Apr 6, 2011

Why do people go down the ex-gay path?

Why I Went Ex-Gay

by Peterson Toscano
When an ex-gay survivor shares an account of how they tried to change or suppress their orientation or gender non-conforming behavior, some gays and lesbians respond–That’s CRAZY! Why would you ever do something that STUPID!

Indeed, it may seem illogical that intelligent queer folk living in modern times get duped by promises of heterosexuality or vaguer promises of “change.” Some just chalk it up to that Old Time Religion that makes people do silly and self-destructive things. But it’s not that simple.

After spending nearly twenty years deeply entrenched in the ex-gay world, attending multiple Exodus programs, including the Love in Action residential facility for two years, I finally came to my senses and came out of the closet. I then began to ask myself–WHY did you do that to yourself? Why did you let ex-gay ministers and gay reparative therapists tamper with you.

The over arching reason was that I was a Christian and felt that being gay was incompatible with my faith. Strangely, my close reading of the Bible didn’t cause a similar strange reaction in regards to my finances and Biblical  justice for the poor.  It took time and effort, but I have unearthed several other reasons.

Here’s a selected short list from a much longer one below

  •   Desire to marry and have children
  •   Fear of loneliness as I grew old
  •   HIV/AIDS and other STDs that I assumed I would get if I came out gay
  •   Misinformation of what it meant to be gay
  •   The desire to fit in with everyone, to feel “normal”
  •   Pressure from society through virtually every film, TV show, pop song and commercial proclaiming that the heterosexual life was the idealized norm without showing any alternatives
Longer list
  • Image of Wedding Cake CoupleDesire to marry and have children 
  • Fear of loneliness as I grew old
  • AIDS and other STDs that I assumed I would get if I came out gay
  • Misinformation of what it meant to be gay
  • The desire to fit in with everyone, to feel "normal"
  • Pressure from society through virtually every film, TV show, pop song and commercial proclaiming that the heterosexual life was the idealized norm without showing any alternatives
  • Negative portrayals of LGBT people in the media
  • Fear of physical and verbal attack for being gay
  • Witnessing physical and verbal attacks of those who are gay or perceived to be gay
  • Desire to please family and friends
  • Fear of losing family and friends
  • No positive gay role models
  • Having furtive sexual encounters causing me distress in a society that punishes sexual "deviance" (while an addiction to credit never seemed to bother me in a society that encouraged debt)
  • Unresolved sexual abuse issues that caused me to carry my abuser's shame with me thus causing me to question my own gay orientation and self-worth
  • Low self-esteem
  • Self-hatred and internalized homophobia
  • Cowardice to stand against the tide and be myself
  • Living to please man and not God, bowing to man's teachings while not actually seeking God about the matter
And the list can still go on and on. For me the faith issue was a convenient cover that distracted me from the many other factors that influenced me to seek change. Similarly some anti-gay Christian folks can use the religious argument to hide behind their own discomfort with the intimcay between two men or two women.

For me it took years to unearth the many reasons why I went ex-gay. Coming to a place of integrity and understand has led me to deal directly with these motivations and find the help I needed to address my true needs.

What about you? What led you to go ex-gay or why do you think some people elect to change or suppress their gay orientation?

1 comment:

  1. I may not be lgbt (well, maybe bi- I've never really cared enough to work it out- I don't get the big deal), but I do have bipolar, a mental illness. I can certainly identify with the fear of being judged, the lack of understanding, the stigma that must be associated with being 'out'- we, the mentally ill, get it too. I know what it's like to live your life trying to be 'normal'- but I refuse to be silent anymore about my 'illness', because I believe that if I am silent, then I am responsible for perpetuating the stigma and stereotype surrounding mental health issues. Which is why I believe blogs like this are so important. I believe that those of us who can speak up must speak up, for the sake of those who are not strong enough to yet.

    Unfortunately it was only today I had to speak up; I was having a coffee when a fella came up to me to request a smoke. His clothes were stained and old, but clean, and his hair brushed. I spotted him straight away as having mental health issues (it's always in the eyes), and asked him how he was was as I rolled him a smoke. He started talking- don't ask me what about, I could tell by his speech pattern that he was schizophrenic, and couldn't follow him, but he was pleasant, finished his smoke and walked off suddenly, distracted by something else. After he left the guy at the next table made a narky comment about about his failure to thank me for the smoke, and I turned around and said that he was mentally I'll, I am too, that it takes one to know one, and that he was harmless and just not quite with it that day. I then said that that used to be me. I was not offended, more pleased that he had walked off happy for the chat, that his demeanor had changed to that from the way he had approached me, almost as though he didn't deserve to look at anyone. I saw an unwell person for whom a bit of kindness meant the world to. The man at the table next to me saw an obnoxious, rude, bum.

    My point is that we might be fighting fir different causes here, but we're dealing with the same isolation, stereotyping and stigmatization from the wider community, and even certain so-called professionals in mental health's case. The mentally ill also get a wonderful time from the church- there is an attitude that we are not ill, but demon possessed. We have spirits making us like this, that only god can fix, apparently. This is a very dangerous view point- a flow-on effect of, 'i've been prayed for, god has healed me, I can feel it, I don't need my medication anymore, can ensue causing untold damage. These attitudes of the church's are slowly changing, though, thank goodness.

    Keep up the good work, the fight may be long and hard but well worth it. It is vital you continue. Sexual orientation should not be a big deal. It should mean no more than the colour of your hair


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