The Ex-Gay Ministry, The Skeleton In My Closet

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    Jan 16, 2009 6:13 AM GMT
    There is a skeleton in my closet. A skeleton with claws, fangs, bat wings, and hoofed feet. From the ages 22 to 26 I was involved in the ex-gay ministry, first as a participant, then as a counselor.

    When I was 22, I was a lot more emotionally vulnerable than I am now, and at the collapse of a relationship with my ex-boyfriend I was left totally devastated to the point of daily nausea. Having been raised in an extremely right-wing Christian fundamentalist family, there was this lurking feeling that all of my emotional distress was fundamentally arising from being gay. My entire life was overshadowed with religion, the synapses were deeply embedded in my thinking process.

    I eventually ended up seeking "help" or "healing" of my homosexual orientation, which led me to the ex-gay ministries of Exodus, and their affiliates. After a year and a half of "therapy" I became a counselor for my "progress" and my theological understanding.

    I became extraordinarily good at deluding myself into believing that I was becoming straight. I even dated a girl for a year and actually went shopping for engagement rings. During these 4 years I did not have sex with any guys, did not date any guys, and only a few times did I watch any gay porn. I felt that my attractions to men were withering and dying, until one beautiful, fateful night.

    I was at a pool party with some friends, my friend Chris who is extremely attractive got out of the pool to come over to talk to me about something random. I was sitting in a chair by a patio table, just chatting up the rest of the folks that were there. As Chris was talking to me he reached over me to grab a beer off of the table, his dripping wet package accidentally brushed against my arm as it laid on the armrest.

    Instantly, I got the sensation that someone had hooked a battery up to my balls, and I got hard in about a second flat. All these vivid, wonderful thoughts flooded my mind about what I would do with him. It was at that moment that I said to myself, "Nick, you're gay. You're just gay. It's ok."

    Needless to say, I left the ministry that week and had to do the gut wrenching thing of breaking a girl's heart.

    I realized how hard wired my attractions were. No more self-loathing, no more struggling, no more hurting people you're really not attracted to. I couldn't be happier with my decision to let go, and be myself.

    I'm not even sure why I posted this topic, other than I thought it might spark some interesting conversations.
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    Jan 16, 2009 6:16 AM GMT
    OH NO you grappled with your sexuality... how terrible of you...
    Still, its good that you've learnt to accept your self properly icon_biggrin.gif so congratulations on that!
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    Jan 16, 2009 6:18 AM GMT
    Nah Tanker, the skeleton isn't grappling with it, it's having been actively involved in deluding people that troubles me sometimes.
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    Jan 16, 2009 6:21 AM GMT
    so, life is about making mistakes, learning from them and working actively against ever doing it again, how at that time, where you at that time suppose to know that what you where doing was wrong, you where doing what you thought was the best thing for you at the time...

    As it is, you see things you did in the past as a mistake to do, if you did them now, knowing what you know, I might get a little pissed, but as it is, your passed is that for a reason and although I know living with mistakes can be a hard thing, its more important that you've learnt something valuable from them...
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    Jan 16, 2009 8:20 AM GMT
    nick!

    im having a pool party and you are totally invited. bring chris icon_wink.gif
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    Jan 16, 2009 8:27 AM GMT
    yes, and if you want wrestle with my sexuality as well, please feel free icon_wink.gif
  • Koaa2

    Posts: 1556

    Jan 16, 2009 12:50 PM GMT
    Your experience will make you an invaluable source in helping other guys deal with their coming out. Maybe you should get connected with a gay center near you, and begin a coming out group, might help with some of those lingering guilt feelings, which I don't think you need to carry.
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    Jan 16, 2009 1:00 PM GMT
    I am glad that you managed to get through that part of your life accepting and loving yourself. Many people are not so fortunate. Koaa2 is right, you have some very valuable life experiences that can be of use to other gay men.

    Thanks for this post, it is one of the more useful ones I have come across in recent months.
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    Jan 16, 2009 1:42 PM GMT
    I don't think that's really a skeleton. Don't beat yourself up about it. I'm sorry to say that we must expect gay people who grow up in a culture of repression to do things that seem to be against their own self-interest. And although you're a victim of that repression, you had the strength of character to decide 'no' and walk out. Your decision empowered you, and you aren't a victim anymore.

    I would advise you to do something constructive for gay people. Volunteer at a community center, campaign for a local issue such as domestic partner registers, help organize Pride, etc. Best of all, work to undo these wretched programmes. Be a beacon of light to other people caught up in them.
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    Jan 16, 2009 2:14 PM GMT
    Having had this experience you are in a unique position to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, what the consequences of self-negation actually are.

    If your conscience is troubled by what you advocated or what you said to other vulnerable people such as yourself then I would take that as indication that you have a healthy working conscience.

    Would it were that more people like you felt some sense of responsibility for the thoughts that they put into action.

    You possess an important piece of experience that lots of people, people right here - some of whom are 19, 20, 22, and some of whom are in their 40's and 50's - could greatly benefit from (of course, if they are willing).

    Maybe going to a community center and doing this, that, and the other thing might feel like penance or it might feel like a flashback. I could imagine that I might not be too comfortable doing something like that under similar circumstances.

    However, it seems certain that there will be opportunities that present themselves for you to use what happened to you for the benefit of other people.

    I love the saying that goes "we are slaves to what we say and masters of what we don't". Not much can be done to take back the things that we have done in our pasts, and that is as it should be.

    The other people who have said this is the best thread in many moons are right in my opinion. Thanks for taking a positive and affirming action. It helps everyone.

    Terry
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    Jan 16, 2009 2:25 PM GMT
    Wow, thanks guys - you're all very encouraging. I've wanted to get back into community service, counseling is something that I really enjoyed. Helping people come out and be comfortable with their sexuality would be something that I would love to help facilitate.

    Blink.. your house 8:30? icon_eek.gif
  • Timbales

    Posts: 13993

    Jan 16, 2009 2:40 PM GMT
    hockeynick79 saidNah Tanker, the skeleton isn't grappling with it, it's having been actively involved in deluding people that troubles me sometimes.


    You were involved, but unless you held a gun to someone's head you shouldn't feel guilty. We all are in charge of our own lives and make our own decisions.
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    Jan 16, 2009 2:46 PM GMT



    hockeynick79, You're in a pretty powerful position; you know some ins and outs of the ex-gay ministries! This tells me you could be invaluable in undoing some of their damage with your counseling skills, something that would make you pretty special in keeping with what TigerTim suggests:

    "Best of all, work to undo these wretched programmes. Be a beacon of light to other people caught up in them."

    For Bill and I, things happen for strange and inexplicable reasons, often with a serendipitous outcome. Yours is a classic. What you've been through has given you a unique set of skills that you can achieve great things with. Imagine how things might have gone if you'd met someone like you are now, at the time you had begun seeking help for your homosexual orientation. I think that you would not have gone to that ex-gay ministry at all! You can help others recover, and even prevent some guys from travelling down that self-denying road!


    Kudos! - Doug of meninlove
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    Jan 16, 2009 2:51 PM GMT
    cat
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    Jan 16, 2009 2:57 PM GMT
    Caslon, now that is funny. icon_biggrin.gif
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    Jan 16, 2009 3:22 PM GMT
    Congratulations Nick, coming to terms with who you are is NOT easy and then once you do and make decisions on which direction to go leaves doubt. I applaud you for what you did and I agree with others here regarding your keen sense of understanding the struggles and being able to share them with others to their benefit. As a Christian, I also see your background and faith as a great opportunity to be there for other Christians and to let them know and see that gay men can have faith and be reconciled in their understanding of their faith and their sexuality. You have a lot of opportunities, I hope you have a chance to to share your experience and knowledge with others less fortunate.

    Congratulations again. I use to live north of Pittsburgh a couple of hours, how's the snow? Damn, I'm glad I'm out of there! LOL /don
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    Jan 16, 2009 3:25 PM GMT
    a LOLcat which made me lol. At last icon_wink.gif (actually there have been others)
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    Jan 16, 2009 3:28 PM GMT
    congratulations nick, I applaud your story and giv eyou kuddos for sharing it with us.

    Like others have said above, you're in a great position to help others that are struggling with the same demons you were dealing with.
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    Jan 16, 2009 3:31 PM GMT
    Thats a good story. I'm glad you got out of those ministries. I never went into them, but I thought about it when I was a freshman/sophomore in college. I decided to come out instead. Best decision I ever made. But you're honest with yourself now, and that's what matters

    Are you still a Christian now, or did you walk away completely from it like I did?
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    Jan 16, 2009 3:45 PM GMT
    Some of us have seen "Jesus Camp" and the like. The ex-gay counseling is nothing like that - and nothing like the hellfire and brimstone sermons that we are all aware of. The counselors and people in that ministry are sincerely some of the kindest, warmest, self-sacrificing, non-judgmental people that you will ever meet. Openness and vulnerability are apparent qualities. A very good friend of mine (BlinkTwice4y) made a very astute observation, he said (about the couselors' demeanor).. "That almost makes the whole thing even more evil."

    The real problem that I have with the whole thing is that the entire premise upon which it is based is horribly flawed, in theory and in practice.

    The idea goes that people are homosexual because of unmet emotional needs in childhood, or in some formative process in their past. Through prayer and counseling, Christ will mediate "healing" to these parts of our soul - thereby allowing for heterosexuality to naturally emerge.

    Bah-friggin-loney. It doesn't work. The truancy rate for these programs is 97% - a telling statistic.
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    Jan 16, 2009 3:59 PM GMT
    lilTanker saidso, life is about making mistakes, learning from them and working actively against ever doing it again, how at that time, where you at that time suppose to know that what you where doing was wrong, you where doing what you thought was the best thing for you at the time...

    As it is, you see things you did in the past as a mistake to do, if you did them now, knowing what you know, I might get a little pissed, but as it is, your passed is that for a reason and although I know living with mistakes can be a hard thing, its more important that you've learnt something valuable from them...


    Gotta love that Aussie sensibility. icon_smile.gif Well done, you, Tanker.

    Hockey, I've been there with you. Ex-gay ministries, oodles of counseling (i.e., reparative therapy), speaking and writing on behalf of the ex-gay movement... The damage I've left in my wake is far greater than yours, and like you, I finally broke free -- but not without the lingering doubts and regrets that you express. In the end, I think it's all about 'to thine own self be true'. Self-acceptance is a key component of self-actualization, IMHO.
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    Jan 16, 2009 4:00 PM GMT


    As a christian, I'd say that the answer to those people (ex-gay ministries) is this, and apologies for monkeying with your quotes! heheh

    "Through prayer and counseling, Christ will mediate "healing" to these parts of our soul - thereby allowing for homosexuality to naturally emerge"
    as evidenced by,
    "The truancy rate for these programs is 97% - a telling statistic."icon_wink.gif

    -Doug
  • Rowing_Ant

    Posts: 1504

    Jan 16, 2009 4:04 PM GMT
    Doug, I completely agree

    I was in the same situation as Hockeynick79. I hated myself for being gay and thought god hated me. How wrong I was. I built a huge thick wall around me a nd my sexuality, repressed myself like mad. I know Ive been gay since about 12 nad having early teen fumblings but that was shut away behind a huge brick wall. Of my own making. Id go out, get pissed, kiss a guy and then beat myself up weeks afterwards.

    Talk about messed up.

    Anyway...I had two, to me, quite real and personal encounters with God that frigging changed my life man.

    One was a vision/revelation - call it what you will - from God/The Divine Spirit - the He/It/She loves me and loves me for who I am, because I am me.

    The second one was a call to be an Ordained Minister.

    I was on the verge of topping myself because I so fervently believed as Fred Phelps preaches "God hates fags" and you know, God doesnt.
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    Jan 16, 2009 4:16 PM GMT
    Maybe you can share your experiences with http://www.truthwinsout.org/
    They're the response group to "Love Wins Out", an ex-gay ministry, along with Exodus.

    Also: Is there any chance you could follow up with any of the men/women you counseled or ministered to? Maybe you could set them straight.
  • CAtoFL

    Posts: 834

    Jan 16, 2009 4:35 PM GMT
    I think that Doug is spot on. Your experiences make you an invaluable resource. I think you should continue to do just what you've done here - expose the 'ex-gay' programs for the evil they are.

    Repression and denial are clearly not the paths to happiness. Shout your story through the press (gay and otherwise) and let others who might be considering such a program know what a farce the programs are.

    Your experiences are unique and you have insights that we can only guess at. Shout THEM from the hilltops.