The Rising Costs of “Ex-Gay” Ministries

Running an “ex-gay” ministry can be costly. Consider all the publicity materials, staff costs, PR and overhead. Often these expenses get covered by conservative churches and para-church organizations (like Focus on the Family). The folks who attend these programs may be asked to cover some of the costs as well.

While at Love in Action (LIA), I paid nearly $1,000 per month for the services they provided which included four rap sessions a week, a Monday night Bible study, one-on-one sesssions, bi-annual family and friends weekend, housing and five meals a week. They still had to raise loads of money to cover all the costs.

But for those of us who attended “ex-gay” ministries, the costs incurred continue on for months and years after we exit the programs.

A few days after Thanksgiving I received an e-mail from Jeff, a fellow LIA survivor, who like me had been encouraged to look deeply at the dysfunctions in our families to unearth the roots of our homosexuality. None of us have perfect families, but many of us felt compelled to turn our childhoods into nightmares of neglect, pyschological torture and dangerously unhealthy relating.

After years of living with the aftermath of “ex-gay” therapy to Jeff and his family, he looked afresh at the family issues raised while at LIA. With his permission, I post some of his e-mail here.

I was able to apologize to my parents for the things that I said and did during the my time in LiA. Over the past several months, I have thought often about all the hurtful statements that were made concerning my dad and his “absenteeism” and my “inappropriately close” relationship with my mom. I came to realize that all of that was just untrue. In my effort to “make sense” and to find some cause for my homosexuality that fit the mold, I created and stretched and reshaped my childhood to match the mold. My parents suffered for it…

…I’m still angry that during all this time in LiA that no one challenged any of us if what we were saying about our parents was true. The only challenges issued (that I remember) were to those who claimed to have good, healthy relationships. The more we “stirred up the waters”, the more kudos and positive credit we were given. (Kind of the same way we were given credit the more we added to our powerlessness list.)

Anyway, both my dad and mom were very appreciative of the apology. My mom said two or three times over the course of the weekend how much the apology meant to both of them.

The loss to the family is just one of the many on-going costs many of us have endured because of our exposure to “ex-gay” ministries and anti-gay churches. Next I will look at how “ex-gay” ministries undermine our relationships with God and our faith.

This post has 4 Comments

  1. Willie Hewes on December 5, 2005 at 5:58 pm Reply

    Great stuff, Peterson. Its kind of like therapies aimed at ‘recovering’ ‘suppressed’ memories, without realising they may be creating them.

    Looking forward to the next part, your bloggings are always worth it.

  2. Heath on December 6, 2005 at 2:50 am Reply

    Great post, Peterson.

    On the other side of that, I think something should be said about anti-gay materials intended for parents of people who are LGBT, as well; they can really be self-destructive.

    I know for awhile now, my mom’s been feeling like she was a failure as a mother because of the things they they, as well as Focus on the Family, put in their books and tapes… it’s been painful to watch. After listening to Dr. Laura (groan) for awhile, she started to convince herself that if she’d been able to be a stay-at-home mom, things might have turned out differently.

    It’s just so upsetting how hard people will dig to find the “root” of their, or their loved one’s, sexual oriention.

  3. morgan on December 6, 2005 at 9:07 pm Reply

    you’re forever seeking and promoting insite that is ever important and well-spoken

  4. Jeff Harwood on December 8, 2005 at 12:43 am Reply

    There were many tears and raw emotions on my parents’ part as a result of the program. They were told by in their group sessions with staff (during family and friends) weekends that our homosexuality was not there fault.

    Then during the rest of the year and during that weekend, we would be encouraged (read challenged – in some cases brow-beaten) by staff and fellow clients to confront our parents for the actions that contributed and led to our homosexuality.

    I recently remembered my mother saying when I first told that that I was going into the program, trying to explain it as best as I could, that they were afraid I was going into some kind of cult. If only we had known what a portent that was.

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