Failed Ex-Gays Speak Out. Rekers and Smid can learn something.

Sometimes it’s a good thing to be a failure, particularly when one tries to destroy their personality and sexuality (or assist others in destroying theirs.)  The vast majority of people who have attempted to “de-gay” themselves through reparative therapy, straight camps and ex-gay ministries ultimately come out gay. Sadly many of these come out psychologically disheveled and need therapy to recover from the therapy. With stories flying around about George Rekers, a strong proponent of treatments to “cure gays” and legal actions to deny LGBT people rights (all the while using some of his anti-gay earnings to fund European vacations with a gay rent boy while asserting “I am NOT gay!) I thought it might be useful to hear from some folks who took part in some of these failed treatments.

Dr. Jallen Rix is an ex-gay survivor. He has already told his story through his widely read sex column and in the feature length documentary film Fish Can’t Fly. He now has a new book, Ex-Gay No Way! Survival and Recovery from Religious Abuse.

Jallen Rix, as a young Southern Baptist, joined an ex-gay ministry when he discovered his same-sex attractions. Although the ministry did not make him heterosexual, it did manage to destroy any sense of stability and self-esteem.
Ex-Gay No Way is Dr. Rix’s journey through the ex-gay world and what he did in the aftermath to reintegrate positive sexuality with healthy spirituality. Further, he demonstrates that the tactics used in these oppressive environments are many of the same damaging schemes used everywhere in power-abusive religious organizations today.

Jallen along with singer/songwriter Melissa Etheridge will appear on LA Talk Radio today May 14, 2010 from 6-8 PM PST. Check out the Tony Sweet program and learn more. Also check out this video of Jallen talking about his book.

Unlike ex-gay leaders like George Reker’s and others caught out there failing to live a life that they demanded of others, Micheal Bussee, one of the original founders of Exodus International, left the anti-gay ministry and chose to come out with his ministry partner (and then life partner Gary Cooper.) You may remember that Michael was one of three former Exodus officials who issued a public apology in 2007. This apology can serve as a model for people like John Smid, the former director of Love in Action, who has struggled to come up with a clear statement that reveals why he is apologizing and the steps he is taking to undo the damage.

In Michael’s personal apology he issued the same day as the group apology, he talks about the early work of offering “alternatives” to gays, and how it did not work, and more importantly it caused great harm.

I need to say that some had a positive, life-changing experience attending our Bible studies and support groups.  They experienced God’s love and the welcoming fellowship of others who knew the struggle.  There were some real “changes”—but not one of the hundreds of people we counseled became straight.

Instead, many of our clients began to fall apart – sinking deeper into patterns of guilt, anxiety and self-loathing.  Why weren’t they “changing”?  The answers from church leaders made the pain even worse:  “You might not be a real Christian.”  “You don’t have enough faith.”  “You aren’t praying and reading the Bible enough.” “Maybe you have a demon.”  The message always seemed to be:  “You’re not enough.  You’re not trying hard enough.  You don’t have enough faith.”

Some simply dropped out and were never heard from again.  I think they were the lucky ones.  Others became very self-destructive. One young man got drunk and deliberately drove his car into a tree.  Another (a fellow leader of the ex-gay movement) told me that he had left EXODUS and was now going to straight bars – looking for someone to beat him up.  He said the beatings made him feel less guilty – atoning for his sin.  One of my most dedicated clients, Mark, took a razor blade to his genitals, slashed himself repeatedly, and then poured drain-cleaner on the wounds—because after months of celibacy he had a “fall.”

In the midst of all of this, my own faith in the EXODUS movement was crumbling.  No one was really becoming “ex-gay.”  Who were we fooling?  As one current EXODUS leader admitted, we were just “Christians with homosexual tendencies who would rather not have those tendencies.”  By calling ourselves “ex-gay” we were lying to ourselves and to others.  We were hurting people.

Over at the blog Box Turtle Bulletin, ex-gay survivor (in a very sexy This American Life voice) Daniel Gonzales has begun to post a series of short videos where Michael talks about his role in Exodus, his regrets and the terrible things that happened in a ministry that set out to help the struggling homosexual.

In this video Michael talks about the the inherent harm that comes from ex-gay treatment and comments on John Smid’s “apology.” Bussee makes it clear that:

It’s the message that’s destructive, it’s the overall message.

As that message sinks in to your sense of self that you’re damaged, you’re broken, you’re in need of repair… that’s the damage.

There are people that don’t become aware of that damage until years later.

(Transcript here)
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5WSMmdPiDE&hl=en_US&fs=1&]

In this video Michael talks about what happens after people LEAVE ex-gay treatment and reveals how they never offered any kind of after-care or even checked in to see how people where doing. (Read full transcript here.)
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5q8NX2ZhIE&hl=en_US&fs=1&]

And in this video Michael Bussee, who has known LOTS of ex-gays in his life reveals that NO ONE including the leaders actually changed in spite of what they publicly said. We Were All Still Struggling Silently As We Promised Change (Transcript here)
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xs-5eBMTcj4&hl=en_US&fs=1&]

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  1. Jane on May 14, 2010 at 4:04 pm Reply

    This last Sunday the lectionary reading included the portion from Acts where Paul and Timothy are in prison and they are singing; while singing the doors of the prison open wide and they are freed. I used to read that scripture and weep. I could not sing enough, pray enough, serve enough, humble myself enough to open the “prison doors” that held me. I wanted out. I WANTED OUT!

    And I came out. Now, I’m free from the spiritual abuse and work daily to undo the web of damage that still crowds out my own being at times. The thought that I failed at living a Pentecostal life still hurts – mostly in the middle of a really long night. So, I am going to remember that sometimes it’s good to fail. Give me an F.

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