Just this week I have heard several new stories of ex-gay survivors in the press and on the blogs. They are just coming out all over.
There is the story of Scott Harrison who was interviewed for the Southern Poverty Law Center Intelligence Report. He spent time in the Desert Stream/Living Waters program, an ex-gay group that often flies under the radar but maintains an international reach and some of the more bizarre practices regarding evil spirits and homosexuality. Although Exodus says they do not endorse such practices, they still refer people to Desert Stream/Living Waters programs
Harrison recounts one of the deliverance sessions he endured,
It was very intense, dramatic, group prayer. It lasted at least three hours. At the end, I was drenched in sweat. There were some real areas of psychological wounding. All I can really describe it as — because of how it happened and the incorrectness of the theology — is that it felt like a spiritual rape to me.
Another ex-gay survivor, James Stabile, recently appeared in the news (well CBN’s 700 Club) as having experienced a miraculous deliverance from homosexuality. Turns out there is more to this story. Stabile’s father, Joseph reports that they support their son with his same-sex attractions and explain how he fell prey to praying Christians after Stabile went off his medications for bipolar disorder.
Joseph Stabile said he’s fully accepting of his son’s sexual orientation and believes being gay is neither a choice nor a sin. Joseph Stabile said James left home to go out that Friday night and never returned. Joseph said James, or ‘B.J.’ as his parents affectionately refer to him, is bipolar and had stopped taking his medication. James called a few days later and told his parents he was moving out, and that he’d be back to get his stuff. James apparently had moved in with some folks from Heartland. After that, it would be some time before James’ parents heard from him, as his church friends reportedly advised him not to contact them. Joseph Stabile said the Heartland folks also may have advised James to throw away his medication, telling him that God would cure his bipolar disorder, too. Joseph’s parents said James has a tendency to be less than truthful, especially when he’s off his medication, and that he loves attention. They said they don’t believe he’s ever questioned his sexuality, but that the folks from Heartland manipulated and exploited him for publicity.
hat tip to Towleroad
Finally, in catching up on YukiChoe’s excellent blog that explores ex-gay issues in Singapore and other parts of Asia, I read a moving account of Patrick Lee, who spent 14 years as an ex-gay. His tale includes conversion, deliverance, marriage, and electroshock therapy. It is a rich blog post and includes Lee’s reflections of what he learned from his experience.
So many ex-gay survivors have recently come forward to share their stories revealing that for them ex-gay experiences caused more harm than good. Not only do they appear in the press and in the blogs, but also in so many creative ways. You can see some new art by ex-gay survivors over at the Beyond Ex-Gay art gallery. Vincent Cervantes, an ex-gay survivor and theatrical performance activist who has posted a number of YouTube video, reports that he performed some of my play, Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House, for his scene class, which opened up a discussion about the ex-gay movement.
Most ex-gay survivors I meet do not go public with their stories for lots of good reasons. Weekly I speak with folks who choose to engage in the work to undo the damage they allowed others to do to them and that they have done to themselves and their loved ones through ex-gay experiences. The power of someone’s narrative, especially when s/he choses to be vulnerable and is well supported, can bring healing to the individual sharing their experiences. When people go public, their accounts also serve as a witness and a warning to the wider world.
I hope that more and more of these stories come out into the open, and that everyone hurt by these situations can link arms and heal.
Not ex-gay, but a survivor of the hyper fundie deliverance circuit. I remember being nearly catatonic after one sessions, which, yes, did feel like spiritual rape. I was told to repent for what really was sin against me, that I was full of demons, that I was rebelling against the power of God when I did not wish them to “lay hands on me” (I have had hands layed on me before, thank you very much, that seemed to have been the problem). I was forced to verbalize things my mind couldn’t accept, and overwhelmed with their forcefulness. Very much like rape in all respects.
The emptiness afterwards I now know to be disassociation, not a lack of demons cluttering my mind. I stayed that way for days, but luckily I had a rational husband who got me some mental health help afterwards, but what happens to these poor souls who have nobody? What if they are stripped bare and told that not only are they demonized, but that the primary core of their soul is a sin? What if they disasociate and then have no safe core to return to, because they can no longer feel good about their true self, and they also have no partner, because they have been told that God is against them being with someone they truly love?
I feel a motherly rage when I read things like this.
Some folks (not all deliverance types) believe that to take psychiatric meds is to be a pawn of the pharmaceutical industry, and to refuse to take responsibility for your own actions.
Thanks for your work, Peterson. This is Scott Harrison whom you refer to above. For clarification, if you read the article closely, you will note that the deliverance session that was so damaging occurred at the church I was attending, not through Desert Stream or Living Waters. That is not to say that deliverance sessions did not and do not occur in these ex=gay ministries. They are just not as dramatic, from what I observed. This very damaging deliverance was performed by a supporter of ex-gay ministry who was a pastor, NOT by a leader of an ex-gay organization. I experienced plenty of other damage from going through ex-gay ministry for eight years. The deliverance I cited was an example of how demonizing homosexuality (calling it a satanic or demonic distortion of the “one true sexual orientation of heterosexuality), whether in churches or in ex-gay ministries, can cause real and lasting damage.
Thanks Scott for the clarification. It is so important for folks to know that a lot of ex-gay ministry takes place OUTSIDE of ex-gay programs. Counseling, deliverance, etc, can take place under the radar at a church all in the name of God.