I arrived today in Los Angeles for a weekend of shows with plenty of time to meet with cool people I’ve met on the web including folks from the Gay Christian Network, Eric, Jonathan Bullock, Reagan DuCass (who was just once again slimed on DL Foster’s site), Ex-Gay Watch’s Daniel Gonzales (also slimed by Foster), Steve Schalchlin, Joe G, Malcolm Boyd, Mark Thompson and rumor has it even Troy Perry.
On the plane I began reading Tanya Erzen’s book Straight to Jesus–Sexual and Christian Conversions in the Ex-Gay Movement. Erzen spent 18 months at the New Hope residential ex-gay program (formerly Love in Action) in San Rafael, CA. She digs into the lives of participants current and former, mostly white Evangelical males, and unearths motivations and complexities in the pursuit of an ex-gay life. I have completed a third of the book so far.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the ex-gays caught in the middle of the struggle between the public ex-gay program leaders and the gay activists. So many sincere people seeking change in their lives, struggling to do what they feel God wants them to do. Although I often explore the ex-gay experience through comedy, I know it is no joke, and I know that many adults involved in the process feel compelled to do so because of their love of God and their desire to do the right thing.
I remember being there myself for many years. I longed to please God and did everything in my power to serve God, to fill my life with Jesus, to let the Lord do a work in me. I saw myself in a heroic quest to surrender fully to God. And whenever I fell, bruised and filled with remorse, I turned to God and I trusted that Jesus would forgive me and give me strength for a new day as I fought the good fight.
I do not regret the years I sought change from my same-sex desires, well sought more than that, I sought to be whole in Jesus, to be a man of God. I do not regret the efforts in prayer, in church, in Bible study, in pastoral counseling sessions, in ex-gay support groups and residential homes and even the three exorcisms I endured. Perhap I regret some wasted time, years lost, but I do not regret seeking change with all my heart.
When I finally realized that such a change was not possible and I knew I had done everything in my power to make it right, I then was ready to do the work in my life of reconciling my faith in Jesus with my same-sex desires, with reconciling my distrust of the “gay community” with the reality that I somehow belonged in it, with reconciling the rejection I experienced from the church with my longing to still find my place in it, with reconciling the fragmented pieces of myself that did not seem to fit.
For anyone who is ex-gay, post-ex-gay or not even sure where they are in that process, this wrestling challenges us deeply and daily. For all that I criticize ex-gay programs and policies, I cannot help but feel a kinship with the women and men in these programs seeking to find their places in this world.