Terrible Harm from those Wacky Gay “Cures”

Recently Lisa Ling misinformed the public through an episode of her new program on the  Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN.) In regards to gay reparative therapy and ex-gay ministries, like many journalists before her, Lisa Ling asked the wrong question– Can You Pray Away the Gay? Instead she should have asked the more essential questions:

  1. Why do people seek to change or repress their sexual orientation?
  2. And at what cost? What potential harm comes to those who attempt to change or repress their sexual orientation?

Exodus International and Alan Chambers admit that genuine change from gay to straight does not happen. People simply change some of their behaviors and change their identities. They still have desires for people of the same-sex, and for most who claim they are ex-gay or former homosexuals, they cannot successfully partner with someone of the opposite sex. Also, according to Exodus, the VAST MAJORITY of people who enroll in these programs ultimately fail and come out gay. What happens to those people? Does Exodus know? Do they care?

Over at Beyond Ex-Gay, the on-line resource for ex-gay survivors, we address the two questions I mention above.  In the article, Why I Went Ex-Gay, I outline the many factors that influenced me in my own failed 17 year quest to de-gay myself. While seeking a “cure,” I believed I was a Christian struggling with homosexuality. I have since unearthed plenty of non-religious reasons for why pursued a course that ultimately brought great harm to my life. In the following video I talk about some of those reasons.
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jMPnxqmuq_U&hl=en_US&feature=player_embedded&version=3]

As to the harms that have come to those who have attempted to de-gay myself, they are many and at times devastating. In the article, Ex-Gay Harm–Let Me Count the Ways, I outline nine different areas of harm I have identified after speaking with over 1,000 ex-gay survivors.

  1. Psychological
  2. Emotional
  3. Spiritual
  4. Relational
  5. Financial
  6. Vocational
  7. Developmental
  8. Physical
  9. Sexual

In the article I provide descriptions  of each, and based on the list ex-gay survivors provide specific examples from their own lives.

The other day I presented a workshop called Homo No Mo?!? Orientation, Gender & the Ex-Gay Movement. In preparation I asked  my friends at Facebook,

From your experience and knowledge, what are some of the harms that come from trying to change or suppress sexual orientation or gender identity/expression?

I received over 20 responses within an hour. Below I list some of these:

Shelley As a psychologist and gender therapist, I have seen the damage first hand. Trauma is the most significant. Clients often experience chronic PTSD after receiving “treatment.” Many have difficulty with self-acceptance. Relationships suffer. The guilt is difficult to resolve. The list goes on …

Joseph My first thoughts are the very real and big harms that come when people who are suppressing such things choose to marry, and then, perhaps, have children…..those marriages and parenting relationships are under an incredible incredible amo…

Michael (a former ex-gay leader) Sense of failure, guilt, loss of faith, wasted time…The list goes on and on.

Aaron Suppression ultimately leads to lies. You are forced to lie to yourself or those around in order to feel safe. It’s horrible to feel like you are living a lie. If one can’t live authentically they may start to question. Their entire existence which can/has led to depression and sometimes suicide. Personally, I felt trapped and alone. I even quit going to church because I knew I was living a lie by suppressing the real me.

Mark Compartmentalization leads to lying as a way of life. Not exactly a prescription for good mental health and goes against God’s injunction to not bear false witness.

James I think, in my own experience, it has actually had a detrimental effect on my brain, even though I probably can’t prove it. Compartmentalization of thoughts and memories has become so ingrained that most of my own past feels like it happened to somebody else. Also, it took me a long time to be able to build personal relationships.

Eric Nightmares about burning in Hell for all eternity for looking the wrong way should definitely be at the top of the list.

Sally …from my experience one harm that came from it was in trying to suppress who I was I was unable to be all I was meant to be within the church aswell as outside. I hated myself for who I was, it is only since I have accepted who I am and have begun to love myself that I have been able to be released into serving God with the gifts and calling he gave me.

David We only have one life to live. It should be an authentic and genuine experience. If it’s a false life…what would be the point? Gosh this goes for all sorts of True Self suppression. So sad when people are not who they truly are.


Lisa Ling attempted to present a human interest story. Sure she presented some positive portrayals of gay folks, even gay Christian folks, but ultimately she ultimately she failed in her public responsibility as a journalist to highlight the risks to health and well-being the religious-based ex-gay programs pose.

In my blog post Outrageous Displays of Ex-Gay Misinformation I write about a misguided radio program that also got the ex-gay story wrong. In the post, I point out the mistakes journalists make when they try to present “both sides of the story.” It’s not that simple and instead of informing  they end up misinforming the public.

Wayne Besen over at Truth Wins Out provides detailed analysis of the Lisa Ling piece. It is well worth watching. Besen reveals that TV program is naive and inaccurate in its presentation of Exodus. He also gives helpful information to journalists who might want to cover Exodus in the future.

Bottom line, Lisa Ling gave loads of airtime to providers and promoters of gay cures and no time at all to the victims of these programs.



This post has 7 Comments

  1. scottsteaux63 on March 14, 2011 at 6:20 pm

    Where to begin. I don’t know anything about Lisa Ling’s alleged journalistic credentials, but obviously objective reportage is either something that she never learned or simply was not the purpose of the show. The simple facts:

    1) Forty minutes of the hour were spent on Alan Chambers, Exodus, Janet Boyne and her so-called “success story” Christian, who was still as gay as the month of May even though she got him to stop doing drag. As for Chambers’s “marriage,” it is best not spoken of. And Michael Bussee’s segment was much too short; if you blinked, you would have missed him completely.

    2) Twenty minutes were devoted to the Naming Project; we did not get to know the kids very well because of the rush job on this segment; basically all we learned was that it was a summer camp for kids who are Christian and Gay.

    3) Lisa Ling repeatedly and offensively used the word “lifestyle;” on the live follow-up segment with Gayle King she attempted, unsuccessfully, to weasel out of it by claiming that she only used the word because Chambers did.

    4) The follow-up show was not much better; if Oprah insists upon giving her BFF Gayle King her own talk show she could at least teach her how to host one. Plus, Janet Boyne appeared YET AGAIN on the follow-up show, as if we had not had enough of this obnoxious woman.

    5) No probing questions were asked of anyone in the “ex-gay” movement; the whole thing was so low-key that, whatever their intention may have been, they succeeded only in making the “ex-gay” movement look like a viable alternative.

    Shame on Lisa Ling for lousy reporting. Shame on Gayle King for not being able to handle a call-in show (she promised the last caller they would get to her before the final commercial break and never did). And shame on Oprah Winfrey for showing such pap on her own network. This is a far cry from the Oprah we used to know.

  2. Gail on March 14, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    Hear Hear! Thank you for this post!

  3. Mary Pearson on March 15, 2011 at 12:41 am

    Thank you Peterson for this great video. You have a wonderful gentle manner and a gift for the right words.

    It was just posted on the Christian Gays Facebook page and I have taken the liberty of posting it on the main Christian Gays website at http://christiangays.com/exgay.shtml with a link to your website.

    Many thanks!
    God bless,

  4. joann@taforsberg.com on March 15, 2011 at 5:04 pm

    Agreed, thank you for your video and speaking out. I am a straight 35 year married; stay at home mom; grandmother; Christian woman. Conservative in my action; but, considered liberal in my love for others in humanity….

    I have supported gay-rights in the Church since the 1980’s; as I could not understand why people treated gay individuals terribly in the Church. So, I began my own quest to know the truth; and found that the interpretations of the Greek and Hebrew words that modern man uses to mean homo sexuality; actually was not interpreted that way until the 1950s. That spoke volumn to me.

    So, obviously a straight; Christian who has been supporting gay rights is a thorn in the flesh to other Christian’s who are spoon fed information by someone who was also spoon fed information. LOl… to know me, you would laugh that I could be a thorn as many strangers/people in general society state to me: that I am the kindest person they have ever observed in general society….

    so, I hope the kindness I express continues to influence people to open their ears; eye’sand mouth to stop this prejudice within the World and the Church.

    Bless you… and God gave me a wonderful blessing in life. My third born son is gay… wow… you dont know how happy I am as a Christian that I taught all those around me to accept gays. He was born in 1989 and came out to us at the age of sixteen 2005.

    It was sooo goood to know this child felt safe in a large family to be able to state: I am gay; and everyone would say: glad you know who you are.

    Blessings, blessings, blessings. Grandma Jo

  5. scottsteaux63 on March 15, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    Go, Go, Grandma Jo! 🙂

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