Over at Beyond Ex-Gay we have posted several narratives of ex-gay survivors. Many of these include lots of details about the struggle over faith and sexuality which compelled the struggler to pursue change and to receive help from reparative therapists and ex-gay ministers.
I think about how I used to tell my story assuming that the primary motivation to aspire to a non-gay life was my faith struggle. After years of unpacking the story, answering many many questions about my experiences, I have grown to understand that the faith issue stood among several key factors that influenced my 17-year quest to be ex-gay.
A friend recently submitted his ex-gay survivor narrative to me. He writes well about his experience as a missionary and in the church as well as in various ex-gay ministries. I will gladly post it as is, but I also know that the writing process gives us an opportunity to unearth more about our histories. The primary goal I see is that by telling our stories, we will understand them more. Secondly they can serve as a witness and a warning to others.
Below is my response to my friend with some key questions that many ex-gay survivors with a faith background might find helpful to ponder.
Hi there. Your article looks good in many ways. I do have a few questions for you to consider.
You attempted to change your sexuality. How did that affect you? Help you? Harm you? I have an article that looks at various types of harm you can check out to get some ideas.
You write your story well. My only reservation is that it is very faith-based, which I know is a big part of your journey and many people’s journeys. The issue is that I get more and more e-mails from people who feel alienated by all the faith-based stories at bXg. It makes me wonder if some of us have to dig deeper. I mean why was the gay thing such a big deal for many of us? What other pressures, perhaps more subtle and hidden, influenced us to pursue change.
For instance, I cannot separate the sense of shame that led me to pursue change with the reality that I had been sexually abused as a child. Perhaps as an outgrowth of that abuse I had grown sexually compulsive in my teens. Sure the conservative churches I attended hammered in me that it was wrong to be gay, but also my life was out of control. I felt like filthy dirty sinner all the time and felt I needed to be fixed. I had genuine problems–unresolved sexual abuse, deep shame, and sexual addiction issues. Add to that the constant barrage of messages I received from society about admirable and normal heterosexuality. In my case religion served as a cover for the other pressing issues that weighed heavy on me.
I put that out there for you to consider any way you might rework your piece so that someone who never was Christian can relate to the struggle you faced. Also, it may help you to better understand why the quest to change had such a hold on you.