in the journey” question, and that happens to be the title of one of my favorite Michael Card songs.

    Happiness comes and goes, but peace and joy are deep wells that do not run dry. Trying to live to please others is a recipe for poor mental health, as many here know all too well. Live as the “jar of clay” we were designed to be, and the Spirit lives through us without the need for subterfuge, and peace is granted.

    Prayers for Steve and may he have peace and joy on the journey!

  5. D.J. Free! on July 15, 2008 at 11:23 pm Reply

    oh do i know how poor steve must be feeling! i was there once . . .

    i might be interested in joining that little team of yours. time permitting, of course . . .

  6. CrackerLilo on July 16, 2008 at 2:12 pm Reply

    I don’t know if I can respond. I’m glad that you and Christine do, and so glad for you all that you are building this community, this network. I link to BXG a *lot* when the issue comes up at Yahoo! Answers. (I see it about once a week!) I think the Christians who say LGBTs should “just” repent and change our ways need to know exactly what they’re asking of us; I think self-loathing LGBTs need to know the dangers on that path.

    I hope Steve gets what he needs.

  7. Ben in Oakland on July 18, 2008 at 4:38 pm Reply

    Steve– here are a couple of thoughts for you. Maybe the problem isn’t your homosexuality at all. maybe the problem is that you don’t like yourself very much. To me, that is what Peterson is basically saying. When he started liking and valuing himself, all of the ex-gay rhetoric he had ingested began to lose its power.

    Hating oneself is betraying oneself. If you do not love yourself, can you love anyone else? Can anyone else love you?
    Read a book on basic psychology. Positive self-esteem is the basis of good mental health. Low self-esteem is the basis of poor mental health. Self-hatred is at the very bottom of the self-esteem scale, and only produces in yourself what hate produces in other people, especially, as the history of the world shows, if they have the power to enforce their hatred on the objects of their hatred. And you do have that power. And you can see what it is doing to you.

    Do you think you’ll actually stop hating yourself if you become heterosexual? Your self-hatred is the problem, not your sexuality.

    Since, as so many Christians seem to claim, homosexuality is a choice, why is it that you are not choosing something different? with G and acceptance on your side, what is stopping you? You are the creator and designer and power of your own life. So maybe it is you that is stopping you– not because you are weak and sinful, but because you are immensely powerful, and you will not do that ultimate damage to yourself and your relationship with G.

    Maybe there is actually nothing wrong with you at all, so you can’t actually choose to not have anything wrong with you. (A bit like saying I’ll have a steak when you are at a vegetarian restaurant. You can even demand to see the manager–god– but you still won’t get a steak). Maybe the something wrong with you is actually the only thing that is right with you, but you’ve been very carefully taught to reject the best of yourself, and choose the worst of yourself, which is why it isn’t working for you.

    As Christians are so wont to say, with all the irony and falsehood, I’m sure, unintentional… love the sinner, hate the sin. Can you not be a good Christian in this sense? “You must be carefully taught…to hate all the people your relatives hate” … You’ve been taught well, and you’re doing the haters work for them. You might also look at all the things the ex-gay people tell you about gay people, and realize that they are mostly lies. And if they lie to you about that, what else are they lying to you about?

    I had a professor tell me once: “You never to something FOR someone else. You do it TO them. You do it FOR yourself.” It took me a long time to understand the truth of his observation, but true it is.

    when someone tells you that you are dirty, sick, unclean, and especially, sinful and in need to salvation (which they offer, of course, at a price) it is the biggest mistake in the world to assume that 1) it’s true, and 2) that they are telling you for your benefit, and not for their own. The concept of sin, especially YOUR sin, becomes the expression of their will and their way of seeing the world, and if it is making you unhappy, or interfering with your life, then that is probably a good test of its truth value. Likewise, you pay the price with happiness in your life, while they reap the benefits– the validation and the “glory”.
    Allegedly, without exception, every time homosexual practice is mentioned in Scripture, it is condemned, says your average bible-believer. Unless, of course, you realize that this is not a true statement. Jesus had nothing to say about homosexuality. NOTHING on a subject that is so goddam important to bible-believing Christians. you’d think if it was actually important, he might have mentioned it oh,say, ONCE!!!!!

    The bible may or may not condemn some aspects of gay sex. It is amazing to me how unclear G manages to be on the subject, when he is so clear on so many other subjects. So coy: “abusers of themselves with mankind” (KJV of words we don’t know the meaning of, and which requires pages of exegesis to explain into a clear condemnation.)

    If it were as important to G as it is to you, he would have said: “two men or two women together shall not have sex in and way, shape, or form. They will not be naked together and touching each others’ skin. They certainly will not be bumping nasties. Penis into vagina, that’s it. And you shouldn’t enjoy it too much.”

    Now, that is clarity befitting the creator of the universe.

    So Steve, stop going to the dry well known as ‘ex-gay’ and expect to get a drink of water. see a good therapist and learn to love yourself better.

  8. Rick on July 18, 2008 at 10:57 pm Reply

    A young man who is learning to accept his homosexuality after five long years of struggling against it recently wrote the following after getting to know other gay Christians:

    “I could not pretend I was more healthy than those who accept their homosexuality is good. They were free to relate to God and be joyful in the sexuality that is natural to them. I was stiffling my natural sexuality to please an anti-gay God who, I realized with surprise, apparently does not exist.”

    Struck me as profound coming from someone so young.

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