As one wise person wrote, there is a time and season for everything. Listening and speaking–they flow in and out of each other, like breathing. There are times when I have to be still and listen to that still small voice within. That voice may bring comfort or guidance or may point out something that is out of whack inside of me that needs to be sorted.
I also have times when I need to sit and listen to others, to those stories that I often do not get to hear in the mainstream media and the queer press. The stories of trans men and women. The stories of Black lesbians. The stories of gay men with physical disabilities. The stories of senior citizens–queer or straight. The horrors of war in Darfur.
As a white gay male in America, I can easily live with a curtain blocking my view of humanity. Distracted by the buzz of American Idol and Anna Nicole Smith and Britney’s meltdown (or not), I can become bloated on non-news leaving me no room for reality.
In speaking with some ex-gay leaders recently, I see the desperate need they have to hear some of our stories. Never once has an ex-gay program I attended ever done any sort of follow-up. I mean I can’t buy a soy latte these days without having to fill out a survey about my coffee experience. Yet folks can spend tens of thousands of dollars on reparative therapy and nothing–no aftercare, no reflections on what worked and what didn’t work.
I think ex-gay leaders can be like folks with lots of credit card debt. The debt exists and it keeps growing, but as long as we keep all the statements separate and never add up all that we really owe, we can ignore reality. We may even be sucked into getting yet another credit card.
But the ex-gay movement needs to take an accounting of its activities. They need to sit and listen to the stories of the majority of people who have been through their programs only to come to the understanding that change is not necessary, particularly in the way it was promised.
They need to hear how many of our lives grew worse as a result of our ex-gay experiences. They need to hear about our faith journeys, our loss of faith communities, our doubts of God and God’s love and the ways that some of us have been able to reclaim a spiritual life and how many have not.
They need to hear about the ways some of us went into the programs sexually naive only to exit armed with far too much information about where sex addicts get their fixes. They need to hear about our earnest desire to do the right thing and the utter discouragement and failure we have often felt after spending all the time and energy to “get right with God”.
They need to hear about the healthy lives we have miraculously been able to create for ourselves, the healthy relationships and new direction, the forgiveness we have been able to extend and the freedoms that we have achieved.
They need to stop listening to their own testimonies and start listening to our stories. And when they refuse to do so, they reveal something that they may not even acknowledge to themselves. That at the end of the day, they care more about issues and their constituents than they care for us.
Jesus made it clear that he cared more about people than about issues, more about relationship than about law.