Many believe that only people living in the rural South in the USA have tried to change or suppress their attractions for people of the same sex. They also believe that in order to do so, people enrolled (or were forced to attend) treatment camps at some undisclosed location.
In my quest to straighten myself out I did ultimately end up at a residential center on a farm right outside of Memphis, TN. But before that I spent the vast majority of my ex-gay life in New York going anywhere I could to find the elusive cure to my gayness.
In my mind I simply desired to stop sinning in body and in mind. There never was a shortage of ministers out there who tried to help me. Most of those who attempted to fix me were not officially part of the Ex-gay Movement.
In fact, I imagine that the vast majority of people who attempt to change or suppress their sexuality do so without the assistance of Exodus, NARTH, JONAH, Courage, Evergreen or any of the other ex-gay groups out there. Most people do it on their own, with the help of ex-gay books, discipleship programs, ministers, prayer, fasting, and sheer willpower.
I do not consider myself an ex-gay. I never went to therapy. I never joined any of the various organizations or support groups that loosely make up the ex-gay movement. The closest I ever came to the ex-gay movement was to read a book written to help people “come out of homosexuality.” Beyond that, I merely prayed for God to change my attractions and asked friends to do likewise.
However, I do think I understand the kind of self-loathing and sense of frustration that drives a person to undergo such therapy. After all, those were the same feelings that motivated my own solitary struggle. (Truth be told, I’m not entirely sure why I didn’t try ex-gay therapy.) I can understand how the need to change can be so intense when you believe that your value as a person, moral integrity, and happiness all hinge on overcoming same-sex attractions. I can understand being willing to do almost anything to rescue yourself from that. And I know the kind of emotional and spiritual damage you can do to yourself while operating from that mindset.
I can so relate to the mindset that he describes. I would (and did) anything no matter how crazy it sounded from–exorcisms to two years in a “camp”. I remained determined to get right with God and get to the bottom of my gayness.
Many people who come to the Ex-Gay Survivors Conference will most likely relate to Jared as well. We didn’t just go to Exodus for help. We found many roads on our ex-gay journey.
This weekend the NY Blade published an opinion piece I wrote about my ten year ex-gay existence in NYC:
Growing up in the straight world that was Sullivan County Catskills (which today is gayer than Greenwich Village), I moved to New York City after a stint at a small suburban Christian college, which found me far too gay for its campus. From the ages of 19 to 29, I was desperate to resolve the struggles between my same-sex attractions and my faith.
I joined a small church in the Upper West Side where they lifted hands, spoke in tongues, and counseled me to replace my evil desires with the Word of God. I endured two exorcisms, attended seminars, let preachers lay hands on me, and dove head first into a weekly ex-gay support group. I fought temptation every day (not always successfully), and felt healed enough to marry my best friend, a sister from the church.
You can read the rest of the piece here.
As we gather this week in Irvine with people from as far away as Australia, England and NYC, we will unpack our pasts, the motivations behind our actions to change and suppress our sexuality, the good we gained from our efforts, and the harm that affects some of us even today. I spent the past 4 1/2 years of doing my Homo No Mo play and speaking and blogging and receiving some counseling to help make sense of the years I spent as an ex-gay.
But many folks have felt they never had the opportunity to explore this part of their lives that was once so huge for them. I look forward to meeting these folks this week as we seek to undo the damage and affirm our lives together.
Note the photo of is of me “officially coming out of the closet” 🙂