Category: Beyond Ex-Gay

The Power (& Threat?) of Ex-Gay Survivor Narratives

Ex-Gay Watch reports about a letter PFOX (Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays) posted on their MySpace account. The letter lashes out at Ex-Gay Survivors with a threatened and aggrieved tone.

While you all claim in websites, protests, in organizations, or coalitions, to want to help people who are “trapped in the ex-gay movement,” you seem to be more concerned with sticking your nose in my business, and telling me the way you think I should live, along with who I am. You don’t know me, and you don’t know my needs and wants

snip

I’m sorry you supposedly tried to “change” and didn’t, but I did, so please respect that. The only thing that your organizations tell me is that because of some bad experiences you all had in the past, you’ve decided to carry your bitterness over to people like me, and try to rub it in my face, along with everyone else who desires change.

You get the point. Reading this defensive response, I hear someone who genuinely feels threatened by our message. From the day we launched bXg in April of this year we stated on our home page,

Certain people who currently identify as ex-gay say they are content as such. We don’t seek to invalidate their experience. For us such a lifestyle was not possible or healthy.

Both Steve Boese and I posted comments to the letter the PFOX MySpace Page (comments that still await approval), but you can read Steve’s response on his blog and my response that I also posted on Ex-Gay Watch.

These ex-gay survivor stories strike a cord. While at Love in Action, whenever one of us would get defensive about some feedback we got from staff or other participants, the staff encouraged us to look into that defensiveness to see if there was anything in it. Perhaps we felt defensive because we heard a truth that we were yet not able/willing to grasp.

Claire Willett of Portland, OR and Daniel Stotenberg of Seattle, WA both attended the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference and sat down with filmmaker, Brian Murphy, to tell some of their stories. We have all sorts of ex-gay experiences, some through programs and some on our own. What I find notable is how these stories are said without bitterness or anger.[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Q_WKKqAbsU]

The Ex-Gay Survivor Movement–What’s It All About?

On the blogs and in the media folks are still wrapping their heads around the many ex-gay and ex-ex-gay events that took place last week. Many of these events were organized by Beyond Ex-Gay (bXg) and Soulforce, the most notable being the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference, the public apology by three former Exodus leaders and a private dinner attended by three people from Exodus and four ex-gay survivors.

Those of us involved in planning the events of last week are still catching our breath from it all. After nearly a year of planning, it felt stunning to see our dreams and thoughts come to life. Christine and I (with tons of help from our friend Steve Boese) launched bXg in April. Shortly after that we announced the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference that we co-hosted with Soulforce and the LGBT Resource Center at UC Irvine.

Anyone who has spent any time looking at the bXg site can get an idea of what Christine and I are about and what some of our goals are. There we post narratives of fellow ex-gay survivors, and resources such as poetry, art work and articles.

We don’t seek to bash people who identify as ex-gay or invalidate their experiences. Instead we wish to create a space to tell our own. The primary reason being for our own well being and recovery. Too often we shoved our ex-gay experiences in the closet believing that people in the LGBT community may just mock us for spending so much time, money and energy seeking to alter our sexuality. Some can be insensitive to personal and spiritual struggles that filled so much of our lives.

In looking at the events of the past week and the exposure they generated, some people have asked what we hope to achieve. They suspiciously wonderr if we wish to see groups like Exodus diminished, dismantled, and destroyed. In a politically charged debate I can see how they can raise these questions.

This weekend we saw the birth of the Ex-Gay Survivor Movement. It is a movement without a manifesto or agreed upon goals. Instead we have created a venue for people, who desperately sought to change and suppress their sexuality, an opportunity to unpack their experiences and to ask the essential questions–

Why did I pursue change? What was I looking for? What did I do to myself and let others do to me? What good came of the experiences I had? What harm came of it? How can I recover from these experiences and move on?

These are hard questions to face both by survivors and by those who advocate reparative therapy and ex-gay ministry. For 4 1/2 years I have asked myself these questions and wrestled with them on this blog and through my performance work. Looking at these questions initiates a grieving process for many of us. But in looking at these questions we get past the rhetoric to the heart of the matter–not Is change and suppression of same-sex attraction possible?–but Why is it so highly desired and what are the costs in pursuing it?

It also raises the question about the responsibility of those who advocate gay reparative therapy and ex-gay ministry. What happens once people leave your care? Do you know? Do you care?

Some want to know what the purpose is of setting up meetings between ex-gay survivors and proponents of ex-gay ministry and reparative therapy. For me the primary goal is truth sharing. Where it goes from there depends on the people at the table. For it to be true dialog we need to be open to listen.

In the ex-gay discourse there has been an imbalance in the information sharing. Those of us who attended ex-gay ministries and received reparative therapy know intimately what these leaders have to say. In some cases we sat for years under their teaching carefully paying attention, writing notes, reading the books assigned, attending the lectures, listening to the tapes. We know that side of the story. We know firsthand that many of the people who advocate ex-gay ministries and reparative therapies do so out of a sincere desire to help people.

The imbalance comes in that many of these ex-gay ministers and reparative therapists do not know the other side of the story. Most (in fact I know of none) have any organized aftercare program or follow-up. They don’t even send out a survey asking, “How was your ex-gay experience? What can we do differently to make it more beneficial to you?” There are stories and truths that they do not know, and part of the work is to create venues where we can share these narratives with ex-gay ministers and reparative therapists.

bXg provides such a venue for those willing to come and spend some time at the site. The dinner provided another such venue. The press conference outside of NARTH’s offices where three survivors shared their stories and presented beautifully designed and framed collages offers yet another venue. Through documentary films, radio and TV interviews, letters, blogs and personal conversations, we seek to tell the other side of the story. (Daniel Gonzales just posted some more video over at Box Turtle Bulletin)

Do the ex-gay survivors want to see the end of all ex-gay ministries? You will have to ask each one of us individually. We have different opinions about this. We do not need to have a unified message because we understand these issues are complex. The process of institutional change is an organic process, a dynamic process and one that depends on who is willing to come to the table and what attitudes, assumptions, fears and hopes they bring with them.

The Ex-Gay Survivor Movement–What’s It All About? It is about speaking the truth in love. It is about seeking to tell our stories as honestly and vulnerably as possible. It is about telling our stories for our own well being. It is about telling our stories as a witness to the harm we see from a church and a world that insists that to be anything but straight is not good enough and what happens to the people who passionately follow that line of reasoning.

This movement is a radical departure from what some people expect. Even some gay activists are caught off guard by it and do not understand why many of us don’t feel bitter and angry. Some conservative Christian groups, who do not know firsthand about the ex-gay struggle yet they insist it is the only route for same-sex attracted people, seem to feel threatened by the gathering of a handful of people who are willing to care for each other, listen deeply to each other and publicly tell our stories.

There is a mysterious power in telling our stories, and one thing is for sure, the Ex-Gay Survivor Movement is about standing up and telling our stories. I hope that the Church, ex-gay ministers and reparative therapists have ears to hear, and that they don’t haggle over words and ultimately miss the point.

Arriving at the Ex-Gay Survivors Conference

Last night waiting at the elevator here in the hotel a woman ,also waiting, looked at me. I looked at her. We recognized each other although we had never met. But we somehow knew we were in Irvine for the same thing. She ran over to me, hugged me and told me her story.

She was looking for something on Google a week ago and found bXg and the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference. She said to herself, “I need to be there”. And here she is all the way from Texas. She told a tale of parents and siblings who constantly tortured her because she is lesbian and that she can’t stand suppressing her sexuality any longer. She has cried everyday since Mother’s Day and she says she is ready for healing.

Although the conference doesn’t officially kick off until tonight, people are arriving. I met Anthony Venn Brown from Australia. Jeremy Marks is here from England. Folks from Colorado and Florida and New York. Although the fortune telling arm of Focus on the Family yesterday prophesied, “a counter-conference drew about 100 people,” we are only just beginning to draw and will continue to draw all weekend long.

Early this evening Christine and I and two other survivors will meet for a private dinner with a handful of leaders from Exodus member ministries. No senior member of the Exodus International staff or board has arranged meetings with any of the conference organizers. At this point no national Exodus staff member will come to the dinner citing that they are not free to do so. As we stated in the past, the dinner is a private affair without reporters. We will not announce the names of those from Exodus who attended or the details that we discussed.

In the lobby of the hotel some people who knew of each other for years met in person for the first time. People who attended ex-gay ministries together years ago connected for the first time in decades and caught up on the years since that time when they tried to change and suppress their sexuality.

People are arriving and the joy and the hope they exude centers me from all of the details swirling in my mind. After a week of press appearances and witnessing the dishonesty and outright slander from some Christian leaders, these folks arriving at the conference remind me once again that this is not about politics or protest; it is about people. We are about pastoral care, not propaganda.

What will we be doing? Check out the conference schedule!

Misinformation, Outright Lies and Our Response

The schedule for the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference is now up! I am so excited about so many of the activities, especially the film forum (where we will have a very special announcement to make).

Steve Boese, our web master, has been working very hard to keep the conference page updated with the latest news and links to media and blogs.

He just posted a the response Christine Bakke and I have to an erroneous Focus on the Family Citizenlink article about the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference. Focus wrote:

Exodus Conference Offers Hope to Hundreds

The 32nd annual Exodus International conference is underway in Irvine, Calif., and God is at work.

“We’ve already seen an amazing turnout, amazing response, amazing speakers,” said Randy Thomas, executive vice president of Exodus. “The Lord has really done a great work so far in the conference.”

The meeting, which began Tuesday and wraps up Sunday, has drawn close to 1,000 people — and no protesters so far. Across town, a counter-conference drew about 100 people. Thomas and Exodus President Alan Chambers are working to set up talks with the other conference leaders.

“We are always in ongoing communication with people who disagree with us, people with similar testimonies,” Thomas said. “We definitely will be in communication with them.”

Exodus leaders will recognize the obvious error in the article: Early registration for the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference does not begin until Friday evening, and regular registration will be Saturday morning. No one knows yet what the attendance figures will be.

We must admit our frustration on reading this account of the two conferences.

In framing the BeyondExGay.com community web site, and planning the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference, we have been clear: We will speak plainly and directly about our ex-gay experiences. From the beginning, we have recognized that even though our ex-gay experiences caused us more harm than good, that was not the intent of ex-gay leaders. We have invited Exodus leaders to hear our stories in private, while publicizing the invitation to give all Exodus leaders an opportunity to respond.

We understand that interactions between formerly ex-gay people and the leaders of the ministries they attended have often been contentious, or political, or angry, or simply nonexistent. As a result, we have carefully considered each step leading up to and since inviting ex-gay leaders to hear our stories.

The survivor conference has been co-located with the Exodus conference to facilitate dialogue. It is intentionally distinct from the Exodus in a number of ways; however, it has not been staged as a political or competitive protest.

Our purpose is to serve the needs of former ex-gays, their families, friends, and supporters. The experiences of former ex-gays and their allies have often been mischaracterized and their needs misunderstood. Identifying those needs and moving forward together as a community will happen on its own terms, not as a reaction to or a protest of Exodus.

In response to our attempts to be transparent about our plans and intent, we have been mischaracterized as a protest movement, as seeking to steal hope from ex-gays, and now had our attendance quantified more than a day prior to the conference opening.

We look forward to sitting down with a small handful of Exodus leaders to share a meal and tell our stories Friday evening.

We look forward to hearing a specific affirmative response to our invitation for dialogue with senior Exodus leaders.

We continue to challenge ourselves to move carefully, respond humbly, and not bear false witness as we interact with Exodus.

We look forward to a similar effort in response from Focus on the Family and Exodus International.

Christine Bakke and Peterson Toscano

Ex-gay survivors and co-founders of www.BeyondExGay.com

Ex-Gay Survivor Conference–Some Buzz

The Colorado Confidential paper published a great two part interview with Christine Bakke, the fabulous co-founder of BeyondExGay.com (bXg). The article goes through some of her own personal history as an ex-gay, but more importantly her process of coming out of the ex-gay movement, moving beyond the hurt and the silence to becoming a national presence as a lesbian ex-gay survivor. Part One and Part Two

Steve Boese, the web master extrodinaire over at bXg put out a call to bXgers to share what the conference means to them. We have begun to get some powerful responses which Steve has begun to post.

David F. from Dallas writes,

I found out about the conference only last week, and immediately booked it.

I spent 8 years in ex-gay ministries, reparative therapy, and aversion therapy and finally left after a suicide attempt.

My involvement in these groups has affected every area of my life, from my belief in God to my ability to create trusting friendships and relationships. I have come a long way, but have a long way yet to go.

I’m looking forward to meeting other survivors, hearing their stories, and perhaps sharing my own story. By going to the conference, I also hope to show my support for my fellow “ex-ex-gays” and the organizations that support us.

If you are able to attend the conference or not, we would love to hear from you and what this conference means to you.

For regularly updates about the conference, to see what is happening in the media and to read what others are saying on the blogs, visit the bXg Conference page

Most of the organizers are in Irvine today to work on the preparation for the conference. I finally got to meet the wonderful Pat Walsh, director of the LGBT resource center at UC Irvine. She is actually retiring and ending her time after 23 years of service by co-sponsoring the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference with bXg and Soulforce. She never had an ex-gay experience but stands as a strong ally who has witnessed some of the damage on students she has met through the years.

Dueling Conferences and Positive Messages

The Ex-Gay Survivor Conference received some recent press coverage on the West Coast. The June 29-July 1 conference in Irvine, CA got a mention in today’s LA Times. Yesterday the Orange County Register published a piece about the two “dueling conferences” happening in Irvine this month.

Organizers of both conferences got counseling designed to help them “go straight,” also known as “pray the gay away.”

But they came to very different conclusions about the success of such programs and how much harm or help they can be.

“I chose to live differently, and my feelings changed, too,” said Alan Chambers, president of the Orlando, Fla.-based Exodus International, who is married. “Today, I am a far different person. Not that I don’t struggle, but my life has changed. I certainly don’t have the desire to be involved in homosexuality. It has no power over me.”

One of the original founders of the Exodus movement has a different view. Michael Bussee, who co-founded Exodus at Anaheim’s Melodyland Christian Center in 1976, said he quit counseling people to go straight when he realized he couldn’t even “cure” himself.

They quote me too. Check it out for yourself.

I have gotten some really nice e-mails from people who will be coming to the conference, people from all over the world. German TV crews, folks in Australia, throughout the US and of course on the West Coast.

There is also this German article that appeared in today’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Was hinter dem Angebot „Befreiung von Homosexualität“ steckt, hängt allerdings davon ab, um welches der zahlreichen Programme es sich handelt. Peterson Toscano hat in dem jahrelangen verzweifelten Bemühen, seine homosexuellen Neigungen zu überwinden, alles Mögliche ausprobiert. „Genützt hat es nichts“, sagt der 42 Jahre alte Performancekünstler aus Hartford, Connecticut, der mittlerweile ein bekennender Schwuler ist. Toscano wurde mit 17 Jahren evangelikaler Christ. „Weil ich religiöse Leidenschaft suchte und einer einflussreichen Gemeinschaft angehören wollte.“ Doch seine inständigen Gebete, Gott möge seinen homosexuellen Phantasien ein Ende machen, wurden nicht erhört.

Deshalb suchte er Verstärkung bei den wöchentlichen Gruppentreffen der christlichen Vereinigung „Life Ministries“ in New York. Die meisten Teilnehmer seien aus der Unterhaltungsindustrie gekommen. „Mein Eindruck war, dass viele von ihnen aus Karrieregründen versuchten, heterosexuell zu werden. Aber am Wochenende sind etliche wieder in die Schwulenszene abgetaucht.“

It goes on and on like that with a few words that I understand (like my name and “ex-gay” and Hartford).

The creator of a really cool video sent me the link. What I LOVE about this video (besides the handmade feel to it) is that it shows the vital role that allies have in helping ex-gay survivors fully embrace themselves and find peace and a new life. Enjoy Arthur’s Reserved for Gays part one and two.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Vagkz8fTIs]

Christine Has Been Podcasted!

Actually Godcasted. Christine Bakke, (who recently celebrated a birthday!) appears on the recent edition of Candace Chellew-Hodge’s Whosoever.org Godcast (#13). She talks about the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference, Beyond Ex-Gay (bXg) and her own ex-gay journey. She explains the purpose behind the conference and what will happen there. I love Christine’s wit and warmth as she speaks about these issues. You can have a listen here.

Christine blogs about some recent international attention lately with a piece in a Russian paper (Sadelle, Vlad says, check out the original to practice your Russian 🙂

A 35 year old American woman has challenged “Reparative therapy” which supposedly cures the homodemon.

35 year-old American Kristina Beykk wanted to escape from homosexuality with the aid of the program of the so-called ex-gays, who promise to cure the “misguided souls” through the word of the Lord, the lesbian journal “Pinx” reports.

I love the “homodemon” thing. As many of you know Christine was recently featured in Glamour Magazine and Good Morning America, making her the first lesbian ex-gay survivor to speak out in such a way. No doubt you will hear more about her and her other international exposure soon.

In other audio news, Exodus International is running radio ads on Christian radio stations in Orange County, CA in preparation for their upcoming Exodus Freedom Conference. The ads boast “a sudden, radical complete change. Through Christ freedom is possible for those who struggle with same-sex attractions. ” On Exodus’ site they claim that the ads are actually aimed at changing the church,

Exodus International exists to mobilize the body of Christ to minister grace and truth to a world impacted by homosexuality. As such, we are calling upon the evangelical church to undergo a sudden, radical and complete change in the way it has dealt with the issue of homosexuality in the past.

You can hear it yourself here and decide what you think they are trying to say.

Up and Coming


Hey gang, I miss reading many of your blogs! I hope to have some time this week to finally catch up.

So many things in the works. As many of you know, Christine and I over at bXg along with SoulForce and the LGBT Resource Center at UC Irvine will host the first ever Ex-Gay Survivor Conference in Irvine, CA the weekend of June 29-July 1, 2007. I don’t know yet how many we will have at the various events, but the response has been amazing from survivors and concerned allies on the West Coast, throughout the US and from as far away as Toronto, NYC and London.

All day today I have talked to people coming to the conference to present their films or art or to just join in the discussion. No doubt this will be a historic event and will change some people’s understanding of ex-gay experiences. This will be true of survivors themselves who may not ever had the opportunity to effectively unpack their former experiences–the motivations behind seeking change, the good that came of their quest, and the harm they caused themselves and others. Allies will also learn much more about the broader issues in the life of ex-gay survivors and the complexity of the struggle that many of us faced.

I spoke with a reporter today who asked about the “dueling conferences” and if ours was a reaction to the Exodus conference. I explained that I don’t see it that way. Exodus has presented their conference for decades. Loads of people have protested it in the past. Ours is not a protest or designed to harass Exodus leaders or ex-gays. We seek a positive response to the Exodus conference and damage that many of us had done to ourselves (often with assistance from others).

Also the conference will give Exodus leaders a chance to hear other stories, stories that they may not hear often. What happens to someone after they leave an Exodus ministry or ex-gay therapy? Typically these programs have no follow-up or aftercare. The years of depression, confusion, discouragement and loss happen out of ear shot of many ex-gay leaders.

The conference will provide people an opportunity to tell their stories in many formats (Internet, written narratives, art, etc) so that these stories will reach the ears and hopefully the hearts of ex-gay leaders, pastors, parents and others who encourage (or even force) people into ex-gay experiences.

Exodus used to be a ministry that tried to help people struggling with a variety of issues. Today it functions more as a lobbying group in DC tyring to limit the rights of LGBT people. Within Exodus are so many people, many who I have met, many who have good hearts and noble intentions. They still want to help people. They believe that ex-gay ministry is the best they can offer. Many of us have found something better and have reclaimed our lives. We want the opportunity to share this with each other and anyone who may be interested in hearing.

Stepping Up & Speaking Out

Tellilng our life stories, particularly the painful bits, takes a lot out of most of us. It requires good support and knowing limits of how deeply we can share. But when we do step up and speak out, sharing our stories with vulnerability and clarity, people hearing us change. This is especially true when ex-gay survivors tell their stories to others, especially to well-meaning others who had wrongly assumed that gay people must change. Once they hear of the pain and damage caused, I have seen them change quickly and deeply.

In August 2006 I spoke to an audience of 350+ at the Greenbelt Festival. I shared some excerpts from my play Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House as well as talked from my heart about my own personal journey to sort out God and my sexuality and the rest of the world. Since that time I have met scores of people who attended that talk who told me how deeply it impacted them. And as a result of that talk, I had the opportunity to present in Wakefield, England last night to a mixed audience that came from as far away as Liverpool and Manchester. (Thank you Wakefield and Jo and Ali for making it happen!)

Our stories matter as we tell them to families and friends, to classmates, on-line and wherever a way opens up for us. Right now ex-gay survivors are sharing their narratives, poetry and art over at bXg.

At the upcoming Ex-Gay Survivor Conference (June 29-July 1, 2007) in Irvine, CA, many survivors will get to share their stories with each other and beyond.

And here is another new wonderful opportunity to share our survivor tales. Truth Wins Out has launched an Internet video campaign called Talking Truth. I remember when Wayne Besen told me about his idea to put up short but meaningful videos on-line to get the word out about the damge experienced by many people who have tried being ex-gay. In his press release Wayne says,

We hope our videos will save lives and make it more difficult for Exodus International to seduce young people with its fictions and fabrications.” said Wayne Besen, Executive Director of Truth Wins Out. “In our campaign, people will hear directly from the victims and see that these programs simply don’t work and can be a drain on time, money and self-esteem. We urge all former ex-gays to immediately contact Truth Wins Out and tell us your compelling story on video, so we can continue to rescue people harmed by ‘ex-gay’ programs.

I know that ex-gay people read my blog, people who I have spoken with and prayed with and been in e-mail contact. As I have written before, if being ex-gay works for you and you go into it with an open mind and heart, than I am happy for you. But for most of us, this has not been possible. Too many people have been wounded and wounded themselves through ex-gay programs and in churches that insist that people must change or at least repress their sexuality. The stories of this sort of harm has not been heard yet by most Exodus leaders and other proponents of ex-gay ministries and gay reparative therapy.

In fact, the harm that these places cause directly affects the individuals who on their own believe that they need to seek a course of celibacy or wish to pursue a straignt life. Lots of people think that every ex-gay experience is the same. People get lumped together and the complexity of our sexuality and individual journeys get flattened. Over at bXg we are beginning to see this complexity as we encourage people to explore the good as well as the harm that came from their ex-gay experiences.

The important point is that we need to tell our own stories because once others tell them for us, the stories morph into a political message. So I encourage you, whatever journey you are on, step up and speak out.

Is Change Possible? Is this the Right Question?

People so often ask all the wrong questions. The press has been doing this for years in regards to ex-gay programs.

They display bold headlines, Is Change Possible? Exodus leaders and other Christian spokesmen assert that YES it is possible, while gay activists counter NO it is not possible. And so it goes round and round.

People ask the wrong questions. Few ask, What does this change look like that is supposedly possible? I have spoken with leaders at Exodus in the US and others in South America and Europe. Over and over I hear from them that they understand people with same-sex attractions will most likely have these attractions for the rest of their lives. In many perhaps (most cases?), they will not develop attractions for the opposite sex.

I remember how disappointed I felt when I first heard this at Love in Action, where I attended for two years. I spent 15 years trying to become a new creature in Christ Jesus to then show up in what had long been considered the Cadillac of Ex-Gay Ministries only to find that such a change was not a realistic goal.

So the change is not in orientation but in behavior and identity. Perhaps a tiny percentage insist they shifted in their orientation, which of course is something we have to just take at their word.

When looking at most Exodus testimonies, we hear stories of people who lived as sexually addicted, miserable, lonely, faithless, confused people (who also overindulged in drug and alcohol abuse, illegal activities and unprotected sex). They found Jesus and the church, and they changed their lives.

They became celibate, began to develop healthy relationships, changed their lifestyle–not to a straight one, but to one far less reckless and destructive than their previous life.

This is not exclusive to people who are gay or lesbian or bisexual. Lots of straight people, (in fact many more than gay folks), pursue irresponsible, reckless, self-destructive lives, and they would do well to change. Most likely they will be happier, healthier and feel closer to God and others once they do (they may find themselves with more money in their pockets too. Decadence is pricey.) So yeah, that sort of change is possible and can be sought after if needed, but one does not need an ex-gay program to do this.

In fact, I believe that over time attending most ex-gay programs prove harmful for most gay people. In many ex-gay programs (and conservative churches) the leaders teach that many of clients’ problems stem from being gay and that even without the reckless lifestyle, they have to daily reject a part of who they are and deny themselves love in the way that makes the most sense and is most authentic to them. These ex-gays will almost always be at war within themselves, a war not sanctioned by the Bible but one declared by the world around them.

Which brings me to the two major questions I rarely hear the press ask or asked by people considering going into an ex-gay program.

Why is change necessary and at what cost?

Sure we can choose to no longer identify as gay. We can deny ourselves relationships with LGBT people. We can even marry someone of the opposite sex and have children. This is no great miracle. Men and women have done this for centuries with and without the help of Jesus.

Why is it necessary to change? Mostly because life would be easier for many of us. Parents would treat us better. Society would gift us with privileges and affirmation. We can feel normal for a change, for a time.

But at what cost? This is one thing that the ex-gay programs never ask. They never follow up to see what happens to people after they have been through programs. They only stay in touch with their successes, who typically have to be quiet about many of their internal struggles.

The ex-gay leaders do not meet the people Christine and I meet through BeyondExGay or the people who pull me aside after one of my talks or shows. The costs of putting ourselves through ex-gay experiences are very very high. In many cases depression, low self-esteem, feelings of worthlessness, suicidal tendencies, discouragement and loss of faith all regularly occur for many who have been through ex-gay experiences.

At bXg we say if someone is happy as an ex-gay, that is fine. But such a life was not possible or healthy for us. Also, such a life is not necessary.

Is change possible? Yes, our societies and churches and families and laws can change so that people who are romantically and sexually attracted to people of the same-sex can be fully accepted and affirmed and celebrated just like heterosexuals. This change takes work and love and listening and painful realization, but well worth the effort.