Questions about the Ex-Gay Movement

Journalists and news outlets love the ex-gay story!

Homosexuality! Is there a Cure?

These stories come in cycles especially after someone like Ted Haggard is outed and then placed into gay rehab.

Many journalists are busy people working on multiple stories simultaneously so they don’t always grasp the complexity of the ex-gay story or have the time to dive into the ex-gay/ex-ex-gay worlds. This becomes  apparent in the questions they often ask.

Is Change Possible? Can someone change from gay to straight?

Most people on any side of the ex-gay issue who know about the lives of ex-gays and the various ex-gay treatments involved understand that these sort of closed-ended questions fall flat in light of the intricacies we’re talking about here and in particular when we consider the people most directly affected. None of us really became heterosexual. This is evidenced in one of the most challenging dilemmas many of us faced in trying to name ourselves.  Even those of us who married people of the opposite sex could not honestly call ourselves straight.  As Marvin Bloom used to say say when he was still ex-gay,

I’m a former homosexual. I’m not exactly straight. I’m growing into heterosexuality, slowly.

Another popular question from journalists is,

What is the most outrageous treatment you experienced in an ex-gay program?

This “sexy” question exploits everyone involved. Yes, crazy, outrageous things happen in many ex-gay programs, but by focusing on these wacky practices, we overlook more important issues. One could too easily discount the whole thing and say, “Man, look at those crazy people!” without getting to the heart of the matter or to any useful analysis.(But then again, much of the news is about entertainment and not information.)

As a trained teacher, I know the power of good questions. They can open up a discussion and get people to think in fresh new ways. They can blow away assumptions and deepen understandings. Below I offer a list of new questions journalists can ask about the ex-gay movement. In the comment section, please feel free to add some of your own.

  • What does “change” actually look like?
  • If it is not really a change from gay to straight, then what were you seeking? What did you hope to achieve?
  • Why did you pursue it?
  • In addition to a faith struggle, what other factors influenced you?
  • What pressures in your life encouraged you to seek change?
  • How would your life be different today if you had been straight or if you had miraculously changed to heterosexual?
  • What public safety concerns might gay reparative therapy raise?
  • If the Bible so strongly influences many people’s decision to alter their sexuality, what other issues in the Bible inspire the same level of commitment that Christians actually go into programs in order to adhere to Biblical standards?
  • What are the costs associated with going ex-gay?
  • What were the consequences for you and your loved ones?
  • What good did you get from your experiences?
  • What advice would you give to someone considering going into an ex-gay program?
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This post has 14 Comments

  1. Stasa Morgan-Appel on February 23, 2009 at 10:00 pm Reply

    Peterson, thank you. It’s so important to get beyond the surface, glitzy, (sexy,) either/or black/white good/bad, simplistic questions.

    I loved your suggested questions about costs and consequences.

    I also loved this one:

    “If the Bible so strongly influences many people’s decision to alter their sexuality, what other issues in the Bible inspire the same level of commitment that Christians actually go into programs in order to adhere to Biblical standards?”

    Convents and monasteries spring to mind… but they are not at all the same kind of thing, or on the same scale.

    Good, good, good! Thank you again.

    (No other brilliant additions come to mind… but if they do, I’ll add them.)

  2. Sheriah-SA on February 23, 2009 at 10:42 pm Reply

    Peterson, hi. Imagine I am interviewing you for a prominent newspaper… Sheriah: In one of your most recent blogs, you said that you desire men, and i quote, “thank God am gay”. Now, as a gay man, do you ever get in a situation where you really passionately desire a woman, in a sexual way? In other words, in your everyday life as a gay man, do you ever get attracted to women?

  3. Sheriah-SA on February 23, 2009 at 10:53 pm Reply

    By the way, i just finished watching a re run of the 2009 academy awards. You might wana check out Sean Penn and director Black’s acceptance speeches..very moving, as they advocated for equal rights for all (gay, lesbian etc. I must say i was touched…) Gudnite

  4. lower case paul on February 24, 2009 at 3:47 am Reply

    “First, Question the Question.” (Indeed. or at least question the presumptuousness of the question)

    “I’m a former homosexual. I’m not exactly straight. I’m growing into heterosexuality, slowly.”

    Marvin pretty much nails it. Heterosexuality ‘growing’ in a gay person would be like cancer growing in a whole person, it only ends in sickness and death.

    The ex-gay techniques are the latest version of the lobotomy, with the same heart and intent motivating their use.

  5. Carol on February 24, 2009 at 4:18 am Reply

    My favorite question to ask back to the believers in change is this: Considering that you believe that there are “former gays,” do you really want your daughter to marry one?

  6. Stasa Morgan-Appel on February 24, 2009 at 8:12 pm Reply

    Carol, I love that… Except that I’m sure there would be an answer, one that doesn’t actually address the question.. Although, then again, perhaps it would.

  7. p2son on February 24, 2009 at 8:26 pm Reply

    Sheriah, you ask, Now, as a gay man, do you ever get in a situation where you really passionately desire a woman, in a sexual way?

    Are you coming onto me??? 😛

    But to answer your question. No. I love women and enjoy their company. I find them attractive and at times envy the clothes they wear, but as to sexual desire for women? Nope, it doesn’t happen.

    One way to determine orientation is to take note of who pops up in sexual fantasies and dreams. I have to say my fantasy world has an all-male cast.

  8. Brian Pengelly on February 25, 2009 at 3:55 pm Reply

    Hey Peter

    This was a very thoughtful and intelligent post (nothing new there). Dealing with both Christian and Secular media on a semi regular basis I have often thought after an interview that both sides seemed to miss the point in the questions they ask.

    It would probably be insulting to send them a list of questions ahead of time to think through, but I love this list and wish every reporter would read them and think about them before attempting to write on this issue.

    Keep up the good work

  9. p2son on February 25, 2009 at 4:19 pm Reply

    Brian, thanks. Not sure if journalists would be insulted by getting some questions like this. I know that Daniel Gonzales, an ex-gay survivor, has submitted questions to the press before Love One Out events, and journalists have used some of the questions. One of the biggest problems with many journalists is that they have so little time to do a good job.

  10. Sheriah on February 27, 2009 at 10:20 am Reply

    Peterson, your comment made me laugh! No honey, I am not coming on to you..I am so happily “taken” by someone so straight! Imagine this screaming headline: “Straight woman falls hard for a gay man!” ha ha, maybe in our next life..I was just curious coz back when we worked together, I thought you liked women in a sexual way, BUT then again, I was just a naive Zambian girl knowing nothing about gay people..Now I am learning that a gay guy can be sentimental and be misinterpreted! Thanks for enlightening me dear. Hey, I did not know you had replied to my comment, am only passing by now, I can be Xtremely busy its insane! Am sorry to hear about your sister, but then again, don’t we all have a responsibility to stay out of trouble and be meaningful citizens of society? My strict parents taught us to be responsible citizens, and to me, I place their words in a special place in my heart, and it payed off! (And am not saying your parents didn’t teach you that)!

  11. Sheriah on February 27, 2009 at 10:32 am Reply

    And by the way Peter, if I was interviewing you for tv and you asked me , “are you coming on to me?” I would have laughed on camera and told me and my boys not to edit that part! Give it out to the people the way it is! By the way, you made me laugh by your “all male cast” in your post! You have a mysterious sense of……Later!

  12. p2son on February 27, 2009 at 10:39 am Reply

    Sheriah, you will be pleased to know that my sister was not actually arrested. It is simply a fund raising scheme we do here in some parts of the States. They have a day when they “lock up” people known in the community, then family and friends and others can donate money towards the bail to get them out. The money goes to a charity.

    Next time I come to South Africa, I must sit down for one of these famous Sheriah interviews and I can say, I knew her when…

  13. Sheriah on February 27, 2009 at 11:53 am Reply

    Yes, next time you are in SA, we should do that..ha ha. Back to your sister, actually, at some point I thought its for charity but I wasn’t too sure…I asked a friend what he thought, and he told me, “it looks like this Maria girl is in some serious trouble!” Anyhow, you’ve cleared the air and its always great to give to those in need, I so believe in giving… Maybe I should drop in a R100 to your sister’s cause? How much is that in US dollars, lol? I will work it out..

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