Monday, July 10, 2006

In this interesting review in Salon of the book "Straight to Jesus," about an exgay residential program in San Francisco, we learn that the author discovered several interesting things about life as an "exgay" which I have been talking about for a long time:

1. "Exgay" does not mean "heterosexual."
"Contrary to what the Christian right proclaims, ex-gay programs operate more like 12 Step regimens than like psychiatric treatments for, say, depression or bipolar disorder. Worthen and other gurus of reparative therapy often speak of homosexuality as a form of addiction, and just as AA holds that an alcoholic is never really "cured," only "sober," they caution that relapses or "sexual falls" remain an ever-present threat to the devout ex-gay. AA members refer to themselves as alcoholics even when they're not drinking, and, Erzen believes, "ex-gay" is a similar identity group, an unsettled and perilous condition rather than a firm relocation to heterosexuality.

"Recovery and relapse are built into the creation of an ex-gay identity," she writes, "and sexual falls are expected. Rather than becoming heterosexual, men and women become part of a new identity group in which it is the norm to submit to temptation and return to ex-gay ministry over and over again." That's one reason why the sex scandals involving Exodus leaders don't discredit the therapy in their eyes.

2. The political religious right were latecomers to the "exgay" movement.
"Erzen writes that Christian right kingpins like James Dobson (director of Focus on the Family) usually either ignored ex-gays or treated them as an "embarrassment." But when the Christian right made anti-gay activism a keystone of its agenda in the '90s, it needed ex-gays as evidence. If homosexuality is innate and unchangeable -- as some, but not all, gay activists insist -- then laws and practices that infringe on the rights of gays and lesbians can be likened to the injustices suffered by African-Americans and other ethnic minorities. But if the Christian right can succeed in characterizing homosexuality as curable and therefore a "choice," gays and lesbians couldn't claim they were being discriminated against.

"A few key leaders of the ex-gay movement were willing to go along with this, and were made poster boys and girls for their cooperation."
This is an important point to discuss. Early on, the exgay movement was shunned by conservative Christian churches.
"Despite the Christian right's insistence that they "love the sinner, hate the sin," it seems that the homophobic faithful just don't want to share their chapels with people whose past sex lives gross them out. The ex-gay movement, Erzen writes "envisions itself as a pocket of resistance and tolerance" by comparison, a view that would surely startle the gay protesters who picketed the ministry in its early years."
In other words, even though the exgays had "renounced" homosexuality, the mere fact that they had EVER engaged in same sex behavior so grossed out conservative Christians that they weren't welcome in Christian churches. Unlike, say, former alcoholics or former adulterers, the inherent homophobia in the Christian community (which still exists in abundance) led these congregations to shun formerly gay people.


This is the condition of present day conservative Christianity when it comes to homosexual persons. EVEN IF WE DO decide to change, we are worthless in their eyes unless we can be used as a political tool against happy, healthy gay and lesbian persons.
What they all seem to have experienced was rejection from the churches and communities they grew up in, which explains their mistrust of the Christian right. "Most of them can't handle the truth," one man told Erzen. "If you're in the church and you're a drug addict, murderer, whatever, guys will come up to you and slap you on the ass. But if you state that you struggle with homosexuality, you get the whole pew to yourself." Some of the men at New Hope had asked their fellow congregants for help and prayers, only to be shunned or told they were possessed by demons. Some didn't dare to speak of it at all.
This sounds like an interesting book. The review states that it takes a compassionate look at these poor folks who are struggling with their sexual identity and their faith. I used to be in that position so I know what's it's like. I'm just glad I got over it.

I just wish the exgay movement would leave us the hell alone. But, clearly, unless they kowtow to the political forces dominating the anti-gay political agenda, they will find themselves once again thrown out into the street with the rest of us faggots.

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Anonymous said...

The ex-gay movement has done more to increase guilt and anxiety in those who it professes to help. The end result of most who become involved in ex-gay ministries is an increase in their emotional agonies and distress. I know several people who have 'tried' exgay ministries who have since left those groups and profess to be much happier and healthier because they no longer submit themselves to the kinds of abuse they were subjected to when they were in the groups.

Anonymous said...

Hello there! I had read the Salon article this morning, and it seemed like it might be worth reading even if the author took what appears to be a 'lukewarm' position. But as I read your comments, it would seem the issue is complex enough to warrent more attention. If nothing else, it will be valuable to have a better understanding of our unhappy brothers and sisters that have gone through or are contemplating such an experience.

Being part of an organization dedicated to the eradication of guilt, this issue makes me particularly agitated, because, as Ray points out, it seems to exist solely by exploiting and magnify that toxic emotion.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the book and the review.

Sister Mary Fucking Poppins, Dinonun
Sisters of Perpetual Induldence, Los Angeles

Regan said...

Here's something I wonder about.
The former position taken by conservative religious people on ex gays,was non acceptance...right?

I wonder what ex gays would think about banning mixed marriages between ex gays and ever straight spouses.
After all, the track record (and yes, they seem to not count much else against other people who want to marry) between gay people and straight people isn't good.
That's evidence of course that a gay person was ALREADY TRYING to live like a straight person, and they simply couldn't do it.
I don't know what it's gonna take for straight people to realize, gay folks just aren't into them.
And don't require straight folks to tell them what to do with their lives.

Whether it's to Christ or into heterosexuality....
straight folks sure seem hellbent on changing everything....against nature's tenaciousness.

Steve Schalchlin said...

I wonder what ex gays would think about banning mixed marriages between ex gays and ever straight spouses.

One time I asked an exgay how he'd feel if, in parallel to their battle to stop gay marriage, we tried to turn the constitution against them that way and ban their marriages.

It, of course, went over his head. Logic is not something radical religionists respond to very well. They are on a crusade to rid the world of gays and that's all they see. They think they're doing it for Jesus. Irrational belief systems never respond to logic.