Coming out an ex-gay survivor — Again?!?

Homo No Mo Halfway HousePutting the past to bed

Back in 2008 I retired my play, Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House and handed off my responsibilities for Beyond Ex-Gay to other survivors like Dr. Jallen Rix, and Gail Dickert, who were telling their stories as witnesses. I moved onto LGBTQ Bible scholarship and most recently creative responses to climate change.

And now? We have a new president with vice president who promotes gay conversion therapy and a Republican party platform that endorsed it. So what is an ex-gay survivor to do?

Bearing Witness

Perhaps I anticipated this. Back in May when creating my newest show, Everything is Connected–An Evening of Stories, most weird, many true, I decided to have a section about the ex-gay movement. I wanted to look at the lure of white male power and privilege that fed into the desire to de-gay myself for Jesus. I wanted to highlight the sexism and anti-fem attitudes in the churches where I tried to fit in. There were lots of other factors, but this idea of being “normal” was potent at the time.

I wrote about it this week in the Huffington Post. I reflected on the early 80’s, a period in history that reminds me a lot of where we are at politically right now. There were strong forces pressuring me to conform and to resist anything that wasn’t masculine and straight.

Beyond the methods, what I find more curious though arethe motivations that held me to this futile and ultimately damaging ex-gay path.

Literally coming out of the closet in my new place on Watauga Street in Memphis, 1999

Literally coming out of the closet in my new place on Watauga Street in Memphis, 1999

Fear had a lot to do with it. I felt so much fear about the consequences of coming out gay. I felt terrified I would lose things that were precious to me: my parents’ love and support, society’s approval, physical safety, job opportunities, the possibility of having children, respect, membership in the church I loved, the love of God, and eternal salvation. I also feared for my life. HIV/AIDS had a 100% fatality rate, and at first people were unsure how it was transmitted. I lived in terror that I would get AIDS, die a horrible death rejected by my family, then spend an eternity of punishment in hell. That was a lot for a teenager to bear. So I caved under the pressure of it all.

Along with all those fears was another. In a world where rich, white, Anglo-Saxon straight, heterosexual masculine Protestant males ran everything, I was a gay, Roman-Catholic, Italian-American sissy boy from a working class family. I felt the fear of being powerless in a world that was so unlike me. In reaction to these fears I attempted to assimilate. I became a born-again Christian, enrolled in a conservative Christian college, and determined to decimate my gayness. Having felt the cabin pressure of power and privilege drop, I scrambled to win back as much as I could.

You can read the whole piece for yourself: Daring to Dream in a Time of Donald Trump–An ex-gay survivor speaks out

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