According to Monty Python we should beware the Ides of March (aka March 15). For some this will be a momentous day, one they may live to regret. Today I consider ex-gays, particularly four individuals who begin the Love in Action (LIA) ex-gay treatment program called The Source. Some will be in for 28 days while others have signed up for the whole three months. I learned of the plight of these four from someone with inside information.
On their website Love in Action makes it sound like The Source will provide a place where people come to release shame and grow spiritually. From my own experience at LIA, and that of most of the dozens of other men and women I personally know who also attended this program, we experienced the exact opposite–an increase in shame and a spiritual crisis, in some cases leading to the loss of faith.
Although some people turn to programs like Love in Action for assistance dealing with compulsive sexual behavior, many of us actually learned more about where to find sex in unexpected public places after hearing other participants spill some of their own stories. In suppressing and demonizing our desires, many of us reinforced the deep shame we felt, which caused some of us to do harm to ourselves.
The heart of LIA’s message is that it is wrong, abnormal, sinful to be gay. This is the message we heard loud and clear in so many ways from the many many stringent and invasive rules to the disturbing Family and Friends Weekend. (For over a yearenior leadership at Exodus, which oversees LIA, have been aware of the bizarre and unethical nature of the Family and Friends weekend yet have done nothing to address the situation.)
After spending a tremendous amount of time and money and energy while also leaving key relationships and careers and homes, most people who have attended the LIA program came to the conclusion that it is fine to be gay, a healthy expression of one’s self. Joy, self-control, love and peace came with understanding ourselves and accepting how we are wired. Being gay or lesbian or bisexual is simply a part of the wonderful design of what makes us who we are. Once we apprehended this truth, then were able to better assess how to live our lives from there with integrity and openness.
As I think of these four who enter the LIA program, I want to highlight the experience of one man who spent time trying to straighten himself out, but instead found a better way. Mark just posted his narrative over at the Beyond Ex-Gay website. He writes,
I was involved with an Exodus-affiliated ministry for about three years in the late 80s. Compared to many ex-ex-gays, my tenure was brief. But the effects, some positive, some negative, have been lasting.
Mark honestly relates how at first going to Exodus conferences and programs actually seemed to make his life better, but over time, he experienced more and more negative affects of the treatment.
I had become so adept at jamming down my sexual feelings that I was becoming numb. And this lack of interest in any kind of sex scared me more than the monotony of my monastic existence. I knew that it wasn’t normal for a 22 year-old guy to have no sexual desires. This alone was enough to scare me away from Exodus.
Mark reveals both the good and the bad with his time in Exodus,
My three years in Exodus were ultimately a failure in the sense that I didn’t become a heterosexual or develop even a trace of attraction for the opposite sex.
But Exodus did produce some positive results in my life. I embraced its clean-living lifestyle at a time when I had developed a lot of bad habits. I met a lot of interesting people and got to travel to places I hadn’t been before. I learned how to organize my life, to be proactive and to not simply react all the time.
But there was also damage done. I don’t think Exodus or its practices can make a gay person straight. But the practices can make a gay person feel nothing, which is what I experienced. Exodus managed to take all of the joy out of my sexuality and it’s taken years to get the joy back. But happily, I’ve been in a fairly healthy 12-year relationship with a special guy. Sexuality is a gift to be treasured.