Ex-gay=normal? The anguish & ridiculousness of seeking change

Ramsey Dehani writing for the Pink News delves into the ex-gay movement, some of the history of it and its relentless presence destroying lives.

The ideals of what the movement preaches, a move from homosexuality through to heterosexuality, are said to be ineffective and “potentially harmful” by American psychologist groups such as the American Psychological Association, which claims that such direct intolerance and lack of acceptance can cause mental health problems.

PinkNews.co.uk spoke to Dr Adrian Coyle, a senior lecturer in the Department of Psychology at the University of Surrey and co-author of ‘The Social Psychology of Sexuality’, about how these negative connotations affect the person involved.

With regards to reparative therapy, Dr Coyle said that there is “no evidence it works” and that the “research evidence just isn’t there”.

“As a psychologist and a scientist, I want to know about the evidence they have,” he said.

“I don’t think its wise to engage with the desire to change, the reinforcement of pre-existing negative ideas of one’s sexuality presents a huge risk.

Earlier this week Dehani contacted me to find out what actually happens in some of these programs, particularly a residential program like Love in Action where I lived and did ex-gay time for two years,

Describing a reparative therapy session, he said: “In LIA a typical day meant group sessions where we talked about our issues and get teachings about why we are gay based on the template they provide. Often parents get blamed and participants need to match their personal histories with the template the programme leaders provide thus creating a new mythology about themselves.

“We had to spend a great deal of time writing about our former sexual experiences,” he continued, “and then filtering them through a lens that deemed such activity as sinful, dysfunctional and addictive.

“We also had to stand up in front of family and friends and share one of the most shameful sexual experiences we had, much like people do at AA when they talk about hitting rock bottom. This is a devastating and shaming event for both the participants and the parents”.

Toscano talked about how they were given training in “proper” gender roles and personal presentation, and “how to dress, walk, act like proper men and women”. Examples included men going to football “clinics” and women receiving baking lessons.

As I outlined in my post about the reason I went ex-gay, I’m reminded the the utter desperation many of us felt (and some still feel in many parts of the world and even in the US and UK today) to be “normal.” Even though looking back on those wasted years and all the anguish I felt about being gay, I do see the ridiculousness of the whole thing.

In this video I share a bit about our weekly movie night in Love in Action program–Biblical porn and so much more!
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2hV5shr2u9M&hl=en&fs=1&]

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This post has 5 Comments

  1. GreenEyedLilo on July 25, 2009 at 4:25 am Reply

    I’m still so amazed that you were able to come out of that with your sense of humor intact. I’m glad that you tell about your time in LIA–I know it has to help others.

    I can’t imagine telling a roomful of people that includes your parents about a shameful sexual experience, either. *shudders* Do people ever make things up so as to spice up their testimonies and/or get “therapists” off their backs?

    But you know what had me laugh out loud, don’t you? Baking as a means of helping women straighten up!

    • p2son on July 25, 2009 at 2:40 pm Reply

      GreenEyedLilo, it was horrendous. I really don’t know who was more traumatized by it, the participants or the parents. Possibly the parents because not only did they hear their stories for the first time, they heard it under the context that they were to blame in part for our “struggle with homosexuality.”

      Glad I could make you laugh out loud 😀

  2. lower case paul on July 25, 2009 at 12:54 pm Reply

    “Normal.” Yeah, that and not wanting to burn in hell for eternity, but really, the culture we live in gets to define what normal is, and we lived in a fundamentalist Christian culture as attempted ex-gays.

    Something that is really glaring to me of late is the huge disconnect in the fundamental Christian approach. Lot’s of people are obviously convinced by the fundamental Christians biblical arguments that God don’t like gay, but where are the biblical arguments for the cure? That becomes the bigger stretch. The ex-gay movement discovered pretty fast that you cannot simply ‘repent’ of being gay. That’s when they decided to write Freud into the bible.

    If the fundamental approach is going to stay true to form, then the parents at fault for some being gay are Adam and Eve. After all, isn’t the story line that we all inherited our ‘sin nature’ from them? Where is the biblical evidence that Saul was a wimp and his wife overbearing and thus we got a Jonathan? Or that Jonathan was molested as a child by uncle Herschel.

    The fundamental Christian gets their authority to dictate what is “normal,” presumably, from God via the Bible. So, what is the biblical precedent for a LIA group home?

    • p2son on July 25, 2009 at 1:51 pm Reply

      lc paul, thank you. I appreciate your lucid and insightful comments so much. I am so glad we can unpack this madness that ruled us for far too long.

  3. lower case paul on July 25, 2009 at 2:16 pm Reply

    Hi p2,

    I’m glad too. I am grateful for your wonderful forum and creative, beautiful mind.

    It is “madness” isn’t it? Those of us who were raised in the er, asylum (dare I say looney bin?), see it as “normal” until we step outside see and experience there is more out there.

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