Change really is Possible

Change is Possible!

For years that’s been the major slogan of the ex-gay organization Exodus. Of course for people weighed down with the expectation that they must be straight at any cost, the vague promise of change lured them to seek a cure from being gay.

Once in the doors, they learned that an actual change in orientation was not a realistic goal for most, yet leaders dangled other vague promises before desperately hopeful strugglers.

“If you stick with it, you will find that some of your same-sex attractions will actually diminish just like they did for me.” (statement replete with photo of ex-gay leader accessorized with wife and some children).

People should feel free to live the lives they desire. If someone who experiences primarily same-sex attractions wishes to explore a heterosexual life, no one should hold them back. But if “growing into” that life requires years of counseling, weekly support groups, hundreds of hours of prayer, annual conferences, straight mentors, and a library of books, perhaps the person needs to face reality. That change is not for them.

The pressures to conform to the traditional heterosexual model and the adherence to society sanctioned gender normative expressions drive people to the point of madness. They throw away common sense and ignore modern science. I totally understand the drive though. I look back now at the nutty and even dangerous things I did in order to straighten myself out and wonder how I could have been so misguided.

Over and over again I bowed to teachings that insisted that I could not be gay and Christian. Ministers and ex-gay leaders taught me that the “gay lifestyle” included only reckless behavior, loneliness, and ultimately a life apart from God. No wonder it took me nearly two decades to come to my senses.

And then I changed–not my orientation–rather I changed the ways I viewed myself. I no longer viewed myself as a sick, degenerate, rebellious sinner, but as a normal human being with the same desires as most everyone else in the world–desires for love, for adventure, for accomplishment, for wholeness.

I began to see that being gay was not a curse or a sickness or a weakness. It was just part of how I was wired. And as I grew to accept myself and no longer conformed to the patterns that people in the church and the world laid out before me, I began to grow thankful for being gay.

Yeah, I thank God that I am a man with a homosexual orientation. Even though I chose to plow through decades of confusion, false hopes and despair seeking a change, I now feel grateful for how I am wired, how God wired me.

Being gay remains only a part of me. I have much more going on that defines me, but being gay has affected the way I view the world. It has both toughened and softened me in the best ways possible.

I can’t speak for most people, but some flee the gay life out of fear. Fear of disease. Fear of hell. Fear of letting other people down. Fear of an empty lonely life.

Fear breeds confusion. Literally neural pathways in our brains shut down, and we cannot think clearly or rationally.

We need not live under all that fear; change is possible.

This post has 17 Comments

  1. Noa Resare on January 24, 2008 at 8:33 am Reply

    Excellent writing my friend.

    Also I think that talking about change and what meaning we each put into that word is like an antidote to much of the rhetoric from the ex-gay movement. Rhetoric that builds on deliberate confusion over the concept of change.

    For someone that has put some thought into the fact that change can mean a lot of things the natural response to a claim such as “Change is possible for the homosexual” is “What does change mean in this context?”. Once people start asking that question the semantics games of the ex-gay movement gets increasingly difficult.

  2. Michelle on January 24, 2008 at 7:15 pm Reply

    That’s beautiful, Peterson. I love your way of turning those catch phrases on their heads.

  3. Auntie Doris on January 24, 2008 at 7:23 pm Reply

    Absolutely change is possible!

    It seems to me though that reframing our ideas of what change means is so tough. Not only for the person who is going through those experiences but for those friends and family who have to sit by the sidelines, watching and waiting to see what this miraculous ‘change’ is going to look like.

    I hope that one day the desire (and pressure) to change and conform to the social, political or religious norms will not be needed, that we can each be free to be who we really are. One day.

  4. Anonymous on January 24, 2008 at 7:25 pm Reply

    This post speaks to my conditon.

    Esther

  5. alex resare on January 24, 2008 at 7:30 pm Reply

    Of course change is possible. Just take a look at these hot guys:

    http://www.pfc.org.uk/node/1494

    I just ordered a copy for myself to give me a daily reminder that change is possible and that I’m far from alone.

  6. Auntie Doris on January 24, 2008 at 7:49 pm Reply

    Hahahah. Oh alex you made me look at naked men. How wicked and wrong of you 😉

  7. Peterson Toscano on January 24, 2008 at 8:14 pm Reply

    Alex, you are a cheeky monkey!

  8. Auntie Doris on January 24, 2008 at 8:18 pm Reply

    See Peterson, alex is corrupting me 😉

  9. Peterson Toscano on January 24, 2008 at 8:26 pm Reply

    Auntie dahling, First I corrupted you at the Organic Beer Tent at Greenbelt, now Alex corrupts you. Seems to me you are easily corruptable. 🙂

  10. Auntie Doris on January 24, 2008 at 10:36 pm Reply

    Maybe it’s just the people I choose to hang around with like corrupting good Christian girls.

  11. brittanicals on January 24, 2008 at 10:49 pm Reply

    Heya Peterson,

    I am glad you are you. Continue to grow, to love, to experience, but please don’t ever “change.”

    I have heard about the neuro pathways being closed by fear, I guess they found a way to actually measure and document that. Makes sense.

    Take care,

    DeAnna

  12. kurt_t on January 25, 2008 at 3:29 am Reply

    Yes, change is possible. I adopted a four-year-old, and I’ve been watching “Cars” every day for the past two months. No more gems from the Golden Age of Hollywood on DVD for me! Although every once in a while he’ll let me put on “That’s Entertainment!” He loves the sequence where Gene Kelly dances with Tom and Jerry.

  13. Eric on January 25, 2008 at 5:22 pm Reply

    “Being gay remains only a part of me. I have much more going on that defines me, but being gay has affected the way I view the world. It has both toughened and softened me in the best ways possible.”

    I echo Noa’s comment that this was an excellently written post. The quote above is something I’m chewing on. I’m starting to be able to say that I’m happy being gay, that I’m blessed being gay, that I’m okay with being gay. I often say that being gay is only a component of the person I am. But the truth is, being gay has affected the way I view my world and the world. The experience and reality of it has shaped how I want to affect the world around me.

    Hmm….

    Thanks for this!

  14. Joe G. on January 26, 2008 at 9:13 pm Reply

    Sorry, but I was kind of bored with this post…

  15. Anonymous on January 26, 2008 at 9:53 pm Reply

    joe. dear, you are such a jerk! which of course in your Italian-American family and mine is a term of endearment.

    -Peterson (on his phone which won’t let me log in when I am in the mountain wilds of Upstate NY)

  16. Elliot Coale on January 28, 2008 at 9:50 pm Reply

    Awesome picture. 😀

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