Last night, I was watching the news and it was announced that the largest group that claimed that a person can be healed from homosexuality, Exodus International, disbanded. They did this because they determined that the shame of those who weren’t healed was
so great that it even drove people to suicide – actually a friend of mine did commit suicide as a result of finding a balance between his healing and his faith.
It is actually funny because I had been contemplating posting my story of being an ex-ex gay. So…here it is.
“I admit I am powerless over my homosexuality.” As part of a Christian based group, I spoke these words with the understanding they would be the “first step” in overcoming my sexual orientation.
I write as a survivor of “ex-gay ministry”, ministries that proclaim being able to “heal” people from being gay. My experience began with a conversation with a minister who described “ex-gay ministry” as a way of being “healed” of my homosexuality. As a young, vulnerable adult eager for social acceptance and the support of the church, I became involved with Regeneration, a Baltimore based group under the auspices Exodus International. I participated in group meetings based on a 12-Step model. Within a year, I became part of the “ministry’s” leadership team. I ran group meetings, offered “teaching” in the 12-Steps, addressed groups on the “ex-gay” experience, and provided “ex-gay” therapy to others seeking “healing” and “freedom”. Throughout this time, my thoughts, feelings and relationships never changed.
To further promote my “healing”, I needed to deny my sexual orientation, become more feminine and terminate relationships with gay men and lesbians. Although I did not realize it at the time, this became very damaging to me.
When I finally left Regeneration, I continued to wrestle with the painful feelings of self-doubt, self-condemnation and shame brought on by participation in this group. As I began to deal with my own internalized homophobia, I fully rejected the notion of “ex-gay”.
What followed was a the beginning of a long, hard struggle with spirituality and in genuine self acceptance. I began to wrestle with what it means to be a lesbian. I wondered if my sexual orientation and the church were compatible. Reality quickly raised its head. Within a couple of weeks, members of the church I attended began to harass me. Phone calls at work, unending questions, and bible bashing became a regular part of my life. Finally the leader of Regeneration requested that if my partner and I would not change our ways, we needed to leave the church we were attending; we did. Throughout this time, I often looked for support, but my support system failed; their perception of my “sinful” life divided us. I was forced to make a choice between my sexual orientation and their allegiance. My confidence of rebuilding relationships outweighed the extreme sadness of losing all of my “friends”. In a matter of eight months, my church and friends disappeared into the shadows of self-righteousness.
As a result of the brutality I experienced, I began to question both the higher power called God and the church. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be involved in an institution that promotes such hatred and fear, sexism and homophobia. Because of the pain and anger I feel when I even entera church, I no longer participate in institutionalized religion. My journey continues…