The Ex-Gay Lifestyle


Anti-gay conservative church leaders and politicians often cry out against the GAY LIFESTYLE, that evil, self-indulgent, promiscuous, unsafe way of living which includes seducing others to join in on our ungodliness. During my 17 years in various “ex-gay” programs, when we often referred to our pre-“ex-gay” history we would say “when I was in The Lifestyle”.

Those of us who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgender, queer, gender queer, same-gender loving people often feel bafflement, amusement, annoyance or anger (or a mixture of any of these) when we all get lumped into a “lifestyle” that does not define the vast majority of us.

Sure there are gay men who do illegal drugs and anonymous sex and 400 thread count sheets, but I’ve also seen Sex in the City and ads for the Girls Gone Wild videos. Do these represent the heterosexual female lifestyle?

In Love in Action (LIA), I received the 374-page Steps Out Program Class Manual (replete with an image of a studly workman on the cover), but from it I could not glean many details about the gay lifestyle. Here is the vague and confusing description from the manual:

What Do We Mean When We Say “Lifestyle”?
… Following the gay lifestyle means being involved with other gay people at various social levels. The lifestyle is quite different for gay men then it is for gay women. For gay men, it usually revolves around a gay ghetto area in an urban environment, although this is not necessarily so.

To become involved in the lifestyle means coming out of the closet to some degree. Lifestyles can be overt or covert. A gay person may be flamboyant, not caring who knows of his homosexuality, or he may be living a double life, appearing heterosexual at work and among family members and slipping away to parks or baths to engage in homosexual behavior. (Chapter 38, page 257)

(Like in most of the “ex-gay” training I received, women were barely mentioned.) The manual goes on to list reasons participants had chosen to enter the Lifestyle. Listed in order of importance they include such sinister motivations as:

To express love and to receive love,
To find one’s identity,
To find protection from attacks of the straight world.
To express defiance, rebellion over the unobtainable demands of the straight world.

The solution? A new lifestyle! According to the Program Overview, “We will seek to build a new life-style and a new identity—one based on the Word of God.”

The “Ex-Gay Lifestyle” as outline in a copy of the manual I’ve provided for you today (click on it for a larger image), explains it in detail. A big part is membership and involvement in a church. I guess not a gay church or one of those liberal franchises since the “ex-gay lifestyle” includes avoiding gay people and gay places–“The Forbidden Zone” as we termed it in LIA.

Most importantly the NEW Lifestyle includes being a role model for others–being flamboyant ex-gays. And from meeting many of the graduates who now run these programs, I see that they succeed exceedingly well in fulfilling this last expectation.

So in a nutshell, what is the “ex-gay lifestyle”? Heterosexual, non-urban (white?), conservative protestant Christian with an agenda to recruit and convert others.

Stay tuned, next week we will look at what some “ex-gays” have to say about GENDER—what fun!

This post has 11 Comments

  1. Ann on November 3, 2005 at 8:24 pm Reply

    With that old LiA manual, you have quite a collector’s item.

  2. Scott on November 3, 2005 at 8:38 pm Reply

    Coming from somebody who was never an ex-gay my take on the “ex-gay lifestyle” comes from one of ignorance.

    I can tell you what the “ex-gay activist” lifestyle seems to be.

    It involves the following:

    1. A natural craving for camera time.

    2. A need to not only be an ex-gay spokesperson but to go out of your way to punish those who haven’t followed your ex-gay path.

    3. Lots of doublespeak (i.e. Mike Haley last week saying he supported the LWO protesters’ ability to choose their own path), however holding a symposium on how to get rid of gay marriage in MA. That doesn’t seem “ex-gay” to me, that seems like FOTF activism.

    4. Eating their own after they publically fall (i.e. John Paulk and Michael Johnston).

    As far as ex-gays not on any religious org’s payroll I can’t comment.

    Maybe lots of trips to Florida but that’s all I got.

  3. Bob Painter on November 3, 2005 at 9:25 pm Reply

    I still find myself using the term “gay lifestyle.” It’s an old habit that dies hard!

    John Smid repeatedly said that no matter what we did after the program, we would forever be imprinted by its teachings and thought processes.

    How frustrating…

  4. Ann on November 3, 2005 at 10:52 pm Reply

    The really tragic thing about the LiA manual and so much of the ex-gay movement is the theology. Unfortunately, it appears to simply be highly reflective of conservative evangelical theology in general. The old SB stereotypes still pass as spirituality. A Christian lifestyle is one that follows certain rules, more cultural than spiritual. Since none of us can always keep all the rules, we remain hamsters on the wheel, spiritually, and sadly, never experience the real grace of God.

  5. Bob Painter on November 4, 2005 at 2:34 pm Reply

    Ann, that’s so beautiful…

    Nothing is more calming and beautiful to me than grace, and I never tire of being reminded of its power.

    I have pondered often the legalism of the mainline church in America. I believe if Jesus were walking the earth today–instead of a couple of thousand years ago–the Pharisees would be His Church, and his aquaintances would be the socially oppressed–just as they were when he was here the first time.

    Thank you, Lord, for not making your love conditional…and for giving grace a name: Jesus…

  6. Bruce Garrett on November 4, 2005 at 11:03 pm Reply

    John Smid repeatedly said that no matter what we did after the program, we would forever be imprinted by its teachings and thought processes.

    Well…for what it’s worth…the term lifestyle is used by heterosexuals often to describe their own lives. Hence, the popularity of all those so-called ‘lifestyle’ magazines.

    I think the big difference here, the thing that makes the term so insidious, is that there is no concept among them, or among us, of one overreaching straight lifestyle. ‘Gay lifestyle’ is a way of lumping us all together, taking away our individuality, making us faceless.

    Which is the problem I have with the word ‘lifestyle’ to begin with. It limits us. It sets our lives in a frame. But life is a constant process of exploration and growth. We need to be free to draw outside the lines sometimes, if that’s where the line wants to go.

  7. RadicalPurple on November 4, 2005 at 11:58 pm Reply

    I am not trying to spam, but I posted a little about you on my blog. I hope its OK. I am irritated with a certain reverend and had to respond on my own blog, as he deleted my comment from his from his.

  8. Clint on November 5, 2005 at 2:28 am Reply

    Interesting. “Gay ghetto”? There is no gay ghetto in Minneapolis. Gays are everywhere here. So, how are so many of us pulling it off without a “gay ghetto”?

    Also, I found, as I was deciding whether to come out, my friends used “being in the lifestyle” *really* to mean not being in ex-gay therapy, or, at minimum, quitting trying to be straight. It took me awhile to figure out that’s what they meant.

    Peace
    Clint

  9. Peterson Toscano on November 6, 2005 at 2:34 am Reply

    Clint, great to hear from you. Looks like you are back posting at GCN or am I just imagining that?

    Thanks everyone for the great comments.

  10. Regan on November 18, 2005 at 9:00 pm Reply

    OK, check this out.

    Many times, a distinctly standard English speaking, short neat haircut sporting, khakis wearing young black man could easily be vilified (and still is) for not being down with his urban brotha’s as authentic a ‘sposed to be badass as the rest.
    The usual epithet: ‘acting white.’
    Change the khakis to a dark suit and bow tie, you got Fruits of Islam.
    Not to be confused with just ‘fruits’.
    Go figgah.

    This you all heard from another dangerous minority:
    an urban black woman with an education, bank account, a shaved head and attitude.
    Am I still authentic because I DON’T care about wearing hair I didn’t grow from my own head?

    I don’t act black or white or gay or straight.
    I act like I’ll tear you a new one for speaking false witness against my brother.
    Like Antigone…
    That’s MY lifestyle.

    Anyone with a problem with us Peterson….
    just has a problem.
    Period.

  11. Bhaskar Gorti on October 24, 2007 at 6:06 pm Reply

    This kind of stuff really drives me nuts. I am still in the closet (my parents wouldnt understand) and have been leading a life like batman and bruce wayne – but am beginning to prefer my batcave if you know what I mean.

    So I am decidedly “pre-gay” publicly. I can only imagine what “post-gay” would equate to. I mean really once you are out, you are out and in my book there is no going back!

    your pal,

    Bhaskar

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