What I’ve Learned From Ex-Gay Therapy/Ministry: Part One
I’ve been encouraged to share personal narratives about what I’ve learned from ex-gay therapy/ministry. While I’ve never experienced being ex-gay personally, my unique perspective affords me a great deal of “inside” anecdotal information that could be valuable to folks on any side of the issues surrounding ex-gay therapy/ministry.
I hope that folks who read XGW will take this series as an opportunity to better understand the language and position of those in the ex-gay movement. I understand (not fully, of course) how offensive the very idea of ex-gay therapy/ministry is to so many of you who may read this. And yet, I know beyond all doubt that we ALL have things to learn from one another and that by at least attempting to understand a different perspective we are each able to more effectively communicate our own. The one and only path I’d like to steer all of us towards is that of love and understanding. I don’t mind adding that I personally believe the heavier burden of understanding lies with those on the ex-gay side of the issue.
If you’re reading this post, you’re on a computer. Your computer is loaded with an operating system. Most of the things that happen on your computer happen because of default settings. Default is the way computers are set up so that every amoeba and their pet parasite are able to browse the Internet.
In the world of ex-gay, heterosexuality is the default. God created and declared this setting, “good”. But, as fate, or possibly the fact that the creation had free will, would have it, the settings were tinkered with over the course of time. Homosexuality, according to ex-gay thinking, is a variant of the default. Furthermore, if gayness is a variation and straight is a default, then it can, and very likely should be, changed back to the default setting. This, as I perceive it, is the heart of ex-gay ministry and the aim of ex-gay therapy. This is also where my personal thinking diverges quite a bit from the typical party-line of the ex-gay camp. However, this series of posts is an explanation of what I learned from being involved with ex-gay therapy/ministry. It’s not necessarily a series detailing my personal beliefs.
Moving on with that line of thinking, the terms used among ex-gay folk are often used innocently. Yes, I understand the word “lifestyle” is fully loaded and biased toward negative thinking. And yes, it’s true, most folks who use the word “lifestyle” to describe gays have a negative connotation accompanying that description. “Gay lifestyle” in ex-gay speak is equal to: infidelity, promiscuous behavior, effeminate men, butch women, parades, promiscuous behavior, Internet hook-ups, dance club/electronica music, promiscuous behavior, fashion, artistic expression, promiscuous behavior, etc…
I could go on and on. Suffice it to say, gay lifestyle = promiscuous behavior. And, the ex-gay programs are not doing a great deal (nothing, actually) to educate parents of children who are same sex attracted (gay) in understanding the connotations or meanings of the language they are using to describe those they “serve”.
As a recently divorced heterosexual adult, I can tell you without hesitation that the “gay lifestyle” has not ONE thing on the “heterosexual lifestyle”. I’m not a sexually active heterosexual, and I certainly would not want to be judged as a person (heterosexual) based on the activities of most other heterosexuals who are in my particular circumstance. The results would be devastating for me. I thank God every day (because I see the gay analog) that I am viewed as an individual and not in relation to the orientation of heterosexuality when it comes to being a divorced individual in our culture.
I look forward to writing more in this series. My next article will detail some of the specific and bizarre happenings that took place within my own husband’s attempts to become completely free of same sex attractions.
Keep in mind, everything I say in these narratives is colored with a Christian world view. If you are not a Christian, you will likely want to take issue with a few things. However, since I’ve provided this disclaimer, I’m trusting that civility and good manners in general will reign supreme in the comments. I’m just telling my story.
I am very much looking forward to hearing more of your story. I appreciate the time and work you are putting into educating us about your experience.
“I’m just telling my story.”
And I’m so glad you are.
Pam my dear…thank you, THANK YOU!
For being here, for being so honest and forthright. I look forward to your posts and sharing your experience and thoughts in any way you can.
And you are in a unique position and the style in which you choose to address everyone is exactly why I trust you DO have love in your heart.
‘You came with the feet and hands of a goddess’ so to speak, instead of the anger and stinky breath of the demon punisher.
Ex gays, so often attach much debt to their gifts. And wonder why so many doubt the sincerity of their offering.
At any rate, Pam…I will write you an email soon.
Love ya, sistah girl!
God created a world with a huge variety of sexualities. Lizards that are parthogenetic – generation after generation of virgin births. Thousands of organisms that are hermphroditic, having both genitalia, some self-fertile, others not. Fish that naturally change from one gender to the other, organisms with, scientifically speaking, thousands of genders. Creatures with no gender at all, which never-the-less exchange genetic information with each other.
And creatures that are bisexual, homosexual, and heterosexual. Creatures that only have sex to reproduce, creatures that have sex for fun, to create and strengthen vital social bonds with in the group their lives depend on. Creatures that are monogamous for a day, a season, a lifetime. Creatures that reproduce in harems, creatures like corals that engage in orgies of sex that involved millions of organisms.
Some humans have, despite all of this variety, declared heterosexuality the default and good. Just a trifle uninformed.
Don’t blame that on God.
Personally, I think there is absolutely nothing Christian about the world view you’ve presented so far.
As for civility and good manners, lady, you violated that from the get-go.
By the way, Pam,
Since you’ve taken time to opine, indirectly on my life along with the lives of millions of GLBTQ people, perhaps you’d care to make some effort a bit closer to home.
I saw this yesterday:
Shouldn’t heterosexuals get their own house in order, before telling GLBTQ what neighborhood is “the default”?
I apologize for offending you.
I’m telling you what I learned within the framework of ex-gay therapy/ministry. I’m not stating this as my personal belief.
I mostly apologize for apparently not making that clear enough. I really thought I’d made it clear that this was not my personal opinion but what the “others” (do you watch Lost?: ) think of you.I appreciate your zeal and I look forward to knowing you and hopefully you taking the time to get to know me.
After you take both feet out of your mouth FOJ, read past the point at which you became enraged:
You owe “the lady”, whose name is Pam, a rather large apology. It’s not easy for her to share something from such a personal experience and we are lucky that she is willing.
My feet are not in my mouth, nor do I owe Pam even a tiny apology. Thanks anyways.
First off, none of the summation in her account are new or obscure information. So, she is publically repeating nasty claims about millions of people, without purpose. There is little if any confusion about what ex-gay ministries believe about GLBTQ people.
What purpose is there for telling us to our faces, as if we didn’t know, that “some” people think we are defined by promiscuous behavior.
Let’s notice that when she does present her on view – it is from the standpoint that heterosexuals are promiscuous too. Look at again at that paragraph, the implicit assumption it is based on is ‘there is a gay lifestyle and it is bad’ – but hets do bad things too.
Second, I’m just not falling for excuses that are modified with phrases like “not necessarily” or “diverges quite a bit” – which communicate clearly that she believes something in common with ex-gay groups, but she hasn’t explained what she actually does believe about.
Really think about this David, how often, how consistently has our community run across people who spell out a long list of our presumed faults, couched as ‘some people say’? Think about how much Pam’s part one matches the accounts from anti-gay writers, organizations, theologians and clergy. People raise topics when they right for a reason – to defend them, to refute them, or just to plant them as is.
Pam, I’m certainly interested in your story – your experience, your feelings, your thoughts. The ex-gay ministries have made their thoughts on the subject quite clear.
There’s no need to parade the condemnations and lies from anti-gay ministries in with your story, unless you believe those things at least a little bit.
I totally got that you were talking about what you learned, not about what you thought.
However, even if your own opinion is something along the lines of “we were designed in creation to be heterosexual by God” (i.e., it’s the default), I would still want to read your thoughts. There is much to be learned from your perspective.
As I’ve always said to my sister, “I’m not asking that you change your beliefs on homosexuality. You can think it’s a sin until the cows come home. All I want is to be treated with love and respect as an equal.”
And, Pam, I think you know that my sister and I do that with each other. You do too. Thank you.
One last comment, regarding feet in mouth – from Pam’s own website, she is, as of 4/2/07, of “world of ex-gay”:
Whenever she used that concept, it was her world she was describing.
It’s just Part 1. Geez.
I was asked to do this, all the writers at XGW have reviewed the articles and will review the next TWO that go with it.
My point in the whole being defined by promiscuous behavior was that the ex-gay groups do nothing to educate the parents of gays (and they get tons of support from that group) about how offensive some of their language is to their children. I think they should do that, and they don’t. At least from the experiences I’ve had with them I never saw anything like that. From what I can tell, they are fine with the parents continuing to use flamatory language to their children.
FOJ….you’ve run across alot of people….and I’m not them. I’m sorry for you that you choose to “lump” me in with others you so zealously oppose. I really am sorry about that. And I don’t mind apologizing to you….again….for not being clear enough with you about what I believe.
Again….this is the FIRST post in a series.
anyway…foj….i’ve said that quote you quoted before….here even….if i’m recalling correctly….maybe i’m wrong. in fact, maybe i’m wrong about everything….at least i’ll admit that i could, indeed, be wrong about some things. again, just sharin’ my story.
Friend of Jonathan:
You have a commendable passion for your beliefs; however, it’s glaringly apparent that you have no interest discussing them with people.
If you knew anything about Pam, you’d know that over the past year she went through a divorce from her gay ex-husband. I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult that was for her, though it grieved my heart to witness her journey through it.
More than likely, her personal beliefs now agree with much of what you’ve so assertively argued. Yet, even if they didn’t, do you really expect to convince her with such caustic, self-assured remarks?
Regardless of the validity of your point, you make yourself appear foolish and unapproachable when you speak the way you do.
Please, show some grace to Pam. This is only the first post of many in a series; perhaps it will be revealed that your prejudice is misplaced. If “there is little […] confusion about what ex-gay ministries believe,” then you should have nothing to worry about, for Pam will simply supply greater evidence to support these notions.
We do and always have supported this. What’s the big deal?
FOJ,I can’t find any context in which your harsh reaction would be justified. We are not totalitarian here and debate would seem to require at least some difference of opinion. For example, if you had stated yours in a more civil manner I wouldn’t have said a word. But berating an XGW author for doing exactly what she as asked to do is uncalled for and just plain mean.
If you wish to post in the future, please allow others the benefit of the doubt. If you want to ask a question, do so – don’t attack.
I appreciate that you are an are advocate and I truly do appreciate what you are doing here! As a gay man, and a Christian, who has chosen to live a celibate life, I understand the exgay belief system, and I feel for them, but I cannot and will not agree or tolerate them.
I am one of many gay Christians who have no home within the exgay community because we do not agree with their politics, and we are hard pressed to find a home in the gay community. We believe that despite our own personal belief system, that gay people should have all the rights and privileges afforded straight people and that includes the ability to have their marriages recognized by the state and federal government. And despite my own personal beliefs, I would never call myself ex-gay.
I would be more understanding of the ex-gay movement if they didn’t try to legislate their own personal religious beliefs and if they were more honest about what science says about homosexuality. It is one thing to disagree with each other, it is another thing entirely to work to prevent that group you disagree with from enjoying the same rights as you do. That is why I cannot and will not tolerate them. What we might learn from them is not worth the price we pay from letting down our guard.
Thanks for sharing your experience, Pam… very good stuff.
One of the interesting observations for me (and perhaps you’ve seen something similar) is that the range of acceptable expression of gender characteristics is often broader within church communities than their local cultures.
I’m most familiar with it regarding men, but have seen it apply to women, as well.
What the heck do I mean? Churches are often safe places for men who happen to be stern, express themselves in few words, and prefer to talk about sports or their careers. But churches are also communities which revere male pastors with range — those who can laugh from the pulpit as well as cry with those in despair, play with the children and be wrenchingly direct when needed.
I’ve been in enough church environments over the years to feel awed by and appreciative of teen guys who are openly emotional in prayer, adult men who let go of masculine stereotypes to worship with their whole bodies, and happily married men whose bearing would trip even the least gay-affirming folks’ gaydar outside the church walls.
In the small towns in Minnesota where I grew up, it seemed to me there were always a couple of women who were tough, no-nonsense, assertive, self-starters in each parish. Some were in church with their husbands, others were widowed or never married. But they tended to be essential folks in the church community, never mind that they had seldom been seen wearing makeup or skirts.
And so, while there is a heterosexual default (or at least a hetero assumption), there also seems to be fairly wide latitude for stigma-free acceptance of gender nonconformity.
Or, maybe my experience differs from yours on this… would love to hear your thoughts.
I did want to add that there are some genuinely kind and good people in the exgay movement – but the fact that the movement itself is funded by powerful religious people bent on undermining the gay community should give us all pause.
You seem like a very caring and understanding individual and I am looking forward to reading your next narrative 🙂
(As an aside, since Jayhawk’s post reminded me of how I have felt at certain times)
Jayhawk, are you a member of GCN? If not, you might want to register there and check out the side B forum (I’d imagine you’re already a member, but ya never know). There is a small community on GCN of people who are living celibate lives (some hope for change; I think the rest not) and feel homosexual behavior is a sin, but not the orientation. Most of these folks do not buy into any of the ex-gay stuff, and many do support equal rights and so on.
(Aside over….you can resume your regularly scheduled comments)
Here’s the thing, Pam. You repeated a bunch of nasty claims about millions of people – and just let them stand.
You didn’t refute them, you didn’t dismiss them, you kinda sorta distanced yourself from them without sharing what you actually thought about them.
What remains for a reader is “Pam has listed some very nasty accusations against millions of people” – no more, no less. The accusations are not rejected or disprove, they simply stand unchallenged.
That is not right, and if people want to pretend that saying so is ‘harsh’ – go for it.
Pam, in writing, when the goal is clear, the rebuttal or rejecting of a claim has to follow pretty close to the negative claim, if not within the same paragraph, at least within the same “part”.
One of the most ironic misunderstanding about Paul’s Letter to the Romans occurs because a break in thought was created when chapter breaks were introduced, separating the end of Romans1
From the next sentence of Romans 2
The context you provided for readers was a long list of ugly ideas, that for GLBTQ, are presented as if they apply to our very lives. It really doesn’t make it better if you reject or disprove those ideas in Part II, or Part III, tomorrow or next week.
Maybe this explains why criticism of your essay is perceived as ‘harsh’ when it is most certainly not.
Sadly, though, neither did you. Look back: you did not reject such a categorization of GLBTQ people. You dropped the P bomb, and just left it there ticking away on our lives.
Nice dismissal. None of my experience with people dancing around a subject can have any validity.
Right. It is a shame that you are not addressing my actual criticisms.
I choose? Really Pam, at what point did you become a psychic, able to read my mind for me?
Thank you for declaring that you just know what I’m thinking for me.
No, Pam, I didn’t choose from any set of options. I examined, quite carefully, what you said and what you did not say. Nothing more, nothing less. From that I addressed what you said, and what you did not say.
Sweet. Make a negative assumption about me, and then apologize.
FOJ, I wonder if Jonathon or Dorothy might think “with friends like that…”
I’m not and never have been good at debate.
And, honestly, I don’t presume to read your mind. If I could, maybe I could have avoided setting you off the way I have. I made a mistake to say such a thing which would imply that I can read your mind.
I’m sorry for making a negative assumption about you and then apologizing for that. How many apologies can I make before they start cancelling each other out?
I’ve tried very hard not to say anything offensive toward you in this response. I hope you are not further angered (i’m assuming again, but geez, you sound awfully mad…i realize this format can misconstrue intonations and such…but still…) by this response.
I’ll be honest and say that I’d just like you to go away and leave me alone! 🙂 I’m JOKING! 🙂 sort of.
I can’t promise that I won’t offend or anger you in Parts II or Part III. I guess we’ll just have to cross that bridge when we come to it.
Steve and Jayhawk,
I think I’ll respond to you tomorrow….this really isn’t an easy thing for me to dig into…..but I do appreciate your positive input and have some thoughts to add.
Thanks Christine, James, John, David, Regan….much love to you guys.
I’m going to respond to the two of you together, it seems appropriate.
Thank you David, for projecting on me with that “you became enraged” remark. That is a really snarky little trick, a means of creating a false impression about someone. Please note that I’m criticiquing your words, not you, while you have criticized me as a person.
I’m hardly enraged. Though, since you introduced the concept, perhaps people should be enraged when millions of people are dismissed as promiscuous:
If you actually pay close attention, you’ll see my posts have been rather clinical, not harsh or enraged at all. So why fib about, David?
On the other hand, we have the ad hominem from James
Which, like your accusation of “enraged” and “harsh” just might convey a certain lack of emotional detachment. Of course, the unsubstantiated implied accusation of incivility makes an interesting picture.
I gotta say, arguments about style over substance just don’t convince me, James.
I think this case of malicious speculation really took the cake, James:
I think that cake is called “bearing falsewitness”. If only you’d taken the time to quote some statement of mine where I even hinted I was in such a state of mind. But it is easier to just dismiss what I wrote out of hand, rather than look at the concepts I presented.
It’s ok, really. I’ve seen so much of it from conservative religionists, what is a handful more at this point?
I thought this
was particularly ironic, David, given the only questionable term in my posts was the word “lady”.
Frankly, I see the two of you empoying ad hominem attacks on my character rather than actually addressing the points I made.
But – I’ll tell you what. Delete my responses here, I won’t hold it against you. I promise. I can go away forever, if you want. Not a problem, just say the word. I won’t even hold that against you.
I can dissect Pam’s essay on my blog in as much depth as I’d like, with all the supporting evidence, showing all the parallels with ex-gay policy papers, and everyone can feel very happy that Pam doesn’t “necessarily believe” that GLBTQ people are all promiscuous.
FOJ, I wonder if Jonathon or Dorothy might think “with friends like that…”
With a friend like me, Christine,
no one would ever call you “promiscuous” to your face unchallenged.
I stand up for my friends, whether it is popular or easy or not.
FOJ, I’m glad to know that, but I don’t feel Pam called any of us promiscuous. In fact, she was challenging the notion that any of us can be put in a box such as “promiscuous” just because we are gay…or divorced…or what-have-you.
And…if you ever think I’m being challenged, please ask me first if I’m under attack before you pummel someone who is actually a friend of mine…
(and really, I do appreciate your zeal, and would like to have you by my side if I ever need to walk around in a dark alley full of people who really hate me, I just think in this case your anger and attacks seem unwarranted)
These attacks are indeed unwarranted, and the argument, at best, is irrational. FOJ, if you have anything further to say on this, do so on your own blog. Perhaps you can find a genuine injustice to pour all that energy into, but leave the rest of this thread alone.
Moderator note: comment deleted – posted after a direct request not to comment further in this thread.
The user “Friend of Jonathan” has been banned after posting twice to this thread after being asked not to. One can only assume at this point that it was his or her goal to be. I apologize for the circus. If you understand what that was all about you are better than I.
FOJ: Get over it already. This is HER story, not YOURS. Go find some other article to complain about.
Pam: You keep writing sister! The Gay community needs stories like what you’re writing. It makes us stronger, and helps us grow and overcome adversities from fundamentalist people (on both ends of the spectrum – James Dobson and FOJ, for example).
And if you’ve got to offend a few people, then offend them. The important thing is to tell your story.
I a Christian who was ruthlessly kicked out the back door of my church for being gay. Maybe one day XGW will do me the same honor of allowing me to present my story too. 😉 But then again, if they allowed *everyone* to do so, then there would just be no more space for news!!
FOJ, you are mistaken in your assumptions about Pam’s her motives and beliefs. I think it’s because you do not know Pam’s story. Pam was married to a man who went through ex-gay therapy. Now I’ll leave it to Pam to tell the whole story but understand, she is no outsider making offhand comments. She is no ally of the ex-gay movement trying to sneak in undetected. She’s been through the fire, and as the spouse, she has a unique perspective, a perspective worth hearing. She has the respect of many who post at XGW, she has been asked to comment by XGW, and deserves better than to be attacked. So along with others, I ask that you give her a fair hearing.
I am all in favor of people liberating themselves by coming out. Stories of people who came out of the closet later in life are relatively common. Many of these folks were married and/or had children. The heterosexual former spouses have stories to tell as well (and the kids-but that will come later). I am very interested in the stories of those who suffered collateral damage in the coming out process.
Christine – Thank you very much for your comments 🙂 I have visited the GCN site many times – I love and respect it, but am not a member, simply because I’m lazy 😉 I’ll become a member soon.
I wish Pam all the best – the exgay movement is dangerous and misguided, but there is no reason that many of the good people caught up in it, or who have been affected by it, need to be shot down.
Thanks for the narrative.
As an Air Force Academy graduate, I recall the first “Principle of War” is: Know the enemies capabilities. So I appreciate your perspective on the ex-gay mind set. I see your purpose as bringing their points of view into focus. I don’t see your purpose here as refuting each one in turn as someone suggested. Each could easily fill a thread of its own and would be quite a distraction. So just stick to expressing your insights, we’ll worry about how to handle these elsewhere.
As an erstwhile instructor, I appreciate that “Lesson 1” is always: Review the basics. If most students say, “I already knew that,” they miss the point that we all have to start with the same foundation of knowledge before we go into more advanced areas. As we proceed, I’m sure I’ll be saying “Aha, I didn’t know that. Thanks for sharing!” Others will too, so thanks for what you are doing.
I’ve posted for some time now at the Charisma online forum. Their views are much like the ex-gay views you have presented. When they talk of the heterosexual “default” you mention, they talk of Adam & Eve being God’s perfect creation (God saw it and it was good.) God created man in His image, male and female, created He them.
Well then, I say, God must have both a “male” image and a “female” image. In fact, His multi-faceted image must include each of the 6 billion of us, male – female, black – white, gay – straight, short – tall,…
Wow, does that ever get a sputtering response. How dare I suggest that God includes a gay image along with all the rest! Don’t I know that God is a heterosexual!
So it’s more than a “default” to them. Heterosexual equals “like God,” anything else is not. Change is not an option, it’s a requirement. If one doesn’t become a heterosexual “like God,” then one will never be welcomed in heaven with Him.
Instead of worshiping a God Who loves us in all the various forms He created, they create their own god based on their prejudices against gays. It hard to deal with people like these.
I hope this provides further insight into the mind set of some of those in the ex-gay movement.
I’m sure I’ll learn a lot from your additional posts.
If you’ll all forebear me a bit of “cattiness” this morning (and we all know who this is really in response to) I’ll make something crystal clear that I assumed anyone who’s smart enough to run a computer would have been able to INFER from my post above. *cattiness off*
I don’t believe there exists such a beast as a “gay lifestyle”. It’s a made up term based on SOME truth, since all stereotypes have at least a grain of truth in them, but biased completely against those of a homosexual ORIENTATION. It’s unjust and just plain wrong to refer to an entire ORIENTATION of folks with a term that contains nothing but slander. I think the least the ex-gay leaders could do would be to instruct all the parents they deal with (and they deal with alot) not to use such terms. However, they seem to encourage such rhetoric by continuing to use it themselves.
And that’s my opinion based on what I saw and heard while involved with the ex-gays.
I agree with you that gender characteristics are afforded a great DEAL of latitude within the church community. I’ve seen it more as it involves men who are extremely sensitive, artistic, musical, and dramatically talented. Occasionally, as is the case with my ex-husband, those men do indeed uncover themselves as gay. But not always, by any means. The thing I’ve never witnessed is a male with little or no gender variance characteristics in the church coming out as gay.
Your comments make me want to get going on Part II and III for which I’m certain our moderator will be quite grateful. So, I’ll thank you on his behalf! 🙂 Thanks for the inspiration!
I, too, have found no home in the ex gay groups or the gay groups. As an ex gay myself, I believe that gays should have all the same rights as heterosexuals. And the ex gay ministries should stay out of politics as it dilutes their message and their audience.
Thank you for sharing. I am glad to have you in this world.
I wonder if one of the problems here is that you (or the editors) chose to publish your post in installments. Unless it would be terribly long, suggest you lay out your thoughts in one coherent post. Otherwise, people have no idea what your bottom line is and you may feel “interrupted in the middle of a sentence” before you’ve had a chance to express your full thinking. Also, I suggest (as someone did above) that you talk about how you think and feel where you are now. Most of us are only too familiar with what the beliefs of the ex-gay movement are – simply repeating them without comment is likely to raise hackles.
It shouldn’t be a problem. Really. I get my hackles raised occasionally and it’s usually good for me to work through that. I find it difficult to believe that people who regularly read here (so far it’s been only one, and now you) have seen all that this website is about and would allude that I’m volunteering here as some form of conspiracy. That’s just nuts. I’m not saying you feel that way or supposing to know what you think, I’m just saying this is what I’m perceiving from what’s been said. I appreciate your comment, for real. But, I don’t think there really is a problem here. The editorial staff wanted it in installments and I did as well. It’s VERY difficult, let me reiterate that, for me to drudge up some of this stuff. I need some time to process it every time I do it. And yet, I don’t want to wait an extreme length of time to begin processing it. So, I’m doing it in smaller chunks. If that’s selfish, so be it. Most people here find it easy and natural to extend that grace to me.
I will tell, when I can, what I think and where I am NOW. However, I’m still not where I will be in the future, if that makes sense. I’m still working through a bunch of this crap (i say that in the sense of it being MY issue, not yours or anyone else’s here). Alot of people want to hear that process, see what that looks like. And I’m willing to share it.
this is a very interesting discussion. i am looking forward to chiming in at some point. for now, i give pam the opportunity to tell her story. thankfully, the days of families being ruined by Haggard-esque attempts by ex-gay men and women to live double lives has come to it’s pinnacle. i think the 18-30 crowd, generally speaking, has avoided that pitfall as we were taught, even as “ex-gays”, that getting married was clearly not the answer. mind you, MY old denomination still teaches that, but i digress…
pam’s story is crucial to this dialogue. as someone mentioned before, so is the story of children whose parents went through this (mike white, the star of this year’s sundance festival, probably has an immensely interesting story to tell, and if you don’t know who his dad is, go read his first book!) my story has its own spin to it (latin/gay/pentecostal/3rd generation minister/blah, blah), and one day that will be part of the dialogue.
let the lady say her piece. if a few blog postings destroys your identity, find me as “gaythologian” on any social networking site and we can discuss these things in a more appropriate forum. i do, after all, counsel ex-gays back to a working idea of their own humanity, so i’m not endorsing ex-gay ministry. but we have to be able to hear other opinions, or we become like our misguided fundamentalist and evangelical brothers and sisters, unmovable, zealous, and ultimately hateful. trust me, god will take care of those who have wronged you. pam has not (yet)!
Thank you so much for sharing your story. I’m sorry you’re getting some flack for honestly sharing your story and your ex-gay experience. I can’t imagine any former ex-gay contributor receiving the same treatment here. Maybe it’s ‘ever-straight’ bias/envy 🙂 .
Your description of ex-gay beliefs certainly matches my ex-gay experience. In fact, I suspect most former ex-gays once held these very same beliefs.
We don’t hear enough about the parents/friends/spouses who witness their loved ones go into ex-gay programs. When I was in the ex-gay lifestyle, my mom tried to support me by attending an ex-gay parents support group and even met with my ex-gay group leader. However, she never went back. I think it’s because I wasn’t really in the “gay lifestyle”, so she didn’t relate to the other parents’ stories of having a (supposedly) promiscious gay son. While she said the ex-gay leaders and parents were all very nice, I don’t believe she found the experience helpful.
Pam’s story is vital to the dialog.
When I attended Love Won Out as an observer last February, I noticed that most of that audience was family members of out gays and lesbians. There weren’t many gays or ex-gays there. I came away from that experience with the realization that there are thousands (yes Alan, thousands) or stories that have yet to be told. And those are the stories of the parents, siblings, spouses and other relatives of gays and ex-gays. It was very enlightening for me to see firsthand the terible price that the entire family pays when the ex-gay movement interjects itself into the lives of ordinary people and their familial relationships.
I eagerly look forward to Pam’s continuing story, and I hope to be able to hear many more stories like hers. They are a vitally important piece in our understanding of the ex-gay movement.
i think that foj and pam both have contributed greatly. foj, thank you for pointing out that romans 1 and 2 are really one chapter…………you cant really embrace 1 without acknowledging 2 as well. but being a student of romans, i could have responded……………. tell me something i dont know.
thank you pam for introducing those sterotypical terms about gays. it helped me connect the dots about typical pious christian dialogue which is completely unaware of their negative injurious premise. thank you foj that you were out raged because it showed me that even those of us who believe in absolute equality between homosexuals and heterosexuals, we are still expressing our support without understanding of what is offensive and injurious……………..and possibly due to our own homophobia.
it reminds me of what ive learned in my lifetime trying to embrace all my levels of racism. that trying as hard as i may, i will only be healed thru gods grace.
You are an amazing gift to us at XGW. Thanks so much for sharing your important perspective. Everyone’s story is needed, and so few come forward to articulate what you’ve gone through and the wisdom you’ve gained. I look forward to reading the next installments. 🙂
Love & Peace,
Comparing sexuality to the default settings of the a computer is stretching it a bit. Matter of fact…I’d say its stretching it alot. With that statement you’re making the assumption that a computer user should always run in the default mode. You’re suggesting that variation of the operating system is not desired because variation could bring about system crashes and ultimately a malfunctioning computer. Ummmm sorry…but that is ridiculous and its pretty obvious that you have a limited understanding of computer programming.
Anyone who uses a computer will tell you that variations to the operating system are required depending up what kind of application you’re running. If we were “stuck” in default mode all the time, 85% of most applications would not be able to run. Nearly every program inserts additional system extensions, drivers and modifications to alter the operating and improve efficiency or to add additional code that is lacking in the “default” settings. Computer programmers have designed operating systems to be open to variation in order to accomodate the requirements of the user.
Now if a computer crashes and you have reformat the hard drive and reinstall the operating system to go back to “defaults” this doesn’t mean that the crash should be “judged” as wrong. Judging a computer is silly. It can only execute what its software AND hardware tell it to do. There may have been code added to the OS that conflicted with other added code. Or perhaps there is a compatibility issue with existing hardware! Its just simply impossible to get every programmer to talk to one another and ensure that compatibility exists. But we assume that God is not only the hardware designer but the programmer too… or is He? Life experiences and free will tend to let the user add to his own program both on the conscious and unconscious level.
If a crash occurs what’s the first thing the user does once he reformats? He reinstalls his programs and modifcations to the operating system and starts all over again. Hopefully this time he’ll discover the offending “variation” and either update that variation or prevent it from being installed into the OS in the first place.
Now lets examine that in human terms. It sure would be nice if we could “reformat” our minds and start over. Maybe this time we could ensure that the bad programming from our parents didn’t get installed into our operating systems and that nasty homosexualty bug would have never cropped up. Convient, but not possible. We don’t have the luxury of going back in time and starting over as an embryo…and from what science is telling us, our personalities begin development the moment we’re formed. First by “hardware” then by “software”.
What ex-gay ministries are forgetting is that software is only capable of doing its thing when its written for the hardware it operates on. The various chips and roms that make up the hardware are like the dna in our bodies. You can’t just ignore that and no amount of programming is going to dictate brown eyes to become blue. That is of course if you don’t want to fool the hardware into doing something it wasn’t designed to do…and by ex-gay ministries will never admit the problem lies in hardware!
In the computer world we can write “emulators” to mimic non existing hardware but the result is reduced efficiency, decreases in speed, and if anything you’re violating your own declaration because emulators require alterations to the default operating system in order to run in the first place. Matter of fact, your replacing an entire operating system in favor for a different one. (One that wasn’t designed for that hardware in the first place).
So where does this debate leave us? Well..back to the age old question. Where is “Sexuality v1.0” installed? Is it in hardware or software? The answer is it clearly exists in both.
Brian J. said:
I’m not sure how far she really meant to take that analogy. I think she was probably just trying to think of an interesting way to relay that, in her experience with them, ex-gay ministries assumed heterosexuality to be the norm and homosexuality a deviation from that norm, assigning numerous “causes” to explain it. Pretty basic stuff but that’s her style.
And I’m pretty sure that Pam will tell you that she has absolutely no knowledge of computer programming, but by now is probably well acquainted with the mental variety 😉
Thanks for explaining the analogy so well! And yep, you’re right, I have no understanding of computer programming….but according to your explanation it still seems like a great analogy to me. That was awesome!
p.s. I JUST finished this when david’s reply popped up! Now there’s a guy who can FULLY attest to my limited knowledge of computer programming! Heck, I can’t even get the code thingy to work to put an appropriate quote in the comments!
I meant no disrespect. Its just that if you really think about your analogy, it really falls short of the human experience. The fact of the matter is ex-gay ministries want to separate the hardware from the software when all along the two were meant to be seen as a whole. One can’t work without the other. Many forms of philiosophies and religions attempt to do the exact same thing by emphasizing dualism to the point where the body is simply a shell that houses the more “important” spirit. They preach to deny the body because only the spirit matters. Usually these same groups set up rigid black and white rules that promise death and destruction to those who do not obey. Emphasizing the spirit over the body was rebuked by the early christian church and was considered heretical. True Christianity considers both the body and the soul in its plans for redemption.
What is the point of a computer (the human being) if both its hardware (dna) and its software (mind/spirit) are not considered as “one” being? Computer operating systems are designed by the programmer to be adaptive and open in order to support versatility and the desires of the user but software is written to take advantage of the existing hardware. It simply can’t be ignored. When programmers write an operating system that is designed around its hardware we get the best performance and a machine that does what its designed to do. This is why the argument of sexuality lies in where its ultimately located. For those emphasizing on side over the other, they’re failing to realize that it lies in both and its debilitating to the performance of the machine to attempt to isolate it.
Even if sexuality was entirely “software” or nurture based a child is a collection of experiences and teachings that just can’t simply be reset to “default” mode when we think its convient or even necessary. As I mentioned before there is no “reformat” command for our personalities. We are who we are and we don’t have the ability to start over. Not only that, an operating system that is not open to expansion rapidly becomes obsolete and useless.
If we didn’t have the issue of “hardware” to contend with, the argument of adding to our operating system to make us straight rather than gay could potentially be argued, but you have to realize it may not be such a straight forward process. Its hard enough to counter years and years of personality development but to then consider that our own hardware may be influencing us as well makes change even more difficult. But ex-gay ministries don’t care about that because they are still lost in the hersey of thinking that software matters more.
So if we put this back into a philiosophical or theological perspective you start to ask the question of whether or not human beings were intended to be “open” or “closed” systems and this brings up all kinds of issues like free will, predestination, and so forth. It also brings up the question of one’s position on fundamentalism versus more liberal viewpoints of the Bible.
Whatever your position on these subjects are they typically are used to support one’s political agenda and it becomes a war of the ego to determine who’s right and who’s wrong…and if you haven’t noticed that war has been going on for centuries and its usually the minority that suffers for it.
Sorry I’m so late in discovering this, Pam. I’m really looking forward to reading more. You’re always inspiring and worth reading. I also cringe whenever I hear someone reference the “gay lifestyle.” I know what they mean, and I know that there are people who live the type of lifestyle they’re thinking about. But if they think that that lifestyle is all that it means to be “gay” they are very mistaken.
I thought for sure, Brian would have mentoned BIOS and firmware. There’s an anaolgy there somewhere… It gets loaded by its creator probably during assembly.
I do not think my BIOS has changed any since my first boot. I think it stayed with me even after puberty set in motion a whole host of new set if .ini and registery values.
I am a 1980 USAFA Grad (Go Falcons!)
Keep writing, your input is invaluable! looking forward to your next post.
I look forward to reading the parts to come. As is usual, what you have written so far demonstrates your efforts towards transparency, honesty, and grace.
An analogy works to the extent that it clarifies and illustrates a point the author is making. While there are undoubtedly “problems” with a computer comparison, I understood Pam’s intent – to show that ex-gay ministries misunderstand orientation to be a heterosexual default. And so, for me, the analogy worked.
As for insult magically being found in the posting, I think if anyone has claim to be insulted it would be ex-gay ministries. Pam has said nothing about gay people but she has made some pretty strong statements about the ex-gay view of the world. While I believe them to be accurate, they are not complementary to ex-gay ministries.
As for the “default” comment – I think that is made evident by the claims of some in the ex-gay movement that there is no such thing as a homosexual person, only a heterosexual with gender issues. Unless you convince yourself that all people are by default heterosexual, this makes no sense whatsovever (well, really, it makes no sense then either).
Here’s looking forward to more good stuff.
No exgay ministry would accept the idea that sexuality could be rooted in firmware or bios because that would suggest that its hardcoded into the hardware of the machine itself…and that counters every argument that ex-gay ministries claim.
Brian J: Ah yes, but even the almighty BIOS – the central core instruction set of the computer, can still have firmware updates!
I personally believe that Pam’s analogy was a great comparison in this day and age. The extreme fundamentalists and ex-gay proponents do, on most points, believe that we can just “upgrade” our personal operating systems or wipe and re-install our minds to their way of thinking.
The problem is, like a CPU, we’re hardwired. At least, that’s what *I* believe.
Perhaps a better analogy would be to compare Intel vs. AMD. Both are essentially the same – they are both CPUs and work well, but both are wired different (and require different motherboards). Each is valid, but different.
Nonetheless, the analogy drawn was based upon the warped perception of the ex-gay industry. Thusly, it should be noted that such people obviously use “OS2-Warp” on their computers. 😉
OS/2-Warp was actually a very well-designed, stable, powerful OS.
Vista is a more appropriate analogy: Slick on the outside, but logically tangled, overconfident, and self-defeating on the inside.
All this simile/metaphor talk is making the English teacher in me drool like a dental patient on novacaine.
LoL..I got a smile out that one Pam.
Frank… yes, BIOS and firmware can be updated, but its still dependant on what hardware is originally installed on the motherboard. Not to mention that BIOS updates can only come from the manufacturer…not the user. Wow.. this conversation is getting pretty geeky. I’m starting to draw comparisons to all kinds of things. I think I’ll stop while I’m ahead.
My last comment on this topic (you are right, it is knee-deep in SCSI cables in here!). WE know that BIOS is still dependent on the hardware (and that updates only come from the manufacturer). But these “ex-gay” ministries are basically trying to sell 3rd-party updates. They are saying we are all Intel inside and then trying to give Intel-specific updates to AMD chipsets. This is probably because they’re reading the Spanish section in their motherboard manuals.
Ok, that last one was a bad analogy for mistranslating the bible.
Like you, I could literally go on and on applying such comparisons. So I, too, will stop.
Mike Airhart: Lest we forget that OS2 was also designed by Microsoft for IBM (though IBM did take over for WARP). It was the environment which led to Windows 95…
In other news, a computer metaphor is in critical condition after a serious beating at Ex-Gay Watch. Witnesses report that the assault was remarkably severe, as if the participants were attempting to beat it to death.
More details will follow as they are made available.
What say we talk about the PBS FRONTLINE documentary about the MORMONS. This thread has morphed into a quasi-Open-Chat anyway.
Nothing new: The wrenched explanation the LDS Historian gave about gay Mormons didn’t surprise me. I almost believed his earnest empathy except there weren’t any tears shed from either eye when he looked askance from the camera. I could almost see him shrug his shoulders…as you would with that collateral-damaged ‘lost souls’ attitude you feel from some religious people. Would that be considered an example of being pious?
Eh…it’s the same tired story: Celibacy is the only option.
So, what do gays do with so much time and energy since they live celibate? Talk about computers? (Geek alert: I have a propeller on my cowboy hat.)
Pam, thank you for taking the time to be vulnerable and open. Being gay, being ex-gay and reparative therapy is always going to be a hotbed issue because it touches a very sacred part of ourselves (whether you are Christian, Buddhist, pagan, Judaic or whatever) and either validates or invalidates. It’s very easy to be blinded by the emotion even when a piece is written non-commitally. (OK, I am not English teacher.)
I’m glad that the comparison to computers and CPUs was touched on again in the responses to your article. While the ex-gay movement does believe that heterosexuality is the “default”, they refuse to acknowledge that there are different operating systems, processors, components, etc. If I may carry the comparison a bit further…who is to say which operating system is the one and only one…Windows, MAC, Linux, Unix-based, OS2?
I look forward to the Part 2 and 3 of your article. Thank you.
Well, the mac is now unix-based. Bisexual perhaps?
I’m new here and wish I hadn’t come so late into this discussion. But here’s another two cents for posterity. Thanks for writing your story, I understand that what you have been through has probably been sad and hard beyond words. I’m sorry for that. Life can really be rotten. I’m glad you’re planting trees in your manure. I look forward to interacting with you here.
What the heck does that mean?
Lee, if you are happy with your life, and you aren’t crusading against others who are equally happy with theirs without feeling the need to morph their behavior, then more power to you. However, these comments sound more like barfly talk than reality. If you honestly bought into the idea that you could only be desirable in your 20s, then I have to assume you were seeking relationships among very shallow people. One can find these among groups of any sexual orientation.
Almost without exception, we hear ex-gay stories which indicate serious issues existed which had nothing to do with being gay. Is there no one out there willing to differentiate between the two? Again, if you and your wife are happy, great. I certainly hope it lasts, but please think long and hard before having children.
I think there are plenty of places to find datable people other than bars. I found my spouse at a center “rap.” I have almost never been in a gay bar. A few here and there, but since I don’t drink, I rarely have gone. There are churches and social places.
As far as 40 being 75, I suppose if your tastes only run toward a young, “beautiful” crowd, but that is true in the straight world too (why do you think eHarmony is so popular? To get away from the beautiful, youth element). I was reading a recent article about how the “bear” movement is huge and growing in the gay world. Youth and beautiful are losing their sheen. In fact, Camille Paglia stated that the bear movement is the most virile, mature, and masculine element in dating currently. Men between 35-80 get together for dating and love. Maybe you didn’t look to hard, but there are plenty of avenues for older, heavier, less conventionally attractive gay males.
Thanks for commenting. I agree with David and Aaron in their comments to you and would add just this…
Ex-Gay Watch exists because of stories like mine and many others. It serves a purpose and is part of the dialouge for needed change in the ex-gay movement. Sadly, there are two elements to that movement. There’s the therapy side, which obviously needs help, and the political side, which is nothing more than an anti-gay movement. These are realities, not perceptions.
I’m glad that your reality has included change for you that works for you. If you do have children, I urge you, as I would ANY heterosexually married couple, to put aside any sexual discovery you may feel the need to engage in until AFTER the children are grown. Sexual struggle has ruined two marriages for me, of two opposite stripes.