It should not be surprising that those who describe themselves as former homosexuals would have a negative view of “the homosexual lifestyle”. The testimonies on the websites of ex-gay ministries almost universally are stories of miserable people living unfulfilled and often debased lives who find meaning by striving to be ex-gay. Unable to achieve a functional existence complete with loving relationships or reciprocal friendships and surrounded by those individuals with a similar outlook, they see only unhappiness and misery within the gay community.
It is a condition of humanity that we see the world through the prism of our own experiences. Having found no peace in the gay “lifestyle”, they believe that that this supposed lifestyle is not a peaceful one.
And it seems that the ex-gays leadership – whether unconsciously or deliberately – are particularly prone to projecting their experiences onto all other. Unwilling or unable to recognize that not all people experience things the same way, their base assumption is that all gay people are miserable.
This world view is evident in a recent posting on Mike Ensley’s site. In a blog that gushes over Randy Thomas and his anti-gay lobbying in Washington, Mike says the following:
Randy also does a great job expressing his understanding of the gay community’s struggle. Sometimes, those who disagree with him forget that he’s been there, and understands the pain. For me, my experiences lead me to believe that the problems in the gay community don’t primarily stem from society’s lack of acceptance (the solution therefore being more and more acceptance), but rather in the innate flaws of homosexuality–its inability to satisfy the desire that fuels it. It’s hard to express when there are so many who are passionately convinced of the former.
Mike assumes that being gay is a struggle, which comes with pain. And it has problems stemming from innate flaws and an inability to satisfy.
I’ll be the first to acknowledge that some gay people have problems and that there are higher levels of substance abuse, depression, and STI’s within the gay community. We can debate whether this is a result of societal rejection, a lack of the social network heterosexuals often find in church and society, or entirely other factors. But it remains true that the majority of gay people are not addicted, depressed or sick.
Yet Mike, and so many other ex-gays, have a base assumption that gay = miserable. And no amount of claims to the contrary will change that. They “just know” that deep down inside is a well of hurt and loneliness that we are all hiding and refusing to acknowledge.
And though I would hope that some day the ex-gay ministries will come to see happy, healthy gay men and women living lives of value and joy, I’m not optimistic that this will happen soon. To accept that gay people can be happy goes against an identity that many of them now have as a core of their being. Unable to find self regard by accepting themselves, these souls have found a purpose and the respect of others by rejecting their prior selves. To acknowledge happy gay people would mean denying their own value.
We who accept our orientation as natural and inherent may also be guilty of seeing the world through our own perspective. We can be quick to dismiss the misery that ex-gays experienced or to see how their current lives – though they may not seem complete to us – provide peace and meaning to those who are living them. And we too can feel that by validating the misery that ex-gays felt we are somehow denying our own value as out gay men and women.
And we too can become caught by the lure of believing that our experiences can or should be forced on others. And just as the ex-gay ministries have fallen victim to the vanity of their experiences and allowed unscrupulous politicians to use them for cruel social means, we too can think that our experiences allow us to dismiss those who disagree with us and impose our social views on others.
Let us hope that we can see above the fray in this climate of culture war, consider the lives of others, and allow for differences. Let us hope that we can find ways to accommodate those who have found joy and hope in accepting themselves and also those for whom honoring their same-sex attractions brought dissonance and pain. Let us hope that leaders will arise within the ex-gay world who will seek peace and truth rather than lobbying and vilification. Sadly, for the current ex-gay leadership I think we can only hope and pray.