Bitter Fruit from a Toxic Garden

With all the Twitter updates I’ve done recently, it’s hard to imagine writing more than one pithy sentence, but here goes.

I arrived in Allentown, PA yesterday after a lovely evening at a Lutheran church in Bridgeport, CT. In Allentown I am hosted by the Rainbow Players of the local MCC. Dean Hiatt, the key organizer, and I have known each other for over 25 years after we first met at LIFE ministries, an ex-gay program in NYC.

During the car ride, Dean and I compared notes about the many ex-gays we knew from that time. Oh what a bitter harvest of pain and misery! Divorce, AIDS, death, alcoholism, substance abuse, along with the loss of jobs, child custody, ministry opportunities and faith. In pursuing a ‘cure’ most instead found a curse on their lives and the lives of their loved ones.

The reality is that the vast majority of people who attempt to change their orientation are unsuccessful. In fact most ex-gay leaders today say that an actual change from gay to straight is unrealistic. What they have not yet acknowledged are the dreadful consequences that most often come from pursuing such a change. Broken homes, broken lives, broken dreams.

I am so glad that Dean has been able to reclaim his life, but still the pain and the effects of living in delusion will likely be experienced by him and his former wife for the rest of their lives. For him the toll was great and nearly cost him his life. Others, who were initially inspired by his ex-gay life and his heterosexual marriage have also harvested bitter fruit through their own failed marriages and desperate struggles.

Those who claim they care about pastoral care and the welfare of people need to consider the potential dangers in advocating an ex-gay course.

There is a better way.

This post has 4 Comments

  1. Randy on March 21, 2009 at 6:24 pm Reply

    Well put Peterson. These kinds of stories need to be told more and more.

  2. lower case paul on March 23, 2009 at 2:15 am Reply

    “There is a better way.”

    Yes, honesty.

    Speaking of bitter fruit, I went to the local MCC today and couldn’t handle it. They were wonderful, sweet folk. But the service, songs and atmosphere reminded me of a past warmed over, a meal I cannot stomach.
    I went because I want to meet and be around other gay people, but am not a bar kinda guy (you know “spiritual but not religious”).

    A lot of ex ex gays find themselves in this boat of having to recreate a life they never knew.

  3. Jane on March 23, 2009 at 7:07 pm Reply

    I can relate to lower case paul. I find things in the religious community to often be the same I experienced in the more stringent, pentecostal church I attended — trying to be non-lesbian. I do not feel the warming liberation of God that I have come to experience. The people accept me as I am and love me, but their liturgy and practice has the same doctrinal overlay I experienced in the past. It is often hard to break free from the ingrained thoughts. I’m not blaming anyone; I’m noting that the bitter fruit is often further cultivated in open, accepting, affirming, welcoming churches.

  4. p2son on March 24, 2009 at 1:52 am Reply

    Paul and Jane, I know EXACTLY what you describe. I have experienced PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) at the nicest, most welcoming churches. Yes, they embrace the gays, but the liturgy, the architecture, the doctrines, and even the sentence syntax echoes that of our former oppressors. For some of us who were harmed by religious abuse, it may be a healthy outcome to avoid even welcoming churches that remain culturally the same as our former churches.

    Some refugees from Pentecostal Holiness congregations have found a new home in Anglo-Catholic “high church” Episcopal settings. Others like me have found a safe and nurturing space among the Friends (Quakers).

    Sometimes we need new wine in new wine skins.

Leave a Comment