Noe Gutierrez Writes about the Ex-Gay Experience

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.

This post has 6 Comments

  1. Joe Moderate on May 16, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    You wrote:

    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.

    Very insightful, and precisely on-par with my experience. The fault never lay with the programs, the methodology, the leadership, the goals. If anything went wrong, it could always be cast in a way that I was at fault.

    You tried too hard, Joe.
    You didn’t try hard enough, Joe.
    You’re not working hard enough on your effeminite mannerisms, Joe.
    You worrying too much about your mannerisms, Joe.
    You should have read your Bible more, Joe.
    You should have prayed more, Joe.
    You should have done more service, Joe.
    You doing to much in your own strength, Joe. You need to “let go and let God” more.

    What breaks my heart is knowing that these messages weren’t said to just me. These same stock phrases are being repeated hundreds of times today all over the U.S. to desperate, hopeful ex-gays in dozens of ministries scattered around.

    So many people being being blamed. So many people being discouraged. So many people facing disillusionment.

    Please, God! Make it stop!

  2. Peterson Toscano on May 16, 2008 at 10:23 pm

    jm, thank you so much for your comments. Reading them reminded me of how the ex-gays got this tendency to blame the struggler from the wider church. God help those folks in a happy clappy church when they have clinical depression or the many women who no matter how much dieting they do cannot adhere to someone’s idea of the perfect body.

    So often the message comes through–you are not doing enough. The subtext is “you not having this sorted makes it all too complicated for the rest of us. Our theology demands that you MUST be healed, whole and filled with joy.” Your very presence undermines our perceived reality.”

    Ah, those of us who don’t quite fit the model (most of the people really) are such a gift to the Church.

    God deliver your people from the Church!

  3. Auntie Doris on May 16, 2008 at 10:39 pm

    How isolating are happy clappy churches?! When I was part of a church like that I consistently felt as though I could never be good enough. I saw the ideal and realised I could never match up to those criteria. The reality is though that God adores me just as I am because I am who I am. What a revelation for that little lost girl.

  4. Pistol Pete on May 17, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    Thanks for sharing your powerful testimony.

  5. Rob on May 17, 2008 at 5:09 pm

    I think probably the hardest thing for me, even still now, is letting go of the guilt that came with growing up in “hell fire and brimstone” Churches…..including my time in the whole ex-gay world.

    They say everyone sins, but I’m sure not everyone in Church was made to feel worthless like I felt, and I’m sure so many others that fall into this category felt that way too.

  6. tea on May 18, 2008 at 1:21 am

    Thanks, Peterson – and also Joe, Doris and Rob. Your thoughts and comments articulate very well this particularly insidious aspect of the ex-gay mindset, whether it’s communicated through a specific ex-gay program or through general “church” culture. It’s taken a long, long time for me to shake off the legacy of fear, accusation and condemnation, and hear the truly loving, grace-filled voice of God instead. Grace and peace be with us all.

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