Several ex-gay survivors – people who went through ex-gay therapy but ultimately found it unsuccessful and came out as gay – have been profiled recently by various media outlets. Jacob Wilson, Vince Cervantes, and Daniel Gonzales have been interviewed by Edge Magazine, a gay magazine in Boston, MA. In the article they talk about reasons they went into ex-gay treatment and what harm it did them. 23-year-old Bryce Faulkner’s disappearance into the ex-gay world sparked all sorts of debates about how possible coercion by his conservative Christian family may have played a role in his decision to enter into an ex-gay ministry. Faulkner is clearly a legal adult in America but it was acknowledged that financially he is still dependent on his family’s help. Wilson, who was also a legal adult when he voluntarily entered an ex-gay program, describes the pressure he felt that drove him to the decision:
Jacob Wilson, now 23 and living in Ames, Iowa, was 19 when he left his family and friends behind to enter a Love in Action camp in Memphis, Tenn., hundreds of miles from his then-home in Missouri. He was part of the camp during the same time 16-year-old Zachary Stark received national attention for being forced to attend a similar camp.
Though Wilson denies being forced into the program, he said coercion still had an impact on his decision. His pastor encouraged him to apply for the program once other members of his congregation found out he’d been dating an area preacher. His parents helped foot the bill for the program.
“When I told my parents I was gay, they didn’t take it well, to say it lightly,” Wilson said. “They were all for [the camp] if it could fix me so they encouraged me.”
“I was at the lowest point in my life, the most depressed I’d ever been,” he continued. “I realized, once I got into the program, that this was a common theme. They had all lost everything that’d meant something to them.”
Cervantes, who was interviewed by XGW last year, entered into ex-gay therapy without his family’s knowledge. He even consented to an exorcism, but realized nothing was going to change his sexual orientation. He will appear in an episode of the “Tyra Banks Show” in the fall, where he talks about his experiences.
Daniel Gonzales, who has made videos about his experiences in ex-gay therapy that have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times, describes taking the “secular” ex-gay route under NARTH‘s Joseph Nicolosi.
“The idea was that the same-sex attractions were caused by a broken sense of masculinity and lack of self-confidence. You’re attracted to other guys embodying the characteristics you’re lacking,” Gonzales described. “When you’re so desperate to try and change, you’re willing to believe it.”
James Stabile, who made news after claiming to be “cured” of his homosexuality after participating in a “Purity Siege,” was touted by the 700 Club as a success story. He later came out as gay and apologized for his appearance on the show.In an interview with Dallas Voice, he talks about his three month experience at Pure Life Ministries, where he staged a kiss with another man in his therapy group so that he could be kicked out. He announced on June 20th that he was starting “Love Actually,” a local community that gives people leaving ex-gay programs a place to go and feel welcome.
Wilson, Cervantes, Gonzales, and Stabile all found a welcoming place at the online Beyond Ex-Gay community. Former ex-gay Peterson Toscano reports that Beyond Ex-Gay co-founder Christine Bakke has been working on a social networking portion of the site to better connect people recovering from ex-gay therapy. Toscano has also stated that thanks to ex-gay survivors, many mainstream media sources have been taking notice of the ineffectiveness of such “therapy.”
The growing ex-gay survivor movement has drastically altered the way in which all of the media cover ex-gay stories. Previously, a typical news piece would begin with the question, “Can gay people change?” and then go on to offer a point-counterpoint debate on the issue. Now, with so many ex-gay survivors telling their stories on-line, there’s been a shift in the handling of ex-gay stories. One recent story began with the more skeptical opener, “Some faith-based programs say that they can cure gays and lesbians,” and went on to describe how one woman’s life was almost destroyed by ex-gay therapy.
Since the emergence of the ex-gay survivor movement, mainstream media outlets such as The New York Times, Glamour, People, The Times of London, Good Morning America, and The Tyra Banks Show have all done stories that featured ex-gay survivors. Meanwhile, spokespeople for ex-gay programs have been forced to publicly admit that making a gay person straight is not actually possible, and now they’re on the defensive as they face questions about the potential harm that can result from their programs.