In a post written for Ex-Gay Watch, former Ex-Gay Noe Gutierrez provides thoughtful insights into the ex-gay experiences. Much of what he says resonates deeply with my own experience. He fills his article with rich commentary that I wish to explore for myself. I will start with this one quote.
Set against a biblical contrast of right versus wrong, ex-gay ministries often draw a direct link between the quality of a person’s faith and their commitment to make a choice in the “straight” direction. This value system often results in the ex-gay person being caught by a cycle of perpetual self-evaluation. Compelled to dissect every thought, every word, and every deed into these black or white categories, the life of an ex-gay can become all about choosing sides. With homosexuality as the target, the goal then becomes to eradicate all thoughts and behaviors associated with “wrong” sexual attraction. This becomes the “calling” of the ex-gay person who finds their purpose in the process of self re-orientation. I believe this mode of thinking establishes a clear and distinct association between the effectiveness of God in a person’s life and that person’s ability to commit to ex-gay change.
For nearly 17 years I lived in a “a cycle of perpetual self-evaluation.” Clearly I believed I had not done enough to eradicate the bad gay feelings that plagued me. Even when I grew to understand that I could not actually rid myself of my sexual desires for other men (something I had been promised for over a decade), I reckoned that every failure I experienced came as a result of my own shortfalls. I hadn’t prayed enough or hard enough or deeply enough. I hadn’t repented enough or hard enough or deeply enough (Those years I read every book I could get my hands on about repentance and revival).
My Christian life revolved around this colossal struggle to control and contain sexual desire. Daily I crucified myself with Christ. I took up my cross and put on my armor and plunged into the battle determined to get it right this time, to trust God and not my flesh, to consider the psychological underpinnings of my “problem,” to get to the root of my same-sex attractions, to do whatever it took to sort this thing out.
To stop fighting equaled failure and defeat and a rejection of God’s best for me. In the midst of the fighting I cried out to God, worshiped, strove to maintain a personal, intimate relationship with Jesus that so satisfied me that I would never want another man in my life.
And even as I write this I hear the murmurs of ex-gay promoters and providers accusing me of focusing on the wrong thing, of trying too hard or not enough, of not trusting God or depending too much on God to do what I needed to do. With the Ex-Gay Movement they have an answer for everything but most of these answers boil down to one thing: It’s your own fault.
Rather than face reality that I we sought for the wrong thing and that another way exists, ex-gay leaders, pastors, parents and “friends” cling to a faulty series of beliefs and lay loads on people’s backs that make them, in the words of Jesus, “twice the sons of hell.”
For me I discovered that “change” was not possible, not in the way they promoted it for years. More importantly change was not necessary and to pursue it damaged me significantly, so much so that I had to take nearly 10 years to recover.