I write A LOT about ex-gay stuff and my own ex-gay experiences–why I did it, how I did it, and the results (mostly damage but not exclusively). I talk about being an ex-gay survivor, but that doesn’t mean I am a VICTIM.
Yes, I have been victimized by a society and a church structure that consistently insisted that there was something wrong, flawed, evil about me because I happened to have a gay orientation. I also suffered at the hands of Christian ministers, gay reparative therapists and ex-gay leaders who mostly proved to be woefully ignorant and who operated without accountability or openness. They rarely considered that their methods and theories might be misguided or harmful.
Those people who insist that gays are less than straights, those who promote and provide ex-gay treatment are definitely at fault (even when they are well meaning) and they need to face up to the destruction their unsound practices have wrought on others (and even perhaps on themselves).
I began to emerge from my dungeon-like closet in December of 1998. For the past 10 years I have worked aggressively to undo the damage inflicted upon my mind, body and spirit. One of the most liberating moments was when I had the following revelation about my ex-gay experience–a revelation that may seem obvious to many watching from the sidelines, but something that I needed to see clearly for myself.
In the nearly 20 years of ex-gay/anti-gay/de-gay treatment I endured, no one ever forced me to do any of it. I chose to submit myself to the unsound and potentially damaging practices designed to demonize and annihilate my sexuality (and much of my personality and gender differences along with it). I elected to go into these programs. I paid for them with my own money (except for when I turned to my parents or others to help with the expenses). I put myself into the ex-gay/anti-gay mess and I KEPT myself in that mess for nearly two decades.
Yes, I felt coerced by a society that I believed made life easier for straight people. I felt bullied by people who used the Bible and God and the promise of heaven (and the threat of hell) to persuade me to wreck my insides. I don’t wish to underestimate the power of these feelings, the pressure behind them, and the responsibility people have for creating such a destructive climate of fear and shame.
But I got myself into that mess and fought hard to stay in that mess. I allowed others to harm me, and I used the tools and weapons they gave me to harm myself. I don’t say this to let anyone off the hook.. I believe that those who promote and provide any form of ex-gay therapy need to be held responsible for their practices and theories. I believe the faults need to be exposed.
Also, I don’t say this to shame myself or beat myself. I instead take a dispassionate view of the experience and take responsibility for my part in it.
The revelation that helped initiate liberation was this:
If I got myself into this mess, I can get myself out.
With the revelation came an understanding that moaning and groaning about the mistreatment I received will not help me to develop a healthy sexuality and sense of self. In fact, to only moan and groan and cast blame would have simply turned me into a helpless victim. In that state I would have just grown bitter and stuck.
Instead I had to accept the truth that no one was going to rescue me, (although I have found support along the way). I got myself into the mess–I was not a child forced into these programs–and I must take the responsibility to fully extract myself from the mess and reach for a better life–to detox from the lies and oppression, to develop a liberated mind, to live at ease in my body, to embrace a well-informed, sane life.